The Stand is a comedy icon in Edinburgh, much like Barry Crimmins is a comedy icon in history. The two collide in Crimmin’s 2017 Fringe show, Atlas’s Knee, where he fills the space with booming tones and the kind of confidence that only best informed cynicism can inspire.
His show focuses on the intersections of Scotland and the United States. He discusses Trump and what the rest of the world must think of him, what it feels like to be an American abroad and his take on how the current political predicament came to be. His most impressive moments draw on his personal experiences with the victims of American healthcare, forming a powerful argument against privatisation here.
His comedic timing may slip on occasion, but no comedian in Edinburgh can match his passion or authority. What he lacks in punchlines he makes up for in his descriptions of the world, slipping quips about Southern senator’s inbreeding into his political narratives as naturally as he breathes.
First and foremost, however, he is an activist. Exceptional attention to detail and precision of language allow him to expertly identify what is going wrong in the same way he identifies what is funny. Observational comedy and essential observation of the government go hand and hand for Crimmins. Many would call him one of the original political comedians, but he explains that only leftist comedians are politicised. The comedians who have been profiting off of racism, bigotry, sexism etc. have been right-wing political comedians the whole time, neutralising their violent ideologies with laughs.
It’s potent insights like that and his dry, engaging delivery that makes Atlas’s Knee indispensable. In the age of fake news and campaigns of misinformation, it is inspiring no-nonsense attitudes like his that we need to cut through the noise.
Words: Emily Hall
Barry Crimmins: Atlas’s Knees, The Stand Comedy Club, Aug 18-27, 9.40pm