Would there be an Edinburgh miracle and my hide would be saved by a sudden rush on tickets for both shows and I’d be staring out at 500 laughing faces tonight?
There would not.
I am just hoping I can have the last laugh by dying before the final bill comes through.
For the first time I felt like I brought my disappointment on to stage with me and started slightly grumpily, but the show is so good at spreading joy (with a bitter sweet edge of a mild nod to my own ultimate failure) that it cheered me up. I was heckled by a nurse who told me to do a stunt that would result in my death as he’d be able to save me. And I made some cracks about how I’d feel safer if he was a doctor, before mocking myself for having a go at nurses, probably the most loved professionals in the world. It seemed to inject a bit of life into the show and we had fun for the rest of the hour.
I’ve been through the seven stages of grief and come out at acceptance. So just waking up to find out it was all a terrible dream to go through now. That’s got to happen next, right?
I walked down the hill, hoping to go for a swim and then get some groceries, but I realised that the shops would be shutting so had to do the grocery shopping first and by the time I’d done that I realised I had to go back to the flat. So the walk had to count as my exercise. I’ve been finding the walk across town to the gym frustrating as Edinburgh is an incredibly crowded city at this time of year and the pavements seem to be inhabited solely by people who have never been in an urban area before. Either they walk very slowly, three deep and keep stopping every 30 seconds or they walk backwards without even thinking to look around to see if anyone is behind them. I mean why bother? The world has to morph around you right?
But today I found a couple of sneaky routes involving less popular steps up and down the hills and only had to deal with pedestrian pedestrians when I was down on Princes Street. The walk took me up Johnstone Terrace, where back in 1987 we had spent two months living in the Masonic Lodge. We had rehearsed in town in July and then performed the shows in August. And slept on the floor of the canteen on the floor beneath the Masonic Temple (where Stewart Lee had attempted to wank me off with a 100 year old ventriloquist dummy and claimed the unlikely prize of doing the weirdest thing ever seen in a Masonic Lodge). For lots of reasons I feel (wrongly) that I am coming to the end of my Edinburgh adventure, so it was strange that chance brought me back to where it all started. We used to buy pies from a little shop next door. It is still there, but the name has changed and it now specialises in smoothies and wraps. I looked at the front door of the Lodge, nothing gives away about the strange Temple that is upstairs. I must have been through those doors (or previous ones) hundreds of times in 1987 and 1988, and yet they seemed unfamiliar now.
I talk about one of my 1987 jokes in this year’s show and artistically it seems right that I am doing this largely to smallish crowds. It might be more apt to go out with a whimper than a bang. And for all of this effort to have destroyed me, which without too much of a spoiler is sort of how I am going out.
I’ve had some good years here, though never a spectacular year, but it’s been central to the successes I have had in my career. I realise now that if I am honest I would have liked to have done a show that won an award or that got me on the front of a magazine or even guaranteed that I would be a hot ticket the next year rather than having to build things on reviews and word of mouth. But it’s also apt that that never happened. I am an Edinburgh journeyman and maybe that’s all I am anywhere. I am more representative of the Fringe as a result, even if I am unusual in the dogged persistence of attending the Festival. There is more art in trying again and (sort of) failing again and to not leave much of a mark behind (though if it turns out that becoming a ghost is a possibility then I am going to haunt the fuck out of Edinburgh in August). Twenty-three years gone and in a sense there’s something cool about my stuff only being a memory in the minds of a few people. That might be what gets me through this last week of certain tiny, but also almost certainly appreciative audiences. Seven more shows feels like a lot right now.
Thanks for having me Scotland. I surrender. Let's go our separate ways.
It’s been quite good.