“Happiness….”, sang John Lennon in 1968, “is a warm gun.” But what Lennon didn’t know was that, in fact, Happyness is a new comedy festival that takes place in Inverness over the May bank holiday. I have just returned from its golden shores and am brushing the heather from my hair as I type (Auld Heather was quite a gal)

Happyness (the name was suggested I gather by Bill Bailey) is the brainchild of that formidable Femme de Comedie Karen Koren, mother of the Gilded Balloon, one of the Edinburgh Fringe’s great venues. Looking no doubt at the Kilkenny and the Machynlleth comedy festivals she has decided that Inverness could make a great addition to the comedy buff’s calendar – like those 2 areas of outstanding natural beauty Inverness is a handsome old town full of historical incident, surrounded by sumptuous mountains and lakes, with a canny, urbane populace.

It is true that the audiences were small but those people that did turn up to the dozens of shows on offer were appreciative and pleasingly vocal. I have no doubt that there will be larger numbers next year and that in five years time the town will be teeming with comedy lovers keen to laugh and to enjoy the fabulous landscapes.

My own sojourn began badly with a brutal dawn flight from Luton airport where I realised I had left my mobile phone at home. On arrival in Scotland however the sun was out and I was warmly welcomed by Karen’s tireless team of  attractive henchwomen so it was not long before I was feelin da happyness.

I was billeted at a hotel in the centre of town on the banks of the River Ness with all the other comedians, which gave a great opportunity to catch up with old muckers (big hellos to Jenni Éclair, Fred Macaulay, Janey Godley and Michael Redmond) and to take a look at some of the younger comics doing their stuff – I was especially impressed by Bec Hill, an Australian who draws her act as she does it, Daniel Simonsen a Norwegian master of Nordic gloom and Cornish comedy rap dudes Hedlov and Passman. As at the Machynlleth festival I was reminded of my early days at the Edinburgh fringe when all the performers would congregate at the Gilded Balloon after their shows, comparing notes and bitching about other comedians.

I MC-ed a couple of shows, did a turn at another and took over the Inverness open top bus tour for the afternoon. Some of the passengers were evidently expecting a more conventional tour and looked surprised when I talked about the laird of Poundland, revealed that the Loch Ness monster had been a double agent during the war and did a spot of Highland dancing on a roundabout.

Between gigs I pulled on my walking boots and took to the hills clutching my new OS map, stumbling through bogs, clambering up crags and gazing across at the dreamy horizon of not-so-distant mountains with their silvery highlights of snow. No mobile meant I was not distracted from the view by the need to take a photo of it or ring someone up to describe it.

As I passed a bush 2 deer stumbled out looking rather, er, sheepish. Inspired by the warm Scottish air, the prospect of summer and the certainty of the guffaws in the town far below me, I leapt onto one of the deer and rode it magnificently across the glens.  Hey you can’t say I didn’t – you weren’t there. But be there next year if you dare.


6 ways to stave off misery

6 ways to stave off misery

Do you ever feel utterly miserable? If you answer ‘no’ to this question then you are either lying, or you are a children’s TV presenter. Feeling down is a part of life as surely as is breathing or finding Piers Morgan a pompous, smarmy idiot. But worry not, sad reader, because here come…Arthur Smith’s Top 6 Things You Can Do to Stave off Misery. Unlike similar regimes dreamed up by doctors and therapists, this one requires very little effort (no jogging!) and can be knocked off during the course of a morning, at the end of which I GUARANTEE* you will be feeling far better than you were:


  1. Start gently by congratulating yourself that you have managed to get up, clean your teeth and put your clothes not only in the correct order but also the right way round. Well done!
  2. Think of a good friend you haven’t seen for a while, and then send them a postcard. Yes, a proper postcard – with a nice picture on one side and a fond message, an address and a stamp on the other. As you post it imagine your pal receiving it, their pleased face, that smile you have seen so often…. pop into a shop and buy yourself a little edible (or drinkable) luxury eg a slab of your favourite chocolate. Put this to one side….
  3. Have a clear out. Come on, gather up those shoes you know you will never actually wear, the old DVDs, tapes and videos, the chipped teapot etc and squash them into that suitcase with the broken wheels. Deposit the whole damn lot in your local charity shop. (NB if your despair is really extreme you could, additionally, throw out a member of your family). You and your house will feel lighter. And, hey, while you’re in the shop, take a quick shufti at the clothes racks – it may be your lucky day ….
  4. Remember that song you used to love but haven’t heard for a while? Yes, that one. Go and stick it on really loud – even if it is Lady in Red. Shut your eyes and, if necessary, dance! As Katie Price once remarked, “music hath charms to soothe the glum lady.”
  5. Make a cup of tea. We British know this better than anyone; if in doubt, make a cup of tea.
  6. Turn on the TV, sip your tea, and, for five minutes, watch any reality TV show; savour the beautiful fact that you are not one of the poor saps taking part in it. Then switch the TV off. You have now successfully completed the 6 activities. It remains only for you to sit quietly and tuck in to that little treat you bought after you went to the post box earlier. Oh yes and – why not? –make another cup of tea and, go on with you, take the afternoon off.


* This guarantee is meaningless








“Smith’s comic timing is always a wonder to behold” The Times (2011)

You are being arrested for breach of the peace and possession of a megaphone” Lothian Police (2001)


Just as Degas felt compelled to return to ballet dancers and David Attenborough to his gorillas, so

Arthur Smith turns again to Leonard Cohen.

It is 13 years since Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe.  The show subsequently ran in London’s West End and at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.  It was recorded for Radio 4 and it is still repeated frequently on Radio 4 Extra.  Is it a coincidence that Cohen’s stock has risen ever since? (yes).

In this new show Arthur, channeling Leonard, deals with the big ‘D’s of life – death, disappointment, diabetes, dementia, darkness, desire and dancing. He also recounts the bizarre story of his recent meeting with Mr Cohen.  Arthur will be accompanied and enhanced by Kirsty Newton and Carrie Marx.

Arthur Smith has been regularly attending the Edinburgh Fringe since 1977. He has also written stage plays such as An Evening with Gary Lineker and The Live Bed Show, both of which transferred to the London’s West End.  His autobiography, My Name Is Daphne Fairfax, was published to critical acclaim in 2009.  Arthur Smith is a regular presenter on Radio 4 and 4 Extra, appears in the series Grumpy Old Men and the One Show and tours the country doing his one man stand up show.

In 2008 he finally accepted the ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ award that had been offered to him numerous times.



Venue:                    Pleasance Cabaret Bar, 60 The Pleasance

Time:                       14.30 (1 hour)

Tickets:                   Aug 3-4,9-11,16-18  £12.00(£11.00)

Aug 5-8,12-15  £10.00(£9.00)

Box Office:            www.pleasance.co.uk/ 0131 556 5660