Tag Archives: health

How do you categorise a series of uncategorisable YouTube videos?

When the US chain Borders opened up its own-branded bookshops in the UK a few years ago, I found browsing there a frustrating experience because they had no category for BIOGRAPHY (or autobiography). Someone told me this was fairly standard in the US but certainly not in the UK, which seems to have an unquenchable appetite for biographies.

In the case of Borders UK (which collapsed in 2009), they bookshelved biographies according to subject. Which meant you had to sometimes guess what they thought the subject was. How do you categorise Brian Blessed? Eccentric? Actor? Mountaineer? Does the biography of Lawrence of Arabia go under Military, Middle East or Gay?

In the case of my chum Janey Godley, her autobiography Handstands in the Dark runs the gamut from child abuse to British gangsters to Scottish social history to drug culture, psychology and more. Sometimes Borders categorised it as ‘Comedy’ because she is best known as a comedian.

This week, my chum – journalist, songwriter, comedian Ariane Sherine – she too is difficult to categorise – started a series of YouTube videos called Ariane Sherine Eats Clean and Gets Lean. It is about losing weight.

Ariane talks about her eating and other problems on YouTube

It has some chance of being successful because it is the sort of thing that might appeal to housewives in mid-America, which I understand is where the viral hits come from – as well as from spotty teenagers in the US and elsewhere, who will appreciate the underwear sequences.

The first introductory ‘episode’ was rather different to what you might expect from a series of videos about losing weight. In Ariane’s own words: “It features my #MeToo story of being sexually assaulted hundreds of times and my struggles with depression, anxiety, OCD and weight gain.”

You could also throw in jaw-droppingly honest psychological insights.

The odd thing about this introductory video to her series is the YouTube category she put it under.

She categorised it as ‘Comedy’.

You can use multiple tags on a YouTube video, but can only define it as being in one Category.

These are the possible categories:

Autos & Vehicles
Comedy
Education
Film & Animation
Gaming
How to & Style
Music
News & Politics
Nonprofits & Activism
People & Blogs
Pets & Animals
Science & Technology
Sports
Travel & Events

Which is the correct category for a dark, autobiographical, psychological piece covering sexual assault, mental problems, eating disorders and suicide?

Ariane has tagged her Introduction video in multiple ways, but she has put it under the category ‘Comedy’ because she is currently primarily known for her humorous musical numbers.

Which I guess is right.

But unavoidably unsatisfying and confusing.

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Filed under Food, Internet, Psychology

Flying toilets, taking new drugs and having a penis enlargement operation

Comedy critic Kate Copstick and I record a weekly Grouchy Club Podcast. It covers more than gossip about the comedy industry as do the monthly, live Grouchy Club meetings. Inevitably, after this week’s was finished, the conversation carried on. Three main anecdotes cropped up…


Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo by Schreibkraft)

Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya (Photograph by Schreibkraft)

FLYING TOILETS

The podcast is recorded in Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in Shepherds Bush, London.

The charity works in Kenya, helping small business start-ups.

When over in Nairobi, Copstick lives in slum areas and had this description of the ‘flying toilets’ in Kibera, Nairobi, said to be the largest urban slum in Africa. 

* * * * *

The houses are incredibly close together – you can’t really extend your arms in the little rat runs between the houses. It is much better now but originally there was allegedly 2,000 people to every one long-drop toilet.

Now the government have put in some standpipes and there are public toilets but you are still sharing a toilet with a helluva lot more people than you would like to. If you go out into the darkness of the night – and you really can’t see in front of your face – you have no idea what you are stepping on, you creak open the door of the long-drop toilet and have no idea what state it’s in. It’s a bit Russian Rouletty. You may also get killed or attacked on your way there or back.

So, if you wake up in the middle of the dark night and think: “God! I desperately need a shit!” – which people do a lot because there is a lot of diarrhea around – what you do is go outside and take a shit into a plastic carrier bag, then tie the top of the carrier bag and take the little butterfly bit at the top and whirl it round your head like a Scotsman flinging the hammer. When it gets to peak velocity, you let go and it flies away into the night as far as it can.

Obviously, in an ideal world, you aim high and generally what will happen is that somebody a couple of streets or houses away will hear a SPLATT! on their corrugated iron roof and they will think: Oh fuck! Somebody’s flying toilet! I must remember to go up and scrape it off in the morning!

The shit is in a plastic bag but, when the plastic bag lands, it generally splits open. Also, if you are in a big family – my mate Sylverster has a one-bedroom house for seven of them – as the children get older, when it’s not raining, the girls sleep inside the house but the boys sleep on the roof. So that can get messy.


Kate Copstick prepares for a Grouchy Club

Kate Copstick prepares for a Grouchy Club

WHITE BLOOD CELLS

For many years, Copstick has suffered from the painful and debilitating disease lupus. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in many parts of the body.

Until 2½ months ago she was in agony most of the time…

* * * * *

Since the lupus struck, I have always had a low white blood cell count – neutropenia. The white cells are the fighter cells and scavenger cells. When you get a bruise, the neutrophils go in and clear away all the damaged blood.

Last June, they put me on this new medication – methotrexate – which I injected into the flub on my stomach. It is a kick-ass drug. It’s used in chemotherapy – for leukaemia and other cancers. Then they found out it really worked for rheumatoid arthritis and, through that, they found it worked for other auto-immune diseases like lupus.

I got put on methotrexate last June/July. Then in August in Edinburgh I got bacterial pneumonia and they thought it might be the methotrexate and I kept taking it and they said: “Oh, your white blood cell count keeps going down.”

Then suddenly, 2½ months ago, I felt great; I felt fantastic. Nothing had been changed in the drugs but I suddenly felt physically great. And the best I’ve felt psychologically for years. I was actually happy. I felt happy. Just wonderful. No pain; no headaches; no tinnitus; no cold sweats; and the white blood cell count had gone down even more.

Then, two weeks ago, the doctors said the white blood cell count had become very dangerously low.

I said: “I’m feeling fine!”

They said: “No no no no no. You’re very dangerously low.”

They kept asking me if I had temperatures and beadaches.

I said: “No! I feel wonderful!”

So, last week, they told me to stop taking the methotrexate because they thought that was lowering the white blood cells. I stopped taking it and I feel like shit this week. As soon as I stopped the injections, I got the pain back – tiredness, pain, headache, dizziness – all the lupus shit.

I mean, everything you take, every normal mainstream medication that you take does something bad to you. I think it should be about what makes you feel good. I’m fucking fed up feeling like shit. I’ve felt like shit for a lot of years, a lot.

