Fringe legs

[Sorry about the interminable, Glastonbury-sized length of this post, but it’s a week of my life I want to remember fondly and in detail]

Hello, this is me and my millionaire comedy partner Richard “Rich” Herring relaxing backstage at the Belly Laugh, one of the many devilishly humid venues provided by the Underbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s been a culturally nourishing week – so much better than the odd days I’ve spent up here in previous years. Last year, for instance, I was up for two nights on the occasion of our experimental, free first live Edinburgh podcast, and the only other show I saw apart from Richard was … Stewart Lee. Easily the most conservative and unimaginative way for me to spend two nights in Edinburgh. There is so much to see here, it’s literally impossible to even make a dent in it, even in a week, so you just pick as best you can. And make sure you see Stewart Lee.


Tuesday
: I arrived at 4.30 in the afternoon, and no sooner had I picked up my flat keys from Lucy Porter and “freshened up”, I was off up the hill for the first of umpteen times to contribute to Mark Watson’s 24 Hour Gig at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar (it moves around during that 24 hour period, and an impressive knot of people follow it, some for the entire 24 hours). They were just about to hit 18 hours – and I bumped into Justin Moorhouse on the way through the doors. Mark was half-dressed as a woman, in that he had on a woman’s vest top. Phil Nichol was threatening to go and fetch some special guests, then Mark introduced me onto the stage, to forgivingly warm applause – I still had my jacket on and my bag over my shoulder as if I had just stepped off the train. We bantered for a bit (I had never met the face of Magners Pear Cider before and it was good to shake his surprisingly soft hand), and then he left me to do a foreshortened version of my Mitfords routine, which I had intended to do in the form of an audience vote, to find out the best Mitford. I enjoyed holding up the Mitford symbol cards and getting into my stride, but Mark came back on, three sisters in, and told me I had to finish, as Lionel Blair had turned up. It was a hoofing fait accompli! So I got Mark to pick a card, randomly, and he chose Pamela, of all people!

After going off, high on the chance to be part of Mark’s famous gig marathon, and even higher off the speed at which I had gone from National Express passenger to Fringe performer, I became a happy punter and ordered my first pear cider of the Festival – and please don’t tell me it’s called perry; I am merely reading what it says on the bottle. (There would be many more pear ciders, sometimes Bulmers, sometimes Magners – the Fringe sponsor – sometimes Original, but mostly that distinctively day-glo green, always rattling sexily with ice in a plastic pint glass, and never making me properly drunk, not even in the afternoon, or hungover, despite Richard’s doubts about this miracle.) It seemed pertinent to drink pear cider while Mark Watson entertained me. It’s his fault, and his alone, that I have become a kiddy-cider drinker, although the brand’s Starbucks-like ubiquity ought to offend my delicate, Naomi Klein-tickled sensibilities. And it does, when I put it like that. I drank two in short order, while standing at the bar, enjoying the random sight of Lionel Blair struggling to connect with the young audience but being cheered along anyway, and Stephen K Amos being fruitily gay, telling us he was looking for a boy. Although when Mark suggested Simon Amstell, Amos said, “I don’t do Jew!” which seemed uproariously naughty, and he knew it.

Next guest was … Simon Amstell, his second appearance apparently, all very matey and casual: he played the piano a bit, while Mark organised some groupies for Adam Hills’ show, a ruse they’d launched earlier, and then a big Australian bloke came back from getting a Mark Watson tattoo, which was so fresh it was still under clingfilm, then Mark asked Simon for some pop dirt, and he said something libellous about someone famous that I’m not going to repeat here. This went down very well with an audience who were much livelier than they might have been after 17 hours. Then Ali McGregor, partner of Adam Hills who’d been gamely involved in picking his Robert Palmer-style entourage, did a comedy song about a cat that involved us laughing at the vaginal meaning of the word “pussy”, which struck me as rather quaint.

