Originally not aired on ??/??/????
Okay guys, fair warning, this episode might be a bit sloppy, a bit rough around the edges, a bit of an unstructured mess, a bit shit, a bit more for me than it is for you, a bit of a waste of time that will leave you feeling conned, making you angry and resentful of the fact that you were stupid enough to put your faith in me to produce something that would take you out of your destructive thought patterns for a brief amount of time – and that’s because today’s episode is an EDINBURGH PREVIEW.
That’s right, the good news is that my unrecorded podcast, “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” has been renewed for a second series. I’ll be going up to the Fringe in August for the full run and I’m going to be having some of the most riveting non-taped conversations you could imagine. I have venues sorted, guests lined up and I’m excited to announce some big TV comics have already declined to take part.
The downside is I’ve only got a few weeks to prepare and I need to figure out how I’m gonna do this shit. For those of you don’t know how it works, by the time a show is taken to Edinburgh, it’s already been performed a bunch of times. It’s been tried and tested. Honed. Worked on. Finessed. This is what’s known as the preview process. During this process, the comedian – or in this case unrecorded podcast host – only has a rough idea of how their show will work, and they put it together by trying it out in front of an audience they don’t care about.
It can be a nerve-wracking process, and despite purposely picking someone who I don’t respect enough for their opinion of me to matter, I still felt extremely anxious when today’s guest Adam Beardsmore rocked up.
“Just a warning, Adam. This is a preview so I’m gonna be looking at my notes a lot. Is that okay?”
“Yeah that’s fine,” he said.
“Awesome. Also, I might stop the interview every now and then to ask you which bits are working and stuff.”
The moment of truth had arrived. For logistical and financial reasons, I had to not-record this preview in Birmingham, rather than Edinburgh. Luckily, we were in Starbucks, and because of their brand consistency I was able to block out the background noise of Brummy accents and economic frustration and imagine we were at a Starbucks at the Fringe, a place where real people are side-lined for a month to make room for a largely middle-class group of performers to process their childhood traumas through shows filled with puns. The Fringe in general I mean, not specifically Starbucks at the Fringe.
“Hi, how are you Adam?” I asked, reading the script in front of me.
“I’m sorry, Adam, can we just stop a second? What did you think of that first line? ‘How are you?’ I dunno if it’s too obvious. I’ve been thinking of cutting it for a while and then I thought, nah I’ll give it a try. But it just feels a bit clunky.”
“I think it’s fine, mate.”
“Okay and umm… how did you get into comedy?” I asked, referencing the script.
“Well, I’ve basically always wanted to do it but put it off for years and—“
“Just a second Adam,” I said, interrupting. “Shall I put a green tick next to ‘how did you get into comedy?’ I think it’s a good question, I just wonder if there’s a more interesting way of asking it.”
Adam didn’t look happy. As his day job he works in animation, and I was worried the more I kept stopping to ask him how the podcast was going, the more animated he would become, until eventually he hit me over the head with a rolling pin.
Does that joke work? Sorry guys a lot of this isn’t polished yet. I was trying to reference like old-school Tom and Jerry cartoon violence. I promise when I take this thing up to Edinburgh I’ll have it worked out.
“Can we just get on with it?” Adam said.
I looked at my notes, trying to figure out where to go next in the interview. I had it all memorised before, but I could no longer recall any of it.
“I’m falling to pieces,” I said, referencing The Script once more. I felt like going back to the corner where I first met Adam and starting all over again. The Man Who Can’t Be Moved. Breakeven. For The First Time. The Script the band.
Is any of this landing???
“Listen, can you just talk to me without using your notes?” Adam said. “We can do this another time if you’re not ready.”
“Yeah… I mean… Uhm… It’s just…”
I was flailing for words to say. All of a sudden the agitation made me lose control and I knocked over my delicious Chai Latte, completely ruining my notes, covering them in hot milk infused with tea and the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. A Chai Latte, the drink featured in the title of the show, was now playing a key role in the actual narrative arc of the show. Nice.
There’s a bit in every Edinburgh show where we realise, that for all its funniness, something about the comedian’s current worldview is trapping them. Normally about three-quarters into the show, a key piece of drama – i.e. a chai latte being spilled – leads to this worldview being challenged. The comedian then finds a new way forward, and spends the rest of the show evangelising about it. The audience is inspired. Reviewers start to pay attention. Award nominations come through. Glory.
I think this is what was happening for me. After my notes got ruined, I had to start improvising. I had a rough idea of the questions I’d prepared, but with no script, I started to riff around those questions. The conversation felt so much more natural. We got into all sorts of stuff about Adam’s past – where he went to university, how he met his wife, what inspired him to get into comedy. All of his responses are too dull to reproduce here, but the point is the initial awkwardness of the conversation had vanished.
“I feel like I’m getting a lot more of you now, Eric. You’re actually really genuine and a great interviewer when you relax and stop thinking about how it’s supposed to be going,” Adam definitely said.
That’s when I realised this profound universal thing about the human-condition. The thing is, we’re all a work-in-progress. And we all have these scripts we think we need to follow. Go to university. Get a job. Find a life-partner. And a lot more on top of this depending on the culture you were involuntarily thrown into and the upbringing you had. It’s like we’re working towards this thing, this finished product. But we’ll never be polished enough. Never be finished.
We need to let go of that idea of perfection, and just be ourselves, start to improvise more. After all, “human being” literally comes from the Latin for “work in progress”. Well, I dunno if it does, but the fact that I’m not sure only proves my point further. Once we let go of The Script and the idea of being in some sort of Hall Of Fame, then we can actually be free.
So I don’t care anymore that this is supposed to be a preview. I’m not gonna apologise because it’s not “ready”, whatever that means. I have a lot of things about myself that I wanna fix; we all do. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t be working to get better, but whether you’re an Edinburgh show or a person, you don’t need to be “ready” to be loved and appreciated. You just need to Be.
I said my goodbyes to Adam, and as I walked through the streets of England’s second city, I thought about what just happened.
Funny jokes. A sad bit. Character development. Meta references that alienate a general audience. Uplifting ending.
I think this thing’s ready for the Fringe.
Can’t wait xxx