Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Edinburgh Fringe 2013.

What gets me through the Edinburgh Fringe? What makes me want to go to a place filled with pretentious arseholes and desperate attention seekers? How can anyone find a reason to go to a place where every single day is taken up with dodging flyers and other people's good reviews? Fucking slow moving tourists constantly in your way and sitting through your good friend's bullshit "show" in a damp, boiling hot anus of a venue. How the hell can anyone survive a day knowing they have to walk under that underpass just before Bristo Square? It's fine at night time. You'll probably just be shot or beheaded but during the day it's a piss-soaked, concrete nightmare filled with street untertainers. Halfway through Fringe, I passed two musicians who stopped playing so one of them could say "Shall we hang this song and grab some chow for the gang?". It is the single most spiteful and disgusting sentence I have ever heard. I mean, how the fuck do I actually function at this festering festival without killing absolutely every single person who has ever lived? Well, for me every day has a highlight and that highlight is my show. I love doing my show because when it's over I can go back to my rented flat and open the front door.

God, I loved opening that front door. I remember the first time I did it. It was right after my first show and I was miserable. My show wasn't a show. It was a 10 minute collection of Post-It note scribbles stretched out to 50 minutes. The walk back to the flat was depressing. Is this how it's going to be every single day for a month? Do I really have to perform that terrible bag of bollocks every day? Then I got to the flat, took my key out of my pocket and slid it into the keyhole.

And I mean it slid. Listen, guys, I am telling you: you have never felt a smoother action in your life. It just eased itself in. I have just never felt anything so smooth in my life: Satin, the hide of a thoroughbred horse, pouring baby oil on the flesh of a thousand supermodels. Sure, those things are smooth but this key went into that lock like liquid pouring into a crystal bucket. That door opened with the gentle ease of Diana cutting the ribbon of a freshly opened care centre. I glided that key softly into that lock and it wasn't just a door I opened, it was also my mind. Has anything ever been so gentle as the movement this key and lock afforded me? My mind raced. This Fringe has just got interesting.

Every day, it was the same. I got addicted. I had to feel my key in that lock. I sped through my show and bolted from the venue. My head so full of what was to come, my body electric with excitement. I ran. I ran all the way to feel that perfection one more time. Sometimes I'd come to a halt at the gate and just look at the door for a while. I just wanted to stand there and look at it. My eyes as gentle and loving as key and lock action itself. Is it raining? I hadn't noticed. Then I'd walk slowly towards that door and, although my hand was firm, the motion I took was tender and I was inside.

My show was improving. Of course, it was. I had found a muse. But even on the show's very best day it was all I could do not to rush back to that door. Every day, that beautifully smooth action awaiting me. I felt like I could have thrown my key to the lock and it would have easily floated in. But I never wanted that. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to feel that beauty in my hands. Nothing else around me was important. Yeah, yeah, sure. I suppose it's good that the Edinburgh Awards went to two Free Fringe shows and a show at The Stand and therefore now no one can justify charging £10,000 to hire out their venue but really, that pales into insignificance next to my Fringe. My key. That lock. That perfection.

I sit here now on my deck, refilling my pipe, and I think of what I had. Last night, as I took that long train journey home, a tear rolled down my cheek. At home, I unpacked and as I opened my suitcase what did I find? My key. I'd forgotten to leave it behind.

Forgotten? Never. I'll be back.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

One Man Show.

Some people really are in love with themselves, aren't they? They work so hard on looking perfect, not for the rest of the world, but for themselves. After all, they're just so gorgeous in every way, why wouldn't they preen themselves to the hilt and distort themselves into the exact person they'd want to fuck? No one is good enough for them except themselves. Nowhere is this more evident than here at the Edinburgh Fringe. Poster after poster of people adoring no one but themselves. Age-ignoring Russells with next year's hairdo blissfully unaware that their teenage trousers hate their old man so much that they're suffocating him. It must be so much hard work being in love with yourself. I would never be in love with myself. I am simply obsessed with myself.

There is barely a day that goes by without me studying me. The way I eat, how I walk, that stupid thing I just said. I follow myself around and note every idiotic move, rarely taking my eyes off me. Yesterday morning I went into a shop and looked around for a bottle of Diet Coke. They had pretty much every drink but that one. The shopkeeper said "Can I help you?". Very friendly, I thought. I wonder if he can help me? "Yes", I said. "Do you have Diet Coke?"

"No", he said. "But there's one in your hand".

Yes. There was. I bought it from another shop 90 seconds ago but, despite the actual thing I wanted being in my hand, I had been so busy obsessing over me that I had totally forgotten all about it. I even heard myself inside my own head say "Hmmm...I wonder how he's going to get out of this?". I am my own stalker.

