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Ode to an aubergine

As Beth has already mentioned, I finished my current circumnavigation of the worldEurope with a wee trip up to Edinburgh for the festival. I’d not been up before and my impressions of the experience were based mainly on reading Richard Herring’s blog for the last few years – I expected tiny empty venues covered in stalactites, dripping tuberculosis laden water upon the heads of an abused audience and slowly dieing comedians both. I was not disappointed.

We started off from Kings Cross on the Flying Scotsman, which was a rather good sign in my opinion, and had a rather nice trip up, with the eating of chicken drumsticks and a sack of M&S Orchard Mix (that’s not just any old dried fruit, that’s M&S Orchard Mix [capital letters required], which makes me 65% better than you and your bag of raisins) accompanied by the occasional tappy-tappy as Beth (in the interest of SCIENCE!) tested the in-train wireless, and found it wanting.

The train arrived pretty much on time and a happy cabby deposited us outside of our flat, where we were greeted by the sarchastic shouts of the DaveNLet gestalt entity, who after only a small amount of negotiation buzzed us in to a rather continental ‘the inside feels like it’s outside’ stairwell leading up to the flats. The flat itself was quite nice, with a comfy sofa, a selection of showers and a rather excellent cupboard containing shelves.


After only a small amount of watching the Olympics (a situation which occurred several times during the long-not-weekend, as I will now refer to the Wednesday-Saturday span) we departed and started our joint aims of frequenting shows and the various branches (2) of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

So, shows:

Joan Rivers

First up was Joan Rivers, in full anachronistally rude flow. I will happily admit I laughed my way through an hour’s worth of occasionally to-the-line material which mainly caused tensing in the people sitting around me, but I also got some rather nice photographs of her scarily expression-full face for someone so full of botox and lacking in original bone structure. She is 75, so there must be some props for turning up at 23:45 in a ridiculously hot and humid air-raid shelter shaped tent, stuck deep into Edinburgh’s hillside (The Underbelly’s White Belly).

Next day, after some research through the freebie festival listings (that we discovered later was only 4 venues worth) plans were struck and we went to see Abie Philbin Bowman and his new show, Eco-Friendly Jihad:

Abie Philbin Bowman

After the last night’s experience of losing a large quantity of my bodyweight in sweat, I followed Mr Bowman’s advice and removed as much of my clothing as I could get away without shocking the audience and settled in to listen to his tale of falling for an Al-Qaeda recruiter who wanted to save the planet by killing westerners and returning the remainer of the world to the eco-friendly lifestyle of the past.

Shortly after this we ended up in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, where I planned to remain for a while, but foiled this plan by looking through the list of shows in my notebook, where I noticed that I could slip in a visit to see Richard Herring do his new show, The Headmaster’s Son, before my next booked ticket. So I did.

Richard Herring

Being the reason why I was finally prompted into going up to Edinburgh (although originally I wasn’t going to bother seeing him as there were loads of preview shows in London, all of which I managed to miss) I felt that kicking him some of my ‘hard-earned’ cash was only fair. It was a rather good show, with a chunk of self-examination as well as the playing of a trumpet and the normal round of cock jokes. However, naughty Mr Herring did overrun by 10 minutes which left me running down a rain slicked street to the Underbelly’s second location to catch Richard Sandling.

No piccy for Mr Sandling, as I felt slightly self conscious pulling out a camera when there were only seven of us in the audience, including two Underbelly staff members. I first heard about him a few months back on Londonist and there seemed to be an element of kinship – he talks a lot about videos and how they are great, as well as being slightly obsessive. His show was excellent, despite his slow death by consumption (including a break in the middle of the show to try and poke his lung back in as it was dangling on his chin after a coughing fit [poetic license]) caused by performing for a month in the wettest tent lined cave, complete with mysterious dripping sound behind me, that I’ve ever sat in. Well, only tent lined cave I’ve sat in, but still. When someone does a show that is about the obsessive collecting of videos, why we should be celebrating the 30th anniversary of VHS rather than punk and the problems of making fun of science fiction at cons (calling Billy Piper a ‘fat mouthed bint’ not good) it seems they are talking to me. The discussion between Jack Bauer and George Smiley was also quite inspired.

