Hilary Wardle

Edinburgh Fringe review: American…ish

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

You have to feel sorry for Cort McCown and Sarah Tiana, two comedians who are sharing the bill with Camilla Cleese as she makes her Edinburgh Fringe debut this year.

They’re both capable American comedians with a solid pedigree, capable of delivering some decent laughs. But are either of them John Cleese’s daughter? No. So you can imagine who gets written and talked about the most when people discuss this three person show.

So, to level the playing field, let’s talk about McCown first. The silver haired, abrasive Oklahoman certainly packs a punch. Like a lot of his American contemporaries, he’s loud, sweary and doesn’t flinch when it comes to controversy- or the F word. His jokes are caustic and enjoyable, though not everyone in the audience seems to share his sense of humour and a gag about physically punishing kids doesn’t quite hit the spot.

That all changes when he moves on to talk about Ryanair. Digs at the notoriously penny pinching budget airline always go down a treat. In terms of relatable humour, it pretty much hits a home run. McCown keeps it up and fires out some additional sharp, entertaining gags but never quite gets the audience 100% on side, despite the Ryanair material.

In contrast, Los Angeles based comic Sarah Tiana offers a pleasing change of both pace and tone. Her friendly, confidential approach is is a great way to draw the audience in and her material has an equally light touch. Her jokes about the fact she’s currently single are enjoyable, sweet and witty, helped by her delightful Southern twang. It’s even better when she’s talking about smutty stuff, as the contrast between the subject matter and her rather angelic delivery adds extra seasoning to her already funny material.

So, on to the one you’ve all been waiting for: Cleese. She fits well with the other two comedians on offer, though her style is different again.  She never mentions her dad by name, assuming that we all know who he is (there aren’t that many Cleeses, after all). Nevertheless, she does mine her connection to him for material and doesn’t shy away from sensitive topics: namely, his habit of marrying women significantly younger than himself. It could be awkward, but the gangly 30 year old is clearly without malice and her jokes at her dad’s expense are genuinely funny.

Despite being the new kid on the block, she seems more accomplished than the other two comedians on the bill. She certainly has the funniest jokes, though that particular skill does seem to run in her family. She’s clearly a natural, and it’s a shame when her 20 minute slot comes to an end.

Let’s hope she decides to offer a solo show next year: she’s certainly got a lot to offer and isn’t just trading on her famous name, although she may run out of jokes about her dad eventually. On the whole, American…ish is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s worth it just to see Cleese’s impressive debut.


Date of live review: 12 August 2014 @ Gilded Balloon.

Click to read all our Edinburgh Fringe reviews so far.