Gilded Balloon presents: The Leith Social

The Leith Arches
October 27th, 2022

In the Game of Thrones feeble analogy of the Edinburgh Fringe there are the three players.

Underbelly- southern nonces. Assembly Rooms- tweedy establishment yawn merchants, and the Gilded Balloon proper old school Cowgate rockers keeping it real.

Street proper barry and that ken word know and so on.

The Free Fringe would be Wildings if they were hard enough.

Gilded Balloon Headyin Karen Keating (surely some mistake. Ed.) knows a thing or two about comedy. The chief dragon of the Gilded Balloon has been entertaining punters and terrorising rivals since 1986. Herself, her daughter and team being responsible for the game changing gladiatorial and unfailingly fucking hilarious ‘Late ’n Live’, the stalwart ‘so you think you’re funny’ and many many more top end productions

In the currently under siege territory of Leith, the imaginatively named Leith Arches is a prime dynastic marriage. Underground, a bit boho but the bar and the toilets still work.

Here the Gilded Ballon return with the Leith Social.

Cabaret Comedy and Music it says here.

Paisleyite MC Jay Lafferty (no relation) stirs the crowd with some affable quick witted back and forth crowd interaction. Rousing the punters from the torpor resulting from having had (past continuous plu perfect.. nice. Ed.) solved the tetris puzzle that is getting to Leith at the moment.

First up Aussie Rae Rogan with some Gervais style bio based acerbically witty tales about the travails of being a lezzer. ‘If you are going to piss into a crisp bag. Take the crisps out first’

Next Mark Black regales us with properly funny anecdotes about his pals. Mixed with surreal meanderings and some Connelly style clowning. Topped with a great skit on drunk Glaswegians speaking algebra.

All the best comedy acts I saw during this years fringe were involved or wanted to be involved with Ru Pauls Blah Blah Blah. To the the extent that Outrageously this Glasgow born lad couldn’t get a football based joke in. Can I say that? (hell yeah. Ed.)

Topical toxic masculinity aside…

Thence commences the battle of the ‘taches.

Chris (Cliff) Thorburn goes for it with a prolonged Halloween based monologue upstaging his hirsutically infurrier in the moustache stakes but no less witty compatriot final act Cornwall’s Sam Lake, who follows with yet more Drag Race styled archly sharp comedy and an explanation of why he likes sex under exam conditions.

Zoe Graham

All wrapped up with the music of Zoe Graham on the guitar gong and electro vibes. Winner of the Best Acoustic Music gong at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards Proclaimers pal Ms. Graham is touring this winter. EP ‘Gradual Moves’ (Noise Artist) is out now hepcats, and she will be at Sneaky Pete’s this December 7th

Great venue Great acts Great night.

It’s the Gilded Balloon. They don’t fuck about

5 Stars or The Ballon D’or.

Adam McCully

Simon David: White Gay

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose
Aug 19-28 (21:00)

Simon David is white, is gay, is funny as fuc£, he’s a musical maestro, & he’s a confident enough performer to tell ubersexy, or sick-on-a-dick, jokes in front of his mum, who just happened to be sat two seats along from me completely enthrall’d by her son’s performance. Other audience members were either frolicking in high revelry or completely mystified by the events unfolding before them. As for me, I’m a very heterosexual man, & I don’t have any opinion on homosexuality whatsoever, I accept it thoroughly, & Simon definitely gave me an education into the throbbing fibres of male for male love, while astonishing me & chopping out the cheeky guffaws along the way.

You only have sex with each other, how French!

White Gay is essentially a tour de force panoramic view of what it’s like to become an ‘annoying’ (Simon’s words, not mine) white gay man in the UK today. Beginning with him as a FLGB (faggy little gay boy), there follows a number of segments such as losing his virginity & his first night’s clubbing, all of which revolve around the central core of brilliantly sung songs backed up by some virtuoso piano. Lyric-wise, think WS Gilbert on his peak ninja performances, but a lot filthier. His anthemic sing-a-longer concerning gay porn, ‘Why am I wanking to this,’ was a personal highlight. Fuc£ing mental!

Naturalise the railways, I say!

The story is great, the music is great, & Simon as a performer is a greco-classical comedic actor in the middle of our too-serious modernity. Its really buzzing to watch him snowsled his way through all our frigidities. I started smiling as he entered the stage & it was there on my face all the way through – sometimes my eyebrows would be rising as well. Extremely good fun!


