@ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, on Sat 6 Jun 2015
(and first Saturday of every month)

The Festival Theatre‘s smaller Studio venue plays host to a solid line-up of standup comedy every month, under the auspices of indomitable Edinburgh Fringe venue the Gilded Balloon. Promising to “give you your festival fix every month until the Fringe”, it’s a mixed bag of lesser-known acts with a usually solid headliner.

Compering tonight’s event is Glasgow’s Scott Agnew, a familiar face on the Scottish comedy scene and a confident MC. Agnew’s rapport with the audience is easy and obvious from the outset, and he scores a few wry chuckles in acknowledging the folly of scheduling the gig for the same night as the Champions League final. Agnew is always strongest when allowed the time to indulge his anecdotal side, and his best material comes from his tale of a discriminatory Glasgow karaoke club.

The supporting comics are Andrea Hubert – who scores a couple of the strongest laughs of the night, but whose slightly scripted style feels a little strained at times – and John Gavin, a tattooed bundle of confrontational energy who sideswipes the audience with an unexpectedly surreal and gentle set.

The headliner for the evening is reliable curmudgeon Jimmy McGhie. He is obviously having fun, and hits a good balance of strong gags contrasted with some slightly more adventurous storytelling. A rare misstep, when McGhie reads aloud from the notes of a press reviewer in the front row to the evident discomfort of the crowd, is quickly smoothed over. McGhie really hits his stride once he is able to vent his vitriol at targets ranging from patronising shop assistants to his fellow comics. Russell Howard (“bounces about the stage like a boss-eyed Thunderbird”) receives a particular kicking, but McGhie’s tongue is at least partially in his cheek.

All of the acts on the bill employ some lazy hack jokes at times, but each also takes the opportunity to explore, obviously revelling in a friendly, non-aggressive audience. The Gilded Balloon Comedy Nights see material that’s more challenging and risky than a middle-of-the-road comedy club might otherwise expect. If you like live comedy, this is well worth a visit.