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Another comedian is not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year because he is preparing his Edinburgh Fringe show

Another comedian not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year

Martin thinks camping around is too extreme for me

In a previous blog, almost a month ago, I mentioned comedian Martin Soan’s suggestion that he and I take a one-week barge trip through rural England.

He told me then: “I do all the barging. I do all the cooking. And you just sit on your computer and you blog. I’ll be telling you stories. But also you’ll be sailing at six miles an hour – roughly two miles an hour faster than walking speed – which is very good for contemplation and creativity. What a brilliant idea that is.”

Last night he told me:

“I looked into it. Hiring a barge is prohibitively expensive. But you could sit on your sofa in your living room at home in Borehamwood and I will get you a roller…”

“The car?” I asked.

“Not the car,” said Martin. “A roller like they used in the old silent movies. I paint lots of country scenery on this roller and it moves along behind your sofa so it feels to you like you are travelling along at six miles an hour. And I do everything else. I do all the work. You just sit there…”

“You do all what work?” I asked.

“Like cooking,” said Martin. “Cooking, cleaning and rollering and the scenery goes past you like in the middle distance at a perfect speed for cogitation and imaginative thought.”

“What about the lack of water?” I asked.

“Well,” said Martin, “you’ll have your computer with you, so you can’t risk having any water around. You would have been OK on a barge with a computer, but that’s prohibitively expensive and camping on riverbanks is too extreme for you.”

“Camping on riverbanks is too extreme for me?” I asked.

“Too extreme for you,” said Martin.

“I don’t mind extreme,” I said, slightly miffed.

“I know a trip down the River Wye…” continued Martin.

“Why?” I asked.

“Wye,” repeated Martin wearily. “And you can do a three day trip down and it only costs you £150 to hire the canoe and you can…”

“Did you say canoe?” I asked, slightly worried.

“Canoe,” confirmed Martin.

“That sounds a bit extreme for me,” I said.

“It’s an absolute genius holiday,” Martin emphasised.

“Is a canoe like a barge?” I queried.

“Nothing like a barge,” said Martin, “but the same rules apply. If it’s raining, that’s tough but – you know – it’s always raining. It’s amazing. When you’re outside in Britain 24 hours a day, it is amazing how much rain there is out there. You would say it hadn’t rained today, wouldn’t you?”

“It hasn’t rained today,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“It has rained three times,” said Martin.

“Where?” I asked.

“Here, there and everywhere,” replied Martin. “Believe me. I speak the truth. It always does.”

“It does in Edinburgh, that’s for sure,” I said. “Why aren’t you performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?”

“I can’t say why,” explained Martin, “because it would go in your blog and people would know about it. And it’s not going to be ready until next year.”

“You don’t have to mention that,” I reassured him, “You only have to say why you’re not going up this year.”

“I’m working on my Edinburgh show for next year… That’s why I’m not going up to Edinburgh this August,” laughed Martin. “I’ve got to a stage of maturity within my showbiz career when I realise it’s pointless.”

“What’s pointless?”

“Me going up to Edinburgh this year. I don’t have the show. Next year, I will have the show. I’m starting work on it now and I don’t want to be rushed into it or cobble things together. Last year’s show was so rushed I didn’t think it through.”

“For example?”

“The exploding maraca man – What a gag – But it was dropped on Day One, because I just had the costume in shreds without the exploded maraca… and no explosion… All these things are fairly essential to make the gag work.”

“You had the maraca?” I asked.

“I had the maraca,” Martin confirmed.

“You had to be there, I guess,” I said.

“Not really,” said Martin.

“But no Edinburgh Fringe show for The Greatest Show on Legs this year,” I checked.

“No,” confirmed Martin.

“Though you might,” I said hopefully, “come up to perform on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday night?”

“I’m certainly coming up for that,” said Martin.

“Are you sleeping on my floor on the Friday night?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin. “I’m sleeping in your bed. You’re sleeping on the floor.”

Mr Methane might have a prior booking on the bed,” I warned him.

“Is he doing the Malcolm Hardee show?” asked Martin.

“Yes,” I said, “unless he gets a call from Spielberg or Las Vegas. He’s done it before. Last time, he did it as a return trip – he just blew in and blew out.”

Martin looked at me and said nothing.

