EdFringe ’16: The Rundown

I found myself extremely sad to see the Fringe come to an end, and this was the case for the last week or so. It’s frequently mentioned over that final week how close we’re getting to the end, an excited tone to the voices of those mentioning it, and while I’m sore from head to toe and I’ve been spending six hours a day doing things for other people and I never sleep at reasonable times and I’ve been drinking more fizzy drinks and eating more fried food than I ever do in my life and walking about twenty kilometres on an average day and drinking, of course drinking, and constantly worrying about whether I’m doing certain things enough or too much, in spite of all of this, I kind of want it to keep going indefinitely. It’s kind of my life now.

Last Monday was technically the final day, but the Sunday was the real end of the Fringe. Sunday, when I was surprised to find myself feeling a bit crestfallen as I finally finished flyering for the first of my three shows to come to an end. Standing midway down the stairs leading to the venue, as I’d taken to doing, leering into the room to see how many people had actually made it in. It looked pretty full. I was pleased with myself, especially considering we’d been out of flyers for days so I’d had to start snaking up to people and telling them to go along then laughing nervously and playing up the creepiness of what I’d just done. Sometimes they were the sort of people who’d laugh along, and sometimes they’d stare at me, mouth agape. There’s a whole spectrum of human reaction to flyering. I’ve always taken single flyer I’m handed, and have all the best intentions to see many of the shows in question. Not all, by any means (the most Fringe thing I heard was someone promoting a show called “Game of Scones”), but many. People pretend they can’t see me. People stare at the flyer for a long moment while passing but won’t grab hold of it. People occasionally say things like “no! no! no! no! no! leave me alone!!” to which I respond with a simple “I’m doing my job” lest they forget that I am a human being. And a lot of people take the flyers and listen to the pitch about the show, and you can have really lovely and very human conversation. I met a remarkable number of people from Canada. One conversation I had included another person from Ottawa and another person who lives in North London. “I’m from the Alta Vista area… yeah, I live in Tufnell Park.” Weird and lovely. It’s easy to create bonds with other flyerers too, and while I occasionally chided myself for complaining about the same things (people being dicks, getting rained on more than I ever have in my entire life, etc.), it was lovely to have people who understood. I love some of the flyerers I met. I really love the flyerers I worked alongside. 

Incidentally, that Sunday show looked full because it was full. Just me approaching people, telling them about a show they should go along to at 5:30. I was explaining the show to one woman, holding my sunglasses in my hand and waving my arms around wildly. I nearly took a passerby’s eye out, shouted endless sorries his way. The woman witnessed this and still raved about me to the act. H…how?

My best flyering experience came after a night of a ridiculous amount of drinking and not nearly enough sleep. I stayed still for a while after waking, worried about just how intense the hangover was (I had lost count of the number of drinks I’d consumed, and normally I top off at about five pints of beer), but once I’d got to George Square, it came clear I was still drunk. “Heyyyyyy,” I said sidling over to people, “you should come to this show!” I sang at people. I was detached from the potential of rejection and having fun. It was dumb and silly and actually remarkably successful – I think we sold out Joey Page’s show that day? He joked for the rest of the run that we should always flyer drunk.

Sunday was the real end of the Fringe, though quite a number of shows ended on Saturday as well. Eric Lampaert and Tiff Stevenson had their final shows on Sunday. We celebrated the end of Tiff’s show by going in, watching it, drinking lots and lots of prosecco generously provided by Tiff’s boyfriend, the glorious human Paul (I can’t sing Paul’s praises enough, not just because of the sparkly booze). I had a little cry as the show was coming to an end. We pondered the idea of nicking one of the big corrugated plastic posters for Tiff’s show, since a fan of hers wanted a souvenir. Paul saved the day by asking the box office for an actual poster, before we committed any major acts of theft or vandalism. Boooooo.