As I wandered back to the flat, Robin Ince got in touch and asked if I’d like to join the bill of a secret Free Fringe gig at midnight at the Caves, doing some Secret Dancing. This would be my second gig in one day! You know me, I’m stupidly excited about being around comedians even though I am not one of them by trade, and I said yes. That evening, I went to see Richard Herring‘s Hitler Moustache at the Underbelly; he let me put programmes out on the seats so that I could go in early and avoid queuing – although I had paid for my ticket, as this is the correct way to experience Edinburgh, even if you are a famous person’s helper – I sat far enough back not to be in his eyeline, something I tried to maintain throughout the week of seeing people who know me, as I didn’t wish to put anybody off. (Actually, having had a few friends and colleagues in for the podcast gigs, it’s amazing how quickly you forget they’re there.)

I have seen every one of Richard’s shows since Christ On A Bike in 2001 (I am a fan) and so I am fully qualified to say that I think this is probably his best: smart, rounded, mature, passionate, performed with gusto and confidence, and JSE (just serious enough). It’s something of an achievement to get through it without fainting or melting, due – yet again – to the stiflingly hot Underbelly. But Richard suffers more, in his suit, than anyone in the audience, and all we have to do is sit and watch. And think. (Hardeep Singh Kohli, up here doing a cookery show, was in the audience. We chatted to him afterward and he confirmed that, as a gentleman of Indian blood and Glaswegian birth, he had no problem with the exploration in Richard’s show of the word “Paki”, which was a positive further endorsement for its anti-racism. Although when Richard referred to Hardeep an Asian, he said he found that more offensive than being called a Paki. It’s a minefield.)

The Free Fringe gig at the Caves was odd, but indicative of the way modern Edinburgh now works: Robin had announced the bill – consisting politically-charged American Jamie Kilstein, politically-charged Englishman Nick Doody, politically-charged Robin Ince and me (to which Richard Herring was added later, mainly because he was coming along anyway) – via Twitter and FaceBook. By midnight, because he is Robin Ince, we had a modest audience of around 30. Amazing. Out of nowhere. For no reason I could ascertain, Robin put me on last, but unfortunately there was no way I could play my Secret Dancing CD in this damp place with no techie (even the chair I first put my laptop on was wet!), so I was forced to just talk to the audience for ten minutes, a bit about travel sickness, a bit about walking around London … it felt like stand-up, even though it didn’t have many actual jokes in it, and it was valuable experience for me. Clearly, I seemed a bit rambling next to proper comedians. Richard took the piss out of me for “headlining”, but that’s because he takes the piss out of me for everything I do, ever. I can take it. He supported me in a wet room under a bridge. (What a first day, most of which was spent on a National Express train.)


Wednesday
: first podcast gig, as documented elsewhere. In the evening, I saw Stewart Lee‘s new show, If You Prefer A Milder Comedian, Just Ask at the Stand, a compact downstairs venue with a low ceiling and brilliantly beguiling oil paintings on the walls which seem to be of stand-up comedians but aren’t actually recognisable (one seems to be Frankie Boyle, though). Stewart has made this place his home. Last year he was trying out material for Comedy Vehicle; this year, it was a more polished new set, made up of some very sizeable chunks about a Caffe Nero loyalty card (was he pronouncing it to rhyme with “Aero” rather than “Hero” just to be obtuse? I liked it anyway), a pirate-themed activity centre, Top Gear and, without mentioning him, Mark Watson. As ever with Stew, whom I have known as long as I’ve known Richard but who remains much more of an enigma, even in marriage and fatherhood, it’s all in the repetition and the choice of words, as much as the content, and he plays with fiction and fact with great, self-defeating glee.

Back to the Stand at midnight for a comic I’ve been dying to see for ages: Daniel Kitson. Apart from a brief and ultimately unhappy flirtation with TV when he appeared on That Peter Kay Thing and Phoenix Nights, Kitson seems happier to exist outside of the ambition-driven comedy scrum where he can control his own output. He’s the comedian’s comedian, and a true original. Wilfully odd-looking, this is not a persona, or an act, it’s him: thick glasses, balding, flyaway hair, he looks like an indie kid who’s much older than his 32 years; the lisp, the Yorkshire accent and the controlled stutter, to which he refers, add to the misleading effect of “character.” But the sheer warmth of the man, even as he discusses death and loneliness, is not something you could rustle up. His show is long – up to two hours, some have said, but around 1 hour 45 minutes tonight – and seems rambling but is actually very controlled and skilfully written, if carrying a little extra weight, as if every new routine he’s written has to go in somewhere (a long bit about cheese-rolling could go without any detrimental effect). Even though it was late, and we were all wet due to an Edinburgh downpour, Kitson held the room. He’s a master. The other comedians were right. And if we’re forced to take sides in a war situation, I’m against Peter Kay for the unkind things he said.


