Tuesday, August 28, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 29: C'est finit.

My last day at Fringe wasn't really a day at all--it was a prolonged mourning period. Laryngitis forced me to cancel my final show. As of midnight the night before, there weren't any tickets sold, so I wanted to pull the ripcord before I disappointed anyone or caused more grief for the venue. Half of the Fringe performers weren't even doing Monday shows, so it wasn't a huge issue.

Still, I felt a profound sadness that I wasn't able to put a period on the end of this month-long sentence. I know it was the right decision, health-wise...

Okay fine, I don't know it. But I'm pretty sure. If there were lots of tickets sold or if I hadn't been through vocal nodes surgery last summer, I'd have muscled through it--rightly or wrongly. Whatever. Things are what they are. I promise not to obsess about it for more than the next 6-8 months.

I went for one last jog. My back is still seizing up, so the first few minutes were brutal. But then I warmed up, and was rewarded with a one-hour respite. I revisited the Hermitage of Braid--no emergency dump this time! It was super pretty and I intentionally got as lost as possible, just following random paths. I wound up in some rolling hills outside the main forest area. As I mentioned, I'm the world's shittiest photographer, but:

This country is so goddamn beautiful. I don't think I've played Fringe well, professionally. But from a human standpoint, I've wrung a lot of pleasure out of this trip. Every time I got bogged down in minutiae, I'd stop, take a deep breath, look up and do a 360 degree spin. What a gift to spend a month surrounded by such beauty, both natural and human-made.

BTW I'm currently 1.5 beers in at the Manchester airport after three hours sleep--please take my maudlin sensibilities with a grain of salt.

I went home showered and decided it was time. Time to eat haggis.

I googled "Best Haggis in Edinburgh" and after some deliberation, settled on The Whiski Bar. It was on the Royal Mile, which means it's probably shit (the jaded New Yorker in me is skeptical of any restaurant located in a tourist-friendly neighborhood). But fuck it--I had 29 damn days to seek out the actual best haggis in Edinburgh and I left it up to a final day google. So strap on your fannypack, don your "I (BRAVE)HEART SCOTLAND" t-shirt* and be the cornball American tourist you are.

So let's not bury the lede any deeper: Haggis is pretty damn good. Not the greatest thing I've ever tasted, but undeniably tasty. Someone described it as "gooey meatloaf" and that about nails it. I hedged my bets by only ordering the appetizer (a small mound of haggis atop mashed potatoes, covered in whiskey cream sauce. But I definitely wish I'd gone all-in. Evidence:

That's actually a video still. I hit record on my phone, just in case my reaction to eating haggis for the first time was "hilarious". It was not. It was just a guy eating a pretty good food for the first time. Looks like I'll never go viral... (sigh)

I spent an hour or so writing yesterday's blog post and then just aimlessly wandered around Old Town for a couple hours. Like an idiot, I wasted the late afternoon, which meant all of the stores were closing/closed by then. It's a shame--I was feeling sentimental and probably would have gone on a trinket buying binge. YOUR LOSS, UK! I'm not sure how I went an entire month without buying anything keepsake-y (other than a pair of sneakers and something for Kambri), but there you go. Typical dude.

I wound up back around Bristo Square right around the time I'd have been preparing for my final show. That made me question my cancellation all over again. But I made the right decision. I DID. I did? I did.

Bristol Square was dead as a doornail and there was a strange vibe--like when people are still drinking, even though the bartender has shouted "Last call!" and the lights at full blast.

I did take a few photos. They won't mean anything to you, dear reader. But I think they'll be  a nice reminder for me, down the road.

I wandered back towards Morningside, stopping for a beer and to download a few Mindhunter episodes for my flight back to NYC.

Not gonna lie--kind of lame-ass final night.

But rather than dwell on crap, let me itemize all of the wonderful things that have happened over the past month:

* I spent a full month in one of the world's great cities. I'd been told by numerous people that Edinburgh was magical and, quite frankly, they all undersold it.

* I did 25 full one-hour shows in 26 days, not to mention upwards of 25 short bar sets. That's over 30 hours of stage time. Unreal.

* I saw soooooo many good shows. And some pretty ones and even a couple clunkers. But each and every one game me something to think about and lit fire under my ass to see more shows once I'm back in NYC.

* I met a shit-ton of cool people. The person I'll probably miss the most is Jess, the superwoman who handled my tech every night. She was an angel. An angel straight from heaven!  Since I missed my final show, I did not get to thank her properly or to even discover her last name. I'm kinda like that.

* I learned that I'm definitely an American comedian. I have a bit of that Groucho Marx thing in me. Whenever someone assumes that I'm X, I feel compelled to argue that maybe I'm actually Y. And if you say I'm Y, I'll declare "Who's says I'm a letter at all? Maybe I'm a number! Or a symbol! Perhaps I'm &!!!" It's a tiresome personality trait that most folks grow out of in their early 20's. While UK audiences liked me fine, the presence of a few Americans in the audience guaranteed it would be a good show. In fact, if I have a target demo, I think it would be "Americans who travel"--i.e. who have a curiosity about the world, but can still appreciate a good Panera joke. The last paragraph of this very nice review encapsulates what I'm talking about. 'Brash', 'Open', 'Vulnerable' and 'Resonant' are all words I want associated with my comedy. Going into Fringe I wondered if performing for UK audiences would reveal something to me about myself. And whaddaya know--it did!

And now, I bring this series of blog posts to a close. As I type this, I'm already back in my Queens apartment with my beautiful wife and two extremely huggable dogs. I've really enjoyed documenting this experience and I hope it's been enjoyable to read. I'm going to keep on blogging, albeit not every day. If you feel so inclined, there's field over to the right ----------> where you can enter your email address and get an alert when I post something new.

In the mean time, thanks for reading. And thanks for allowing me to squat in a tiny little corner of your brain from time to time.

C'est finit/C'est Finny

Monday, August 27, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 28: Limping Across the Finish Line

Met Dad for a quick lunch at nondescript Italian restaurant he'd been frequenting during his stay. If you're wondering why a guy would spend so much time in an ancient city eating rigatoni and chicken caesars at a family-style tourist trap, I can't answer that. Dads are gonna dad.

I shuffled of to The Banshee Labyrinth ("Scotland's most haunted pub", apparently) to see Irish comic Eleanor Tiernan. Eleanor and I had met a couple of times in NYC, but we mostly know each other via Twitter. This was the first time I'd seen her do an extended set and I absolutely loved it. She has a really infectious style--ultra-conversational, almost like she's playing possum. Then she hits you with the payoff and you realize you've been set up the whole time. Super fun.

She also ended her show with one of my favorite closing lines of all time: "Don't let anyone ever tell you you're worth it." I'm pretty sure that is the most Irish sentiment of all time.

I killed an hour trying to get WiFi to work (I blame the ghosts) then went to a different room in the same venue to see Adrian Minkowicz, an Argentinian comic who lived in NYC for a few years. A nicer guy you will not find but, like Eleanor, I'd never seen him to a full set. His show was called Tango Tales and related to, well, Tango--the music, the dance, its place in Argentinian culture and its place in his personal history. There were songs, a bit of dance and a lot of fun. And it was heightened by the intimacy of the venue, a tiny subterranean cinema. This picture doesn't do its quaintness justice, but:

It was like watching a foreign film, only with solid jokes. A nice one-two punch of a day.

