10 Comedians to See at the Edinburgh Fringe | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe 10 Comedians to See at the Edinburgh Fringe

How to navigate a festival with over 800 different stand-up comedy shows? We're here to help.

Munya Chawawa, Rose Matafeo, and Ivo Graham

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As of this morning on edfringe.com, there are 1,489 shows listed in the category of “comedy” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Of those, 807 have the genre “stand-up.” And I have been asked to choose only 10 of those to recommend to the readers of Playbill.com.

How to approach this extremely daunting task? Well, here is what I’ve come up with. Of the far too many hours of British comedy I have consumed on television and podcast, two of my absolute favorites are the television show Taskmaster and the Off Menu podcast. And so, looking through the list of comedians at the Fringe this year, I’ve decided to choose my favorites who have appeared on one or both of those shows. And if you hadn’t heard of one or both of those before, well then you’re in for a treat.

In brief: The Off Menu podcast is a food podcast hosted by comedian friends Ed Gamble and James Acaster, where they interview celebrities—frequently comedians—about their dream meals. Ed is the maître d' and James is the genie waiter who can bring guests any food they can imagine—even if it’s something no sane person would choose, like asking for a cheese board as your dessert course. 

For the record, Gamble just finished a sold-out work-in-progress run at the Fringe, and Acaster is currently doing a brief run in Glasgow though August 16. (I went to see him on Sunday night, and what was billed as a two-hour show turned into over three hours of glorious madness. It was quite the change from the hour-long Fringe shows I've been seeing.)

Taskmaster actually began its life as a show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, back in 2010. It was picked up for television five years later and has, to date, completed 15 seasons, with the 16th starting this fall. In the show, Alex Horne (the original creator of the show) plays the Taskmaster's assistant and sets a series of seemingly simple (or sometime not so simple) tasks to be completed by five different comedians each season. 

Then the Taskmaster, played by comedian Greg Davies, assigns them a score from one to five. At the end of the season, the winner gets a golden trophy of the Taskmaster's head. Even if a task sounds straightforward, the contestant’s minds all work in very different ways, and the results are hilarious. If you’re outside of the U.K. and don't have Taskmaster as part of your regular television programming, full episodes of the series are available to watch on the show’s YouTube channel.

So, now I only have to choose from 75 Taskmaster comedians (15 seasons at 5 guests a season), and approximately 200 guests from Off Menu, which just celebrated its 200th episode last week. And of course there’s overlap—the comedy world isn’t that big after all. 

And so now, after that probably far too long introduction, I present my list of 10 comedians I think are worth seeing at this year’s Fringe—in alphabetical order. One other thing to note: some of these shows have already sold out, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to see them. It’s always worth keeping an eye on the Fringe website to see if last-minute tickets are released (I was able to snag a ticket to Daniel Kitson’s excellent work-in-progress show, First Thing, that way).

Below are 10 comedians you should see at Fringe.

Munya Chawawa

Munya Chawawa: Work in Progress

Where and when? August 21–23 at Monkey Barrel Comedy

What’s it about? “Star of Taskmaster Munya Chawawa is heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe ahead of his debut UK tour, for three work-in-progress shows. Expect brand-new material, socially relevant observations and a visit from some of his most beloved characters.”

Anything else I should know? Chawawa grew up in Zimbabwe, and he’s known to tell (very long, very funny) stories about his life there. Also, I've heard he has a big following on TikTok.

Paul Chowdhry

Paul Chowdhry: Family-Friendly Comedian

Where and when? Through August 28 at the Pleasance Courtyard 

What’s it about? “Following a complete sell-out, extended national tour, star of global hit Live Innit, Taskmaster and the first British-Asian stand-up to sell-out London's Wembley Arena returns to Edinburgh for the first time in almost 10 years! Paul is out to save his reputation and become a family friendly staple–like Ant & Dec (but not the one that drinks and drives).”

Anything else I should know? In case it’s not clear from the titles, this is not actually a family-friendly show (it's listed as 14+ on the Fringe site). Chowdhry is also the host of a popular podcast, The Paul Chowdhry PudCast.

Ivo Graham

Ivo Graham: Organised Fun

Where and when? Through August 27 at the Pleasance Courtyard

What’s it about? “After dismantling a barge (Taskmaster), doxxing himself in the Doubletree (Off Menu), and blanking on the 1992 Ipswich Town crest (University Challenge), Ivo ropes his audience into more chaos against the clock. 'Humiliation's your thing, right?' His brother asked him at Christmas, and with the full existential ramifications of that still being processed, he's lining up a show with more risk than ever before (NB: previous shows have broadly been quite low risk). Expect quizzes, tangents and fluster.”

Anything else I should know? After choosing a frankly unacceptable dessert of yogurt with chopped banana on his episode of Off Menu, Graham was invited back to Off Menu’s livestreamed “Redemption Dinner Party” where he made things even worse for himself, as referenced above in his show description. The video of his meltdown is well worth watching.