Thursday
: The King Of Everything, a delighftully silly sketch show with Michael Legge and Johnny Candon at the GRV, another compact venue, except with tiered seating rather than pub chairs and tables, which gave a nice sense of arts centre to their absurd meta-sketches, in which Legge throws himself, Rik Mayall-like, into various parts, while Candon miraculously has the same voice and personality – his own – whichever character he adopts. This is subtly hilarious without you really knowing why, and the relationship between the two – part Peter Glaze and Don Maclean, part two male lovers – is what drives it. I was in stitches during a sketch about the renaming of a glam rocker which was essentially Legge reading out an endless list of names and Candon rejecting them. I can’t quote you a single one, but each was beautifully chosen and judged.

In the evening, it was Shappi Khorsandi at the Pleasance Above, whose audience was noticeably “older”, perhaps drawn in by Shappi’s Radio 4 appearances. Someone else I’ve met and briefly worked with, Shappi is fully aware that her window is open, and she’s diving through it. Although the routines that have made her famous concern her Iranian parentage, being a new mum has eclipsed this is in her new show, which has a strong autobiographical thread, but almost nothing about her younger, hipper sister who once dominated; plus, there’s a lot of potentially solipsistic material about being famous towards the end. Mind you, she is so likeable, even when seemingly genuinely “distracted” (the show is called The Distracted Activist), it’s impossible to mind spending an hour in her company. I saw her compere a few years ago when she was pregnant and I was instantly impressed. A few f-words may have slightly shocked the polite audience, but it’s largely family-friendly fare.

Something very different to end the day: the first King Of Scotland Edwyn Collins at the Assembly Hall at midnight, an austerely ex-Parliamentary setting for an unplugged-style, sit-down concert with the still-recovering Edwyn and his restorative young band (three guitarists, one bongo player), plus, for a couple of numbers, a strikingly well preserved Malcolm Ross from Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and Josef K. Not having seen Edwyn play since his aneurysms, this was like holy communion for me. I have met him on and off since bumping into him for the NME in 1990 while interviewing Roddy Frame in Hamburg, and I was in fact the last to interview him, on 6 Music, before he had the two strokes in February 2005, so felt even more shocked at the news. He still walks with a stick, cannot play the guitar due to motor problems on his right hand side, and his speech is limited and staccato, but once he sings, it’s like the illness never happened; the years just melt away and it could be 1980 or 1981 again. (I loved 1980 and 1981.)

The gig – the first of three – was not sold out, but every ticketholder was there for all the right reasons: to pay respect and tap a middle-aged toe to the great toons of Orange Juice, and we got the lot, from Falling And Laughing and Blue Boy to What Presence, with plenty of solo Collins on top. (No Felicity but you can’t have the moon on a stick.) It may have been the sheer tiredness of the late hour and all that walking up and down the mound, but I had something like an out of body experience towards the close, transported somewhere else, but somewhere else really good. Two standing ovations, quite rightly.

By the way, out of six nights in Edinburgh, I ate a proper evening meal only twice (this is mainly due to the timing of shows and the lack of opportunity in between, and the rather more pressing need to drink socially). Tonight, I had an Indian meal with my agent Kate, at one of those restaurants that’s just a door and you have to be brave enough to go upstairs: Suruchi, a very nice eating place if you like your peshwari nan to taste like a Bounty bar, and with Cobra on draft, thus breaking my cider-only rule – damn them! And Sunday night at the normal eating hour of midnight, with Richard and his mystery blonde girlfriend, at Bar Napoli on Hanover Street, a serviceable, noisy Italian that’s as traditional during the Fringe as a plastic pint in the Pleasance Courtyard, or a breakfast at Henderson’s, unless that last one’s just me.

