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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

30 August 2004
Last day of the Festival today, although slightly different from most years, in that two of the main venues, The Underbelly and The Pod, actually finished yesterday. So half of our friends have cleared off already and we've already had one "final" night. Facing another one is a very difficult prospect.

Even though we went to bed early last night (and by early, I do mean 5.30am) and I wasn't drunk at all when going to bed, I do feel decidedly odd today. All I can do is drink water - I've made a sandwich, but only managed to stare at it for a while. Water is the way today, I feel. My only real method of communication today is the text message, along with a hysterical laugh that threatens to turn to tears at any point. We've seen Jeremy Lion's show again today - it was the first show we saw this year, seems right to end on it as well. He made me cry with Mr Shush again.

It's been a really odd year. I thought it was going to be disasterous and end in tears (not the gay club in Exeter), but it's all turned out a lot better than that. I've enjoyed almost every last moment of it, hardly smoked at all (although I have a bit and won't again... after tonight), and even when it was really rubbish it was like living through the emotional turmoil of a pathetic soap opera, one quite badly written, ridiculously plotted and not particularly well thought through. But with beautiful costumes.

Two more shows left of the Festival. Then I'll get to sleep. More later, when drunk.

25 August 2004
Did it! Can't quite believe it, but there we go.

Getting a tattoo, ladies and gentlemen, is not as difficult as you'd think it is. You see, I expected pain and suffering and really all that you get is some discomfort and stinging and occasional pain but really nothing at all like you'd expect. It's all a big myth passed around by mothers who hope that their children will never spoil the body that the good lord has given them by scrawling graffitti all over it.

Although I am very brave, so it might hurt normal people more than it hurt me.

I got it done at the small of my back, off to the left hand side, exactly where my trousers sit around my waist. Which, thinking about it, isn't a spectacular idea, because you can't have clothes rubbing off it cos that could make the lines uneven or knock bits off when the scabbing stage starts. Still though. It's nice.

I expected to be lying down, because I was getting it on my back, but I had to straddle the chair like what Christian Slater does in Cuckoo's Nest and lean forward while the lady drew on my back. I had to keep holding my breath because every time her hands got anywhere near the centre of my back, I would start to jump because I'm quite ticklish. I always hold my breath when I'm getting my hair cut too, because I can't stand people standing so close behind me. Anyway. The lady kept telling me to breathe, but I decided it would be best if I didn't. Susan sat on the other side of the room, possibly staring at me - I'm not sure, because I was staring at my hands and thinking "oh good lord, what am I doing?!"

Susan describes my facial expression thus - "Deep in concentration. Determined."

It's excellent though. Got home and texted most people I know, including all my siblings. Then phoned some people who have tattooes to ask them what I'm supposed to do now that it's been done, and have been given a lot of advice. I'm going to follow it all to the full.

Hurrah. If you see me around, do ask to see it. I'm incredibly proud.

It's starting to hurt now.

This is one thing I've been meaning to do for ages - here is a list of the shows I've seen in the order that I've seen them so far. The ones in bold were fabulous, the ones in italics should be avoided at all costs. The rest are simply good.

Jeremy Lion's Happy Birthday
Richard Herring's 12 Tasks of Hercule Terrace
Gary Le Strange - Face Academy
Marcus Birdman
Gary Le Strange
Laurence & Gus are Men In Love
Spencer Brown
Lee Mack
Bill Hicks: Slight Return
The Joy Of Wine
Simon Farnaby - Lessons learned while driving a tractor
Colin & Fergus
Paul Foot
Russell Howard
Gary Le Strange
The Trap
Tim Key's Luke And Stella
The Conversation
Alistair Barry - Choice
Barry Castagnola - The Importance of Not Being Too Earnest
Black Cocktail
Adrian Poynton - Success
Nancy Cartwright - My life as a 10 year old boy
Bad Play
Live! At The Mauseleum
Chris Addison - Civilisation
Dara O'Briain
Gary Le Strange
Epitaph
Colin Murphy
Andrew McClelland's Almost Complete History of Pirates
Dutch Elm Conservatoire
Black Cocktail
HBam - Stop Fistfighting, You're Pregnant
Bearded Ladies
We Are Klang
Nice Mum
Laurence & Gus
The Elephant Woman
Richard Herring
Gary Le Strange
Spank
Stewart Lee
Spank
Nice Mum
Alun Cochrane - My favourite words in my best stories
Sml Med Lrg
Amused Moose Comedy Starlets
Mutton
United Biscuits
The Consultants
Alice Lunt's Picnic
Simon Munnery's AGM
Charlie Hartill Benefit gig
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Count Arthur Strong
Will Smith
Brendan Burns
John Hegley - Uncut Confetti
Nice Mum
Buckethead
Miles Jupp - The lost and lonely rebels
Marcus Brigstocke
Mark Watson's Overambitious 24 hour show
Stereocomics
Milton Jones - A Rough Guide
Robin Ince - Star of The Office
Alex Horne - Every Body Talks