By the way, the rest of Banshee Labyrinth ain't so classy. Here's a vending machine located in the men's room:

Condom machines are standard dave bar fare, but a vibrator machine? I guess the slogan would be:

"For when you're definitely about to get laid, but you're pretty sure you're not up to the task!"

After Adrian's show I swung Dad's nearby hotel for a quick nap. I was definitely ill, no bones about it--my vocal cords have been rapidly approaching "fuck this" status. But I was hoping that a quick re-charge would help me muscle through the last two days.

Speaking of muscles, it was around this time that my back completely seized up. This happens from time to time, especially when I'm under the weather. Usually lasts a day or three. It's not a constant ache or pain you can adjust for--that would be something for which you could at least gameplan. Instead, it's a seemingly random thrice-hourly bolt of lightening that causes my entire back to suddenly scream in abject terror. Then it goes away...for a while. It's like having muscular Tourettes. 

I headed over to the Three Sisters for my second and final appearance on the Laughing Horse "Free Pick of the Fringe" show. There's no use in promotion at this point--it's just a spot. And if I was smart I'd have cancelled, in order to preserve my voice. But I hate cancelling spots, especially since I knew there'd be a large crowd (in contrast to the the slim pickings I knew awaited me at Gilded Balloon). So I soldiered through and regretted it almost immediately. It was only a 15 minute spot and I did well, but I knew my own show was destined to be a struggle.

My show:

It was a predictably small gathering--15 to 20, I believe. But that's fine--it's not as if that was foreign to me at this point. But every damn sentence was painful and every fourth syllable came out as pure air. Every 15 minutes or so, my back muscles would get jealous of all the attention my vocal cords were getting and screamed "YO YO YO REMEMBER US??"

I thought I'd be happier ditching my show in favor of straight standup, but I now think the structure might have helped me maintain a sense of forward motion. I was haphazardly bouncing from bit to bit and I'm sure my exhaustion and lack of focus came off loud and clear. I got laughs, but Matrix Mode this was most assuredly not. 

This is where I should have gone home. But I'd agreed to do a set at Head Sets and it felt like a shithead move to cancel last minute. So I wheezed through that and then had another decision to make: should I go home right then and there, or should I stay out for (what I thought was going to be) the Festival Closing Ceremony at midnight?

At this point, it occurred to me that I'd likely need to cancel my final show. This is not the end of the world--a lot of my fellow performers aren't even doing shows on the final night. It is super duper weird to end a month-long festival on a Monday night. Yes, Monday is technically a bank holiday here in the UK, but that makes it even weirder. Who the heck spends money on live comedy on the last night of a three day weekend? After 21 years, I can tell you with certainty: nobody.

So I thought, fuck it--I have a couple friends who are nominated for awards and I'd like to poke my head in at the final shindig. So I head over to the Gilded Balloon and spent 20 minutes standing around a loud bar while a cornball deejay blasted disco hits. I shredded the last vestige of my voice chatting with my publicist and managed not to laugh/cry when he told me he'd forgotten to email me that he'd sent a comedy blogger to see me that evening. Wunderbar.

The event seemed shockingly under-attended for the closing ceremony of such a massive festival. And then I found out: the festival awards had actually been announced the previous day. This was just a promotional party to give out a silly award for "Best Poster". Wunderbar-er.

By the time I got back to Morningside, I was a wreck. I emailed my producer and told her I'd be cancelling my final show. It sucks to have this massive life experience end on such a whimper. Saturday night was a genuine high and, if I'd known for certain Sunday was to be my final show, I'd definitely have performed it as-written one more time, small crowd be damned. But maybe I should just be happy that the final performance of My Goodness (in the near future at least) was an unqualified success, rather than a painful slog. I'm of two minds--but then, being of two minds is my default setting. 

So it appears as if my final day in Scotland will be show-free. I guess that means I have no excuse not to try haggis.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 27: Homestretching

I'm officially at the point in this sojourn where I spent all today day thinking "Fuck, I have to leave Tuesday and I still haven't [BLANK]!"

A short list of [BLANK]:

  • Tried Haggis
  • Walked around Leith (where Trainspotting is set)
  • Found a cool Edinburgh record store from which to buy a t-shirt
  • Visited The Devil's Pulpit (not gonna happen, sadly)
  • Visited Edinburgh Castle (I got close that one day, but I've since been told it's not worth it)
  • Done a set/seen a show at The Stand
  • Seen shows by a few Twitter friends I've never met IRL

I'm hoping to check a couple of off my list before Tuesday morning (seeing Twitter friends' shows, haggis), but I have to accept that some stuff is going to remain un-done. Theoretical,ly I tackle the rest "next year". But can I honestly say there's going to be a "next year"?

On the one hand, Fringe has not lived up to my expectations, creatively speaking. I was hoping to come out of this with a renewed focus and a firm idea of what I want the next five years of my life to look like. If anything, I feel more confused than ever. It's been physically grueling, emotionally volatile and, quite frankly, expensive. If you put a gun to my head and made me decide now whether or not I'd be back, I'd probably have to say no.

And yet...

I've learned so much about Fringe over these past four weeks--the hard way, perhaps, but learnin' iz learnin'! If I were to come back, I'd have a much better handle on how to make the most out of the experience. Part of me wants to come back just to prove I can do it "right". That can be dangerous thinking. Life should not be about trying to fix the past--according to my therapist, at least. But I've finally started to make some solid contacts--are those destined to wither on the vine? More than anything, I wish I'd done this 15 years ago, when I could have spent a few Augusts playing trial-and-error.

Oh right, I'm meant to be recounting my day.

I knew I was officially sick when I went to bed the previous night. I tossed and turned a lot, but managed to stay horizontal for a solid nine hours. I'd have slept longer, but Myq was recording a podcast in the other room. This is not a gripe--11am is well past when you can justifiably expect silence. I showered and left the flat, bone-weary and listless.

I'm sick of Morningside, so I jumped a bus to Old Town and did a bit of shopping. I bought my wife something nice (I hope!), then ate lunch/hunted around for Wifi (see yesterday's entry). Nothing about this paragraph is interesting--I'm just documenting my activities. Sorry to have wasted 14 seconds of your time.

I closed Kirk Smith's showcase, rounding out my Bar Bados experience. I will never forget that place--not just for the fun shows, but for the Hep-C that is most certainly coursing through my veins after so many days in that shithole. I'll say this: the crowds at Bar Bados were consistently great--affable and eager to laugh. Granted, it was the "Free Fringe"--it's easy to be affable when you have no money on the line. Still, all praise to Bar Bados: you had no business being as fun as you were.

I killed a couple hours at the Gilded Balloon Loft Bar, internet-ing and trying desperately not to fall asleep, then went out and grabbed a quick bite. I also stopped by an herbalist right off Bristo Square, who sells a number of performer-centric teas and remedies. Picked up some "Singer's Solution", which may not actually do anything for my vocal cords, medically. But damn if it doesn't dull the discomfort. Good stuff!

