I took booze and cakes to my lovely cast (in homage to Rasputin’s last meal) as they had a drink to celebrate the end of their Edinburgh run. They have remained in good spirits and really enjoyed the play, as have their audiences. They have stayed friendly and feisty throughout. I stayed largely outside the circle as is only right as the writer, but loved it whenever I was amongst them. Be nice if we get to do it again, but no news on that yet. This is the way of the actor though - close associations for a month or so and then on to the next group of fine friends. Though we have plans to meet again whatever happens. We shall see.
Maybe on my last night at the Edinburgh Fringe the auditorium would be magically filled to capacity with everyone giving me a standing ovation for my long service to this Festival before I’d even spoken a word. It wasn’t Even though I gave out some free tickets as a farewell gift. But there were enough people to have some fun with and there was something reassuringly apt about being in a half full theatre for my swan song.
I have slightly aggravated an old ankle injury with all my dancing and sofa-trampolining and the other secret stunts involved in the show and thought it would be rather apt if I actually killed myself in tonight’s finale. But I survived unscathed. There is still the tour (though I doubt I will be able to do the full extravagant finale in every venue, but will do my best) and the DVD (where I will certainly recreate the full ending). But the real symbolism is that as much as the end of the show is a death, like the Lord of the Dance Settee Himself, I got crucified, but then jump up high once again, cos I am the life that will never, never die. I explained to this last crowd one of the many hidden tropes in this year’s show (that not surprisingly got missed by everyone, though the critics failed to spot many of the subtle links in the piece). Even before I had decided that it was time to bow out from the Fringe, or any of the other life changing revelations from the show had been revealed, I wanted this to be partly about looking backwards at my career, whilst considering if I should be looking forwards. Consequently I decided it would be a neat idea to include material from every decade that I’ve been doing this (although I wanted to ensure that there was a new twist to everything). Some people seemed to think that I was calling it “Lord of the Dance Settee” because I had run out of ideas and needed to fill time with TMWRNJ jokes (which rather ignored the fact that that is a 30 second routine in a show that rarely came in at under 65 minutes (and which I had to keep cutting routines from as it was). The Settee was symbolic of being joyfully alone, as I was on Chard Island, as we all were in the womb, but was also a knowing reference to Lee and Herring and the 90s, that I knew any fan of my work would recognise. There was also the Man Who Lived in a Vacuum (similarly happily living adrift until the lure of fame took him to his death), which was one of the first jokes I ever wrote (at the age of 16) and which was the biggest laugh in my first Fringe show (and also elicited a big response on his return in this final one). Dave Manager first appeared in Punk’s Not Dead and the chicken cottage joke is a little throwback to my stand up of the mid Noughties. And International Women’s Day (and to a lesser extent some of the adapted Metro material) was representative of the 2010s. I didn’t end up having time to make dancing the full on theme that it might be in the tour and was in some of the previews, but it still survived (as of course did movement and inertia), but the dance of my own life that vaguely mirrored the dance of the Lord of the Dance Settee was maybe underlining the piece. Weirdly (or perhaps not) when I started mentioning these themes (rather than blithely pretending there was no theme and hoping people would spot the connections) they started appearing in the reviews. Adding to my belief that to be considered a clever comedian or writer you really need to bluntly state your own cleverness within your work.If you leave it to other people to see it then it will go unnoticed. Perhaps my ultimate mistake is to insist that I am stupid and shallow. It’s just like the fact that the jokes that revolve around me saying I am fat still work, even though I am not really fat any more. If I say I am, then people think I am. Which is why next year’s show is called, “Super intelligent, big cocked, sex machine Millionaire.”
I feel a bit disappointed that two subtle and clever shows have been slightly dismissed by critics (and certainly not exclusively - both shows had have more positive than negative remarks) and a bit overlooked by punters. I came up this year with more confidence about my work than I can remember and leave it more battered and shaken than I have done for a few years. Perhaps my confidence was misplaced or maybe I have been unlucky or maybe this is just the natural state for a festival with so many performers. None of the shows I saw had the audiences or reviews they deserved. There are many positives to take from the experience, the main one being the release of realisation that I don’t have to return to this slightly abusive friend, who occasionally ruffles my hair and flatters me, but mainly enjoys dismissing me and hurting me. My time will be better served elsewhere. There were times when I felt like giving up entirely this year (as there are during every Fringe), but after a couple of weeks off I will be raring to get going again, to prove the world wrong, to learn and improve and keep taking risks. I took a massive gamble this year and the immediate financial repercussions are slightly devastating. But I will make the money back even if it slightly affects the amount of free work I can do in the short term and might mean me postponing other experiments for a while. I walked into this knowing the risks and even now I think the risks were worth taking. And Lord of the Dance Settee has proved to me the most consistent show I’ve done at the Fringe. It’s nearly always worked for most of the audience and it’s a very difficult show to pull off. I didn’t do one performance of it that I thought was bad and that was in spite of feeling very unlike performing it a few days. If you’d seen me backstage you would have questioned whether I was in the mood to dance around and be daft and furious. But every night I managed that. And perhaps I should have shouted this at the start but it was a VERY CLEVER SHOW THAT TOOK SOME CHANCES AND WASN”T AFRAID TO BE MELANCHOLIC OR SERIOUS EVEN LATE AT NIGHT WITH AN AUDIENCE WHO”D HAD A DRINK. And yet still wore its daftness on its sleeve.
A Twitter conversation I had with a reviewer yesterday made me realise the extent to which I know a lot more about comedy than most people (and probably all critics). When you realise that you are being judged by people who sometimes haven’t thought about the basics of comedy then it makes a bit more sense of things.
Anyway, look, I know some of you have been worried about me. Really no need - this blog is trying to be honest about m feelings at the time, but I nearly always have the self-awareness to know when I have got things out of perspective. It’s probably damaging to not go through the “yeah, it’s all going great” pretence of most comedians and I will tend to concentrate on the negatives more than show off about the positives. But fuck it. I’d rather be honest than successful. Occasionally I might be whining or wallowing, but the blog is really an attempt to give you a little behind the scenes peek into the life of a comedian. Things are still going very well and the setbacks are needed to catapult you forward. The fact I can survive this financial disaster demonstrates how well my career is going!
I am glad I came to Edinburgh, but I am equally delighted that I am leaving. My horrible, yet ludicrously expensive flat, is perhaps the ultimate symbol of what is wrong with the Fringe and why I and glad to leave and why I won’t be returning. Not for a while, not in the same way. Maybe not at all. Never say never.
Don’t read this wrong. This is a very positive blog indeed.