Hello kidlings. I'm ill, I'm delirious, I'm exhausted and I'm quite happy and excited at the same time, so if there's some spelling mistakes (and possibly some bits of grammar that go awry) then do forgive me. I'll do my best, but I'm no... em... person who's good under pressure.

See?

The festival has been ticking along at quite a pace, and I'm not going to update you, or anyone else, on my adventures thus far, because it's too much and too boring in detail, and it's far too late in the day for that. What I am going to do is talk about what we did yesterday and the day before, which was watch most of a 24 (and a half) hour comedy show.

Mark Watson's Over Ambitious 24 Hour Comedy Show was supposed to start at 11.55pm on Sunday night, but an administrative error meant that it didn't start for a little while after that. And due to the same kind of administrative error 24 hours later, it finally came to a close at 12.19am on Tuesday morning. We had originally decided to join in the spirit of the thing, popping in every now and again to see how it was all going, and leaving again to get on with our daily Edinburgh routine. It didn't quite work out that way.

We stayed in the end for 16 hours. At 3am, we took what we thought was a wise decision to leave to get some sleep. After Mark had allocated to us our Audience Member Numbers (I was 40, Susan was 39) we left before the sleepover games began, when there were still over 100 people in the room. This, in retrospect, wasn't the best of timing, because we missed the first appearance of Stewart Lee, the first game of Chinese Whispers (used when Mark has to go to the toilet to fill up the time) and the first chapter in the ongoing saga of Dara O'Briain.

But I'm quite glad we left. When we returned just before 11am the next day, most people - although not Mark - were looking like horrible ragged shells of their former selves. Rubbish was strewn all around the room, people were propped up on beanbags, there were sleeping bags and pillows on stage, someone was sleeping, most people were handing around sausages and croissants and there did seem to be an unusual amount of orange juice in the room. And, ladies and gents, I don't mind telling you - the room smelt of sleep, farts and people sweat. Not a good smell to walk in to.

For the daylight hours, we were transferred to a smaller room so that other shows could take place during the day, but the cult of Watson had taken over a lot of people by that point - us included - and we decided at about 11.30am that we weren't going to leave again until the bitter end.

I'm so damn glad that we didn't.

I was still recovering from my current battle with Festival Flu, and on Sunday evening it did seem to be leaving me. My only words of advice to anyone suffering from a drink and lack-of-sleep induced illness would be that attending a 15 hour comedy event probably isn't the best way to get better. I'm back to square one again in terms of illness, but lordy by god it was worth it.

The show managed to make a soap opera and drama and tragedy and comedy out of every situation that it came across. A group of about 15 audience members stayed for the full duration of 24 hours, and were given the title of Platinum Lifers (and also some transfer tattoos of dolphins, although I can't remember why). Others like us who were there for a ridiculously long amount of time were called merely Lifers. I could probably name each and every person involved in the show now, and indeed, we spotted a few in audiences today, with all of us sharing a special smile of recognition when we caught the other's eye.

A harmless game of Blind Date, played at about 4.30am, turned in to a beautiful story of doomed romance and complicated love triangles, played out between Platinum Lifer Amy, interloper Lilly and Admin Expert Tim. Dara O'Briain's appearance at 5am, drunken and biligerent, became a talking point for the rest of the show, casting him in the role of the villain, and setting up a brilliant Western style show down in the last half hour of the show. Even organising something like pizza at dinner time took over an hour and a half to get under control, and then we all paid far too much and ended up donating the money to another performer whose show we all interrupted for free. Problems with the management of the venue we were all trapped in for so long even became a running storyline, and had us gripped continually with the suspense that at any moment the show could be stopped, we could all be thrown out, and all the hours put in would be in vain.

