Surviving The Fringe: 2. Drink Happy | By comedian and doctor Matt Hutchinson

Surviving The Fringe: 2. Drink Happy

By comedian and doctor Matt Hutchinson

In the second in our series in which junior doctors who are also comedians give tips on surviving the gruelling Edinburgh Fringe, hospital medic Matt Hutchinson discusses how to avoid drowning among all the fun.

Bad-mouthing alcohol isn’t necessarily the smartest career move for a comic. Edinburgh is a town that loves a drink…’s company sponsorship deal during the month of August. What might be somewhat wiser though, is listening to those Drink Aware messages on the bottles. You know, the ones up until now you had presumed were ironic?

If you like a drink normally, during the festival you will probably imbibe more than you usually do. Given the vast majority of venues conveniently double up as watering holes, you have essentially signed up to spending an entire month in the pub.

If your show does well, every garland hung around your neck will no doubt be accompanied by the requisite bubbles. You will, of course, ink your new lucrative TV deal over cocktails (although being blind drunk never did help anyone read the small print). 

If things go less swimmingly, on the other hand, you may find yourself partaking in a little White Lightning self-medication, as you ask yourself ‘where did it all go wrong?’ The answer to that question may well be ‘at the bar’ where earlier you were cultivating that louche drunken rebel persona, the one who promptly forgot all of their material as soon as they got on stage. 

Being a medical professional I naturally always endeavour to practice what I preach. Nevertheless, I also know what a hangover is like. Namely a pretty accurate flash-forward to how I’m likely to behave on my deathbed – pathetically. It’s not a state you want to be in when trying to impress the hordes in the saturated marketplace of the festival. Especially not when you’ve incinerated the contents of your bank account for the privilege of being there. 

It’s undeniable that in the past few years there have been more men proudly proclaiming their feminist credentials on and off the stage. Now while generally this is to be welcomed, there are those who would accuse some of them of cynical bandwagon-jumping. I’ll remain diplomatic (read cowardly) and leave that to others. What better way for these reformed "ladz" to show solidarity however, than by sticking to the new unisex recommended weekly alcohol allowance of 14 units?

That’s right, we are all allowed 14 units of alcohol a week. That’s six pints of beer or six 175ml glasses of wine. This may come as a shock to some of you. There are circles where consuming anything less than that in an evening’s drinking is enough to have you branded a eunuch, pilloried and ostracised.  Given their regressive choice of insults and the attendant health risks of their appetites, limiting the amount of time you spend drinking with these people may not be such a bad thing.

This all may seem a little male-centric and for that I apologise. Female readers will have been wandering in the arid parching desert of 14 unit abstinence for many more years. They can at least take consolation from the fact this means they are less likely to you know, die of cancer. And think of how fun it will be paying back years of smugly being told you’re too delicate to drink as much as men folk! 

Resisting temptation is, of course, easier said than done. We know as soon as the word ‘cheeky’ is inserted into a sentence before either the word ‘Nandos’ or ‘pint’ all self-control goes out the window. Next time someone asks you ‘fancy a cheeky one?’ a start may be asking yourself "If I weren’t at the Fringe, would I be drinking now". If it’s 3 in the afternoon on a Tuesday and the answer is no, then probably best to not go to the pub. Come to my show instead.

If the answer to that question is ‘yes, I would be drinking’, then without wishing to further jeopardise my professional standing, I might not be the person to help you. Fortunately there are many far more qualified saintly practitioners on hand to do just that – real life face-to-face ones who aren’t preoccupied deluding themselves with narcissistic dreams of telling jokes on stage. Your GP is a good place to start, or failing that, as long as you’re still welcome on the internet, drinkaware.co.uk.

Matt Hutchinson will be performing with Haran X in Dissecting the Joke – a stand-up show that’s also a neuroscience experiment – at 15:00 in Cowgatehead.

Published: 5 Aug 2016

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