Edinburgh top 10 - the acts we loved

As this year’s Fringe festival comes to an end, Lee Levitt selects the performers for whom 2010 was a vintage year


September 2, 2010
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Phil Burgers trained in Paris as a clown, but he's serious about mime - and has his audience in stitches

Phil Burgers trained in Paris as a clown, but he's serious about mime - and has his audience in stitches

Rachel Rose Reid
A former UK Young Storyteller of the Year, Rachel Rose Reid is making a name for herself in the ancient art of storytelling. In her self-penned show, I'm Hans Christian, she entwined modern tales of love that go awry with the unglossed fairy tales and unfulfilled sexual longings of Hans Christian Andersen, the 19th-century Danish author of more than 200 stories.

Wearing a dress covered in red roses and laughing skulls, the 28-year-old member of the Moishe House in north-west London gleefully reworked the Disneyfied versions of tales such as The Snow Queen and The Ugly Duckling.

Ivor Dembina

Nearly three decades after emerging on the alternative comedy scene with the Red Rose Club, Dembina is still pulling them in. In this experimental show, the 59-year-old stand-up quickly and slickly established a rapport with his audience, with an interactive "Guess-the-contents-of-Ivor's-sandwich" quiz.

His verbal sparring with the Jewish comedian Lewis Schaffer, who was sitting the front row, was a treat. Utterly engaging, free-form, and free.

Jacob Edwards

Edwards met fellow comedian/producer Phil Gilbert while he working on Channel 4's Popworld in 2002. Their third Edinburgh Fringe show, Further Complications, was a wildly inventive series of sketches in the zany spirit of Monty Python.

Barmitzvahed in Brighton, schooled in Marlow, and now living in Bethnal Green, Edwards, 32, has a commanding on-stage presence, whether unabashedly talking as he stuffed his face with Red Leicester cheese or hamming it up as the affronted racoon, Kevin. Zany indeed.

Dave Florez

Florez can draw on the Catholic and Jewish sides of his family for a double dose of guilt-infused humour. "I blame myself for the death of Jesus," he says.

Post-Edinburgh, he will be filming a BBC3 pilot of Over to Bill for Doug Naylor, who wrote and directed the BBC2 sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. He will also be one of the comedians featured in Joke Shop, a mockumentary due to start filming in November.

Andy Zaltzman

Looking and sounding more than ever like a mad professor, Andy Zaltzman - "the lapsed Jew with the quips for you" - put on one of the best shows at this year's festival, with his fast-paced stand-up act that encompassed childbirth, world politics and philosophical musings.

Zaltzman, 35, who co-created the BBC Radio 4's satire show Political Animal will be returning to the airwaves soon with 7 Day Sunday on Radio 5 live.

Josh Howie

Josh Howie is well-known as the son of the PR guru Lynne Franks, Jennifer Saunders's inspiration for her sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. He is also the grandson of 87-year-old Angela Franks, with whom until recently he lived for four years in suburban north London and who inspired his densely packed show.

The Crouch End comedian's one-hander fizzed with wit and slick wordplay as he recreated life with his gran - Murray Mints, an endless supply of toilet rolls, and a fair amount of guilt figured largely, apparently.

If there is any justice, he should pop up on a prime-time TV comedy show very soon.

Marc Salem

The son of a rabbi, New York mentalist Marc Salem - who studied at a yeshivah in Jerusalem - was a college professor of psychology until he became "a purveyor of mind games" 10 years ago. He says he inherited his ability from his late father, Israel, who "had the ability to sum up people very quickly".

Highlights of his Mind Games show included getting punters to pick envelopes whose contents he had correctly predicted, and locating and stabbing a balloon held by a (brave) audience member while he is blindfolded. How does he do it?

Phil Burgers

The nomadic Los Angeles-born comedian trained at a drama school in Paris with Philippe Gaulier - "the greatest living teacher of clown", according to Sacha Baron Cohen. You could clearly see Gaulier's clownish influence in Burgers's largely mimed act, which included an invisible puppetry display and awkwardly riding a child's flat-tyred bicycle before chucking it off-stage, and throwing olives and cornflakes into audience. Strangely, they seemed to like it.

Burgers is hoping for a post-Edinburgh run at London's Soho Theatre.

Lee Kern

The shaven-headed Kern comes from a family of black cab drivers, and on stage he rages (not always comically) against the BNP, tanked-up hooligans and Jade Goody's widower, Jack Tweedy.

Behind the passion is a 31-year-old Cambridge University graduate who also works as a film-maker, writer, artist and illustrator. Kern lives in Edgware and was barmitzvahed at Edgware Synagogue. He started in stand-up last November. "I want to grow as a performer and be great on stage," he says.

Simon Brodkin

Simon Brodkin's feral comic creation, Lee Nelson, a joyously obscene, babe-obsessed simpleton whose south London housing estate is his universe, was first unleashed on Edinburgh audiences several years ago. The sparky, sarky star of Lee Nelson's Well Good Show, which has just been commissioned for a second series on BBC Three, now has a legion of fans.

The 32-year-old Brodkin gave up a career as a doctor to go into character comedy. It was definitely a healthy move. Fast becoming a Fringe legend.

    Last updated: 12:42pm, September 14 2010