EDINBLOG 2014

A few weeks back, I headed to Edinburgh to take in the Fringe Festival. It was the 6th successive year i’ve attended it. Not going to lie, I love this event, that’s why I keep coming back.

Usually, I arrive in the city on a Saturday, but this year I made it a Thursday to Monday trip. I’d consider myself to be an Edinburgh Veteran, so the trip began in usual fashion – an early morning flight, then a trip to the Ticket Office.

It’s a bit of a risk to wait until arrival to buy tickets, as a lot of shows sell out quickly, I usually find it easy enough to get a good schedule.

It might sound sad, but I plan what I want to see, and have back-up options, just in case.

I didn’t get some of my first choice options, so I had to switch some of my schedule around to accommodate other nights which had tickets available.

I decided to keep some windows open in order to wait and see what to get to fill those gaps, later in the trip.

The first thing you notice when you arrive in Edinburgh ………. they have Trams!!!!

It’s a sad development for the world of comedy, as in previous years, comedians weren’t slow in putting a gag or reference to the much delayed tram line.

As a result of delays getting my baggage, I missed out on being in the audience of MacAulay and Co, which I had a ticket for that morning. Frustratingly, David O’Doherty was a guest that day.

I try to get a mixture of people i’d seen before, and people I haven’t seen. David O’Doherty is one I have to see everytime i’m in Edinburgh. I tried to get tickets for his show but it was sold out, which made it even more frustrating.

I’d planned to see my first show that afternoon, a musical of the movie Ghostbusters, but I got lost trying to find the venue (yes, even Edinburgh Veterans get lost sometimes) and missed it.

Later that evening, I went to my first show of the Fringe – Tedfest, a show based on the Festival/Fan Convention of the TV show Father Ted.

It had a World Cup style comedian battle, a talent show, and of course, a (mock) Lovely Girls Competition. It had it’s moments, most notably when the compere asked people to stand for the national anthem, and “Ghost Town” by The Specials was played, but overall, it just wasn’t that funny.

Friday began with MacAulay and Co, always a pleasure, with guests that day including Alun Cochrane and Tom Rosenthal.

On Friday afternoon, I went to see a show called The 56, a show about the Bradford Fire in 1985.

There was no plot, just three actors reading and acting out real life testimonies of people who survived the fire. It was well acted, to the point where it felt like a hard watch at times.

I got lucky with my dates, that Paul Merton was performing when I was there. Paul Merton only does a few dates in Edinburgh each year, and some years i’ve missed out on seeing him because the dates didn’t match.

The show, Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, sees him, and collaborators, including his wife, performing Improvised Comedy.

That evening, I went to see Frisky and Mannish. I’d had them recommended to me in previous years, and finally decided to go and see them in 2013 …… except, they didn’t have a show that year.

Their show this year, was a musical comedy looking at popculture and it’s best meltdowns, and how they struggled to come up with an appropriate anthem for feminism. They were very funny, especially when they sang all of Sinead O’Connor’s unpublished open letters to various pop stars.

My next show on Friday was Margaret Thatcher : Queen Of Soho, a musical comedy about how Margaret Thatcher became the Queen of Soho.

Margaret Thatcher is the lead character, telling her story, in a laugh a minute show, which isn’t afraid to make fun of her, as she offers a bottle of milk to an audience member, and gets into an arguement with fellow cast members, and tells them “I won’t hesitate about making people unemployed”

When asked by one of her staff is she should screw over the Lib Dems, she simply replies “No, we might need them some day”

There is also a talking picture of Winston Churchill.

From there, I headed to the Comedywealth Games, presented by Mark Watson. I’d wanted to see Mark Watson’s show, so this was the next best thing.

Comedywealth Games was, unsurprisingly, a comedy version of the Commonwealth Games, where comedians competed against each other in a range of events, none of which were athletic based, including sock pairing, eating fruit on a treadmill, and a sack race.

