Fringe Benefits (Scotland)

Scotland ~ Edinburgh – 2014

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the entire world – the thing is huge! It has over 250 venues that are jam-packed with over 45, 000 varied performers! It is truly a colossal occasion that triples the city’s population in that single August month…year in, year out! So if you can put up with shuffling at a snail’s pace behind old fogies desperate to take a photo of every lamp post they see (WHY, GOD WHY?! IT IS A LAMP POST!!! MOOOOOOOOOVE!!!!), then it is certainly worth a look in!

Disclaimer: Some people think of it as a version of hell.

I was pleased that I would be in the UK to catch it for myself, as I personally love stand up comedy (which is a rather popular section of the festival), in fact…confession time…I think if I wasn’t such a hideously introverted worm, then I would probably (definitely) be up there alongside them…oh well, so is life. Maybe one day I will follow that yellow brick road to the Wizard of Oz and he will sort me out with some courage…till then – comedy writing it is! Urgh, if only, if only…

If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, then…yeah…would appreciate it so much…

Please Doctor Who GIF

The first show I caught was a mixed bag – it was a pretty short set, in a tiny subterranean bar at the end of a maze of corridors… but with a number of very talented individuals! Oddly I was absolutely petrified once I saw just how intimate the room was, I kept imagining the comedian picking on me and quite literally pissing myself in embarrassment as the crowd’s laughter rang in my ears…so to counteract this, I found a perfect little alcove that meant I was largely hidden – and waited for the show to begin. It started with the host talking about the girlfriend that had just broken up with him – a pretty typical line, but it left me genuinely wanting to hug him, and tell him that life goes on, and that there are plenty of fish in the sea, you know all that stuff…as rather than laugh (perhaps it was the delivery, and lack of a clear punchline) – it had me very concerned for his emotional well-being…not exactly what you expect from a stand up performance…errr…

Anyway, he eventually went into a corner to cry, and the other comedians were introduced, who were certainly something special! My favourite being a young guy from my neck of the woods (definitely just a coincidence…), who recounted a trip to America for basketball, in which an African-American gentleman squared up to him during the game shrieking “I FUCKING HATE CRACKERS MAN”…quick as a dart he replied, “have you tried them with cheese?”

Giggles GIF

Well after that I was howling, almost rolling on the floor! In fact, I may have laughed so hard that I almost gave away myself behind my hiding spot…oh dear, lucky escape…note to self – try not to laugh like a suffocating piglet…that will surely draw unwanted attention to yourself…

And with that the show was over, urghhh – already?! I guess that is a good sign, anyway – I finished my overpriced bottle of beer and threw some money in the bucket before heading out on the hunt for the next place to visit! I was in an upbeat mood, and was basically hoping for more of the same! We stopped to consult the map and attempt to get a look at what we may see next, when we were approached by a man who was trying to promote his gig…he had attached used yoghurt pots (400 of them) to his tickets, as some kind of promotional novelty…didn’t ever explain why…but he had put so much mindless effort into it, we felt that we couldn’t exactly say no – so obediently, we followed his directions to his comedy venue.

We walked into a small, totally empty room, well – I tell a lie, the performer who had been on before was in there, quickly gathering his things so that the next act could go on…

Oh, it’s a good one coming up…yeah, yeah…you’ll enjoy this! No! Don’t sit there! No, no! Front row, front row! He’s not that kind of comedian, he won’t talk to you during the set – don’t worry! Go on, go on!”

Oh Jim GIF

Out of politeness I went to walk in the second row as a compromise, but was pushed into the third row by my little sister – which I was pleased about, as with such a little room – the further back the better! We sat ourselves down and waited. The room didn’t exactly fill up…there was a middle aged couple who sat on the other side, who chuckled to themselves as they sat down, a totally silent (possibly) European girl in the far corner, two young ladies, and a young couple further down our row. That was it…wait…yeah, that was literally, it.

