Fringe baby

Expectant father Paul Kerensa on doing things differently

Last year, I didn’t Fringe. I had a choice: Edinburgh or wedding. I chose to wed, thinking it’ll give me more material in the long run. It was, of course, purely a business decision.

This year, my comedy widow of a wife is due to give birth to our firstborn soon after the festival ends. This was not a business decision, despite the top London promoter who didn't give congratulations but said, ‘Well it's very passé to have kids now. Derivative of Mark Watson and Adam Bloom.’ I am not stealing their material. I am having a child.

So there’s a dilemma. To Fringe or not to Fringe, that is the question. Clearly, I have chosen to Fringe. You can tell because you are reading this, and I am not a professional journalist. Therefore it is more than likely these words have appeared in front of you because I have a show to plug. Sorry to shatter that illusion.

Mrs Kerensa was going to come up to visit, but this is no place for a woman 33 weeks pregnant. Somewhere between the Tennent’s lager, the four flights of stairs to get to my flat, the four flights of stairs just to get from one street to another, the quality of bed, the hours and the diet of batter that’s then been deep-fried, I'd feeling she’d probably rather be at home on the sofa.

Plus pregnant women are meant to avoid saunas, and I’ve only been to one venue that doesn’t resemble one, and that was a walking tour of Hamlet.

So this year, I’m doing two things differently due to the forthcoming Kerensa Junior. Firstly I’m doing a shorter run and coming home early. I really can’t face a phone call from my wife saying, ‘The baby’s coming – rush home on the bus, plane, train and taxi it takes to get here,’ arriving in Guildford a day later to find that my child is not only born but now a whole day old, and I’ve missed a full 86,400 seconds of the little mite’s life.

The second thing I’m doing is a free show. I couldn’t think of a way to explain to baby why we can’t afford nappies because daddy spent several thousand pounds hiring a cave and printing pictures of his face to give to tourists. The Free Fringe also feels more how the festival should be – we perform, if they like it, they throw money in a hat. If they don’t like it, all we take home is a hat. But at least we have a hat, and not ten thousand pounds of debt.

The Fringe is a gamble. You can spend money, you can make money. Most will hover around the break-even spot, which is a pretty good place to be. But for a festival that encourages anyone to come, it could do with being cheaper. Otherwise those giant posters you see suspiciously in places we’ve been told can’t have posters, may not be the best comedians, but the ones with the most disposable income.

I for one though will be attempting a budget fringe this year. If I don’t, come October I’ll have to explain to passers-by why my newborn’s nappy is called Canon’s Gait 20:25 with a logo that looks a bit like daddy.

Published: 9 Aug 2010

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