Category Archives: Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Will There Be Any Stars, Any Stars …?

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2010 REPORT NUMBER TWO

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th

“Hey Tobes, are you up in Edinburgh for the month? If so, do you fancy helping out a little with my show? I need someone dressed as a tiger to get hurled onto a grenade where he explodes in a sea of orange polystyrene. Have you ever played that before??!” That text could only have come from Adam Riches. I worked with him a lot doing daft but brilliant plays in Manchester. He packed his bags for London where I was sure he’d become an overnight success. It’s taken a bit longer than that, but he’s had deserved hits at the Fringe in the past few years, mustering a raft of  superb (Four And Five Star) reviews that justly herald his gift for batty, charmingly silly comedy and performances of winningly idiotic chutzpah. Not even the most cynical can fail to smile at his stuff, so who am I to refuse to play a tiger for the man who has cast me in the past as a superhero’s cocky agent, a Diabolo-wrangling gypsy, and a half man/half Dalek? Be good to catch up too. He has a rare gift for not allowinging the inherent annoyances of this business effect him – he just knuckles down, grafts away, and produces reams and reams of comedy gold without fail. But I suspect he’s a terrible, selfish lover.

Next day – “Toby, I’ve cut the skit, so you can hang up your paws”. Damn, sacked before I’ve even begun. Story of my career! I’d spent the whole night channelling my inner Tony (it’s Grrrrrrreat!) and watching old ESSO adverts. Then, on Sunday “Toby – great news, Tiger is back!”. So I’m not the only one making last minutes changes to my show!

Anyway, I won’t spoil the gag by revealing any more than I have above, but suffice to say Adam Riches Rides is terrific – and he’s selling out already (not by accepting an OBE or doing adverts for McDonald’s or genocide, I mean all his tickets are being bought). It’s a joy to participate in the most infinitesimal way to something so inventive and funny. It opens with a song in which Pierce Brosnan outs himself as a Centaur. That’s all you need to know. (Five stars)

The Original Plan Had Been To One Day Play Hamlet

As I won’t be seeing my wife until the 1st of September, Saturday and Sunday were precious times with her, mostly used for swatting up on the show. She made me revise and remember the rigorous order and not forget to get all the loose ends tied up. She really helped (All The Stars In The Sky).

Performances were nicely attended and jolly. Still missing bits out: nothing major, but I’m still not making the ending as neat a series of payoffs as I should be. The shows have been running to time, which is a major consideration, though Saturday was the first night they made me work, where the satirical second half went down better than the nostalgic first. This is a good thing, but it meant I had to be on my toes, and I responded by pacing about a little too much. Agent, promoter and friend Lee Martin was in, who told me to put a table on stage for my drink so I didn’t pace about so much, like Simon Cowell on the prowl, dancing about in anticipation of feasting upon the soft, pliable carcass of a newborn baby.

Having missed one interview because (thinks of any number of excuses …) I forgot (No Stars Hadoke), I then mistook the Pleasance Courtyard for The Pleasance Dome and went to the wrong place for another. Still, everyone seems pretty calm at the moment, apart from a testy antipodean homuculous techie-type I encountered throwing out far too much machismo for a Lilipution wrangling a prop of an afternoon. I rose above it (which was quite easy considering).

Flatmate and superb comic Jason Cook (Five Stars, every time) is doing predictably well, and together we’re creating our own modern day Never The Twain as he plays upon the supposed charm of his salt-of-the-earth ignorance and I introduce him to eclectic foodstuffs (“This is an anchovy”) and the concept of literature. As usual, he takes much of what I say that is funny and Tweets it or quotes it in his set and gets the laughs for himself. The cuckoo. Or leach. Or twat.

With my lovely wife gone (The Stars Have All Gone Out), I forced myself to honour a commitment to perform at Free And Freakin’ Awesome Comedy Showcase at Bannerman’s for Ro Campbell – simple premise, Ro goes on and gets some comics to be funny. I didn’t really want to do it and thought it’d be either ill-attended by the dead, or well attended by the riotous. It was actually packed with lovely people, Ro did a great job, and I had a lot of fun unleashing all the swearwords and bile I have elected not to use in my BBC show. On that issue, I have got myself another review in which I’m described as “charming and likeable” but safe (Three Stars – I lost marks for pacing about too much: guess which show they were in). Safe, me safe??! Have they never seen me caterwaul with rage about trivia at XS Malarkey or The Comedy Store? Oh, maybe they haven’t. That said, I do also think that there’s a lot of noise and swearing that gets mistaken for profundity around these parts … I’m sure Jonathan Swift didn’t yell at eveyone. That said, maybe I’ve been so conscious of being reasonable with the message and intent of the show, that I’ve left a bit of my passion in the fridge to cool. Maybe I need to get it out and add some spice to give it some much needed heat. Then people will enjoy eating it. Or something.

Oh, never mind the metaphors – it seems that so far the reviewers love the show, but don’t want to sleep with it yet. I texted that fine Manchester based Irish comic, Caimh McDonnell, who knows a thing or two about doing well in Edinburgh, to that effect. “Don’t worry,” he texted back, “People kept giving my last show fake mobile numbers to get rid of it.”

And I walked up Broughton Street with a big smile on my face, placed there by someone miles away in a different city, but in the right place just when I needed him. (SuperStar)

News, Reviews and Booze (but no Boos).

