Taking into account the vulgar amounts of strange beer in pint glasses, the endless cigarettes and ecstasy that falls into your hand and then mouth from nowhere, the stress and endless interviews and photo shoots, jet lag and odd hours - it's hard to pin-point Scotland's shitty food as the reason for the recurring waves of nausea every day in Edinburgh but I have to trust my instincts.
It may have been Dostoyevsky that said, "You can judge a society by the conditions of its breakfast sandwiches," but I wouldn't know. I've never read his shit.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a madhouse unrivaled by any comedy Festival in North America. The population of 450,000 doubles for the month-long event which features over 20,000 performers and at least five decent looking women. Not models mind you, but nothing you would turn away if you needed to wipe something icky off your dick.
The major difference is that this festival is all full length shows, not seven minute showcase horseshit like American festivals.
By the time I showed up, I already had five articles written about my appearance in some of what seemed like 300 local newspapers. Brian Hennigan, the promoter who brought me over was responsible for most of the press. He's a genius with sincere-sounding bullshit, mostly because he's sincere when he's full of shit if that makes any sense. The bullshit spin in the American press that I was coming to make fun of WTC victims didn't hurt us getting articles but was quickly put aside, even by the guy that started it.
I got through the first couple shows just trying to figure out what they'd get and what they wouldn't and if you have ever been over here - you know they get a hell of a lot more than the douchebags in the U.S. That doesn't necessarily make them more pleasant as people but what little knowledge I've gained over the years never made me very happy either. Maybe that's why got along so well. Misery loves comedy.
The thing that scared the shit out of me was the reviews. Every paper had sections devoted to the Fringe and the reviews were unlike anything I'd seen in the States. They knew comedy, whether you agreed with their take or not. You hear them say that someone relied on old material too much (thank an ugly God that this was my first trip) or that so 'n so had great lines but his heart wasn't behind the material. Unbelieveable to see comedy viewed as an art form.
Except for the San Francisco Comedy Competion, I'd never had a show reviewed before. In fact, I have never seen a comic get a review, save for a household name that stepped back onto stage to take a break from whatever it was that made him that famous. Any press you get over here is a preview which is more of an advertisment than a critique.
I got reviews and the reviews were good although I didn't really like any of the shows. It was difficult to get used to quiet audiences until I did a set at the infamous "Late and Live" at nearly 3 am where the audience is reminded at the beginning that "The heckler is always king!" and I went up sloppy like I tend to get at that hour and ate my ass in a hat. After that, I learned to appreciate the quiet in my shows.
Hecklers are a different breed here, as likely to throw a pint glass as to yell something demeaning. And the best way to gain their ire is to mistake where you are. The only warning I got from David Crowe, the comic who'd recommended me and whose week I was following, was not to confuse Scotland for England. So one night I said something about being in the UK and was blasted for saying it was the UK, which I think it is but no one can seem to explain the difference between the UK and Britain and Scotland and England and Great Britain and North and South Ireland and the British Empire and you need a compass to get through a set without getting hit with something.
I couldn't imagine what most people went through here. Most comics perform for a month of straight shows and have to promote them on their own. The streets are filled with shitheads in wigs and funny uniforms handing out flyers and using any goofy line to get an ass in a seat. Then there are the mimes and magicians and jugglers that perform in Hunters square directly under the apartment where we stayed. Everyday you wake up to a thunderous round of applause and rush out assuming they found a cure for AIDS only to see a juggler on a unicycle, always juggling something very dangerous and he always tells you how dangerous it is but you know it's not because if it was dangerous he'd have scars of missing digits but he doesn't. The only person I want to see juggle something dangerous is some one who can't juggle.
Regardless, I can't imagine a month of this. It's too difficult to be a comic, a tourist, a drunk, a husband and a reviewable act at the same time. Renee holds up pretty well on her own but you can't help but feel like shit when there's so many things you should be doing together. We ended up taking a hideous tour bus one afternoon, too hungover to actually fight the tourist foot traffic but still needing to feel like we'd done something. The city is amazing if you have ever been a child that loves castles and dungeons and all that but that shit was real and you get an understanding of why the place feels so evil. So much of the tour was inadvertently morbid that it was hilarious. "If you look to your left there is the square where they used to burn witches and to the left is the fountain square which is built on a cemetary where they buried witches and they used to steal their bodies for medical experiments at the university here on the right and when they'd catch the body snatchers, they would torture them over there in the dungeon by the park and then hang them in this maketplace up ahead." Creepy. Good creepy but creepy nonetheless.
My good friend Dave Fulton is here and I never get to see his show because we perform at the same time but we get to hang out and I also get to meet George Mortimer who runs www.media-underground.net and who I have kept email correspondence with for the last year. We had a good time debating a Jesus freak on the street. You can't beat a Jesus freak but I think we could call it a draw when he had to call in his manager.
All the things to do but ego takes up so much time and as the good reviews started coming in Brian toyed with the idea of adding more shows to make me eligible for the Perrier award, the big brass ring at the end of this but we ended up deciding that that could just make me look like a dick for trying. With my career, I'm happy settling for good reviews.
Funny how you can spend a week talking about how full of shit the media is and still jack off to a five star review.
Plenty more happened and I'll try to get the rest in the next update but I'm barely off the plane and heading for Colorado. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, here is a review: