This is the reason I was back in Edinburgh for 24 hours: to chair a session at the Media Guardian Edinburgh Television Festival at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre – my first time at this annual event. I arrived and picked up my delegate’s pass at 11.3o this morning, and was out of there by 2.3o, sort of wishing I’d spent more time there, gassing with TV types. The event went off smoothly: a 30-year career retrospective with Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, currently riding high at the BBC with Outnumbered, but still best remembered for Drop The Dead Donkey, and before that, Who Dares Wins – which I used to love, although a rights issues means it has never been repeated or released on DVD. I’d met them for a preliminary meeting in London, so I was very comfortable around them – plus, they are very nice men, with many fine cautionary stories to tell. There’s a short clip of the session here. Andy does most of the talking. (I liked it when he said they’d never written or pitched anything with a specific audience in mind. Why? “We outrank them.”) I like chairing events like this with people I admire. It’s easy – that’s probably why I agreed to do it for nothing but a free First Class rail ticket and a night in a presentable hotel with a moody bathroom. Although I failed to give them the cue to tell the Les Dawson anecdote, which I’ve actually forgotten now, but I can assure you was very funny.
I did bump into a few TV types in the Loft Bar of the Gilded Balloon last night, where I was out drinking with Iain Morris, co-creator of The Inbetweeners, and Simon Wilson, of BBC Comedy. I met Adrian Chiles and told him I admired his work, because I do (and I wasn’t drunk), but he was itching to gey away from me. Fair enough. I also met Jimmy Carr, although not for the first time (he and Iain go way back, and the first I heard of Iain was as Jimmy’s sidekick on XFM) – we first met at the Fringe in 2001, and he sweetly remembered this. (I say sweetly because he is very famous, and the very famous can be very different from the not-famous you met eight years ago. He had nothing to gain from being nice to me other than the satisfaction of being nice.) Michael McIntyre was also in the bar, but we were not introduced. That’s enough namedropping anyway. More importantly, I saw two further Fringe shows, which were an added incentive to coming back to this fine city on Media Guardian’s shilling:
Pappy’s Fun Club at the Pleasance One, a sizeable venue, which they have been selling out, suggesting they are on the verge of something. But I’m not sure how easy it would be to bottle and package the joyous DIY energy of their show. That’s what’s so appealing about it: you have to be there. It manages to combine the surreal silliness of Vic and Bob with the bouncing-up-and-down spirit of a Footlights-style revue, all the while revelling in its own threadbare amateurism, and yet capable at any moment of going off on one. It’s a tremendous hour of fun, which isn’t as anarchic and plotless as it as first seems. (And if you’ve seen it, you’ll know why the mention of Dean is funny.) Then we saw Justin Moorhouse at the Pleasance Dome, the closest I’ve come this Fringe to an old school northern club comic. Justin is best known outside the circuit for Phoenix Nights and Looking For Eric, but he comes into his own in front of a mic, mixing unreconstructed gags about regional differences and dwarves with more thoughtful stuff based on the seven plots in a book about storytelling that he hasn’t read. But at heart he’s there to make audiences laugh at jokes. Which he does. I bust a gut at some of his stuff. He’s a natural.
So, that’s Edinburgh 2009. I failed to see the Angel Of The North from the train home for the fourth time in seven days, despite actually sitting on the correct side of the train. Here are my photos of me not seeing it. Proof that it does not exist.