Nothing bad seemed to be happening with the low white blood cells and I was feeling great and I reckon for me that’s better than being like this and taking handfuls of tramadol and dihydrocodeine and anything else I can lay my hands on just so I can be functional.


Devils on Horseback

“A bit like Devils on Horseback” which is dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon

PENIS ENLARGEMENT

In her TV production hat, a few years ago, Copstick developed, wrote and produced a series for the Bravo TV channel called World of Pain.

* * * * *

It was about things like pain for pleasure, sporting pain, all different things. And one episode was called Suffer To Be Beautiful which was about people having plastic surgery and all the crazy shit they do.

So I went to New York to film a penis enlargement operation. It was around the year 2000 and there was nobody in Britain who would allow me to film them. Those who go for penis enlargement tend to want people to imagine that’s how they always have been naturally.

I filmed the entire operation. It was absolutely fascinating. I was the cameraperson. When we sent it to the compliance lawyers, most of it ended up on the cutting room floor not because it was erotic but because there was just so much blood. Somebody was having the shaft of his penis split open with a scalpel and the skin peeled…

What I did not realise was that every man is born with as much penis length as anyone can give you. It just depends if you are a show-er or a grow-er.

If you are a show-er, even when you are flaccid, it is all hanging out there.

If you are a grow-er, there is more to come from inside.

So what they do, when somebody wants more length, is make two cuts in the inguinal area – just above the pubic bone – one on either side – and in there are the ligaments that hold the penis in place and they snip those.

Then – this is true – one doctor or a very strong nurse holds the patient on the operating table while the other doctor grabs the penis and pulls. And I am talking PULLS. We are talking like tug-of-war. And they yank out as much of the penis as they can.

Then they stitch up the little incisions and you are now a show-er.

What surprised me is that men who want more length want it for the locker room. They want it for that moment when the Calvin Kleins hit the carpet and another person – male or female – gets their first look at what you are packing.

This guy I was filming wanted more length. So they did that. But he also wanted more girth.

Enhancement can help a bit on girth with what they call ‘harvested tissue’. Have you ever larded a joint of meat? Where you take strips of fat…

Anyway, what they do is get the penis and slit open the skin down the length of it and then… Have you ever buttered the breast of a chicken before you roasted it?

What you do is you ease your hands in between the flesh and the skin of the chicken and you open it up so the skin separates from the flesh.

So, with penis enhancement, they get little rectangles of harvested tissue, lift the skin of the penis away from the shaft and wrap these bits of tissue around the shaft. Then they sew that bit up and do another bit until… It’s a bit like Devils on Horseback or a beef olive.

Then they stitch the skin back into place and wrap it all in very tight elastic bandage. Then the person goes away with lots of painkillers and hopes that they only think clean thoughts.

Because the single biggest problem with the process is guys who go away from the hospital, take their painkillers and, after a day or so, wake up with a bit of morning glory and burst all their stitches.

As for pee-ing, initially you are catheterised but the answer after that is to pee very very carefully.

How do you get harvested tissue? With a scalpel and a dead body.

So be careful when you sign your organ donor card. You may think you will be giving sight to the blind, but you could end up giving girth to the under-endowed and find yourself wrapped around some tiny-dicked guy’s enlarged penis.

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Filed under Health, Humor, Humour, Kenya, Medical, Poverty, Sex

Sexual perversion or just healthy living? Mud marching in bare feet outdoors…

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada

Anna Smith has her own healthy interests

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who lives in Vancouver, has sent me a plea from the heart which she found online in the local Craigslist.

I can only presume she was diligently looking there on behalf you, our dear reader.

The listing says, under its headline:

MUD MARCHING IN BAREFEET

hi

i am looking for a mud marching partner who would love to march in the mud in our barefeet every saturday starting in march to the fall. i love mud and i love marching in the mud in my barefeet!! this job is for fun!! we will be marching in the mud in parks in langley and whiterock! you must love mud and you must love marching in the mud in your barefeet!!! serious inquries only as i am serious about this! anyone can apply!! you will be paid $30.00 dollars an hour!

Craigslist adds:

Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.

Anna says: "Right now there is only snow marching going on here."

Anna tells me: “Right now there is only snow marching going on here.”

So one presumes the demand is so great for barefoot mud marching partners that employment agencies are getting involved.

Anna asks me: “Is this a trend in Britain too? Or is it a colonial perversion?”

I cannot help her. I am a simple soul, raised a Presbyterian.

If you can help, do get in touch privately.

Anna tells me, to add to the advertiser’s woes, there is precious little mud in Vancouver at the moment – just snow.

But maybe cold feet are ever hotter.

 

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Filed under Health, Sex

Pit bull dog attacks Calvin Wynter, theatre producer, in New York City

Calvin Wynter wearing a yellow rubber glove this morning

Calvin Wynter wearing a yellow rubber glove this morning

This morning, I Skyped theatre producer Calvin Wynter in New York City. He used to be an equity trader on Wall Street. We had not chatted for a while. I thought it would be interesting to hear how the comedy business is going in New York.

As is often the case, the conversation got sidetracked.

He had suggested I Skype him at 11.30am, UK time, so I did.

“It’s 6.30am in the morning in New York,” I said.

“I’m up at 6.00am five days of the week,” he told me, “and 4.00am on two days.”

“Why?” I asked.

“This time last year, I went to Vipassana, a Buddhist retreat. We don’t burn incense, we don’t wear flowers, we don’t wear diapers; we just sit in our regular clothes. If you can do the lotus position, fantastic. If you can’t, you sit in a chair.”

“You’re wearing a yellow rubber glove and a sling round your neck,” I observed.

“This is me after wrist and arm surgery.”

“Why?”

“Between Wall Street and now, I spent way too much time on the computer and so I didn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome but I got some sort of pinched nerves. I ended up in hospital last year and a neurosurgeon noticed something, asked me to do a few things and said: Do you need an orthopaed referral? I said: No, as it happens, when I was attacked by the pit-bull, I got a… because, when you get your hands chewed on, they either call in a plastic surgeon or an orth and when you have your hands and leg and thigh bit away – like a 3 or 4 inch piece of my thigh was bitten away, the fat and skin…

“So I told him this and he then brought in a specialist. They did the test and then they ordered me a brace for a month but I went back and said: Look, you give the brace to most people because most people are afraid to go into surgery. You do it for them, they get a little better, it gives you time for them to get to trust you and then you do the surgery. He said: Yes. So I said: Just do the fucking surgery. And, in less than a week, he did the surgery.”

