Hilary Wardle

Edinburgh Fringe review: Gavin Webster, A Controversial Title In Order To Sell Tickets

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At one point in this extremely funny show, Gavin Webster pauses to let us know what he thinks of comedy journalists. Unsurprisingly, it’s not pretty. In typically vituperative style, he announces that we can’t tell our arses from our elbows. We’re thick. We don’t have a ruddy clue.

If this excellent show is anything to go by, he’s quite right. Webster’s previous shows were written off by some critics because of his habit of choosing controversial titles like, Don’t Give Any Money To Comic Relief, and All Young People Are Cunts.

But there’s much more to this bellowing, shaven-headed Geordie than a penchant for controversy and a love of rude words: he’s razor sharp, incredibly witty and almost everything that he says is either a) perfectly true (let’s admit it, young people are a bit shit) or b) an incredibly well-presented lie.

Take Webster’s mocked up Fringe posters, for example. They’ re not real, but they are utterly perfect. He lampoons ‘typical’ stand up acts, takes a minute to dance merrily around the issue of comedians exploiting personal tragedy for their own gain and essentially pokes fun at the entire Fringe while still managing to be supportive of his fellow comedians and the spirit of the event as a whole – not the easiest thing to do.

He talks about his previous shows candidly and wittily and even manages to slip in an uncannily accurate Eminem impression while he’s about it. Before long, the audience in the small room are collapsing in laughter, especially when he reads out some reviews he’s had in the past and gives as good as he got.

It isn’t just his sharp, cutting look at Fringe marketing techniques that hits the right spot; he also turns his caustic and revelatory stand-up to the subject of class, too. After all, class and comedy go hand in hand. His jokes at the expense of reviewers are just part of that (we’re all quite posh, apparently), but he also has an well-pitched go at middle class promoters and their attitudes to working class people, women and other races as well.

A Controversial Title In Order To Sell Tickets is a fantastic inside look at the Edinburgh Fringe and the mechanics behind it, though you get the feeling that Webster could talk about anything and it would be funny. He does touch on other subjects too, describing a trip to Monte Carlo in typical blunt Geordie style, constantly playing with our expectations and subverting them but – more importantly – being damn hilarious every time he opens his mouth.

Webster chats entertainingly about music (he was a punk when he was younger), and a long joke about a version of Pop Idol starring a variety of different religions and their versions of Jesus has a perfect final pay off that leaves a man in the front row alternatively hooting and gasping for breath. Either he’s extremely amused, or he’s actually an asthmatic owl.

In his show, Webster derides silly, reactionary Fringe reviewers, but spares the bloke who once gave him five stars. He can add another five star review to that list now. If you want to see a show that’s genuinely funny and delves deep into the rabbit hole that is the Fringe, then you could do a lot worse than buying some tickets to this ‘controversial’ show.

Date of live review: Friday 8 August @ The Stand Comedy Club 4

Click to read all our Edinburgh Fringe reviews so far.