Last Sunday (6th) I headed North from Hertfordshire about an hour later than planned in glorious sunshine until I got about ten miles South of Edinburgh and the heavens opened. I fully expected it to rain every day I was in the Scottish capital but I thought I might at least have been allowed to unpack. Arriving about nine o'clock I called my flatmate David Whitney and asked him to meet me at the flat. He said he would see me in five minutes. Six minutes later he called to ask where I was. I said I was outside the flat. He questioned that by saying he was in fact outside the flat himself. Once we had established that I was on the wrong street, he left me the keys and hot-footed to his 10.15pm nightly show at The Gilded Balloon. He has spent thousands on his show this year and I was clearly holding him up. I unpacked what seemed to be half my worldly belongings, listened to the Olympic 100m final in the car (I was never in any doubt that Bolt would jog home in nine and a half seconds) and found a place to park it near where I lived last year. Then I took a walk up to the Gilded Balloon (from now on 'GB') loft bar where Whitney had said he would meet me outside. The first comedian I saw was a new guy called Rob Beckett who was walking past an A1 billboard of himself. The second comedian I saw was Russell Howard, skulking under his hoodie so as not to be recognised and looking terribly thin. That boy needs a good dinner. I've known Russell for over a decade. He's a lovely bloke and exceptionally humble. I've only met Rob Beckett a couple of times and he's still in the pomposity of comedy youth. Showbiz will beat it out of him, I'm sure. It's left the rest of us for dead.
Whitney managed to forget within thirty seconds that he was supposed to be meeting me at The Loft Bar so I went in alone and caught him chatting to Swedish comedian Magnus Betnér. Magnus has a fearsome reputation in his native land and is something of a star there. Edinburgh is a great equaliser though and here he is just one of thousands desperately trying to get you to see his show. It's the one time of year when we all suffer the same hardships to varying degrees. We are only as good as our last review, money is at a premium and everything is someone else's fault.
This first week's low audiences have been blamed on the recession, the Olympics and bizarrely, the weather. Since Sunday night's deluge the last week has been nothing short of beautiful and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to have been inside. My two daily shows have been a tale of two different fringes. My 4.20pm solo show has struggled for numbers as it competed with the sunshine and the sport. My 7.45pm evening show has been packed to the rafters (until tonight, but more of that later). That hasn't matched their respective audience responses though. "Songs In The Key Of Death" (At Banshee Labyrinth) is the early show and has proved to be a minor hit with the few people that have seen it. The accompanying CD has sold well post-show and I'm really loving the bedding-in of new material that's been six months in the writing. "The Lastminutecomedy Club" (At Whistle Binkies, a little further up Niddry Street) has so far only vaguely entertained the masses and it's a puzzle. Some of the shows have been great but quite a few of the acts have under-performed to be honest. For now I would rather just lean towards the ones who have shone and my eternal thanks to Gordon Southern (An old mate of mine) and Caroline Clifford (Who I didn't know until this week) who frankly have saved my neck when all seemed to be falling apart. Gordon's an old hand and reluctant to do "Free" shows but his class is undoubtable and he lifted a particularly average night and left the audience very happy. Caroline is a newish act based in Berlin and has got a really nice line in bitter songs. She's on again on Friday. He's got another gig booked in with me but might pull out. I hope he doesn't. His show is called "A Brief History Of History" and if you can get along to it, do.
I know what you want though - you want the dirt.
Well you're not getting it.
You can however, get this - I've been doing comedy for twenty years now and along the way have met/become friends with/fallen out with pretty much every great act to grace the stage in the UK (And hundreds of rubbish ones). I am also one for clowning about and have probably previously told you about "Do The Tull". This is the exercise of me recreating the famous flute-playing stance of Jethro Tull's lead singer Ian Anderson, should anyone shout "Do The Tull" at me in any situation. It being Mr. Anderson's birthday the other day, I was honour bound to take a couple of suitable photos and (via twitter) I let Jethro Tull know themselves about one of them. The other two I saved for this though. What follows is a trilogy of classic "Tulls". My apologies for the picture qualities but bear in mind these were taken in the early hours of the morning and we may all have been drinking...
|Jim Jeffries is currently one of the biggest comedy stars on the planet. He also used to get pissed with me quite a lot (normally in Bristol). I don't think his heart was in this but he gave it his best shot.|
Time to sign off for now. Suffice to say the first week has been rewarding and frustrating in equal measure but the Olympics are over now, the rain has finally returned to Scotland and all bodes well for the rest of the fest.
One footnote - tonight I had my lowest crowd for my evening show by approximately two thirds - I'm hoping it was a blip, particularly as I had my second BIGGEST crowd for my afternoon one today. This after I hardly flyered the first and heavily flyered the later. Perhaps that was the problem. My own presence might well be putting people off coming to my show. Now THAT could prove problematic.
PS. A word about Ronnie Golden. He and I have been no more than acquaintances, really, until the last week when we have spent several happy hours exchanging stories and putting the world to rights. Up until a few days ago I thought he was doing a show with Barry Cryer. He's not. Barry is doing a show with him.