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Tuesday, August 21

Edinburgh Highlights

As has happened in previous years (though not last year, thanks to a phone which wasn't too full of text messages and too shit to be able to let me email blog entries in), I have managed to avoid blogging one of the more interesting months in my year. I did spend some time online during the month, but always in a rapid check-your-emails sort of a way. I was, basically, very very preoccupied with the Fringe and the people I was keeping in touch with, outside of it. This is forgiveable, I hope.

I'm back now, and I'll list some things which I remember as noteworthy. They'll come with the benefit of hindsight, which is possibly a more coherent way to describe them too.

Three Weeks Reviewed Me
We got a review for The Great Big Comedy Picnic. It was a good review. All I can quote about my own part in the review was its description of me - "Plump, bald man". Not "fat". No: "Plump". I'm so very proud.

The Karaoke Show
I did the Amateur Pro Celebrity Karaoke show 3 times during the Fringe. The firt occasion was potentially embarrassing. Not all of the audience stayed, which was hardly surprising given that we didn't really have a show or a format. I managed to link together the nothingness which was available and we sang some songs. Two New Zealand women, who were keen for the show to be entertaining, basically made it so by being supportive enough that the show was going to work, no matter how tenuous it got.

I should, perhaps, have learned my lesson and not gone back to do further shows, but I was assured that there would be a format and also an audience for further shows - as in an audience who were both numerous and aware of what they'd come to see.

In the second show, there was an audience. There was something which looked like a format, but that was largely illusory. I bantered with the people to make them seem more like an audience and less like a bunch of randoms. I asked one guy what he did. "I'm a journalist," he said. "Are you reviewing this show?" "Yes."

He gave the show three stars, which was good, considering how ropey it got. He described me as "ebullient". I was pleased with the way that show came together in the end.

The final time I did the show, I had an idea. Rather than the old favourite "One song to the tune of another", I suggested that I should sing a newspaper article to the tune of Robbie Williams' Angels. An audience member provided me an article to sing. The bastard had only gone and selected one on Madeleine McCann. It turned out very funny, though I had to make sure the audience were totally okay with it before proceeding. They were. Sick bastards!

I've done a few impro games in my time, but I've not done any since becoming a stand-up. I had the opportunity to have a go at this 3 times during the Fringe. I got better at it and would like to do a bit more if I get the chance. I had the benefit of working with a couple of improvisers that I know quite well and who know what they're doing. As a result, I felt I learned enough of the ropes to get on.

The secret to impro is not to try too hard and to avoid trying to make it about yourself. So, some naturally funny stuff happened... I also cracked some jokes which worked.

Seeing Tim Minchin's Only Edinburgh Gig
It was the middle of the night. Tim Minchin, who hadn't been down to play the Fringe, turned out to be in town. He turned up on the board of "acts playing Spank tonight" and I went to see him. He was absolutely brilliant. I was right at the front and loved every minute of it.

I was so excited at having had such a great night that I ran out of the venue in very high spirits indeed. I was in the mood for racing cyclists up the hill - an activity I'm not in the last bit equipped for. I didn't car. I'd seen Tim Minchin's only Fringe performance.

Later in the Fringe, I saw him again. It turns out that other people went and booked him for their shows too. It didn't matter. He was just as good the latter time, on Mitch Benn's music club.

Fighting The Weight Advantage
Losing weight at the Fringe was good. Eating healthily and zooming around the City of Edinburgh is a good combination. I did have one fried breakfast, on my last morning, and I did have a few (not too many nights) with alcohol, but these didn't seem to get too much in the way.

I did have a brush with alcohol and obesity, though, on my last but one night in the city. The order of events was something like this. I came back to the venue to do the late show, drank rather a lot of bottles of pear cider in a short space of time, went on at the end of the gig and basically didn't give a toss about what happened. The audience had been good, but they hadn't quite roared yet. I gave them a very exuberant performance.

One guy heckled me at some point and I batted him down a few times. Then his heckles seemed to suggest that the thought that I was the less fat of the two of us. I then announced that he should come to the front as we were going to have a "flab off". I chose those words quite carefully.