Friday: a reasonably quite day for bookings and the first without something pencilled in for midnight, thank the lord; just Sarah Millican at the Pleasance Courtyard, early evening. Before this, I used Twitter to ask Edinburgh if it wanted a drink. This was the first time I’ve done such a stupid thing, but Edinburgh is different during the Fringe – the atmosphere is such that nobody should have to drink alone, unless they want to. Even though I am professionally with Richard Herring, and sharing a crazy comedy flat with six other people, I tend to do the Fringe alone, mostly: give me a table, a drink and some kind of cake and I’m happy here.

Anyway, it was 5pm. I was having a coffee, by myself, at my second favourite Edinburgh coffee outlet*, The Black Medicine Coffee Company on Nicholson Street, which has free wi-fi and does lovely hot chocolate (unlike, say, Starbucks, who do horrible hot chocolate as an alternative to the horrible coffee) and a nice toasted salmon bagel. Whilst balancing on an uncomfortable high stool, and thinking I had an hour to kill, I thirstily put the call-out for a drinking companion on Twitter – rather hoping for a comedian to answer my call. No comedian did. But, a man known only as “Cockbongo” (he is, disappointingly, Tony in real life), who had been at a couple of podcast gigs and seemed mentally stable at the Tempting Tattie afterwards – where he mistakenly ordered the spicy sausage topping and found it to be some cut-up hot dog with jalapenos – typed the magic words: “We have a table in the Pleasance Courtyard. You’re welcome to join us.” So I took my stupid life into my own hands and wandered up there.

Tony was with three mostly-also-Scottish friends (one Northern Irish, I think), who also seemed mentally stable, so I bought them all a drink – at which point, the ubiquitous Justin Moorhouse, who had seen my Tweet but ignored it, walked past and said, “Ah, I see you’ve been able to buy some friends.” This was very cruel, and sort of true! Actually, they were good company, and they got their rounds in, and we survived one of those instant Edinburgh downpours, the kind that whip vertically through a courtyard and cast all flyers and plastic cups asunder. One problem: I’d mistimed it, thinking I had an hour to kill, when in fact, I had two. Luckily for Cockbongo and his friends, we got on fine, and luckily for me, they did not kidnap me and kill me. We enjoyed the daily sight of the 85-year-old Nicholas Parsons doddering past, and watched Tom Binns, dressed as hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury, working the queue to his gig, having his photograph taking with them. (I met Tom for the first time later in the evening, and he was moaning about the hydraulic catapult that’s supposed to emulate a woman giving birth by firing a baby into the audience: he said it hadn’t worked once. I couldn’t work out if he really was depressed after nearly 20 years at the Fringe, or just saying he was for a joke. He certainly did some note-perfect impressions of Stewart Lee and Richard Herring for me.)

Did I mention Sarah Millican? Her new show Typical Woman is great. Not having seen her previous show, the one that got her noticed, I have nothing to compare it to, and just enjoyed listening to her forthright but approachable delivery and keen but cutting observations. It was a small room, and I suspect she could play bigger, but it allowed for an intimate, chatty show, with non-aggressive audience participation, and her tales of being strong but at the same time vulnerable and girly – which all have a ring of truth about them – were well told. (On holding her own with male Star Wars fans on a film degree course, she let her guard down by asking, “Which is the one with the teddies?”)

I met her for a drink afterward, not because I make a habit of chatting comedians up after their gigs, but because Sarah had revealed to me via Twitter that her first TV appearance, 12 years ago, was as a “guest reviewer” on ITV’s Collins & Maconie’s Movie Club. She reviewed the martial arts thriller Tokyo Fist and was at that stage married (the divorce formed the basis of her first Edinburgh show, Sarah Millican’s Not Nice). It was fun to catch up with her. She is, as you might expect from someone who didn’t start comedy until she was 29, down to earth, but no shrinking violet, and that rare thing, a cheerful comedian. While chatting, we also said hello to Stephen Merchant and Brendon Burns, whom I congratulated on his eloquent contributions to the Brian Logan debate, which now seems so long ago.

A quick drink with Bridget Christie (whose show I was booked to see on Saturday), then we met up with her husband Stewart Lee at the Assembly Hall, as they were going to see Edwyn. I hung around with them in the queue until it was time to go in, hearing Stewart’s horror stories about a “corporate” he’d done, then I failed to hook up with Richard, because he was still waiting to go on at a Time Out gig at the Pleasance, and getting drunk on the free beer – although as we discovered on the next podcast, this drunkeness allowed him to come up with an idea for a Beckett-style play about not being able to remember if a Mars bar was real, so no drop is wasted at the Fringe. Apart from the one that are just pissed up walls, of course.

