Comedy Reviews


It Just So Happened is an entertaining and educational panel show podcast, very much in the same vein as Radio 4's The Unbelievable Truth or Museum of Curiosities. Host Richard Pulford and a team of four comedians look at famous events that happened on the day of recording, sometimes with a bit of embellishment for comedic purposes.

For the lockdown Buxton version, Pulford was joined by Charmian Hughes, Gerard Harris, Kevin Hudson and James Frinton, to talk about subjects including the 17th-century scientist Robert Hook, the 100 Years War, Henry VIII's breaking with the Roman Catholic Church, William Makepeace Thackeray, the Great Fire of Rome, the first photo shared on the World Wide Web and the publication of Mein Kampf. This final subject proved the most problematic, as even the thought of making jokes around Nazism made me decidedly uneasy, but there were many nuggets of historic interest, even if at times the jokes were a little strained.

The second half of the podcast was centred on historical facts about Buxton itself, some of which would be news to even the most avid local history fan, and the show ended with a heartfelt nod towards Buxton's sadly lost famous son, Tim Brooke-Taylor.

The podcast is online for anyone who didn't experience it live, and remains an entertaining and interesting listen for anyone tuning in.

Robbie Carnegie


Longstanding and acclaimed Buxton Fringe stand up Nathan Cassidy has always had something of the magician about him. You can think you are listening to observational comedy only to realise by the end of his show that it has become - and indeed always was - something else entirely.

His opening trick for 2020 is to pull out of the hat what is probably the UK Fringe circuit’s first live comedy gig since lockdown. An intrepid comedian, Nathan was willing to perform to just five people to comply with government restrictions, ticket proceeds going to charity. In the event, changes to government guidelines mean a slightly larger audience can attend whilst still observing social distancing. With the sun shining as we stroll into the Pavilion Gardens for the start of this evening promenade show things feel almost normal, except, except…

Nathan seems to intuit our mixed emotions about how we should be emerging from lockdown. His whole show is both site specific and time specific. The route we take, ending up in an obscure Buxton alleyway, is a retracing of his steps exactly a year ago at the end of his comedy gig in the Old Clubhouse as he took a circuitous route back to his hotel room. He says he was at a particularly low point having been stalked on social media. Logging onto Facebook (“Facebook knows you are depressed because you’ve logged on”), he came across a Tony Robbins five steps to happiness seminar and long before the nation decided to show its love to the NHS by clapping, he hit upon a wild idea to throw love into the world himself via a series of tweets, even if he wasn’t sure where they might land. We learn how American baseball player Joe DiMaggio put roses on Marilyn Monroe’s grave three times a week in a similar act of romantic faith.

As ever with Nathan, things become enjoyably shaggy doggish as he takes us back to his childhood and his 11th year when happiness forsook him after his parents split up and he moved into a tiny flat over a grocer with his devil’s advocate step-dad and three step-brothers. Why, he wonders do people think it is OK to be a devil’s advocate when they would never think of being, say Jack the Ripper’s advocate, and why, more generally do people choose to behave badly when they could close their eyes and wish for a better reality?

Things are a little rough around the edges in this preview show but that only adds to the sense that anything may happen. And at the end, in a strange little alleyway and with Nathan standing on a small bag of hay as if it were the most important podium in the world, something really does and we all feel the better for it.

Stephanie Billen


Sheridan Shacklethwaite is a septuagenarian Sheffielder who is an after-tea speaker, broadcaster and raconteur. We learn how he thought he was playing pool in a tavern, not leading a tour of Poole's Cavern. In a light-hearted, whimsical and pleasantly educational virtual tour of Poole's Cavern, we meet Pebbles, a cave dweller with a penchant for stone-baked pizza. We also get up close and personal with some of the history of the cavern, and its glorious rock formations. Think you know all there is to know about the two million-year-old caves that sit 1000 metres under Grinlow Hill? Join Mr Shacklethwaite and learn something new.

Sheridan Shacklethwaite's Stalactites Secrets can be found at

Suzanne Elvidge


Heralding from Buxton, Three’s Company was founded by Yaz Al-Shaater, Tom Crawshaw and Michael Grady-Hall in 2000. In this, their 16th Buxton Festiva Fringe, the multi-award-winning group put their show virtually on the road with a series of daily podcasts.

When you begin listening to Episode One you may be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a very sensible talk about the funding challenges facing theatre makers, which of course is particularly relevant at this moment in time, but not terribly entertaining.

Following a brief introduction from Michael, Tom and Yaz, they share their current financial dire straits of only having £746.11 left in the bank. But wait a minute… after offering their services for hire on a Gumtree advert there’s a knock at the door. In walks Flora from the mythical ‘Dryland’ who needs to fulfil her father’s dying wish in order to defeat the wicked witch and save her island. And so off they jet on their first adventure.

Lots of familiar faces (voices) and storylines seamlessly intermingle as we follow them along the yellow brick road where they meet a variety of characters including a wizard, a ‘troop’ of goblins on flying gorillas, a troll, and some elves, all in their quest to overthrow ‘she who must not be named’ at Castle Marrrrrmite. Armed only with a mushroom, a rock, a glorified bedsheet, an illegible spell book and some bath salts, will they succeed before their return flight and raise some much needed capital? Will they all live happily ever after? Most importantly, will we ever discover the collective noun for goblins?

Great acting and hilarious story telling will keep you chortling throughout, as will the half time ad break. Promising a different genre with each daily episode, this entertaining podcast is a perfect listen whilst doing your lockdown exercise. With this much talent I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the Buxton Fringe 2021.

