It was my annual visit to the Fred MacAulay show this morning and I put on one of my new suits for the occasion. Now I am 47 years old it’s time to act like a grown-up (you know when I am not throwing petulant strops about how my Fringe is going and dancing around on a sofa). People are generally genuinely astonished to see me making any kind of effort with my appearance. When I think how much I rebelled and resented wearing smart clothes as a child (or indeed any clothes - I liked to be nude whenever possible) it’s a bit weird for me to catch my own reflection and wonder what has become of me. I doubt it will last and my innate scruffiness will come to the fore, but I am enjoying wearing a suit and tie (like the businessman I once mocked) at least some of the time. And although at the moment my fitness regime is taking a bit of a knock as I am eating more chocolate than vegetables (foolishly thinking the sugar rush will give me energy, when the last few weeks suggests that veg will keep me motoring along however tired I am), it’s good to be looking relatively slim.
I was on the sofa with Tim Vine and Sue Perkins and we reminisced both on and off mic about the Fringes of the 1990s. None of us could quite believe that time had flown by so quickly. I think Tim’s show had been right before or after mine one year and I had loved his silly jokes and songs so much that I’d been to see it several times. There was a song involving a step-ladder and leaning that was particularly funny if memory serves me right. I think it was the year I did “All Man” because I was then thinking about the time that Tom Binns who was in that show, didn’t turn up and we had to get the tech George to fill in and do his lines from off-stage. It more or less worked out (as for the first half of the show Tom played the part of my beard which was a puppet). Just as it got to the part where we couldn’t really do any more of the show I opened the door to find Tom standing there, frozen with fear, having just arrived and realising that this wasn’t a nightmare and the show was going on without him. His watch had stopped. It seems like something that happened only a couple of years ago, but that was 20 years ago. I wondered what George is up to now.
I also recalled that for a couple of years at the Pleasance my shows followed on from ones by Graham Norton, who dressed up as Mother Theresa and who I don’t think I ever really spoke to. It would have been hard to predict where his career would take him. But then I suppose that is true of us all. Just as if we all reconvened in another 20 years we’d probably be surprised about where our lives had taken us now. The other two will be really gob-smacked to discover that I am Emperor of the World.
I had been watching Bake-Off in bed with my wife this morning (we have a pretty racy life) and even though I have known Sue for years it was a strange jolt to now be chatting to her in real life, like she’d climbed out of my laptop and become a three dimensional being. You’d think I would be used to this kind of thing by now. But it was really lovely to see her and Tim and I always have fun with Fred and Susan Calman.
I’ve definitely been spending too much time in rooms by myself writing recently, as this fake social gathering and casual chat in front of hundreds of strangers, with thousands more eavesdropping, was a highlight of my week. The Fringe has not turned out, as I’d hoped before I came, to be a relaxing holiday where I saw friends and shows in the daytime and then performed my show before heading to the bars, but just a continuation of the relentless work and tiredness. I’ve hardly seen anyone. Hopefully I can have some fun soon, but I have a frustrating amount of stuff to do (and I haven’t forgotten about the limited edition programmes for the people who donated to get their names in - I hope to get that done next week). I felt light-headed this evening and worried that I had contracted Fringe flu or ebola, but I just needed a rest. Doing a late show does not, as I had hoped, mean I can go to shows at 8pm. I need to have a rest at 8pm and so am watching old eps of The Simpsons and Modern Family instead of spectating at the greatest arts festival in the world.
It’s been a tough week, but the shows are going well. The crowd were a little drunk and boisterous tonight, but in a good way. Numbers are lower than I need them to be, but higher than most performers could dream of. I maybe chose the wrong year to gamble on doing the play, financially speaking at least. But I will survive and I am getting some great comments about the shows on Twitter and on the streets. A decent night’s sleep might put things in perspective.