My show:

Being sick, I didn't know what to expect. But I wasn't terribly concerned. I know how to attack a show when I'm not at 100%. I know to do a few jumping jacks backstage and focus extra hard on my diction. It's the nights when illness hits me mid-show that send me off the rails. That said, I was not expecting tonight to my best show of festival. But whaddaya know?

Tonight was the show I thought I'd be having all month long. Good crowd work, but the material all landed as well. Not quite as big as last Saturday's crowd, but more even engaged. There were a number of Americans in the audience, which certainly helped. It's probably the first time in Fringe that I occasionally entered what I call "Matrix Mode".  This is when everything slows down and you feel completely, utterly in control.

Me, for at least 1/3 of last night’s show

It is the pursuit of this feeling that keeps me invested in standup after all these years. There have been shows where I've spent the entire hour in Matrix Mode and this certainly wasn't that--my raspy voice got in the way and my damn slideshow malfunctioned towards the end, compromising the last ten minutes. But it was the only show all month I will file in my mental “Best Of” folder. Not near the top, but in the Top 50. Pity it came so late, but fuck it. Feeling good feels good.

I was on a genuine high after the show and, being the last Saturday of Fringe, I'm sure there were parties I could have crashed. But my throat feels terrible. I'm already reasonably certain I've re-developed vocal nodes--I'll cross that bridge back in New York. Regardless, a loud bar is the last thing I needed. I headed back to Morningside for some late night internet-ing (Hello, Merlin Pub!) and then home to crash the fuck out.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 26: The Hungarian Poverty Initiative

Slept like garbage and woke up with a tickle in the back of my throat. Wonderful.

Spent the first part of my day eating/internet-ing t The Merlin Pub. It's a bit sad that I've so much of my month in Edinburgh sitting inside this remarkably unremarkable establishment. It's a classic neither/nor--not intimate enough to feel like an independent business, not polished enough to feel like a "brand". It's like some guy started a GoFundMe to open a his own version of a TGI Fridays. But's steps away from my bed and, most importantly, they have the best Wifi in Edinburgh. Seriously, they should put that on their sandwich board.

My Wifi-less flat has absolutely my Fringe experience--not the biggest frustration, but certainly the most consistent. It means I have to lug my laptop everywhere and I keep finding myself in situations like the one I'm currently in: sitting in a restaurant, having already ordered, only to be told that the WiFi is "a bit temperamental". FYI this is code for "You won't be able to get any actual work done, but you'll get close a few times--you know, a half-loaded webpage or two. Enjoy your 45 minute cyber cocktease!"

Went home, showered and met Dad at the Underbelly Circus Hub, a giant tent (or "big top", if you will) erected in the The Meadows. At Myq's recommendation, we saw Universoul Circus, which was thoroughly fantastic. It's in the traditional Ringling Bros vein (as opposed to the artsy Cirque du Soleil vein), only sans animals and with a focus on POC. It's billed as a "hip hop" circus, but the performers were from all over the globe--the Caribbean, South Africa, Mongolia, South America, etc. Fringe shows are all one hour in length, which is the perfect for a circus, in my mind. You get dazzled and, just as you're starting to think "Ok, I get it", the next act is coming on to dazzle you all over again. Every act was super impressive; not death-defying necessarily, but certainly permanent-paralysis-defying! My favorites were the Bonebreakers, a quartet of African contortionists, who...well, click the link and see for yourself.

The enjoyment was definitely heightened by the presence of my father, a.k.a The World's Most Squeamish Man. Dad is a wuss of epic proportions--we went to Santa Fe a few years back and he literally covered his mouth and gagged at the sight of guacamole. GUACAMOLE! Watching his face wrenched in horror at the sight of dudes gleefully dislocated their shoulders to Miami Bass music was worth the price of admission.

After the show we walked together for a while, then parted ways. It was pouring rain and I'd neglected to bring my raincoat. By the time I got to the Loft Bar, I was drenched and shivering. Wonderful-er.

My show:

Great. Bad. Exhausting. Fun. Frustrating. The crowd was on the larger side, by which I mean the room was nearly half-full (I could have said "more than half-empty", but I didn't because...OPTIMISM!). A rowdy group of 8-10 walked in late. They were a bit disruptive and I was worried they'd tank the show, but they were super fun and provided a much-needed energy boost. It was a delightfully oddball-laden crowd, so I did more road work than usual. One Hungarian woman (a dead ringer for Linda Hunt) calmly explained that she doesn't donate to charity because Hungarian tradition is to pretend poor people don't exist. She wasn't even trying to be funny--she stated it plainly, as if giving directions to the post office.

My Hungarian audience member's doppleganger

It was one of those shows where crowd work gets a bigger reaction than prepared material. That happens--some crowds just spark to banter, especially when you get folks who will return the ball without straining to be funny. If this was a typical show, I'd have ditched my setlist and just fucked around. But I'd already laid out my agenda (i.e. scoring oneself in the ten categories of human goodness), so I felt forced to keep returning to the lesson plan. My "grand concept" felt more like an albatross. 

But the toughest thing about last night was a giant wave of sickness washed over me 20 minutes into the show. I became lightheaded, dry-mouthed, simultaneously hot and cold. And my throat started to burn, which affects my performance more than any single thing. I'm not so terrified about my voice at this point--I can make it through tonight's show and that's the last one that truly counts. Even in the unlikely event I have to bail tomorrow or Monday, I'm confident the 8-12 people who have bought tickets will find a way to get over it. But feeling bad onstage diminishes my ability to "turn the corner" on a show. Last night's crowd was one I would have busted wide open, under different circumstances. So even though it was still a B-level show overall, I left tired and frustrated. 

I wanted nothing more than to go straight home, but I had a set at Frankenstein Pub. With Fringe so close to being done, I want to get in every last set I can. The crowd was suuuuuper tight, but that actually worked to my advantage. Freed from the constraints of my show, I did mostly crowd work. The audience could tell how much I genuinely didn't need their approval and seemingly tried to win me over with laughter. It was like negging sixty-five people at the same time. I hate when stuff like that works but...hey, it worked!


Friday, August 24, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 25: The Telltale Deuce

Woke up and, after my standard hour of in-bed Twitter scrolling (RIP data plan), went for a run. At the suggestion of Twitter fellow (Thanks, @Casy151!), I headed over to the Hermitage of Braid, an absurdly beautiful nature reserve not even a mile from my flat--how I've missed it until now I can't begin to say. It was everything you want from an outdoor run. I took pictures, but I'm a crap photographer--they all just looks like a squirrel stole my phone and went off. But there are some nice ones from the site linked above, so I'll steal a few of those:

I did not take this photo.

Nor this one.


Even these pictures, lovely as they are, fail to do the Hermitage justice. It a leafy wonderland, nestled right in the middle of one of the world's most beautiful cities! This is what world travel is about, I thought to myself, The only downside came when I was trotting along, deep within the wooded beauty and I started getting tell-tale intestinal gurgles. Um....uh oh.