Saturday: ah, the Gilded Balloon [pictured, in all its purple pomp], another hub of the Fringe, whose original home on Cowgate burned down so it now occupies Teviot Row House. Back in 1989 when I first came to Edinburgh with Renaissance Comedy Associates (ie. the St George’s Medical School drama society), the original Balloon was where the Fringe Club was based. We came to the new building regularly when up with Lloyd Cole Knew My Father in 2001, and just walking through that underpass takes me right back. Anyway, my clever agent got me a special pass which meant I could gain access to the Loft Bar, for performers and their hangers-on only. I used this pass wisely, often, if I was in the vicinity, just going up there to use the toilets, which are much cleaner and more soundproofed than civilian toilets, or to get my laptop out (more free wi-fi) while I had a solitary cider.

I did this very thing before Bridget Christie’s show, My Daily Mail Hell, in the Gilded Balloon Billiard Room, which was my first experience of her and a very focussed show, based on her experiences of working as an assistant on the Daily Mail diary page, but this was not just an easy stream of Mail-bashing (which, after all, is on its way down according to the all-seeing Guardian barometer), rather, a very cleverly written and staged piece about being an outsider – geographical (she’s from Gloucestershire), educational (left school at 14), in terms of class (she imagines being a servant while fetching tea for “young racists”) and in terms of fame – which took in Bridget’s nightmarish experiences of getting quotes from famous people, her impressions of David Starkey and an elephant, and an actually quite moving recreation of Jack Vettriano’s famous picture The Singing Butler. There is more than a touch of theatre to her stand-up, but it’s never pompous, in fact, she laughs at herself throughout, which puts the audience on her side.

Actually, it being the weekend, audiences are now made up of not just comedy fans but also holidaymakers who are here for the weekend and have admirably just picked shows because of the quotes or the poster and turned up; these people need warming up, as they can be reluctant to let go and laugh, and are quite unused to being talked to by a performer. Bridget thawed her holidaymakers out with a bit where she actually leaves the room, with her microphone, while acting out a trip to the Mail canteen past a statue of Lord Rothermere, played by a volunteer from the audience, who gamely Hitler-saluted! There is, if I may be so bold, a deft touch of Stewart Lee to some of the delivery, but this is only natural when you are actually in love with Stewart Lee, in the sense that you have married him and borne him a child. I think it’s mostly in the repetition (“piles, and piles, and piles, and piles, and piles, and piles …”), which, after all, Stewart Lee didn’t actually invent. Maybe he copied her. It’s a minefield! Bridget refers to him in her show, but never names him, which is either discreet or slightly disingenuous, when most comedy fans know anyway. She is a real talent. (And she loves the Mitford sisters!)

I’ve gone lady mad, now. Another female comic to finish off my Saturday night: Danielle Ward, whom I know through Gifted Children, Karaoke Circus and living with her (in that, she is one of the people living in our comedy flat). Danielle is young and mordant, and doesn’t make it easy for an audience with her darker material, but once you tune in, she’s very original. In the Pleasance Hut, which is another boiling Portakabin, she struggled to connect, especially with the group of about ten holidaymakers across two rows, who shouted jokey things at each other (and at one stage two of the women held a conversation), but didn’t actually contribute when spoken. This is not their fault – punters pay good money to be entertained and are often diffident that this wall should not be broken – but chat is a traditional ruse of the comedian, and if a performer relies on getting the room on their side for perhaps more demanding material by bantering, it can slow a show down if they sit with their arms folded. I don’t know if Danielle knew that Bruce Dessau, comedy critic for Time Out, was in the audience. I hope she didn’t.

I had an early night. Sated with female comedy and strong enough to deflect the allure of a drink with Richard and Stephen Merchant, I went down the hill, my Fringe Legs still aching, especially around the shin, but getting stronger by the day. (Walking down a steep hill can be just as punishing as walking up one. Maybe this has symbolic, theatrical connotations.)


