I was feeling a lot more alert and chipper today and trying to come to conclusions about my run at the Fringe. This is possibly a foolish thing to do whilst I am still here and wrapped up in it all. But I am positive overall about the experience I've had. My stand-up show has been one of the best ones I've done and certainly the most critically acclaimed and the podcast show has been of a much more consistent quality and better attended than in previous years.
But it's been a tough and relentless month of work, with no day off (and few days off in the weeks before it began), little opportunity to see other stuff or socialise. And I think this will have to be the last year that I do two shows a day for the entire run. I have largely enjoyed the hard work, but I am really getting too old for this shit and if I come to the Fringe again (which I am almost certain to do) then I need to have more time to myself and not push myself quite so hard. So I am pretty sure that the next two RHEFPs will be the last ones I do (unless one year I come up and only do the podcast). RHLSTP will continue, of course, but doing the Edinburgh version daily for the best part of a month would be a strain for a person half my age and if I want to do it properly takes up at least three or four hours of my day. I have had many appreciative messages about it, (along with the complaints of audiophiles - and the high expectations and sense of entitlement of an audience getting something for nothing and still not being satisfied makes the decision to finish it a bit easier), but by Monday I will have produced 75 hours of free entertainment in three Augusts and I think maybe my time can be better used, either in doing something different or just giving myself some time to enjoy myself. I hope we can end it on a high and with guests like Baconface and Jason Manford I think it promises to be a strong finish.
I also want to have a think about whether the Fringe is the best place for me to do my stuff at all. Like I say, I doubt that I will abandon it entirely, but the way things are going I wonder if I might better use my time in other endeavours. I could, for instance, use this three or four months to work up something for the internet, which is a much less crowded market place (at least for independent comedy). Or just premiere my next stand up show in London. The focus of the Fringe is rightly largely on new comedians and less rightly on big name TV comics and the middle is getting squeezed out a bit. Ten years ago if I had got the review I got this year I think I would have sold out every night, but whilst my numbers have been respectable there's just too many options for punters. Maybe it's no longer the best place for me to display my wares.
I still love it here and I say this after having the best stand up gig of the run. I had been worried that the Saturday crowd might be unfocused or tricky and there was an odd atmosphere out on the streets. But I hit the ground running and got the closest I've been to nailing everything and had the pleasure of hearing some people laughing so much that they were in pain. But amongst my pleasure at doing a great show I was thinkgin, "Why couldn't the Channel 4 guy have come to this one?"
I know that is ridiculous and that complaining about a sold out and successful gig is the sort of ludicrous behaviour that could only come from a tired comedian at the end of the Fringe who has lost his perspective. And I mainly like the fact that I am a secret that only a select few know about. But pumped up from a gig like that it's perhaps inevitable that I start to feel annoyed by my comparitive obscurity (again, pathetic as that is, given how many comics would kill for 340 people in their gig - then again not many of them were at the Fringe in 1987).
But trying to step outside of my issues with ego and the injustices of which comedians get recognition and which don't, I think it's worth me considering that the Fringe is not somewhere that I have to come. In fact, by being here year in and year out means I become partially invisible. Herring's here again, of course. Might I make more of a splash elsewhere? Should I take a couple of years to concentrate on my internet projects and other writing? Or if I just did one show a year and could spend some of my day watching shows, reading books or having a drink with the many friends I've got up here (so many of whom I haven't even seen or have only talked to on my podcast), would I have a better time?
On the other hand part of me wants to do a stand-up show, a podcast show and a 25 frame Me1 Vs Me2 month-long snooker tournament.
I say all this from a place of only minor exhaustion and personal happiness. I am very content with the work I have done and I believe that doing good shows is the whole point of the Fringe and nothing else much matters.
I think the Fringe is changing though and probably for the good. It's interesting and encouraging that the Perrier awards went to two acts from the Free Fringe and one from the Stand. I hope that the squeeze on the middle (coming from punters either going to see the big names in big venues, or new people in free venues) might lead to people spending less on their shows and charging less for their tickets. I hope that the huge numbers of shows will encourage people to come up here not to be discovered or even reviewed, but just to create something good and get better at what they do. It's worked for me over the last 26 years. I am just idly wondering if now, as old as I am, I should seek out a different challenge.
I always insisted that I would never be an act that got too big for the Fringe (hasn't happened yet in any case) but I wonder if the Fringe is getting too big for me.
Even having said all this I am about 80% certain that I will be back again next year and I know I said I wouldn't do RHEFP again last time, so I can't even be sure I will stick to that. But if RHLSTP and Meaning of Life work out for me, maybe my Edinburgh Fringe will happen on the internet.
Don't read any of this as me being depressed or bitter. This has been one of my best Fringes ever and I am really happy, if frazzled at the edges.
I got to reward Colin for his stalkerish support on today's podcast, but am unsure whether I experienced a Clive Anderson/Bee Gees moment with my first guest Caroline Rhea. She seemed to leave abruptly, but she did have to catch a cab. She was very funny though and Colin got over-excited when she pinched his Walnut Whips. I have never seen him looking so happy. I have never seen him looking happy. God Bless you Colin. Thanks for taking the jokes so well. And for saying that your favourite show was Alexei Sayle! Catch the mayhem and other guest Barry from Watford (whilst you still can) by clicking on this.