Every time we got to 5 past an hour, there would be a muted celebration, muted simply because we would all start to work out in our heads how long was left to go, and despite Mark’s continuous and never failing chirpiness, he could never quite convince us that 9 hours weren’t really that long to go. It was really astonishing how wonderfully well he coped, in the face of constant media interruption – Newsnight Review came in, do watch it on Friday, I’m wearing green and Susan is beside me, you’ll not miss it. Even when he developed cramps in his feet from standing up for so long he never once stopped chatting or egging everyone on, or talking about what was coming up next or what had happened before.

The biggest story however was the beautiful relationship between Mark and his girlfriend Emily. The fact that he proposed in the last minute of the 24 hour show has been the main headline for most of the coverage of the event, but it really wasn't as twee, saccharine or even premeditated as the coverage makes it sound.

In the first hour of the show, Mark mentioned that he was considering proposing to his girlfriend during the show (this was while she was out of the room, obviously) but immediately qualified this statement with the fact that he didn't think he was likely to do it. From then on, whenever she left the room to attend to various admin or party popper buying matters, he would turn to the audience and mutter "Will he, won't he?" and then carry on. If the subject was ever broach, every audience member would be staring at the door trying to make out her sillohette and if she went by, we'd all "shhhh" and move on to more general topics. It was fabulous. By the time the proposal came, it was amazing that she didn’t know anything about it, but I really don’t think she did, and we all burst in to tears about the same time that she did.

We’ve already both decided that out of all the shows that we’ve seen since coming to the Festival every year since 1997, this is truly the best experience of the Fringe. The best, and truly the most exhausting. I take my hat off to the Platinum Lifers who stayed there for the full 24. We celebrated coming to the end of this comedy marathon by staying out in Brooks Bar and not going to bed until 6.30am. Really, though, it was the only appropriate thing to do.

A short article on the show can be found here on the BBC news site. I don’t have the time or energy right now to find any more, but please leave me links to it in the comments section if you get the chance. Thanks.

Tattoo tomorrow, 2pm. Full update to follow. Eek.

16 August 2004
In keeping with our current successful trend of only seeing a couple of shows a day, today we reached a new height by NOT SEEING ANY AT ALL for no particular reason other than we haven't booked any tickets and couldn't face leaving the flat or buying tickets or seeing shows, and quite frankly if breathing wasn't automatic we'd've probably stopped that too.

But instead of going out and having fun, we decided to invite fun around for a late lunch. Unfortunately, fun was having the day off today, so we had the (schoolgirl's favourites) niCe mUm boys around instead. Susan cooked up a veritable storm in the kitchen, while I ran around the flat in a panic, shoving things in to cupboards and corners in an attempt to make it look like she was domesticated. For those of you not keeping up, I am on a promise to be married to the Dave one from the niCe mUms, and I didn't want to ruin my chances at this late stage, seeing as how I'm not getting any younger, and someone yesterday told me I looked "around 25" which made me cry for an hour or so.

Fortunately, the boys were fooled, and Susan's chefing triumphed, and it was a very successful foray in to Comedy Lounge entertaining. We also ate fresh food for the first time in 2 weeks. The world is looking up once more.

I'm enjoying this new approach to festival fun - five days on, two days off. I think that's an approach that works much better than trying to run ourselves in to the ground all day every day until we cry or fall over or fall over and cry. We've also stocked up on some DVD action, which means we've spent every night when we come home - around 4.30am - watching Filthy Rich and Catflap which is honestly funnier than I ever imagined it would be. From Tuesday night, it'll be The Goodies.

I'm very tired.

15 August 2004
HEY! Today is a good day. Today, and indeed yesterday, we are only seeing one or two shows. The days where you only see one or two shows are the days when your brain starts working again, you can think about things in terms other than star ratings, and you don't have to be nice to people whose shows you've just seen, which were actually a bit rubbish but you don't want to say.

Last night we were sitting in the perfomer's bar in the Pleasance, a place we have literally begun to call home on account of the fact that we're there for roughly the same amount of time that we are in our luxury flat, and a man who is in a sketch show came over and started to talk to us. The show that he does really is quite good, honest guv, nothing spectacular but it's not a terrible waste of time or energy either. Thing is, when people hear you've seen their show, and also hear that you're mascarading as a member of the press, they want to know what you think, and then start asking you what you think is wrong with it. They say that they want your honest opinion.

