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Tony Deyal: Fringe benefits

Published:Friday | August 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM

There are all kinds of liners, and while this one-liner about an ocean liner is not the best you've ever heard, it certainly didn't sink into oblivion, even though some of the crowd might have given it a chilly reception. "Life is all about perspective. The sinking of the Titanic was a miracle to the lobsters in the ship's kitchen."

There was one with even greater impact: "What was the last thing anyone said on the Titanic?"

"I know I ordered ice but this is ridiculous!" Or you can twist it a bit more, "What goes down well with ice? The Titanic!"

I love one-liners, and one of these days would not mind a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world's largest arts festival, which has been running for the past 68 years (since 1947), and this year featured more than 3,000 shows from more than 50 countries across almost 300 venues.

The festival has previously hosted performances by comedians such as Dudley Moore, Peter Cooke and Ricky Gervais. The big draw for me is the humour prize, known as Dave's Funniest Joke of the Fringe. Dave is a digital television channel in the UK that has sponsored the event for the past eight years.

The King of One-Liners, Tim Vine, is the only comedian to win more than once. Last year, his winning one-liner was, "I've decided to sell my Hoover ... . Well, it was just collecting dust." Tim won in 2010 with, "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again."


This year seems to have been a lot of fun. More one-liners than an old sugar-cane transport network. Trevor Davies of the Mirror selected what he thought were the top 25 of the entire fringe, not just the Dave contest. For all book-store fans, "I went to Waterstones and asked the woman for a book about turtles. She asked: "Hardback?" and I was like: "Yeah, and little heads." (Mark Simmons).

This is one my children will say applies to me: "My dad's like a laptop - if you don't touch him for 10 minutes, he will go to sleep." (Chris Martin). "Sometimes to see the light, you just have to open the fridge door." (John McKeever).

This is probably why the one at the end of the tunnel invariably turns out to be a train headed your way. This joke really psyches me out, "If you don't know what introspection is - you need to take a long, hard look at yourself." (Ian Smith).

This one is a clever pun, "My mate and I were in a pub debating where the barman originates. I said he was an Eskimo. He said Native American. Turns out he was an Eskimo. Inuit all along." (Richard Gadd) This, too, "My cat is recovering from a massive stroke." (Darren Walsh). And this, "They scoffed when I told them I'd one day learn the secret of invisibility. If they could only see me now." (Magician Pete Firman)

Grace, the Child, is a 12-year-old punster. She came 10th this year with, "They're always telling me to live my dreams. But I don't want to be naked in an exam I haven't revised for." Simone Munnery was a headliner, "Clowns divorce. Custardy battle."


"The first time I met my wife, I knew she was a keeper. She was wearing massive gloves" won Alun Cochrane eighth place. A new take on an old seafarers' rhyme, "Red sky at night. Shepherd's delight. Blue sky at night. Day" put Tom Parry in seventh place. Mark Nelson placed a miraculous sixth with, "Jesus fed 5,000 people with two fishes and a loaf of bread. That's not a miracle. That's tapas."

The top five were genuine classics. In fifth place was this one-liner from Dave Green, "If I could take just one thing to a desert island, I probably wouldn't go."

Masai Graham came up with a beautiful pun, "What's the difference between a 'hippo' and a 'Zippo'? One is really heavy, the other is a little lighter." But he could not match Adam Hess with one of the things that make us go "hmm": "Surely, every car is a people carrier?"

Second was a rear joke by Stewart Francis and dealt with a very contemporary celebrity issue. He quipped, "Kim Kardashian is saddled with a huge arse ... but enough about Kanye West."

This brings us to the winner, Darren Walsh, an English actor, director, writer, animator, voice artist and comedian. Dave has won many awards for his television work but began his comedy career only five years ago when he won the first UK Pun Championship at the Leicester Comedy Festival in 2013. Walsh told his winning one-liner during his first full-length show at the festival. He said (with a straight face of course), "'I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It's Hans free."

n Tony Deyal was last seen retelling the worst two jokes of the festival, "What do honeymooners eat for breakfast? Wedded wheat;" and, "I suffer from PMS. My wife gets it and I suffer."