I’ve been in the typical slump that comes following any holiday, and usually doubly so following the Edinburgh Fringe. It has always felt strange to me that people continue to exist once I have left a room, and it is the same with Edinburgh. I know that all the shows are still continuing to happen, as I’ve seen the tweets and status updates, but as I’m no longer there it is difficult for me to get my head round.
My final day was not my busiest. Having checked out of my accommodation after one final gut-busting breakfast buffet, I dumped my luggage at the train station and headed to the Three Sisters for GhostCop, an amusing low-budget parody of 80s action movies. It worked well given the obvious limitations, and the cast threw themselves into proceedings with an admirable amount of gusto.
Once the show had finished it turned out everyone had gone for a Chinese meal following the morning’s AhhGee Podcast Live, and I didn’t really feel like seeing any of the shows that were on in the available window, so I bought a copy of the new Doctor Who Magazine special edition and sat reading it at the always-quiet Space garden. Eventually I met up with Adele and we went to see Thom Tuck: The Square Root of Minus One. It pulled in a good crowd despite not being listed in the programme, and we were rewarded with an experimental but hugely entertaining hour with a deft performer. Though I’m not 100% sure what happened, I know that I enjoyed it, and it was a suitably good show to end the Fringe on.
I returned to the Three/Free Sisters with Adele for a quick drink, where we discussed next year’s Edinburgh. I think, all being well, that I probably will take my show up, but there’s a lot to consider. The financial cost is high, and I worry that the emotional cost would be too; Edinburgh is always a tiring rollercoaster of a week, and the thought of being up there with all the stresses that doing a show entails is somewhat troubling. It also feels like very few of the people I know with shows this year have actually received much in the way of attention from reviewers. Whilst I don’t relish the prospect of reviews, as I fear the first bad one would break me completely, I feel like they’re essential for building an audience, especially as I’m not terribly good with flyers.
The mere idea of doing a show at the Edinburgh Fringe is an exciting one, though, and even if I never do stand-up again afterwards it’ll be something I can say I’ve ticked off my list. So it’s probably going to happen.
That’s Edinburgh 2014, then. It ended as it began – at the train station. Despite the slump near the beginning it was a much more enjoyable experience than last year’s trip, which I never got round to writing about but was fairly dreadful. Of the 29 shows I’d planned to see, I made it to just 12, and saw another nine on top of that, bringing my total to 21. I also performed in six shows, of a planned nine. I had one sit-down dinner, too many breakfast sausages, and tore two pairs of trousers – although the damage was imminent before I went up in the case of the jeans. I tackled stairs between New Town and Old Town on just one occasion, and it almost killed me.
In keeping with previous blogs…
Favourite Show: As a performer, I had three amazing gigs – Knightmare Live, Quiz in My Pants and Single Comedians Trying to Impress You – which were all so enjoyable in different ways. I’m going to have to go with Knightmare Live, though, because neither of the other two gigs had a dragon. And whilst Ray Peacock: Here Comes Trouble has competition from the thrill of What Does the Title Matter Anyway? as my favourite show-watching experience, there’s no way it can not walk home with the award really.
Least Favourite Show: I managed to avoid seeing any real duffers this year, but I think the wooden spoon goes to Error 404, the play about internet bullying and teen suicide, for just being a bit pretentious and heavy-handed with it all. Obviously as a performer this award goes to The Bite, but it really wasn’t their fault that they ended up in a rubbish venue and that I was tired and that Robin Williams decided to kill himself shortly before the gig was due to start, was it?
‘What the Hell was That?’: I missed a lot of shows this year, and some of them I’m slightly annoyed at myself for (even though I had great reasons), but I fear I shall never know whether or not Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio? was any good, or even really what it entailed. Can someone pop along to the Three Sisters one day this week at 4pm and report back?
I’m writing this blog entry on the train home from Edinburgh, because I had to leave my accommodation at 10:30 this morning and there wasn’t enough time to both write an informative, entertaining blog and attack the breakfast buffet, and if it’s a choice between sausages and bacon and you guys the succulent pig bits will win every time. I’m quite relieved to be away from that buffet, actually; I can’t be sure, but I think I was probably three more breakfast buffets away from a severe cardiac episode. It’ll be nice to get back to London and let my bowels return to normal for a bit. And my bed. Oh, god I’ve missed my bed. It’s only once you stop living in university accommodation on a regular basis that you realise just how awful the beds are.
I think this blog’s off to a flying start. If Copstick’s in today then I’m happy for her to put her pen down now and walk out, because I’m already at five stars, and I don’t want to be greedy about it.
Yesterday afternoon I went to meet with Ray Peacock for a post-show drink, a mere 60 or so hours after the event. I feel very privileged to at least know Ray to speak to, as not only is he my favourite comedian (It used to be Richard Herring, but then he got married and happy with his lot in life and I just couldn’t relate to it in the same way anymore. I still comedy love him, but I’m not in comedy love with him) but he’s also a really decent guy. Ray was with Nish Kumar when I found him, and the three of us had a good chat, which was surely only enhanced by the breaking of the Cliff Richard story while we were there.
