Alternative Comedy Memorial Society (ACMS)

A keen observer may initially notice that Thom Tuck and John Luke Roberts, who host ACMS together, aren’t exactly a traditional double act. However if anything their bizarre on-stage chemistry creates the perfect platform from which to launch the cult night of experimental fringe comedy. The audience, usually at least half composed of ACMS regulars, are lulled into open-minded excitement even before the introduction of the first in a series of unconventional acts, despite Thom inciting them within minutes of starting to join him in repeatedly chanting the word “xenophobia”.

A delight through and through

The experimental nature of the night means there are naturally mixed responses to each act, but on their opening night Andy Daly, who delivered a vague but perfectly structured stand-up routine about something, was a firm favourite. Lucy Pearman and Deanne Fleysher as Butt Kapinski were also both fantastic, each doing edited excerpts from their shows which heavily featured audience interaction elements. Ahir Shah had a strong start, however quickly petered out as his short set seemed more about proving how clever he was than actually being clever, and Joz Norris, an ACMS standard, had an uncharacteristically weak set.

Though the night went well, with a supportive audience and acts who were willing to be interesting, it was dampened in the second half by Thom Tuck who was either too drunk or too caught up in overplaying his drunkenness. John Luke Roberts seemed genuinely exasperated as acts were awkwardly introduced and Thom broke a mic stand, eventually storming off-stage to awkward confusion from the crowd and Thom. Despite Bec Hill’s helpful suggestion at that point to introduce the next, and final, act, Tiernen Douieb couldn’t recover the stubborn tension in the room. Thankfully an impromptu return of Sh!t Theatre’s Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit as Pizza, Paul and Mary mumbling a sing-along version of Islands in the Stream saved the night from ending inelegantly in unsure silence.

ACMS is invaluable as an opportunity for performers to try something different and for audiences to see something out of the ordinary; when Thom Tuck can rein in his behaviour, it’s a delight through and through. The permitted heckles are as enjoyable for the acts as the audience, ranging from “We appreciate what you’re trying to do!” to “I drew you a cat,” (which must be accompanied by a drawing of a morally good cat), and along with the cry of “a noble failure” after each act has finished help foster the friendly environment that makes the night such a pleasure. If you’re tired of the usual fare of stand-up at the fringe, ACMS is definitely a night worth heading to.

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The Blurb

The ACMS returns to Edinburgh like a fetid Petri dish teeming with innovative bacterial comedy. Join the cavalcade of sparkling nonsense and watch us wave our cakes at the sky. Hosted by the least traditional double-act money can rent – Thom Tuck and John-Luke Roberts – containing too many guest acts, i.e. ‘dozens of the bastards’ ( All we can hope for is failure, noble failure! ‘Might not work’ (Time Out). ‘The best policy is to sit’ ( ‘Rucksack’ ( ‘Relative sobriety’ (ThreeWeeks). ‘Bunch of knuckleheads’ (Tony Law). ‘A man shaved off his beard’ (Guardian).