And there we have it. The Fringe in a nutshell. Me and Reg, weíve both spent the festival trying to make people laugh. But the difference is, heís been doing it in a huge hall, with 700 packed onto raised seating and paying fourteen quid a pop, and Iíve been doing it in the basement of a pub, for a handful of folk, half of whom donít even throw a lousy handful of copper into the bucket at the end.
There are several strata, and heís close to the top one, and Iím right down at the bottom. We were both there, and thatís where the similarity ends.
This is the fifth summer in succession Iíve spent in Edinburgh, but my first on the working side of the microphone. And Iíve had a blast, I really have. Iíve done shows with Stephen Grant and Liam Mullone and Vlad McTavish, Iíve chatted with top promoters and TV producers, Iíve been recognised in the street, Iíve performed at the Gilded Balloon, and thrown up in the toilets beforehand. To quote from the immortal Vinnie Jones, itís been emotional.
And Iíve learned. Boy how Iíve learned. A couple of weeks before the beginning of the festival I ran into Jongleurs booker Julia Chamberlain in a pub in Soho, and I told her I was doing a full Fringe run, and she said it would either break me or fire me six months ahead of where I should be. And I nodded, and said yeah, and didnít really believe it. Just over three weeks ago I walked on stage for our first night, with a well-rehearsed set of material and a fervent hope that the audience would let me get through it and not interrupt. Quite frankly, they terrified me.
But here I am three weeks later, Iíve had storming nights, Iíve died on my arse, Iíve called an audience a bunch of cunts and meant it, Iíve compered for the first time, Iíve gone on wild ad-libbed digressions, and Iíve come to the point where I walk on, fix them with a steely eye, and think, come on you fuckers, bring it on, I can take whatever you throw at me.
And of course Iíve had that other quintessential Fringe experience. The one where you stand in the street in the pouring lashing rain, trying to hand soggy bits of paper to people who look like they would rather spit on you than take one. Reg doesnít have to do that any more, or Stephen or Vlad, they have teams of students they pay to do it for them. But once they did. Itís a rite of passage we all have to go through, without which you havenít earned the right to say. ĎI did Edinburghí.
Which, in the end, is the point. I did Edinburgh. I didnít get any awards, or accolades, or glory, or recognition, or for that matter even one single stinking lousy review. My 35 performances over 23 days went entirely unnoticed by anyone who wasnít either in the audience or sharing the stage, and probably even by a few of those. In effect, what I got out of it was two lines for my comedy CV when I finally set one up: Edinburgh Fringe Show 2008 and So You Think Youíre Funny? semi-finalist.
Oh yes, that, and a hatful of experiences and memories, and the realisation that there is no way I would have rather spent my summer. Me and Reg, we had entirely different Fringes, which intersected only briefly on the stairs of the Gilded Balloon on the very last night. I hope he enjoyed his half as much as I enjoyed mine.