One thing especially amazing about the experience of being in Edinburgh for the entire festival was an experience I’d had in a smaller way over my previous two visits. That is, running into people. I’ve likened it before to my experience of living and working in the same neighbourhood, but on a grander and more exciting scale. Co-Tiff flyerer and immediate friend James, an Edinburgh local, often asked me “how do you know everyone?” as I said hello or waved to others constantly as we wandered between George Square and Assembly Roxy, sometimes down to Pleasance. Conversations rarely began or ended, a constant assumption that we’d run into one another again in minutes or hours or days or all of the above. The feeling of warm familiarity to the entire month was incomparable. It was hard to adjust back to real life and just running into people I know most of the time.

I appreciated the people who saw something in me, who didn’t have any reason to trust me with their random tasks but did, anyway. The Massaoke guys, whom I’ve known for a while, were particularly good for this. At the beginning of the festival they asked me if I’d come to film a few of their songs on my phone, in exchange for free entry into their shows for the rest of the Fringe. I’ve joked (~with serious undertooooones~) at people before about how “if you stop believing in me, I stop existing” (I am determined to create some sort of mythology around myself; don’t ask), but this was great evidence of the flipside of that statement. If someone believes I can be good at something, I will be good at it. This was particularly apparent when, on the last night of their run, Massaoke’s Mat messaged me asking if I’d come and be their artist liaison. Normally they have about four guests a night during the Fringe but, for their big closing party, they’d booked something between fifteen and twenty guests. They needed someone offstage to make sure all the acts were aware of when they were going on. Like stage management, which I have done, but without any of the technical business. And, hey, it went very smoothly, and it was incredibly flippin’ fun, and I felt excellent. I appreciate so much the fact that, although I can’t claim that it was a difficult task, they believed in me. It’s nice to remember sometimes how I’m good at things.

That was quite the night, too, all the artist liaising, followed by a visit to the Loft Bar, followed by those of us who remained heading to the guys’ shared flat for more drinking, followed by an impromptu gigantic house party which started at something like 6 a.m. and which unexpectedly brought with it a couple of my friends, followed by those of us still standing (I was mostly sitting on various floors throughout the flat, but feeling very content) at 9 a.m. deciding that since it looked glorious and sunny outside we’d go and lie in the Meadows. The grass was dewy and the sun was hot. We drank more. We took pilgrimages to an Italian shop with a red awning which we could see just past the trees, to use their toilet and buy much-needed coffees. I started flyering at 12:30. I teched Joey Page’s last show at 2:30. I got back to my Airbnb at 7 p.m., and although I had intended to have a short nap and head back out, I instead had a short nap and wrote a long email to my best friend and worried about packing my stuff and cleaning my room-for-the-month and eventually wandered back to George Square, now a ghost town, and had a sentimental little wander around and realised I was feeling fairly terrible and needed sleep and any partying there was to be found probably wasn’t worth it. Like an adult. (An adult who’d stayed up through the entire previous night being incredibly inebriated.)

Angela, the lady whose house I was staying in, is a lovely and kind older lady. She was very accommodating and, although her standard response to my comings and goings and late nights was “you’re crazy!” it was said with affection. She told me early in my staying there that she’d Googled me and she knew I was a comedian (incidentally a title I can’t use for myself, not yet, but I like when other people do). She told me at one point how good I was at coming in quietly, but how she was normally awake anyway because she was worried about me. It was very nice that she cared, but I wished she wouldn’t worry.

I spent too much time, I realise now, worrying about whether I was doing anything enough. Having visited the Fringe purely as audience the last couple of years, I felt for the first while as though I wasn’t seeing nearly enough shows. However, working for six and a half hours every day made it impossible to keep up that momentum. Last year I saw twenty-four shows over the course of five days. This year I attended about forty-four shows over the course of the entire festival.

The things I saw and really enjoyed were (in alphabetical order by first name, which kind of bothers me but is also more visually pleasing):

