Late'n'Live Guide to Comedy (4 stars)

Late'n'Live Guide to Comedy

The greatest hits of the legendary Fringe bear-pit makes an appearance on TV

‘The performing equivalent of self-harm’ is how Johnny Vegas describes the bearpit hell of the notorious Late’n’Live. Brainchild of the Gilded Balloon’s head honcho Karen Koren, this Edinburgh Fringe staple has been sending chills down the spines of hardened comedians since 1986. In an eye-watering four-part tribute to the 1–5am August onslaught on the senses, it seems that the idea of switching a secret camera onto proceedings took off in 2001 (before that date, only the hirsute mania of a mid-90s Bill Bailey-led Beergut 100 proto-punk gig is shown here).

No doubt some epic moments of bad behaviour would have exploded before 2001, but that year was made legendary for the situationist antics of Russell Brand. His appearance took crowd-baiting to new levels and resulted in the next act, Fiona O’Loughlin, picking bits of a thrown pint glass out of her leg.

The series features some extraordinary footage including the aforementioned ceramics king of St Helens running way over his allotted 20 minutes and being ‘enticed’ offstage by a combination of Daniel Kitson, Ross Noble, Adam Hills and a bottle of Baileys. Or you might enjoy seeing an orphan surf-cycle David O’Doherty’s bike out of the room. And who could fail to be moved by the sight of Scott Capurro being egged on to urinate upon an abandoned jumper?

It’s a place where PR spin goes to die and where comics are forced to ditch their material to take on a crowd baying for blood in a way that simply wouldn’t be tolerated during a carefully-crafted Edinburgh hour. While the doors of Late’n’Live remain open, the spirit of the Fringe will remain alive.

BBC1, Mon, 11.05pm.

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