I’d better point out from the start that this will not be a review of all the shows I saw (there were 40 I think, I may list them at the bottom). I did plan to write a journal like I did last year, so that I could keep a record of my thoughts and the shows, this year I managed two days. After that it felt like a chore and that I was missing out on some fun times, so I decided to not bother and do it this way instead. So what I am saying is that this blog is really for me to reflect on the whole experience of my 9 days in Edinburgh.
There will inevitably be some moaning in this, but I need to point out from the off that I had a really great time, I just found some things really irritated me too. It doesn’t help that I am used to living alone and am one of those people who likes to do certain things certain ways, I realise this is my problem, so I am aware that it is often my own self imposed rules that leads to such frustration but I don’t think that the mixture of little sleep and lots of booze helped me to cope with these (mostly) minor grumbles. But I’ll get to those later.
First things first, for me the best part of the fringe after the actual shows is the people. I love that having been up here for the last two years and having met so many people through twitter I now use this time to see people who I consider to be friends. I do also enjoy meeting more tweeters for the first time, although one or two can be a little odd (I’ll get to that later). Yet at the same time I did find that Edinburgh can be a bit of a lonely place, even though you are constantly surrounded by people. I think it is because I was there alone, although staying with and meeting many friends, there was no one person who saw everything I did, someone to get excited with and chat in detail about our shared experience (this may be that I’ve been single too long). Those moments were fleeting as I was busy meeting up with some great people at shows and bars all week. I think I do sympathise with the comedians who are in Edinburgh all month, I see why they do meet up with fans/friends in bars so much, it is for the company (and booze of course).
*WARNING – The next two paragraphs are grumpy, skip them if you want the happy version of my fringe experience.
I did get to say hello to a few comedians over a cup of tea or a pint or two, which was lovely and something I always see as an added bonus having seen them perform. I did not spend my week in Edinburgh stalking acts to drink with. It sounds harsh, and I know some acts love the attention and encourage it, which is fine but it is not for me. I’ll send a message or say hello after a show (usually as arranged before hand as I am quite shy sometimes) and perhaps suggest a drink, if they say no or don’t respond then leave it. I do worry that some people forget that the comedians are not there to entertain the audiences ALL THE TIME. They are allowed to switch off and have a life, this may or may not include spending time with fans/friends (I’ll get to that definition in a minute). I saw before I left for the fringe that Al Murray had tweeted that he had been in the Pleasance Courtyard having a beer and chatting with a friend when a fan grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him around to talk to him. How fucking rude! But sadly not rare. I think I go to the other end of the spectrum, I have at times been told off for not saying hello as I hide in the corner waiting for an opportune moment to interrupt. It is why I didn’t say hello to Michael Legge for ages (that and I thought he might be a bit scary… he isn’t). It isn’t the acts who want to hang out with fans that annoy me, that’s fine, if it floats your boat, but it is the people who think they have a right to follow and actively hunt comedians down and try to insert themselves into their lives when it is not wanted, and often down right creepy.
This brings me to my early footnote of the definition of fan/friend. Yes, lines do sometimes get blurred over time but some people need to realise that just because you’ve said hello to a comedian/act a couple of times after a show or chatted on twitter, it does not make you “friends”, or allow you the rights that friends have to invade privacy. I’m not saying that over time such contacts can’t grow into friendship, it is possible. But it is also likely that you will remain a long time fan; someone who an act appreciates for their dedication and help with promotion, a friendly face at difficult gig, a giver of weird and sometimes creepy gifts, this interaction is needed and often welcomed but there are boundaries. What worries me is that some people don’t seem to realise this. The way I think of it is if something happened and I needed someone to turn to, who would it be? For example, I got mugged in Edinburgh and was staying alone, who would I ring for help? Would it be the comedian I had beers with that afternoon? Probably not, as lovely as they can be, they already have enough troubles to deal with during the fringe, I’d ring one of the lovely tweeters I have got to know through meeting at gigs and then spending actual time together, emailing, arranging to go to things together… a proper friend (or of course a friend from home if they were up). I’m not saying a comedian wouldn’t help, they might but it is a line I don’t think I’d be comfortable crossing, think of it from their point of view, if by some freak coincidence 100 of their fans all had problems during the fringe they would go insane. There are exceptions to the rules of course and yes I know people do become friends with comedians, but I think it is more likely to happen if you show people respect for their personal boundaries, don’t expect it to happen and see it as an added bonus that not only do you appreciate their work but they like you as a person (after some time). Rant over.
I did meet some tweeters who, even thinking about it now on my way home on a train, I am smiling at the thought of them. It is sometimes a bit nerve wrecking wondering if the tweeter matches my expectations/idea f them from our online conversations. This year, a couple of them exceeded such expectations and one disappointed me (not in a particularly bad way, just very bad manners). I’m not naming names, they know who they are and we know we will see each other again for more fun times.
Last year during the fringe I had a bit of a broken moment through lack of sleep, decent food and lots of booze. I had decided to try to be more sensible this year, I’d planned my accommodation so that I had some privacy and hopefully some sleep, my schedule was not as busy (40 shows in 9 days instead of 60 in 14), I only booked 3 late night shows and had a plan to eat well. To be honest I didn’t do bad at all. I averaged about 6 hours of sleep a night, I didn’t have any hangovers as I kept my drinking under check and I ate VERY well.