Raul Kohli: Makes it Up as He Goes Along

Laughing Horse – Bar 50
Aug 18 – 28, 18.15

Bar 50 is a very down to earth venue for the free festival at the fringe, something we are very thankful for. But we enter at our own risk, the very small room in the Laughing Horse gig began to pack as the comedian delayed his show to make sure every seat was taken. It looked and felt like a crowd familiar with his spine cracking act.
He stood out, after taking to stage, in casual t-shirt introducing himself as an Anglo Indian beginning his sharp no holds barred mockery no matter the subject. I sat in the back and the room felt like erupting any time soon, he played on this atmosphere in a way that he seemed to be expecting it.

His show guidelines immediately involved all of the room with his questions of: ‘Where are you from? and ‘What do you do?, followed by the very involving question ‘What’s your favourite thing about it? He had to deal with spontaneous improvisation a lot, I confess I didn’t want to talk but thankfully he never pointed his finger at me.

He drew out to a more and more relaxed crowd that he set at ease or set fire to, who offered some wildly hilarious lines about the situation. Raul Kohli grew up in Newcastle and his debut at the Fringe in 2016 speaks of his long evolving career in stand up and we could tell that his show was well polished even as he had the room cajoled in a comedically electric atmosphere created in a tiny room with the scene reflecting on his sometimes tender stories of racism and recollection.

The show was almost intimidating to be at, moving with a feverish pace of surreal and political coverage, resoundingly partaking in a comedy of errors. His power resides in the speculation he makes to turn the world upside down. Using his funny bone and large brain he used these sharpest of tool to strip himself down and put it all into the public domain to share experience.

Giving a voice to the messed up in the world and then make a devastating comedy about it, he does it like a hurricane. Showing how one man with a small audience can exhibit, with ruckus delivery, an exhibition that flew across the board, the room until the end of the planet.

If you want to do something very uncomfortable to bring you out of a humdrum day, or you love perplexity and dangerous nervousness find your way to bar 50, for a fight with words. On a more pleasant side were his lines, cajoling but also his willingness to make mistakes and be unsure, a most accomplished act that the right kind of stand up should be

Daniel Donnelly

Garrett Millerick: Just Trying to Help

Monkey Barrel Comedy – Monkey Barrel 4
Aug 9-15, 17-28 (18:25)

In his beard, build & general bounciness there’s a bit of Brian Blessed in Garrett Millerick. Of course, Garrett is waaayyyyy funnier than Brian. He’s an impressive fountain of fun is this lad, I especially dug the way he projected into the future to find his comedy – based upon the fast approaching demise of our Queen, but I loved that. Most comedians are retrospective & contemporary in their search for material, but Garrett’s mind wanders everywhere.

Its nice to have the Russians back – every generation needs a good, proper enemy

A highlight for me was his adulation of Jeff Bezos, portraying him more as a Father Christmas figure than the oppressor of workers. I even went home & shared his opinion with my pals, such was Garrett’s influence. Its probably down to his extreme confidence in his ability to make us laugh, which I witnessed regularly throughout the show. There is a universality to his material which I noticed was reflected in an audience of all ages & an even gender spread.

Now the evil of the Welsh has risen in the east

At the end of his set Millerick is dripping with sweat, so energetically composed is his performance. That set, by the way, is full of such deadpan phraseology which I hope sometime he or his inheritors compile into a compendium of wisdom. ‘Don’t bring a baguette to a knife-fight you fanny,‘ definitely has to go in. He’s like the Lao-Tze Tung of laughter, & paints landscapes of the same vistas of life which we all can see, but his are guaranteed to make us laugh.


Jake Cornell and Marcia Belsky: Man and Woman

Assembly George Square Studios – Studio Four
Aug 8-16, 18-28 (18:15)

Tonight I went out for a double bill from Zach Zucker’s Stamptown empire, one of the most prodigious & highly thought-of comedy umbrellas, which sends its Kraken-tentacle acts all across the world. Looking at the Fringe guide I’m like I can do two in a row in the Assembly Quarter of Edinburgh. Man & Woman was first (BriTANick was second), brought to us across the ocean by Jack Cornell & Marcia Belsky,& oh my god it was proper funny, like! From Tik-Tok acorns do oaks of humungous funniness grow & it was from the aforementioned online video vignette medium that Jack suddenly found a girl he’d never met before, but living round the corner, bouncing comedy of his little sketch. BOOM ! Chemistry ! Action ! & a year or so later a buzzing masterpiece has vaulted into Scotland with broad American accents & an amazing dissection of the realities of romantic heterosexual cohabitation. 

