Originally not aired on 12/08/22
Thousands of people on the streets, flyerers in your face wherever you walk, posters adorned on every edifice – the Edinburgh Fringe is back baby!
This is the first official Fringe since the coranivirus-19 pandemic and the wait has been long. For those of you who don’t remember the pandemic, it was a virus that brought civilisation to a halt in early 2020, most devastatingly affecting comedians.
The comedy clubs were shut, the Edinburgh Fringe was cancelled, and for a whole two years people stopped laughing.
There’s debate over how the virus started – did it come from a bat? Was it leaked deliberately from a lab? Or was it spread by the woke anti-comedy twitter-brigade in an attempt to cancel all comedians in one fell swoop?
I couldn’t possibly say. But if the aim was to cancel comedians, then it didn’t work. We adapted. We learned how to use TikTok – reducing our material into increments of 60 seconds or less that people smile faintly at while taking a dump.
Fast forward to now and the world’s biggest arts festival is upon us. The rooms are dirtier, the ventilation is even worse and the TikToks being put out are producing fainter smiles than ever. We did it!
Yet we’re a week into the Fringe and it feels like something is missing. Walk up and down the Royal Mile and you hear the same words repeated.
“The Fringe doesn’t feel like it’s kicked off yet.”
“Does anyone know what time PieMaker closes?”
Then it hit me. The reason it feels different this year is because of me. It’s because of a project I started four years ago that I’d all but given up on. That project was “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” – the world’s first ever unrecorded podcast.
“What is an unrecorded podcast?” I don’t hear you ask. It’s a podcast with difference. Unlike a lot of modern podcasts with their fancy microphones and fancy cameras that perfectly capture the conversation between the host and the guest, I turn up with nothing. I chat with the guests and then write up the interview afterwards, relying on nothing more than my memory of the occasion to help me reconstruct the chat.
One problem with this refreshing approach is that the human memory is notoriously unreliable. In attempt to maintain psychological stability, we often remember past events as rosier than they were, creating a narrative in our minds were we’re the hero, looked on more favourably and adoringly than was the case in reality.
Having done this for a while now, I don’t think this will be an issue, and as my first guest of this year’s series Charlie Bowers sat down to greet me, he opened with a lovely compliment:
“Hey Eric, can I just say you’re looking even more toned than the last time I saw you – and what I like about your body is it’s not that bulky superficial weightlifter-build that stinks of someone overcompensating for their small phallus, it’s that subtle lean muscle mass where you can tell you do yoga and calisthenics regularly.”
“Why thank you, Charlie,” I replied. “That’s very kind of you to say.”
Charlie’s physical health, however, isn’t in quite as good place as my own. Charlie suffers from a condition known as epilepsy, which ironically makes him the perfect “fit” for this show.
As a big fan of equality, I was keen to have Charlie on the show to discuss his poorly nervous system and how it’s affected him.
“What’s it like to have a condition that gives you such a disadvantage in your day-to-day life, but such an advantage when it comes to PR?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Charlie responded. “I don’t use my condition as PR – I don’t even talk about it on stage.”
I was getting a bit of a hostile vibe from Charlie. I paused, took a sip of my Chai and reminded myself that not everyone with epilepsy is such a whiny prick.
“Don’t you feel like you’re missing a trick,” I said. “If you really pushed the fact that you have epilepsy then maybe producers and agents would be interested in you. Everyone needs an angle. You need to seize the opportunities with these seizures.”
“Well, if people are only interested in me because of my disability,” Charlie replied, “then that would mean nothing to me. I’m not a sob story – I want to be judged on my merit as a comedian.”
Even if it was a bit misguided, I admired Charlie’s determination to not be defined by his epilepsy. But you know what rhymes with epilepsy? Pepsi – a beverage Charlie can’t enjoy as the caffeine content in it could trigger a seizure. And on thinking of that clever little rhyme, I remembered I forgot to make sure Charlie’s Chai Latte was a decaf.
I decided to terminate the inverview and leave before things turned shaky.
See you next time! X
Charlie is performing a show with non-epileptic comic Greg Winfield. You can catch their show “Split The Winnings” for free every day at Southsider at 4:30pm.