Paul Whitelaw


Nick Doody has a joke (and I won’t spoil it by doing the whole thing), that says you can’t write ‘swan’ on a pig and shove it out onto the lake. And yet over the past five years we’ve discovered that we have to accept things as they’re labelled, however little sense it makes. It started with Rod Liddle in his ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirt, back when he edited the Independent, which still insists that it is a newspaper. Donald Trump is apparently a president. And now this. Paul Whitelaw. Apparently a Scotsman reviewer.

The Scotsman is printing what Paul Whitelaw thinks as if he’s a journalist. Checking and double-checking the webpage just returns the same result: it has the Scotsman’s web address and all the page furniture seems to be hanging in the right place, so I suppose we just have to accept his single-paragraph assassinations, mostly of female comedians, as reviews.

There can be no real doubt, of course, that Paul Whitelaw is a troll with his ticket stamped by a newspaper, the way Picasso used to sign blank canvasses for people to do a validated shit or sneeze on. Even if we try to analyse his discharge as if it’s writing we find he is using stolen jokes to criticise comedy (“Every comedian requires a persona of some description … Eleanor Morton has chosen the persona of an ordinary person with nothing funny or interesting to say”, he says, using a joke stolen from ID Mobile who stole it from Family Guy). Despite the paucity of words, Whitelaw manages to cough up every cliché in the reviewer’s arsenal. The word “Pedestrian”, putting “-a-tron” after everything he finds ‘pedestrian’; adding “for reasons best known to herself” to things females do which he can’t (for reasons best known to himself) be bothered exploring and even – EVEN – banging ‘definitely one to watch’ on the end of Fern Brady (three stars). Oooooh, Fern Brady! Looks like you’ve got an admirer! By the way, If this all sounds childish it is merely in the course of reviewing a reviewer so squarely in the nyeah nyeah ne nyeah-nyeah school of post-millennial professionalism.

So, to conclude, we must accept that Paul Whitelaw is a thing. Except of course we don’t. Whitelaw does not have his finger on the nuclear trigger and he isn’t an artist, except possibly in the medium of piss. If he’s anything then he’s a symptom of a sad, sorry little newspaper that has utterly squandered the goodwill it once enjoyed as the keynote voice of the Fringe, giving up good writing and solid opinions for gimmickry and shlock. Little surprise they can’t now give it away, except with some fruity water and a tote bag. It’s done. It’s finished. It’s gone-a-tron.

Whitelaw is best understood not as a writer but as an attendant detail; a sort of maggot that will provide forensic colour to anyone in the future who cares to study the pathological decline and suicide of a once-great newspaper.

Edmund Rumania


Sarah Lewis


sarahlewisI feel slightly stupid reviewing Sarah Lewis, as everyone else in the Fringepig office is convinced she doesn’t exist.

I should probably explain: SOMEONE at Mumble Comedy exists, and if he or she wishes to sometimes identify as Sarah Lewis, then that is fine. But we think this person identifies sometimes as Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert and Damo whatsisname and Nina something and Thingummy Hoodjaflip. They’re all the same person, that’s what I’m saying.

At least, that’s what my colleagues are saying. Not me. I said NO, I am sure that nobody would pretend to be a whole lot of different people who all have the same appalling grammar, all make the exact same spelling mistakes; all insert unnecessary spaces and exclamation marks and all write sentences that sound like bullet points because they can’t be bothered to turn their notes into English. I mean, why would anyone bother? Just for some free tickets? You’d have to be mad.

So, convinced of the verity of Sarah Lewis, we arrive at this word bouillabaisse: “Makes light of the fact that being an Indian comic, racism does not bother him, as he jokes no racist is going to come and watch him, with a name like Nish Kumar, doing stand-up for an hour!  His experience touring the aptly named, Isle of Whyte, was something of a surprise.  Race bingo anyone?”

