Comedy partners

Edinburgh's unsung heroes, the 'clown fuckers'. By Anonymous

Hangovers, rehearsals, performances, package shows and parties… it’s the life of a comic at the Edinburgh Fringe.

But what about their other halves? The ‘silent partners’ who love, support and, in some cases, sustain these comics for the other 11 months of the year. Little attention is paid to this band of faithful individuals, even though they play an important part in the success of the Fringe.

In the months preceding the festival, and often during it, silent partners respond diligently to emails, listen sympathetically to phone calls and send encouraging Facebook messages to counter their partner’s doubts and concerns over their show(s).

If most people told their other half they planned to take £10,000 and plough it into a four-week ‘project’ they might question their sanity. But therein lies the rub - silent partners rarely do. They understand the need to take a chance, to follow-up a breakthrough or make a final career push.

But for many silent partners, Edinburgh will be a much-discussed but rarely experienced event. For those with ‘normal jobs’ August means the annual ritual of waving off husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends with the distant promise of a triumphant return at the month’s conclusion.

For comics with kids this is especially hard. Mummy or Daddy going AWOL for the entire school holidays is a hard thing to break to a child on the way to the train station with a boot full of props.

Other partners endure ‘stints’ at the Fringe, using accumulated time off and long weekends to conduct emergency ‘drops’ to tend to their loved ones before rushing back to their own lives on Sunday evenings. Yet more block off the entire month of August and devote themselves to the full time job of ‘ego support’ in the most highly-charged and competitive of all comedy environments.

Once in the ‘burgh, it is easy to lose count of the number of silent partners flyering through horizontal rain, dashing to purchase last-minute props or racing across Waverley Bridge to secure a copy of their partner’s latest review. They smile at the right parties, endure comedy groupies and cheerlead solidly throughout the summer, against all the odds. They are the lovingly partial shoulder to cry on after a bad show and the arms to fall into after a five-star review.

Spend a day at the festival this year and you will see Stephen Grant’s other half tirelessly flyering his show on the Royal Mile, Mark Watson pounding the Pleasance Courtyard drumming up support for his wife Emily’s production or Russell Kane’s fiancée Sadie lending her services as a human PowerPoint slide in his show. And there are many more.

In addition to these physical contributions, silent partners are the direct inspiration for much comic material. Stand-ups frequently draw on experiences with their other halves to challenge the way we think about human relationships and family life. In fact, few comedy shows at this year’s festival fail to mention the influence of silent partners in some way.

Variously dismissed as gag hags, comedy wags or even clown fuckers, silent partners are in reality so much more. Without the men and women behind the acts, there would be no acts. These people are the real unsung heroes of the Edinburgh Fringe. Won’t somebody give them an award?

Published: 5 Aug 2008

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