Ania Magliano

Ania Magliano: I Can't Believe You've Done This

Where and when? August 15–27 at the Pleasance Courtyard

What’s it about? “To the hairdresser at [redacted] Salon: You can take my money. You can take my dignity. You can take too much off the ends. But you cannot take my right to talk about it every day on stage. This is a show about the worst haircut of Ania Magliano's life.”

Anything else I should know? I actually went to see Magliano’s show a few nights ago at the Fringe, and it is indeed well worth seeing. Besides being about a haircut disaster, there’s also talk of gossip, relationships, boxing, a threesome (sort of), and major surgery. Looking back at that sentence, a lot of those don’t sound like very funny topics for a comedy show. But in fact, they are.

Rose Matafeo

Rose Matafeo: Work in Progress

Where and when? August 16–27 at Monkey Barrel Comedy

What’s it about? “Edinburgh Comedy Award winner and creator of hit sitcom Starstruck, Rose Matafeo returns with an hour of work-in-progress stand-up. Results will vary.”

Anything else I should know? If you’ve not seen Matafeo’s sitcom Starstruck (available on the BBC in the U.K. and HBO in the U.S.), it’s truly worth watching. Also, Matafeo is from New Zealand and has a funny way of saying the word “shed,” which has made her the subject of many a Taskmaster meme.

David O'Doherty

David O'Doherty: Tiny Piano Man

Where and when? Through August 28 at Assembly George Square

What’s it about? “The dishevelled prince of £10 eBay keyboards tries to make you feel alive with a new pageant of laughter, song and occasionally getting up from a chair. It's gonna be a big one.”

Anything else I should know? David O'Doherty is an Irish comedian who plays a small keyboard during his sets, hence the title of his show. I went to see him at the 2022 Fringe, and it was very funny—despite being mainly about his experience during the pandemic. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does this year.

Sara Pascoe

Sara Pascoe: Success Story

Where and when? August 18 at Underbelly, Bristo Square

What’s it about? “After a huge U.K. tour, Sara brings her Success Story to the Fringe for one night only. After deciding to be famous at 14 years old, Sara has auditioned for Barrymore, ruined Hugh Grant's birthday and seen Salman Rushdie dancing. For balance she’s also been slagged off by Geri Halliwell and stuck in a dressing room with Nigel Farage so it’s not all glamour.”

Anything else I should know? Sara Pascoe is the host of the somewhat odd show Guessable, along with John Kearns (who has already finished his run at the Fringe) and Darren Harriott (who will be at the Fringe, but has been on neither Taskmaster nor Off Menu, and was therefore not eligible for this list).

Chloe Petts

Chloe Petts: If You Can't Say Anything Nice

Where and When? August 15–27 at the Pleasance Courtyard

What’s it about? “Fresh from her smash-hit Edinburgh Fringe and Soho Theatre sell-out debut, Chloe Petts returns with her follow-up hour. Everyone complimented her on how polite she was with big issues in the last show so now she's cashing in those points and plans on being really rude. Expect routines on Greta Thunberg, the Queen and calling you all a bunch of virgins.”

Anything else I should know? Chloe Petts was the opening act for Ed Gamble on his last tour, so I’m going out on a limb to say fans of Gamble will enjoy Petts' comedy, too.

Kiell Smith-Bynoe

Kiell Smith-Bynoe: String V SPITTA

Where and When? August 18–26 at the Pleasance Courtyard

What’s it about? “A kids party... but for adults. Soho Theatre's smash-hit musical comedy about two rival children's entertainers, starring Kiell Smith-Bynoe (Ghosts, Taskmaster, Stath Lets Flats) and Ed MacArthur (Bad Education, Dreamland, The Now Show). Think Amadeus meets Flight of the Conchords meets Dizzee Rascal; this is one party you won't want to miss.”

Anything else I should know? Two things. One: Kiell is one of the stars of the hit BBC comedy series Ghosts. Two: He’s also doing hosting an improv show at the Fringe August 21–23 at the Pleasance Courtyard. Link here.

Mark Watson

Mark Watson: Search

Where and When? August 14–27 at the Pleasance Courtyard

What’s it about? “Mark Watson's 12-year-old son just got a phone. His 70-year-old dad has been through the most frightening experience of his life. Both a dad and a kid himself, around the midpoint of his life, the Taskmaster star, multiple award-winner and Fringe legend returns to consider the search for meaning that we're all on, with or without Google. There will be a lot of jokes.”

Anything else I should know? Mark Watson is another comedian I saw last year, who I’m looking forward to seeing again. He also produces up-and-coming comedians at the Fringe every year as part of Impatient Productions. If you haven’t found enough to see on this list, why not go see one of them? You can see the list here. Also, even though he’s never been on the Off Menu podcast, every week when the producer posts a clue about who the next guest will be, there are always a few people who guess it will be Mark Watson. Will he ever get to eat in the dream restaurant? I sure hope so!

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