Jo Caulfield’s Fringe diary: 23 August
Comedian Jo Caulfield offers her take on the last week of the Fringe, and proposes her own alternatives to the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
The Edinburgh Fringe is drawing to a close and I’ve loved every minute of it. We’re so lucky to have the world’s biggest international arts festival right here in Auld Reekie, so I couldn’t believe it when I overheard a couple of locals complaining about the crowds of tourists and all the visiting performers. I really wanted to tell them, “Don’t be like that! Be thankful for what you’ve got. Glasgow would love to have your Castle, Aberdeen would love to have your Festival, and Dundee would love to have your old clothes and shoes.”
See what I did there? I used Dundee as a punchline. I did that because I’ve been told by several Scottish comedians that Dundee is the perfect victim for jokes about Scotland. Obviously those comedians have never been to Peterhead.
See what I did there? I used Peterhead as a punchline.
And a quick line about Aberdeen: apparently the Aberdeen Comedy Festival has been cancelled, because someone lost the balloon.
On Tuesday I saw Bridget Christie’s show at the Stand. I’ve never watched stand-up at comedy at 11.10am in the morning before, and I was still slightly “tired and emotional” from the previous evening’s wine tasting competition (don’t ask!) but within minutes Bridget had me and the rest of the audience hanging on to her every word. “A Bic For Her” is beautifully written and perfectly executed. If Bridget takes that show on tour, do yourself a favour and grab a ticket.
I wandered round the Book Festival on Wednesday morning. If you haven’t been, you should definitely give it a visit. It has three of my favourite things – a peaceful atmosphere, chilled wine and no security cameras. I’m joking! I am not advocating stealing books and selling them to McNaughtan’s Bookshop (3a Haddington Place, Edinburgh, EH7 4AE). But it’s a thought.
In the evening I compered the “Tickling Jock” event at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It was an interesting experience. AL Kennedy interviewed John Byrne, Susan Morrison led a guided tour around the gallery, and Simon Munnery delivered a masterclass in comedy, but for me the highlight of the evening was Scott Agnew performing his homage to Scottish comedy legend Chick Murray. Resplendent in black suit and tartan bonnet (or do you say “bunnet”?), Scott reeled off a solid 15 minutes of classic Chick Murray lines…
“My sister wanted a cat for a pet… I wanted a dog, so my father bought a cat and taught it to bark.
I admit to spending a fortune on women, booze and gambling… the rest I spend foolishly.
My father was from Aberdeen, and a more generous man you couldn’t wish to meet. I have a gold watch that belonged to him. He sold it to me on his deathbed. I wrote him a cheque for it, post dated of course.”
The audience loved it of course. And then a truly wonderful Fringe moment occurred – some of Chick Murray’s family were in the audience. They introduced themselves to Scott and thanked him for keeping Chick’s legacy alive. Scott, a huge fan of Chick’s, was close to tears backstage.
Things like that make the Festival so unique. But I’ll be honest, there are one or two things I don’t like about the Festival.
I don’t like the “Edinburgh Festival Look-Around” – this is when you’re speaking to somebody but you know they’re not listening because they’re too busy looking over your shoulder to find someone else more important and/or interesting to talk to. Oh well, I suppose it was my own fault for marrying him.
And don’t get me started on performers making outlandish claims on their posters. For example, if a someone bills themselves as a “hilarious Fringe legend”, I can’t help wondering why they’re still playing free shows to 12 people in an old abandoned shopfront? And can you really be a ‘Fringe legend” if you’ve only been coming to the Festival for three years. Christ, I’ve got a tin of shortbread in my cupboard older than that. Older AND funnier. I think I’ll start calling it the “Legendary hilarious tin of shortbread”. Actually, it is funny. It’s in the shape of a bear wearing a kilt. As they do.
While I’m on the subject of outlandish claims can I just say “Jo Caulfield is one of Britain’s best comedians and every show she does is a five-star show”. Yes, I know that’s just my opinion but now my opinion has been published on the Scotsman festival website “my opinion” becomes a “Scotsman newspaper opinion”, and I WILL be using that quote on my posters next year. Hey, you don’t like it? Sue the author. At least I’m brutally honest in my deceitful manipulation.
Anyway, onto the real Heroes of the Fringe…
At the time of writing this I’ve got no idea who’s won the Fosters Comedy Award. I strongly believe Bridget Christie deserves to win it. If she doesn’t it just goes to prove how meaningless the award is, and how dreadful Fosters lager tastes.
I’d also like to give out my own awards – the “Legendary Hilarious Tin of Shortbread in the Shape of a Bear” Award (LHTSSB Award) – to Tommy Sheppard of the Stand Comedy Club for having the best line-up at the Fringe (Mark Thomas, Stewart Lee, Sarah Millican, Lucy Porter, Alexei Sayle, Steve K Amos, the list goes on and on).
I’d also give a LHTSSB Award to Ben Verth, for setting up the The Scottish Comedy Festival at The Beehive. He’s worked hard, and selflessly, to give a platform to so many incredibly talented but vastly underrated Scottish comics.
My last two LHTSSB Awards go to ‘Delicious Italian’ (60 Warrender Park Road) for their Rigatoni Alora, and Hibernian FC for donating a signed football to our recent fundraiser in aid of The Yard (a purpose built adventure playground in Edinburgh for children and young people with additional support needs).
Next week I won’t be here so feel free to type up your own column, read it aloud to your friends and family, then tear it up and throw it in the bin.
And now go home to your villages and prepare for war.
Jo Caulfield x
Jo Caulfield’s final Speakeasy of the festival is on Sunday (25 August) at 7.15pm. It’s recorded live at the Scottish Storytelling Centre for Radio 4. She will be joined by special guests Phill Jupitus, Josie Long, Richard Melvin, Dave Hook and The Creative Martyrs.
You can also follow Jo on Twitter.