Set List: Stand-Up Without a Net

Once again, Set List: Stand Up Without a Net returns to the Fringe at Gilded Balloon Teviot, just as loud and energetic as in previous years and with just as much potential for catastrophe. Hosted by Kai Humphries, Friday’s show saw the stellar line-up of Mark Dolan, Mickey Bartlett, Francesco De Carlo, Urzila Carlson, and Seymour Mace face never before seen prompts which they had to turn into some form of coherent stand-up set; I know, I was scared too.

A fantastic opportunity to see some of the best comics at the Fringe at their most raw, most unfiltered, and most interesting.

With stimuli such as ‘group dick pics’, ‘stoveplay’, and ‘leper-envy’, it’s easy to see why set-list draws such interest each year – it’s just so terrifying. For those that are a little bored by ‘safe’ and lacklustre pre-written comedy, this is the ultimate adrenaline inducing trip, watching a group of comics face the sheer panic of prompts that are not only unseen, but are also deliberately designed to be difficult.

Under these circumstances, the crowd could so easily have been a swirling mass of hungry vultures, or wolves baying for blood - taking delight in failure and experiencing some form of sadistic, schadenfreude-style pleasure at the daunting challenge faced by the unfortunate souls on stage. However, the actual atmosphere of the evening could not have been more different to that bleak image. Buzzing with energy and vibrancy there was so much joy and forgiveness in the room, and the comedians took complete advantage of the supportive environment, working the crowd when needed and playing off their reactions to ramp up the laughs and make the most of the merriness of many audience members. As with almost all improv, truly exceptional comedic moments were rare gems within each set, but the vast majority of material produced was of solidly good quality, and at worst was a bit non-sequitur.

Every comedian featured rose to the challenge brilliantly, with the entire show being remarkable in its consistency – even in those moments when the comics visibly struggled to create and sustain material, there was never a significant dip in energy. The stand out set in my eyes was that of Urzila Carlson’s, with her material always seeming clever, witty and quick, often appearing to be of equal quality to that of a written show.

Set List is one of those shows that hardly needs help with their ticket sales, but if you get the chance I do urge you to go at least once. The line-up changes every night (so do the prompts) and it is just a fantastic opportunity to see some of the best comics at the Fringe at their most raw, most unfiltered, and most interesting.  

Reviews by Holly Mackinlay

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Set List: Stand-Up Without a Net

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The Blurb

'For anyone genuinely interested in comedy and comedians, this is the must-see show of the festival' ***** (Scotsman). Fast, furious, reliably brilliant, different every night! Literally as they walk on stage, in full view of the audience, comedians are flashed a never-before-seen "set list" of topics and must instantly create a spontaneous, original, new stand-up set, right then and there. No existing material allowed: it's all improvised! Previous Set Listers include Trevor Noah and Robin Williams, who raved about it: (here he is with his actual bit on Sky Atlantic’s TV series