It's not my desire to ruin your reading experience with tales of the human body and its foul machinations, but I want no secrets between us! So let me answer this head-on: Did I, a crass American tourist, take an outdoor dump in the beautiful and historic Hermitage of Braid?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Look, it's not like I wanted to! There are no public bathrooms within the reserve and my lower intestine does not have a snooze button. So I limped along as remote a path as I could find, occasionally passing couples out for a afternoon hike. I made sure to wince a lot, so it looked as if my strange gait was the result of a rolled ankle and not the fact the fact that my colon was about to explode like The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Eventually I found a sufficiently isolated corner of the forest and tore off some plant fronds to use as de facto buttwipes. Yes, I know: classy.

This was a rookie episode all-around, for which I am justifiably ashamed. I am no stranger to outdoor dump-age, you see. Kambri and I have a beautiful little cabin in Cochecton, NY and whenever I go for a run, I always make sure to bring a length of TP, just in case. My poor digestive habits don't usually run the risk of causing an international incident. If I was going to take a dump on Scottish soil, I should at least have done it here.

I've gone into enough detail. It's a thing that happened and we shall never speak of it again.

I kicked around Morningside for the rest of the afternoon--eating, blogging, napping--then headed in for my show:

You know the deal: A moral victory at a point in my career when moral victories mean approximately diddly-squat. There's a lot I still want to do before I leave Edinburgh, but at this point, doing my show is the least interesting part of my day. I'm ready to work on some new material, that's for sure.

After my show, I caught a cabaret show devoted to the songs of David Bowie. If you don't know, I looooooove me some Bowie. I perform at an annual live-band "Bowie night" at The Letlove Inn and I even co-produced a Bowie trivia contest at QED. So this show was a no-brainer for me, even though the performer's flyer really annoyed me. You know how you can sometimes just see someone's face and say "Ummmmmm no"? That's how I felt about this dude. I'm fully aware this says more about me than him. But it was Bowie, so fuck it--I'm there.

On the positive side, the band was super good. It was a three-piece--keyboard, bass and drums. It was a bit odd hearing "Moonage Daydream" without guitar, but the players were absolute monsters and the arrangements were creative. I could have spent the entire hour watching the bass player noodle around on "Lady Grinning Soul", even though that's not even in my top fifty Bowie tunes.

The show was structured like Hedwig (a series of cabaret monologues, interspersed with songs).  It had all the camp elements of a drag show without technically being drag. A fine (if tired) structure, but dependent on the performer's charisma. And...let's just say I should have heeded the alarm bells set off by the flyer. His voice was merely functional and good god did I find him smarmy.

I won't name the guy, as he mentioned he spends a lot of time googling his own name. Also, my feelings are 100% subjective--on the way out, the woman behind me was telling her partner how "magical" the performance was, even though she wasn't a Bowie fan (Um...why are you here?) The guy worked his ass off and other people dug it, so...whatever.

Another caveat: someone sitting near me had terrible breath. Like, garbage water mixed with curdled milk mixed with crotch sweat. And not a friendly crotch, mind you! I surreptitiously looked around me for a gaping mouth or an open gate to Hell, but I couldn't isolate the source. The stench enveloped me, like a swarm of olfactory killer bees. Combined with a self-satisfied Swede warbling his way through "Rebel Rebel", it was almost too much to take.

Then it dawned on me: this was payback desecrating the Hermitage of Braid with my bodily filth. Message received, universe. I accept this punishment and will tomorrow burn sage (along with the entire nature reserve) as penance.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 24: A Humble Offering to the Content Gods

Started my day at the Gilded Balloon to shoot a Facebook livestream thingy called Pints for Two. It's a relatively bare-bones concept: two of the Gilded Balloon comics--in this case, Damian Clark and myself--shoot the shit whilst downing a pint. It was 100% pleasant (Damian is a top notch fellow), but it's odd that this is what constitutes "the media" these days. Just set up an iPhone, hit record  and...CONVERSATE! It was the very definition of "content".

Given that I'd come in so early, I took the opportunity to catch a couple of shows. I'd been slacking a bit lately and, given that my days in Scotland are quickly winding down, I'm feeling the pressure to get in as much audient time as possible.

First up was Theater Temoin's "Feed", which is the most ambitious thing I've seen at Fringe, in terms of both content and staging. I won't do a full recap (you can click that link and see for yourself), but it was a commentary on performative empathy and the social media skinner box in which we currently find ourselves. I wouldn't say I loved every minute of it--there were some clown-y physical comedy elements that seemed divorced (or at least tangential) from the overall narrative. But they really nailed the self-imposed tyranny of Search Engine Optimization and I know I'll be thinking about it for days to come.

Next up was "Deaf Comedy Fam", performed by Scotsman Ray Bradshaw. I mostly wanted to see the show as a sort of reconnaissance mission. Like Kambri, Ray is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). Given that Kambri has been workshopping a (superb) solo show based on her memoir Burn Down the Ground (BUY IT!), I thought it would be interesting to see how someone else addressed some of the same subject matter. Their upbringing have a couple of odd similarities--both of fathers were born deaf (aka Profoundly Deaf), while their mothers went deaf as children and can therefore read lips and speak in a way that the average person might not notice anything. While deafness is only one part of Kambri's story (along with poverty, domestic violence and all that fun stuff), "Deaf Comedy Fam" focuses exclusively on deafness--mostly family anecdotes but also the history of sign language. There was also a cool device where Ray performed a large chunk of the show in BSL (British Sign Language), in sync with an audio track. Then he flipped it, where he did straight standup while he acted as his own BSL interpreter via video screen. Good stuff. Definitely hoping to play CODA matchmaker between the two.

Wait, did I just offer to cuckold myself? Typical liberal, amirite?

My show:

A fine show indeed. Super fine, even! Small audience as usual, but lots of fun. After 21 of these, I'm not sure there's much left to say. But please don't take my lack of verbiage as a negative sign. A wonderful time was had by all 20-odd people!

Okay, that seems a bit negative in print.

I'd had to late nights in a row and I'm doing Hate 'N Live again tonight, so I went straight back to the flat to watch three episodes of Legion. The Dream: lived.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 23: The Minimal Spin Zone

Okay look, I'm as immersed in Manafort/Cohen stuff as you are, so let's keep this shortish.

Met up with my dad for lunch. Did I mention that my dad was visiting? Well yes, he is. He arrived Monday night, but we didn't get to see each other until yesterday. He's semi-retired, so he's kinda looking for fun stuff to do. But you know what's not so fun for a 73 year old man with physical stability issues? Walking around Edinburgh. I mean, it tuckers me out and I'm a spry young thing (shut your mouth...)!

Dad and I moved at a snail-like pace through scenic Old Town. As a New Yorker/dickhead, slow walking drives me absolutely batty, but I get strangely protective of my dad these days. The guy has given me everything a person can give--not just materially (although certainly that), but in terms of love and steadfast support. And given that he's all I have left, family-wise, I more than happy to putter along with him at roughly the speed of a Zach Snyder movie. Were there moments when I was tempted to hoist him across my shoulders and fireman-carry him to lunch? Yes. But those are my issues.

We had a letter-perfect outdoor lunch in Grassmarket. After two decades of personal and financial nut-punches, my dad has kind of entered a thoroughly kick-ass Golden Years renaissance. He's happily single, living in a great condo in an up-and-coming area of Massachusetts and making a pretty penny as a tax appraisal consultant. It's not a full-time gig, but it pays like one and affords him the freedom to do whatever he wants (like visiting Edinburgh on a semi-whim, for example).

