| 20 questions: Tim Fitzhigham

20 questions: Tim Fitzhigham

Tim FitzHigham is doing more shows than seems feasible at the Fringe, including The Man Who Discovered The Kama Sutra at the Pleasance at 18:00 and All Aboard! at the Dome 11:30am. Here he answers our 20 questions.

So, who did discover the Kama Sutra?

Originally a celibate monk in India (anyone from a Catholic school is thinking ‘of course the greatest book on sexual experience would be written by a monk’ before they move back into counselling...) but it was translated and brought to Europe by the legendary explorer, spy, cunning linguist and greatest swordsman in Europe: Captain Sir R. F. Burton FRGS

Why do a show about him?

More to the point why has no one ever done a show about him before - he's one of the top five greatest Victorian explorers, one of the all time greatest linguists and if that's not enough both Bond and Flashman are based on him. Oh, and he was the first European to discover the Kama Sutra - again why has no-one ever done a show about him before? I think it's all part of the great establishment cover-up surrounding Burton...

Do you think the Victorians were as ‘proper’ as their image suggests?

I think a society that has to be ‘proper"’ opens itself up to someone creating a huge industry of the improper. I'll be talking boy brothels in the show. This is something that even today we find tricky to accept happens.

Why are the British generally considered uptight about sex?

It's the weather - certainly that's what I'd blame it on - in fact being British I have a knee jerk reaction to mention the weather whenever anyone mentions ‘it’ (‘it’ is of course how Britons patriotically refer to sex). Imagine a country where every day was like the brightest, bounciest, warmest day in British summer - and there you have all the countries where they are more relaxed about ‘it’.

Did you have to endure any practical research about the book’s contents?

I researched till I had bruises (I also sprained an ankle). The book does warn of this sort of problem...

What’s the best position in the book?

Come and see the show - but my favourite is the Archimedean Screw - it's got everything - a bit of classical Greek maths and filth - although The Position of The Wife of Indra is meant to be more popular with the womenfolk...

How does it feel, as a genuine toff, to be working as a below-stairs lackey for Andrew Maxwell’s Full Mooners?

...Ah it's my favourite posting being Maxwell's batman - it's a joy. Mooners really has become a cult thing but we pride ourselves on being the history's most welcoming cult. If you've never seen Mooners (the world's only late night, Hammer horror, hip-hop Muppet show), it's something you simply must do. If you can't come in Edinburgh, come in London. Come on, howl at the Moon...

You’re singing kids’ songs at the Fringe, too. How did that come about?

All Aboard! It's a great album that both me and my friend Ewen (MacIntosh from The Office) loved when we were three to (well actually we've never stopped loving it). We had a few drinks in a bar one night and started reminiscing about our favourite album when we were kids - then we started singing the songs - then the rest of the bar joined in and we realised we were not alone. Lots of people knew All Aboard (try to guess which famous Irish stand-up has a bootlegged copy?) - then we got EMI to let us do the show - and here it is. Our big hope in doing the show in Edinburgh is to get EMI to re-release All Aboard! - it's simply the greatest kids album ever put together. The songs are classics - come, sing and overdose on sweets - Bernard Cribbin's Right Said Fred, Rolf Harris Two Little Boys, Nellie the Elephant, Benny Hill's Ernie... I could go on. Ewen and I could not be more excited about the whole thing and I just hope people come and love the songs as much as we do...

If you had to describe your occupation on a passport, what would you put?

Feckless...

Which of all your strange escapades are you most proud?

I think they have all been fun - they all make me smile - even the ones I've not really done shows about. I think it might be when I was farming pigs on an island in the Caribbean (I thought I might make a fortune - for anyone looking for great ways to make money, it's less than ideal). The first time one of my sows gave birth was pretty special. I sat there as she banged out 18 babies and was quite proud of that. I enjoy having a loo named after me - my family seat, I was flushed with pride, I could not get it out of my cistern - oh come on, this is toilet humour Nirvana...

And which scared you the most?

Being stuck in a force 6/7 (2 and 3 metre waves) on the high seas in a sinking bath - that was really quite worrying. I got stuck in a landslide during one of my plans too - again I'd prefer to avoid those in future. During another plan I almost got knifed (I hope my mother is not reading this) - again not really ideal. I think the most scary ones are when you don't have time to realise you're scared - scared is an emotion you have to have time to generate and in the more difficult situations you simply don't have time for it...

On your adventures, do you ever step back and think, ‘This is madness’, or does it all seem perfectly logical at the time?

Actually I think you've just found the thing that really scares me - I get so locked into them that they do seem totally logical - and when I've finished them I look back and think ‘you flipped out a bit there...’ - that's what worries me the most.

Is the British eccentric a dying breed?

As long as there's a square foot for me to erect a flagpole - I'd say not...

Where and when was your first gig?

I didn't have that awful spectre of "the first gig" - I just sort of ended up doing a bit of comedy - I did the revue a bit at university: sketches involving college scarfs, vicars and judges, songs about and Milton and a cookery sketch involving the words spatula and crumpet that generally result in terrible reviews at the fringe. Actually we did Edinburgh once when I was at university and our stuff was so stereotypically, painfully, student-type-stuff that the reviewer thought we had brilliantly created an entirely ironic university revue. He called it something like a triumph of post modern irony. I was very confused, but after that and a bit of time away I found my own things to say and my own way of making people smile.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever had?

I'm not sure I've ever had a ‘best gig. There have been nights where things have just gone well - and that's something I really enjoy - we have a great job when that happens.

And the worst?

There was one where at the end all I could hear was a single, elderly voice wailing from the back, ‘Nurse - make him stop...’. That's perhaps not the pinnacle of showbusiness I was aiming at

here are the best place to eat and drink in Edinburgh?

Leith - I love Leith...it's been really underrated for years. I know it's not strictly speaking in Edinburgh but If You Like fish, you'll love the food in Leith The food at the New Club is nice (that's in Edinburgh not Leith), and of course there's the Elephant Sufficiency and Co. There are always a few bars that are great that come together each festival (Brooke's, Attic Bar and the like) and - as the phrase goes – ‘if you still have a pulse - there's the Penny Black’. Brooke's is a favourite of course...

What one thing would improve the Fringe?

Next year's festival - I'd move to March 09 and not tell me until July the 31st, which would mean I'd have so much more time to not write a show before February 28th when I'd be lobbying to move it back to August...hang on, I've not really thought this through. So nothing really - actually a few less restrictions from the council/police and a total amnesty from prosecution for me in Leith...yes that's what I'd like...

Apart from your own, what other show would you recommend?

Maxwell, he's a talented man. Glenn Wool, he's a talent too. There's just so much good comedy there and around generally at the moment - see as much as you can. Old Rope is normally fun in London, plus see the people I'm always banging on about: Adam, Stewart, Lucy, Paul, Tara, Rich, Daniel, Al...I could go on... and on. There are many, many brilliant clowns at the festival this year.

Published: 15 Aug 2007

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