Metro column 25

Richard Herring reflects on his Edinburgh Fringe highlights

ThereÂ’s only one jubilee that anyone is talking about this year. ItÂ’s 25 years since I first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe. IÂ’m expecting some big celebrations when the thing kicks off this week. Just a small gesture will suffice. Nothing embarrassing. Something like smashing down Edinburgh Castle and rebuilding it in the shape of my face will do.

Terrifyingly, most performers at this year’s festival were not even born when I first trod the boards here. Equally scarily, I have lived in this city for almost two years. If I see an Edinburgh toddler on the street, I confront them and shout: ‘I have lived in this city longer than you. I am more Scottish than you, my friend. How does that feel? Being less Scottish than an Englishman. Pretty bad, I expect.’ And they do feel bad. They usually start crying and need to be cuddled by their mum. The truth hurts.

Every corner, every street, every building is haunted by the ghost of the younger me: that’s where I once nearly got in a fight with one of the men from the Flying Pickets; in there, mad actor Keith Allen disrupted my student show by heckling and moving crash mats and then apparently punched the theatre manager; I got slapped in the face in that bar when I tried to crapulously and crappily hit on another comic’s girlfriend. I have spilled every conceivable bodily fluid on these streets – but thankfully it’s constantly raining so they’ve mostly washed away.

In 1987, I slept on the floor of a spooky Masonic lodge with 50 other students for two months. It had one toilet and no bathing facilities. One night I was crying myself to sleep and the future Bafta winner Stewart Lee attempted to cheer me up by using the hand of an 80-year-old ventriloquist dummy to briefly pleasure me. I laughed through my tears. This incident might serve as the perfect metaphor for the Fringe. Also, now I can only get aroused if I am being touched by a ventriloquistÂ’s dummy, which is why I am now banned from OrvilleÂ’s dressing room.

I have seen incredible shows: Jerry Sadowitz blowing my brain apart as he demonstrated what stand-up could be; Harry Hill, unknown, but already a master of comedy, reducing a tiny crowd to helpless giggling heaps of meat; the League of Gentlemen when they still used Sellotape to transform their faces; Arthur Smith taking me from despair to joy in the space of just an hour of poetic madness in the Botanical Garden.

But my favourite memory is walking home from the old Gilded Balloon at 3am and passing a patch of grass on which a couple were noisily and visibly making love. They saw me and, without missing a beat, simultaneously waved and smiled (conveniently they were both facing in the same direction). Most of the best performances at the Fringe are free.

If you can’t make it up to the Fringe, you can still get a little daily taster of what’s going on with Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe Podcast, recorded daily at the Stand, which you can download for free from iTunes or the British Comedy Guide to hear me chatting to present and future stars of the festival. If you’re in town, come and see it live – I’m giving away free tickets and prizes.

And IÂ’ll be doing my show, Talking Cock, inside a giant, inflatable upside-down cow in Bristo Square every night. I donÂ’t think that counts as a massive ventriloquist dummy. LetÂ’s hope not. It could get messy.

See Richard HerringÂ’s Talking Cock: The Second Coming in Edinburgh before he tours the country with a reworking of his smash-hit 2002 show. For more info, visit

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