Statistically, I beat him first on waist measurement and then on weight. The audience cheered me for being the winner (and they had already decided they didn't like him) on each occasion. Then he suggested that we go shirtless for the final judgement. I pondered it a moment and then went for it. I didn't see, but apparently he was quite shamefaced that I'd called him on this. I ripped my shirt off with aplomb, we stood with our profiles out and I won that one too. The audience booed him off stage.

Strange isn't it. I'm not proud of my body at all, but I whipped off my shirt without more than a moment's hesitation (Question - will this be funny and win the game? Yes! Go!) and showed it to everyone without any embarrassment. In that context, I was fine. I was also drunk. It was a good gig.

The Five Performance Days
On a couple of occasions, I managed to fit in 5 different performances on the same day. On one of those days I added a show watched to the mix too. This isn't my personal record, but it's still extreme. The performances (and I'm including MySketch, since I did have a role in it of sorts) included:
  • 14.25 - MySketch
  • 16.45 - Amateur Pro Celebrity Karaoke
  • 18.15 - Impro Show
  • 20.35 - The Great Big Comedy Picnic
  • 23.35 - Merle Handsome's Late Night Comedy Extravaganza
Extreme stuff. The rush from the karaoke show to the impro show was almost too much. Add to that the fact that I was chattering on the phone during one such sprint, even to the point where I had to end the call about 30 seconds before I was due to be called onto stage, and you'll get an idea of how frenetic some days got.

The Six Watched Show Day
The stand-up show - The Great Big Comedy Picnic - didn't run on Tuesdays, nor did a couple of the other shows I was involved with. As a result, I had Tuesdays free after 3.30pm. So, on my second Tuesday in Edinburgh, I ran around show watching. I managed to see shows that were as little as 10 minutes apart in some cases, running out of energy as I didn't have time to eat as I scooted between venues, in some cases running to make up the time. It was great!

The "What The Fuck" Musical
"Xenu is loose" - a musical about scientology. It had the potential to be very good. It looked good at first. Then uncertainty crept in. Some of the musical numbers were ok. Some were piss poor. The script worsened, the show got odd.

By the last third we were laughing. We weren't laughing at gags in the script. We were just amused at how poor the show was. We laughed through the love song. I started to wonder whether the whole thing wasn't a total parody. Perhaps I'd been a bit slow and hadn't realised. Then I realised. This show was just shit... Or was it? Maybe I should check.

I read a bunch of reviews just to make sure I'd not missed the point. I hadn't. The show was bollocks. End of.

The Last MySketch
Working back stage on a show is a good thing. At no stage did I ever really feel under the spotlight. This was odd, because we did one sketch every day where I had to push myself into the limelight, and we did another where I delivered the punchline. Despite this, I always felt like I was just behind the scenes. I was able to watch the whole show, offering more of a guiding hand to keep it flowing than anything else. As a result, I was able to help some of the cast work on their scenes and improve them.

By the end of the run, we had the full cast and the full show running like clockwork. On my last day we did the show to end all shows. Everything worked well, was appreciated and made me proud to have reached the zenith of what has been, so far, a 7 month long association with some people I'm pleased to know.

Glad To Be Leaving
It's strange to say this, but I think I was right to feel like I had a good reason to leave Edinburgh when I did. I knew that my life had to start afresh after this festival, and I knew that the way to do this was to leave a city I love and seek the next phase. I didn't leave Edinburgh with a heavy heart. I left having performed or at least engineered 37 performances, and having witnessed a further 28. That's not bad.

I had kept my voice from running out completely and I had kept my energy levels and spirits up. I never reached a point of being overwhelmed by the Fringe and I only once truly overstretched myself to the point of having to run between shows. I had had a very good time and I wanted to stop while I was ahead and see what good times might follow.

Perhaps the potential future beyond Edinburgh was something of a pre-occupation of mine throughout the festival, and perhaps this pre-occupation might have saved me from losing my soul too much to something which I always mourn for a while after its over.

I left Edinburgh happy.


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