Friday, August 12, 2011


Genial Welshman Paul Harry Allen has been performing comedy for eight years, making the final of the Hackney New Act Of The Year competition in 2006.

In addition to his many appearances on the circuit, Paul has also written for children's television, appeared in an educational programme as a frog, and shared a festival bill with those other laugh-a-minute comedians Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.

2011 sees his second solo show, Stuff and Nonsense (Laughing Horse @ Finnegan's Wake, 16:45, August 15th-26th, not 21st, free entry), in which Paul continues to follow his now well-established formula of exploiting the untapped comedy potential of second-hand goods he's found in jumble sales and junk shops. Among other things this year, we are promised "camp ceramic cats". The mind boggles. More here:

For a flavour of his act, here's a ten-minute set featuring some of his vinyl delights (his words, not mine) that bears a few similarities to the set he performed for Comedy 365 in Edinburgh 2009 but comes with the added benefit of being able to see the album covers.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Regular downloaders of The 404 Special will already be familiar with Jay Foreman's songs, as indeed will readers of this blog, so there's very little we can add to what we've said before, apart from:

  1. His show at the Underbelly, We're Living in the Future, is on every day until August 28th except the 16th at the very sensible time of 14:30. Tickets are priced £9 or £10, depending on the date of performance. More info here:

  2. He's recently updated his website.

  3. This is a track about John Lennon from his second album. Don't shoot the messenger (as it were).

Finally, an update on Monday's post: we've heard that Mary Bourke's show has been selling out all week, so if you want to see her, get to the venue well in advance of show time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


On Saturday, I sarcastically alluded to the extraordinarily long lead time required to submit show information for the official Edinburgh Fringe programme.

With the Fringe's traditional start date of the first weekend in August, the programme needs to be available no later than the first couple of weeks in June to allow for pre-booking, which means each performer's 40-word maximum of promotional copy needs to be submitted by mid-April, along with the £393.60 fee (unless they want a 25% discount, in which case details need to be submitted a month earlier). Quarter-page display ads featuring a show's poster, often need to be submitted before the end of January at a cost of well over £1000.

Given that a lot of a performer's time before then is spent searching for the right venue for their hastily-titled and concept-free offering (spot all the show posters parodying films in programmes passim), it's hardly surprising that hundreds of listings in the fringe programme all read like the same show and feature little more than a load of press quotes for a show the performer was remotely involved in a few years earlier. Not exactly great when you're a punter in town for a few short days trying to choose between 2,000+ comedy shows and being charged anything up to £16 per show for the privilege.

So imagine what it's like when a performer misses one of these deadlines. Perhaps they need to get funding in place or arrange time away from their day job before confirming a slot, or maybe they're waiting for a cancellation at a particular venue in order to save some money. It's a risky strategy. Such a performer may have a show that's far more fully-formed than most others on offer, but because they're missing from the official programme they'll have to work that much harder with their flyering to stand even the remotest chance of getting more than a couple of bums on seats most days, not to mention standing a chance of persuading reviewers to come and see them as early as possible during their run in the hope that a positive review will led to an increase in audience numbers during the latter couple of weeks.

The reason I mention all this today is that one such performer who's not in the official programme is Iona Dudley-Ward, whose free character-based one-woman show Me, Myself and Iona can be seen downstairs at Rabbie Burns Cafe and Bar at 16:00 every day until August 27th, except the 17th. Thankfully, she did make the much-later deadline for the Fringe website, so you can read more about the show here:

So far, the lack of an "official" listing doesn't seem to have affected audience numbers too badly - although the show did get off to a slightly inauspicious start last weekend when a stage light fell on her noggin. It wasn't part of the show. Owch. Hopefully there won't be any further unpleasant surprises in store over the next couple of weeks; in fact, we all hope that today's show is especially pleasant as it's Iona's birthday. So if you're going along this afternoon, take along some Mr Kipling Fondant Fancies or something.

By way of commemmoration, here's some footage of the character that saw her reach the final of last year's Funny Women competition, unconfident confidence coach Lyn.

