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Wednesday 21st August 2019

6102/19031

Wait! What?  Seventeen shows done. That’s gone fast. This last week usually drags and I am usually on my last legs, but though I am eating way too much sugar, I am still walking to the theatre and full of energy. Two years ago I had to stop at the bottom of the Pleasance before attempting the climb up to the venue in this final week. I wonder what the difference might be.
Two really great chats with Sukh Ojla and Tommy Tiernan today. I had only met Tommy once before when I bumped into him at the Fringe a couple of years ago, but we fell into easy conversation and he was fascinating and honest about the creative process and his assessment of his current show. Here it is for you to hear.
Hopefully I can get Tommy back for a full show at some point. He is an electric and hypnotic speaker but it’s his candour that makes him the perfect guest.
My current walk to the theatre takes me through The Grassmarket - I am basically trying to find a fairly direct route whilst encountering the least crowds of people clogging up the pavement and this is the best I have managed - and I am pleased to see that the Joke Shop on the road just off The Grassmarket is still there and still selling jokes. Back at my first Fringe in 87 we went in there to buy props. I am not sure exactly what, but I think we had to source silly string for the kids show I was in and doubtless some other paraphanalia. There used to be joke shops everywhere - they were like the 1970s Starbucks, often three or four on the same street,  selling fake turds and plastic spiders to joke hungry kids so they could play tricks on adults who would pretend to be tricked.  Now nearly all those joke shops are gone, so good to see that the Edinburgh one has survived and that there are still enough idiots going in there (presumably mainly during Fringe time) to buy awful props for their half arsed sketch shows, like I was doing in the 1980s. In many ways the summer of 87 seems a long, long time ago, but looking at that shop and thinking of the first time I went in, it seemed much more recent. I probably haven’t actually been back in there since the 1980s (though maybe used it again for props for my knockabout shows in the 90s) and so much has changed in those three decades that seeing the shop again (and I’ve definitely passed by it every Fringe I’ve been here) felt like looking back into the past or having a ghost suddenly appear before me. Maybe the ghost shop only appears every August, maybe JK Rowling was inspired by it like she was by everything else in Edinburgh to create part of her Harry Potter universe. But suppose it’s always been there and I haven’t bothered to really notice for a while. It set off little firework explosions of memories from that seminal time in my life and for a second the distant past felt fresh and like it might have been yesterday.
Our silly comedy was much more knockabout in student days and thrived on plastic cave man clubs and false beards and bad disguises. I presented all of the Seven Raymonds with a ceremonial plastic club when University ended and we went our mainly separate ways, but I doubt any of us still have them. Some of that homemade silliness survived into our TV work, but I kind of wish more of it had (though the false Rod Hull was perhaps the epitome of a character who might have been constructed from stuff in a joke shop).
I didn’t have time to linger or even gaze upon the shop. It just flashed me back to the 80s as I glanced at it and then I teleported back to the nowies to do my stupid podcast that doesn’t even have a stink bomb in it.


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