“I think,” I said. “I missed a link there. It was the bit where you said: when I was attacked by the pit-bull.”

“You didn’t know about that?”

“No. I have a shit memory, but even I would have remembered that.”

“OK. Well, this time last year – end of August, beginning of September – at the Vipassana retreat, I decided: Let’s lose a little weight. They feed you three meals a day. You got a choice of vegan and/or vegetarian and they’re delicious. You’re not starving. But I decided, because I was 245 lbs… I went through the three meals and measured out what was the amount of food you’re supposed to eat at the size I wanted to be. And I did hours and hours of walking. You’re in the country: streams, lakes, trees, all that stuff. And you’re doing chores when you’re not doing ten hours a day of meditation. After ten days, I lost 10 lbs. Then I lost another 10 lbs.

“So I lose all this weight, I’m dehydrated and I get the equivalent of the worst migraine I’ve ever had and I’ve never had a migraine – or maybe I’ve got a brain aneurism. So I’m rushed to the hospital. They perform every test possible and send me home thinking it’s a migraine and give me a strong Tylenol.

“When I call my doctor, she says: No, no. I want you to get some Aceterin. The next day, it gets really bad. So I think: If two pills are good, I’m gonna take four. Then six. I overdose. I start hallucinating. I mean, you know like Fantasia? I see a musical that I will create one day that will become the gold standard of musicals.

“But, in New York City, you never tell the doctors in the emergency room that you are hallucinating because they will put you on the psych ward and hold you for 72 hours. And, if they don’t have a psych ward, they will transfer you to one and the No 1 psych ward they like to transfer you to is Bellevue which is essentially like Bedlam in the UK.

“I remember a comedian I knew who won the big award in Edinburgh – he went to the British equivalent because he wrote his name in faeces on his wall. You know who I’m talking about.

“Anyway, I’m back in hospital again. They admit me. For six hours I tell them: I will NOT take any opiates. I was in so much pain they wanted to give me morphine and codeine. Not oxy cotton. No, they were going for like the strongest friggin’ pain pills they could give me. Finally, after six hours, I am told: We will have you committed if you don’t take it, because – you don’t know this, but – you are curled up in a ball in the corner of the bed. You are sweating profusely, you’re shaking, you’re mumbling and, every once in a while, you scream out so loud we can hear you down the hall.”

“And so…?” I asked.

“So I take the damned opiates,” Calvin told me. “And, after three days of taking them, it did lower the pain, but there was still excruciating pain. In the interim, they find my kidneys are now in renal failure and I had a macro pituitary adenoma. In other words, I had a tumour that was 1 centimetre in diameter at the centre of my head, right about where all the nerve endings are for your eyes, pushing back on my pituitary.

“Day Three of all this, I say: Fuck it! I get consciousness for a moment and I meditate solidly for an hour. You just observe and, for some reason, I kept observing one of my teeth up top and I remembered I was told to have the tooth removed but my insurance would not do an implant. Somewhere along the line, I forgot about that.

“So they remove the tooth and the headache is gone. So now they are working on my kidneys. They changed the meds. After ten days, I lose 10 lbs and I go out. So I had lost 10 lbs there and 20 lbs at the Vipassana retreat.

“Fast forward to May. I walk out of my door, I see a 98 lb woman who I later find out is a 28-year-old from Hawaii, half-Japanese, had never owned a dog before, was in New York City for the first time ever and had rescued this dog which was going to be killed the next day because it was too dangerous. She agreed to have a trainer, spent a lot of time with it before she took it home.

“I see that the dog is acting like an idiot. I make a sharp right turn. I meditate to calm my body so the dog doesn’t sense anything. It’s a pit bull. The dog leaps up. I shoot my left hand to block it.

“My cousin had been the national karate champion before Chuck Norris. My cousin was bodyguard to David Bowie, Mick Jagger right around the time hijackings were happening and celebrities were not able to bring their licensed gun-carrying bodyguards on planes with them.

“So I had lived with my cousin for a month. He had told me: If someone threatens you, you can talk to them for a while – you’re good at that – then you can run like the wind and very few people can catch you. The only time you need to fight is if the son-of-a-bitch catches you, which means he has nothing but ill-intent. Which means you have to kill him. One fast fell swoop. I’m going to teach you to kill people and, in the last week, I’m going to teach you how to kill dogs. With dogs, you break their nose; you jam it into their head; it’s a matter of seconds: they’re dead on the floor.

“Thirty years ago, pit bulls were not a problem. People owned German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers. They didn’t have pit bulls. A pit bull’s entire skull is like a biker’s helmet. You can’t break its nose and shove it into its skull.  The one thing you’re supposed to do with pit bulls is you grab them by the balls and you swing them in the air and neuter them. You bang ‘em in the eye, go straight for their balls, lift them and fucking castrate them right then and there. They will be in so much pain, bleeding profusely and you can get away.

“But I had a bitch… a female dog, right? I get a young female dog. So she gets my arm. Thank god I remember: Use the middle finger and the pointer finger of your hand. So I hit her in the eyeballs. She releases. The other thing my cousin had told me was: Run into traffic when you’re attacked by a dog. You will be able to dodge the cars; the dog will get hit.

“I get one lane out into six lanes of traffic and I, for some reason, take a second to look back. The traffic stops. The dog is coming after me. I get to the other side of the boulevard. As I’m putting my left leg onto the kerb, the dog leaps up, was going for my balls but grabs my upper thigh and was about to clamp in for the arteries, the bones and the muscles. Now I’ve got both hands bleeding, several major lacerations on my left hand, which is my dominant hand though I write with my right hand. I use both hands because both hands are free because she’s on my thigh. I blind her in the right eye, I partially blind her in the left.”

“Literally blind her?” I ask.

“Literally. I crack the right eyeball and there’s ooze coming out. I bang the left one, so it’s partially damaged. I break her right leg. And I take all of my body weight, holding my left arm with my right hand so it has maximum power, and I lunge dead-centre at her spine. I damage the spine. She falls to the ground. She has my blood all over her.”

“Now,” I said, “it’s almost 7.30am in New York. Where are you off to now?”