Sunday
: with a long, long day ahead, I paced myself with one show, and two hours’ solid afternoon drinking with Michael Legge after his show at 4pm. We found ourselves under canvas at the Urban Garden, a large, open-air bar situated at Ground Zero where the Gilded Balloon used to be before it was blown up by terrorists from the Assembly Rooms, or not. It’s a kind of improvised space, but safe from downpours and full of people. A good place to wile away a couple of hours talking about comedy with a comedian. (Michael and Johnny had enjoyed a full house, and it seems that some folk had come because of Richard and I discussing the show on our podcast, so he fucking owed me a drink.) I am pleased to announce that we discovered The Worst Toilet of the Festival at the Urban Garden: hidden down a long, dank, musty, flickeringly-lit corridor in one of the old buildings that wasn’t destroyed by the fire but probably ought to have been, this facility, clearly signposted as an actual toilet, was a single, disabled-sized cubicle, with a disabled rail, but no sink or running water or paper towels. As Michael described it, “It’s like a toilet designed by the naughty man in Saw.” We both imagined the door locking behind us and a wall of hypodermic needles closing in unless we sawed our own nose off.

This is my friend Jon Holmes‘s first solo show at the Fringe, at the Gilded Balloon Nightclub, and a very promising start – by far the most audio and visual of everything I saw. Rock Star Babylon is named after, and based upon, his book of hoary old rock anecdotes, but if it appears to be a book reading, it is much more than that, with inserts of Stephen Fry talking, films, illustrations, PowerPoint-style captions, live interactivity using Wikipedia, songs, a shoe and bits of cardboard, interspersed with an overconfident small man sounding just like a stand-up comedian, with the kind of proper mic technique that remains, for me, a pipe dream. I have always liked Jon’s style and enjoyed working alongside him, but it’s hard for me to have to admit that I now admire him and am sort of in awe of his achievement. It’s a cracking show whose effort is all up there on the screen, and it deserves its apparent family audience (it’s JRE – just risque enough). If there was a power cut, of course, he’d be fucked. Jon told me afterward, as we hung out in the Loft Bar, that he had been inhumanly hungover and thought it a below-par performance. Then again, he’s been to his show every night.

Aside from the usual parade of now-familiar faces in the bar – Hardeep, Barry Cryer, Ronnie Golden, Sean Hughes, Janey Godley – the comedy aristocracy up there lost their cool momentarily when an old bald man who looked just like Roland Gift because he was, in fact, Roland Gift passed through, stealing all the limelight in the building. What a guy. (I chatted to Jarred Christmas, too, who’s being airlifted in to do a couple of shows, designed to capitalise on his fame in the Pot Noodle adverts – he described this as “the gentleman’s Edinburgh.”)

Then, finally, at 1am: this.

This turned out to be the perfect happy finish to my Edinburgh Fringe 2009 and the actual Dripping Point of my already sweat-soaked, salt-lined clothes: a flatshare outing to Martin White and Danielle Ward’s riotous Karaoke Circus at the Pleasance Ace Dome. Usual drill: comics and members of the public belting out songs to a live, four-piece band in an assortment of wrong keys. The band were well rehearsed, the performers not. Having only ever been up once, as Tom Waits at the 100 Club, I felt ready to tackle my hero Robert Smith of The Cure, but it turned out I was wrong. I was not ready. But hey, this was not a problem, as the audience are not there to hate, and judge The Baron said my performance was “utterly magnificeeeeeeeeent!”, so it must have been. The bill kicked off in style with Robin Ince finally doing Morrissey doing I Know It’s Over, then, in pantomime style, getting the band to stop playing and launching instead into Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. This was a new Robin Ince. And a new key. But a hard act to follow. Those that did included Simon Amstell doing an admirably melodramatic Hero by Enrique Iglesias …

