…and where my mind ended up (Edinburgh fringe pt 2)

So where did I get to with that Edinburgh fringe report?


It seems so long ago now. Physicists should study the slowing down of time in performer’s brains for the month of August. Einstein might have noticed the seeming difference in time when talking with a beautiful woman compared to accidentally placing your hand on a hot kettle, but even he would have been surprised by the near backwards path of time when placed in a bubble of fringe self-loathing and self-love – Vietnam with narcissism instead of napalm.


Attempting 4 shows a day was tougher than I thought, but if you can’t be creatively stupid during the fringe, when can you be creatively stupid? (well, most days you can be creatively stupid, but not just so many times within 24 hours).


The final show of the day, Struggle for Existence, was the one that I thought I might have to ditch but fortunately adrenalin kicked in and, with the occasional help of guests such as Nick Doody, Michael Legge, Grace Petrie and M J Hibbett, we had some very strange shows. The room was at the RAOB on West Register St, a social club with an idiosyncratic and very Christmassy juke box. RAOB stands for the royal antediluvian order of buffaloes. I am not sure what this pre flood beast has to do with looking after the community, but something or other that’s for sure. The room was frequently rammed with many of the audience sitting on stage or even behind me. It felt like an occupation. The backdrop was a historically inaccurate painting of the signing of the Magna Carta. On the last night I got Frank the bar manager to close the show with a rendition of My Way. This is what the free fringe has the chance to create, proper fringe events which mix anarchy and confusion, something harder in the mainstream fringe. Despite that, Karaoke Circus managed to take over the pleasance dome and manifest a glorious cacophony.  Tim Vine wore shiny vinyl that led to a two litre loss of sweat for his ’68 Elvis rendition of Fever. My hoarse voice ran roughshod over Two Little Boys while employees of a certain comedy management company (who had been smuggled in for free) talked loudly at the bar. It seemed typical that my first venturing into the “comedy festival” had arrogant media types losing control of their volume button. The next night’s Karaoke Circus led to a much messier version of The Mercy Seat (if I didn’t know martin White better I might even think they had forgotten to rehearse that number) so I fell into my usual survival technique of lying on the stage and screaming. Later lucky Michael Legge would receive a kiss from me as he sang Nothing Compares 2 U in his duck jumper.


Setlist, a night corralled by Matt Kirshen and Paul Provenza, was described by Phill Jupitus as catnip for comedians. The comic walks to the stage to be given a set list. This is supposedly their regular set list, they then have to perform routines based around that. No “oh I can’t think of anything for that one” because this is your set list. It was the most nervous I have been before an Edinburgh gig for a while – what if my brain didn’t work. My set list included Breakaway Sperm, New Hindenburg and a sexual position called ‘cancer biscuit’. Probably the greatest burst of adrenalin I  have had since I had that dream about a bungee jump.


So that’s roughly what happened. Though I may be up at the fringe for 5 days next year this was my last proper Edinburgh fringe for a few years (due to school summer holidays being in the equation from next year). Personally, if you do the fringe right I think there should be moments of agony, a strong desire to hop on a train home and frequent confusion when standing on stage being scrutinized, but that is all balanced by the tremendous sense of creative momentum, the fear that if you suddenly stop your body would lurch into the air and crash into a tree or a bus (or other object above ground level). This is the place to succeed and fail magnificently.

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11 Responses to …and where my mind ended up (Edinburgh fringe pt 2)

  1. Soon to be fired from the Big Four says:

    I’m genuinely sorry that I missed all of your shows. I tried to come to the SCAC Canon’s Gait show but missed it by a couple of days when it had moved. It’s heartwarming and somehow rewarding to know that accomplished performers and writers are taking the Free Fringe to heart whilst some of us don’t have the guts to leave the big four. xxx

  2. Sean Leavey says:

    I went to Struggle for Existence and Star Corpse Apple Child, around the time your voice was dying (does that narrow it down? I dunno!). They were both fantastic (especially your rant mentioning Canterbury), and Nick Doody was great too. I was thinking you were just plugging some awful amateur but he was really on form. Great night, better than most paid events! Thanks a lot!

  3. Luke Keen says:

    awesome stuff, Setlist sounds fiercesome! I’d love to have seen that and feel my scrotum tighten in anticipation of the performer going “errrr… shit, I really do have nothing on HAllmark cards I’ve known and loved…”

    I think a bit of naming and shaming is in order too. bloody media types

  4. Becky says:

    All very well and good, but what did Star Corpse Apple Child mean?

  5. Pingback: Caroline Mabey » Blog Archive » Edinburgh 2011

  6. Aino K. says:

    Hi Robin,

    Have really enjoyed reading your Fringe posts – it’s interesting to get an insight on the whole 4 shows a day-madness! This was my first time at the Fringe and I have to say that your shows were definitely among the highlights of the festival. I was supposed to come to Edinburgh last year but broke my ankle in three places just a few days before the trip… but in an odd way I’m glad that the trip got cancelled because it meant I got to see all your shows this year! (Obviously I could’ve done without the broken ankle and the painful months after that.) The Buffs Club certainly was an interesting venue (one of my favourite gigs of the festival!) – and it did feel a bit like a hostage situation… but who was being held hostage, you or the audience? At least the Stockholm syndrome set in early.

    The Jekyll/Hyde side of you was indeed strongly present when my friend and I went to see the angry show you did with Michael (one of the funniest yet terrifying experiences of my life sitting in the front row). The scary “TV make-up” and the shirtlessness I did not expect. Though I don’t know what I was expecting… Btw, what was the Klaus Kinski book you read from? (Never realised the level of his madness until I heard you read out that extract.)

    And thanks again for being so nice when I nervously asked for your autograph – my mind went a bit blank in that situation but what I wanted to say was that I really liked your book and please come to Finland!:) I’m actually thinking about emailing some stand-up promoter/producer types in Finland and recommending you to them… but I’m having problems describing what sort of a comedian you are. Any help?

    Oh, any chance of a new live DVD at some point in the future?:)

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