Pretty much all year, while watching my every move, I've become interested in how much time I spend alone. I seem to be constantly amazed at how loneliness is the funniest of all emotions. The Fringe keeps you up late and me being old wakes me up early. I'm basically always awake and almost constantly alone. Waking at 7am and lying there alone for hours. Just lying there. Alone.

This morning I awoke at 6. An hour of looking at no one on Twitter later, I scratched my bum. I felt a hair on my bum and I tried to brush it off but it didn't move. It felt like a long hair. I pulled at the long hair and, as I lay there so early in the morning alone, I realised that the long hair was up my anus. I pulled it and, as I lay there so early in the morning alone, the hair slowly slid from my anus and I held it up to up to the light arguing through the curtains. It was black. A long jet black hair had found it's way from a head, after months or years of growth, and had journeyed that impossible journey all the way to my anus. I lay there alone looking at the hair and thinking about who she was. She had long jet black hair and, I decided, she was pretty and her name was Lisa. She studied drama at RADA but really it was always writing that she was good at. Her play last year was so successful that a large ethically sound business have sponsored her this year and her new play is in a much bigger venue while reviewers are in tears at the emotion she conjours with her words. And at some point, we passed. Just a fleeting moment between Lisa and I. We sat together. Me scrolling through Twitter, her drinking coconut water and replying to a text from her agent. If I'd noticed her, I could have said hello. Maybe she could have taken me out of this loneliness and influenced the dying fire within me to rise again. Instead, she brushed her long, dark hair and one fell loose and through sheer fate found its way into my anus. Then Lisa got up and left. I thought about all that and felt alone. Then I realised it could be a man's hair and I felt worse.

It doesn't matter how the hair got up my anus. The only thing that's important is that the hair DID get up my anus. To mock me as I lay alone. That's how obsessed with me I am. A hair is pulled from my anus and I assume it did it on purpose. But I'm trying to stop. Maybe if I stop obsessing over myself I'll be happier. If I think more about the world than I do about myself then maybe I'll be normal. I should think less of myself, just like everyone else does.

And it's working. Sometimes I actually feel myself empathising with other actual human beings. Sometimes when I least expect it.

I went to see a show on Monday night that looked so utterly offensive that I wanted to see how the comedian justified the horrible stereotypes depicted in his poster. Yes, yes, yes. I also wanted to laugh at how shit I assumed it would be but I genuinely was interested in seeing how, in 2013, racial stereotypes are accepted by audiences. But it wasn''t what I expected at all. It wasn't a big racist being a massive dick. It was just an ordinary man being tragic.

He walked on stage and informed everyone that he was from Pakistan and then did some lame jokes about that country. They all fell to silence. Then he decided to do some audience banter. "What about you?", he said to me. "Quickly. Quickly".

I didn't know how to answer the question and, to be honest, "What about you?" is not a great question to ask someone as self obsessed as me. "Where are you from?", he barked. 

His response to Northern Ireland was "Hey! Get away. I like my kneecaps" and I was offended. Not because of the stereotyping but because of the lies. He didn't like his kneecaps. He didn't like anything about himself at all. His kneecaps are a pair of cunts. Then he turned to a little Asian boy, the only person in the front row. "What age are you?", he asked. "12", the little boy replied. 

"12?", said the sad man. "You should be married. Where is your wife?"

"Oh", said the boy. "She died two years ago in a car accident".

I laughed for a year. The sad man did more racial stereotyping and got nothing from the audience so he returned to the boy. "You should remarry", he said to the boy. "I just want a dog", replied the boy.

"But you need to find someone to share your life with, to open your heart and find love".

"I just want to play frisbee".

This constant outwitting by a 12 year old boy went on and on just wasn't fun. I couldn't laugh at an idiot being a racist idiot because he's a human being and he's just draining away to silence. He was completely shit and the audience hated him and that could easily be me. A man alone and being mocked. Every joke got silence, every routine ending with something like "And my routine...about...arranged...marriages". At one point he forgot his own name. And that's when I forgot all about me and just wanted him to stop. Stop the show, stop the act, stop hating himself. I wanted to get up on that stage and hold him. I would hug him for as long as he wanted and I would tell him that it's all OK. He doesn't need to ever do that act again. If I had asked him to stop, would he have said "Thank you, my good good friend" and hugged me back? I don't know.

I do know that he's got jet black hair.

My show "Free Wifi" is on at The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh from the 31st July until the 25th August at 3.40pm. Please come along. You can buy tickets here: