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Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Dumbs Up! Stand-up comedy for kids (and their keepers!)

Ian Billings with Chris White

Genre: Children's Theatre


Gilded Balloon Teviot


Low Down

Specifically aimed at 5-12 year olds, these two children’s authors achieve exactly what they set out to do, in an hour of stand-up, poems and just the right amount of silliness.


I’ve always thought that authors, usually adults, who write for children must still have a lot of that childish exuberance for life still in them.  This was proven to be true in bucket-loads when I attended this show.  Ian Billings is an author, a kid’s stand-up comedian, and a poet.  His special guest, Chris White, is also a poet, and an illustrator.   It was immediately obvious that the pair are well-versed in connecting with their young target audience, and looking through their websites, it was soon confirmed that they regularly tour the world (individually) to present their material in schools.

The format of the show was simple … half an hour of stand-up by Ian Billings, followed by about 25 minutes of comic poems mixed with cartoons and comedic mayhem by Chris White, and then a final 5 minute round-up by Billings.

Billings’ stand-up routine covered everything from Groan-Ups (sic), to teachers, to school, and school bullies, and certainly hit the target for the children.  One was laughing so hard that he almost slid off his chair!  He often spoke with individual children in the audience, asking short questions building up to the next segment in his routine.  Even when singled out audience members were struck suddenly dumb, he was able to work this in, with the end result of everyone laughing.  It may have helped him to ask where some of the children were from.  Some of the children in the audience weren’t from the UK, and didn’t understand some of the questions.  This however didn’t deter from the fact that he knows how to connect with children on their level, and most certainly knows how to make them laugh.

Chris White was a delight (yes I rhymed on purpose), as he encouraged great audience participation in the build-up to reading his comic poems, all of which were accompanied by his large cartoon illustrations.  He had boundless energy, and just the right amount of silliness to keep everyone (even the adults) entertained.

In a room this small (the ‘Wee Room’ is a 50-seater) I personally found the constant use of a microphone (and a corded one at that) by Billings annoying, as he was continually kicking the lead around on the stage.  It also seemed to create a barrier between him and the audience, but then, this is stand-up, and I suppose a microphone is almost expected as a prop.   White on the other hand, didn’t use a microphone throughout his segment, and I was relieved … there was no barrier, no pacing across the stage, and the connection with the audience was immediate.

A great hour of fun and laughter for kids, and certainly worth four stars = Highly Recommended.