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Sunday 3rd August 2008
Sunday 3rd August 2008
Sunday 3rd August 2008

Sunday 3rd August 2008

The reviews are starting to trickle in and so far it's excellent news. First came this one from Fest magazine, who have been (wrongly?) a little disparaging in recent years. Still, it's a good write up. Then later came an even better one on Chortle. Finally after years of constant four star reviews from that site (I got 3 for Hercules, but it got bumped up to 4 when he saw the tour version), I have got a five star show. In fact I have never had a 5 star review in any major publication for any show apart from (oh the irony - it was the weakest of my shows, especially at Edinburgh where I was constricted by the hour) for Hercules in the Metro. It seems churlish to complain or be miserable about that, as I have generally got a lot of 4 star reviews for most of those shows, but it was slightly frustrating that no one had seen fit to give me a top accolade. So to finally get one and from a reviewer whose opinion I greatly respect (Steve Bennett has seen an awful lot of comedy), I have to admit was a slightly emotional experience. I know it's meaningless and in many ways I think that the star system demeans the reviewer, the act and the public (let them just read the review to see how good the show is, rather than have this school like grading), but of course it is not only good to have something appreciated, but 5 star reviews will help get bums on seats.
I think my best ever Edinburgh show was "Christ on a Bike" (which funnily enough this year's show is most like - though a little more thoughtful perhaps), but that hardly got any reviews (4 stars on Chortle!) and only got an audience through word of mouth. Lots of hidden gems get overlooked in this sprawling Fringe, but I think this year signs are looking good that I might get a little critical recognition.
But I might now get six terrible reviews in a row. I think it's not too likely. Not everyone likes this show, but I think most people will get something out of it.
In any case, I now have my five star review. Nothing else matters. In fact I'm thinking of packing up and going home.
Of course I'm not. I'm having the loveliest of time. I am really enjoying the show and also the extra gigs I've been doing have been great fun too. I think a surprisingly large proportion of having a good show is having the right mental attitude - which is easier when you're confident about the material. But in recent years I have not had to worry so much about losing money and getting audiences as I have enough regulars to almost guarantee that I break even. So it doesn't matter too much about the reviews either. And with all that pressure off my shoulders I can just get on with the performance.
But I also guess I suspected I had something special this year and it is looking that people might be agreeing with me. So book ahead if you are planning on coming up. I was sold out tonight, but more to do with it being a 2 for 1 night than the reviews I suspect.
I did Old Rope tonight, a lovely show at the Pleasance where comics try out new material. As headliner I was allowed to do old stuff, so did my stuff from the diary, but then decided to take a chance and got a lady in the crowd to suggest a date from January 1st 1980 to March 1983 and I would read out whatever I had written. It was a bit of a risk as there's some horribly embarrassing and self-indulgent and nasty stuff in there. But the entry she chose was just packed with laughs, partly I think because it was clear that I had no idea myself what was about to come up, but also because the really interesting stuff was covered in a sentence - "Another busy, interesting, exciting day at school. There were a load of Germna kids here for some reason. They played football against some of the lads." Would have been good to know what that was about.
"The gang warfare almost happened again. The U2 kids were looking for a scrap, but we weren't interested." Again intriguing and so quickly covered. U2 was Upper two - nothing to do with Bono - and they were two years younger than us. It's a bit pathetic that they were able to threaten us!
The other stuff was rather sweet musings about the girl I was "in love" with at the time. It really worked well as a device for a stand up act. There was real jeopardy to it all and of course even if it had been a very dull entry then that would have been almost as funny.
I will probably do it again some time. But believe me if I do so and the person chooses the right date you will see me squirming with embarrassment. What could be better.
The Guardian film is already up at their website. It looks pretty good, in spite of me being unnecessarily dismissive of all the acts on the Royal Mile - it's only a joke. Also, alas, the Tempting Tattie don't get a look in, but I hope that my guerilla advertising will do enough to make up for this.
Oh and I saw my first show of the Fringe - Stephen Grant - Second. Stephen is an amazingly sharp compere and comic, who thrives in the white heat of a lively Saturday night audience. Often times comics who excel in clubs find it tough going doing an hour in Edinburgh, but Grant is equally at home in this more friendly environment and cleverly manages to show off his impro skills in a terrific opening where his "opening act" is a computer comic - written words on a large screen. To begin with you think this is going to be a pre-prepared slide show, but the words on the screen interact with the audience and you realise that Grant is off stage typing it all in at speed. His typing speed almost as impressive as his spontaneity.
But he gives us a proper show, themed around the idea of coming second and why that isn't necessarily a bad thing and it's packed with great stories as well as an ingenious way to send all your post for free. He bravely points out how all the inventions traditionally believed to be Scottish were initiated elsewhere. Hilariously three hefty proud Scots got up and walked out at the denouement of this section. This made me laugh almost as much as the bit.
It's a top show. Book now.
And that's coming from someone with 5 stars, so I should know, hey?

Photos of Old Rope gig by Vik Peek

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