day 24: the last night of the fringe is always weird

By early Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in an empty flat.

Rik and Fraser and Rachel had all left (after doing lots of cleaning, which was very lovely of them), but I was still there. Like an idiot, I had booked the showcase for one last Sunday night show.

Last year, when we did the Scurvy Stand-up Showcase, Tony and I decided not to bother with the showcase on the final night. I went out in the dark drizzle, drank too much and had some conversations that don’t need repeating here but which have never dislodged themselves from my head and probably never will.

The year before that I ended up in an argument that I didn’t want to get into.

The year before that, I ended my last night in Edinburgh sitting in Waverley Station at 5.30am trying to get a train to a remote rural farmhouse, wondering why I had been such an idiot to quit stand-up and realising that the months I’d taken away from it had set me back further than I had thought.

What I’m saying is that the last night of the Edinburgh Fringe is always weird.

I spent the day wandering around the city – which had, as it always has towards the end, the feeling of a carnival being gradually taken down while people are still trying to go on the rides – looking for things to do. The best thing I did was to go and watch Eric do his Laws Of The Land show. This was good, not just because it’s a really good show, but also because, totally by surprise, I was in it.

I knew Eric had asked to use a few of the e-petitions I sometimes read out when I do the closing section of the Comedy Manifesto; I had said of course he could, and when he asked if I’d make him a video of me doing it, I said I certainly would. Then, Edinburgh being Edinburgh, I didn’t get round to making the video. But I wanted to see the show anyway, and so there I was, quite happily watching the show, when a big picture of my face appeared on the screen – and a very generous plug for the Showcase. Then Eric asked if I’d like to come up and do the bit myself since I was there. I was so flattered that I didn’t need asking twice.

After that, though, it got to the showcase itself. I was a bit unsure about doing it, but Timmy really wanted to. So we did a bit of flyering (Timmy more enthusiastically than me), but didn’t book any acts because we didn’t think anyone would come.

What we didn’t factor in is that so many other shows were cancelled on the last night. So five minutes before the show was due to begin, and 50-odd people turned up, I grabbed Jonathan Prager off the street, and Timmy grabbed Doctor Brown.

Both were greeted with stony silence by an audience who were basically just a bunch of dicks. In the end, Phil (Doctor Brown) just told the audience to ‘go home and take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror’. Then he walked off. It was horrible.

Then I told one particularly twatty-looking guy in the front row called ‘Dean’, who had shouted a heckle about tumbleweed earlier on, that if he thought he could do any better than one of the most brilliant clowns I’ve ever seen then perhaps he should come up and try it. I was thinking that at worst, it would make the show a bit more interesting, and at best it would fill some of the cavernous expanse of time we’d left ourselves by not booking anyone. And as expected, at that point the audience came alive – the first sign of cooperation or engagement from them at all – and started shouting for ‘Dean’ to get up.

So he did. And he did five minutes of horrible, shit pub jokes. And the audience went wild for it.

He even closed with a ‘Paddy and Mick’ joke. To rapturous applause. To his credit, he had pretty good stage presence and he did at least give that bunch of bastards in the audience what they wanted. But they wanted Paddy and fucking Mick jokes.

As we stood in the Hive’s sick-smelling backstage tunnel, Timmy turned to me and said, “You know what we’ve done? We’ve broken comedy. Broken and defiled comedy.”

And he was right. Unfortunately he wasn’t quite able to recreate that kind of witty insight on stage, and he headlined to ten minutes of silence. But maybe that’s because none of his material is the kind of racist crap that the audience wanted.

Anyway, we got about £8 in the bucket at the end, (and a painful chat with some people who’d sat at the back and were insistent that ‘Dean’ had been a set-up, hadn’t he? No, he really wasn’t, I said), and then decided to go to the so Just The Tonic end-of-festival party. Where there was a free bar. And we got drunk enough to forget what had just happened and to try and remember that – weird final night aside – it had been a good last few days.

And so ended the festival for another year.



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