He came bursting in a couple of minutes late, and thanked everyone for coming. I felt bad for him; I put myself in his shoes and decided that I would probably set myself on fire at the sight of an empty room if I was a stand up comedian. Again, another reason why it probably isn’t for me…not right now anyway…he began his routine, and people gave him some small titters of laughter, largely out of good manners…so he decided to up the ante…he began talking about vaginas, and how they have changed over the years – people were absolutely dumbstruck – but he carried on all the same, giving us an in-depth look at how vaginas and their hair or lack thereof, have changed over the years…I twisted awkwardly in my seat, with half of my family sitting right by my side (not that this would have magically made his sense of humour appealing had they not being present), but he was nowhere near done…he attempted to appeal to the couple of males in the audience by discussing the size of vaginas…and how his wife has such a huge vagina that you could go inside and look around, like the inside of a cathedral…it really was just a vagina heavy few couple of minutes. I mean, I remember in biology class the word used to make me feel uncomfortable…so this…this was like that x1,000,000. Absolutely dire.

He took a drink of water, as the polite (and mostly embarrassed) laughs died down to silence. I nudged my sister with my knee, and she aggressively nudged me back – as if to say, “Oh my God!” – “yeah, I know – what the hell is this?!” He put his glass down. I assumed he would change the subject now, gauge that his audience’s reaction were not mad about jokes of this sort, and switch it up. But no, instead he dove back into it – asking my own Father about the state of his wife’s vagina…my Mother’s vagina.


My face collapsed into my hands, my cheeks flushing red with deadly levels of embarrassment…I rocked back on my chair – absolutely devastated…I wanted the ceiling to crumble, for a huge boulder to just land on top of me, crushing me, and in doing so alleviating the horror of the situation. Just anything would do…I started to recall that Edinburgh castle is built on an old volcano…maybe…just maybe it would erupt again, and the hot lava would do everyone in the room a favour…

But it didn’t. And I just had to sit there, locked in. “It’s err…it’s fine.” I heard my Father say, as I attempted to squish my fingers into my ears and eyes to block out this unbelievable reality. After what seemed like an eternity the “comedian” decided to move on, as you could have ate the awkwardness in the room with a spoon. Is that a thing? No. Well yeah, it was on that day – believe me.

The rest of the set included telling the two young ladies that they should “lezz it up, because men are shit”, asking if I am in an incestuous relationship with my little sister, inquiring about my Father’s view on porn back in the day, giving us his best Bangladesh accent, questioning the middle aged couple on their respective previous marriages, referencing pink shirts as “SO FUCKING GAY!” and so, so, so, so much more about vaginas – but it is giving me a mild heart attack just recounting it all, so for my health I will leave it there.


There was five minutes to go, soon it would finish. It had been a whole hour of this stuff. I would have just walked out, but I was in cramped in a corner, and would have had to literally climb over chairs to get out – also the room was fully lit and he was no more than a few feet away from me…so it left me out of options. Grin and bear it, the whole room had to just sit there and fucking grin and bear it.

He announced that he was finished his set – but wanted to show us something else, a speech he had been working on about life – cradle to the grade; it had won awards he told us confidently…everyone was well and truly out of fake laughs by this point. And you could feel how people were just itching to get out, breathe fresh air, and probably have a very, very large drink.

WAAAAAH – WAAAAAH – WAAAAAH!” Suddenly everyone burst out of their coma, as this forty one year old man performed his rendition of a baby being born – “PUT ME BACK IN, PUT ME BACK IN – WHAT IS GOING ON, DON’T YOU CUT THAT OFF!” His face was red with energy, the veins in his neck pulsing, “MMMM, MILK – MILK, MMMMM – VERY NICE!” he squealed eagerly, “MUMMY, MUMMY, DON’T WORRY, I’LL BE BACK FROM SCHOOL SOON!” he was bouncing around the stage like an overgrown toddler now, as the small population of the room stared at him, then back to the people around them, looking for answers as to what exactly was going on here…suddenly he picked the pace up to a manic rate, as he ran through the next stages of life as he viewed it…”THAT IS SO UNFAIR, I AM NOT YOUR SLAVE!” (this got some laughs for the first time since he had began this bizarre routine, but is actually stolen content from a successful British comedy from years back), “HEY BAYBEEE…(suddenly he adopted a horribly cringe worthy “street” accent) YOU WANNA GET WITH ME MAYBE, GET TOGETHA HAVE A LIL DRINKEE, DRINKEE!” Once again I found my knees vigorously nudging my sister as if to say “IS THIS REAL FUCKING LIFE?!” It wasn’t over, he continued through marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, retirement, old age, and eventually death.



