Edinburgh 2013

As I write I am in London in my warm garden. As you read I am in Edinburgh in a cold flat. Soon I will pack my bags, forgetting, as is traditional, to stuff in any socks at all. The Fringe is beckoning me back into its bony arms and I have been having my loins girded by 2 top-notch girders.

Here are some shows that I recommend whole-heartedly despite not having seen any of them.

1. Christian O’Connell

Like many fellow stand ups I am suspicious of DJs who like to think they are funny and get paid more than us (yes, you, Chris Moyles); we know that if they actually had to do a 20-minute set in a comedy club they would burble themselves  straight down the pan. Sometimes you see them trying to entertain a live audience, but the only way they ever get away with it is because some members of the audience know them from the radio.

Christian O’Connell, the morning DJ on Absolute Radio, has bravely decided to have a bash at doing a show in Edinburgh in the proper way. He has written it, tried it out and is going to do the full Edinburgh run. Furthermore his idea is simple and fascinating: he came across a list he had written when he was 13 of the things he hoped to achieve by the age of 40 – the age he was about to be. Could he do them in time?

I know all this because I interviewed him about it on Radio 4 Extra, which, admittedly, wouldn’t have happened to a regular rookie comedian. Nevertheless I was impressed by his approach and reckon he may well be very funny.

2.  Tumi Morake in Her Story.

I know nothing of Tumi or her show but I like the sound of her; she is, so she says, ‘the female comedian who has turned South African comedy upside down and inside out’ which cannot have been easy. Go see.

3. Carey Marx – Intensive Carey

Carey is a terrific comedian who last year joined me in the comics-who-have spent-time-in-Intensive-Care club. He survived his heart attack (obviously – Jeez I am stupid sometimes) but you may not survive his show; the bit of it I have seen is so funny I nearly suffocated laughing.

4, Sally-Anne Hayward – Hey follower!

I have seen a few young new female comedians recently and been disappointed by the number of them whose entire set is made up of hard core sex gags. It’s not that I am prissy (although I do disapprove of sex before marriage) – some of their routines are very funny. It is just so uninteresting. Anyway…. Sally Anne Hayward has a more original and beguiling take on the world. She is also one of those comics who is so delightfully likable that even the most hardened cynic wants to be her friend.

5. Arthur Smith sings Leonard Cohen (volume too).

Although I haven’t seen this show either I have been in it. The best bits are provided by the Smithereens, my fabulous trio of backing singers.

6. Simon Munnery Fylm

Simon Munnery has not stopped experimenting with the forms of comedy for 25 years – he is the most original funnyman in Britain. He is  though, I suspect, useless at cricket.

So very soon I shall once again be emerging from Waverely station into the exhilarating turmoil of creativity that fills this heart-stoppingly beautiful city.


And you never know, it might not even be raining.

The Sun (*)

The sun (*)

A savage review is much more entertaining for the reader than an admiring one; the little misanthrope in each of us relishes the rubbishing of someone else. But however much I enjoy it in others, I find it hard to be a rude critic myself. Even after some bum-murderingly boring play I think, “At least they turned up and had a go.” Wrath should be reserved for important things.

Today though, I choose vitriol.

The show in question, which has been running longer than The Mousetrap, has been in the news again lately, generating endless crass conversations. The sun has turned up for a brief run at a few venues around the country, and I for one am sick of its predictable, pathetic routine.

It always opens in darkness with a mob complaining. Then a suggestion that the sun might be coming transforms the mood into one of happy anticipation.

The macabre figure of the doctor warns them it will kill them, but they ignore him and run off to buy new clothes. Then the sun makes its big entrance and we’re all meant to be impressed by the clever lighting tricks.

Yes, of course it created all life-forms and keeps us alive, but haven’t we heard enough about all that? If the sun is so great, why are we prevented from looking directly at it? What has it got to hide?

It is a very arrogant character compared with its rival the moon. Where the moon invites the stars out and plays among them, the sun obliterates them, jealous of their greater but more distant strength. The capricious moon will appear during the day, but the sun never surprises us by showing up at night. The moon puts on an elegant show, different every time in shape, colour and nuance.

The sun is just a round, yellow thing with one trick. It continually comes out and goes in like some vacillating homosexual. Its closing number, Sunset, always peters out after a few minutes.

The PR people know that recent productions in Britain have been feeble and sporadic. For years they’ve been promising the global-warming version, where the central figure is more brilliant and the doctor has a much bigger part but it seems some Gulf Stream subplot has ruined that. Recent shows seem to have conformed to the same tired old formula that we’ve been watching for years but evrytime a little worse. In short, the sun is crap.

It won’t I think be appearing at the Edinburgh Festival this year and if it does it won’t be welcome in my show either – but you are.

Arthur Smith sings Leonard Cohen (volume too)

And yet – we’ve been friends for a long time and I owe it a lot. So let’s forget about this production and consider future ones, which will surely be passionate, engaged and full-blooded.