Of 5-star reviews and sticking spring vegetables up the nose

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

Saturday was a day of the good, the bad and the lovely. It started with my comedy chum Janey Godley getting a 5-star review for her stage show The Godley Hour from the Daily Mirror. It ended with me getting my car stuck in a 45-degree-sloped unevenly-cobbled alleyway with rough, uneven stone walls. It took me an hour and a half to get out.

In between was my science chum (Doctor of Astrophysics) Sophia Khan arriving with her mum for her (that’s Sophia’s) three free science-based shows Keen & Khan: Starstruck! with comedian Helen Keen (complementing Helen’s 4-star show It Is Rocket Science! V2).

Sophia claims she’s an ordinary person doing a nerdy job but “ordinary” might be a slight linguistic error. She has worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center, at Harvard University and for the Japanese Space Agency and is currently Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at Shanghai University; she is only 31. Ever enterprising, she decided to go to the ‘Meet The Media’ event at Fringe Central which, depending on your view, is either a speed-dating event for desperate students with bemused media people sitting at tables facing long queues like some movie about penniless immigrants being processed when they landed in New York in 1903. Or Britain’s Got Talent crossed with a Serbian concentration camp before the barbed wire arrives.

We can but hope the photo The Times took of Sophia looking through a circular window in a doorway to represent a spaceship porthole looks more Alpha Centaurian.

Later, Sophia, her mum, elfin stand-up Laura Lexx and I went off to see Lewis Schaffer’s show Free Until Famous. Lewis has been trying-out and tweaking this show since November last year – usually performing two shows per week, sometimes four… in a Soho basement… to an extraordinary mix of locals, international passers-by and students.

But, on Saturday night, he explained that, earlier in the day, another comic had suggested he shouldn’t bother to even try to keep to a scripted show and should just go with the flow. Lewis obviously took this very much to heart, as he pretty-much made the whole hour-long show up as be went along. I know his show in it’s various configurations quite well. As far as I could see, he made up 90% of Saturday night’s show, mostly built round three Australian, German and American punters and his near-encyclopaedic knowledge of trivia. Lewis is a walking Wikipedia and ‘unpredictable’ is an understatement in describing his shows.

The London Is Funny website, re-naming itself Edinburgh Is Funny for the month, listed him as one of the Fringe’s 50 Must-See Shows… their description “Outspoken and vulnerable New York comic Lewis Schaffer offends as many as he tickles” is pretty spot-on.

Then came the unfortunate car-stuck-down-the-alleyway-for-90-minutes scenario which I can’t bear to think of again.

And, even later that night, I found myself driving round the busy streets of Edinburgh at 2.00m, looking for medicine – Vicks and headache tablets – for a friend of my comedy chum Janey Godley’s who appears to have taken to stuffing spring vegetables up her nose for medicinal reasons. Don’t ask. I have no explanation of this.

But then, to really round off the day, Janey Godley suddenly discovered she had got ANOTHER 5-star review.

That’s the Fringe for you: people getting 5-star reviews while others stick spring vegetables up their nose.

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