Note: This review is from the 2021 Fringe

A Fringe without the Monkey Barrel is almost unimaginable. Heading almost underground into a dark room with a small stage and guaranteed laughs has never felt so thrilling, after more than a year of not being able to experience the excitement and fun of live comedy. The Big Show is a belting showcase of laughter, with charismatic and practiced comedians cutting their teeth on an audience ready for the lights to go down once more.

Rick Molland, the host for the evening, is electric. He riles up the crowd and mercilessly picks on those foolish enough to brave the front row, getting such an obvious kick out of it. His exuberance lends itself well to his host duties, daring himself to be as outlandish with the audience as he can. It could not be a better start to the show; a lively and classic opening to welcome everybody back to the thrill of live comedy.

The first act is Jay Lafferty, who in a relatively short set seems to cover just about everything without it feeling cramped or superficial. Her particular insights on topics like age, childhood and being a parent – while not exactly new comedic ground – are delivered with a wicked grin and some intelligent writing. She is followed by proud ‘shorter man’ and the 2018 BBC New Comedy Award winner Stephen Buchanan. Buchanan manages to get fantastic material out of what seem like the most mundane things. His performance is utterly infectious and his topics are linked together seamlessly. He gets deafening laughs from the crowd every time he hits his punchlines. 

Closing the show is the headline act, Lauren Pattison. A proud northerner, her subject matters of choice seem well suited to a rowdy Scottish audience (even though there were only about five Scots in the crowd). Pattison was nominated for the Fringe’s best new comedian four years ago and it is clear why. Her material is golden, her performance full of energy, and her hold on the crowd is plain to see. 

The Big Show is a riotous good time. It is a refreshing taste of underground late night comedy that has been sorely missed these past 18 months. Live entertainment has taken a battering during the pandemic, and a night in the company of Monkey Barrel’s best and brightest is a timely reminder of why comedy matters.