My first show of the day was James Veitch’s hour about sending emails to internet scammers, the full title of which I do not remember and cannot be bothered to look up for you. Which is a shame, because if you can crack my code you should definitely go and watch it; it’s a fast-paced, smart, funny hour that’s well worth the ungodly number of stairs you have to climb to get to the venue. The same can be said of Bec Hill’s Ellipsis in the same room 90 minutes later, which demonstrates fantastically how well Bec understands stand-up comedy in all its various forms, whilst retaining her own characteristic quirky, creative style. The premise of the show is that Bec’s trying to win an award, and given the high quality of the hour and the critical acclaim it’s received so far, I’ll be quite surprised if it’s not at least nominated for something.
Once Bec’s show finished and I’d received my yearly Bec Hill Hug, we hot-footed it over to the Gilded Balloon to see the time-travelling magicians, Morgan and West. I feel like I don’t see nearly enough magic, and their show last year impressed me with its deft combination of a polished double act with some impressive tricks. This year’s show is a lot less plot-heavy than its predecessor, and whilst it does suffer by comparison (Last year’s show is going on tour after Edinburgh, and I can’t recommend it highly enough) they’re still a hugely likeable duo, and some of the tricks they perform are entirely mind-boggling.
A sure sign that the week was drawing to a close is that the gaps between gigs were getting longer, and I went with Tom and Sam to the dodgy-looking pizza restaurant on George IV Bridge for a 9″ ‘Paradise Special (most of the toppings)’. Sure enough, it had most of the toppings on it. It wasn’t a patch on Domino’s, but it also cost under half the price and I’ve yet to experience any of the symptoms of food poisoning, so I think this makes me one of life’s winners.
I had one more performance spot left, at Single Comedians Trying to Impress You, a showcase hosted by Miranda Kane (Whose solo show Coin-Operated Girl is well worth a watch). I was somewhat nervous, as I haven’t performed my ‘desperate and dateless’ material in many months (Not because of a change in circumstances; I think I just gave up hoping), and I wasn’t sure how much of it I’d actually be able to remember. Turns out the answer is ‘all of it’, which is fortunate because the audience seemed a bit sluggish when I went up, and I had a lot of fun bringing them on-side. This sounds like some sort of boast on my part, but it’s not; it happens to a lot of comics at one point or another, and can depend on so many factors. I think sometimes, if I go on after a couple of ‘high-status’ comedians and start doing my very low status self-deprecating material, audiences can experience a bit of a release of tension, and it manifests in the form of laughter. Or something. I told Simon off for putting lessons he’s learned about stand-up in his blog, calling them ‘a bit wanky’, so this is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Anyway, what I’m basically trying to say is I got a standing ovation. Okay, so it was just from three lads in the audience, but it was still really nice. And if I had three people at every gig I do being so enthusiastic about my work I would very quickly build up a fanbase. And that would be nice, because then I could do exciting things for money. NOT LIKE THAT.
My friends told me after the gig that there was also a fourth person in the audience who really liked me, and it was quite an attractive female one. However, she didn’t say anything to me as she left, and then she was standing with her friends, and I was standing with my friends. I’d like to say I then went over to her and initiated a conversation, but instead I stood with my friends kicking myself a bit. I did walk past the group both on my way to and back from the toilet, which SURELY was ample opportunity for her to flag me down and tell me she liked me, but it was not to be. This is, of course, a fundamental problem with a gig filled with single comedians – there’s usually a really good reason why we’re single. Not that it would’ve made much difference if she’d spoken to me; there have been occasions (not many, but a few) when girls have come up to me and tried to have a conversation after a gig, but what follows is almost always just a bit awkward, especially as my chief tactic when I like a girl tends to involve me just making a lot of jokes and NEVER EVER TELLING HER.
Still, if you are somehow reading this, cute redheaded girl from the gig…
No, I understand. I’d probably do the same thing if I were in your position. Glad you enjoyed the show, though. Please do come and see my solo debut next year; I’m expecting to be nominated for the Perrier or whatever.
My final show of the day was Comedy Countdown, at midnight. A little of my thirst for a comedy version of the popular letters and numbers game has been quenched by the 8 Out of 10 Cats stuff, but I still hugely enjoyed the joyously ramshackle business on display here. The contestants were the Noise Next Door, who I can take or leave (There’s five of them; I definitely can’t take them), but Thom Tuck made an excellent Carol, and if you’ve never seen Fin Taylor as the Countdown Clock you’ve… Well, you’ve probably never been to Comedy Countdown. Oh, and Dan Atkinson looks weird now he’s shaved off the beard.
In conclusion: many things.
So very tired…
This blog was accused yesterday of being ‘hugely self-indulgent’. And all I can say in response to that is: “Well, yeah.” Let’s get one thing clear from the outset: this blog isn’t for you, it’s for me. It gets me writing, and it also helps me put my thoughts in order in some small way. I find it insane that anyone is sitting reading 1,500+ words of my waffle on a daily basis, but I’m very grateful to the small number of people who have been reading it.
So on to day four of my Edinburgh Fringe trip, then. The day was supposed to start with me doing a spot on AhhGee Podcast Live, but I was running late and hadn’t even got to the venue by the time I received a text letting me know there were no punters and the show had been pulled. This is a sad inevitability of the Fringe, and although it was mildly frustrating for me I mostly felt sad for the team, who have put not inconsiderable amounts of time and money into making a show but haven’t really had the chance to perform it in front of an audience. I’m not due back there for any more spots before I go (or indeed, after I go) but please do go along if you’re so inclined.
