Rise of the Nerds

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This first appeared on fringebiscuit.co.uk

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Who doesn’t relish a bit of gloom every now and then? Comedians like Stewart Lee and Dylan Moran tickle audiences with their brilliant cynicism and grumpy displeasure over the irritations of modern life. Who can blame them? There’s a recession on, the politicians representing us are just awful, we’ve used up all the oil and ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ is in its seventh season.

But I’ve noticed a new trend of geeky, shambling comedy emerging in this year’s Fringe guide. Much of this comedy shares traits with that of Lee, Moran et al. It’s wordy, conversational, sometimes seemingly rambling, but it reacts to modern life with a lighter, more whimsical touch. In short, it’s a bit nerdier.

Josie Long and Sam Schäfer’s Awkward Romance (Mood Nightclub) will relate the cringe-worthy tales of fumbling encounters and dating faux-pas made by the pair. Harry Potter-graduate Jessie Cave (she was Lavender Brown) will unashamedly discuss her favourite literary characters in Bookworm (Underbelly, Cowgate), her pretty face obscured behind a chunky pair of nerd-specs. Tim Key will continue to delight audiences with his ruffled style and wonderfully maladroit poetry in Masterslut (Pleasance Dome), and in Numb (The Bongo Club) Simon Amstell will discuss the vulnerability of, and daily blunders made by, gawky individuals like himself.

Over the past year there’s been a backlash against a nastier streak of humour (Frankie Boyle’s vitriolic ‘Tramadol Nights’ springs to mind), and this swell in sweeter comedy might be due, at least in part, to the public’s growing distaste for shock tactics. Certainly many folk will welcome the increase in comedians who have at least a kernel of kindness in their material.

In doing away with a more scathing form of delivery and celebrating our universal fallibility in an increasingly uncertain world, these performers demonstrate that you can be intelligent, subversive and satirical whilst wearing a crumpled suit, an unfashionable jumper and a bewildered expression. They’re not the sexiest or sleekest bunch, but they’re certainly some of the funniest comics the Fringe has to offer this year. All hail the rise of the nerds.

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