Back from the ‘Burgh

Well, what a week that was.

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The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

You know that feeling when you really, really need a holiday, a goddamn break from your everyday routine? When you feel like your head’s going to explode if you have to do just one more week of the same ‘ol stuff every day? Well that was exactly how I was feeling up until the 14th of August, when I finally had the chance to take a hard-earned holiday and fly to Edinburgh to sample some of the delights that the city’s Fringe Festival had to offer.

Luckily for me, an Edinburgh Fringe virgin, I was staying with my friend and fellow blogger Anna, who had taken on the task of booking us our tickets for a number of shows during the five days we’d be in the city.  Anna knows her shiz when it comes to the who’s-who of the comedy world, so I knew I was in safe hands. And thanks to her skills, we got to see some fantastic comedy from Rhys Darby (‘Murray’ in Flight of the Conchords) [we also had a total fangirl moment and got a photo with him, squee]; Tim Key (of ‘Newswipe’ and ‘Cowwards’; Tom Basden; former Sweet Oblivion interviewee David O’Doherty; the SuperClump sketch troupe; and a host of comedians who took part in Mark Watson’s 24 Hour Comedy Show.

It was the latter event that made the most impact on me during the week – because it led to the most surreal few hours of my life! First off, I have to admit that I wasn’t actually there for the entire 24 hours. The gig started at 1am on Monday night/Tuesday morning (17/18 August) but by then I was tucked up in bed after the previous day’s festivities.  Instead, myself, Anna and Sabina dragged ourselves out of bed at 6am in time to make it to the show six hours in.

Sammy J, Mark Watson and David O'Doherty
Sammy J, Mark Watson and David O'Doherty

It’s quite hard to describe the 24-hour show in just a few sentences, but essentially it’s the brainchild of comedian Mark Watson, who ‘presents’ the show and is helped throughout the day and night by a group of friends (mainly from the UK and Australia) and all manner of comedians, (like Brendon Burns, Adam Hills, Tim Key, Simon Amstell, Sammy J, Stephen K Amos and more) both in real life and online. It’s not a ‘comedy show’ per se, contrary to what I had assumed beforehand, in that it doesn’t feature performances – rather, it is a performance in itself. An improvised, ramshackle show where you never know what’s going to happen next.

The show is streamed live and twittered and blogged  throughout the 24 hours…it’s a fully interactive event with lots of weird and wonderful things happening throughout the day.  For a better idea of what happened, visit here and here, and for lots of photos, visit here. And for a video Anna took of me, her and Sabina, check out my gurning mug here.

edinburgh etc 120The point where things started to get extremely surreal for me was when, in the third venue of the day (in the Pleasance), the Australian comedian Adam Hills announced that he’d never had an ‘entourage’….and that perhaps the 24-hour show was the occasion where he would find one.  Adam had a show that night in the Assembly Rooms, and while he went off to do an interview, he left it in the host Mark’s and Ali McGregor‘s (Adam’s fiancée) hands to pluck the lucky 5 women from the audience.

Now, I’m not the shyest of people usually, but when it comes to big events I don’t really relish the thought of appearing on stage in front of lots of people. But I thought this sounded like good craic and decided to enter the competition….and was one of the people who won.

So off I went with four lovely ladies, all of us being ordered to wear sunglasses to fulfill our ‘entourage’ duties (which I must stress were all to be done with tongue firmly in cheek!) – which was just as well as it was about 18 hours into the show at this point and we were all feeling a bit rough. We travelled to the Assembly Rooms by taxi and met up with Adam, who brought us for drinks and food before our stage debut (although at this point neither Adam nor we knew what was in store for us).

Me with the comedian Adam Hills, backstage at the Assembly
Me with the comedian Adam Hills, backstage at the Assembly

The day got a tad more surreal when we went to the backstage area – you know how you assume that ‘backstage’ is going to be a fancy-schmancy room with bouquets on a table, food to tuck into and a plethora of hangers-on lolling about quaffing champagne? Well, no such outrageous behaviour here! It was essentially a small white room with a separate toilet and a mirror….and Frank Skinner sitting in the corner, tying his shoelaces.

Yep, Frank Skinner. You know that saying, ‘Sure, he was the same as on the telly!’? Well, he was.  I did the embarrassing thing of trying to crack a joke with a comedian and thankfully Frank didn’t turf me out on my ear for insulting his craft.  Adam bravely tried to convince Frank to come along to the 24 hour show, but in his genial way Frank said he had a party to go to….ah, showbiz!

Once Frank was gone, the nerves started to kick in. We followed Adam (who was, at this point, looking as green-gilled as we were feeling, as he now had to crowbar five very tired yet excited young women into his show – in front of 650 people) behind the black curtain. He stepped on stage, and we were left wondering what was about to unfold.

We could hear Adam chattering with the audience – and then he singled out one young boy, who said he was 11 years old. ‘Did you ever want an entourage of your own?’ Adam asked him….and we were whisked on stage. The next hour was spent sitting on stage in front of hundreds of people under the glare of the stage lights, watching Adam do his fantastic show just feet from us…and marvelling at how the poor 11 year old kept his cool! It was such a fantastic experience – mainly because in normal, everyday circumstances I’d never have gotten the chance to do something like this. None of us who were involved would have – but thanks to Watson’s 24 Hour Show, the normal ‘rules’ of behaviour were thrown out of the window and we got to experience the exhilarating feeling of living by whatever rules we wanted. Thanks so much to all involved in the show, and especially to Adam Hills, for making the day such a brilliant experience.

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So, now that I have 1000 words out of the way, I’ll keep the rest of my Edinburgh round-up brief. In short, I fell in love with the city, which is like something out of a fairytale. I am most definitely going to the Fringe next year, for a few days more, to see more shows, and really get stuck into the Fringe experience. Thanks a million to Anna, Sabina, John, Rebecca and Paul, my housemates for the week!

Oh, and I spent a bit too much money in Underground Solushun, which was a well-stocked record store at the end of Cockburn St. Highly recommended if you’re ever in the ‘Burgh, as is Avalanche Records (where I got the  ‘Joan of Arc’ 7″ by Low for €3!!).

PS. After a week of solid comedy, I nearly cried with happiness when I got to listen to music when I got home….you can take the girl away from her record player, but….

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