Review: The Great Yorkshire Fringe, York

COMEDY is no laughing matter. Well, it is, but it is seriously difficult to be good at the art of making people laugh.

More than 100 shows – not all of them “comedy”, with forays into music, burlesque, children’s entertainment and theatre too – were crammed into 11 days of the fourth summer of Martin Witts's Great Yorkshire Fringe. While the festival was as well run as ever, with myriad food and drink opportunities up and down the village-green lawn, and blue T-shirted Fringe staff always on hand with advice, directions or a friendly word, nevertheless locating consistent laughs was elusive.

Furthermore, reviewing the festival has become more difficult with agents reluctant to allow previews to be reviewed en route to the Edinburgh Fringe, the very next stop on the comedy map for plenty of these turns. Gone are the days when no such barriers were put up at at the Hyena Lounge Comedy Club's Edinburgh Previews by big names. Your review would mention it was a warm-up, make allowances for the material still having milk teeth, but advice or comment would be constructive.

It seems a strange decision to bar print-media critiques by experienced journalists, especially given the proliferation of social-media keyboard warriors spouting opinions at the earliest opportunity. Maybe this policy will be revisited, because Edinburgh is not the only show in town and the most excitement surrounded the new shows, be it Tom Stade, Craig Campbell, Rachel Parris or Rahul Kohli.

As it happens, the best gig I saw was the opening blast in the White Rose Rotunda by Iranian-Londoner Omid Djalili, whose Schmuck For A Night has now had more than 120 nights but is still finding fresh material for each performance. Paul Foot's Image Conscious show was a no-review one, weird and wildly energetic, rambling and surreal, and the first Thursday ended with tech boffins Foxdog Studios cooking sausage and beans in the Tea Pot with the aid of the audience's mobile phones in Robot Chef, a meeting of science, comedy and novelty act.

Simon Munnery's The Wreath was another "No Reviews Please" despite 16 unbroken years at Edinburgh; up there you'll see him combine a Bob Dylan spoof, a fake funeral, a painting and a cleaning job with typical Munnery wit. Down here, it was a "work in progress not making progress", as he put it, too modestly.

Comedy historian Robert Ross hosted two contrasting chat shows, the first with an erratic, excitable, if generous-spirited Tony Slattery; the second with Monty Python humorist and traveller Michael Palin, an utter afternoon delight at the Grand Opera House.

Amber Topaz's late-night cabaret of life, love and libido, The Rude Awakening,tickled, teased and ended in a group hug; the Amazing Bubble Man's first adult show with cabaret turn Squeeze brought out the amazed child in us all. The Hyena Lounge found Justin Moorhouse in raucous voice, whereas Rob Rouse saw fit to tell stories about rectal probes. No, just, no.

Charles Hutchinson