As per usual in August, I headed to Edinburgh for the festival. It was quite later in the month than my recent visits. From my experience, it’s usually best to visit during the middle of the month, but in truth, there’s never a bad time to visit.
It was a double milestone for me, 10 years since my first visit (albeit, I was working) and my 5th proper visit overall.
It was an early start for me due to the early morning flight, but the advantages of it were that I got to the ticket office early.
It might sound sad, but it’s best to get a copy of the programme before you go and plan what you want to see day by day, and make it so much easier when you go to get tickets.
You can book online in advance, but I prefer to purchase when I arrive. For some of the bigger acts, it’s harder to get a ticket at such short notice, but you mostly get at least 90% of what you want.
Tickets purchased, I checked in, and headed out in the city. Comedy, however, was parked for the moment, as I headed to Easter Road to see Hibs take on Dundee United. It wasn’t the best of games, which is unsurprising considering it was a meeting of two struggling sides, though it did liven up after a double red card.
After that, I had a bit of spare time, before heading to the Book Festival and was pleasantly surprised to pick up a last minute ticket for John Taylor (Yes, John Taylor of Duran Duran) reading excerps of his autobiography, In The Pleasure Groove.
Taylor didn’t really need to do much to win the crowd over, they were hanging on his every word, speaking about his teenage obsession with his favourite bands, most notably Roxy Music, then becoming obsessed with Sex Pistols, speaking of his pain about having to put up with Nick Rhodes reminding him at least once a month that he saw Sex Pistols live in concert, while Taylor didn’t.
When it came to the Q and A section, there were people who could barely speak, such was their excitement of getting to speak to their idol. He didn’t quite confirm it, but he didn’t deny it when pressed on rumours of a Duran Duran tour in the summer of 2014.
My first full day, Sunday, saw me head towards Guilded Balloon to see Grainne Maguire do a show about a TV guilty pleasure …….. Election Night.
After 2010 UK General Election, 2011 Stormont Elections and 2012 US Elections, I was a wee bit electioned out, but to be honest, I wouldn’t mind another election soon.
Her stage was set up on a political theme, complete with a swingometer, and pictures of political broadcasters such as David Dimbleby and Jeremy Paxman, with a beard topically drawn in with permanent marker.
After comparing it to “Eurovision for Politics Nerds”, she observed that life situations are just one big election, bemoaning that she is yet to win the seat she wants …….. Favourite Maguire Child.
From from one G, it was to three G’s for The Ginge The Geordie The Geek at Just The Tonic. I’d seen them advertised on my past visits and heard good reviews but had only now decided to take a chance on them. It was well worth it.
It was a simple formula, quick sketches with a range of humour from the surreal to the sick, such as a police horse facing a disciplinary panel. Best sketch was when they audition as dancers, and when told to finish and go home, interpret them as dance instructions and do hand gestures based on it.
I’d previously seen Maxwell in May, though it was a very Northern Ireland specific show, I knew if I did go to see him in Edinburgh, it would have been a different show.
It’s the law that you have to see David O’Doherty when in Edinburgh and he didn’t disappoint, commenting on all that is wrong with the world, having seen the two things he believes in, church and state, let him down, consoling himself with the fact he still had Professional Cycling.
From there, I went to see Marcus Brigstocke at Assembley, where I spotted Clive Anderson queueing up to see him. I was trying to stifle the laughter, as all I could think of was the Brass Eye sketch of him and Noel Edmonds.
Brigstocke was a largely autobiographical show, the highlight of which was where he tried and failed to try out new material when in the doctor’s, even though the doctor declared he was a fan.
Monday morning began with MacAulay and Co, BBC Scotland’s mid morning show. It was filled with guests from the festival, giving a showcase to acts you might not have heard of.
The downside of buying tickets when you arrive, is that you don’t have much room for manoeuvre if you change your mind and want to see something different.
From there, I dashed to Assembley Rooms to see David Schneider discuss if the internet is making people more stupider. It was essential just a Best Of Lamebook show, but it was still enjoyable, as Schneider observed that Twitter is essentially cute pictures of animals, and pictures of things/people that look like Hitler.
After a bit of lunch, it was Pleasance for the rest of the day, seeing Gyles Brandreth discuss the persuit of happiness, and noting his unhappiness at seeing a personalised copy of a book he wrote appearing in a second hand shop days after giving it as a gift.
From there, it was Newsrevue, a musical satire about the news, sometimes straying into dodgy ground, but still being funny.
Later in the evening, I saw Tom Rosenthal, star of Friday Night Dinner and son of ITV’s Jim, with a tale of trying to blend into Bulgarian culture when spending time in the country filming. He managed to slip in puns and punchlines subconsciously without lingering on them too much.
It was enjoyable enough, without being laugh a minute.
Next, was The Boy With Tape On His Face. Brilliantly funny last year, and the same this year, though if I was to see it for a third time, might be too much.
Tuesday morning was spent at a Podcast hosted by Shaun Keaveney. He does better bouncing off people than performing solo, his guest that day was John Lloyd, creator of QI and Blackadder.
From there, I went to see Football Manager Ruined My Life, an amusing enough tale of becoming addicted to the video game, with the jokes making sense if you’ve ever played the game
Next, was a play, A Complete History Of The BBC, being set in a shed where a BBC enthusiast called Terence, who is currently trying to create a BBC museum, one of the articles is the tub of Lard which replaced Roy Hattersley on Have I Got News For You.
The highlight of it is the exchanges between Terence and his wife Ingrid, who doesn’t quite share his passion for the BBC, and makes the mistake of suggesting that Doctor Who is a kids show.
Tuesday night, was Jason Byrne, with an autobiographical show (seemingly a theme this year) the highlight of which was the awkwardness when his dad accidentally slept on a packet of Rolos, causing much panic from his mum.
Wednesday morning was spent at MacAulay and Co before going to see When I Grow Up by Juliette Burton, a tale of trying to live out childhood fantasies of the jobs she wanted when she was younger, and finding they weren’t quite as she hoped. Though, there was a happy(ish) ending.
There was a bit of a gap before my next show (I went to see Alpha Papa in the cinema in the afternoon) that night of Kunt and the Gang, which as the name suggests, isn’t exactly family entertainment.
Never mind sailing close to the wind, he sailed into the wind. Not for the easily offended, which, thankfully, I am not.
Thursday morning was spent at Shaun Keavaney’s Pleasance Podcast, which was marred having Nick Helm as a guest, as most of the exchanges were excruciatingly awful. Thankfully, the next guest, Johnnie Walker, was a lot more entertaining.
Then, it was time for Amnesty’s Secret Podcast. Not awful, but not brilliant.
Thursday night, was spent in the EICC watching Jason Manford’s show, First World Problems discussing, well, the little things that annoy us.
The highlight of which, was Manford chasing after a man who headed to the toilet during the last joke, dragging him to his seat and insisting he stays there for the joke.
Next up, was Ed Byrne, with (another) autobiographical show looking at life now that he has just turned 40. It was an enjoyable night and an enjoyable end to an enjoyable week in a city that always raises a laugh.