Shows I saw today included the always wildly inventive and surreal Cheekykita with Somewhere in The Ether which opens with her inside a duvet.
Nai Bowen is Brave! (she is one half of comedy duo TittyBarHaHa) includes a stunningly good song about suicide and she performed it with a humdinger of a black eye caused by falling onto the cobbles of Edinburgh when she was sober…
In Jane Hill’s show Cow, about middle age, the audience was encouraged to call her either ‘a cow’ or ‘lovely’. She was lovely. Though, like a magician revealing secrets of the Magician’s Code, she revealed the secret format of many successful comedy shows at the Fringe – which is that you include a ‘dead dad’ section at about 40 minutes into the show. Laughter + tears goes a good way to getting you a Fringe comedy nomination.
This does not have to be a story about an actual specific dead dad, but requires the revelation of some true, traumatic and unexpected autobiographical anecdote to pull the emotional carpet from under the audience’s metaphorical feet. Having done that, you then uplift them for the climax.
Tonight, I also saw Mother’s Ruin, a bizarrely potential cult-like cabaret celebration of gin at the Gilded Balloon’s smart new Rose Theatre venue in Edinburgh’s New Town.
With Mother’s Ruin, it felt as if I had entered some secret society of which I was not a member. Admittedly, I don’t drink, which is a drawback. But three talented Australians sang songs about and told the history of gin to a large, jam-packed audience who seemed to know all the more obscure songs and whooped, cheered and clapped. It was like being in an Evangelical church.
The Edinburgh Fringe, too, has its devout pseudo-religious aspect and it is a truth universally acknowledged that religion has started more wars than comedians have had self-doubts.
This morning, I picked up a wee blue book listing the Free Fringe Festival shows.
The cover says it is the ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE FREE FRINGE FESTIVAL.
About ten minutes later, I was handed the wee blue book listing shows in PBH’s Free Fringe.
As Edinburgh Fringe regulars will know, there is PBH’s Free Fringe… and there is the Laughing Horse Free Festival which split off from the Free Fringe and woe betide anyone who mentions the words ‘Free Fringe’ when they actually mean Free Festival. The two words are guarded by PBH with almost religious zeal.
So I can only imagine the wrath which may descend on the upstarts who have risked printing a new blue booklet with the words ‘Free Fringe’ on it.
Light the blue touch paper and stand well back. Blood may flow among the dangerous cobbles of Auld Reekie.
Though not in the final week.
Sarah Morgan-Paul contacted me asking if a show which started on Monday 21st August and only ran for a week could be eligible for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nomination. She said that, in the show, she performs in a 5’4” tall giant tampon costume. The show is called Tales From a Tampon.
The short-list for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards is decided at noon on 21st August and the opening the tampon show is not until 2045 that night but, as the Malcolm Hardee Award winning baby last year was nominated AFTER we had announced the short-list, I guess we have to accept that Tales From a Tampon can be nominated.
Dreams of award nominations are also swirling round inside the head of Lewis Schaffer who, I was honoured to see, has used a photo I took of him last year on the back of his flyer.
An invoice and a letter from my lawyer will be winging its way to him after the Fringe ends.
He has visions of (the Prize formerly known as) Perrier success because his show this year – Unopened Letters From My Mother – has the Jane Hill defined potential for laughter and tears.
As mentioned in this blog a month ago, the concept is that, each day, he will genuinely open-up a different letter from his mother. She sent him 23 letters from the US to his new home in the UK between 2000 and her death in 2011 and he never opened them. He does not know why.
“You’re doing your third show tonight,” I said. “I heard you cried in your first two.”
“I cried a little bit in my first one,” Lewis admitted. “She wrote in the letter that she thought I was probably going to be a good father. That was in 2001. One of my sons was about a couple of months old. To me, the letters are full-on scary and sad. But funny for the audience. I am trying my best to open them in order. The next one was written in November 2001. That’s after the World Trade Centre attacks. But people don’t believe the letters are real.”
“Well,” I said, “you’re a comic. Comics lie for a living. The more likely what a comic says, the more likely he (or she) has made it up. If what is said is so ridiculous it can’t possibly be true, the more likely it is to be totally true.”
“Exactly,” said Lewis Schaffer.