Years ago Ari Shaffir and some of his comedian buddies were sitting around in LA telling stories. It started to become a regular thing, then they did it in front of an audience in the US, then the show got picked up by Comedy Central. Now it’s crossed the pond to Edinburgh and the Fringe is a better comedy festival for it.
Stories don’t need punchlines, they have their own rhythm, and as a result the show has a wonderfully easy, freewheeling style.
Just like in his TV show, the format for the Fringe run is simple. Each performance night will focus on one of four topics: Crazy, sex, loved ones and betrayal. Shaffir invites a couple of comedians along each night who spin tales from their pasts for the entertainment of the audience. Tonight the theme is betrayal and Carl Hutchinson and Brendon Burns join Shaffir on stage.
Shaffir is an engaging storyteller, starting off proceedings with a story about a time he got his fingers burned dabbling in the lawyering business and returning throughout the show with a couple of scatological anecdotes. Hutchinson follows up with a more joke-based section featuring a revenge story at its centre before Burns takes to the stage. The Australian ignores the betrayal theme altogether deciding that crazy is more to his tastes, spinning a hilariously tasteless tale of a wild trip to Vegas.
Although the show will have different comedians each night its structure and focus should guarantee that things stay interesting. There’s something refreshingly natural about the tales being told here, making it a different sort of viewing experience to many of the performances unfolding across the city this August.
It’s something that Burns alludes to when he talks about comedy – the ‘two facts and a surprising punchline’ structure that lies at the heart of the jokes in many a comic’s routine. This is unnecessary in a storytelling show. Stories don’t need punchlines, they have their own rhythm, and as a result the show has a wonderfully easy, freewheeling style.
This is helped along in no small part by the self-assured performance of the show’s host. Shaffir’s familiar and informal style gives the impression that the way he tells stories on stage in front of a large audience is no different to how he would tell them in front of his friends down at the bar. It’s a very entertaining experience.