Edinburgh festival 2000: Comedy

Adam Hills bounds onstage just as a mobile phone goes off in the front row. Hills seizes the phone and holds it up to the mike to prove this is all authentic. The poor guy at the other end gets the shock of his life. Hills barks down the phone: "Would you like to speak to Nicholas Parsons?"

"Hello," says the guffawing Parsons. "This IS Nicholas Parsons. Are you Dreamtime Escorts?" The audience erupts.

This is just one howling moment in the venerable Parsons' unscripted Happy Hour. Intended as an hour of "cocktails and chat", the show varies depending on the quality of the guests. Here, they are superb. Hills is a fabulous stand-up. Irish comic John Maloney has some terrific one-liners (and the cruellest jokes ever about the Queen Mum, a "six-fingered inbred beast"). Andy Parsons makes a willing stooge for his namesake's witty banter. It's a shock to hear him use the word "arsehole", but at 78, the great man has lost little of his sharpness.

"Any questions for Andy?" asks Nicholas, having amiably demolished his guest. Someone pipes up: "Andy, why are you on this show?" Priceless, although it might not always be this good.

• Till August 28. Box office: 0131-556 6550.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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