I saw shows over the time I was in Edinburgh. Here is a list of them in the order I saw them and spread across three days at the Fringe:
Yahoo! Comedy Gala, The Comedy Zone, Tim Vine, Daniel Simonsen, The Horne Section feat. Slightly Fat Features & David O’Doherty, Helen O’brien, Grainne Maguire, Phil Wang, James Acaster*, Eva in Kaffa, Nick Helm, We, Object by Figs in Wigs.
*the best one I saw
It’s a feat, I really think it is, to do Edinburgh as a stand-up comedian. Everyone is scrambling on top of one another to get noticed, to get (well) reviewed, to sell-out their shows, in the hope of what? To become the best comedian ever? No, I don’t think that’s the aim. To make money? Hell no, although that would be nice. I think the aim is to get a laugh. A big life-affirming laugh that reassures you that you're funny.
And that’s the point isn’t it, to be funny, if you’re a comedian.
Laughter is the result of a successful experiment. People walking out of your show are unwanted by-products of the experiment. If laughter is what comedians want then why are so many of them wrecks, dick-heads or unhappy company? I ponder... it’s not surprising if the aim of your life is to remain the classroom clown forever then... you might fall in to one of these three categories... once a grown adult. (Note: I say may, not all comedians fall into the three categories above. Some are downright nice people, exemplar Timothy Vine.) The classroom in the end is upgraded to become society, but still a classroom nonetheless because classroom clowns win over the trust of the teacher and the class they're in. If the classroom clown were to practise his clowning in a totally different school then they might be suspicious or sceptical of him, and people wouldn’t laugh they'd punish: detention, etc.
Comedy practices an interesting relationship with society. It’s a dangerous relationship sometimes sordid and always flirtatious, because it mocks the status quo. Comedians are the Fools in Shakespearian plays, or the jesters that bring to light the injustices of court, of law and order, of the King. They tell us what's wrong with the world but rather than striving to change it they just note it and we laugh. They’re not politicians. Imagine us taking a Fool seriously, god what would the state of the world be in then? The Fool can never be King and that’s why we don’t worry. That’s why we can laugh. Like flirting can’t be mistaken for love, but it can lead to confusing feelings.
(The rules we have to abide by the Fool doesn’t have to. Jesting is his trade so we can’t blame him for mocking us, even if at times it cuts close to the bone - but don’t kick him out of court because he makes interesting points and thinks outside the box. And when he cracks those jokes and we laugh, society gains relief from the trappings of this goddam box. But for fuck’s sake Rimi, it’s a comedy, it’s a bloody laugh, so loosen up, don’t overthink and enjoy it you prick.)
Why was James Acaster’s show Lawnmower my favourite? The best out of my ((too)short)list? Because it’s bloody meticulous and well-crafted and superbly delivered. Acaster has his timing down. He knows when to pause, when to look up and how to deliver to an audience he plays like a musical instrument. He makes a solid and effortless call-back to every one of his jokes in the hour set, he uses props that are integral to the piece rather than cheap distraction, and he knows exactly where he is in his show. As in, he doesn’t get lost. He can see a clear path of creation and has fun walking it and leading us down it. His imagination is overflowing with ideas that are so farfetched in conception but completely reasonable when told, that this is clever comedy at it’s best and that’s why I liked the show. It may not be to everyone’s taste but that's comedy isn’t it?
‘That bloke who’s in all the photos with his eyes shut. I hate that guy.’
(James Acaster, Lawnmower. 2013)
On my last night I went out to a rowdy fun pub (one that you can dance in and not just drink and shout in) called Biddy Mulligans on Grassmarket, with people from my company and some clients/comedians/convivial fellows. The walk to the pub was probably the second funniest thing I saw in Edinburgh after Acaster’s show. Because Saturday nights in Edinburgh en route through the city centre are impressive.
‘A minute ago, I was at the Fringe. Now, I’m in Scotland!’
(Co. Director. 2013)
It was like a scene out of Limmy’s Show. There were drunk broads shouting obscenities at their men, folk looking sick with head in hands and hair over faces, lots of trashy music and bad lights, and police ambling down the street thinking to themselves ‘where to start?’ We had to walk down the middle of the road sadly because the pavements were taken up by sleeping tramps. Tris and I almost stopped bent over laughing but had to hurry on down the street [safety first!], when we saw a bunch of lads playing football with a book. Playing football with a book. A book.
It smells of rain and tastes of encroaching pollution. I’m getting nearer to London King’s Cross station, and then home to the boat. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Annina Lehmann for lending me her Barbour jacket. It’s a stellar jacket with many practical pockets and good waterproof qualities, and feels cool to wear. Thank you for making my part possible at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013.