Sunday, 14 August 2011

Inevitability on the corner of Otway & Vine.

It was always going to happen. I was always going to lose my voice. I just didn't think it would happen this quickly and now I'm in a right mess. It's now Saturday and I've been in Edinburgh for six days. In that time I've performed at twenty shows, been in probably as many bars, failed to eat as well as I should have done and lacked warm clothes in what has been a terrible week for weather, even by the usual standards of this near-polar extremity of Northern Europe. I also had another largely sleepless night to kick it all off thanks to the continued presence of David Whitney. I let he and his girlfriend stay at mine for an extra night (He had been kicked out of his own digs), this time opting to sleep on the couch of a comedian friend of mine. I don't want to go into details, but it wasn't really very conducive to catching some zees.

"Tweeting Beauty" has been alarmingly successful, almost to my chagrin. I wanted to spend the first few days honing the show ready for a big push next week (And the following) but, despite my efforts to not put a single poster up added to a laughable lack of flyering, the gig's full every day and I've had to sharpen up pretty quickly, to the extent that I've had to alter the show a bit and drop out a couple of things that were just going to be too unwieldy to manage. "The Lastminutecomedy Club" has been a little more problematic as it's been fraught with comedians not showing up and me having to scrabble around to get whoever is around to fill in. We've had a couple of great shows but there was one when I only had one act (Aaron Twitchen) arrive and ended up having to do about forty minutes myself. When a gig's been billed as a compilation show with three "Great acts" it was unsurprising when the "Bucket" for the day was under four quid despite there being over twenty people in the room. I love the bucket. I love the laughs I get out of it and I love the idea that comics such as myself who have been performing for two decades (or more in some cases) are reduced to begging at the end of each show in the hope that people will consider them to be worth at least a pound each.

There is also, bizarrely, a culture of lying about one's bucket, whereby several "Comedians" ramp up their bucket statuses like drunken fisherman at the end of a day by the river. It's been a staple of Edinburgh for comics to lie about numbers at their shows. "It's brilliant - sold out every night" actually equates to "I'm begging you - please come and bring your friends, I'll guest list you" but the bucketlying is hilarious and occasionally turns things on their head. The latest craze seems to be how much people can claim to have got "Per person". I've been laughing at the amount of upstart chucklemakers I've heard saying "Yeah it was amazing - one bloke gave me twenty quid!" or even better - "Yeah I only had ten in but when I looked there was eighty quid in the bucket". These guys are never around to buy you a drink when you need one though - even though they've probably had one off you earlier.If you're interested, the average donation per person seems to be between £1 and £2 and my own stuff reflects that. You get the odd fiver but I also had a group of six older people in my show the other day who all walked out at the end with their heads down and their hands stuffed firmly in their pockets. This is when it descends into downright rudeness. There is no requirement that you must pay at the end of a show you have entered for free, but come on if you've sat and watched a show for the best part of an hour that someone has clearly gone to a lot of trouble to put together for you, the least you can do is give them a quid, surely.

Here's a man who really DOES deserve a pound. This is Mike Belgrave.  There's an all-female show that was short of an act so he put on a frock and wig and took to the stage. Obviously he was the highlight, not least because he was arguably the best looking woman on the bill.

My first few nights were spent predictably in the Loft Bar and the Library Bar of the Gilded Balloon, where I've bumped into a lot of the usual Edinburgh reprobates but also a few comedians at the fest for the first time, all of whom already seem to hate it. It's like the machine that Zaphod Beeblebrox goes into to be taught a lesson as to his stature in relation to the rest of the cosmos. As you walk around Edinburgh you see A1 posters of your mates looming down on you as if to say "Look how well I'm doing!". Photos of people you know aren't as good as you on the sides of buses and five star reviews of comedians you've never heard of that you know probably slept with the reviewer or at the very least, paid him or her off.

I bumped into Tim on The Royal Mile. We've know each other for the best part of two decades and as his star ascends mine seems to have somewhat stalled.He seems increasingly embarrassed to see me and even appears to be saying "Me success, You! Do better!" in the above poster.
The truth is that we get out of Edinburgh what we put in to it. I've put a lot of effort into getting my show ready. I've also put a lot of effort into drinking, not wearing appropriate clothing, staying out too late and not eating properly. The result is my shows are busy and appear to be well received but I'm hardly able to perform them because I'm a drunk old voiceless bastard (aged 41) who is only being saved by the sock puppet on his arm. Would I be anywhere else right now? Not on your nelly. I was talking to Robin Ince the other day (Another Free Fringe stalwart) and he went as far as to say I looked "Happy". Admittedly this was shortly after John Otway had been rubbing his pelvis into my back whilst talking to the former Science-based gag machine, blissfully unaware of the fact that he was doing so.

John Otway - Frottage monster par excellence. He's yet another seasoned pro to embrace the PBH Free Fringe and The World's a better place for it, even though he appears to be feeling that up as well, the dirty sort.

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