For Zoe Lyons, Lewis gets the first paragraph under her belt simply by cutting and pasting Lyons’ performance CV. In fact, the whole review reads so much like the back of a flyer that it’s possible that Sarah Lewis, while possibly not existing, did not actually venture – even in her nonexistential state – into Zoe Lyons’ show. It is tantalisingly possible that this is the Holy Grail of the meta-reviewer: A nonexistent reviewer’s review of a show she not only could not see, but which her creator also did not see. And this review that is a review of an unseen show is being reviewed by a stuffed toy, about whose veracity, dear reader, you may entertain your own doubts. Let us pause awhile in blissful wonder at the world we humans have made.

Of course, none of this should prevent us from enjoying a good word jumble. “The self-declared ‘lefty, lesbo, Briton living idiot’ tackles topical material such as the Scottish referendum, UKIP, equal marriage, immigration, sexism and ageism. At 42 years old, Lyons is experience a bit of a midlife crises, thinking about death and funerals, however equally she has a love for old ladies, Europe and boxed wine so it’s not all doom and gloom.”

I could ask: Has Zoe Lyons really self-declared as that? I mean, I could try and assess this in various ways but really – it would be like poking some gut-splattered tarmac beneath the Empire State Building and trying to discern cause of death. I think we can defer to Occam’s razor and say that Sarah Lewis, even if she once lived, has now exploded, and taken the rest of Mumble Comedy with her. Let this review serve for all the Mumblers who were this year wished into existence.

But that’s not to say they’re not real. They’re as real as the Isle of Whyte.

Hoots MacUzi


Vyvyan Almond


vyvyanalmondVyvyan Almond’s sentences are quite over-constructed. They sometimes take so long to reach their point that reading his reviews puts you in mind of a Dickensian preamble. And Dickens, as we know, was paid by the word.

That’s not to say that Almond writes with the wit or pathos of Dickens, of course. In fact I found it difficult to read his reviews in any voice other than Matt Berry playing Douglas Reynholm: “Paul G. Raymond and Luke Manning grab their audience from the very start like the most British of bulldogs, and though they may shake them, they never let them go.” Hell’s horses!

In a similarly Reynholmian manner Almond then over-explains why it doesn’t matter that one of the two comics that comprise In Cahoots isn’t white: “While they make good use of their obviously different ethnic backgrounds, they do so with a commendably light touch, addressing the issue of race-relations directly but never allowing it to define them. Indeed only two sketches in the whole hour even approach the subject and are both absolute gems.” Did it ever occur to you to just not mention it? I mean, who cares?

The fact is, Almond is not on quite the same planet as the rest of us. Of Battle Acts he tells us: “The compere – a dark-haired, confrontational man – took the opportunity to swear freely at his audience. He did this rather awkwardly, however, and it contributed little to the humour of the evening.” Most of us would have settled for “The compere was too sweary”.

Almond is eager and quite appreciative, giving out stars to things even while over-analysing them in sometimes inappropriate ways. But his prose, though clunky, does the job and always makes sense. We would be happy to award Almond a middling clutch of pigs were it not for the fact that he is reviewing the sketch and improv of others while performing his own sketch and improv, Voyage of the Narwhal, at the Caves.

Rarely does Fringepig see such shameless double-fisting as this. But it gets worse. Voyage of the Narwhal has been reviewed, but only by one publication. Can you guess which one?

Yes, by Broadway Baby. Almond’s colleague Milo Boyd went to review it. “The Voyage of the Narwhal is the first Edinburgh show by Alexander Fox, Vyvyan Almond and Ralph Jones” he explains. It is “pacey” and “wonderfully absurd” and worth a (thoroughly deserved, we’re sure) four stars. I’m sure Almond doesn’t see anything wrong in this, but then that hardly speaks well of his instincts. This sort of thing just beggars belief.

I tell you what, Broadway Baby, why don’t you let ALL the comedy acts at the Fringe write comedy reviews about each other? I mean, if some of your flunkies are going to lurk at the back rubbing sugar on each other’s arses, let’s make sure there’s enough for the whole class.

A serious review crime has occurred. We can only hope that Almond gets an appropriately long sentence.