As for the Fringe programme, surely a separately administered programme for the comedy section with much later copy and advertising deadlines is long overdue, for the good of the festival as a whole? Discuss...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Caroline Mabey is a real one-off in what can often be a sterile stand-up environment, where a long line of comics (most of them male) exist for no other reason than to facilitate an interminable game of one-upmanship.

The quirky banter within Caroline's free 2009 offering, Go Go Go Coffee Show (a lunchtime show aimed at those who'd only just woken up) when combined with her eccentric attire (she greeted audience members in her pyjamas, offering very strong black coffee) and clever use of PowerPoint-based animation, proved an inspiration to many acts who had previously felt that such a technical show could not be achieved at a free venue. It came as no surprise, therefore, that when she returned 12 months later at a major-name Edinburgh venue with Eat Your Friends, there were many inferior copyists armed with a laptop and projector screen littered throughout the fringe programme.

Both of these shows also featured interaction with an onscreen animated sidekick, Kip the Coffeepot, and he's back again this time around in Caroline's 2011 show One-Minute Silence (Just up the Stairs @ Just the Tonic at the Caves, until August 28th, not 17th, tickets £9-10 depending on date), where she'll be attempting to break the world record for remaining silent. (A bit like David Blaine but perhaps not quite as deranged.)

More info here:

Historically, Caroline's perhaps been better known as an animator, having worked on BBC2's unforgettable Monkey Dust, designed the titles for the otherwise forgettable Little Miss Jocelyn, and - most impressively - created the video for Evan Dando’s excellent 2003 solo single Stop My Head.

Below is a short animation she did for a Cartoon Network sketch show a few years back. Expect to see more of this - and more of Caroline herself - on your tellies in the years to come.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Today, it's the turn of Mary Bourke.

Born in Dublin, Mary started out her professional life as a burlesque dancer in San Francisco before moving into comedy more than a decade ago.

Described by one journalist as being "like an emerald in a cowpat", Mary's soft-spoken and often deadpan humour is equal parts incisive, intelligent, and erudite - yet she's unafraid to aim both barrels at the rich and famous (and even some of her comedy contemporaries) and let fly with some ferocious and highly observant putdowns.

As well as being "co-conspirator" of The Fortnight Club at London's New Red Lion in City Road, where up to a dozen established comedians (often including a big name or two) try out new material, Mary is also very much in demand on the comedy and festival circuits on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, 2011 sees Mary becoming one of the year's most experienced Edinburgh debutants, as her show Mary Mary Quite Contrary, which features a gameshow section tantalisingly entitled Tweet or Delete, marks her solo debut at the Fringe. It's free, and takes place at 16:00 every day until August 29th at The Street, 2b Picardy Place (the venue gets minus ten points for making their website inaccessible to the general public - fix that 403 error, barman).

Still, there's more info on the show on the official Fringe website here:

One assumes it's because of this popularity that clips of Mary in action on the web are few and far between - after all, if you've a full diary of bookings, why bother with the more frustrating and time-consuming elements of social networking like the rest of us when you can just get out there and be seen by the public in the flesh (as it were)?

However, we did find this rare TV clip of Mary from a few years back, appearing on ITV4's FHM Stand-up Hero, which serves as a perfect taster of her irresistable style. (Trust me: my mate Tony loves her act, and he's a difficult bugger to please.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Oh dear. Late update.

Sorry - woke up late after watching Tottenham burn to the ground on the news last night, then went down the pub for the Community Shield, then went shopping, and have only just returned home to realize I hadn't done this update.

Thankfully, The Boom Jennies (Lizzie Bates, Anna Emerson, and Catriona Knox) have no such memory lapses in their current Edinburgh offering, Blowout.

Now firmly established in the annual Edinburgh offering, Ver Jennies are not afraid to try new approaches to comedy, having started as a duo (Bates & Emerson) and grown to a sketch trio before successfully turning their hands last year to a play with a bloke - eeeek!

This year, they've shrunk down to a trio again and have returned back to a sketch-based offering, but have upped the ante somewhat by laying themselves bare in front of a late night audience (albeit one at the Plesance, whose rudeness probably stops at failing to apologise after sneezing).

