Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Edinburgh Reflection

I feel bad, I promised myself I would blog more, read more and learn more about skepticism, however in the last few weeks with the run up to Edinburgh fringe and then the two weeks of chaos there, I did very little of either. Or did I?

The fringe was an amazing experience, only now looking back on it do I have so much to think about and write. Some of it is nothing new to most people, but as usual I will have a ramble through the thoughts in my head and see what comes out. I am well aware that there are many comedians who are atheists and or skeptics, it is the kind of comedy I enjoy. I like the silly less serious stuff too and saw a great mix of different kinds of acts in the 60 shows I crammed into my two weeks there. But some shows surprised me, they really made me think. I don’t mean in an obvious way, I know that shows like Baba Brinkman’s rap guide to human nature is supposed to raise issues, and Robin Ince’s shows always make me want to read more, that is not the point I am making.

The shows which surprised me the most were the ones with a personal element in them. Often when we think of comedy shows, we expect a barrel of laughs, funny people who write well and deliver. During the fringe I realised that sometimes there is more to it than that. Many comedians use their personal experiences, reflect on them, maybe embellish them a little and then we get the resulting humorous story. That level of self examination is what struck me, they are a reflective bunch aren’t they? It is something I think more people should do; not the embellishing and making experiences into funny stories, but reflection in itself. I think comedians are incredibly brave, not only getting up on stage but saying “I did this” and showing others how things all went wrong, or they learned from their experiences. I know they often won’t mean it to be so deep, but a couple of shows in particular were quite inspiring. Those that saw Tiernan Douieb’s or Nat Luurtsema’s shows may have more of an understanding of what I mean. Tiernan’s heartfelt yet still hilarious look at friendship and what it means was really poignant to me (I really wanted to blog there and then but had no time). As was Nat’s consideration of her childhood experiences and how they made her who she is today. They not only judge themselves but then allow/ask others to judge them, telling the audience about personal moments in their lives AND making us laugh. I struggle to comprehend how they do it.

I do have great respect for anyone who dares to get on stage and perform. More so for those that manage to push some buttons, whether it is through the use of personal experiences as described above, or by social commentary or asking the difficult questions. I like to be shocked, to be made to question why I am offended, or what my beliefs are on a subject. Even through things like the use of the cunt word, why was I bothered by it? I’m not now, not at all but that may be due to exposure to it more than anything (thanks Michael Legge). After all it is just a word, it is all about context. I like that comedy can change my views just as reading a book, or a skpetics talk can. I know it is dangerous ground and you shouldn’t believe everything a comedian says (in fact believe very little, they lie), but they can make you think and then go and find things out for yourself. For this reason I really enjoyed Pete Johansson’s show, he has said he isn’t very political, but I beg to differ. His show was in your face inspiring and lots of fun, he really reminded me of Bill Hicks (not in any copy cat way), he had views on some topics like children and society and we knew about them, I loved every minute of it.

Not all comedy needs to have an end message, or be so reflective. As I said before I like the silly stuff too, to just sit in a room and lose myself in ridiculous sketches or angry shouty men is and was a great tonic. I overheard lots of people after such shows judging those that had just performed, as is expected. But it amused me that often people forget that comedians can have a stage persona and be very different people off stage. It is easy to do this, after all we only see the on stage persona, we do not know them (well most of them). This occurred to me more when I said hello to a couple of acts after their shows, I am rubbish at it. The conversation is always, “Well done on your show, it was great... [insert some detail I particularly liked].” They reply thank you and then add some small talk, then I dry up. I imagine I could have some great conversations but I get caught up in the thought that they don’t actually want to know anything I have to say. Let’s be honest most of the time it is true. Friends are friends and fans are fans, I don’t want to be friends with every comedian I meet, that would be weird and rather stalkery. I need to figure out how to be more friendly, but to me it is a very fine line between being friendly and being intrusive, so I just get uncomfortable and go quiet (this is not always the case when drunk, but that is another story I will not tell in a blog).

The great thing about the fringe experience apart from all of the great shows, the city and the comedians was being able to meet so many tweeters. Being there so long was great, it meant I had time to talk to some of them properly. Often we all only meet at various shows across the country and I always come away disappointed that I didn’t really get a chance to talk properly. I am not as shy with tweeters, we are on common ground (that kind of suggests I give comedians a higher status, do I? Mm), we are all nervous (a little at first) but already know we have common interests to talk about, so conversation usually flows. Of course some people were different to how I expected, as I am sure I may have been to some people but thankfully they were all very nice and friendly. I am certain I will see many of them again. There was some difficulty in getting my friends from home to mix with tweeters, but that was my friend’s shyness/pre-conceived ideas about “people from the internet”. At one point a friend did call me unsociable for logging onto twitter when sat in a pub, not long after that more people joined us in the pub for drinks, thanks to a tweet... who is unsociable? I should try and remember that not everyone is as open minded about meeting new people as I am, but I wish they were.

I think I may have gone off topic at the end there. So I will sum up and end it here. Comedy can make me think and reflect, it can also help distract me from the world and my thoughts, either way I remain an addict. Meeting people can be scary, but often it can be worth it.

Thanks to everyone I met and saw in Edinburgh this fringe, you all helped make it an awesome two weeks.