I then decided to go and see Simon Caine: Challenge Accepted. And my mum always said to me “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I hung around chatting to Simon and his girlfriend for about an hour or so after the gig, and some interesting conversations were had, even if they were being had in the middle of the street. After the chat I came up with the idea of doing a podcast in which I talk to various geeks and nerds about their passions and the ways in which they express those passions. Naturally, within minutes of mentioning this idea on Twitter someone pointed me in the direction of the Jeff Rubin Show, whose premise isn’t a million miles from that. From what I can tell, his podcast largely features geeks who have made their geekery professional; I’d just like to talk to regular geeks. I don’t know if it’ll be at all interesting or if anyone will listen to it, mind.
I should probably point out that I was of course making an unfair joke on Simon’s behalf before. He’s got some very well-crafted gags in his show, and his gimmick of telling them at random is an interesting one, and one which gets the audience invested in a way they might not otherwise have been. You could do a lot worse than go and see him perform. Also, being at all complimentary about him is making me feel ill, so I’m going to move on.
I had a ticket to see Candy Gigi at 4pm, but when I got my instructions through from Treguard of Dunshelm about what was to follow, I decided to go and see the earlier #meetandtweet instead. It’s a gently comic tale of a writer who decided he wanted to meet all of his Twitter followers. It’s a fascinating setup for a story, and I was hoping for a bit of a Dave Gorman-style journey, but (spoilers) it turned out that pretty much all of the people he met were just fairly nice, ordinary folk, most of whom didn’t say or do anything that the performer felt worth adding to the show. It was a perfectly genial way to spend an hour on a Wednesday afternoon, but it was just a bit frustrating that it felt like it could’ve been so much more.
After that, I was off to the Pleasance Courtyard to prepare for KNIGHTMARE LIVE. I’m a huge fan of Knightmare (I went to the inaugural Knightmare convention in Norwich a few months ago), and also the live version, which has returned following a hugely successful debut run last year with all-new puzzles, characters and jokes. My role in proceedings was, along with Andrew Doyle, to guide the dungeoneer around the stage (She had to wear a helmet on her head, in keeping with the television format) to either victory or a painful demise. Although there’s room to throw in a few jokes (And I took plenty of advantage of this), the main job of the guest comedians is to play the game and leave the majority of the comic work to the costumed performers.
When I advised at a preview of Knightmare Live last year I was pretty abysmal, and we got the dungeoneer into all sorts of scrapes. This year, however, we (And I don’t think I’m being too arrogant when I correct that ‘we’ to ‘I’) beat the dungeon like a boss. I think it’s possible I was slightly too knowledgeable and proficient, actually, as everyone likes it when the teams mess up, but anyone who says it’s the taking part that counts has clearly never experienced winning; it feels amazing.
I was supposed to be meeting up with Ray Peacock for a little catch-up afterwards, but for reasons out of either of our control he had to postpone, so I indulged in a Fringe tradition which happens every year for me at this point: the sit-down dinner where I am also downloading and reading the week’s new comic books. When you’ve been at the Fringe for a few days, it’s always nice to carve out a little slice of normality in the middle of it all and eat something that hasn’t been cooked in a van.
I then saw David Trent: Live at the Pleasance Courtyard. I’m a big fan of Trent’s masterful deconstructions and skilful use of multimedia, and I didn’t go away disappointed. Some of the subjects covered were perhaps easy targets (especially the Blurred Lines video), but the routines were so blissfully funny that it didn’t matter.
I was supposed to see Comedy Countdown at midnight, and again I had a ticket for it, but I decided to sit and socialise at the Pleasance Courtyard instead. Given the amount of debt I’m in, I can’t say I’m particularly impressed with the fact I’ve wilfully skipped several pre-booked shows now, but at the same time I think it’s important to make time for friends, even if they don’t quite fit in with your timetable. I had a really fun evening. I’m definitely going to use my ticket for tonight’s show, though. Almost definitely.
Right, it’s nice out, so I’ll keep this short.
Hahaha, did you like my little joke there? Every day is a battle to top the previous day’s word count, whether the sun is shining or not. It is shining, though, and I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy today. But to tell you why would mean including spoilers for tomorrow’s blog, and this is a SPOILER-FREE ZONE.
Oh, alright then: Knightmare Live.
I think it’s fair to say that yesterday was not one of my better days. I don’t know whether it’s true that the absence of Robin Williams hung over the entire festival (After all, he didn’t even have a show here) but it certainly hung over me. It brought up a lot of issues for a lot of people, myself included. Ray Peacock wrote an amazing and unflinchingly honest blog on the subject here, and generally everyone was talking and thinking about mental health. Which is both great and not so great; I spend quite a lot of my time on my own, and it’s a fact that hits hard when everyone’s emphasising how important it is to have people around you who care about you and who you can lean upon when times are tough. I do have people like that, and most of them are probably reading this right now, but they’re all so often far away; in a physical sense, I’m on my own a lot.