The night I went had Mark Steel representing England. Romesh Ranganathan was due to represent Sri Lanka, so Mark Steel’s son Elliott took his place. It was the day before his 18th birthday. As the show began after 11, he celebrated his birthday midway through the show.

The final competitor was Andrew Maxwell, from the Republic of Ireland.. As Republic Of Ireland is not a member of the Commonwealth, a draw was made to assign him a country. He was assigned Kiribati.

After spending some time on Wikipedia before the show Andrew Maxwell was now a patriotic Kiribatian.

Star of the show, was an audience member called Darren, who was picked to assist the competitors. He was “slightly worse for wear” and spent most of his time swearing and making rude gestures.

The crowd loved him, and chanted his name everytime Mark Watson asked for a member of the crowd to assist.

For the record, England and Kiribati were level on the medals table, with England winning 2-1 on a Rock/Sissors/Paper Play-Off.

The first part of Saturday was mostly football dominated, having a pub lunch to watch Man United v Swansea, then to see Sid Lowe do a talk about his book, Fear And Loathing In La Liga, a look at the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

That evening, I went to see Axis Of Awesome. I’d previously had them recommended to me. It was a musical comedy, very much in the style of Flight Of The Conchords, with each member taking it in turns to be the butt of the others jokes.

The highlight of the show was when they performed “4 Chords“, a series of pop classics to the tune of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, showing how so many songs use the same 4 chords.

I had an unexpected bonus on the Saturday night, as David O’Doherty performed an extra show at 11pm, due to demand. It was classic O’Doherty, with his surreal sense of humour having the crowd in stitches.

Sunday afternoon was spent at Tynecastle watching Hearts v Hibs. From there, I had a very long walk to see John Lloyd’s Museum Of Curiosity, a very QI type show, unsurprisingly, considering that John Lloyd was the creator of QI.

My final show, came on the Sunday night, called “What Does The Title Matter Anyway?”, though it was listed in the festival programme (published in early June) as “Whose Live Show Is It Anyway?, which sounds a bit like “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

It was hosted by Clive Anderson, who hosted Whose Line Is It Anyway? and featured Whose Line ….. regulars such as Greg Proops and Stephen Frost.

Anderson, a former lawyer, was quick to point out that this show was totally different from Whose Line Is It Anyway? I feel it’s only fair to repeat what he said.

Whatever the legalities, the audience didn’t care about that, they were only there for laughs, which they got, from the mapcap and surreal situations the show provided. It was a good way to end Edinburgh 2014.

I always keep meaning to explore Scotland when i’m there, possibly taking a day trip to Glasgow or Stirling. But there’s so much going on in Edinburgh, it seems a shame to leave the city while you’re there, even for a day.

Edinblog 2013

Edinblog 2012

Edinblog 2011

Edinblog 2010

Edinblog 2009

LONDON

Was in London last week for a short break, just as I was in February last year.

The reason I went back to London for a second successive year was simple, I had a lot of “Unfinished business” in London. I did and saw a lot of stuff when I was in London last year, yet there was still so much I didn’t do and see.

For that reason, London was always going to be my choice for getaway in February 2014.

Amazingly, I experienced travel problems before even reaching London as the airline moved my flight from a sensible 11am to 6pm. To fly out at 6pm would be a waste of a day. With the 11am flight cancelled, I got mine changed again to 6.45am.

The early start might be inconvenient, but at least I would get a full day in London.

A rearranged flight was only the start of my travel problems. Due to a Tube strike, I was going to have to go to my hotel by bus.

Due to the lack of transport options, Thursday was always going to be a write-off, but it wasn’t a total write-off. There were some Tube stations open, so I made the most of the ones that were.

Brixton was one of those open, so I headed there in late morning. I had a specific reason for wanting to visit Brixton, as I wanted to head to O2 Academy to try and get a ticket for Tom Odell on the Saturday night.