They don't.

Honestly, no matter what they say, they don't. A few years ago, I had a conversation with a performer in a bar, and we were discussing the review I'd given him the year before. He asked why it was only a three star review, when he thought it should have been a four. I started trying to explain my reasonings, but soon realised he didn't want to hear my reasons - he wanted to tell me his. And that's the first lesson that must be learned whenever you're talking to comedians or performers - they don't want to know what you think, they want you to know what they think. That's universally applicable.

So we've spent the best part of the last two weeks drinking, watching shows, laughing hysterically (quite often in the wrong places) and drinking. It's actually becoming difficult to be awake and still sober now. Somehow it seems wrong to be concious in day light hours and not have a pint of something in your hand. We walk in to our favourite bar and the blonde barmaid starts immediately pouring our drink of choice. Honestly. I'm not kidding about that. That actually happens.

Mrs D was here for the best part of the last week, and she was inducted through the rites of comedy lounge into becoming, as lovely Dave Mum ("schoolgirl's favourite") put it, a "lovely lounger". To do this, she had to see over 20 shows in five days, one of them twice, had to learn all the words to the Gary Le Strange album, had to know who everyone in the room was - including agents, promoters, producers and techs, as well as performers - and had to bitch about every last one of them. Finally, late every night, she had to sit watching Fr Ted on DVD while eating crisps. All of these things Mrs D performed with ladylike dignity and she passed every challenge with flying colours. We are both proud and ashamed to announce that she's now officially a Lovely Lounger. God Bless the poor bugger, she's only been gone for a day and she's already texting us for gossip.

I've finally made heavy inroads in to the backlog of reviews, mainly by staying indoors and happily and contentedly writing about the Fringe rather than being involved in it. At the moment, I'm feeling almost permanently stoned. It's a beautiful time in my life.

Tattoo happens in 10 days. Bring it on.

09 August 2004
Today God showed His disdain for the Edinburgh Festival by not only flooding Edinburgh in a seriously close reenactment with his old Noah and Ark shtick, but also flooding most of Scotland besides. This of course inconvenienced us greatly, and we had to spend a good deal of the day standing under shelters in the Pleasance courtyard, not able to move. We whiled away the hour or so that we were stuck by trying to work out which one out of Laurence and Gus was Laurence, and which one was Gus. Adrian Poynton was kind enough to let us know, information I almost immediately forgot again.

Today we strayed from the path of Comedy and went down the winding road that is Theatre, or as we've been pronouncing it, "Theeeetahr". First we went to see the lovely Ben Moor's play Black Cocktail which was fantatic, and really not like anything he's ever done before. It's excellent, and I'd like to go back to see it again before the run is over. We also caught Adrian Poynton's play Success, which is also great. Watch out for the special guest appearance by the actor Tom Price, looking spectacularly similar to Dougie Howser MD.

We're off to see Nancy Cartwright talk in a stupid voice for an hour in the Assembly Rooms, and tonight Joanne aka Mrs Bishop is arriving from Dublin to join the CL family. Let the games begin.

08 August 2004
This is the third time I've tried to post today. The other two posts were great. This one will be brief because if it doesn't publish, I'll kill everyone in Edinburgh before turning the gun on myself.

I fucking hate apple macs.

We've seen 15 shows in four days, seven of them today. My feet have strange blisters on them, I feel like I've been drinking for weeks when in fact I've only had three pints since arriving, my mood changes by the hour, the flat is beautiful and most things are great.

I'm going to bed now, because my patience has truly left me.

06 August 2004
Hello. More posts later. For now go to

Comedy Lounge Festival Memoirs

Sxx

05 August 2004
The flight was fabulous, thanks for asking. I decided to take the "la la la, I'm not listening" approach, which combined with the 10mg of valium worked like a charm.

On the way in to checking in, I managed to walk past skinny Irish singer Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy fame, who was clad head to toe in denim and gave me a very funny look the second and third time I walked past. I'd like to assume this had something to do with my devestating beauty, but was probably more about the stoned expression I was probably wearing, and the fact that I was carrying Stuart, my teddy bear, clutched in my arms as if my life depended on it. Which, according to my superstitions, it did.

