My most embarrassing moment on the Fringe was entirely my fault | Paul Sinha's Edinburgh Fringe binge, cringe and whinge...

My most embarrassing moment on the Fringe was entirely my fault

Paul Sinha's Edinburgh Fringe binge, cringe and whinge...

Paul Sinha returns to the Edinburgh Fringe next week with his latest show Pauly Bengali. Here he shares what he can’t get enough of at the festival, his most embarrassing story, and what most irritates him about the month. Aside from the cost of accommodation, obviously.

Edinburgh Binge

As has been well-documented, the length of the festival can seem like a slog. Don’t feel you have to sup from it relentlessly.

I’m biased, because one of my best mates from school lives there; but each year I visit Linlithgow. It’s only 20 minutes away on the train, and when you step off the train, you enter a charming, quiet town, where not one human being gives a damn about a three-star review that read like a four.

The highlight is the lakeside palace of Linlithgow. The birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, it’s a gorgeous slice of Scottish heritage, which is definitively *not* being overrun by international tourism.

Linlithgow is by no means the only option for escaping the Fringe. But it’s easy on the eye, easy on the feet, and a perfect advert for the benefits of getting away.

Edinburgh Cringe

As an acknowledged veteran of the Fringe — who, I’d like to think, has steadily built a reputation for Doing Things Right — it fills me with horror that my most embarrassing moment on the Fringe was entirely my fault.

It was last year, approximately three quarters of the way through the run.

I traipsed over to the Pleasance, to watch a show from a comedian who is not just a friend, but a brilliant man and a hugely-admired colleague.

I made what turned out to be a fatal error — having a couple of pre-show pints, but no precautionary visit to the toilet.

To my horror, I was sat in the second row from the front, right in the middle. To my further horror, the bladder irritation began relatively early.

Twenty minutes into the show, I was left with two options. Completely ruin the rhythm and momentum of a show that my friend had spent many months lovingly creating Or have an incontinence episode, and accidentally become a tabloid headline.

As I clumsily stumbled past other audience members, to make an inglorious exit, several other equally-anguished punters followed me out.

That I’d unwittingly vandalised a fellow comedian’s show still causes me shame.

Comedy fans: always accommodate toilet breaks in your Fringe spreadsheet.

Edinburgh Whinge

For 11 months of the year, visitors to Edinburgh are as impressed by the charms of the Old Town as they are by the bombastic neoclassical architecture of the New Town.

In August, at the supposedly largest arts festival in the world, a strange phenomenon occurs, where the two halves of the city become dramatically unequal siblings — the streets of the New Town seemingly deserted in comparison to its older rival.

Of course, it’s entirely understandable that comedy fans seeking to maximise their visit will gravitate to those areas with the highest density of shows.

For a comedy critic at a major national publication, however, this behaviour borders on the indefensible.

In the same way that the Free Fringe has become increasingly marginalised in the eyes of many comedy critics, so has the New Town.

Where once the likes of Phil Nichol, David O’Doherty, and Bridget Christie earned acclaim and awards, there are now several major critics for whom physical laziness has become a badge of honour.

We’re all part of the same festival. Please aspire to do better.

• Paul Sinha: Pauly Bengali is on at The Stand’s New Town Theatre at 17:40 from August 2.

Published: 25 Jul 2023

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