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S2E9:
Lauren from Big Value

Originally not aired on ??/??/????

So that’s it.

 

I’m back at home, and my job now is to wrap things up. Yeah, that’s right, I’ve just landed a new role in a packaging warehouse and I’m ready to give it my all. Just kidding, that sounds awful and I feel for anyone who has to do something like that. But then maybe if it’s that bad you should have tried harder at school rather than throwing increasingly larger chunks of rubbers at my head during English. I’m talking to you, Josh Williams. Nah, he had a tough home life; these things are very complex and bullies aren’t created in a vacuum and let’s talk about this on another unrecorded podcast.

 

What I’m actually tryna say is, I need to conclude this series of the podcast.

 

How do I do that? How do I do justice to what has been my and any sane or even insane person’s favourite series so far?

 

Lesser podcast hosts would go down the route of getting a big celebrity guest, maybe a TV name that could get people’s attention, but I’ve always tried to do something different with this show - that’s what makes it so hilarious and unique and important. Besides, I spent half the month trying to get Nick Helm to do this show and it didn’t work out and I didn’t come up with a back-up plan.

 

So for this finale, I want to celebrate a group of people who are often underappreciated at the Fringe: the venue staff. Apart from the performers who spend hundreds if not thousands of hours honing their craft and material for often very little financial benefit, these are the real people that make the Fringe happen. That’s why today’s guest on “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” is Lauren, the stage manager of the Big Value Late Show that I ripped to pieces every night. I ripped the gig to pieces, I mean. Not Lauren. Obviously.

 

“Thanks for coming on the show, Lauren.” 

 

“Delighted to be here,” she said. “Is there anything I can get you? Do you want some water to go with the Chai? I can flash a light when you’ve done 20 minutes, if that will help?”

 

“Relax, Lauren. I’m fine.”

 

This is classic Lauren. She’s always looking to make sure the people with actual talent are looked after. There were four of us on the Big Value Late Show, and managing four comedians over the course of a month is no mean feat. It’s actually quite a kind feat, and it requires a kind and understanding person to do it.

 

What the audience gets from a comedian is a very polished, very contrived performance. Even with me, who plays around with the form, appearing to be both high-status and low-status, confident yet insecure, polished yet scrappy – I very much know what I’m doing. Off-stage though, it’s a different story. Off-stage we’re moody, arrogant, egotistical, moaning gobshites. We’re impossible to be around. But Lauren seemed to just take that in her stride. If any of us needed her, she’d stop whatever she was doing and drop everything. This led to quite a few broken glasses over the course of a month but who needs unbroken glass when you’ve got unbroken hearts.

 

“I guess when you guys were down, I just wanted to make sure I reminded you why what you were doing was so important,” she said, sipping on one of the two remaining Chais of the series.

 

“Important and unique and hilarious, you mean?” I said, sipping on the other Chai.

 

“Exactly.”

I remember one particular night when I was completely sick of the whole thing. The Fringe, stand-up comedy, Edinburgh’s terrible phone signal – everything. I was backstage telling all the other acts that we were wasting our time and that we should just quit comedy and our mobile phone contracts and move onto something different. I was being a knobhead. But Lauren calmed me down. She went out and got a bag of Minstrels for me and we talked it through. When you’re having a meltdown, it’s so nice to be with someone who’s totally unfazed and unjudging; simply trying to make you feel a bit better.

 

I’m back in my favourite place in the world now (Kings Heath, Birmingham) and I feel very happy. But I’m looking ahead at my commitments in the next few weeks, and I’ve come to the realisation that, really, the Fringe never ends. Really, our whole life is a show. Our whole life is a performance. We constantly have to adopt roles, present carefully constructed versions of ourselves. At work, we have to be professional and organised; in social situations, we have to be chatty and charismatic; on dates, we have to pretend we’re interesting. It never ends. And now, with social media, we constantly have to perform and present our best selves. It’s exhausting.

 

But I guess what I wanna ask, as a final thought to this series, is:

 

Who are the people backstage in your life?

Who are the stage managers that look after you?

 

Who are the people that don’t need you to perform for them? That just want you to be okay? That just want you to be you?

 

Find them. Cherish them. You may not realise it, but they’re the best type of people.

 

See you next year! X