Jonny and the Baptists have noticed a worrying trend: in 2014 they predicted that Farage would lead a right-wing power surge in the UK; in 2015 they predicted that children would be the ones leading the climate change protests. Given their prophet-like powers, hopefully their foretelling about swans becoming our overlords is unfounded... For those not in the know, Jonny and the Baptists is a musical comedy duo, marrying satire with musicality to create comedy anthems which make you think. This year’s Edinburgh show has a religious angle, with songs like ‘If I Were God’ and ‘Isaac’ which tackle some of the broader issues of Christianity and the apocalypse, as well as songs about finding your emotions and anti-capitalist sentiment. Paddy (the Baptists) gives us punchy playing while Jonny provides melodic vocals, and eloquent verbal segues between songs filled with wit deceptively disguised as ramblings. They had the audience roaring with laughter, which is no mean feat for the first act!
With the audience very much warmed up, it was time for John-Luke Roberts to take to the stage. Entering into the spotlight sporting orange swimming shorts, a green moustache and a golden crown, it was clear that we were in for a surreal experience. Roberts combines absurdist humour with philosophy (the trademark style of clowns who have trained at École Philippe Gaulier) to perplex and entertain the audience. Roberts’ unusual but effective technique of telling all of the punchlines before delivering the joke had the audience trying to match each up at the start of each setup. Bizarre one-liners about brass rubbing and surprises were dotted among longer material about sexy potatoes, orchard ghosts and a love story about the abyss. It was certainly a unique experience and very, very funny.
After the intermission it was time for our headliner. Sofie Hagen’s latest show ‘The Bumswing’ focuses on unearthing the truth behind the lies the brain tell to protect us from uncomfortable memories. But as Sofie repeatedly reminds the audience, this isn’t like her other shows; she’s not re-traumatising herself through dark, humorous stories from her past. Instead she’s entertaining us with lighter stories of the chicken killing, strawberries and bumswings in Shame Town where she grew up. The central story explores her first (and possibly last) sex holiday in Swansea, a place which Hagen describes as a ‘Heroin Puddle’: 'Why can’t you just call it what it is?!'
Her comedy is intelligent, self-reflective, relatable, and unquestionably funny. It was clear that she has put a huge amount of thought into her show and the audience were putty in her hands, responding to each story exactly as she wanted us to. Hagen is undoubtedly a skilled storyteller who seamlessly weaves together all the strands to create a hilariously bittersweet conclusion.
It’s rare that you come away from a comedy showcase where there was no weak link in the lineup. Bring on the next Comedy Room in November!