At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe the comedian Matt Forde will present his political satire show Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right (Pleasance, Aug 3-28). A daily stand-up show takes stamina, but the brave Forde is also squeezing in three recordings of his podcast The Political Party.
His first guest will be the former prime minister Gordon Brown, followed by the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and the SNP MP Joanna Cherry.
Forde created The Political Party in 2013 because he fancied a night out seeing politicians in an unstuffy setting. “For a lot of people, it’s the only time they’ll see a politician live,” he says. “And more than a sportsman or a musician, they talk for a living.”
The phenomenally popular fortnightly show’s format has always been an interview in front of a live audience that is later put out as a podcast. Its London home is the Duchess Theatre in the West End of London, where confirmed forthcoming guests include the Tory Brexiteer David Davis (tomorrow), the Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle (Jul 11), the former Labour minister Alan Johnson (Jul 25) and the former Tory health secretary Matt Hancock (Oct 17).
Forde has “an army of regulars” who are cross-party attendees. “It’s like a Top of the Pops of politics,” he says. “People won’t like everything they hear, but might come away with a broader understanding.” In these politically polarised, partisan times that seems refreshingly positive. Forde adds that a long-time jokey complaint from liberal metropolitan types is: “You’ve got to stop booking Tories like Tom Tugendhat and Michael Heseltine because I find I actually like them.”
Another long-running hit interview show with a West End hub and a loyal podcast following is RHLSTP (Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast). Herring first tested the format of him interviewing fellow comedians, live and as a podcast, at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe. In 2012 the Leicester Square Theatre offered it a home. A decade on, RHLSTP has become a who’s who of British comedy.
Over the summer there will be recordings from the Phoenix in London (Jun 27, Jul 11), the Deer Shed Festival in Yorkshire (Jul 29) and the Assembly in Edinburgh (Aug 3-14). The guests at Herring’s lunchtime Assembly Ballroom shows will include Ed Gamble, the revered US comedian Janeane Garofalo, Tim Key and Rachel Fairburn from the podcast All Killa No Filla (also doing a live podcast on Aug 16).
For Herring, Edinburgh will also be a working family holiday. His wife, Catie Wilkins, co-stars with Hannah George and Taylor Glenn in Drunk Women Solving Crime (Underbelly, London, Jul 21; Edinburgh, Aug 5-14), the hit comedy cold crime podcast. In each show the trio endeavour to solve a historic crime with the aid of a guest and some not strictly helpful libation. It launched as a podcast in September 2018.
“Immediately a promoter suggested doing it live,” the producer, Amanda Redman, says. Now most episodes are recorded in front of an audience. “They love the interaction between Hannah, Catie and Taylor,” Redman says. “Also, our audiences are really involved. Every show, an audience member shares an experience of crime — usually something silly.” For fans there is the possibility to go repeatedly, but see a different show: the women rotate the role of sipsmith-sleuth, and every evening find a new crime to unpick.
Wilkins, George and Glenn will cherry-pick their guests from performers across the Fringe. I suggest Rosie Holt, who became a social media sensation in lockdown when her Tory-skewering character sketches went viral. In spring 2020 she had to move back to her parents’ home after the cancellation of a US theatre tour. Now, after mostly sold-out previews in London and Bath, she will head to the Fringe with Rosie Holt: The Woman’s Hour (Pleasance, Aug 3-29). Those who have listened to her improv podcast NonCensored will recognise the character of Harriet Langley-Swindon, a chat show host with more than a passing resemblance to Julia Hartley-Brewer of Talk TV. “She’s my muse” says Holt, whose Tory MP character will also take centre stage.
The most experimental live show riffing off a pre-existing podcast this summer might turn out to be The Skewer: DJ Set at the Hever Festival in Kent on July 29. It’s also political. Jon Holmes is taking his multi-award-winning satirical Radio 4 soundscape show and creating a DJ set that mixes music and news clips. “It’s a satirical DJ set,” he explains. Imagine partygate clips weaved with the music that rocked Downing Street — Abba karaoke standards, presumably?
If all goes well, perhaps Holmes will get a late-night party conference booking.