For a vast majority of the audience, the opening night of Bulmers Best Of The Edinburgh Fest would have been a first taste of bought-and-paid-for laughs this Comedy Festival season. That was the impression, at least, as comics Joe Rowntree, Jimmy McGhie and John Fothergill each battled to shake the crowd from complacency. The trio were effectively charged with warming patrons up for the month ahead, vying for the public's lazy appreciation of quality material.
That distinction is important, too: Bulmers Best of the Edinburgh Fest... did, pleasingly, fuse quantity with quality, a consistently enjoyable evening on offer. Fothergill, as the final act of the evening, seemed to fare the best with the crowd. Exuding childlike mischief with a bloke-at-the-pub charm, Fothergill - a complete natural - produced smiles all round. The two acts prior, McGhie and Rowntree, were similarly entertaining, but their gags lacked in potency by comparison, if only slightly. Essentially, the three comics stepped up to the plate, without a lull or dip in quality evident.
Interestingly, each of the three acts seemed to flit from razor-sharp wit to unabashed smut without notice. The imposition of blue humor seemed as simple as a flick of a switch, often coming from left-of-field. While the show overall could never really be received as an exhibition of outrageously offensive material, the transition from style to style did prove surprising. To that end, this was an evening largely defined by sudden spots of 'B-grade late-show filth' - a phrase coined by McGhie himself - and once the audience had adjusted to the trend, it was smooth sailing.
As the season rolls on, these comics are bound to feed off the energy from hungry festival crowds to render Bulmers Best... a formidable attraction. This opening night, however, you couldn't help but feel that the show suffered from a lackluster reception - one wholly undeserved. Recommended.