He abruptly stopped, did an enthusiastic bow whilst exclaiming – “and that, was life…in the fast lane…”

Cue a short round of very confused applause, and shell shocked expressions as people began to flood out of the room. We were exhausted, my cheeks felt painfully swollen by a whole hour of forcing a fake smile across my face – I needed something, anything to help comfort me. There was only one thing for it.


Deep fried Mars bar…ah…momentarily I felt better. Then we began to act out and imitate the comedy set we had just witnessed – and the nightmare went on, again, and again, and again…strangely it was a lot more funny when we acted it out amongst ourselves! Weird that, isn’t it?

Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

86 Replies to “Fringe Benefits (Scotland)”

  1. OMG. That sounds absolutely mortifying. Leave it to you to end up in a place with this going on! Am so glad you shared….though I cringed right along with you most of the way through…’s even horrible across the Web! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh it was…it was…actually this was a couple of weeks ago now, and has been written very slowly, it was far too much to write all at once (had to re-live the horrors!)

      I wanted you to feel my pain with this one…God…I am not going to be able to sleep tonight…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, thanks so much for sharing that pain. Grief. Too bad he wasn’t a horse. At least with horses you can shoot them and put them out of their misery, huh?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. No kidding… I have to say I marvel at the insanity that happens in some of your stories. I actually send them to people and read them out loud around the table with friends. My husband and I laugh and laugh. That hotel in China… OMG! and the zombie dream! Thank you. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Lisa, thank YOU! I was having a terrible evening as it got me rethinking about well…all that he said…haha, but I have chirped right up now! It’s a crazy, crazy world – and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way – even if it is a little uncomfortable at the time 😀

        Anyway thanks again, it’s a lovely thought that I can make you guys laugh, I appreciate it so much.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So whats his name again?
    Sounds like he may be worth a watch!
    Even if it is just to compare his show to your description of what transpired…well I thought it was very funny (your description of it, anyway, plus, you was in Scotland! This does help make some sort of sense, no?
    Good post Johnny boy


    1. haha, I know his name…actually I looked him up later that night, and found numerous youtube videos of him performing the same speech routine – oddly people were laughing wildly – much older crowd (perhaps that equates to a more tolerant sense of humour?)

      Anyway, next time I’m in bonny Scotland I’ll steer clear of that chap!


  3. OMG! I SO hear you. I once went to this comedy play in a theater which was loosely based on The Full Monty (1997) movie, and which had this surprise audience involvement moment when actors started interacting with audience. And while in general the play was really good, that interactive moments almost killed me. Gee, I’m so not OK with public displays of my person 😦 Even though over years I’ve mastered skills of public speaking and all, whenever stage lights fall on me inside I’m either burning with shame, or just feeling like dying

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Luckily they’ve found a better victim that time to pick on – a man who sat beside me, so yay I’ve lived to see another day and almost unscratched from the whole experience 🙂


  4. HOW DID YOU SURVIVE?! I mean, just looking at what you have just written makes me cringe!
    Now, for more calm words… NO, HOW DID YOU SURVIVE THIS?!


  5. I was so excited to read this post because I would love to go to the Fringe! I absolutely love Brit comedy(The Mighty Boosh, Dylan Moran, The Thick of It are some of my faves) and its so amazing to hear how many of these talents come up in that festival. I don’t like stand-up comedy usually, and if I were going to a busy festival like the Fringe and had to put up with even a sampling of what you described, I would be too hot and bothered to maintain niceties. I would simply walk out, smiling and making an excuse, like I need to vomit. I probably do. There are many established comedians who lazily drop into this kind of humour as well(though I wonder how they got the job in the first place). But, despite them, Britain still makes the best comedy.

