Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Berlin, by some accounts, has quite the burgeoning English language comedy scene, and in this late night line-up show, three faces from that scene make their first stand-up sortie to the Fringe. They do a good job talking up the German capital’s comedy credentials, but on the evidence they present, the general standard may be more provincial comedy club than you might imagine.

The trio (Shawn Jay, Ori Halevy and Francesco Kirchhoff) have done the right thing here – a strength-in-numbers free show is the way for first-timers to go. In fact, they could possibly use a couple more Berliners to help out, as their tight fives get stretched into very baggy fifteens.

They eschew the normal MC-plus-acts format, instead opting for a group introduction like a sketch troupe, promising us dark humour from a place with a dark history. It’s a rather unfortunate side effect that this comes across like the staged bantz of the old Top Gear team.

Each man has one semi-decent closer, supported by weaker routines, often confidently delivered with stylistic flourishes mimicked from other comics.

So, Shawn Jay, a northern Englishman who is first up, does the thing of analysing how the joke has landed, or dropping off the mic to shout at the audience. Halevy does the thing where you place your hand over the mic to make a scary booming voice. They can do it, but without the material to back it up, it just rings hollow.

Jay wants to talk about travel and age, but the travel tales feel a bit gap year and a gag about the Challenger Disaster isn’t “too soon”, it’s “too old”, thirty years so in fact. An analysis of famous sayings leads to a much better finale in which he works through what might happen if too many imaginary cooks actually tried to cook an imaginary broth. It points to a more profitable direction for him.

Halevy – an Israeli in Berlin as he keeps telling us – spends a lot of time working the audience, but to limited success. At one point, he needs someone to do some silly moves, and for a dreadful second it looks like the audience isn’t going to play ball. He simply hasn’t earned enough goodwill. He too saves his best ’til last though when the Israeli in Berlin angle pays off. He recalls an Arab guy attacking him for being a potential racist AfD voter, and works it into a nice pay-off.

Last on the bill, Francesco Kirchhoff, is the best of the three. Half-Italian, half-German, he uses this to play up the stereotypes of both. Nazis rear their head again, but for all the promise of edgy comedy, it really just wafts a few Nazi concepts at us. Kirchhoff’s last routine, dissecting the lyrics of Cotton Eye Joe is weaker than the others’ closers, but he’s been better all round.

The funniest person on the bill is in fact the guest, who we’re told is one of the main club promoters on the Berlin scene. His delivery is less sure than the others, but he has some very decent puns.

The night starts late, overruns, and sheds a dozen or so from the reasonably full room for what Halevy optimistically likes to believe are “cocaine breaks”. They’re certainly not leaving to book the next flight to Berlin, because while these three may progress with time, they’re not currently the best advert for the German comedy circuit.