Anyway, I don’t want to get too maudlin about this, especially as I haven’t even mentioned my first show of the day yet and I’m already nearly 300 words in. I was supposed to be going to see Ian D Montfort’s Midnight Seance at midday, but I was here finishing blogging, so I missed it. Instead, I booked myself in for The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s History of Comedy (abridged), and made it over to the Pleasance Courtyard with about five minutes to spare. The show itself is as quick, clever and inventive as you’d expect, but I could only really raise a small chuckle at it. This was partly due to the two women next to me who felt the need to try and pierce my eardrums with whoops at every opportunity, as well as providing commentary at inopportune moments, and partly because I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for comedy. And, as was inevitable, Robin Williams did come up during one of the songs in the show, and there was an outpouring of sympathy and a huge round of applause – I don’t know how much of the final 20 minutes of the show I actually paid attention to.
All of this meant that my afternoon’s schedule, characteristically filled with comedy shows, had to be rendered obsolete. I wasn’t going to be a good audience member, and I very much doubted that much was going to impress me. Deciding to see a play, I opted for Richard Herring’s I Killed Rasputin which, though containing quite a few jokes, wasn’t an out-and-out comedy. I can’t say I have much knowledge of Rasputin bar the fact that Tom Baker played him in a film once, but the play was adequately entertaining with a good cast, although I never really felt the plot went anywhere, and some of the jokes did feel a little out of place tonally. But I’m not a theatre critic (or even really a theatre-goer), so I’ll leave the informed opinions to those who are.
I have to say, I was a bit cross with Mr Herring actually. He’d put out a joke on Twitter about Robin Williams’ death somehow being God punishing him for Patch Adams. There are far more offensive jokes out there, and I completely understood Richard’s reasoning that comedians make jokes about things to get them through the sad times and that they were the kind of jokes Robin himself made during his life (Although I think everything does change once a person has died). I had no issue really with him posting the joke. But when people took against the joke saying it was too soon, his response was rather a petulant one. I think if you’re going to post jokes about these things so soon after they’ve happened then that’s your call, but you have to understand that to be upset by them is a perfectly understandable human reaction. Anyway…
As the afternoon drew to a close, I went to perform a spot at The Best of Oh So Funny, hosted by Nigel Lovell. If I wasn’t in the mood to watch comedy I was in even less of a mood to perform it, but I tried my best. I was a bit concerned, as I do have a line in my current set, a letter to my five-year-old self, about suicide. After briefly warning him about my/our depression and how difficult it is to make it funny, I tell him:
“Please don’t ever give in and kill yourself though, because then I won’t be able to send this letter and that will create what is known as a ‘temporal paradox’. And temporal paradoxes are bad; I saw it on Doctor Who once.”
It’s one of my favourite jokes I’ve ever written, and although no audience to date has liked it quite as much as I do, it always gets a laugh; the combination of the deeply personal and the massively geeky, combined with the notion of a five-year-old having the concepts of both suicide and a temporal paradox foisted upon him, is hugely funny to me. But in light of recent events I wasn’t so sure about performing it. I briefly considered replacing it with something along the lines of “And even if you come up with a half-decent line about it, there will be some days when performing it just won’t seem appropriate.” I decided that would’ve been self-indulgent at best and a gig-killer at worst and performed the line as written, but my heart wasn’t really in it. The audience laughed along with my set, but I don’t think I’ll have picked up any new fans/lovers from it somehow.
I didn’t want to see anybody, and I was already making mental plans to avoid having to socialise for the rest of the evening, perhaps even just coming back here and spending the evening watching Netflix or something. Fortunately Tom, suspecting that I wasn’t feeling quite right, rang me and asked what show I was seeing next; he and his friend Sam came and joined me for Rob Deb: 20th Anniversary Edition at the Counting House.
I know Rob of old; he gave me my very first gig back in 2010, and I’d been enjoying his geeky comedic stylings for a good year or two before that. Rob doesn’t work from a script; his show tends to be tailored towards whatever level of geekiness is in the room that night. As such, there have been one or two occasions when I’ve gone in hoping for a geeky show but Rob’s had to perform his more mainstream stuff. Last night, however, the audience was full of proper geeks, and that’s when Rob’s at his absolute best. He said at the end that it had been his best night of the run, and I’m glad I was able to see it.
Incidentally, I’d been standing outside the Counting House waiting for Rob when a group of geeks in Power Rangers T-shirts came along. I didn’t try and talk to them because social awkwardness (and the fact that their T-shirts were NOT screen accurate), but the girl flyering for a higher-profile comic playing in the same venue as Rob at the same time did speak to them. She asked them what they were here to see; they replied that they were there to see Rob. She then told them they should go and see her act instead. When they replied that they wanted to see Rob because he does geeky stuff, she told them “(name of act) is geeky too; his walk-on music is from Star Wars. And his show’s on 15 minutes earlier than Rob’s.”
In no possible universe is that cool. It’s one (completely acceptable) thing to say “You should come along and see this show if you’re free tomorrow; I think you’ll enjoy it.” But to actively try and poach another act’s audience, especially when you’re all performing under the same roof, is really shitty tennis.