I’d tried online with no success in the weeks leading up to this, so I thought i’d try turning up at the venue. Turns out the venue box office is only open on the night of events.

It wasn’t a wasted trip as I had a walk around Brixton, Brixton Market, accidentally stumbling onto Electric Avenue, immortalised in song by Eddy Grant. Managed to get some excellent Street Art pictures when I was in Brixton.

From there, I headed into the City Centre and had a walk around, before heading back to the hotel for a brief sleep before heading East that night.

The reason why I was heading to East London was that I had an audience ticket for Life’s A Pitch on BT Sport. The studios are in Stratford, near the Olympic Stadium. I didn’t get to see much of the stadium though.

Just a pity it took nearly two hours to get from Stratford to Paddington by bus, thanks to Boris and Bob’s Comedy Act.

After a brief sleep, I was up early on the Friday morning to go on the Shoreditch Street Art Tour. Unfortunately, like the day before, I was frustrated by public transport, as delays on The Tube meant I missed the tour.

I was already en route to Shoreditch when I discovered the delays, so it was too late to turn back. Luckily, I had travelled through Shoreditch going from Stratford to Paddington, so had a mental note of where the Street Art was.

I had a walk around getting photos. If I go to London again, i’ll definitely try to go on a proper, organised, Street Art Tour.

From Shoreditch, I went into Oxford Circus and Leicester Square for a walkaround, before heading to Greenwich to go on the Emirates Air Line, a cable car journey across London Docks.

Got some good views due to it being a clear day, but it wouldn’t be an essential thing to do in London to be honest. It would certainly be a unique way to spend a night out, if it wasn’t for the fact that no booze is allowed.

From there, I headed in the direction of one of London’s most famous landmarks, Wembley Stadium. But it wasn’t Wembley I was visiting, it was the nearby Fountain Studios (where X-Factor is filmed) for Alan Davies Apres Ski, for which I had an audience ticket.

It was a very stop-start recording which got never really got going, to be honest, which is a shame as I like Alan Davies.

Saturday morning was spent in Camden. I went to Camden for a morning last year and loved it. Had a walk around Camden Market, and got some Street Art photos.

Saturday afternoon was spent in East London, watching Leyton Orient v Peterborough.

When in London, i’d hoped to take in a concert. Each concert I wanted to go to, I seemed to be thwarted.

Phoenix are a band I love, but inconveniently, were doing a gig in London the day before I arrived. Foster the People and Bombay Bicycle Club were doing XFM Sessions, but I couldn’t get a ticket.

Del Amitri were doing a gig in Hammersmith on the Friday night. I like Del Amitri, but not enough to spend 30 quid seeing them.

I wanted to see Tom Odell on the Saturday. I turned up at the venue to try and get a ticket. The Box Office was sold out. There were plenty of touts outside flogging, but the prices were extortionate. Looking at the volume of people already queing up to get in, it wasn’t worth it for what would be a crap view.

Luckily, on the Saturday night, I had a Plan B, a comedy gig at Bloomsbury Theatre headined by Katherine Ryan and Tom Rosenthal.

On the Sunday, I had a lie-in before heading to White Hart Lane for Spurs v Everton. After that, I headed into Oxford Circus to watch the United game (the less said of which, the better) before spending some more time in the City Centre.

That night, I discovered Prince was doing an impromptu gig in London, but, like the other gigs this week, I missed out on a ticket, being elsewhere when the queue was forming.

Monday morning, my last day in London, was spent in the City Centre again, making the most of my final day in the city, before heading to Gatwick and flying home.

And that, was my trip to London, an enjoyable experience despite the transport mayhem and being unable to get concert tickets.

Where will I be headed in February next year? Who knows.

EDINBLOG 2013

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.

For my Sunday evening show, i’d originally planned to see Andrew Maxwell, but decided to see David O’Doherty as his Saturday show was sold out.

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.

Edinblog 2012

Edinblog 2011

Edinblog 2010

Edinblog 2009