day 1: pushing a boulder

I am in Edinburgh.

At about 5pm yesterday, I arrived in the the flat where I’m staying with the cast of the ’80s Movie Flashback’ show. The others hadn’t yet arrived, so put my bags down and looked out of the window. And outside it started to rain.

I got out my umbrella – unused since last year – and trudged back out across the meadows in the drizzle. Across the grass, a big black tyre in the playground swung listlessly on its own, taunting me about times when I’ve been happier to be here.

Last year, Edinburgh felt like controlled falling. Arriving yesterday, into an apparently unchanged festival landscape but with an achingly long three weeks ahead – just like the last few years – it felt like Sisyphus reaching the bottom of the mountain once more to start another episode of pushing a boulder up a hill, forever.

I walked through Bristo square, down through the C complex to Niddry Street and the venue for the showcase I’m hosting. Somehow, possibly because with my jacket and glasses and bloody-hell-am-I-here-again look that screams ‘jaded’, I reached the show venue without a single person trying to give me a flyer.

Anyway, the place where I’m doing the showcase is called The Hive, and the first two things I discovered on arriving were that a) more flyers had arrived than I could possibly ever distribute, and that b) The Hive is also a bar and nightclub which sells gin and tonic for £1.50.

Both of these are omens of impending doom.

But then something lovely happened: milling around in the venue were Sarah Campbell and Ed O’Meara – who are doing shows in the Little Cave just before mine – and Laura Carr and Lindsay Sharman. And just sitting in a room chatting to them reminded me how much I like the company of other comedians – and, of course, drinking £1.50 spirits in the company of other comedians – and I started feeling better straight away.

I still had no intention of running the Stand-up Showcase last night, even though it was billed in the fringe programme to start last night. My plan was just to check out the venue, so I didn’t bother to flyer for the show or prepare anything or book any other acts.

Instead, I sat in the Hive’s Little Cave and watched Sarah Campbell’s show ’27 Up’ (which is full of lovely imaginative touches and deserves a bigger audience than it had), thinking that if a few people actually turned up for the showcase, I could politely turn them away.

Then 68 people showed up.

And one of them was – I found out later – Kate Copstick, the comedy reviewer from the Scotsman. She is the Egon Ronay of the Fringe and she can launch or end careers with the stroke of a keyboard.

Fortunately, Manos the Greek was running a show in the small room next door, so I hijacked him and the acts from that and scrambled through something that resembled a show. The acts turned out to be awesome, and audience were lovely and seemed to enjoy themselves, but I felt terribly underprepared. If that show is reviewed, and it turns out to be a bad one, this year’s boulder could turn out to be even bigger and heavier than ever before.

Still – it’s necessary to imagine Sisyphus happy. And I know I’m not overly concerned about reviews this year. I’m not here for that, I’m just here to get better as an MC and have some fun with comedians I like. And when Rik and Fraser and Rachel arrived late last night, I started laughing – genuinely laughing – and whatever other omens were looming tonight for this year’s run, I am definitely going to have some fun.

Showcase: Audience 68; Performance 4/10 (if I’d thought there was going to be a show this would probably have been better…)

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