Rest of the fest

Halfway there and still living on a prayer. It seems, objectively speaking, that I have a “solid” three-star show on my hands. Three stars are always prefixed by “solid.” I came here with manageable expectations (what a great lost Dickens novel that was), and have been pleasantly surprised. The Scotsman, as I have established, gave me three stars. Fest, the free listings magazine, also gave me three stars, and that review is now online. (It’s the one that mentions “the spectre of Herring,” which I still love.) Yesterday I got a three-star review, albeit the faintest in its praise of the lot, in Three Weeks, which is another freesheet and an email bulletin. The review is here. I’m obviously relieved not to have had a slag-off.

It’s hard enough to even get a review up here, what with the sheer volume of shows, especially comedy, and I suspect it is the fact that I am making my solo debut that has rewarded me with these reviews. In many cases, you need an angle to get noticed, and a debut will have to do with me. I won’t dwell on the actual wording of the critics, as that way madness lies, and I have seen enough comics with madness to wish to steer clear of that. (I get upset enough when people don’t like my books.) However, it’s funny that the Three Weeks man described my humour as a bit “Surrey-based-Guardian-reader,” which is at least accurate in one sense, or two in relation to the section in which I remember living in Surrey.

Another full house for Secret Dancing, on surely the hottest, sunniest, bluest-skied day of the Fringe. I had to personally turn a few people away, as I was doing my own door, Free Fringe style. I had a bottleneck of friends in today, whom I had to “walk in” – Mat Ricardo, his wife Lesley, Jim Bob and entire family, Justin Moorhouse and Iain Morris, who’s up to audition young hopefuls for the Inbetweeners film. This made me incredibly nervous. They were all very kind afterwards, and unlike Richard Herring, Justin actually gave me some useful, practical advice about microphone technique, rather than telling me I’m shit. If you come and see the show from tomorrow onwards, it will be a lot better, thanks to Justin Moorhouse. He is my new mentor. Herring is fired, and will have to say “I’m out” to HIMSELF.

A much better Collings & Herrin podcast gig this afternoon, where no microphone technique is required, due to them being on stands throughout that are set up by a professional tech, called Lynz. Don’t know why the show was so much better than, say, YESTERDAY’S (which, ironically, sounds OK on the podcast). Best not to find out why. The audience seemed more up for it, including one man in a suit who’d also been at Secret Dancing and frankly ruined the subtle drama of the bit where I show how to hold out my outstretched palm to attract a robin by shouting out, “Would it help if I said my name was Robin?”, which didn’t help. He came up to us after the podcast gig, and said, “I’m wasted,” but that he’d enjoyed it. Ah well. We enjoyed it, too and we were anything but wasted, unless you count the fact that Richard has a wasting disease judging by the way his suit is hanging off him.

Richard was videoing today’s show on a tiny but miraculous device that he set up on the lip of the stage, so let’s see how that came out – it may see the light of day as a DVD extra. Thanks to the keen photographic eye of Gordon “GoHod” Hodgson, you can see a preview here.

Anyway, here’s the podcast blurb:

In the fifth of our live Edinburgh podcasts, and the fourth that has come out – Podcast 126: Light Side Of The Poon – we recreate, in full, an entire episode of the American sitcom Friends. We also solve the blue towel mystery, improve Anglo-Australian relations immeasurably, rewrite the pronunciation of some popular names, recall fondly the occasional naked lady on the cover of the Sunday Times magazine and the half-inch of underskirt Andrew glimpsed when Sarah Jane Smith fell over on the Giant Robot episode of Doctor Who, defend David Beckham’s sister’s empty wheelie bin and mount our own version of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket scheme. And Richard unveils his new variety act: failing to identify audience members by their accents. Back on Wednesday, kids, with Space Dust action.

Right, off to see flatmate Tom Wrigglesworth now.

Arse market

Yes, sorry about that title. It’s a callback to Comedy Countdown, where the letters A, R, S and E came up, randomly, twice, so I asked for them to be pre-selected for the last round so that I, too, could make up a word with ARSE in it. (We’d had ARSEBILGE, for instance.) Up to that point I had been foolishly coming up with words that were real, and didn’t have ARSE in them.

A truly superb photo above by Green Gordon, taken at the Green Room Venue yesterday. Rather sad and poignant. Just as it would be if me and the comedian and man Richard Herring were sitting in the chairs.

I had my second review for Secret Dancing today. Again, it is not yet online, so I can’t link to it, and I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to actually type it out. It’s three stars in The Scotsman, and I think I am right in saying that Fiona Shepherd, who wrote it, also reviewed Lloyd Cole Knew My Father favourably in 2001. Because I came up here with modest ambitions, I am thrilled skinny by three stars, while three stars is like a broadsword in the heart to someone with previous form like, say, Richard Herring.

Clearly, being reviewed for stand-up is new for me. But I have had my books reviewed using the reductive star system, and the difference between four and three, or three and two, can be devastating – especially on Amazon, where your book’s star rating is a constant mean average, and one dissatisfied customer can bring your score down, thus literally acting as a sales-deterrent. In many ways, customer reviews are more democratic, and you get a better snapshot of the way your work is being received. They are also more cruel, as a really dissatisfied customer is more likely to feel moved to add their voice than someone who just quite liked your book.

At least with a star rating delivered from on high by a critic, even though it lingers next to your listing on their website, potentially acting as a box office repellent, it’s the opinion of one person. An opinion you can ignore if it is wrong, and stick on your poster if it is correct, like Fiona Shepherd’s. Veteran performers at Edinburgh as emotionally ruined as Richard Herring claim to be immune to the injustice of a bad review, but they are patently not.

Perhaps there should be a handicap system based upon years of service. For every five years you’ve been up here, a star is automatically added to any review. And for ten years, two stars. That would be fair.

If I were to review Christ On A Bike, which I can’t as I am too close to the spectre of its creator and star, I would give it five stars. We are all for sale in the Arse Market.