Why am I prattling on this when I said I was going to make this short? Because he's my dad and I love the fucker.

After lunch, we went over to Bar Bados, where Dad got to see me do ten minutes at Edinburgh's most hepatitis-y performance venue. Afterwards, we went our separate ways and I headed off to eat a burrito and write the blog entry directly preceding this one--how meta!

My show:

Meh. So-so, at best. Not like Sunday night, which was so awful it took on a weird sort of magnificence.  Just a sub-par, workmanlike show. I call it like I see it, folks. Now that Bill O'Reilly is off the air, can I call this the NO SPIN ZONE? How about the MINIMAL SPIN ZONE? I'll ask my team of lawyers.

I killed a bit more time and then headed over to do Spank!, another Fringe institution. A fun and lovely show--hot crowd, friendly comics, hosts that hug you after your set. Nice way to end an evening.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to reading about the America's inevitable decline into chaos. Toodles!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 22: Long Live Hubris

First up yesterday was a spot on "Mervyn Stutter's 'Pick of the Fringe'", a variety show hosted by...well, Melvyn Stutter.

This gig was a result of Melvyn's rep having seen my show on Saturday past (you know, the good one). It's a sweet gig--packed house of 250, most of whom attend with the express intent of picking shows to see. Had this gig occurred in my first or second week, it could have helped ticket sales--at this juncture, it's just a fun gig (which ain't nothing).

I checked in at 11:45am--daybreak, Fringe-wise. I was led backstage to meet Mervyn. The show consists of acts doing a five minute performance, followed by a five minute interview. From what I can tell, Mervyn is the Charles Barkley of Fringe--a figure beloved of all, even though (or because?) his act consists entirely of goofing around. He also wears a fuchsia suit, like the kind Vinnie Vincent might have worn to a wedding in 1987.

Mervyn and I went over our little interview questions and then I went to kill time at Pleasance Courtyard until the 1pm showtime. While waiting for a bratwurst (no bun, thank you very much!), I bumped into Danny Lobell, a super good comedian and storyteller who moved out to LA a few years back. We shared Edinburgh war stories and he mentioned the friendship he developed with George Carlin towards the end of his (Carlin's) life. Carlin's magnanimity is the stuff of legend amongst comics, and every time I hear about someone's personal interactions with him, his legacy in my mind looms even larger. I'm not jut talking about his standup, mind you--his place on Comedy Rushmore is firmly established. But from what friends have told me, he was an even more impressive human being.

Danny had interviewed Carlin for a college radio show--as low-profile an affair as you can imagine. But Carlin apparently took to Danny (I'm telling you, he's a solid dude) and offered to check back in with, to see how his career was going. Mind you, Danny was a nobody--as in, barely getting spots on bar shows. But Danny said he'd get random calls every couple months, just checking in, asking how his sets were going, etc. Based (I'm sure) on my mention of how miserable my previous night's show had been, Danny launched into a spiel Carlin was apparently fond of giving (paraphrased):

"Fuck 'em. Sometimes the audience is wrong. You're funny, they're not. You know these jokes work, they work with other audiences, so fuck 'em. They're wrong." 

My instinct is to snuff out hubris when I recognize it within myself, the name of this blog notwithstanding. But coming from George Carlin, it feels like a righteous rallying cry. LONG LIVE HUBRIS.

My set on Pick of the Fringe went swimmingly. I may have been a bit mean for the slightly-older audience, but the laughs came where they were supposed to come and everyone seemed pleased afterwards.

I hoofed it back to Morningside to do laundry (GLAMOUR BOY!), and then farted around until my show:

As expected, it was a small Monday crowd. But it was a good 'un. Lots of laughs and fun crowd work. Nothing exceptional to note--just a fun show for a wee audience. That pretty much sums up my Fringe, actually.


Monday, August 20, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 21: We Can't All Be Benny Hill

Woke up and, after an hour-plus of fuckaround, went for a run. It was misting heavily, which is usually my favorite weather for outdoor running. Then again, I'm not used to running on slate sidewalks. And as I've mentioned (over and over), but Edinburgh ain't exactly the Great Plains. Every time I got to a downward slope, I wondered "Is this the moment where I slip and break my tailbone? How about now? Now??" It was a thrill--the cardio equivalent of five finger fillet.

In the end I made it through, coccyx intact, with only one genuine wipeout--my arms flailed about like I was in a Benny Hill sketch. It should be noted that Benny Hill appears to still be a thing over here--there's even a Fringe show devoted to his (apparently sad) final days. When I was ten years old, there's no way you could have convinced me that a Benny Hill chase sequence wasn't the pinnacle of  human artistic achievement. Of course, you look back on it now and the whole enterprise looks like a giant hate crime. But in terms of corny wordplay and "mugging", the spirit of Benny clearly lives on.

I went in and did another oddly-fun afternoon show at Bar Bados (the place with "DOOR BROKEN" scrawled in sharpie), by now it was raining steadily so I headed over to the Gilded Balloon Loft Bar for my daily WiFi binge and killed time until my show. I'll get to that in a bit, but I'l step ahead and document my post-show activities:

I did Head Sets again, that show where you perform your set with your face stuck through a hole in a curtain. It was goofy and fun, although I had to squat behind the curtain to get my head through the whole and, by the end of my ten minute set, my legs were wobbling as if was doing the Charleston. I am old and frail--never forget this.

I ended the night by doing a super fun show called Hate 'N Live, where comedians compete by ranting on a series of audience-suggested topics. It's part Setlist, part Roast Battle, and a lot of fun. There were four of us "competing", but Leo Kearse was clearly heads and shoulders above the rest of us. Halfway through the show I realized that Leo is the show's co-creator and appears on it every night. He was clearly well-versed in the topics the audiences tend to suggest and had ready-made "improvs" for all occasions. That's not in insult--he was hilarious and I definitely threw in a prepared bit when appropriate. I acquitted myself fine, but the only line I was truly proud of was when I told host Darius Davies that he looked like a Renaissance painter who decided to become an EDM deejay.

I mean...right?
A throughly fun time. Hopefully I'll get to do it again for the end of the festival.

Now, as for my show...

Flashback: 23 hours earlier. I'm walking offstage after my best show of the Fringe. Big crowd, cheers at the end, thrilled audience members. A sense of elation coursing through my veins, I felt validated, both as a performer and (yes, I'll say it!) as an "artist".

Got that in your mind? You're picturing it? Great! Now imagine...the exact opposite.

I cannot put into words just how shitty last night's show was. Like, so bad I couldn't even take it personally. When I saw the numbers, I knew it was going to be a small crowd, so I chose to do straight standup. I should have opted for a eulogy.

There were 14 audience members total, and half of them appeared to have had their family pets euthanized immediately before showtime. But whatever--I've been doing comedy for 21 years and sometimes you know within 30 seconds, "Okay, this is going to be work." That's fine and normal and my brain knows how to process that. . But this was different. I went out and told my first joke and...nothing. It wasn't even a bad reaction--it was a ZERO REACTION. Not "that's not funny" or "I find that offensive", but "We are mannequins crudely carved out of wood, set upright in chairs to haunt your dreams".

