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As Edinburgh festival begins, ShortList's James Gill picks six must-see shows.

James Gill’s Always Be Comedy is on at Jekyll & Hyde, Edinburgh, 9.20pm, 12-26 August; alwaysbecomedy.com

Nick Helm: This Means War!

The hirsute Mr Helm has had a successful year, chalking up appearances on Live At The Electric and 8 Out Of 10 Cats. He’s loud and abrasive, but his vulnerable streak means you can’t help but love him.

1-27 (not 8 or 14) Aug; 5.30pm, Pleasance Dome

David Trent: Spontaneous Comedian

You may recognise Trent from his turn in Nick Helm’s band, The Helmettes. But there’s much more to him than slapping a mean bass. Armed with a computer and a projector, Trent fuses music, animation and stand-up to superb effect.

4-26 (not 14) Aug; 10.45pm, Pleasance Courtyard

Rob Beckett’s Summer Holiday

Beckett’s winning down-to-earth, boy-next-door demeanour has sparked talk that he could be the next Peter Kay. This is joyous, cheek-aching and – at times – touching stand-up. Watch him perform live on the cheap now, before you have to shell out for the stadium tour DVD.

1-27 Aug (not 14); 6pm, The Below @ The Pleasance Courtyard

Pappy’s Last Show Ever!

Pappy’s are one of the best sketch groups around. Inventive, tight and incredibly funny, the trio (pictured right) are so close that you can’t always tell where the script ends and the ad-libs start, which makes them all the easier to warm to.

1-26 (not 3 or 14) Aug; 8.20pm, Pleasance Dome

Max & Ivan Are… Con Artists!

Over the course of an hour, Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez act out the tale of a pair of ex-cons who have been recruited for one last job. Such is their ability that you visualise every stunt and explosion as they gleefully hurl themselves around the stage. The use of flashbacks and cut-aways add a cinematic feel, meaning you quickly forget you’re actually just watching two men who are armed with nothing more than a glass and some chairs.

4-27 (not 14) Aug; 3.30pm, Pleasance Courtyard

Sarah Kendall: Get Up, Stand-Up

Returning eight years after her 2004 Perrier Award nomination, this affable Australian’s new performance sees her take aim at (among many other things) rap, pole-dancing and questionable children’s books. The show is carried off with sharp writing, charisma and something to say – this is everything stand-up should be.

1-27 (not 13) Aug; 8.30pm, Pleasance Courtyard

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