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Monday 4th August 2008

It was a little bit of a tired and tense performance tonight. I had been dashing around yesterday (literally jogging around town - still no taxis and no chips) to the BBC to do a phoner interview with Colin Murray for 5 Live (following an emotional performance and interview with Edwyn Collins), then over to Victoria Street to see a show, then down to the gym for more exercise, then home for dinner and up the hill to get to the show. My shirt was drenched in sweat (and of course I had put on a fresh one after the gym). "Look at us all," said one of the other performers in the dressing room, "Coming off stage covered in sweat."
"I haven't been on yet," I told him and he looked a bit embarrassed.
I had though, overdone it a bit. I was tired and flustered and when my tech played the wrong CD to bring me on stage and there was an embarrassing pause as she struggled to find the right one, I felt tense and cross, in sharp contrast to my mood at the previous four gigs.
I had been told we'd sold 93, but the room was full (which then got me worrying that the lower attendance would be the one recorded and I wouldn't get paid the proper amount - I was in a pretty paranoid state), but it was hot and humid and everyone was a little stultified and it was hard to get things going. I made a couple of mistakes, almost missing out a big chunk, but realising in time and going back and incorporating it. My throat was a little sore after some overindulgence last night and I wasn't enjoying myself as much as usual.
A couple of years ago I might have put my head down or started berating people for not enjoying it more. But now I know enough to know that not every audience is as effusive as the next and they did seem rapt and I was getting laughs, but they just weren't as big as they have been. I held it together and gave them a good show and as I suspected the applause at the end and the comments afterwards suggested that it had been a good performance. It had been harder and less enjoyable for me. And I suspect that maybe a few people were there on the back of the reviews, with their expectations raised. But if that was the worst show of the run then I would be very happy.
The show I saw this afternoon was part of the Free Festival, which along with the Free Fringe is providing new acts with the chance to come up and perform in Edinburgh without losing thousands of pounds. It also gives you, the punter, the chance to see a load of shows without shelling out hundreds of pounds (they generally take a collection at the end, so if you're a decent person you might pay a couple of quid). Of course there is no guarantee of quality (as is the case with the regular Fringe shows) and you'll be seeing a lot of performers first attempt at an Edinburgh set. I saw Comedy O'Clock in which four relative newcomers gave us ten or so minutes each. They played to a smallish crowd, who were a little unresponsive (as it seems were the crowds at most shows today - as I've observed before, this happens a lot in Edinburgh, suggesting weather or the news or some outside factor has an influence on how shows go), but the acts gave their all and it was an enjoyable hour with lots of laughs.
I am glad these free shows exist though. There is the danger that as the Fringe becomes more professional and commercialised that it is impossible for newer people to come up and learn the ropes. It takes a few years up here (generally) before you can produce a good show (it takes some useless comics 21 years to get a meaningful five star review) and if people are being squeezed out by the expense then there will be little new blood coming through. So it's great that this opportunity is here. But you should take a chance on some of these shows, partly to save yourself money and partly because you might catch a genuine undiscovered star of the future. I'd be very surprised if at least a couple of the comics on this afternoon don't make a name for themselves.
And at no pounds it is excellent value for money.
I had been meaning to go and see more comedy after my show, but was really tired and a little grumpy. I escaped the Fringe and went for dinner at a lovely Thai place on Howe St. I am a big fan of Thai food and have eaten a lot of it, but this was right up there with the best. It was a good idea to escape the oppressive atmosphere of the Fringe first Monday and I felt a lot better after some food and a couple of Chang beers.
Maybe running round town today had been a bit of overkill. I need to not overdo the exercise, just as I need to keep the beer in check. Though I have lost over a kilo since I got to Edinburgh, which is no mean feat.

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