I was so excited about my Edinburgh Fringe debut that I forgot to mention some of the more interesting aspects from my time at the Festival yesterday. In some (limited) ways, the Fringe can be a great leveller for artists of every stripe. Sure, the superstar celebs will still be driven around in comfort, and closeted from the hoi polloi in posh hotels and relaxing Green Rooms.
However, 99% of performers are forced to come here by public transport, accept hugely overpriced and poorly provisioned accommodation, and we walk everywhere. The vast majority of venues are less than 20 minutes from the train/bus stations, so with a little careful planning and a decent map you can save yourself a lot of money by striding – or, more often for comedians, staggering – around town. And there are no real “Green Rooms” to speak of at most venues. Artists just have to hang around in some quiet corner of the room while waiting to come on stage. The reason being that, at the Edinburgh Fringe, almost anything can be a venue. So far, I have come across shows in a cellar, an attic, a cave, a yurt and a bus! And then there are the street performers, who can turn any piece of pavement into their own personal amphitheater.
As a result of the “efficiencies” forced upon artists and performers at the Festival, it’s almost inevitable you end up face-to-face with a few household names every day. A joy for us mere mortals but, as I’m discovering, a wearying and perilous ordeal for celebrities.
While I was waiting outside the venue yesterday, just prior to going up on stage, a fellow performer turned up with a friend, who I immediately recognised as the UK’s leading German-stereotype-comedian, and TV panel show stalwart, Henning Wehn. He seemed pretty relaxed but maybe my smile of recognition was too broad (and inadvertently menacing?) as he basically ignored my “hello” and walked straight past me to the bar. I had too much on my mind at the time to take offence, but it set me up nicely for my next celeb-spotting encounter straight after the gig.
I finished performing just as the first half of the England vs. Scotland football match was coming to an end. This meant I could head outside to the Three Sisters courtyard and enjoy the second half in the company of rowdy, booze-swilling Scots hurling abuse at the big screen. I’d decided that, as a man with a pretty face, an aversion to human contact, and an obvious Home Counties accent, it was probably best I keep my escape route in sight. So I headed for the back of the courtyard to find a spot where I could watch the game in relative peace, when I realized that a man with an even posher accent and far more punch-able face than mine had clearly had the same idea. I hadn’t heard him talk yet, but having enjoyed pun-master Tim Vine’s performances on stage and TV sitcom, I knew if anything kicked off he was in bigger trouble than I could ever be. And it turns out he knew it too. Following a rather brutal blanking from a Nazi-obsessed Aryan comic earlier – although I may well have misinterpreted that encounter – I wasn’t in the market for any more celebrity rejections that night and pretended I hadn’t recognized Tim Vine at all.
As the match progressed, and Scotland inevitably came from ahead to go a goal behind – quelle surprise! – a burly ginger man in a kilt started getting more and more annoyed with his twattish, drunk friend who became less and less charming as the Scottish national team’s fortunes reversed and defeat became a near certainty. They were standing right in front of us, and it was clear the twattish, drunk friend had recognized Tim Vine and was intent on loudly publicizing the fact he was 2 feet from a famous person. For some bizarre reason, which maybe makes sense inside the mind of all drunk Scotsmen, he thought flicking droplets of his beer at the people in front of him would be an endearing start, followed by pointing at his new posh “friend” and shouting “he’s on the TV!”
At which point burly ginger kilt, who was clearly reaching the end of his tether, shouted “So what? I’ve never seen him. And I was in a fuckin’ toothpaste advert when I was seven!” The triumphalism with which he said it made clear he thought he’d won. (Won what exactly, I’m still not sure.) His opponent was enraged – more by the tone of the response than the actual words, I think. The two drunk Scotsmen’s eyes met, narrowing with simmering hatred, and it wasn’t long before insults were exchanged and a petulant shoving match began. At which point, the celebrity whose celebrity was the touch paper for this conflagration made the prudent/cowardly decision to slink away in as inoffensive a way as possible.
It’s understandable, of course. While he wasn’t in any way responsible for the unpleasantness, if he was still there during a fight then our lying twisted tabloids would, without hesitation, exaggerate his involvement and insinuate he may well have been to blame. So I’m going to try and give celebrities the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. With the caveat that, if refusing to give them the benefit of the doubt will get me a laugh on stage then, sorry famous people, but I’m a whore for the guffaw.
In other news, I tried my first Scottish curry today. I was coerced, by a Nigerian giant at the door, into trying an Indian restaurant on the Royal Mile, called “The Real Rajput”. As someone who is himself a “real Rajput” – it’s a caste, for those who don’t know – I part-justified on the basis that I was “keeping it in the family” by dining there. Mistake. Blandest Indian food I have ever experienced. I haven’t had restaurant food for about 6 months, yet one meal here and I feel my gut protruding over my belt. So, I’ve decided I’m living on salad from now on. I’m probably the only person in Scotland who is. 🙂