Calvin Wynter: no hair, but a big Fringe

Calvin Wynter: no hair, but big on the Fringe theatre scene

“I’m headed off right now,” Calvin told me, “to have my teeth cleaned and also they did a biopsy on my jawbone. They performed dental surgery, removed the lesion and put it in for biopsy research. They called me on Friday which means I think I may have cancer. I don’t know. So far, everything that’s thought to have been cancerous was not – like the polyps I got from my colonoscopy. I had three polyps. No cancer. So who knows? Maybe the third time isn’t so good but, y’know look – I’ve had a shaved head before. I can have a shaved head again. I’m still Episcopalian, which is like your Church of England, but my philosophy is Buddhist which is essentially: What do we seek? Happiness. What is pain and sorrow? The route to happiness.”

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Filed under Dogs, Health, Medical, Religion

Critic Kate Copstick and the sexual alure of squeezing teenage boys’ acne spots

Kate Copstick recording the Grouchy Club podcast yesterday

Kate Copstick recording the Grouchy Club podcast yesterday

Yesterday, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I recorded our weekly Grouchy Club Podcast.

Subjects ranged from how to get early reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe to why stand-up comics are lazy and comedienne Janey Godley‘s promise to give Copstick macaroni pies throughout the four weeks of the Fringe in August.

But then conversation turned to comic Omar Hamdi, who currently has a case of facial acne…


Copstick
I used to love… I used to dream about having acne. I never ever had spots.

John
So you went out with boys who did have acne?

Copstick
I went out with boys… one particular boy who had amazing acne. I used to exchange sexual favours if he would let me squeeze his spots.

John
What did you do with the accumulated pus?

Copstick
Nothing. You clean it up. It’s no fun cleaning your face if there’s nothing… OK, it’s ugly, but there’s nothing to clean off. It’s like cleaning a floor. It’s much more satisfying to clean a floor if it’s really dirty. You think Whoa! That’s fantastic!

So – Normal face – That’s just normal – There’s no fun in cleaning it.

Face covered in pustules – You squeeze them, the pus comes out, you clean it up and – Look! – There’s a nice, clean, non-pusy face where, before, there was a pusy face.

John
So let’s say this sexually-attractive boy has, say, 20 spots on his left cheek. Did you squeeze one and clean off the pus. Or did you wait until all 20…

Copstick
No no no no no… In an ideal world, there’s a time… Did you not have spots, John?

John
I did, but I didn’t have a lady to squeeze mine.

Copstick
So what did you do?

John
I squeezed them myself. A lone life.

Copstick
I can imagine that. Talk us through it… Talk us through it… You’d be looking in the mirror…

John
I looked in the mirror, thought: That’s horrible; I wouldn’t have anything to do with that and… I don’t know if I did squeeze them. I don’t know what I did with them. It’s a long time ago.

Copstick
Cast your mind back.

John
It was the mid-19th century. I can’t remember at all.

Copstick
You must have… You must have… You can’t resist… It’s the catharsis. That’s the word. It’s a catharsis. Spot-squeezing is a catharsis.

John
I never had the urge to pop the poppable things in packing. It’s not a thing we Presbyterians do.

Copstick
Really?

John
It’s against God’s nature.

Copstick
Every time we sit here and podcast, I find out more strange things about you. You don’t like to squeeze spots…

John
No.

Copstick
You don’t pop bubble-wrap…

John
No. And I don’t like cheese.

Copstick
And you don’t like cheese… What do you do to relieve tension? Please don’t say Wank.

(LONG, LONG SILENCE)

John
I’ve got nothing to say, really.

Copstick
OK, fine. Back to squeezing spots… If you get the spot at the right point in its spotty little life, when you squeeze it, the pus is projectile.

John
So do you think Omar should actually pursue this as a way of audience interaction?

Copstick
He could auction off his spots.

John
Well, not his spots. His pus.

Copstick
Oh my God! Can you imagine if Bob Slayer could develop a really good-going dose of acne what he could do? The showbiz mileage Bob Slayer could get out of a face full of acne!

John
Bob Slayer is a large man who used to be a jockey, but he is a large man, especially for a jockey.

Copstick
I suppose his face is quite large. But, anyway, back to Omar. It could be end-of-the-show… A couple of nice young ladies, one on either side. (GASP) One on either side!… They race!… They race to squeeze the spots on each side.

John
It’s a TV game show.

Copstick
It’s fantastic!

John
It’s Friday night! It’s seven o’clock! It’s live from Norwich!

Copstick
Oh, wait wait wait wait wait… then he would only be able to do it on the first night, because I don’t think the pus would regenerate. Well, he could do it once a week. I have never had acne, but I assume it kind of regenerates…


You can listen to the full 28-minute audio version of the latest Grouchy Club Podcast on Podomatic and/or download that audio podcast from iTunes.

And you can watch the video version on YouTube.

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Filed under Comedy, Health, Humor, Humour

Juliette Burton: the writer-performer who can make psychosis hilarious

Juliette Burton with Nick Clegg in background

A Juliette Burton selfie + Nick Clegg in the centre background

Comedy performer Juliette Burton was recently invited to Whitehall to meet Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at an event giving out awards to ‘Mental Health Heroes’.

“Were you up for an award?” I asked.

“No,” she told me. “I was invited as a ‘celebrity ambassador’ for the mental health charities MIND and Time To Change. At the event, I met this guy called Harry who worked for the Department of Health who knew all about me. He knew I do voice-over work and shows and I was rather confused but also kind-of liked it. The explanation was that apparently I was one of only seven people there the staff had access to biographies of.”

“Did you meet Nick Clegg?”

“No. But I did slurp my wine very, very loudly during his speech, which I felt was opposition enough.”

Juliette has just moved down to London from Edinburgh, where she lived for three years.

“All of the industry is centred in London,” she explained, “so it’s a lot more practical living down here, but I do miss Edinburgh desperately.”

“Until recently,” I told her, “I’d always had relatives in Edinburgh. It is the place I’ve always felt most at home and the irony is I’ve never had a home there. I always reckoned, if I won the Lottery, it would be a house in Edinburgh and a flat in London.”

“I loved living in Edinburgh,” said Juliette.

Juliette Burton: Edinburgh-London, King’s Cross

Juliette Burton talked to me at King’s Cross…

“But now,” I prompted, “in April, you’re starting a new monthly comedy show in Shoreditch.”

“Yes. Juliette Burton’s Happy Hour.”

“And how long,” I asked, “does Juliette Burton’s Happy Hour last?”

“About two hours.”

“So that’s interesting,” I said.

“Well, yes,” agreed Juliette. “Happy Hour is longer than an hour and it’s hosted by someone with clinical depression.”

“Are you going back to the Edinburgh in August with a new Fringe show?”

“Not this year. I’m doing last year’s show Look at Me for eight days and I think I’ll also be doing some performances with Abnormally Funny People and some other things with other people.