The American couple sitting beside me on the plane, who were apparently spending their retirement money travelling around Europe, were slightly bemused by my flying habit of sitting crouched forward crushing Stuart between my arms, counting under my breath and trying to breathe slowly, but seemed to want to talk to me anyway. The flight was over really quickly, and I'm not too disturbed, but not very enthused by the thought of having to do it all over again in September.

I'm just hoping to the Gods it was worth it.

03 August 2004

AER LINGUS EI 254 M/ECONOMY CLASS CONFIRMED
DEP DUBLIN WED 4AUG04 12.25PM
ARR EDINBURGH WED 4AUG04 1.25PM

Bring it on! Tomorrow I arrive in the Festival city, and all around me will be celebrations and exhaltation. And some strong coffee cos, woohoo, 15mg of valium here I come!

Managed to fit everything quite easily into my suitcase which is worrying me, because now I feel like I don't have enough with me. Oh well. I'm sure whatever I don't have, I'll buy.

I have the important things. These are, in no particular order:
My valium
My teddy bear
My Firefly DVD
My credit cards.

I'm all set.

Oh, you know what, it's too difficult setting yourself up for a nice running commentary and then having everything else thrown at you to do at a moment's notice. I mean, it's not like I've had up to seven months to prepare for this moment with no other responsibilities. I've had loads of things on. I've been rewatching Buffy and Angel from the respective starts of their series, and also trying to run it so that their overlapping episodes overlapped for me too. That's not an easy thing to pull off. Coupled with my increasing fixation for all things Dr Who, which is a pathetic enough cry for help in itself, and I don't see how you can expect me to hold down a job for a FULL WEEK as well as keep up with blogging. You lot are complete bastards.

Anyway... the day after tomorrow, or actually tomorrow by the clock here but two sleeps away, I'm going to Edinburgh for the fancy Fringe Festival that some of you may have heard of, and I'll not be back home until September time. Usually I'd be over some moons about this whole thing, cos I've been doing it since 1997, and am quite well practiced now, but this year it's kind of different.

For a start, I'm not working, so I'll be lazing about and not important at all - the first part of that I'm quite used to, the second part I'm finding difficult to adjust to. It's also the first Festival for four years where I've not been resident in Edinburgh, so I've not had the build up since June. This means that it hasn't really sunk in, even though the contents of my wardrobe and medicine cabinet are currently lying on my bed begging to be put in to a suitcase. Added to this year's anxiety is the fact of my back, which worries me no end. I do seem to harp on about it here, but don't really talk about it in real life, so I'm not sure people really understand how anxious this is all making me. I have managed to stockpile a quite obscene amount of valium though, so like some kind of twisted Swap Shop, you can all leave your offers in my comments section if you'd like to swap something of value for a dose of lovely valium bliss. At the Fringe, that kind of relaxation really only comes in tablet form.

This weekend was spent answering the question "How and to what extent does language make humans distinctive from other animals?" - a question I addressed in 67 words less than 1,500 words - and finishing off Comedy Lounge. Go look at it, and find the bits that I wrote. They should be easy to spot, full of vitriol, overly long run-on sentences and too many weak metaphors. We'll be updating the daily diary there, but I've decided I'm going to keep this up too, so I'll be reproducing what goes up there, but with more sarcasm, spite and possibly some libel just for the heck of it.

And I'm quite worried about leaving when Butler is sick. He's been looking and acting a bit more like himself this past week now that we've upped his painkillers to twice the dose he was previously on, but his epileptic fits have really suddenly increased. It's really horrible to walk in to a room and find him in the middle of a fit, but slightly worse to find him just after one, because you feel like you should have been in there with him the whole time. He doesn't go unconscious at any point during the fit, so it's a really terrifying experience for him, especially when you can't offer him any explanation. We also don't know how painful the fits must now be for him, with the added complication of the tumour in his right back leg. So I feel like a bit of an arse leaving for a month when he might not be here when I get back... but I've asked Mum not to make any decisions without asking me first. It was so awful when Sam died, but nice to be home to go through it all together. It's the one and only drawback to having pets. And it's difficult to explain to people that don't have pets, or don't make an attachment to their pets in the same manner.

Anyway. I've got work in the morning, then I have to keep going with this packing thing.