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My philosophy of life and an invitation to see mountains of bidets in Stoke

The Fringe has reduced comedian Lewis Schaffer to this

Lewis Schaffer, macho American comic and philosophy lover

Yesterday, American comedian Lewis Schaffer Tweeted:

Words to live by – @thejohnfleming’s greatest quote – “It’s better to do something than to try nothing”

I am grateful for the publicity and would reciprocate by going to see him perform at Vivienne & Martin Soan’s Pull The Other One comedy club tonight, where he is appearing with Brian Damage & Krysstal et al – bound to be a great night (even if I am blatantly plugging it) – but I am off on a train to the Leicester Comedy Festival today where I am on a panel tomorrow morning allegedly talking about what has happened to British comedy in the last twenty years.

I’m buggered if I know.

But Pull The Other One supremo Martin Soan has, I think, tried to hoist me with my own “It’s better to do something than to try nothing” petard.

Martin Soan performs at Pull The Other One

Martin Soan offers to take me up a canal

“You and I should go on a barging holiday for a week,” Martin told me yesterday.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well,” said Martin. “I do all the barging. I do all the cooking. And you just sit on your computer and you blog.”

“About what?” I asked. “About you barging?”

“Well,” said Martin. “I’ll be telling you stories. But also you’ll be sailing at six miles an hour – roughly two miles an hour faster than walking speed – which is very good for contemplation and creativity. So, yeah, what a brilliant idea that is, don’t you think?”

“Would I have an internet connection?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t need one, would you,” enthused Martin, “because you’d be writing it all.”

“But I would have to send out the blogs to my many millions of fascinated readers,” I said.

“They’ve got WiFi out in pubs now, man,” insisted Martin. “You couldn’t go anywhere. You couldn’t go to Soho or see any comedy shows.”

“What need have I of comedy shows if I have you as a bargee?” I observed.

“I tell you,” said Martin, “there’s lots of blogs. I know a bloke who almost killed himself on a barging holiday.”

“Is this a selling point?” I asked.

“It was a mate of mine who used to work in the wine trade,” continued Martin. “So he was a bit pissed, because they’d taken loads of bottles of wine and beer on this barge and they were all wine traders and this tunnel came up and he thought it would be really good to lie on top of the barge and watch the brickwork go past.

“So he’s lying on the top and the tunnel came up and, after a few metres, he felt the first scrape on his rather extended pot belly, realised he could be in trouble, so dug his heels and fingernails in and managed to inch his way back and fell off into where the tiller is.

“Just imagine the indignity of your life, dying by being scraped to death on a barging holiday.”

“So,” I said, “ you are trying to persuade me to go on a barging holiday where it’s possible to die a terrible death?”

“No,” said Martin, “you’ll just sit down in the hold on your computer.”

“But I’ll hate the countryside,” I said. “It’ll be nothing but fish and wet things. Where would this barge go from and to?”

“The best one is the Grand Union Canal,” Martin told me. “It goes from just outside London to Birmingham, up though countryside.”

“Why would I want to go into countryside on a barge for a week? I hate the countryside. At night, you’re surrounding by animals ripping out each others throats in the dark.”

“It’s a perfect environment for you to do a blog,” said Martin.

“About you,” I said.

“About stories I’ve got to tell,” said Martin. “If you spent a week with me, then all the stories I’ve forgotten about would come out, wouldn’t they? Plus you’d be going through interesting places. Industrial heartlands like Birmingham or Stoke.”

“Stoke?” I asked. “I want to go to Stoke? I’ve been to Stoke. It was closed.”

“But Stoke,” said Martin, getting enthusiastic, “has bizarre, surreal countryside along the canal with all the Potteries. You get mountains of bidets.”

A bidet, of a type visible from Stoke canal

A bidet, of a type reportedly visible from a canal near Stoke

“Have you been on a barging holiday before?” I asked.

“Never,” he replied. “I’ve been canoeing and I’ve walked along loads of canals.”

“So,” I said, “you are trying to persuade me to go on a potentially fatal trip on a barge steered by a bloke who’s never been on one before.”

“It’s only fatal if you lie on the roof.”

“I have a pot belly. That’s the only detail I paid attention to,” I said. “Why do you want to go on this trip?”

“Because I’ve never done it. I’d love to go on a barging holiday. Canals through industrial areas are like rural motorways.”

“Why is Stoke surrounded by discarded bidets?” I asked.

“Because,” explained Martin, “when they cast every dozen bidets, one may be imperfect, so they put it outside. When I walked along the canal through Stoke, there were mountains of toilets and mountains of sinks. It looked bizarre.”

“You’ve got my interest,” I said, “but there’s still the problem that it’s the countryside. If I can’t go to a cornershop at 10.55 at night and get a bar of chocolate, I come out in hives.”

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