Brief break then on to see Andy Zaltzman run Political Animal, which I thought was a political comedy show, but turned out to be a selection of comedians doing chunks of their shows, which was actually rather good. Apart from Mr Zaltzman there was a geordie girl whose name I have forgotten, Mark Olver and Glen Wool (who Adam accidentally heckled, making the gig into almost my concept of hell, as there was audience participation AND I was sitting next to a heckler…I am very much one who believes that hiding in the dark and not getting picked on is the secret to experiencing comedy shows to their full).

Next day my plans to see Dr Bunhead detonate jelly babies and also experience a bit of non-comedy by going to Involution, a play pimped on the Sci-fi-London podcast (that I look after the RSS feed for), fell through due to tiredness, apathy and a need to be happy and bouncy rather than surrounded by children at 10am and watching a play about a dystopian post-genome world respectively. Instead, I went to see Andy Zaltzman do his proper show – I’m a big fan of him through his podcast with John Oliver, of Daily Show fame, which is quite excellent. He is the master of the overblown simile (as several minutes of using cricket to describe something that I’m not entirely sure of any more, including a discussion of how you should check the shininess of the faces of people coming at you to see if they were going to move during the pitch so that you could hit them correctly) and has quite crazy hair – a marvellous combination. As I was sitting underneath his water glass at the foot of the stage there are again no photos, but suffice to say that he was excellent and his hair was suitably mad.

I stuck around at The Stand after Mr Zaltzman to see Simon Munnery’s Annual General Meeting.

Simon Munnery

Mr Munnery was the first comedian I ever saw, as Alan Parker Urban Warrior in my first week at university, and he has over time become more and more surreal. He was as mad as ever and still has his most excellent venn diagram describing venn diagrams, as well as an inflatable kangaroo with a stickytaped on cardboard cutout face of Richard Dawkins. That’s pretty much all I need to say. He ran out of time, so the audience decamped to Lord Bodo’s over the road for a pint and a continuation of the show, ably helped out by the table of locals outside who joined in as much as they could.

Then followed a most excellent dinner at the SMWS Queen Street rooms and then a slightly frenzied cab ride to see Stephen K Amos.

Stephen K Amos

Mr Amos was rather strange – he was totally down the line funny comedy. After a couple of days of seeing vaguely edgy and surreal comedians he was just very funny in a rather effortless manner. His jokes and observations were nothing new or out of the ordinary, but were just excellent. Which was a bit of a weird thing to get my head around. I may also have been a bit tipsy.

After the show the rest of the posse decided that going home was a plan and I wandered back to the underbelly to catch Andrew O’Neill’s Totally Spot-on History of Industrial Britain.

Andrew O'Neill

He was rather good, although a slightly knackered audience didn’t help. Any show which talks about the industrial revolution, disses mills and ends with the Terminator music and a call to arms against Richard Dyson can’t be bad in my book. I wandered back to the flat, this time not in the rain like the previous night, and picked up some chips. They were also not as good as the previous night’s, although slightly less rain wettened.

Next day we packed up the flat and after a swift half went to see Rich Hall give a reading from his last book and new book – he is quite excellent. Less angry shouty, but still shouty, than his comedy persona I now very much need to obtain his last book and keep an eye out for the next one – hints of the short fiction of Woody Allen and David Sedaris, but with a more frequent use of the word fuck.

Anyways, that was it. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will do a bit more organisation in advance (so that I might actually get tickets to see Henry Rollins or not be 20 minutes away from seeing John Wheeler from Hayseed Dixie with only 5 minutes between shows). If anyone wants to go and play at the festival next year let me know.


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Time 5th March 2009 at 11:04 am

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