As the "show" progressed, a few loosened up but, as tends to happen in a dead room, they consistently covered their mouths while laughing--so as to not be disruptive, I guess? Thanks for keeping decorum, fellas! And the two stone faces up front were from Norway, so I give them a pass. I've met 7-10 Norwegians in my life not one of them could have passed a Turing Test. But there was one guy whose dead-eyes will be etched into my brain forevermore. He reacted to absolutely nothing, even when I repeatedly asked him if he a was a serial killer. He would just calmly answer "No" and then go back to deciding how he will one day prepare my spleen.

After the show, he hung around to chat--standard asshole-audience-member behavior. He informed me that I'd done "okay". His wife, who had been seated in a different section of the venue for some reason, said "Oh, if he didn't like the show, he'd have left!" Hooray...?

Dead-Eyes then began monologuing. "You know, you should watch the Irish comedian Dave Allan. You'd be very interested in his style, I think. I've spent a lot of time in the States, so I was trying to hook in with what you, but when you're performing in the UK, you need to--"

"Sir," I said, lightly patting him on the arm, "I'm not interested in your advice." For the first time all night, his expression changed and I could tell I'd hurt his feelings. Then, right on cue, the usher pulled him away so that they could clear the room for the next show. It was delicious.

We can't all be Benny Hill.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 20: A Suspiciously Good Day

Myq and I got up early (crack of 10:30am!) to meet Graham, the super fantastic guy owns our flat (and who picked me up at the airport way back on Day 1). Graham, solid bloke that he is, wanted to get us out of Edinburgh to see a bit of the countryside.

Our first stop was South Queensferry, a port town to the west of Edinburgh. Was it Adorable? YOU TELL ME:

We had a nice lunch at the historic Hawes Inn. At least, it was nice until Kambri called to tell me that our dear little Billy Bowlegs was sick--vomiting, lethargic, etc. Kambri had a private party booked at QED and our regular vet refused to make time for him (so long, City Vet!), so we had a few panicked moments as we tried to figure out what to do. Kambri ended up finding a closer vet who came through in a pinch (Look forward to giving your our money, Steinway Court!) and it all ended up working out. Still, it's moments like this that make me understand the burden this little "adventure" of mine has incurred on Kambri. I'm happy to be here and, at the end of the day, I am a working comedian and working comedians travel. But it still gives me a fierce stomach ache, as I contend with the helplessness of being "across the pond" as shit hits assorted fans.

Stomach ache aside, we traveled on to Culross, a quaint historic village in the County of Fife. Panoramic iPhone setting...ENGAGE:

Given that we had shows last night, we didn't have time to explore the entire village. So we decided to take our time and tour Culross Palace. "Palace" wouldn't be my choice of words, but I guess "Culross Very Large House" doesn't roll of the tongue. The house was beautifully maintained--Outlander has shot there quite a bit, as various placards proudly declared. Here are some photos:


The restrooms left a bit to be desired.
This looked much cooler in person

This is the last I saw of Myq, before he turned into a plant, Annihilation-style

As we drove home, I got an out-the-window shot of The Kelpies:

There are better pictures at the above link, obviously

We got back home, I squeezed in a nap and shower and then headed in for...

My show:

Holy shit! A big crowd! Like, 90% full. Were most of them there because they couldn't get into the show they wanted to see? Well, sure. But I take what I can get!

I'd vacillated about whether to do straight standup or go back to the "show". Almost on a coin flip, I decided to do my prepared show and, once I saw the larger-than-usual crowd, I was glad. Straight standup may have gone just as well, or even better, but I was excited to gauge how the show plays to a (nearly) full house. Based on last night's performance, I'd say My Goodness is clearly more plodding than my standard club act, but the payoff is much more satisfying. Everyone seemed to leave in a great mood and it bolstered my opinion (hope?) that this is a worthy endeavor that deserves more nurturing.

After the show, I met a guy named Owen who represented Mervyn Stutter's "Pick of the Fringe", which is another one of those Fringe institutions that appears to be a big-ish deal. Owen loved the show and has already booked me on a showcase for Monday. Good stuff.

As if by providence, I checked Twitter as I left the Gilded Balloon and saw this from Robyn Hitchcock:

Let's hope, right? 

I have no illusions that tonight's show will be in the same ballpark (it's a rainy Sunday, after all), but last night was encouraging. I am a fan of encouragement.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 19: Let the Record Reflect: I Am Foxy

I'm late today because I had a long day of doing tourist-ing, which I will address in tomorrow’s scintillating entry. Oh yes, it will be scintillating!

Spoiler: it may not be scintillating.

Woke up at the wee hours of 11 AM and then went out and did my now – standard lunch/Internet binge. Did I eat fried stuff? You’re damn right I did. Then I got my act together and headed toward the scrum to do a show called Fast Fringe. It’s curated by Chortle, a popular UK comedy site. It’s designed to give audiences a buffet sampling of various acts at the festival. I’ve been told it can really help draw audiences, so I'm happy to have had the spot. If I may, however, allow myself a gripe: my publicist told me he’s been unable to get me on this show. So I took it upon myself to email them and lo and behold! A spot the very next day. Ummm...? I know I haven’t played this Fringe thing perfectly – – I am not an aggressive self-promoter and I probably should have done a normal standup show for my first time here. But it’s hard to look at a microcosmic situation like that (and a few others too boring to address) and not wonder how things may have played out differently.

Gripe complete!

Fast Fringe was a blast. A quick blast, but a blast nonetheless! Three minutes of stage time to a large, enthusiastic audience, and poof—you’re out. I have no idea if it will help attendance, but you never know…

Afterward, I grabbed a clif bar and did some more flyering outside the venue. The high point was probably getting aggressively hit on by two women who seemed like they were in a community theater production of AbFab.

They didn’t make it to my show, which was okay, given that they seemed moments away from dowsing the cobblestones with regurgitated prosecco. But one of them called me "foxy", and you can't take that away from me!

My show:

I was feeling frisky, so I ditched my show and just an hour of straight stand up. It was a lot of the same material, but I skipped the slideshow and narrative elements. I gotta say, it was liberating. I was able to fuck around and “go with the flow”, rather than feel like I had to plow through my designated program. And I got to do some bits that I haven't done in a month, so that that was fun.

I still believe in the show, as written. And to a full crowd, it definitely leaves more of an impact than a straightforward hour of stand-up. But my main goal now is to enjoy myself while I’m here. I’ll probably alternate between the two for the rest of the run, depending on how I feel that night.

Afterword I did another set at Frankenstein pub (fun!), Then headed back to the Gilded Balloon to use their wonderful WiFi.

On a last-minute whim, I ended the night at  Will Seaward's Midnight Ghost Stories. It's a very simple concept, but totally wacky and absurd in his presentation. The performer was just incredibly charismatic and has one of the all-time great stage voices. It's the kind of thing I'd love to see at QED. It hadn’t really occurred to me that I could also be using Fringe as a scouting opportunity for QED, but...DUH. In the same way that no one here in the UK knows me, I’m sure a lot of these performers would love a friendly little venue to get their New York City feet wet. That’s definitely gonna be on my mind as I continue to see shows for the rest of the festival. I have to go do my show now. Once more into the breach!

