Now this was a mind fuck. Flying up to Edinburgh for 24 hours to appear at the Television Festival tomorrow, suddenly plunged back into the madness, but as an outsider. As I was driven from the airport I was struck by that feeling of how strange it is to come to this city when the Fringe isn’t happening, and then I remembered the Fringe was happening, so it was a double mind fuck.
The TV festival aren’t paying me for this panel , but they are paying for my travel (they even got me speedy boarding on my Easy Jet flight, but I didn’t realise so queued up anyway - because I am a man of the people and also I don’t understand why anyone pays to sit on a plane for any longer than they need to) and put me up in a posh hotel. And the hotel had upgraded me so that I was staying in a suite. I’d say it was the most expensive place I’ve ever stayed in during the Fringe, but one night here is probably about the same as 3 hours in the usual horrible flats I’d be staying in. I met some Americans in the lift who, perhaps realising that my clothes didn’t fit in here, asked me if I was performing at the Festival! People assume that performers make enough money to stay somewhere like this. Well maybe those TV acts that are playing the EICC…..
Anyway - not complaining, it felt like a little holiday and even though I was at the most exciting Arts Festival in the world, I was looking forward to getting to bed quite early and having 10 hours undisturbed sleep. But I did want to catch a couple of shows, so after eating my biscuits and drinking some Nespressos I headed over to the Pleasance. And every corner of this city has a memory, but even the spiky ones have lost their power to wound with time.
I passed the horrible flat that we’d stayed in in 2014 and wondered if they were still using the toilet brush we bought them. One of the windows of the flat beneath still has a Yes poster for the Scottish referendum. I wonder if anyone has checked to see if the person living there is still alive.
It’s 31 years now since I first came here. Is it possible that there are some performers here whose parents weren’t even born in 1987? Just about.
And it felt completely normal to be in the Pleasance courtyard, as always, like I’d just been here yesterday. As I queued to see Brett Goldstein, an 18 year old stand up asked me advice about how to progress from open spots. I gave him a lot of time. I hope he is successful and repays the favour when I am too old to be funny by giving me a meaningless paid job on his TV show. But he won’t. The little cunt.
I love Brett and his shows are always good value and thought provoking. I recognise a bit of my thirty-something self in him, though he looks better with his top off (which is why he starts with his top off) Mind you I did some Edinburgh shows with my top AND bottom off, so I still win.
He’s a man incredibly at ease on stage and it’s lovely to watch someone so centred and confident, especially as he was revealing his heart-break and neurosis. As crazy as it might seem, this year, looking in at Edinburgh from outside and inside, I am struggling to comprehend how anyone puts an hour show together and then stands on stage delivering it with self-confidence. Given that’s what I do for a living, that is odd, but it is a huge confidence-trick. Even if the trick is just to pretend you’re that confident.
But despite some interruptions from people needing to wee, Brett retained the calm control that is hard to have by this late stage. I remember this time last year, I was so exhausted. I couldn’t even climb the Pleasance Hill without stopping for a rest. I did it all in one go this time.
Brett then let me tag along as he went to see Matt Ewins. Nish Kumar and Lazy Susan were also there and though I felt like someone for the long-distant past (which I am) it was nice to be allowed to hang out with the Fringe cool kids. I hadn’t seen Matt before, but his show is infectiously stupid and childish, but with impressive technological skills that belie the ramshackle nature of what’s going on. Never has so much work gone into something that looks so casually on the fly. I cried with laughter from beginning to end though. Another comedian in total command. But the positive thing about having so many comedians at the Fringe these days is that acts have to keep coming back, improving all the time. When you’ve done half a dozen or so hours then you really start to know what you’re doing.
I headed back to the hotel, coveting sleep more than late night drinking with jaded and exhausted comedians as the dust of the Fringe started to settle. Maybe I’d meet someone from the TV Festival in the lobby, be invited for a drink at the bar and be given my own TV show.
But I slept. Which is better.