The final show in my schedule for the evening was Robin Ince and Michael Legge. I love their angry shows, really I do. But I was only just starting to come out of my funk, and I didn’t think the negativity would be terribly useful, so I went the other way and saw 11 Films to Happiness at Ciao Roma. It was everything I’d hoped it would be; Aidan Goatley is, as I’ve mentioned before, a wonderful man and a funny, genial comic. There’s nothing negative or offensive about his shows; they’re like a big hug that makes you laugh. And yes, they’re more than a little bit geeky too. If Aidan Goatley’s shows were a woman, I would be in love.
Also in the audience for the show was Kelly Kingham, who I mentioned my concern for yesterday. I queried one or two of the more heartbreaking aspects of his show with him, and I was as happy to learn that they weren’t true as he was amused that I thought they might have been. I got two big hugs from Aidan, and several smaller hugs from the friends I’d brought to see the show, and then went back to my accommodation feeling considerably less shitty than I had done when I left it.
And I suppose, when it comes down to it, that’s the main thing you want from a day really.
It’s the hidden costs of coming up to the Edinburgh Fringe that nobody tells you about. Like the bit where your trousers get worn down by the stresses of doing what is almost definitely far too much walking, most of it uphill because Edinburgh was designed by MC Escher, and then you go to put them on the next morning and pull them up too high and you hear a massive rip in the crotch the minute you move. This is something that happens to me nearly every time I come up here, and it’s happened worryingly early on this time. If it happens again before Friday I shall be most put out. On the plus side, easier access to my naughty bits, so…. Ladies.
After writing yesterday’s blog I went along to the Jury’s Inn hotel to go and take part in AhhGee Podcast Live. If there’s anyone from The Space reading this, can we have a quick word? I know everywhere in Edinburgh ends up becoming a venue during August, but it’s just getting silly now. A conference room on the eighth floor of a hotel tucked away out of sight should in no way be considered an appropriate Edinburgh Fringe venue.
To be fair to The Space, it’s actually not a bad little room, containing 50 seats or so. Unfortunately, nobody actually came along to fill any of the seats, because the team only wanted to pay for a five-day run in the Fringe brochure so yesterday became a ‘preview’. Slightly bizarrely, the gig still went ahead. It is an odd experience playing to nobody, but I gave it my best and was in no way dying inside. The gang are all really lovely people, and I think with an audience it’s going to be a really entertaining show, so if you’re reading this from the comfort of the Fringe, why not pop onto the website and buy a ticket? Ideally for tomorrow (Wednesday 13th), as I’m going back to do another spot then and I’d quite like to save face in front of a group of people who presumably now think my set contains no laughs.
After the show I was originally supposed to be going along to support Simon Caine, but for reasons I didn’t really listen to when he told me I was no longer required, so I decided to go and see a student theatre play about the internet instead. It’s basically the same thing. The play had a talented cast, and had some good points to make about how the internet is changing the way we interact – and not for the better – but there were a lot of weird musical numbers, and towards the end it did start to deliver its message with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the head. It ended up being all about teen suicide, and by the end of it I just needed a bit of a hug. Obviously I couldn’t get one, because all of my friends were either online, asleep or seeing Grainne Maguire.
Next up was Nathaniel Metcalfe: Trivial Pursuits at Cabaret Voltaire. Nathaniel’s a hugely talented comedian and a genuinely nice bloke, and the show was every bit as clever, geeky and funny as I expected it to be based on last year’s effort. It was clearly the gig to be seen at that afternoon, as Josh Widdicombe, Michael Legge, Robin Ince and Danielle Ward were all in attendance.
After that, I wandered to the other room in Cabaret Voltaire for Quiz in My Pants, the panel show which has an unhealthy obsession with Sean Bean and a dubious taste in muffins. I spoke in one of my pre-Fringe blogs about my love of doing this show, and it was entirely borne out yesterday; I had a brilliant time. I’m always very keen to get as many laughs as possible by chipping in comments as the show progresses, and I think I’ve had occasions where I’ve taken it a bit too far to the point where the audience found me a bit tiresome, but yesterday I reckon I reached the perfect balance. My team didn’t win any of the rounds which required us to have actual skill or knowledge, but we did win the rounds which required the audience to decide who they liked more. So in a way, we were the real victors. But in another, more accurate way, we lost by one point and that’s going to stay with me for the next year. A woman from the audience did take a selfie with me after the show, though, so
At 6pm I saw Kelly Kingham’s show at The Globe Bar. I’ve never known how much of Kelly’s act is a persona and how much is actually just him; based on yesterday’s show I hope that it’s mostly a persona, because by the end of it I just wanted to hug him – it’s quite a challenging show in some ways, as it’s about getting to a point in your life and realising it’s not turned out how you wanted it to be, and if you don’t feel for Kelly during it you have a heart of stone. There were plenty of jokes in it, too!
After Kelly’s show I was off to perform again, this time at Laugh Train Home presents Drop Kick Comedy, another mixed bill show at Dropkick Murphy’s. Not much to say about this one, to be honest; they were a nice enough crowd and I had a decent time, but none of the audience wanted to take a selfie with me afterwards, so fuck ‘em.