    I think you have a real good comedy writer in you John. I love to read your stories. That one about the “Are you serious?” lady is worth a good 3-minute sketch. I hope you can take it up professionally.

    And can you explain how a deep-fried Mars bar tastes? I like both individually but am skeptically of them together.


    1. Hi there! Late getting back to you (apologies) but I wanted to give you the lengthy reply you deserve! Firstly may I say that you have exquisite taste, in fact if I didn’t know any better I’d say you’d been snooping on my DVD collection! Dylan Moran in particular is a huge inspiration of mine, along with Tommy Tiernan, Ed Byrne, Billy Connoly…the list goes on really…I do tend to have a fondness for Irish and Scottish comedians, perhaps I feel I have more in common with them hmm…not sure.

      Anyway, I was locked in you see ~ legs cramped, end of the row next to the wall, there was no way out! I don’t like to be rude, but the guy was that terrible perhaps I should have! You’re so right about some of the “big” stars who lower themselves to base humour, personally I think if it’s taking no wit or cleverness to write then it isn’t worth much. Maybe I am a comedy snob!

      I am pleased you enjoy the stories though, that truly does keep me going and keep me writing. I do hope there’s something more in the future, but for now putting out some tales every now and again is enough for me!

      Oh, and fried mars bar…well it may sound revolting, but it’s a wonderful thing! The nougat/fondant/caramel center (whatever it is) sort of melts and you are left with a delicious mix of flavours to sink your teeth into! Mars bar seems to be the most well known but thinking back she had an array of other bars on offer that were probably intended for the same purpose! Worth a try!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, as long as they don’t deep fry Cadbury’s Dairy Milk!

        I think it would have been more comical if the perspective was on you, trying to get out, being locked in the corner. Wouldn’t it make a brilliant sketch – an absolutely obnoxious, unfunny comedian on stage and a poor plebeian in the audience at his wit’s end, trying to get out!

        Oh, one should most definitely be a comedy snob, if one is passionate about comedy. Don’t we get snobbish about everything we take a deep interest in? For example, I am highly defensive of The Mighty Boosh. Not many people find it rib-ticklingly funny, and it is not. It is a show you either like or don’t. And when you do, you fall in love with it, watching it again and again with a smile plastered on your face. The Boosh has real potential to be a classic and I’m glad to be part of the relatively-minor group who get that.


  6. Fabulous 🙂 Yup, no Fringe experience is complete without such a cringing audience experience. You’ve earned your Festival Stripes!! But….deep fried mars bar….really hope you washed your mouth out with Irn Bru afterwards!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m basically the coolest person I know. Not sure if I have the authority to make that decision, but apparently I do because it just happened.


  7. Ahhhhh thanks for sharing, always feels good to laugh. If you ever did stand up comedy and I was somewhere near, I would definitely watch! I think stage fright is something you get accustomed to. The scariest thing is getting up there the first time, after that you get used to it and even crave the attention! It feels really good to have other people acknowledge your talent and appreciate it. Also, we are our worst critics! At my show last night I was so worried that I made so many mistakes, but most of these mistakes went right over the audience’s heads haha. I think you may have the chance to be a stand up comedian after all.


    1. Maaaan, well I am in awe – just totally! I am a lot better in terms of social nervousness and embarrassment – I remember giving my money to friends/family in stores so that I didn’t have to talk to people…I mean, crazy really – so it’s baby steps, baby steps! I am a relatively normal person now 😉 but yeah, public speaking and stuff of that ilk is still something that gets me red in the face and sweaty under the collar!

      Hats off to you, truly. We’ll do a comedy skit together one day in the future 😉


      1. Thanks! Well if we did do a comedy skit together, I almost guarantee that I’d be laughing at my jokes more than the audience would. I have the cheesiest sense of humor.

