The Edinburgh Fringe: where shows with no audience can get 4-star reviews

Red Bull - Not to be encouraged in Edinburgh

Multiple Red Bull usage – Not to be encouraged in Edinburgh

I arrived in Edinburgh for the Fringe on Monday morning at 7.55am and got into my rented flat at 3.15pm. Don’t ask. Just don’t ask.

I got very little sleep on the journey up, was mentally dead by the time I got into the flat and failed to rectify the matter with three Red Bulls. All they did was make me even sleepier. And the mental torpor did not abate yesterday, not even with – or possibly because of – three more Red Bulls.

I was already behind on six interesting blog chats which I had had last week and which I had been going to post in the days leading up to my arrival in Edinburgh.

For example…

Ivor Dembina feels a right tit

Ivor feels a right tit; I have no caption shame.

I had a chat with long-time club organiser and comic Ivor Dembina about one of his three upcoming Edinburgh Fringe shows. (Yes, three this month.)

“On the last day before registration,” he told me, “an Edinburgh venue got in touch with me and said an act had pulled out so there was half a run free if I wanted it. So I said Yes I’ll fill it. I didn’t have a show, but they didn’t seem to mind.

“For the last two or three years, I’ve been running something I call a Comedy Drop-In – a fortnightly meeting point for anyone in comedy who just wants to get together and talk about what they’re doing and show some stuff. From complete newcomers who’ve never done a gig to seasoned club comics.”

“So it’s not like a six-week course?” I asked.

“That’s the thing,” said Ivor. “I don’t really set myself up as a teacher, more just a fund of information, as someone who’s been performing and running comedy on the circuit – fairly near the bottom of the food chain – for the best part of 30 years.”

“So that’s your show this year?” I asked.

IshouldHaveListenedToIvorDembina“Sort of. I also noticed that, having done other courses and having been interviewed by the press, there is a fascination out there with the job of being a comedian. And, over the years, I’ve found myself being asked the same questions over and over again. So what I thought might be an idea for this year’s show would be me answering these questions in as interesting and entertaining and funny way as possible. When I started off, all I had was a title – I Should Have Listened to Ivor Dembina.

“One of the beauties of the idea was I could go on stage knowing I knew what I was talking about but not having to write a word. I’m also taking my show Old Jewish Jokes up to Edinburgh – the fourth year I’ve taken it up.”

“With new jokes?” I asked.

“No,” said Ivor. “The clue’s in the title. And I’m doing a third show this year – City Cafe: Late Nite & Free – a compilation show I’m compering.”

So Ivor Dembina is taking one of his shows – I Should Have Listened To Ivor Dembina – up to the Fringe by accident. And comedian Philip Simon is up here by accident too.

I accidentally met him on a train out of Elstree last week (we both live in Borehamwood).

Philip Simon on a Thameslink train with no bull

Philip Simon with invisible Andy Zapp – on a Thameslink train

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To an Equity Comedians’ Network meeting. We’re strengthening the industry through support of the union.”

“Oh yes?” I asked. “And what else have you been up to?”

“I got married last week.”

“To the woman you’ve been living with for two years?”

“It seemed easier.”

“You going up to the Fringe this year?”

“I’m doing a show with Aaron Levene: The GILF and The BuJew. But, in my case, The Guest and The BuJew. Aaron is really supposed to be performing it with Andy Zapp but, for the first ten days, Andy can’t be there.”

“What is on the flyers and posters?” I asked.

“My head on Andy Zapp’s body,” said Philip.

“With you Photoshopped in?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Philip. “With Andy Zapp’s everything, except his head. It’s even his wrist.”

Andy Zapp (left) and Philip Simon (right) with Aaron Levine

Andy Zapp (left) and Philip Simon (right) with Aaron Levene thanks to the magic of Photoshop

“And, after that?” I asked.

“I’ll be in an Enterprise Car Rental commercial. I’m being a tourist. I get chased by a bull. They flew director Dawson Marshall Thurber over from America. He wrote and directed the movies Dodgeball and Central Intelligence.”

“Is the bull going to be added in on CGI?” I asked.

“No. It was real. We have already shot it.”

“You didn’t die?” I asked.

“I don’t think so.,” said Philip.

Italian Luca Cupani represents the UK in

Italian Luca Cupani represents UK in Canada

I also had a chat with Italian comedian Luca Cupani who – in a double whammy of surreality – was about to go off to Canada to represent the UK at the Just For Laughs festival along with Japanese comedian Yuriko Kotani.

Unfortunately, I have taken so long not writing this blog that Luca is now back in the UK and his show – Luca Cupani: The Admin of Death and Other Confessions – starts tomorrow.

At the same comedy dementia show (yes it was) last week where I met Luca, I also had a chat with Steve Jameson aka excellent character act Sol Bernstein (who keeps reminding me I claim I don’t like character acts although I like his).

He remembered an Edinburgh Fringe gig which had been reviewed by Kate Copstick.

Steve Jameson as Sol Bernstein

Steve Jameson as his character Sol Bernstein

“We knew Kate Copstick was coming,” he told me, “so we thought Ticket the place out! We gave away 30-40 tickets and nobody came on the night except Copstick and a guy from Mervyn Stutter’s show. So I did the show because I knew she wouldn’t come back. I called her a hooker, a lesbian; everything I say on stage to people in the audience. I called the poor guy from Mervyn Stutter a faggot – everything I could think of to insult him.”

At the end of the show, I got a standing ovation.

Copstick wrote in her review: He got a well-deserved standing ovation. She gave me 4 stars.

That epitomises the Edinburgh Fringe. Shows with no audience can get 4-star reviews if they are good. And some full-to-the-brim shows are shit.

In my opinion.

But what do I know?

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy

2 responses to “The Edinburgh Fringe: where shows with no audience can get 4-star reviews

  1. Awesome as ever, have a great Fringe! 🙂 x

  2. Owen Morgan

    Reminds me of that piece of modern art at Tate Modern which was, quite literally, just an empty room. Nothing in it at all, just a white-walled gallery room- and yet it was highly commended by reviewers!!

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