Stop being so curious, it isn’t good for you

Men & women is pure parody is all about well, men & women, & their heterosexual intertanglings & bubbles with cutting edge socio-anthropological insights while at all times making us laugh out loud. Is it a sketch series? Is it theatre? I’d say a bit of both, that’s why its going in both Mumble Theatre & Mumble Comedy. Either way, when Marian met her Jom-Jom at nursery in Chipaquaqua County, after 3 years of life & loneliness, she knew he was the one for her. The show then flows through the rest of their lives together with great & innate detail surfing an ever-high level of hilarity. I loved the way kids keep popping up in a constant mission to get one that doesn’t ‘flop’ in life, while the comedy is spliced by commentaries on how ‘women influence life & society from the private sector of their homes.’

Can you stop reminiscing & treat my actual wound

Of our performers & their deliveries, Marcia is eminently watchable & Jack is emphatically suave – it really is top notch stuff, & includes the immortally dodgy exchange ‘ I told you I didn’t want to work with a paedophile — You are so closed minded it’s unbelievable.’ At the half way point we stepp’d away from the storyline into an actors’ workshop world & a Q&A intermission, which did halt my buzz a little bit & perhaps tainted my full appreciation for the rest of the tale – it was a funny interlude but definitely disturbed my trance in which I’d been more than happy to have been foster’d into. All the same, I swear down I actually shed a single tear of happiness at the end – a strange reaction – but I completely enjoy’d myself, which doesn’t happen all the time, in fact most of the time, when I’m out reviewing. Really brilliant stuff.


Sasha Ellen: Creeps and Geeks

Underbelly, Bristo Square – Daisy
Aug 8-15, 17-29 (16:15)

This is my second dose of Sasha Ellen in Edinburgh. The first was in 2018, a delightful tale of when she & her boyfriend brought one of the Channel Islands to a halt. I remember comparing her comedy to the rising bubbles of a bottle of prosecco on a summer’s day. Four years on the prosecco has morphed into Havana rum & I can definitely feel her experience & intelligence crafting a fluffy-soul’d comedy souffle, whose only true theme is that of making us laugh.

I am this close to mounting quizmaster Dave – medicate me!

She’s like a cool comedy kitten is our Sasha – I say ‘our’ because she really does make you feel that you’re one of her mates. Y’know, the mate that every ebullient bundle of hormones & horniness  needs to bounce their brilliance off. Her material is a blend of white-knuckle risqué & teenage nerdiness – her idea of bagging a doctor is a level 9 healer in D&D. The way she rolls thro her show is meteor-like, an incandescent blaze of comedy that slices thro’ the stratosphere of a Scottish afternoon.

My favorite part of the show was when she went off mic for 3 minutes & 30 seconds to relate the story of an incident in her life which lasted the exact same amount of time. This was the moment when Sasha’s talent for audience intimacy really shone through. The overriding feeling is Sasha loves what she does, & she certainly has master’d the comedian’s main obligation in life which is to find humour in all situations. She’s a natural, & there’s also a subtle sophistication behind her act which is camouflaged by her gloriously giddy approach to performance.


Kathryn Henson & Ollie Horn: Pure Filth

Laughing Horse @ Bar 50
Aug 5-14, 16-28 (16:45)

Gigging for a month, with a bucket for payment, in a converted meeting room in the Grassmarket where the flyerers can’t collect flyers and the barmen don’t know which beer they’re serving, could be seen as problem to some. Ollie Horn & Kathryn Henson however use this to their benefit in a manner which highlights their craftsperson-ship from the get go. Kicking off with some Groove Armada (at audience request) they beginning bantering with the crowd from the moment the doors open. I feel that we’re getting 5 minutes of comedy for free, the rest of the small audience do to, and this use of time to develop a rapport pays off throughout.

The theme of the show is simple. The audience vote for which of the performers is to deliver a ‘clean’ set, and which of the performers is to deliver a set of filth. The general warming up presents the audience with a conundrum. Kathryn is clearly the more comfortable with filth, indeed she alludes to it oozing from her pores, and presents visions of a Venom like sentient filth being which is urging to get out of her at any moment. The audience of course vote her ‘clean’, she delivers a set which is mainly focused around the very safe topic of ‘emotional assistance dogs’ and manages to accidentally throw in allusions to yeast, hard drugs, prescription abuse and shotgun weddings. It is all expertly performed, even if the audience is aware that she is playing Laurel to Ollies impending horny Hardy. She throws in some very neatly observed material on the duality of stand-up performers in general however, and this is where this 2-hander is elevated beyond some of its peers whereupon inferior shows feel like marriages of convenience, rather than genuine comedic partnerships. Henson pulls out a wonderful soliloquy early in the show where the ‘shadow self’ of the stand up performer is presented. This is a necessary breaking of the third wall to allow Ollie to really show off his filth chops when he takes to the stage.