… Richard Herring getting the complex timing and intonation just right on Sparks’ This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, despite looking like the non-singing Ron Mael and not the singing Russell Mael; the whole of Pappy’s Fun Club passing the mic around for Suspicious Minds, Carrie Quinlan belting out Born To Run, Pippa Evans belting out Livin’ On A Prayer (thus engorging Jon Holmes with jealousy – he was one of many non-participatory peformers in the audience, also: Russell Kane, Dan Atopolski); Humphrey Ker of the Penny Dreadfuls and Greg McHugh making a superb if lightly half-racist fist of The Proclaimers’ Letter From America; Anna Crilly and the cancelled sitcom Not Going Out‘s Katy Wix duetting sweetly on Especially For You; our flat’s very own Justin Edwards singing Tiny Dancer while scrolling the lyrics down on Richard’s iPhone and with his tiny dancing girlfriend Lucy Porter tinily dancing around and mainly behind him … and, yes, my spirited attempt on the life of The Cure’s The Lovecats, before which I called for some lipstick from the audience, which I smeared across my face, at least ensuring a measure of entertainment before I started singing. The winner was member of the public Jonathan Cobb whose rendition of Video Killed The Radio Star won him adulation and the prize of singing the closer, Nobody Does It Better. He was better than all of us put together. (Why does a member of the public always win? It’s almost as if it’s fixed so that the comedians don’t win. Oh yes.)

Look, just enjoy a sensational selection of photos by KC’s official photographer Paul Bailey – entire set here – I would say you had to be there, and 200 merry festivalgoers were, but if you just imagine the smell of hot, stale sweat mixed with pear cider and wine, you should be able to feel the magic:

A memorable night of discarded lyric sheets, discarded egos, hot faces, missed notes and a clown shouting utterly brilliaaaaaaaaaaant. I walked down the mound for the final time this trip at 3am, soaked through but happy – and smug that I had switched from children’s cider to tap water at about 12.15 (what a cheap date I am). I even saw Richard’s magic black cat, curled up on its doormat, asleep, which I took as a good sign.

On Monday morning, I left behind a comedy flat full of sleeping comedians, a week of sold-out podcast gigs, a broken kagoule (which I threw out with the rest of the rubbish – it’s years old and decided to perish in Wednesday’s deluge, depositing plastic white dandruff all over my clothes and allowing in the rain), and one discarded, unfulfilled loyalty card from my first favourite coffee shop in Edinburgh (*Wellington on Hanover Street – like the Black Medicine Coffee Company, it’s not a chain but there are three branches in the city, which is acceptable to my inner Klein – it serves “flat white”, the Antipodean for coffee, and warm, home-baked scones, which are delivered daily – only problem is that it’s tiny, and you can’t always get in).

I take away with me: a much emptier Waitrose shopping bag which used to have 28 copies of my “talking book” in it, but now only contains 12; a disc containing the illegally-copies second season of True Blood which a fan pressed into my hand after a show but doesn’t work in my computer anyway (maybe this is as it should be); permanent heartburn from all that pear cider; the need to put all my Orange Juice albums on my iPod; bloodstains on the back of my nice grey jacket; and some utterly brilliaaaaaaaaaaant memories.

Oh, and a photo of a beautiful young cat called Cleo who was travelling with her owners to London on the same train as me yesterday (Traincat!). Unfortunately it is a shit photo taken on my shit antique Motorola phone, which I have no way of sending to anybody’s email address, or even to an iPhone, so that it can be successfully posted anywhere. So, out of technological desperation, I took a photo of my phone’s screen using the camera on my laptop, and the very shitness of this makes me smile, just like Cleo did. Richard Herring thinks I have gone mad. If I have, it’s his, and Edinburgh’s, fault.


Back to Edinburgh on Saturday, for one more night of laughter and pears.

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4 thoughts on “Fringe legs

  1. The True Blood gift sounds like a touching gift. You may need to install a codex pack to run it (likely Xvid: http://www.xvid.org/).However, it's going to be missing a few episodes still to air, so unless you're going to learn to torrent you're going to be left unsatisfied.Sounds like you had a great week.

  2. Best options for a Mac to play unusual files are VLC, a standalone player which will read basically all video files you throw at it, or Perian, which lets you play most AVI files directly in Quicktime Player.

  3. Wow! More fun in a week than most of us get in a year.Alex B beat me to it, but to embellish his comment, apparently perry is made from special perry pears which are not really suitable for eating. Pear cider is made from sweeter eating pears. And to ease your Kleinesque concerns, the pear cider boom is doing wonders for hundreds of pear farmers around the UK. The "misshapes" supermarkets don't want to put on the shelves are ideal for cider, so around 25-30% of their crop which was going to animal feed is now being used for cider. A man with a beard said so on Breakfast.

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