On Friday I am filming the DVD of my latest stand-up show “Lord of the Dance Settee” at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London (I am also there on Thursday if you are planning to come with someone you’re having an affair with and don’t wish to be filmed). There’s been my fair share of mishaps on this tour: I cut my shin open trying to jump over the arm of my sofa, I dropped and smashed my sat-nav (though secretly was pleased as it gave me an excuse to buy a more up-to-date one) and I literally lost my trousers - boringly they slipped off the hanger without me noticing somewhere between the car and the gig in Edinburgh (or at least that’s what I am telling my wife- because it’s true).
It’s not quite over. There are still a dozen more performances around the country, but the next show is beginning to occupy my mind. I am dreading the fact that I don’t have any new jokes for it or ideas. I would be dreading that more if that wasn’t always the case at this time of year.
All I know about it is that it is going to be called “Happy Now?” and will be about the futile pursuit of contentment, whether bliss was ever meant to be more than a passing thing and will ask if comedians need angst and depression to be amusing. Unusually though I will not be premiering this new show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Instead I am performing a season of all eleven of my previous one-man shows at the Leicester Square Theatre in August and September, culminating with this new one.
I have been to the Edinburgh Fringe nearly every year since 1987, so the decision to give it a miss was not taken lightly. But last year I found the experience exhausting and expensive. The straw that broke the camel’s back was paying a man £3000 to stay in his horrible toilet-brush-less flat for 30 days. Too many people are on the take.
The Edinburgh Festival is still a great place to go as a young comedian hoping to get some experience or a TV comedian hoping to cash in on their fame, but the acts in the middle are being squeezed out. It’s terrific that the Free Fringe is going from strength to strength as it gives comics a chance to put together shows without risking losing cash and punters a chance to take a punt on something new without necessarily having to pay a penny. And it’s now so difficult to get “discovered” or even reviewed that I hope acts will take part in this Fringe of the Fringe just to become better at what they are doing. It means they can take chances. But if established acts start taking those free spots, then new acts will have to have a Free Fringe Fringe, where audiences actually get paid to attend the shows.
Maybe the internet is the more relevant medium for ambitious new comedians. Rather than spending thousands of pounds on a Fringe show that no one will see, spend it on making your own TV show that you can put on YouTube for the whole world to see.
Personally I realised that if I stayed at home this summer I could save on rent, sleep in my own bed, have my own toilet brush and spend daytimes with my daughter instead of paranoid, drunk, depressed comedians. It was a no-brainer.
Though maybe in August I will feel adrift and miss those cobbled Edinburgh streets paved with my broken dreams