My final proper show of the night was Ray Peacock: Here Comes Trouble. It was proper brilliant. Ray’s a consummate storyteller, and he gets up to some wonderful mischief. But it’s also a show with a massive heart that it wears well and truly on its sleeve. All I’ll say is, thank god for extractor fans. You’ll know what I mean once you’ve seen the show, and you’ll agree completely. 9:25, Underbelly Clover.
I was due to perform at Dr Ettrick-Hogg’s The Bite at 0015, and went along with every intention of doing so. However, I was exhausted, the room was warm and crowded, the chair was uncomfortable I was due to go on 9th, and as the gig progressed I just felt increasingly unwell and had to leave before doing my spot.
There was another reason I had to leave, and that’s the fact that, moments before the start of the gig, I found out about the apparent suicide of Robin Williams. Whilst I’m sure he would’ve wanted me to carry on (Actually, I’m sure he wouldn’t have had much of a care one way or the other what an unknown act at a late night open mic gig did) it took any wind I had left completely out of my sails, and it just didn’t feel right going on stage and trying to make merry under the circumstances.
Not only is it an immeasurably large and tragic loss both to the world and to the people who knew him, but I know so many people who could easily have taken themselves away that night, such is their condition. Not to mention the fact that I suffer from depression myself. And all it takes is one particularly bad night and a rash, impulsive decision and then you’re gone. I went to bed rather sad, and also unsure about whether the press should report the manner of the death in cases like this; whilst it does prompt useful discussion about mental health, it also gives an example of a well-respected and well-loved individual who chose to end things this way. I think there’s an argument that that can prove encouraging to people. After having a few conversations on Twitter this morning I think the good probably does outweigh the bad, but it’s worth thinking about.
I don’t want to leave you on that note, really, especially if you’ve read all 1300+ words of this entry; you deserve better. TITS. Ha ha ha. I shall leave you with a photo of the coat I bought from a charity shop yesterday morning after realising denim wasn’t going to work in soggy Edinburgh. I suppose looking like the Michelin man is a small price to pay for staying dry (Apart from on my head, because in my haste I didn’t realise it doesn’t have a hood. Better than nothing though, eh?)…
I’ve spent so much time writing this post that I’m not going to make it to the midday show in my schedule. This is your fault. See you tomorrow!
I’m here now, so I thought I’d start blogging again… Did you miss me? No, me neither. How are you? I don’t care. Okay, I do care a bit. Anyway, I’m typing this in my hotel room the morning after the night before, which is a phrase I’ve never really understood. Why would anyone use it?
So I’m at the Edinburgh Fringe. I very nearly wasn’t; as I sat in the taxi from the station, stuck in traffic as the fare went up and the rain came down, I started to wonder why I’d spent quite so much money on coming to this godforsaken hellhole. Part of me was quite tempted to just stay in my room all week and let the Fringe happen without me. Fortunately, I calmed down once I’d checked in and bought a not-worth-the-£5-I-paid umbrella from the campus shop. Coming up to the Fringe is enough of an extravagant money-sink as it is without adding some sort of petulant breakdown into the bargain.
Once I stirred myself from my self-indulgence I went into town to watch Andrew O’Neill perform Mindspiders. It was about as crazy, nonsensical and brilliant as you might expect, and made for a great first show. One thing that did trouble me was the presence of a certain universally feared, wild-haired critic who I shan’t name for fear of reprisals. Apparently she left the show ten minutes from the end. I can only assume that a five-star review will be forthcoming, as this seems like the only good reason for a critic to not bother watching the end of a show. If I told my editor at Den of Geek that I’d reviewed a film but didn’t watch the last ten minutes, he’d sack me. And I’m not even employed by Den of Geek!
I then went to see The Bearpit Podcast Podcast. It’s hard to articulate exactly what the show was or why it was funny, but it was. A very different experience to reading their Twitter feed, but a joyful, surreal, hilarious hour nonetheless. And they’ve got seven different shows on rotation, so you could quite easily go and see them for an entire week. I’m not going to, though, because I’ve got my timetable, and I MUST STICK TO THE TIMETABLE.
Well, that was the plan, anyway. I knew when making this year’s timetable that it was going to fall apart, but I hadn’t realised quite how quickly it would do so. Upon leaving the Bearpit, I was surprised with a spare ticket to What Does the Title Matter Anyway?, the improv show hosted by Clive Anderson that for legal reasons is absolutely nothing like Whose Line is it Anyway?, the 1990s improv show hosted by Clive Anderson.
Whose Line is it Anyway? was a big part of my childhood; Channel 4 used to air them stupidly late, but we’d tape them and watch them the next day. My tolerance for improv has gone down since I was a child, but I think that’s mainly because I’ve seen so much bad improv. As Clive announced the lineup for the show – Greg Proops! Marcus Brigstocke! Steve Frost. COLIN BLOODY MOCHRIE! – I was slightly giddy, and this feeling didn’t let up until the show was over. Although I’d have given my right arm to see Ryan Stiles on the bill instead of Steve Frost (Who was perfectly good, but he’s no Ryan Stiles is he?) I felt almost as awestruck as I did seeing Python live last month. Unlike Python, however, everyone here absolutely still had it. It’s perhaps an unfair comparison, as they’re in their 50s rather than their 70s, but Mochrie’s white hair aside their performances were indistinguishable from classic Whose Line?. It was a dear shame I didn’t get to see Aidan Goatley’s 11 Films to Happiness, but I think he would understand. But you all need to see his show for me now. 9:35pm, Ciao Roma. Don’t bother going to see the Whose Line? thing, because that was Colin Mochrie’s last night.