ACMS (Alternative Comedy Memorial Society)
Alice Fraser – The Resistance
Aunty Donna – New Show
David Quirk – Approaching Perfection
Elf Lyons – Pelican
James Acaster – Reset
James Veitch – Gameface
Jayde Adams – 31
Joe Lycett – That’s The Way A-ha A-ha Joe Lycett
John Robertson – Dark Room
John-Luke Roberts – John-Luke Roberts Builds A Monster!
Matt Winning – Ragnarok
Neal Portenza – Neal Portenza. Neal Portenza. Neal Portenza. Neal Portenza. Neal Portenza. Neal Portenza. Neal Portenza. Tracey.
Paul Currie – Fffffmilk!
Sam Simmons – Not A People Person
Sarah Bennetto –  I Love You All And I Mean That Sincerely
Spencer Jones – Spencer Jones Presents The Herbert In Eggy Bagel
Sven Ratzke – Starman
Tessa Waters – Over Promises
Tom Ward – Sex, Snails, and Cassette Tapes
Tony Law – A Law Undo His-elf What Welcome
Will Seaward – Will Seaward’s Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories III
Yeti’s Demon Dive Bar

I also spent a lot of time fretting over the fact that I barely did any standup spots. I mean, I only did four over the entire course of the Fringe. That isn’t many. It’s remarkably few. But. I know for next time to schedule more in advance, to leave myself more free time. And I did my first two ten-minute spots ever, so I still left Edinburgh having made significant progress!! The first was an amalgamation of my normal five minute set and some of the newer stuff that’s worked well when I’ve done it. The second consisted mostly of something I’ve been writing for months and plotting for over a year, an eight-minute long story which I read out onstage and got enough laughs that I believe it’ll actually be good once I’ve learned it, that the jokes peppered throughout are strong. It felt weird to be reading it, since I’ve been working on it for so long, and it felt good. They sell slush puppies at the venue, too, and for £3 you can add a shot of alcohol, and I think I’m only mentioning this because I feel like you need to know. You all need to know.
They also sell candy necklaces. Magic.

Actually, since I’ve been writing this blog post on and off for nearly a week and a half at this point (because hey, I’ve left busy Edinburgh life and dived straight back into busy London life), the other day my sleep-addled brain insisted on making a note in my phone to tell you about the cotton candy (US, Bangladesh, India, Canada). Or, as you might know it…

candy floss (UK, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ireland, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Canada)
fairy floss (Australia)

Also, for some reason, barbe à papa in French. What was I talking about again…?

OH YEAH. The cotton candy. It… was in the Underbelly Gardens. It was £2.50. It was the best cotton candy ever. I think that’s actually all I had to say about it? Thanks, sleepy brain!!

Moving right along…

I was talking about my ten-minute spots. I was telling an excellent comedian friend about these the other day, and she told me that whatever new level I take on as a comic, that’s the level I’m at now. So I can do ten-spots now. I mean, it’s not much, but…

More than anything else and in spite of the extreme bone-deep exhaustion from which I don’t think I’ve quite recovered, and the ups and downs I watched those performing going through, being in Edinburgh for the month solidified my existing plan to do a show next year. Or anyway, split a show with one or two others. But have something that’s partially mine.

So anyway, that is going to happen and you should all hold me to that.

Like I said I was sad, so incredibly, incredibly sad to see the month come to an end, simultaneously an entire lifetime and mere moments, more stories and fun and nonsense than I could ever reasonably fit into a blog post, so many shows I wish I could’ve seen and so many shows I wouldn’t have seen if not for the fact that I heard about them from others, that I met the performers, that I was flyered really effectively. I got rained on more than I have in my whole entire life. I worked on a theory, almost entirely true, that nothing in Edinburgh is more than twenty minutes away from anything else. I stayed out late every night apart from a few, seeing shows or drinking or both, sometimes going back for a quick nap or outfit change but mostly not. I had a heavy backpack on me at all times, filled with both the flyers I was handing out and the ones I accepted. I meant to buy groceries throughout the month and ended up doing so literally once, because I couldn’t fit healthy eating into my life. I watched my hair fade the most it ever has and daydreamed about what I’d do with it when I got back to London, considered buying hair dye when I found it in Edinburgh but I literally wouldn’t have had time.

There were glorious people, glorious times (the ones I’ve mentioned, plus the two times I ended up singing karaoke with some of the aforementioned glorious people), lots of singing and dancing and laughing and joy and confidence and I loved it. I really, really did. But I guess it doesn’t end, really, or it shouldn’t. There’s next year. And the year after that. And the year after that. And on and on and on and on it goes, and I think I’m really excited about it.