Friday, August 17, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 18: Leaning Into Degradation

I'm going to keep this one short today. I say that every day, but this time I mean it (I think)!*

Farted around all morning then went to lunch with Chris Laker and Ramon Rivas. Solid dudes, great comics, so-so food. Had a goopy chicken sandwich and a bloody mary that tasted weirdly like a margarita. I mean, tasty I guess, but is a bloody mary ever supposed to be sweet? Chalk it up to UK weirdness, I guess. 

YOU: Finnegan, this doesn't sound like a particularly interesting meal. Why even write about it? 

Well, I said I'd document my trip and this happened on my trip, so I'm documenting it. 

YOU: Hmm, just seems like the bloody mary thing is a detail you could leave out.

Look, no one forced you to read this! I'm writing this for me!!

YOU: Are you, though? Are you going to look back at this blog years from now and think "Ahhhh yes, the oddly-sweet bloody mary. What a cherished memory..."?

Perhaps! Maybe I keep a personal inventory of brunch-style alcoholic beverages. You don't know!

YOU: Yes, I do.

Oh really, now? How?

YOU: Because I'm your subconscious. I've been your subconscious this whole time.


YOU: Didn't you say you were going to keep this short--

Fine, whatever! Moving on...

Went over to do another set on Kirk Smiths Bar Bados show. Great crowd, good set. There were a few adorable older Scottish ladies in the audience—whenever I said something naughty, one would blush, chuckle and cover her mouth. It was like performing for Mrs. Hoggett from Babe. 

It was an interesting contrast with the utter scuzziness of Bar Bados. To give you an idea of the craptasticity: The bottom hinge of the door to Room #4 (there are five performance spaces total, I think) broke off last week, so anytime someone tries to use it, it just opens straight up into the air, like a DeLorean. Considering comics are entering and exiting the room constantly, its a tad disruptive. So someone took it upon himself to grab a permanent marker and scrawl DOOR BROKEN” in giant letters. 

After the show I found some Wifi and worked for a while and then set out onto Bristo Square for some earnest flyer-ing. I am truly the worst self-promoter in the world. But I forced myself to come up with a spiel, which goes something like this:

Hi, my name is Christian Finnegan and Im an American comic doing a show at the Gilded Balloon at 8:45. Ive done lots of TV in the States and Im very Google-able. But nobody here knows me from Adam, so Im throwing myself at upon the mercy of the court. My show is about figuring out what it means to be a good person when the world is so awful and I promise it doesnt suck. Thats the Christian Finnegan guarantee!

I mean, I dont just blurt it all out like that, as if Im reading a perp his Miranda rights—I try to make it conversational, friendly, etc. But thats the general gist. Is it humiliating? Yeah, a bit. But did I grew up Catholic--if I lean into the humiliation a bit, maybe I can transform it into a kink.

My show:

Say it with me, folks: Fun show, small crowd. My iPad went on the fritz in the middle of the show, so that wasnt fun.  But we all had a nice chuckle about it. Im actually considering ditching my slideshow for the next show and just doing a straight standup show. I mean, why the hell not at this point? 

None of the people I flyered showed up, so I guess Ill have to lean even harder into degradation.

Later that night, I hung out with some super cool people, including Sara (last name unknown), a very cool British middle school teacher who took a summer gig at Fringe—she works the door at my venue and was nice enough to come to my show on her day off. I also had drinks with Scott Gibson, a Scottish comedian with one of the warmest personalities you can imagine. Wed met briefly when I did that weird 1am show last week (Late N Live), so when he saw me at the Loft Bar, he waved me over to have a drink with him and a nice Irish woman (first and last name unknown) who works in the Fringe Festival communications department. Scott seems very popular around Fringe and had zero reason to invite me to sit at his proverbial lunch table, so kudos to Scott Gibson. His reward shall be in heaven.

* I didn't keep this short.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 17: Checking Out Arthur's Seat (BUTT JOKE)

I woke up with a dilemma--I needed to go for a run, but the sky was clear (by Scottish standards), making it a perfect day to climb Arthur's Seat, a dormant volcano the overlooks the city. So I decided to combine the two by jogging over and then climbing up. What a great way to spend a few hours. Arthur's Seat is one of those Empire State Building type deals--an activity that is super tourist-y, while still being 100% worthwhile*.  The difference is, of course, there is no elevator to the top of a dormant volcano. Just a mile of this:

I was actually impressed that the City of Edinburgh hasn't monetized Arthur's Seat in any way--there's no snack bar at the top, no t-shirt stands. It's just a super craggy hill that you can either climb or not. I could upload a bunch of my shitty photos, but if you want to stare at Arthur's Seat (BUTT JOKE), why not leave it to pros?

Okay fine--you need proof that I'm not a dirty liar? Behold:

Not my sexiest photo, I'll grant you that. I was also trying my best not to get blown off the mountain. It felt like standing in the middle of a Dyson Air Blade. HEAR THAT, DYSON? GIVE ME FREE STUFF.

I jogged/walked home and by the end, I felt like I'd...well, climbed a volcano. Writing this a day later, I can assure you that my ankles, knees and hips are currently giving me a prolonged middle finger.

I had lunch at some Italian restaurant that promised Free Wifi, which I assume meant that I was 'free' to go fuck myself if I wanted to get online. It was that worst kind of wifi--where it works beautifully for 30 seconds and then magically disappears. But then, right as you ask the waiter to re-boot the modem, another perfect connection, so that the waiter thinks you're being high maintenance. Then he walks away and...(SFX: fart noise). Rinse and repeat for an hour. I should've known something was amiss when I noticed that the wifi network was "michiganjfrog".  

After wolfing down a functional chicken and mushroom pizza, I wandered back to The Merlin, the local pub that has become my semi-depressing home away from home. I mean, it's a fine neighborhood bar, but the bartender's teeth haunt my nightmares. Given that I've been watching The Terror, it's just too much UK dentistry for one Yank's subconscious.

Went home, did a Nap26 (HEY NAP26, GIVE ME FREE STUFF!), then headed over to the Gilded Balloon.

My show:

Small crowd. Fun crowd. Good show, blah blah blah. No new tales to tell.

Afterwards, I met up with Steve Hofstetter for drinks. Dude is a promotion machine--first day in Edinburgh, already booked himself on five different shows. I'd say I should learn a thing or two, but if I haven't learned by now, how likely is that? We had a long conversation about Nanette (as mandated by law), then I headed back to the flat and spent two more hours to spend another two hours watching a show about terrifying UK teeth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 16: I Am My Own Cliff Poncier

In yesterday’s post, I forgot to mention that I received another review. It was the most positive review yet—effusive, even! And yet... only three stars. I’m genuinely baffled. Seriously, take a look at this thing. Seems pretty damn positive, yes?