When the show finished shortly after 10pm, I was giving serious consideration to going home. It was wet, my umbrella was useless in the wind, and I was wearing double denim, which soaks up water better than the most absorbent kitchen towel on the market. I only have one jacket with me, and it’s going to be soggy for the rest of the week. Also, a man had walked behind me earlier in the evening shouting “double denim! double denim! double denim!”. I should have shouted “Utter cunt! Utter cunt! Utter cunt!” but I didn’t think of it in time.
Michael Bell from AhhGee Podcast Live (Which I’m doing a spot on in about an hour, so I’d really better get a move on with this) had decided not to go back to his house, so we decided to head to the Pleasance Dome Dome in search of shelter. On our way, we were accosted by a man offering us free tickets to a mystery show in the King Dome. He said he didn’t know who the performer was, but he’d heard rumours it was Frankie Boyle.
I still don’t know why we said yes, really; I thought Frankie was alright on Mock the Week when he had people to rein him in, but I’ve found his solo stuff fairly vile. But at the same time it was a MYSTERY gig! A strange and secret thing that may or may not have been a ginger bearded Scotsman! Nobody knew for sure… Michael and I waited around with a vague sense of trepidation, but even though it was probably going to be Frankie Boyle, the whole thing was still very, very exciting.
It wasn’t Frankie Boyle at all. It was, in fact, Luke McQueen, who apparently is on telly and stuff but I’d not come across until last night. He’s been making a series of YouTube videos called ‘Find My Audience‘, and last night he decided to see what happened if he performed to an audience of Frankie Boyle fans. It was a fantastic, hilarious show, and one that went on for far longer than McQueen was expecting – there were some walk-outs, but most people stayed to watch this amazing, gutsy act from a hilariously funny comic. I think most people were more bemused than appreciative, but I can’t remember the last time I laughed quite so hard.
(I can – it was the previous show. But it was still really funny, and I’m hoping to squeeze his show in later in the week. Which will involve ripping up the timetable. AGAIN.)
That’s all for today. Go and read Ray Peacock’s brilliant blog if you want more Edinburgh words.
This evening, I finished my schedule for my trip up to Edinburgh. I say ‘finished’ – I’m of the same school of thought as George Lucas, in that Edinburgh Fringe timetables are never finished, only abandoned. I also put about as much time and effort into my timetable as George Lucas did into any of the Star Wars prequels.
Because that’s the thing; I know a lot of performers, and inevitably there will be some who I’ll run into up at the Fringe. They’ll ask me if I’m coming to see their show, I’ll make an awkward noise that sounds a bit like ‘no’, and then I’ll see a sadness in their eyes. Perhaps a tinge of despair and a soupcon of rage, too. They will invariably have no respect for the sheer amount of work that’s gone into finalising the 40 or so shows that I don’t even pretend to myself I’m going to end up seeing all of anymore.
Take this year as an example. I’m going up for four full days, and two half days. After spending a full day going through all the Fringe brochures, I had a ‘short’ list of 85 shows I’d be interested in watching. And there’s probably another 20 or 30 comedians on top of that who I’d have put on my list if I didn’t already know I was trying to keep costs down this year. given that almost all Fringe comedy shows take place between midday and 2am, it would be literally impossible for me to see everything I wanted to see.
Of course, some of my comedic acquaintances’ shows will never have made it onto my short list, as the nicest comedians are not always the ones I find funniest. The reverse is also sadly true; I, for instance, am a Grade A prick, but I think I’m pretty hilarious actually.
But for the most part, it’s a matter of time. At the time of writing, my schedule for next week has 38 shows on it, with three more I might go and see if I’m up and about in time. Even discounting the nine of those shows where I’m performing, that’s arguably too many comedy shows to see in a short space of time. Which is why I won’t; usually I end up seeing about 25 shows, including the ones I’m in. 21 of the shows I’m down to see are free ones, and although they all sound like they could be interesting they provide a helpful buffer should I wish to have a lie-in, or see friends, or go and
pay women to sleep with me have a nice sit-down dinner as opposed to something from a van whilst sitting on a doorstep.
That said, if any of you decide to use my show It’s All Geek to Me (1800, Three Sisters probably) as a ‘buffer’, I will slice your throats. Nothing personal.
There is no blog on Day 7 of the EdinBlog Fringe. And if you’re the one person actually reading this and for some reason you’re sad about the fact I’ve not done one today, then you’ve clearly missed the fact that I’m not even going up to Edinburgh until Sunday. If you’ve actually sat and read six Edinburgh Fringe blogs written by someone who isn’t even at the Edinburgh Fringe, you’re a fucking idiot.
Check back tomorrow!
I spoke to Aidan Goatley today. He says he’s definitely not taking 10 Films with My Dad to the Edinburgh Fringe next year; I told him he’s a liar. History will prove me to be the victor here, but just in case he somehow finds the courage to go through with this threat you should go and see it this year.