I must recommend my favourite places to eat firstly Mums (they have no apostrophe in the restaurant name and it is killing me just typing it, they do a slanty s but it is not the same). This place was recommended on twitter by Lizzie Roper and I went twice, their bangers and mash was awesome (5 types of sausage to choose from, daily specials, 14 types of mash and three types of gravy) and while there I saw a pie and had to return to try one… wow, just go. Secondly, a favourite from last year, Elephants and Bagels, the place is quirky and the food is great what more could you ask for. I also recommend the Big Daddy Nacho bowl in the Gilded Balloon, 4 of us polished it off without much trouble but with less people it would be difficult (there is a Big Momma Nacho bowl for vegetarians). I also had one final visit to Tempting Tattie which has now sadly closed. I often had a hog roast sandwich from Oink for breakfast (well it was usually after lunchtime when I actually got around to getting food).
I had more free time this year so went to some bars with friends, so here are a few I like. Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street, it is a free fringe venue and a rock pub, supposedly haunted… blah blah blah. But I like the building, even if it is a little warm sometimes, it is open until 5am during the fringe. Bannerman’s on Cowgate, is just around the corner and again, it is a free fringe venue and rock bar, but a great place to hang out. Halfway House on Fleshmarket is Edinburgh’s smallest pub, you have to go there, but be warned the ladies toilet is smaller than an aeroplane one.
One of my friends is a bit of a beer buff, so we had to visit the new Brew Dog pub on Cowgate, it is locally brewed but they also sell numerous other speciality beers as well as their famous Sink the Bismark at 41%. I would have liked to try a fruity ale, but not at £10 a pint. It is a great bar if you are into that type of thing (and you can buy shares while there).
Do’s and Don’ts
In no particular order, here are my tips for Edfringe (and to remind me of some of them for next year).
- DON’T – Walk slowly in the middle of the pavement on your own, or especially in groups! If you have to walk slowly, walk to the side so that people in a rush can get past you, and don’t block the pavement in a big group, go single file on s narrow street.
- DO – Take an umbrella, poncho, coat or rain hat. Edinburgh is a bit of a twat for looking gloriously sunny one minute and then like the storm at the end of the world the next. You may look a bit silly in a poncho but the disposable ones I had at the bottom of my bag came in handy.
- DON’T – Make noise during a show. Just because you don’t get it, can’t decide what to have for tea or are a general cunt, I paid to see the show, so shut the fuck up. This also counts for fiddling with sweet wrappers, rummaging in your bag, texting (with tones on) and the worst offender tapping. Just stop or leave.
- DO – Queue properly. There is an etiquette to this and I am aware there is some debate on the subject, so here is my opinion. A popular/busy show may start queuing half an hour or more before the beginning of the show, if you want good seats get there early. Saving a seat/place in the queue for one, maybe two friends is fine, we all run late and want to sit with people we know. Do not expect to turn up at the last minute and jump to the front of the queue with loads of friends, it is twatty and rude. Saving seats depends on the venue, I personally don’t think it is on to save the front row for all of your friends if other people queued early for good seats, if no one wants the front row then fine. You do sometimes have to choose between queuing early for good seats or sitting with friends.
- DON’T – Interrupt. There is something about Edinburgh fringe where people forget their manners. If you see someone you know, wave or catch their attention, but then wait until they have finished talking to who they are already talking to, hover nearby. Be polite to the other person already chatting. If you can’t wait, then gesture that you have to go and do so.
- DO – Book tickets early, you never know who is going to be popular and sell out before you get around to getting a ticket. Of course some big names always sell out, so I tend to buy those as soon as they go on sale. However, it is worth noting that depending on the venue sometimes additional tickets are released 2 hours to 20 minutes prior to the show, this is because most shows have press tickets and if they are not allocated they are put back on sale. Some venues may keep these for venue pass holders to use, but it is worth asking just in case.
Finally, I’ll finish with some random moments that made my fringe (or were just random).
- Apparently I can be a bit cuddly when I sleep as Sarah found out (@GooseCG), but I bet she misses it now.
- I am not scary to say hello to unless it is done rudely, then I will ignore you. But I did almost laugh in a lads face when he said “You are nwoolhouseuk “King of the Podophiles!”, I did point out I am a girl which makes me Queen. The podcast stuff does sometimes seem weird, but then I have made some great friends through it.
- Camera Obscura is awesome! It is near the castle entrance. Take a camera and a friend and have fun. Lots of optical illusions and lots of stairs (97 I think). It is only a tenner and takes about an hour and a half to go around.
- Drunk comedians on stage are not always great but sometimes it makes for awesome moments. This is the risk and fun of late shows.
- Do The Right Thing Podcast was really good, go and watch the recordings next month at The Phoenix on Cavendish Square in London and download them all when they are released.
- And I’ll finish with the list of everything I saw, ask me about them if you want any more information. Thom Tuck, Dead Cat Bounce, Do The Right Thing (podcast recording), Pointless Anger Righteous Ire 2 (Robin Ince and Michael Legge), Stewart Lee, David O’Doherty, Anyone For Tennis, Do The Right Thing (another episode), Joanna Neary, Colin Hoult, David Reed, Carey Marx, Karaoke Circus, Andrew Lawrence, James Acaster, Karaoke Circus (again), Jon Richardson, Nick Helm, Jigsaw (Thomas Craine, Nat Luurtsema and Dan Antopolski), Zoe Lyons, Frisky and Mannish, Karaoke Circus (again), Tiernan Douieb, The Adventurer’s Club (Tiernan Douieb and Sir Tim Fitzhigham), Ellis James, Rich Hall, Taskmaster 2, Tara Flynn, Humphrey Ker, Richard Herring, Mark Olver, Sammy J and Randy, Rich Fulcher, Horne Section, Jason Cook, Chris Cox, Pete Firman, Barry & Stuart – Show, Barry & Stuart – Tell.
Thanks for reading if you did, it was very long. Feel free to comment, ask questions or not.