“I’ve been working on Look At Me with Kevin Shepherd, who’s directing it. I’m doing it at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival on 22nd February and at the Brighton Fringe on 28th of May.”

“Ah,” I said, “that’s your broadcast journalist background showing. Getting the plug in… So why do you need a director now for Look At Me? Is it slightly different from the version that played the Edinburgh Fringe last year?”

“Yes. I’m being a bit more free with my ad-libbing.”

“How?” I asked, “given it has to run the same length.”

Juliette Burton - Look at Me

Juliette Burton says Look at Me ad-libbing more

“I’m cutting out some things and allowing myself to be a bit more ‘me’ – so a bit less ‘performer’ and a bit more ‘me’.”

“Why?”

“Because Kevin tells me I’m naturally funny, which I never thought I was – and I’m still a bit skeptical about that. He tells me I can relax a little more and not hide behind a script. “

“But why no new Fringe show this year?” I asked.

“Because the three new shows I am working on are all rather complicated and will take longer to put together. I’m going to try to get one, if not two, of them at a preview stage by autumn this year.”

“You had a plan of seven shows, didn’t you?” I asked. “And, so far, you’ve done the first two – When I Grow Up and Look At Me. What are these next three?”

“There’s The Butterfly Effect, which is about how much impact somebody can have on the world and about how, if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change we want to see in the world. Something like that. The Dalai Lama and all that.”

“He’d be a good audience for a comedy show,” I suggested. “He giggles a lot.”

“And then there’s Daddy’s Girl,” Juliette continued, which is one I really want to do.”

Daddy’s Girl Juliette retains some secrets

Daddy’s Girl Juliette still retains at least one secret off-stage

“And which I know we can’t talk about,” I said.

“Yes,” said Juliette. “It’s about something I can’t yet divulge everything about. It’s something that is extremely close to my heart and I’m really keen to do it. But there are lots of other exciting things happening at the moment. I think Dreamcatcher is the most likely show to be ready first, though a lot might change in the coming weeks. It’s a very exciting year.”

“Why are you doing THREE new shows anyway?” I asked.

“Because I have lots of ideas and I can’t stop myself.”

“But it’s a lot of psychological pressure,” I suggested.

“I love that kind of pressure,” said Juliette. “I love creative pressure. Dreamcatcher is about our relationship with reality – and it’s funny. It’s how to make psychosis hilarious. I want to take time to make sure it’s fun and that I don’t try to cram too much into an hour. I need to make it the most accessible and light show I can while keeping real meaning. There ARE ways to make psychosis funny and you were the one who inspired me to do it.”

“I made you psychotic?” I asked.

Juliette Burton’s first So It Goes blog

Juliette: So It Goes

“When you did your first blog chat with me, I was so scared about telling everybody about my psychosis because I thought they would all judge me. But the reaction they had was so warm and welcoming that I thought: Well, maybe I could be a bit braver with this. And then a bit braver and a bit braver.

“Then, at the end of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Paul Levy from Fringe Review asked me if I thought I was unravelling more and more in each show. I thought that was very astute of him and it has stayed with me for the last few months because there are so many people out there doing all these amazing shows that do not involve them psychologically challenging themselves.

“Recently, someone said to me: Are you sure you want to be exposing yourself so much psychologically on stage? And I have been thinking about that and I think I want to really connect with people in a meaningful way and the truest stories are the most exciting. So why not just tell the truth? But make it funny in the process.”

“When Paul Levy said were you unravelling,” I asked, “did he mean Are you going loopy? or did he mean Are you revealing – unravelling – more secrets – more of yourself – in each successive show?

“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” said Juliette. “I might choose to hear it that way next time I hear it in my head. I thought he just meant Are you unravelling mentally?”

“Did you tell him Yes or No?” I asked.

“I think I said Yes. If we’re all going to go through life and it’s all going to be a little bit painful, then why not connect with other people about what you’re going through, so that you’re not alone?”

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Why comedy club owner Vivienne Soan wants me to fake laughter & happiness

Vivienne’s ABC Laughter Club flyer

I was lured into this by masking the yogic element in  laughter

“It’s a unique concept where everybody can laugh without having to rely on humour or comedy or jokes,” Vivienne Soan told me.

“That could be very useful for some comedy acts I’ve sat through at the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said.

Vivienne and her husband Martin Soan run the bizarre and always entertaining monthly comedy club Pull The Other One in South East London and in Leipzig.

Yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to the first of Vivienne’s laughter workshops at The Old Nun’s Head in Nunhead, South East London, the same venue as Pull The Other One. She is holding another free ABC Laughter Club tonight and on Wednesday & Thursday for the next two weeks to see if it is viable to set up a regular club.

As we got out of the car, my eternally-un-named friend said: “I don’t know if I can do yoga any more.”

“It’s not yoga,” I said. “It’s just lots of people laughing.”

“No,” she insisted. “It’s yoga. It’s called Laughter Yoga.”

“I must have missed the yoga word,” I said, “I can’t stand on my head. My stomach would stop me. I would be top heavy and fall over. I will claim I can’t do it because of my time in ’Nam.”

“That was only a holiday,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“I still have flashbacks to Vietnam,” I said. “I may never get over it.”

“You went ten years after the War finished!”

“Post-traumatic sympathy symptoms,” I suggested. “I still wear black pyjamas.”

“What has that got to do with it?” she asked.

“You had to be there,” I said.

But she was right about the new club. Yoga was involved.

Vivienne at her Laughter Club yesterday

Vivienne (right) at Laughter Club yesterday (Photo by my eternally-un-named friend)

“Laughter Yoga is a combination of laughter as an exercise and yogic breathing,” explained Vivienne. “It oxygenates the whole body and makes you feel more healthy and energetic.

“I have a cough,” I said.

“You can breathe in and out of any orifice you are capable of using,” Vivienne told me.

“I might fart,” I said.

“We have whoopee cushions on the chairs,” said Vivienne. “You could just pretend you’re sitting down.”

“Why is it called the ABC Laughter Club?” I asked.

“Because,” said Vivienne, “ my mother died about five days after I went to my Laughter Yoga leadership course with the Laughter Yoga University and my mother was very well known for her extraordinary laughter and sneezing. So I’ve named my Laughter Club after my mother and her initials were ABC – Alison Bazille-Corbin. So it’s in recognition of her laugh and the tremendous happiness she gave to anybody she had anything to do with.”

“So how did this whole Laughter Yoga thing start?” I asked.

