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…
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?”
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!”
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.
“WAAAAAH – WAAAAAH – WAAAAAH! PUT ME BACK IN, PUT ME BACK IN – WHAT IS GOING ON, DON’T YOU CUT THAT OFF!”
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?