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2010 REPORT NUMBER ONE

Well the madness has begun: flyers litter the streets and students dressed as pirates line the pavements thinking that the best way to get punters to come to see their thespian hi-jinks in Penzance is to yell at strangers and guffaw in a way only those with a vestige of youthful bravado left in them (soon to be dissipated by tax and broken dreams) can. And God has gleefully placed various ambling types between you and where you want to go, and they shamble along in a zig-zag as you try to get past. Even without clocking you, they manage to anticipate which direction you’re going to take to manoeuvre out of their way and block your path with deadly slowness: ambling human shields, precision-placed and impenetrable, walls of anorak-clad flesh determined to make you late for your fourth gig of the day as you realise you’ve said yes to one too many people.

Anyway: Days One and Two, Thursday 5th and Friday 6th  August

Previewers and Reviewers

A gentle start. A preview, so the pressure is off – just get the freshly honed show out there and in your head Toby. A decent fist of a crowd, enough for you to verbally map out your masterwork, consolidate it, identify the less certain and more fatty passages, and work your arse off on Friday to have it shipshape for preview two when the press are allowed in. And it works – Thursday a workmanlike and slightly (in places) tentative stab at an hour long version of the show that ties up all the loose ends. Some ends where tied more efficiently than others, though. No problem – have a look at those, reinsert forgotten jokes, reorder, and bingo! Friday flows much better and is finally the show as it needs to be, and is performed without too many fumbles. All good. Except, what’s this? Two press in on Thursday and none on Friday? That’s entirely the wrong way around! Dash and crikey. And shit. Oh well. As I wait tentatively and with irritation (it’s no-one’s fault, it was a communication breakdown inevitable in the flurry of the fringe) I have other things to do. One is to appear on Hardeep Singh Kohli’s Chat Masala, and to blog about it. Read about that adventure here.

Not the sort of showbiz circles I usually move in
Not The Sort Of Showbiz Circles I Usually Move In

Not sure I’d have personally given away the punchline in the title of the article, but never mind (Two Stars for that, title writer).

Then to the first F***ing Funny For A Fiver shows (three gigs in one evening on my first night here – perhaps a clue to why my decision to not drink was steadfastly maintained for about seven and a half minutes after show one). I’m compering these intermittently. I use my desire to unwind and my anger at the reviewer situation to fuel an inventive, if slightly long, opening, to prove to myself that I can be witty and spontaneous and delight an audience even without a refined and honed script. Banter, whimsy, comic flights of fancy – they all tumble out and I’m as surprised as anyone, revelling in the heady, freewheeling atmosphere you can only get at the craziness of the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s going well! Good work – karma restored, and the comedy Gods are smiling. They’re also, alas, refilling my wine glass far too quickly and all the heady expectation, disappointment, desire to please and sheer enormity of the situation lead to a rather more, um, wayward second section, where I all but undo the good work done in the first. Karmic balance knocked out of kilter again, resolutely fulfilling its mission to maintain that life is just, well, like that. Still, the comedians in the room enjoy watching the poison of Bacchus unravel my faculties in public, and entertainment that is had is of the kind the Romans would have thoroughly enjoyed. (So, first half, Five Stars, second half … hmm, Two). The other acts on were Mark Allen, Elis James, Sam Gore and The Boy With Tape On His Face who were all excellent. It’s a top notch late night show, albeit one with an occasional compere who promises he’ll never drink again.

Wife And (Good And Bad) Times

I’m sharing a flat with Jason and Clare Cook; this is good news as they’re splendid people who find it amusing when I get angry about things, and it’s far enough away for me to walk off any macaroni cheese pies I’m definitely not going to buy from Greggs, promise. My wife (an undisputed Five Stars, always and forever) has taken the long, six hour trek to Edinburgh to grab two all too short days with me. She arrives just in time for F***ing Funny For A Fiver, which provides perfectly timed evidence that she’d probably be better off if she hadn’t bothered. We had a couple of nice meals – one at a restaurant that shall remain nameless on The Royal Mile, that boasted a fine menu but service that was as enthusiastic but inefficient as a holiday rep attempting to disarm a nuclear missile with a pen-knife and some jam (Three Stars, being generous as it was only the second night). L’Escargot Bleu was a different affair – an authentic French vibe and casually brilliant food at respectable lunchtime prices (Four Stars).

Friday and Saturday saw her help me go through the gig, firm it up in my brain and really work it through, and emerge much better for it. All we could then do was wait for the reviews from Thursday. Out they came and they were fair enough for that first night, although I wish Chortle could extrapolate that a first preview gig from an experienced comic will inevitably tighten up by the time any potential punters arrive. I have to say they have form for not allowing for the symptoms of a preview, and the only criticisms in the review referred to obvious first night flaws rather than problems with the show (so I’ll only give them Two Stars, despite some decent insight and neat phraseology). Nonetheless, it reads like a coveted four star review – though that’s not matched by the rating, so ultimately it’s a missed opportunity for some poster adornment. Slightly disappointing, and a tad churlish, but hey ho, that’s what can happen when you let people in on a preview. A similar story with Three Weeks too, and that’s a publication where the reviewer you’re allocated is a real lottery. You’re often at the mercy of someone who has only got the job because they own a pen. I’ve seen some right howlers in there in the past, so to get one that uses its word count to accurately describe the show and make reasonable criticisms must be chalked up as a win (Three Stars to me, Four Stars to the reviewer).

Anyway, decide for yourselves;

Chortle

Three Weeks

So so far, solid if not sexy. Maybe I flirted with sexiness at my rock ‘n’ roll antics on F***ing Funny For A Fiver (I wished they’d called it Quite Amusing For The Price Of A Lady (Godiva), it’d trip off my tongue with far more élan, frankly), which just goes to show that sometimes, being sexy is no replacement for a mug of Horlicks and a good read.

In A Nutshell

So far (Three Stars).