Some of yesterday’s group laughing horizontally

Yesterday: London people laugh horizontally (Photograph by Vivienne Soan)

“There was a Dr Madan Kataria in India,” Vivienne told me. “He started in a park in Mumbai with just five people. They began by just telling jokes to each other and laughing. Then they got bored or people started telling bad jokes.

“But they’d all felt much better after laughing, so he set up a scientific study and found laughter makes people feel, behave and act differently if they start off the day just by simulating laughter and happiness even if they don’t feel it. There’s maybe not many reasons for people to laugh in India, but there was a huge response in terms of people’s feeling of wellbeing. Their immune systems were boosted and their stress levels were lowered.”

“Do you want to talk about your own physical problems?” I asked. “Or is that too personal?”

“Well,” said Vivienne, “I have bronchiectasis in the two bottom lobes of my lungs. The right and left hand sides are actually dead. If you think of a piece of broccoli with plastic bags over the bushy broccoli heads, that’s what the bottom part of my lobes look like. They don’t function. They’re supposed to move the air and liquid around. All lungs have got some liquid in them, which is part of the lungs’ function.

“About five years ago, I was suffering from this chronic wheeze and whistle and general lung breathlessness. There was a fear it might be emphysema. Bronchiectasis is a form of emphysema, but it’s not as pervasive. As long as you don’t allow any more scar tissue to develop through infection, you’re OK.

“Every day, I have to do exercises to move the fluid up through my lungs. I used to play the saxophone a lot, which did that – and that meant the function of my lungs has kept at a very good capacity. But I’m not able to play so much any more because, if I did it a lot, every time I played a solo I would end up coughing, which doesn’t look that good on the stage.

“I don’t like much physical exertion – I don’t like running, I don’t actually like yoga or aerobic exercises. I’m a bit like you, John. I quite like sitting round eating lots of biscuits and chocolate.”

“So, instead,” I said, “you’re starting this Laughter Club.”

“Yes and I already participated in conference laughter calls. At 7 o’clock every morning, I phone a conference line of laughter. It costs £5 a month and, every morning, between 7.00am and 7.10am, everyone laughs constantly for ten minutes. It’s fabulous exercise. It clears the lungs, oxygenates the body, puts you in a good mood, sets off the seratonin and the happy hormones and keeps your husband awake. It’s a Win-Win situation for me.”

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“So how many pricks have you had?” I asked comedian Martin Soan yesterday

At home yesterday: my e-u-n friend, Matt Roper & Martin Soan talk balls

Yesterday: e-u-n friend, Matt Roper & Martin Soan talk balls

I was in my living room yesterday afternoon when I thought I heard my eternally un-named-friend say something about inflating the scrotum by making a hole in it, sticking a straw in and blowing.

Comedian Matt Roper had stayed the night, after returning with me from Totnes. And comedian Martin Soan had come round yesterday morning to help me re-decorate.

“Not scrotum,” I heard Martin Soan say. “You’re talking about the sac. Otherwise someone will just go and blow up their testicles.”

“Was someone talking about an inflatable scrotum?” I said and switched on the recorder in my iPhone.

Seeing this, my eternally un-named friend told me: “I don’t want to be quoted in this! I know nothing!”

“You blow up the sac, not the scrotum,” said Martin Soan.

“Isn’t the scrotum the sac?” I asked.

“Oh, it might be,” said Martin.

“I thought,” said Matt Roper, “that the scrotum was the bit between the bum-hole and the balls.”

“That’s where you’ve been going wrong,” I suggested.

Matt said: “The scrotum would be just behind the sac, wouldn’t it?”

“No, no,” said my eternally un-named friend. “The scrotum IS the sac.”

“In Yorkshire, probably yes,” said Martin.

I still have no idea what he meant by this but, in reply, Matt said: “It’s called the tinner there. It’s the bit in ter middle.”

It was at this point, I think, that I again started to lose control of my understanding of the conversation.

“Do you know,” asked Martin, “what is fascinating about that bit between your arsehole and the beginning of your scrotum?”

“It depends on your predilections,” I suggested.

“It is the very first and very last point in acupuncture,” continued Martin. “It’s not called the bubbling stream. I know which one is called the bubbling stream.”

“They’re numbered?” asked Matt.

“Number One and the last one start in that same place,” explained Martin.

“Is this like connecting the dots?” I asked, “You end up with the shape of Fidel Castro’s face?”

“It is useful, though,” said Matt, “It is not just a no-man’s land.”

“Try sticking a pin in it,” suggested my eternally un-named friend.

“On Saturday,” Matt reminded us, “I’m going down to Totnes for three weeks of acupuncture.”

“Well at least,” I told him, “you now know the point where it will all start and end.”

Martin Soan wears breakfast yesterday

Martin Soan wears breakfast yesterday

“Basically,” said Martin, “those points are used if they’re kick-starting you. Acupuncture is like running a car: it’s getting your body to operate at its optimum efficiency. And sometimes, like a car, you get a flat battery and your body’s so fucked-up that they have to do those two points. To give you a clean sheet, so they can start treating you properly.”

“And have you been kick-started?” asked Matt.

“Yes,” said Martin, “I’ve been kick-started once in my life.”

“Via the tinner?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Martin. “Only once during 30 years of acupuncture. It was about seven years ago.”

“Does it hurt?” asked my eternally un-named friend.

“I think it’s the most extreme pain I’ve experienced,” replied Martin. “The bubbling stream is a point just to the side of the little nail on your little toe… That’s like a blue bolt of electricity which starts about 50 metres away, comes through an arc into my head, down through my body and exits by the little toe and disappears. Each pain you can actually visually describe but, as soon as it’s there, it’s dissipated.”

“You’ve had acupuncture for 30 years?” I asked Martin.

“Yeah,” said Martin.

“So how many pricks have you had?” I asked.

“He usually does between 4 and 5 a session,” Martin replied, “and I’ve averaged maybe one session a month for 30 years… Years and years ago, he looked at me and said The older you get, the healthier you’re going to get. It’s just like tuning a car. The funny thing is he’s really good at getting rid of warts.”

“How did you start on the acupuncture?” I asked.

“Well,” said Martin, “I came back from Holland with the Greatest Show on Legs and I got introduced to some heavy drugs over there. When I woke up in England, I was just covered in bruises and cuts and also I suddenly collapsed in the street. The Greatest Show on Legs had to go off and perform without me for a month until I could build myself up again by eating properly.

“About a year after that, we were in Wales – me and my wife Viv – and this girl who was an acupuncturist took one look at me and said You almost died some time ago. You were very, very ill. And it cut through to my core shocked me. I had been very, very ill. And she said: When you get back to London, I recommend you go and see this guy. And I did. And I’ve been going to see him ever since.

