Originally not aired on 26/08/23
The Fringe is starting to wrap-up and it’s probably been one of the most confusing ones I’ve done. Off the back of winning the first-ever Channel 4 Sean Lock Award in July, I arrived feeling like a rockstar. My name had become synonymous with the word inaugural.
I felt like the guy. After years of slumming it on lower-echelons of the comedy circuit, playing
venues with no real sound system, lighting or stage – I felt like everything was about to change. Then I arrived at my Fringe venue, which had a faulty sound system, poor lighting, no stage and – this is a new one – no door.
The only thing separating my performance space from the general hubbub of the bar is a thin sheet, draped over the “doorway”. In the room next to me is another, busier show. Many of my “poetic” (Rolling Stone), more discerning routines are often undercut by easier, broader laughs emanating from the room next to me.
I thought I was past this. I thought the separation between me and the amateur scene was more solid, more doorlike. I thought a lecherous, cigar-smoking, hugely overweight tv producer would arrive and say, “Listen kid, I’m gonna make you a star.”
It’s not been like that. TV producers have come, but they’ve been less lecherous than the stereotypes. They don’t say they’re gonna make you a star. They just nod politely on the way out and say, “nice show”. You’re left totally in the dark about whether they really liked it or whether you’d just embarrassed yourself and your career was over. Often literally in the dark, because as I mentioned before, the lighting in my room is not good.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had great shows, good sized crowds and lots of attention both romantically and platonically. Also don’t get me right, I want you to think things are worse than they are and give me sympathy so I can indulge in the perversely joyous feeling you get when public and self-pity react together.
I think somewhere along the line I lost my way. I became a clout chaser. The other day it dawned on me. In pursuit of career advancement, I’ve left the the most daring, innovative thing I do to the wayside.
In 2018 I launched a podcast with a difference: it wasn’t recorded. There were no microphones, no .mp3 files involved – just vibes. Just chat. A conversation between 2 people in the comedy world over chai latte, that would then be written up and embellished later.
That podcast was inventively called, “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” and this year I’ve not done any episodes. I’ve had my head so far up the industry’s arse that I couldn’t see the wood for the chais.
But it’s a project that’s always meant a lot to me, that’s why today I’m delighted to (albeit a little late in the festival) announce its return.
And my first guest this year is rising-star Tal Davies.
Well… I’d hoped it would be. Long term readers of the podcast might remember Tal’s appearance from last year. In that episode I wrestled with the worry that having a low-profile act on like Tal would damage my reputation.
This year I wanted to make amends. Tal’s one of my oldest friends in comedy and I now realise that’s more important than finding the most famous person I can to have a chat with. Besides, she’s absolutely smashing it this year. She’s signed to an agent, has worked on a tv project, and this Fringe she performed on the prestigious Big Value showcase.
But… she didn’t turn up. Having made our appointment for 13:00 BST, I waited until 13:04 before I realised it wasn’t gonna happen. I can’t blame her. Tal has fallen for the same trap I’m trying to break free from. Her success this year has made her feel above all this. Tal probably thinks she’s past doing podcasts that don’t have a mic or any kind of following.
It was another lesson for me. A reminder to never think you’ve made it. I’m not above this; I’m not above anything. I’m part of every bit of this scene. The bottom is as important as the top.
Even if things aren’t ideal, one of the most important things you can do in life is turn up.
See you next time x