“It’s what my generation chose to watch,” a lady waiting for a show to start at the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival says. “Your generation are happy with stand-up.” Her granddaughter chips in: “No offence Nana, but Morecambe and Wise – nobody would watch that nowadays.”
For better or for worse they agree the comic double act is dead.
But this is the largest arts festival in the world. Spend enough time in the sticky beer-smelling student union rooms which have been trussed up as venues, and you’ll find that old staple of British television in rude health. The majority is sketch-based. Duos such as Goodbear or Inside Studio 9. But old style variety has also had a revamp.
Double Denim, comprising of Australian comedians Michelle Brasier and Laura Frew largely consists of games with the audience and group renditions of Shania Twain classics.
Laura Anderson of Hurt and Anderson says double act stock is on the rise. “Double acts mostly work as a sketch or a character comedy thing,” she says. “And as far as I can tell, sketch is getting more and more popular again. It ebbed away but I think it’s coming back.”
When they started in 2011, they say there were almost no female comic duos on the fringe. “Now we’re treading them under foot,” she says. “They’re everywhere!”
“On the circuit. Not the mainstream consciousness,” her comedy partner Georgia Hurt adds.
After selling out their Edinburgh festival debut last year, Barney Fishwick and Will Hislop are back as the double act Giants. For a large proportion of their act they are Norwegian pop sensations. “The EU is a big, beautiful dance floor”, they say. Everyone dancing together, “or as we like to call it, the free movement of peoples. The final product is this year”, Hislop jokes.
They met at four days old and have been good friends ever since.
Why a double act? Fishwick says it allows “for conflict”, adding: “It’s that weird thing where there is this real chemistry, there’s love at the basis of it.”
“There’s also hate”, Hislop interjects.
They say a connection is required, a trust which allows them to veer off in different directions during their act. “We know each other’s rhythms as it were, so we know what we’re likely to think,” Hislop says.
“So if there’s someone in the front row wearing Crocs, I know that Barney finds Crocs really funny so I’ll leave that to him because I don’t have a lot of Crocs material.”
So Bimbo and I don’t always agree on things, although we have lived through many things together we do not always like or dislike the same things. However, there is one thing on which we both agree. When I ask him does he think we might have another Morecombe and Wise coming through the collection of young comedians?
“No chance,” he replies.
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