It’s August and for the first year since 2009, I won’t be in Edinburgh for the Fringe. What I’m going to write about instead on here is the memories of each year I have been in Auld Reekie.
My first year at the Fringe was in 2010. I was very much aware of the Fringe growing up, as a result of stories from Lee and Herring and reading about it in The Sunday Times Culture magazine.
But I’d never been before. I wasn’t involved in any student comedy at university and my group of friends needed some serious persuasion to go to watch a gig five minutes walk down the road, so my chances of persuading them to go to Scotland weren’t very positive.
When I did some abysmal sketches for Stroud FM in 2006, someone there said me and my mate Edd should go to Edinburgh Fringe; although it would be another four years before I did this.
What was pivotal to me going up there was the friends I met from a comedy workshop in 2009. If you’ve read this blog over the years, you may be familiar with the likes of Moz, Luke, and of course, Langton.
Moz had already been up to do a show at the Fringe in 2009, so was able to be our guide and dispense advice. A group of about ten of us all went up to Edinburgh for the same couple of weeks.
For accommodation, I also had no clue. My mum’s cousin told me that my gran had a cousin who lived in house in Musselburgh with plenty of rooms. I’d never met this lady before, so I got her address from my gran and posted her an old fashioned letter to introduce myself and ask if it would be okay if I could stay. She wrote back and said that it would be fine. And I ended up sleeping on a camp bed in the attic room she used for painting for the two weeks, where I would often wake up hungover. After taking a considerable time to find a bus to Musselburgh, I met my gran’s cousin and it felt like we’d known each other for years. I grabbed a Subway for my tea, before getting a couple of hours’ sleep; because I had my first ever gig in Edinburgh that night.
Moz was running a gang show at the Counting House at about 11.30pm. It was in the ballroom, which seats about 150 people. And I was hosting it. From what I remember, the room wasn’t full but it was a decent turn out.
Things started off pretty well. The first thing I said was: “Hello Edinburgh.” Very original. There was a lot of energy in the room and the acts were doing well. But I soon learned that there’s a moment at almost every late night gig in Edinburgh where the energy dips. And despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get it back.
I spent a lot of time that year in the Counting House bar, drinking pints of Tennent’s until the early hours with Moz and Langton. But I had to make sure I didn’t miss my night bus back to Musselburgh to sleep on the camp bed.
That first night, it was raining really heavily – as it often does in Edinburgh. I put my umbrella up, but my left arm ended up getting soaked as my coat wasn’t waterproof. I clearly hadn’t done my research. I arrived back to the house with a soaking wet arm. I took off my coat, put it on a chair next to the radiator and sat down thinking: “I’ve finally done a gig at Edinburgh Fringe.”
I’d also managed to get regular spots at a daily gang show. There was an afternoon one at Espionage and one in the evening at The Jekyll and Hyde. Some of these shows were really tough and I remember dying on my arse heavily while trying to get the audience to laugh at me pulling stupid faces to Let’s Get Ready to Rumble. I can’t think why.
Doing another late-night showcase for Moz, it was going badly and my throat suddenly got really dry. My overwhelming memory of that gig is just seeing three broad Scottish lads sitting at the front with their arms crossed. They also didn’t go for the PJ and Duncan bit. Some gigs were better though.
It was this year that I learned just how extreme Edinburgh Fringe can be. One night you’re up, the next you’re in the gutter.
I went to go and see Stewart Lee at The Stand. He was handing out flyers to people in the queue as we went in. He was standing right next to me and asked me about my Brutal Legend t-shirt. He wanted to know if it was a band or computer game, as he couldn’t really tell any more. I said: “It’s a computer game, actually written by the same man who did Monkey Island.” He looked blankly at me and just shrugged. And I had to stand there for a few more minutes in awkward silence next to the man who had been my comedy hero since I was 13. He’s a 90s comedian, he’s meant to know about such things.
Aside from learning not to try and impress my comedy heroes with my knowledge of adventure games, what 2010 also taught me was that I would have to do much more writing. I set myself a target of writing 250 words a day about anything just to force me to write more. In less than a year, what started off on Tumblr moved to this site you see before you thanks to my school mate Lar. Who I’ve just remember haven’t paid him for hosting this site in about three years. I’ll have to do a bucket collection.
I’m also working on another Edinburgh Fringe project this year. Stay tuned.