At this point, I kind of throw up my hands. I’ve had two thoroughly glowing 3-star reviews and a 4-star that felt like a backhand. I won’t lie and pretend that it’s not dispiriting. I suspect I’m being dinged for the relatively small crowds—reviewers act as if they see through that sort of thing, but they’re all full of it. A show simply plays better to a full house than to a 2/3 empty room. If I had this to do over again, I’d definitely have asked to be booked in a smaller venue. I think we all overestimated how much American TV credits mean over here. But I don’t want to blame it solely on that—my very talented friends all seem to be drawing fine crowds, so there’s clearly something about me that just doesn’t translate, promotionally. I was feeling down about it last week, but my shows have been fun and I'm digging Edinburgh, so I’m solidly in “fuck it” mode.

I realize that the preceding paragraph reads a bit “I’m not mad, this is actually funny to me”, but c’est la vie. I’m doing my best to capture this experience, warts and all. My days of spin are behind me. I certainly want to validate the faith shown in me by my investors and, yeah, it would be nice to feel like a “shiny new thing” for the first time in a decade. But this is ephemeral and, for an American comedian, ultimately meaningless. My comedy mantra has always been “Good night, bad night—I’m still going to end the evening in my underwear, checking my email”.

Oh right, this is supposed to be about yesterday! Not a whole lot to tell, honestly. I did my normal lunch/internet thing at a cute little place called Cafe Blush. It’s my 3rd time eating there and I am convinced that the waitress there hates me. I have literally no reason to believe this—she’s always perfectly cheerful. Sometimes you just get a vibe.

I went home and showered and then headed in to see a show called Deaf Comedy Fam. If you’re one of the nine people reading this, you probably know that my wife grew up immersed in deaf culture. Hell, she wrote a book (partially) about it! So I wanted to see the show out of curiosity, but also as a bit of recon, given that Kambri herself has a solo show that deals (again, partially) with deaf family members.

Of course, I'm an idiot—never forget this—so I didn’t notice that this particular show doesn’t start until the 16th. So there I was, 4.5 hours early for my show with nothing to do. I’m still a bit comedied-out, so I opted for Break Free, a breakdancing extravaganza performed by six Japanese teens.* Or maybe they were in their 30's--how can honestly say?

I realize this show choice plays against type, given that I'd rather tongue-kiss an industrial fan than dance in public. But I was a huge fun of that MTV show, “America’s Best Dance Crew” (ABDC to true fans--JABBAWOCKEEZ4LIF!!!)*

Break Free was...fine. The dancing was impressive (not quite Jabbawockeez level, but what is?), and it was squarely aimed at children. But there was a lot of tedious comic "business". The narrative involved our breakdancing heroes being pursued by a policeman who kept pointing to a giant "NO DANCING ALLOWED" sign--a hip hop Javert, if you will. I hate to give spoilers, but the policeman ended up having a chance of heart about breakdancing. He may have even joined in with the crew--I'LL NEVER TELL!

My show:

Back to the intimate grind. Another fun show, another too-small crowd. But I'll tell you this: in a 40-seater, this would have been a 4-star extravaganza (grumble grumble). I'll have to settle for being "a joy to watch".

I am my own Cliff Poncier.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

FRINGEQUEST, Day 15: Half-Assed Tourism

After 12 straight days of shows, a reprieve!

Yesterday was my "off day" and boy oh boy did I have plans...that I didn't follow through on. My first thought as that I would go on a "day tour". This is something Kambri and I have done a number of times in our travels to Ireland and Australia. You get on a bus bright and early and head out to some beautiful sites in the countryside--geological oddities, a couple of quaint fishing villages, maybe a medieval castle or two. If this sounds a bit snoozy, what can I say--learning about the Middle Ages became more appealing as, yourself, become middle-aged. You see the sites, you indulge the tour guide his goofy little jokes and a fine time is had by all. There are many appealing options here in Scots-land, from Hadrian's Wall to The Trossachs to St. Andrews & Fife. There's even one devoted to locations featured in Outlander--I assume that particular tour is cat-friendly.*

If you're wondering why I didn't end up going on one of the aforementioned tours, I point you to the phrase "bright and early". My schedule is all fucked up here and I just can't see to drag my ass out of bed before 9:30 (and often much later). All of the day trips get back to Edinburgh by 7pm-ish and my show isn't until 8:45, so if I'm able to get my ass to sleep before 2am sometime over the next two weeks, I can try to make it happen.

It was also raining steadily and I was down to my last pair of socks, so I decided to stay put and get my laundry done, eat lunch, write yesterday's blog entry, etc. I didn't leaving Morningside until after 4pm. I still haven't been to Edinburgh Castle, so I headed on over. I knew it was closing at 6pm and they advise giving yourself a full two hours, but I was all by myself and I have a New Yorker's approach to tourism: see the good stuff, keep it moving, then get the fuck out. But upon trudging up the giant hill leading to the castle ticket booth, I was informed that parts of the castle actually start closing at 5pm and that everyone is ushered completely off premises around 5:45. In other words, not worthwhile. Edinburgh Castle is right smack dab in the middle of the city, so that's an easy one to check off on another day. But that's the classic Christian Finnegan approach to tourism: 1) Fart around until you're up against the clock, 2) Hustle out in a panic to do the "fun" thing you could have done in pure leisure, had you budgeted your time properly, 3) Bail at the last minute.

I decided to walk along the Royal Mile, which leads from the castle all the way down to Hollyrood Palace, which I knew would already be closed. The Royal Mile is a beautiful medieval road, predictably littered with shops selling William Wallace refrigerator magnets and (probably) Chinese-made tartan kilts. I did spend a nice 20 or so minutes wandering around St. Giles Cathedral, where I stumbled upon the 1st Marquis of Montrose:

Is it just me, or is that a rather casual body positioning? It says less "British Royalty" and more "It's Sunday afternoon and I fell asleep watching Love It or List It". Dude's sword may as well be a remote control.

Also, you can see someone has left flowers for our dear Marquis. Some women just have a thing for unattainable men.

It had been lightly raining all day, as is the semi-norm (Damian Clark joked that it's like "walking through a sneeze"), so I stopped into a pub for a drink to de-moisten. Was there a Free Fringe comedy show going on? Of course there was! There's barely a square foot of this city without a mic and stool right now. I didn't want to go home, but the last thing I wanted to do was see a comedy show on my night off, so I scrolled through the various Fringe offerings until The Path revealed itself: a Pink Floyd laser show.

Okay, not technically a "laser" show. It's all fancy schmancy "HD graphics" now. But you're in a reclining chair, staring at the ceiling while listening to "Shine On You Crazy Diamonds"--in my book, that's a laser show. I tried to take video, but none of it came out, so here's a still photo:


I don't think I need to tell you what a Pink Floyd laser show is like--you've either been to one or you couldn't care less. But honorable mention goes out to the museum employee who gave a masterclass in passive aggression whilst giving his pre-show intro. The kid was probably 24 and you could tell he loathed classic rock (and its fanbase) with every fiber of his being. My words will not do him justice, but imagine Martin Starr in Party Down or Martin Starr in Silicon Valley or...Martin Starr.

"Hey, you. No pun intended. Welcome to 'Wish You Were Here - Inspired By the Music of Pink Floyd'. But you don't have to wish you were here. Because you are here. So good for you. This is a movie about Pink Floyd doing stuff. Enjoy. Or don't. Here it is."


Tonight, I'm back at it!

* Kidding! Outlander is a good show, from what I've seen. And cats are fine! Sometimes you've gotta go for the cheap joke.