After a while it's hard to tell the days at the Fringe apart. But this morning started with a text informing me that podcast guest Bo Burnham was experiencing bad jet lag and would be unable to do the show. I had only four hours to find a replacement. If only I was in a town that was packed to the rafters with potential guests. I chose a man most like the handsome, young, musical star, Michael Legge. No one would even be able to tell the difference. And Bo will be back on the show on Tuesday when his jet lag has subsided.
It was a cracking (and hopefully crackling - the more the audiophiles complain, the more I want to make the quality worse) podcast with Michael on great form, top class stand up from Felicity Ward and the charming David O' Doherty being funny and treating us to a profound song about life. David, I discovered in my research (I know, what's that about?) has done twelve different stand up shows in twelve consecutive years, so knocks my achievement into a cock-joked hat. There are just so many fantastic comedians working today and this modest and kind man is one of the best. I love the story of him trying to bank his huge, novely cheque after winning, "So You Think You're Funny." Listen to all the fun here.
The signs that my brain is starting to frazzle are seeping through. I called Michael Legge, "Simon" a couple of times backstage and created the word "monocycle" on stage (to mean a bike with one wheel), prompting David to claim he would put on his "unicle". I am keeping fit and well so far, indeed I had a good work out in the gym this afternoon and continue to walk everywhere. But after putting up most of the show programmes on my own (it seemed the venue had given most of the staff a day off today and given that it's Saturday and the place was packed you could see their logic). The room was boiling and I threw myself into the show and afterwards actually had to sit down for ten minutes.
I sensed that I didn't connect with the whole crowd tonight, which is often the case on Saturday, with new people taking a punt on something they have heard is good and others maybe being a bit too drunk to concentrate on the whirlwind speed that I am forced to go at (I really want to get as much stuff in as possible). There were a few walk-outs towards the end, but we had started ten minutes late because of being short-staffed so they might have been going to other shows. A Twitter search showed that the audience was divided. 'Richard herring show is fucking shit !" said one man. "Richard Herring's gig was absolutely brilliant!!! #ilovethatman" said another patron. They had seen the same show. If you ever needed an indication of the subjective nature of reviewing, there you have it. It's not for everyone, though unfortunately the only way to find out if it's for you or not is to come and see it and risk being hot and bored and being talked at very quickly for an hour.
The show does have two long and complex routines towards the end, which work well if the crowd is behind me, but which prove too much for some on a night like tonight. I am thinking of dropping the Old woman who swallowed a fly (one of the few routines that survives from early incarnations of the show). In many ways it is funnier than the Hamlet bit, but I think that makes better points and is more interesting. But the loss of a routine would give me time to slow down a little bit. And yet I know the routine is a lot of people's favourite (it certainly was in previews) and I'd miss it if it was gone. My wife really likes it. And it has some nice set-ups and call backs to other routines.
As always I find it hard to get a full show into that hour time slot and am looking forward to having the luxury of 90 mins on tour. Perhaps if I could put the Hamlet and the Old Woman routines in different halves then it wouldn't feel like I was battering the audience with ideas right at the end of a show (especially tough when it's hot and they might have had a drink or two). It certainly wasn't a bad show tonight (and in fact the passion I did the Hamlet argument with made it one of the best performances I've done of it) and I think the dissenters were in the minority.
What's interesting, as always, is how much a show changes over the course of a run. It feels strange to get the critical judgement of something from the first week or proper performances, when a show will develop just in the three weeks of the Fringe (let alone the tour). My crits have been good so far, but I know that the show is going to get better than it is (and is already better than it was last week). I can understand why quite a few acts now bring shows here that they have road-tested in Melbourne or elsewhere first. I miss the fact that it used to be acknowledged that the Fringe would be a place where you could work up a show.