Now that the ball’s started rolling with regards to next year’s Edinburgh Fringe, I can’t stop thinking about it. Awards have never been something I’ve craved, but as I was walking to work (or, more accurately, walking to have a KFC before work) this afternoon I did find myself imagining what it would be like to find out I was nominated for the Perrier; turns out I would be quite happy about it. If one of you reading this could get yourselves onto the Perrier judges’ panel for next year so I can be nominated, that’d be great thank you.
Note that I said ‘nominated’ rather than ‘the winner’ – there’s only so fantastical my chicken-hungry imaginings can be.
Today sees me step into the time machine once more and completely waste the brilliant opportunity by just going back to the Edinburgh Fringe in the past and telling you what happened, this time in 2011.
I have a ritual when it comes to the Edinburgh Fringe. I tell everybody I don’t want to go to the Edinburgh Fringe, then I tell myself I don’t want to go to the Edinburgh Fringe, and then as the Edinburgh Fringe draws near I get very sad that I’m not going to the Edinburgh Fringe and buy tickets for the Edinburgh Fringe.
In 2011, the regret kicked in at a point which some might argue was far too late already, once the Fringe had already started. However, a friend of a friend was trying to off-load a first class return train ticket from London to Edinburgh for not very much cash, and I snapped them up. What this did mean, however, was that the only accommodation I was able to secure was a tiny attic room in Portobello, a mere four miles from the delights of Cowgate.
I don’t remember too much about that trip, perhaps due to its brevity, but I do remember having a lot more fun than the previous year; I think I was just happy to be there, and on my own. The first night I was there I remember walking along Nicholson Street as the fireworks blazed up at the castle. It was a weirdly magical moment, and one that stuck with me.
Favourite Show: It’s a toss-up between The Peacock and Gamble Podcast Live and Dave Gorman’s Powerpoint Presentation. However, since one of these shows was subsequently turned into a brilliant six-part series on Dave and the other one wasn’t, I’m going to give this award to the underdogs.
Least Favourite Show: As a performer myself, I hate walking out of shows halfway through, as I know that it can linger in the mind of the comedian long after the gig has finished. Fortunately, I didn’t walk out halfway through The Return of O’Farahan and Keith; it was more like fifteen minutes in. The sad thing is I can’t even remember what I found so objectionable about the show – I just knew if I remained in the same room as it for much longer I might have started screaming.
‘What the Hell was That?’: Due to the brevity of the trip, there weren’t many shows on my timetable that I didn’t end up seeing. Sadly, one that I did skip was Found Objects Band, starring my friend and sometime collaborator Tim Dawkins. It was also the second and final year in which I timetabled Battleacts! and ultimately didn’t bother. But ultimately this prize has to go to The Man Who Was Nearly There, because irony.
I’m very tired after a long but ultimately happy weekend of video games, drinking, singing and putting my feet in a paddling pool. As such, this will not be a long blog entry. If you want something a bit more deep and meaningful then visit Ray Peacock’s blog, as he’s managing to rack up an impressive word count with intelligent, thought-provoking and revealing entries on a daily basis.
Chortle, three stars, Steve Bennett etc. At the time of writing Chortle have posted eight four-star reviews, 24 three-star reviews and two two-star reviews. Three Weeks have yet to score. Fringebiscuit are going strong, and for that we are all truly sorry.
Everyone doing a full run has now started their show. As is traditional, numbers have been fair to middling, but everyone’s got their own excuse or theory as to why this is, even Simon Caine, who I think just wants his readers to know that he has met some comedians really.
In Edinburgh 2015 news, I think I’ve basically entered into a pact with the aforementioned Biscuit and Brawn to do a full run next year and live with them in a house for a month. This is the closest I have ever come to a suicide pact, but I’m strangely excited about the prospect of dusting off last year’s show and giving it a bit of a spring clean. If I don’t win the Perrier I will probably kill myself though, so any of next year’s awards panel reading this need to know that they have a duty of care and if I don’t win the award then I want someone to report them to Ofcom on my behalf.
This time next week I’ll be up in Edinburgh. If my current timetable is to be believed I’ll be hanging around waiting to watch Cosmonauts at 1am at the Counting House, but it is far more likely that I’ll have decided to call it a night and be on my way back to my accommodation. With luck I’ll have seen Andrew O’Neill earlier in the evening; he’s one of my favourite comedians, with his surreal jokes and counter-culture standpoint. And yet, I first saw Andrew on a complete whim. I had a dull Friday night ahead of me one day in London, and decided to fill it with a random comedy gig. The show title, Occult Comedian, intrigued me enough to buy a ticket, and it’s a decision I’ve not regretted to this day.
So what I’m trying to say is, if you’re in Edinburgh at all this month – or in any town/city which has comedy gigs happening – go and see someone you’ve never heard of before. They could become your new favourite stand-up. Or they could be Simon Caine (Suruchi, 1215).
But more specifically, what I’m trying to say is, go and see Andrew O’Neill. Not next Sunday, as that would be a bit too much like stalking, and there’s a chance I might not make it there in time anyway. That one does require you being in Edinburgh, but if by some chance you’re not in Edinburgh you can watch the exact performance of Occult Comedian that made me a fan on YouTube here.