Quite why this witty, hilarious, kooky, and gifted trio haven't already made in-roads into the comedy establishment is beyond me. Considering the sort of ticket prices some acts are charging at the Pleasance this year, I can guarantee that an hour in the company of The Boom Jennies will not leave you dissatisfied.

The Boom Jennies: Blowout is at the Pleasance Baby Grand every night until August 28th (not 15th) at 22:45. Tickets are priced between £9 and £10.50, depending on the date of performance.

More info here:

And if you want some idea of what to expect, here's a brand new video from the ladies:

Saturday, August 6, 2011


So...if you happen to be venturing past the massive Three Sisters pub on Cowgate at lunchtime between now and August 19th, you might want to check out Give Me The Funnies, a free hour-long showcase featuring stand-ups Sarah Callaghan and Ben Jay.

The third performer in the show was to have been Nico Yearwood - indeed, he is still listed as appearing in many places that harvest show information from the official 2011 fringe programme, the listings for which, as any fule no, were compiled way back in 1974.

But for reasons unknown, Nico is not taking part in the show. Perhaps this is something to do with him having reached the semis of the Amused Moose Laugh Off competition for new stand-up talent - but, then again, so has Sarah. So bang goes that theory...

Anyhow, the upshot of this is that our good friend Mark Davison has stepped into the breach to form the third point of the comedy isosceles in character as Mr Susan.

Mark is perhaps best known as being the co-writer of BBC Comedy's online short Henry 8.0, which stars Brian Blessed as the aforementioned Tudor monarch and marriage addict living his life online in the present-day. Click here to watch all 14 episodes.

However, we rather like this recent instalment of Rachel Stubbings' online agony aunt series, Stubbing Out Problems, where Mark appears as Geoff in Cockfosters, a man whose issues truly come from within...

Give Me The Funnies is on at The Meeting Room, The Three Sisters, 139 Cowgate as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival every day at 13:05 until August 19th.

For more details, see:

Friday, August 5, 2011


Delete the Banjax have come a long way since we first made their acquaintance shortly after they formed in 2008.

Returning to the Pleasance for their fourth consecutive fringe appearance , the quartet of Samuel Champion, Daniel Cook, Gareth Cooper and Caroline May-Jones are offering for your delectation a show entitled Pigs and Ponies (Until August 29th, not 15th, 18:20, tickets priced £5-9.50 depending on date).

Apparently the show contains neither of the said creatures, although the Pleasance Beside has this year been described by some as "an iceberg", so you might see some polar bears if you're lucky.

More here:

Assuming they don't get done under the Trade Descriptions Act for misselling the show in its title, expect to see and hear more of DTB over the coming 12 months.

In the meantime, enjoy this clip from their rapidly-growing online portfolio of daftness:

Thursday, August 4, 2011


It's Edinburgh Fringe time again, with all that that entails: bad food, excessive amounts of alcohol, tendonitis until Christmas, twice-weekly psychotherapy until next year's festival, and massive debt for well over a decade.

Because of these piffling factors, 404 Funny has decided not to go up to the festival this year. However, those of you who are making the journey may wish to check out the Edinburgh debut of comedy duo DREGS at the Underbelly (21:30, tonight until August 28th, not 15th, tickets priced £6-10.50 depending on date).

Appearing alongside the duo themselves (Sony-nominated Absolute Radio DJ Max Dickins and So You Think You're Funny Finalist Mark Smith) in a supporting role, making his own Edinburgh debut, is our very own John Dredge.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Underbelly website here:

John will be putting his daytimes to use at the festival by writing some new podcasts for us, which we hope will be ready early in the autumn. We have also located some previously unavailable material from John's early days on Comedy 365, which we also hope to put out around the same time.

In the meantime, feel free to delve into our archive for some of John's many fabulous shows from the past five years. Our particular favourite is the one that features The Human League in Outer Space.

Also, keep coming back to this blog on a daily basis during the next three weeks for video content from some of our friends currently performing at the world's greatest fringe festival.

And, at the risk of being accused of overkill, let's start with this one from Mr Dredge: