This is the final day of the Edinburgh Fringe and, as is traditional, it is a Bank Holiday in England, but not in Scotland. This means that, in Scotland, all the shops are open and it is a normal working day… except that the banks are closed.
You may want to read that paragraph again.
You did not mis-read it.
Yes. It is not a Bank Holiday and everywhere is open except the banks.
This does not seem odd in Edinburgh in August.
I saw a man dressed as a showgirl talking to a medieval monk outside a church last week.
And I am posting this after having had breakfast with comedian Matt Price and Scotsman journalist Claire Smith.
To brighten up their mornings, they have been asking people round to share sausages with them.
“I went through a phase,” Matt told me, “of taking a toy fish out onto the stage with me. When you start out as a comic, you assume anyone who contributes – like a heckler – is a threat. But they’re not. Sometimes they might be just thinking out loud. Sometimes they may be just eccentric.
“The fish became a good device for dealing with hecklers. If someone heckled me, I would say: Look, what you said wasn’t bad. But would you like to do it a second time and this time you have to do it holding a fish? It created a certain dynamic in the room and I’ve seen grown men start quivering. It was great fun: just playing around with the audience. You learn how to embrace hecklers rather than be frightened of them.
“I used to be scared of the audience. I was always very self-conscious until one day Martha (Matt’s partner) said to me: Why don’t you learn to love the audience? Why don’t you learn to accept that they maybe don’t hate you: maybe they’re there to have a good time.
“And it was like flipping a switch. It changed almost immediately.”
Matt and Claire were at yesterday’s final Grouchy Club show at the Edinburgh Fringe, in which critic Kate Copstick and I basically gossiped with comedians.
Yesterday, four genuine members of the ‘real’ public had inexplicably wandered in thinking they were seeing a totally different show. Also in the audience were sundry comedians, the head of the Stage newspaper’s Fringe review team, someone possibly pretending not to be from The British Comedy Guide and a Greek physicist; I have no explanation.
Matt’s first words yesterday, as he delved into a bag containing giant pink edible chocolate penises, were: “I’m not being crude, but…”
He explained: “My show is about self-assertion and I went into Ann Summers to buy some props for the show and the woman persuaded me to buy fifty giant pink edible chocolate penises. So I have loads of cocks. You’re very welcome. They’re really good quality. I’m sick of edible cocks. You’re welcome. Just, please… I’ve had enough. I’ve genuinely had enough. There’s 900 calories in each one of these,” said Matt.
“But,” said mind-reader Doug Segal, “if you’re practical, you can work off some of those calories.”
Copstick sampled the product, saying: “It’s nicer than it looks,” but then started to choke and cough.
“They’re £9,” said Matt.
“Why on earth do you have so many left?” asked Doug.
“I over-anticipated,” said Matt.
Copstick had another attempt at sampling the product.
“It looks like Christmas morning,” said comic Matt Roper (not to be confused with Matt Price) without explanation.
Copstick started coughing again. When she recovered, she said:
“Oddly enough, I’ve just been across to Poundland (a chain of shops where everything is priced at £1) and the thing with it is you have to keep going because you never know what is going to be there. It’s like a charity shop: you never know when something wonderful is going to come in.
“Today in Poundland,” she continued, rummaging in a bag, “I got vibrators and vibrating cock rings.”
She produced one of each.
There was controlled uproar and some disbelief in the room.
“One pound each!” said Copstick.
“With batteries?” asked the Greek physicist.
“No, not with the batteries,” replied Copstick. “But I work a lot with commercial sex workers in Kenya and any time I can give the girls who want to stay as commercial sex workers any toys that they can use on the guys for bargaining… You can’t force a man to use a condom, but you can persuade him to wear one. If they try to force him to use one, the guy will just rape them and run away…
“Yesterday (at the Grouchy Club), I was talking about how I taught them about peppermint blow jobs and poor man’s champagne blow jobs.”
“What is a peppermint blow job?” asked Matt Roper.
“You get your girlfriend,” explained Copstick, “to either spread a little peppermint toothpaste over the inside of her mouth – or a mouthwash – and then, when she gives the blow job, it’s all tingly.”
“In Poundland,” I said, “you can get toothpaste for £1. It really is the poor man’s Ann Summers.”
“For the poor man’s champagne blow job,” said Copstick, “you just use beer instead of champagne and the bubbles kind of tickle.”
“It’s a great way to get a yeast infection,” said an anonymous voice from the audience.
That was just the start of The Grouchy Club’s final free Edinburgh show. Later we got on to the contest to find Edinburgh’s best Lewis Schaffer impersonator.
Claire Smith won.
Her prize was a Poundland vibrator.
“What have you done with it?” I asked her this morning. “Have you mounted it on the mantelpiece?”
“I think I might get some batteries,” she replied.
“And what’s next for you?” I asked Matt.
“No fish and no confectionary-based humour,” he told me. “It’s too stressful. I need to move on.”
“There is talk of a monthly London Grouchy Club – a venue has been suggested – and we have been approached by a pay venue to do the daily show again at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe – though I am not sure how a pay-to-enter show would work.
Perhaps we could get sponsored by Ann Summers or Poundland.