Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

It’s been dog-eat-dog among the free Fringe venues this past couple of years. After last year’s Cowgateheadgate debacle came the surprise news earlier this year that Gilded Balloon were taking over the Counting House, which in the hands of Laughing Horse had been a reliably great place to hang out and catch good, occasionally amazing, free comedy, often of the more unusual variety.

How that particular move works out remains to be seen, but it’s barely made a dent in the Laughing Horse Free Festival programme, given the other 17 venues they have on their books, including their main base in Cowgate’s central drinking den, The Three (or for August, Free) Sisters.

Trump-baiting Glaswegian Janey Godley will be one of the folks in residence there throughout, with 7pm show, An Act of Godley. There’ll be no mincing of words, nor will there be any aggressive bucket pitch. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it, but you’ll still be welcome. Unlike the potential future president. It is Godley who you will have seen on social media celebrating the Donald’s arrival on Scottish soil with a sign reading “Trump is a…” Kunt and the Gang will also be at the venue. The comedy musical performer behind such albums as I Have A Little Wank And I Have A Little Cry and I Have Another Wank And I Have Another Cry will be back for three nights only. Late night at the Sisters will see Aussie comic Daniel Muggleton Not Trying To Be A Dick, while you can see in the wee hours with another drink and the improvised musical comedy of Panicky Tack.

Espionage is another of the sprawling booze palaces that Laughing Horse take over for August. Check out Dave Chawner who returns with last year’s Normally Abnormal, confessional stand-up about eating disorders and mental health. He’s also host of the lunchtime showcase, Shit of the Fringe, where badly reviewed comedians return for a second hearing. And if his Espionage show isn’t personal enough for you, try his new Cabaret Voltaire show, Circumcision. Cabaret Voltaire is also the place to find former music journo JoJo Smith recounting a life interestingly lived in I Was Mick Jones’ Bank Clerk, and for genre lovers there’s also the improv murder mystery, CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation.

Chris Davis got top marks from us in 2014 for his one man theatre piece Drunk Lion. This year, the Philadelphia-based, California-born performer premieres his first stand-up hour, Chinchilla Coats at The Cellar Monkey. Another American presents his take on what could yet be the worst of the many bad things that 2016 has had to offer – the US Presidential Election. Erich McElroy’s Electile Dysfunction is at Bar 50 on the Cowgate.

There really are too many shows in too many venues (including the newest one at the Old Golf Tavern on the Meadows) to give more than the briefest of programme outlines here, but we’ll be trying to review as many as possible over the next month.

In the meantime, find the full Laughing Horse programme on their website, www.freefestival.co.uk. Having said that, the printed brochure is worth picking up for the excellent cover alone. They’ve seen the Fringe’s sexowl and raised them sexchicken.