Edmund Rumania



Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert


markdivinecalvertI don’t know why this reviewer has awarded himself divinity.  Perhaps he bears a passing resemblance to John Waters’ favourite drag queen. Perhaps – even more than all the other reviewers – this one believes himself appointed to pass God’s infallible judgment upon Fringe entertainment.

Whatever the reason, it comes as a disappointment that his reviews are in no way transcendent. This is the chap who wrote the review of Adam Riches that so enraged the comedian’s PR company. In fact it was a three star review that read like a three star review. It IS, on the whole, a quite bad review, but not for any criticism of Riches.

“It was a damp and wind-swept night and the welcoming warmth of the Pleasance Dome began to relaxed [sic] me into a state of mind ready for comedy,” he begins, in the desperate sub-NME style of reviewer-on-a-quest hackery. “Tonight it was Adam Riches, a successful comedian with more awards that you can shake a stick at,” he says, being succinct but somewhat clichéd. “Adam humiliated his carefully chosen audience members who were middle class,” he asserts, with the assurance of Pol Pot condemning people with glasses.

Before you know it, his reviews are over. They are rarely much longer than a couple of tweets, and if I was Riches’ PR I’d be most annoyed at the amount of work he did in return for a ticket, irrespective of its quality.

Calvert doesn’t waste time with structured sentences although, to be fair, a lot of reviewers this year have decided that the laws of English can be abandoned as long as you’re discussing Tony Law. “Trombones! A Game of catch with a beach ball, His pet dogs both alive and the ones that have gone to puppy heaven. Love making etiquette and his psychic pooch featured heavily. Reminding me of a past Beau that had a Standard Poodle who shared our bed every time we got it on.” Ugh.

Calvert is either American or, just as likely, accepts WordPress’s spelling corrections without question. He also capitalises at random, adds exclamation marks with impunity, inserts odd word spacings and sticks in quote marks for no apparent reason whatsoever: “Divine Salutes You. For that really was a ‘Good Time!’ ” I’m Sure you’re ‘Very Welcome’, Mark!

Of course, I’m not even the first person to review him. Immediately beneath his review of Adam Riches is a note from the ‘CEO’ of Mumble Comedy who, if it isn’t Calvert, is someone operating under similar delusions of grandeur. The CEO of the Mumble media empire commends “Mark’s  gutsy, honest, & frankly quite entertaining review”. I looked for the review it refers to but couldn’t find it. Just a half-paragraph of vapid cack.

Michaela Plaidface



Justin McCarthy


justinmccarthyJustin McCarthy doesn’t so much write reviews as retch words from every orifice. Like someone with lexical norovirus the deluge flows from both ends of his points of view, creating a big mess all over the page. “Simply the most bizarre show you will ever have the unfortunate and detrimental privilege to watch” he writes of Luke and Harry’s Journey to Sex Colony 01. Thank goodness for the star system so we know whether he liked it or not.

McCarthy would benefit from a strict word count to stock his verbal diarrhoea. What’s worse, it’s always the SAME diarrhoea. Pat Cahill “is bound to produce a laugh from all but the most solemn and serious”. Abigoliah Schamaun “guarantees a laugh out of all but the most serious”. Ria Lina “manages to draw a laugh from all but the most austere”. Justin McCarthy is bound to induce suicide in all but the most vacuous.

His worst crime is the belief that simple words just won’t do; his reviews are alive with the sound of a child flicking through a thesaurus. Thus each paragraph is littered with ambiguous, ill-fitting words that struggle to give any sense of what’s going on, besides the maelstrom of puberty, in McCarthy’s head.  “An entertaining yet highly prurient act,” he writes of Martin Mor. Mor is many things (including downright filthy) but he is not ‘prurient’. Paul McCaffrey’s show “ended with a punny song that coagulated and neatly presented an overview of the night’s material”.  Concluded? Compounded? Who knows: McCarthy is the sort of reviewer who would write about the aroma of dogshit and the cacophony of angels.

He can’t write and he has no idea what’s going on. And he has a face you want to punch, but at least that’s not his fault.

Edmund Rumania