“I love the whole philosophy of the Chinese, which is you pay your doctor while you are well and, if you’re ill, you stop paying him. It concentrates everybody on staying healthy.”

“Western doctors,” said Matt Roper, “are great for life-saving and emergencies…”

“Yes,” agreed Martin. “Broken legs and things like that.”

“But Chinese medicine,” continued Matt, “is great for prevention.”

“I’m still not sure why it’s called the tinner,” I said.

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Comedians, ‘madness’ and psychiatrists

(From left) Juliette Burton, Jorrick Mol, Laura Levites

(From left) Juliette Burton, Jorrick Mol, Laura Levites (Photograph by Brian Higgins)

A couple of weeks ago, I staged five daily hour-long chat shows in the final week of the Edinburgh Fringe.

In the second show, I talked to comedians Juliette Burton, Laura Levites and Jorick Mol.

All of us had experience of being in mental homes.

This is a short extract from the chat:

____________________________________________

JOHN: Laura, you were telling me last night that you had been really happy at the Fringe this year. Surely that’s bad creatively? Performers need to be troubled to be creative.

LAURA: No! I’ve spent my entire life being troubled. Why would I continue wanting to be troubled?

JOHN: You won’t have a show next year if you’re not troubled.

LAURA: That’s not true! That’s not true at all. I’ll find trouble anyway but if I’m not troubled, it doesn’t mean I have to have a life without experiences. You don’t have to be miserable to be creative.

JORICK: I’d like to pick up that idea that performers and mental illness are, in some form, related. I think that’s complete nonsense. It’s only when people actually do have mental health problems and are performers that that conversation will very quickly start. Although performers and writers and creative people are maybe more willing to play with the spaces in their mind and go places people wouldn’t normally go. They won’t go for the easy answers.

JOHN: Isn’t there a point that creative people, in order to create something new and different, are thinking laterally and, in order to think differently from other people, you have to be different?

JULIETTE: The experiences I’ve had – the psychoses and stuff – forced my brain outside a certain box and I feel like it’s a gift in a way, although it fucked up my education. But I have had experiences that were outside the normal way of thinking. And to try and make any sense of that… I kind of think that the world’s crazy anyway, but… to not laugh at it all… The fact that I heard voices and I saw weird things that weren’t there…

LAURA: Oh my god! I’m so jealous!

JULIETTE: Yeah?

LAURA: You did?

JULIETTE: Yeah, totally. I saw God and the Devil and…

LAURA: You saw God?

JULIETTE: I time-travelled.

LAURA: You time-travelled? I don’t have that. I’m so upset. What’s your diagnosis?

JULIETTE: It was a while ago. It was 11 years ago I had a psychosis as a result of anorexia. I don’t have that now.

LAURA: You stopped eating?

JULIETTE: No, I… I have been told not to take any drugs because it might happen again. If you have those weird experiences and try to make sense of those experiences… For me it just means that anyone who’s doing a normal job in a normal office, it’s like…

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m a psychiatric social worker. My work is to sit talking to people like you with two medical doctors and to argue your case. And it’s really hard.

JOHN: Why is it hard?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: They say That person is completely off-the-wall. They have to be hospitalised. The last sectioning I had to take part in – luckily I didn’t sign the paper – the patient was saying I feel this love for this person and the psychiatrists wanted to section them because they were having this wonderful overwhelming feeling of love. They couldn’t understand…

What you are talking about is really interesting, because you’re talking about being in a certain world and having certain ‘mystical’ experiences that a lot of mystics and spiritual people have had. But, because ‘spiritual stuff’ is so alien to the medical model…

I’m interested in the spiritual emergency that comes from these experiences, that pushes people through into something else – the medical model isn’t looking at that. They’re saying This person needs medication in order to be ‘managed’ either by a family unit or by society in general, because they’re ‘dangerous’.

JULIETTE: With me, I was sectioned for anorexia and then I had this experience – seeing all this stuff – and then they got me on all the pills and got me away from seeing all these things and hearing all these things and then they carried on treating the anorexia. But they didn’t treat what I saw and all the theological implications of that.

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At the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday: nudity, farting and a hysterectomy

Today, my new temporary Edinburgh flatmate inventor mad John Ward arrives. He invents arguably useless or useful things like the bra warmer and the personal snow-making back pack. He also designed the physical trophies which are the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards.

Yesterday, Mr Methane’s window show entertained not just audiences but passers-by

Yesterday, Mr Methane’s Edinburgh show in the window of Bob’s Bookshop entertained not just audiences but passers-by

My previous temporary Edinburgh flatmate Mr Methane left yesterday, although he is returning on Friday specifically to perform at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

I will miss Mr Methane’s daily interesting facts which included not just surprising tales of touring with the semi-punk band the Macc Lads but also the fact that John Paul Jones – not the Led Zeppelin rock star but the 18th century US hero – led the only US attack on mainland Britain, by attacking Whitehaven in Cumbria and St Mary’s Isle near Kirkcudbright, Scotland, in 1778.

Mr Methane is very well-read for a man who farts professionally.

There is a distinctly literary lifestyle in my flat at the moment.

Comedy entrepreneur Neale Welch has a Fringe Odyssey

Comedy entrepreneur Neale Welch had a big Fringe Odyssey

Also staying here is Neale Welch from London’s Comedy Cafe Theatre. His audio company Just The Greatest has put up some money to cover part of the costs of the Malcolm Hardee Awards (though not any of my personal expenses lest I appear to be benefitting personally). For this, he gets to sleep on a sofa that is shorter than he is. No-one said life is fair.

I came back unexpectedly yesterday afternoon to find him reading Homer’s Odyssey.

He told me he had discovered Edinburgh is a great place for second-hand bookshops and that he had walked into one shop and asked if they had a copy of The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.

The owner of the shop had replied:

“Would you want a copy of that book in Greek, Latin or English?”

And, sure enough, the shop did, indeed, have copies of The History of the Peloponnesian War in all three languages.

“Which one did you buy?” I asked Neale.

“The English language one,” he told me.

Frankly, I was saddened and rather disappointed in him.

Shortly afterwards, I bumped into Nick Awde at the Pleasance Dome, who started talking about Adrienne Truscott and her much-discussed show Adrienne Truscott’s Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! which she performs naked from the waist down.

