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.

Can you see the disappointment in my little face? I thought it existed. I believed the hype.


12 thoughts on “Outranked

  1. You could always write a play for next year's Edinburgh which questions whether the Angel of the North really exists or if it's all a figment of your imagination. Shows like that are going to be huge, I hear.Emma

  2. Andrew,You seem to have spent your Fringe seeing what are essentially mainstream acts(within a fringe comedy milleu).Did you get to see anything challenging, or non-comedy, or not on at "the big four"?This isn't meant to sound like thinly veiled criticism, but I'm interested in how folk with a pass to get in to any show they choose, choose those shows.John Robins, who I saw on "The Five Pound Fringe" downstairs at The Tron was my pick of the comics I saw this time. Gavin Webster at The Stand was the biggest disappointment.

  3. No, what's interesting, Robert, is that you think I had some kind of pass that got me into shows! I paid for every ticket to every show I saw, except Pappy's Fun Club (which one of their number very kindly offered me a free ticket for, but which I had planned on buying) and Justin Moorhouse (for which someone else purchased the ticket). Having appeared at a Free Fringe gig myself, I fully support it. But I made an effort to see my friends and people I know, which is something of a drawback, but what can I do?(It was a veiled criticism, by the way.)

  4. I am reliably informed that you can only see the Angel of the North from a train if it is travelling on a flatbed truck up the A1.Call this a veiled criticism of your journey planning, if you wish.

  5. Andrew,I just KNEW my remarks would come across as sniping…I genuinely wasn't doing that!I made a mistake about the pass thing, so sorry about that (it used to be the case that performers on the fringe, such as you were, got in to the other shows free. It would appear that this largesse has ceased).The main point I was trying to uncover was how hard it is for someone at the centre of things to escape the gravitational pull of the big names in the big four venues. I think it must be quite difficult to do.Good on you for doing a free fringe gig! I'm with Stewart Lee (and perhaps you too?) who articluated his views about the fringe's ethos decline, in a filmed piece on the steps at The Stand for Guardian Media in 2008 and still available on line.

  6. Michael McIntyre was also in the bar, but we were not introduced.What is the deal with this guy? I’m never really been a fan of comedians who start laughing at their own jokes before they’ve finished telling them, so he doesn’t really does it for me.But the one thing I’ve noticed is that when he’s on a panel show like Have I Got News For You and especially Mock The Week, the show’s other guests/regulars seem to be barely able to conceal their distain for him. Unless I’m misreading the situation.

  7. The thing about Michael McIntyre from what I've heard of him, is that he's just not very good. Old school. Speaking of which I saw Boothby Graffoe last week supporting Dean Friedman. TALK about old school. He was pretty alarming actually. There was some offensive stuff about the Chinese olympics that bordered on racism (yeah, that hot potato).

  8. I think you'll find Boothby Graffoe was highlighting racist attitudes by challenging lazy misconceptions. Mind you, you should have read what he said about Morrissey in the Melody Maker….. and begin again.

  9. Well, Outstanding Music, he should have judged his audience better. They were mostly people in their mid 50s and above, and they simply laughed. I don't think they were examining their lazy misconceptions. Doing "flied lice" type slit-eyed impressions is… not helpful.

  10. Man, Who Dares Wins. Now there was a funny show. I think my faves must have been Terry & Wang Wang. It's pity that rights have prevented it from being issued asI'd love to have a copy. I was really happy when Absolutely managed to appear because, like WDW, I think I'd bepresesently surpised at just how funny much of it still is.

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