As I was saying in yesterday’s blog, before I got side-tracked by the aggro within the Free Fringe…
In the last two years at the Edinburgh Fringe, the most interesting comedy has been in shows not listed in the Comedy section of the programme but in the Cabaret section. Or shows listed in the Comedy section but which are not straight stand-up shows.
Another interesting change is the rise of ‘free’ shows: you do not pay in advance; you pay whatever you want (or nothing) having seen the show.
Lewis Schaffer has been performing his twice-a-week free stand-up show – Free Until Famous – in London for the past four years. Vivienne and Martin Soan have been running their Pull The Other One comedy club for the past nine years. Their shows feature bizarre variety acts plus one token stand-up – usually a ‘Name’ like Jo Brand, Omid Djalili or Arthur Smith.
On Friday, Martin Soan and I went to the charismatic Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s weekly ‘free’ Lost Cabaret show in Stockwell, where there is no traditional stand-up, just bizarre acts mostly trying out new material.
It would be wilfully silly to choose the oddest act of the night, but certainly Italian performer Diego Borella was unexpected.
His act involved two radio-controlled cardboard boxes marked A and B and, in the latter part of the act, an entire toilet bowl.
The cardboard boxes appeared to be controlled by a man in the audience later identified as ‘Reindeer’.
No-one appeared to be controlling the toilet bowl.
Afterwards, I talked to Diego.
“You’re an Italian from Venice,” I said. “Why the name Diego?”
“My mother had a Spanish taste,” he told me.
“And does your name Borella mean anything?” I asked.
“In the centre and south of Italy, he told me, it means ‘playing bowls’…”
“Is that relevant to anything?”
“So why the toilet bowl?” I asked.
“We were walking out of my flat,” explained Diego, “and we found a toilet on the stairs and I thought a toilet could always be useful on stage. From now on, I am always going to keep a couple of spare toilets in my flat.”
Those, arguably, are two of the golden rules of comedy.
And keep your eyes open for abandoned toilets.
“The Greatest Show On Legs once used a toilet we found,” Martin Soan told.
“We found it on the way to a gig, so we had Steve Bowditch dress as a magician with a top hat – we had all the gear with us – take his trousers down and sit on the toilet to some music by Mozart. We happened to have some music from Mozart with us at the time. On stage, Bowditch put his hand down the toilet and pulled out a rabbit (not alive) with a little turd between his ears.”
“Between Bowditch’s ears?” I asked.
“The rabbit’s,” said Martin.
“How long did you do that for?” I asked.
“A couple of years,” said Martin. “Bowditch did some very good facial expressions of straining to the music.”