This coming Friday, Adrienne is a guest on my Fringe show Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! So It Goes – John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show. She will be discussing the joys and pitfalls of performing nude on stage with Martin Soan of The Greatest Show On Legs, who created the Naked Balloon Dance.

Nick Awde heads the Fringe review team for The Stage newspaper.

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott’s show split then united opinion

“Adrienne’s show split arty people and comedy people,” Nick mused yesterday, “At the very beginning of the Fringe, the comedy people were pushing her show away saying No, that’s performance art… and the performance art people were saying No, it’s comedy. Now they both claim it as their own.”

And now it is impossible to get tickets for Adrienne’s show.

In theory, you can turn up and entry is free; you pay to get out. But all the £5 pay-in-advance-to-guarantee-a-seat tickets have been bought and there is no space left. So an extra show has been added – tomorrow night at 11.00pm.

She has also been nominated for a Total Theatre Award.

Total Theatre “celebrates and supports a wide spectrum of contemporary theatre and performance” but I suspect Adrienne may get nominated for some pure comedy awards too.

While I was chatting with Nick Awde, he told me he always reads my blogs from the bottom upwards because, he claims, I usually get to any ‘meaty bits’ at the end. So this next bit  is hidden in the middle to confuse him.

I had a chat with Canadian comic Tanyalee Davis, who performed her first Edinburgh Fringe show in 2003 and who was last heard of in this blog transporting critic Kate Copstick to her trial. Tanyalee is currently appearing on the Channel 4 hidden-camera TV series I’m Spazticus.

“I come over to the UK on alternate months,” she told me.

“I always come over in December and this last December I had a 7-week tour booked but, after a couple of days, I developed a blood clot in my groin and then it all just went tits-up from there.

“It started when I got back with a guy I was dating 18 years ago. We only dated for 2 years, then I was married to somebody else for 13. So we were back together again. I went back on birth control because I was in a new relationship, I got a blood clot and then that caused all these problems. But him and I are together still, thank goodness, ten months on.

“The blood clot led to three months of having eight blood transfusions and ended up with me losing my box – my cooch, my meat locker – I got about 16 different ways of saying fanny.

“I was in four different countries for the whole medical shebang. It started in the UK. I flew to America, then Canada, then I got cleared to fly on a family holiday in Mexico and then I started hemorrhaging. I got there Friday, I started bleeding Saturday, I was hemorrhaging Sunday, then I ended up having a hysterectomy the next week because they were like We don’t know  what to do with you… Too many blood transfusions and, because I had the blood clot, they couldn’t do surgery because I could have died on the operating table.

Tanyalee turned tragedy into Fringe comedy

Tanyalee turned tragedy into Fringe comedy

“So now it’s a comedy show and the interesting thing is trying to find the humour in… I mean, I nearly died… I had 8 blood transfusions and nearly died on a couple of occasions and making that funny is…”

“I always tell comedians,” I said to Tanyalee, “that, if anything goes wrong in your life, it’s not a tragedy, it’s the script for your next Edinburgh Fringe show. It’s God giving you a 60-minute show.”

“Yeah, I lost my box,” said Tanyalee, “but I gained a show. I’ve been wanting to do a new show for a couple of years – I haven’t done a solo show since 2007 – but I didn’t want to do straight stand-up. So, when this whole shit went down, I thought Boom! Now I got a show! – It’s Big Trouble in Little ‘Gina.”

“Are you as ambitious since you nearly died?” I asked. “Or has that changed your perspective? I remember sitting watching my father die and thinking: Nothing really matters. Only love and friendship.

“Well,” said Tanyalee. “I just gotta enjoy my time while I’m here, because you never know when it’s gonna get yanked away from you. I have such a fun life normally, so being held up in the hospital and not being able to be on stage for three months… That was the worst thing.”

“Really?” I asked. “Not getting the applause?”

“No,” said Tanyalee. “It’s because it’s such an endorphin release and it’s therapy being on stage. I’m a raging bitch when I haven’t been on stage for a while.”

The Edinburgh Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and Edinburgh – my favourite city in the world – has been called the Athens of the North. But it is also a tough wee town on the quiet.

As well as Fringe people getting beaten up in the street – I refer you to previous blogs both this year and last – it is the home of Trainspotting and (being Scotland) heavy drinking. I can say that as a shamefully teetotal Scots.

Last night, at around 1.30am in the morning, on my way to Arthur Smith’s legendary annual tour of the Royal Mile, I bumped into comedian Eric cycling home.

“A mother and daughter just fell down in the street in front of me,” he said. “just fell down.”

Arthur Smith’s tour of the Royal Mile was as bizarre as normal. NOTE: Arthur is on my first Fringe chat show tomorrow afternoon.

Arthur Smith, alien, in the Royal Mile last night

Arthur Smith, alien, spouted poetry in the Royal Mile late last night

The tour involved occasional mass wailing by the group of about 30 people trailing down the Royal Mile with him. We were instructed by Arthur to do this in the fashion of North Koreans being told their leader had died.

There was also a shouted conversation with some people in the top storey flat of one of the buildings in the Royal Mile who played a Leonard Cohen song and threw plastic milk bottles out of their window… a £10 challenge for any man or woman to take their top off and sing the Proclaimers’ song 500 Miles… a demonstration of strange rickshaw driving… and a Lithuanian couple who were persuaded to sing in Lithuanian on the steps of St Giles Cathedral. It ended with Arthur disrobing and turning into a sparkly-costumed alien.

Among the crowd were comics Carey Marx, Phil Nichol and, recovering from a street attack in Leith, Scotsman journalist Clare Smith.

Bob Slayer (right) in his sponsored underpants

Bob Slayer’s (right) face-off in his underpants

Afterwards, I walked to Bob’s Bookshop to see if Bob Slayer’s Midnight Mayhem was still in full swing. When I opened the door, I was confronted by a fully-dressed man standing face-to-face with Bob who was in his underpants. This is unusual. To see Bob wearing clothes.

Alas, I arrived a few minutes before 3.00am and, as soon as I arrived, Bob told the audience to shout “tonight’s catchphrase” at me and the show stopped. I have no idea what they shouted, but they seemed to be laughing as they shouted it. I would like to think the show stopped because my arrival climaxed the show. In fact, it was due to licensing laws.

I then walked home.

About two minutes later, on the other side of the road, three girls were walking along singing. One fell over.

As I got to my flat, on the opposite pavement, a man still holding a mobile phone to his ear was picking himself up off the ground.

That’s Edinburgh.

Comedy, performance art, tragedy and people so pissed or drugged out of their heads that they fall over in the street.

Sometimes these categories overlap.

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