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Edinburgh Festival FringeWe know what you’re thinking: how on earth do I pick out the cream of the comedy and avoid the am-dram dullards at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

How do we know this? Because entertainer, comedian and all-round showmanship-wonder Chris Cox has been peering into his murky toughened glass ball, and he told us. Not via high-energy brainwaves and mind-bending telepathy, but via high-energy thumb and mobile telephony.

Chris Cox – comedian, mind-reader, entertainerChris has performed sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival, in London’s West End and at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, won numerous awards and plaudits from critics and colleagues (Ricky Gervais said he was ‘brilliant’).

Using, as he puts it, ‘a mongrel hybrid mix of witty chit chat, magic, psychology, body language, influencing, devilish good looks… and lying’, he has provided us with the insider’s insider guide to surviving (and enjoying) the Edinburgh Fringe (including such gems as, how to make a giant ball out of flyers, where to fill your face-hole, and the tip-top acts to catch).


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

August in Edinburgh: the time of the year where, if you were smart, you’d realise that the city population doubles, and avoid it like the plague. Instead you end up spending more money than you would on a trip to Barbados to sit in hot sweaty rooms and dodge flyerers on rain-soaked streets, but you know what, there is nowhere better on earth to spend the month of August.

Edinburgh goes mad crazy come August as comedians, actors, school theatre groups and thousands of other arty types converge on the city in an effort to bring joy to millions. Various festivals are held throughout the month, the best being the Fringe – with over 2,000 shows on you are spoilt for choice.

The lazy writer in me wants to talk of the history of the fringe, how Lee Evans, Eddie Izzard and Michael McIntyre made their names here, how it is an institution for comedy, how you should see shows morning, noon and night and how, if you go for four days, it’s perfectly possible to fit in 30 shows and a similar number of drinks… but I won’t say that. It’d just be lazy of me. Instead let me tell you this…

Chris Cox live in LondonThis is my 10th August in Edinburgh and the first year in five of not doing my magical mind-reading-related-nonsense show, meaning I get to experience joy and laughter without the stress, highs and lows and general abuse of my body with drink and fried food. This year, I will be making many flying visits to see as much as physically possible, from acts I’ve never heard of to household names, but, for now, as I type this on a plane up to Scotland, I thought I’d hold your hand a bit and try to give you sexy readers a quick lowdown on what to expect at the Fringe.

1 You will get handed flyers wherever you go. You’ve two options: walk fast enough to avoid taking them, or challenge your friends to a Edinburgh Festival flyersgame of who can collect the most. We once got enough to make a giant ball of flyers. It was quite the sight. Annoying though they are, they are still a great resource for working out what to see.

2 You’ll probably spend your time between the major venues. To avoid lots of walking, plan to see shows at the same place, leaving time to sit around and drink in between. The best place to sip and soak up the atmosphere is the Pleasance Courtyard. Your best bet is to see a load of shows there one night, then take in shows another evening at the Pleasance Dome (always to be said in a similar way to Richard O’Brien saying ‘To the Crystal Dome‘), Gilded Balloon and Under & Udderbelly, as they are all close.

3 There will be tourists and showgoers everywhere: you’re one of them, so embrace it and ask people for their tips on what to see. Don’t forget that amongst those tourists will be performers who might cajole you into seeing their show. Go to it. Always take a punt on a random show that takes you eye – chances are it won’t be any worse than that new Marmaduke movie looks.

4 It’s not Edinburgh if you don’t see at least one show you hate, almost faint of heat exhaustion while watching a show, and have at least one fried item of food a day.

5 Want to quickly fill your face-hole with food between shows? The Curry Kitchen in the Pleasance Dome and Library Bar in the Gilded Balloon will sort you something quick and tasty.

6 Finally, what to see? The big question. Last year, when performing for a month, I spent far too long drinking and socialising – meaning I saw just 15 of the 94 shows I wanted to see. This year, I’m going to try see the following shows. You should too, they’ll probably be amazeballs. If you want to know what I thought, check out my twitter: I’m @bigcox and yes, I love a pun.

Russell Kane at the PleasanceThe Big Edinburgh Names
Mark Watson, Assembly Rooms
Jason Byrne, Assembly Rooms
Russell Kane, Pleasance
Chris Addison, Assembly Rooms
Emo Philips, Pleasance
Rhod Gilbert, EICC

The medium names
Pappy’s, Pleasance
Pappy's at the PleasanceAxis Of Awesome, Gilded Balloon
Alex Horne, Pleasance
Daniel Kitson,  The Traverse
Jeremy Lion, Pleasance
Tom Wrigglesworth, Pleasance
Jon Richardson, Pleasance

People you’ll have never heard of but
who are well worth your time

Abandoman, Pleasance
Frisky & Mannish, Underbelly
Colin Hoult, Pleasance
Bo Burnham at the PleasanceJess Ransom, Pleasance
The Boy With Tape On His Face, Gilded Balloon
Bo Burnham, Pleasance

People who are doing magic in my absence this year
Pete Firman, Pleasance
Ali Cook, Gilded Balloon
Barry & Stuart, Underbelly
Piff The Magic Dragon, Just The Tonic @ The Caves

So see you there, and if you’ve left it too late, book up now for 2011, then you can see my new show. You lucky bastard you.

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