        As for the performance, I was singing and playing guitar in a restaurant. I was really nervous and made mistakes, but luckily very few people noticed. Plus, most of the people in the audience weren’t musicians so they were wowed either way haha.

        Wouldn’t you say that teaching requires a sense of confidence and talent in public speaking? Yes, you’re teaching young kids, but you still have to assert yourself as an authority figure, be able to keep their attention, and explain things well. You probably have the talents to perform in front of people, but are unaware of it.


  8. I do love good comedy, a shame you had to sit through bad stuff to get something good. I will have to remember this. The last time I was in Edinburgh I think it was July. I will put it on my calendar and come see some good shows 🙂


  9. So funny thing this…I am reading a book right now that mentions the fringe festival. Like, I just read the chapter about it today and now I’m reading your post about it! Small world right? (The book is called Beautiful Ruins if you’re interested…great read!!)
    On a more awkward note: have you ever watched one of those tv shows that is so incredibly, cringe-worthy, awkward that you feel like you are experiencing the story for yourself?? Yeah, this post did that to me! (Props for great writing man, I felt like I was there in real life!)
    Thanks for the laugh (and the sympathetic embarrassment!) have yourself a lovely day.


    1. Whutttt?! Cosmic Melanie – the universe has spoken! 😀 haha, and yes, yes I have – actually I like the US Office better than the UK version for that very reason, it was TOO cringey, just TOO real. So sorry about that one, is what I am basically trying to say!

      Oh, what do you think of the new Dr Who? I like HIM – but the episodes themselves have been pretty weak so far…next week…next week looks good though. Robin Hood or something…ooh!


      1. Seriously though! Thanks universe!!
        Is this sad or what, I just (like last week just) started watching The Office–the US version! Is the UK version that much worse?!?! I cannot even begin to fathom the cringiness! (best word I’ve made up this week!!)
        But I for real feel bad for you! Why is it that parents seem to be present for the most inappropriate movie scenes or that one really bad episode of that tv show you’re watching? It’s like they have this radar that makes an already awkward situation a million times worse! You are such a brave person to sit through that situation… 🙂
        And sadly, I don’t have cable, so I have to wait for tv shows to make their way on netflix before I see them…no doctor who spoilers!! My sisters have been telling me to watch Robin Hood, is it good?? I’m currently catching up on Supernatural, Sherlock, the last season of Doctor Who and The Office…but I think I can take on one more show! No such thing as too much tv….right?
        On a side note, Scotland is on my list of places I have to see before I die. I was living vicariously through this post, one day I’ll get there!! In the meantime, I will keep reading about your travels, so keep the travel stories coming!


  10. Thank you. For going to the Fringe and re-affirming why I don’t need too (I would go INSANE at the crowds and then make very bad choices about performers based on lack of ticket sales as a response to all the bastard crowds).
    So I’ll wait for the cream of the comedy to filter around the rest of the UK.
    That said, I’d risk it all if it meant I’d get to see Daniel Kitson – best under-appreciated and thus not-around-enough British comedian ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jesus Christ, you should definitely be a comedian! Did it not occur to you whilst sitting this through that you can do better? I laughed so hard reading this post!

    Also, deep fried mars bars: I fucking died of happiness!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahaha thanks Noemi! I wish I had the guy’s confidence (if you can call it that!) perhaps I would be up there making crude jokes too…but probably not 😂😂😂 but yes…deep fried mars bars, they could settle wars with those things. Heaven on earth!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Thanks for this magnificently astute outsider’s view. The annual clutch of Edinburgh festivals provide a mixed bag that actually has nothing to do with the city but is instead a celebration of what the rest of the world wants to turn up and do in front of each other – whether very badly or supremely well; only we Scots can be so nihilistically unselfish on such a grand scale. Indeed, when I still lived in Edinburgh, there were few greater pleasures than, for example, nipping out for a loaf of bread only to be confronted by the slow-mo pensioners you describe so beautifully, and dodge injury as students in hilariously coloured trousers threw several pieces of burning wood in one’s face.

    Keep on laughing! 😎


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