The Edinburgh Fringe - less the biggest comedy showcase in the land, more a joke at the expense of your wallet. With accommodation costs in the Scottish capital soaring as high as the summer sun come August, and the big name shows costing Apound;15 upwards, Europe's premier art festival has become a cash vacuum cleaner, sucking up the hard-earned dosh of the punters who flock to its beer tents every year to sample the best - and worst - of British comedy.
Thankfully, there are a wealth of free shows to tempt you this summer, proving that a trip to the `burgh doesn't need to empty your bank account. The Laughing Horse Free Festival, where you pay a voluntary contribution to the act, features Ivor Dembina, the respected Jewish stand-up and the delightful-sounding Comedy Pub Crawl. Peter Buckley Hill's rival, and mildly superior, Free Fringe, which works along similar lines, features the likes of Andrew O' Neill, Robin Ince, Ed Aczel, Josie Long and Tom Bell, all smart stand-ups you'd pay good money to see back home.
Don't be fooled into thinking free acts will necessarily be inferior; the weird economics of the fringe mean that decent acts are often willing to moonlight for nothing, providing they get free performance space in return - with the venue scooping the bar takings. It's a good deal for punters too.