Karen Wain-Pimlott

LOCKDOWN BINGO - The Laughter Hub

To get the most from this show, you'll certainly need to participate and that requires a bit of preparation. There's a need to choose yourself 24 numbers beforehand and lay them out in a particular way on your very own Bingo Card. You can even win prizes if registering your special numbers! Full details are here:

Bingo-Masters Mike Raffone and John Whelan call out the numbers with the giggle-worthy enthusiasm of frantic ferrets on a sugar-high. Mike's an award-winning Fringe favourite, so his madcap style may be familiar and John gets stuck in a 1990s' Madchester vocal frenzy.

Gently bobbing along amidst the to-and-fro, the Bingo eventually gets under way, perhaps a little labouredly. The numbers seem an aside to the gags, but stick with them anyhow because they might win you something truly unwanted.

Modern day Bingo calling could evolve from this: On it's own = someone in isolation, Two = the distance between us in metres, 33 = my mate made a face mask for me, 64 = shopping delivery at the door ... and so on.

David Carlisle


Helen Wilkes provides a short but amusing set with tales from her life as a Cambridge postgraduate student. From inside knowledge of an MI5 interview to her PhD supervisor’s uncanny skill in knowing when his students are slacking, Helen shares amusing snippets from her postgraduate life. Helen is a confident performer with an amusing, self-deprecating style, who gets lots of well-deserved laughs from her live audience. She covers a number of topics ranging from her academic work on DNA replication to her social media habits. Why is her department really called the zoology department? What do the Facebook algorithms make of her browsing habits? And did she get the tap on the shoulder from HM Secret Service? You’ll have to watch to find out!

Georgina Blair


Andy Quirk’s work adapts well to the online format as music videos with a twist. Now resident in Glossop after escaping from years of teaching in London, Andy uses his observations of northern life to provide material for his songs which are cleverly worded to the tunes of well-known pop songs. Most are hits from Andy’s youth and he raids the dressing up box to come up with a different outfit, and wig, in each video, although it's doubtful that's what he wore when he was clubbing in his twenties. Andy introduces each video with a short commentary explaining where the idea came from; it appears creative inspiration can strike anywhere, even the supermarket (you’ll have to watch to find out!). Teachers especially will find that his rendition of Valerie, inspired by a cultural visit to Liverpool, strikes a chord. And it’s definitely worth hanging on for the bonus videos at the end.

Georgina Blair


Stew Walker began his comedy career in 2012 when he was discovered by fellow Australian comedian, Adam Hills. His highly entertaining one-man musical is jam-packed with hilarious songs and sing-a-longs and it is easy to see why the debut sold out at the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

We follow a pyjama’d Stew Walker on his journey for a sleep apnoea cure through clever lyrics and guitar accompaniment which will have you foot-tapping and laughing throughout.

We learn of exile to the backyard bungalow, the strain of sleep deprivation, detrimental effects on work and social life, medical investigations with his Respiratory Physician, a sandpaper wielding Sleep Technician, and an expensive Cardiologist who gives him three s*** options to rectify the problem.

What Stew really wants is a ‘fast, free fix’ and resorts to weight loss. These exploits were my personal favourites with lyrics including “You can’t replace fettuccine with spiralised zucchini”, which sadly we can all relate to. We have a zombie invasion, the heartache of spending two grand on a cure, problems with airport security, all happily culminating in domestic harmony with a surprise final twist!

It comes with a tongue-in-cheek public health announcement: “If you snore or love someone who does… songs about snoring and sleep apnoea will not only amuse you, but it could save your relationship or even your life!”

This is one of the best comedies I’ve seen at the Fringe, and is a great show for everyone. Not to be missed.

Karen Wain-Pimlott

THE LAUREL AND HARDY CABARET - Lucky Dog Theatre Productions

Lucky Dog Theatre Productions present ‘The Laurel and Hardy Cabaret’. With Tony Carpenter and Philip Hutchinson offering an uncanny portrayal of the much loved Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, prepare to get sentimental.

The show draws from over 100 films and music hall routines spanning their 30-year career, so settle back and enjoy classic slapstick comedy, song and dance at its best. Look out for my personal favourite the “soda, soda, soda” skit from their 1929 Men O’War movie.

The audience was in stitches and it was great to see a whole new group of children discovering Stan and Ollie for the first time almost 100 years after the original performances.

With gentle nostalgic humour, this show will suit all the whole family from young to old.

Karen Wain-Pimlott


Part documentary, part poetry lesson and part love letter to Buxton and Tamworth. This 26-minute video presentation by Andy is both gentle and daft, with cleverly crafted observations and cutting reverie cunningly interwoven.

A recipe for the perfect poem to get the complete beginner under way includes one part being drunk, mixed with a handful of well-developed characters and liberally sprinkled with rhyming words. I'm listening and learning: "If the poem doesn't rhyme, it's not a poem, it's a crime!"

Anything but stuffy and with adult/adolescent humour and language, Andy's master class features bang-up-to-date subject matter including rhymes about bulk-buying toilet rolls, panic-buying alcohol and arranging sex-parties on Zoom! Modern fun!

David Carlisle

RADIO FREE KINSLEY - Red Shed Readings

The televisual version of Radio Free Kinsley provides a number of sideways-looking newsy-style bulletins and broadcasts on current affairs from the heart of lockdown Britain.

There is a public service element: you can learn how to become the tallest dancing flower in the garden, something we all desperately wish for, but usually only ever aspire to. Or even find out how to become the perfect digital troll.

It is also a comedy vehicle for Pascha Taylor, Alistair Cowan and the gloriously named Jimmy Andrex; many household names, world leaders and common-or-garden celebrities are taken to task, savagely pulled apart or, in the case of Keith Harris's Orville, fallen on hard times, tenderly parodied.

Not laugh-a-minute stuff, but there are some golden comedy nuggets unearthed.

Adult content: strong language and frequent sexual references make this unsuitable for younger Fringe-goers!

David Carlisle