Ollie is a big lad. He has presence, he also has a remarkably delicate touch when it comes to leaping onto stage shouting incoherent obscenities to clarify for us that we are now on the dark side of the show. As with the other male comedians I saw today, he managed to both celebrate, and mock, masculinity in a manner which pleased every corner of the room. This is true spirit of the Fringe stuff. Notebook in hand, we receive blow by blow accounts of this young, and apparently very virile, mans Casanovian escapades in such a warm fashion that when it comes to the big final punchline of the set, we already know that the laugh is going to be on him. We have been warmed to this by anecdotes of accidentally scatological massages & Newtonian physics as a self-confidence tool for gents of the larger persuasion during intimate moments. This is stuff which is simultaneously surreal in a Pyncheon-esque manner, and crowd pleasing.

The combination of the 2 back-to-back is akin to in seeing Henson attempt to deliver a clean act by wrestling with her own potty-mouthed Mr Hyde, and thus allowing the audience to make all manner of dirty jokes in their own head, & the filth act delivering obscenities with the gusto of a Mormon recalcitrant in the manner of a priapic Frankenstein’s Monster tearing down its masters laboratory.

This is a show which they would like the audience reviewers to describe as ‘The best show at the Fringe’, to allow them to afford a better venue next year. I urge you to see them, but I really can’t imagine how any venue could better frame this slick, confident, intimate hour of pretty much non-stop laughs. A Free Fringe show which delivers the atmosphere of The Stand on a Friday night, to an audience of 10 is a marvellous thing. It is, if not necessarily ‘the greatest show at The Fringe,’ not very far off. It’s charm very much comes from the fact that you are having the privilege of seeing 2 headline acts for one, in a killer partnership with new material every day, in a genuinely comedy club atmosphere.

Ewan Law

Danny Deegan @ The Comedy Attic

The Late Show
The Beehive Inn, Edinburgh

I walked into the heart of Edinburgh and felt the low key buzz of pre-fringe vibes. The Grassmarket, warm with laughter, was lit up; the smell of ale and good food in the warm dusk air ignited my senses. I was greeted with a smile by the friendly doorman who showed me to the top floor of the Beehive Inn & into the famous Comedy Attic. The venue holds 50/60 seats neatly packed into a dark square room.

I waited for the sold-out seats to fill, enjoying the background music while periodically peering out the window to the fun streetside. The lights dimmed at 11pm and Rick Molland took to the stage. As comperes go he was a little nervous and his voice shook for the first few minutes, but I was enlightened to his abilities once I realised how tough the crowd were that he was dealing with.

Three stag-do’s were present and Rick set about firing questions at them. The front row could not have been more boring. A dull combination of accountants and project managers, Rick had his work cut out for him so he impressed me by receiving a good few laughs.

The warm-up act was Gus Lindberg. He entertained with the inevitable covid chat, childhood anecdotes, audience interaction and some great Scottish banter. He pumped the room up to almost boiling point, before ending on a rather dark joke which gave a little more context to his potential versatility. I would like to see him headline sometime.

After a twenty minute interval, Rick got us prepared for more of the show. Headlining was Danny Deegan. He took the stage and introduced himself by explaining he had driven 4 hours to get to Edinburgh from Manchester and to be honest, what followed made me wonder if he’d wasted a his petrol. Self-proclaimed working class scum, Danny was more versed in rants, rather than bants. His timing was studied and seemingly well practiced, but he only hit on average a 20/30 percent audience laughter rate and it didn’t particularly tickle me. A pretty dry story-teller, he reminded me of a guy spraffing his life story to you while waiting in the queue for red bull and a packet of Lambert and Butler at the corner shop; someone you’d like to walk away from but that you’re OK with tolerating for the sake of being able to buy your essentials.

As for the forthcoming Scottish Comedy festival – a part of the Fringe – I have faith that its organiser, tonight’s very own Rick, will smash it this festival and the venue is just what u want if you like intimacy. Watch out for Gus Lindberg though, he was the top talent tonight!

Bobbi McKenzie