Right, time for a quick run through the list.... Return ticket to Edinburgh booked? Tick... Is the umbrella in good working order? Yep... Loads of disposable cash for beer and food to hand?....sort of. Know exactly what you are going to see?....er, no. Fear not, here is a personal and definitive guide to the best-value gigs at this year's extravaganza in the glorious capital city whose population is set to double during August.
Comedy is what makes the festival and the coveted Edinburgh Comedy Award is up for grabs again, as well as being re-named from the Perrier or if-Comedy Award. The big names will provide some heavyweight presence: Al Murray, Alistair McGowan, Jimmy Carr, Dylan Moran and Frank Skinner all appear in very different shows to suit all wallet capacities.
Murray plays 4 lunchtime shows for a fiver from Aug 26 to 29 in his guise as the jovial pub landlord. McGowan will no doubt make an impression with 2 contrasting shows across various dates. The first one, Cocktails With Coward, is performed with Charlotte Page and gathers together many Noel Coward sketches and songs. The second show is of his more familiar impressions and marks his first appearance at the festival for 10 years. Carr employs his rapier wit and caustic tongue to raise the rafters across 8 nights while Moran squeezes in just 2 nights of his 'What It Is' show. Our Frank returns from a sell-out run in London's West End to play the perfect host with his 'Credit Crunch Cabaret' priced at £10 - several comedians and performers will act as support.
But there are many other acts to consider seeing and having a laugh with who may not be familiar but are just as highly-trained to build up your facial muscles to the max as the famous names. Try these bargain gigs out:
The Absolute Best Of The Absolute Beginners - A showcase for the regular Monday night of mirth at Edinburgh's Beehive. 'New, fresh and still shaggable' (I quote loosely from their website blurb), the 21 date residency during the Fringe is FREE and non-ticketed! @The White Horse, Cannongate
Back To The Eighties - Dean Scurry performs across 20 dates, delivering hilarious anecdotes and stories from that most formulaic yet revered and influential decades, the 80's. FREE but ticketed! @ The Counting House, West Nicolson Street
Five Pound Fringe - The Best Of - This gathers all of the best bits of comedy as well as some music and spoken word aimed at the £5 budget! Details are often posted on the day at the venue. Performances start around Midday every day except Monday (I guess they don't like 'em). @ GRV, Guthrie Street
The Clean (As Possible) Comedy Show - Tired of all that f***ing swearing by certain comedy acts? Well, how about seeing them tone down their act and deliver muck-free monologues for just 5 whole pounds, every night (including a 2 for 1 offer for August 9th / 10th)? In a 12A certificated 90 minutes, 4 comedians will not utter any c words, f words or even the word w*nker. Well, possibly not. Laugh with a conscience - there will be Fairtrade prizes to win as well! Aug 7th to 31st @ The Lot, Grassmarket.
Just A Minute - Radio 4's long-running word-skills show is brought to the Fringe for just 1 afternoon. Nicholas Parsons chairs the 2 performances on August 18th and all for FREE. @ Pleasance Courtyard
Kunt And The Gang - Fresh from a barrage of hits on their You Tube and My Space pages and revered by Charlie Brooker and Bizarre magazine, Basildon's answer to The Macc Ladds will charm you with renditions of their ever-so-wrong songs including "F***sticks" and "Carol Vorderman". It's very, very childish but it's FREE so if you don't like it then you must be a **** (as they might put it). @Laughing Horse, Meadow Bar
Scenes From Communal Living - 4 young improvisers take suggestions from the audience and create off-the-wall characters who engage in a flat-share from hell. Anything goes from this talented and freaky quartet during the multi-date run. Tickets start at £8.50 depending on which night you pick. @ C soco, Chambers Street / Cowgate. Not August 17th .
Of course if you can also stretch to £19, you can go and see the patron saint of Scottish sweary comedy, Jerry Sadowitz. I make no apologies if you go and start crying because you have been offended. But go and see him anyway. August 29th @ Edinburgh Playhouse.
Finally there is always the annual Edinburgh Comedy Awards Show on Aug 30th (at the Pleasance Courtyard) and 31st (at the George Street Assembly Rooms). Tickets start at £14, line up to be announced!
For a further selection of comedy dates, check out this site or the official up-to-the-minute website www.edfringe.com for last minute cancellations and additions. A guide to the best in Fringe music and other entertainment will appear here very soon!