The Edinburgh Fringe starts next week, and with a host of TVO favourites heading up throughout August, we are prodding you towards shows you simply have to see.
As well as a smattering of interviews, we’ll be bringing you a range of preview ‘Soapbox’ pieces, in which a member of team TVO takes a moment or two to reflect on the work of a Fringe-going comic talent, and why we feel they’re worthy of your attention.
Up next is former Mongrels and Crims writer, and musical comedian extraordinaire Adam Kay, who is performing his own show Fingering A Minor on the Piano and a tribute show, The Remains of Tom Lehrer, throughout the Fringe for good measure. Our editor, Paul Holmes, takes up the cause…
There’s a remarkable fusion at work within Adam Kay, as if he is a comedic wormhole between the celebrated wits of decades long past, and the pioneering spirits of years still to come.
In part, Kay’s work – particularly in musical comedy – harks back to the whimsical nature of Neil Innes, the sharp social commentary of Phil Ochs, and the pitch perfect political satire of Tom Lehrer: a man who inspires Kay so much, he’s performing not just his own show at the Fringe, but a second show featuring Lehrer’s finest works for good measure.
Yet there’s also an evolution at work here: the last fifteen years having gifted us with the musical verbosity of Bill Bailey, the button-pushing shock value of Tim Minchin, and the right-on social justice of Jonny & the Baptists to name but a few. Adam has been a part of this resurgence in musical comedy, taking the idea of comedy songs beyond a parody as the last sketch of a weekly TV show, and back towards a movement that can raise a sharp point to society’s ego balloon, but also kick back and remind people just how good it is to laugh at some songs we enjoy.
Initially training – and working – as a doctor, Adam divided his time to be both an obstetrician and gynaecologist, as well as a regular presence on the live scene as one half of musical duo Amateur Transplants. You’ve probably heard their viral smash London Underground: pretty much everyone who was anyone shared it a few years ago.
But when Amateur Transplants folded a few years ago, Adam carried on – plying his trade as a solo artist, touring the country extensively, and appearing at the Fringe ever year without fail (2016 marks his tenth Fringe overall). Understandably, when the team behind cult favourite Mongrels needed a team to write songs and jokes for the show, Kay was a perfect fit. His music was intricate but catchy, his jokes were playful but had a savage bite all the same.
Since then, Kay has written additional material for Jessica Hynes’ sublime Up the Women (co-starring Rebecca Front), and Tom Rosenthal’s Flat TV. But perhaps his greatest screen achievement to date is the sorely missed BBC Three sitcom Crims, which aired back in January 2015 to great acclaim, but was unfortunately caught up in the budget cuts that took the channel away from broadcast platforms shortly afterwards.
Focusing on put-upon accidental criminal Luke and his ‘friend’ Jason – the idiotic brother of Luke’s fiancé, the Young Offenders Institute sitcom starring Elis James provided breakthrough roles for Kadiff Kirwan, Theo Barklem-Biggs and Ed Kear, as well as featuring TVO regulars Cariad Lloyd and Tracy Ann Oberman for good measure. It’s a show that could have easily run and run, and TVO still laments the lack of a second series deeply.
But for Adam, time has moved on. Crims is well and truly behind him, and while we’re not at liberty to discuss future projects, we can tell you that right here, right now, he’s about to gear up and perform two great shows at the Fringe. The first is a culmination of his work to date, with the delightfully naughty title of Fingering A Minor on the Piano. The second is, as previously mentioned, an ode to one of his heroes: a special outing for The Remains of Tom Lehrer.
Both shows are surely set to be highlights of the festival, and TVO can’t wait to see them.
Adam Kay: Fingering A Minor on the Piano is at Pleasance Courtyard at 18:40 from August 3rd-9th, 11th-16th, 18th-23rd and 25th-29th. Tickets can be fingered up here. The Remains of Tom Lehrer (Performed by Adam Kay) is at Gilded Balloon Teviot at 15:45 on the same dates. Remaining tickets for this show can be picked up over yonder.