Comedians in Edinburgh
Getting Chai Lattes (series four)
Originally not aired on 26/08/2023
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
Originally not aired on 29/08/2023
Episode 2 of this year’s “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” features the credible Freya McGhee.
Starting her comedy career in 2019, Freya is just at the beginning. Or possibly the end. This is her first full run at the Fringe, and she explained it’s not going to plan.
“It’s been a very humbling experience,” she said. “No one is coming to the show, and it feels like it’s been a waste of a month.”
“Wow,” I replied. “That puts it into perspective. My room’s been full almost every day, people standing at the back, often many being turned away. Yet I still feel dissatisfied. I can’t even imagine what it’s like being you.”
“Right, okay… thank you?”
Part of me was a bit dubious. I often exaggerate how bad things are, and maybe Freya was doing the same.
Freya is great. She’s been semi-successful in a lot of the new act competitions and is easily one of top few hundred comedians to start in the last 5 years. She also has a niche. Having studied Chemistry (a science) at university, her set is chock-full of probably-funny-if-you-understand-them science gags. Surely that’s enough to bring the punters in.
“How bad is it really?” I asked. “Are you really not getting people in?”
At that point she showed me a picture taken from the back of her venue, which displayed a crowd of around 6 people in a room that must’ve held over a hundred.
There was a pause.
“Do you see what I mean?” She said.
I did. And I felt for her in that moment. Especially as someone who’s been around the block a few times. I’ve been doing comedy for what feels like 10 years now (in reality, it’s 9) and I know a lot of acts like Freya must look up to me. I’m an elder statesman, a role model. I needed to say something to reassure her; to encourage her that it’s a long game. That it doesn’t matter if she’s not where she wants to be. That there’s something to be gained in creating, despite how ruinous it can be financially and emotionally. That this feeling of failure and self-doubt is temporary. One day she’ll be exactly where she wants to be, and she’ll look back at this time and be thankful she experienced it, because ultimately, she’ll be better for it.
How to phrase that though?
“You’ll probs be fine, Freya.”
See you next time!
Originally not aired on 31/08/2023
Episode 3, and in this episode we explore the true meaning of the Fringe: meeting producers.
Today on “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” I’m joined by Co-founder of Country Mile Productions and Head of Comedy Development at Blink Industries, Alex Cartlidge.
Although Alex’s positions sound important, his voice doesn’t. Hailing from Stoke-On-Trent, Alex has the accent to prove it. Not so much the voice of an angel, but the voice of the guy who sang Angels – the Stokey accent isn’t one you traditionally associate with positions of power in comedy.
“Ay up, duck, how you doing?” Alex said as he greeted me.
I come from a place not too far from Alex and also have a bit of an accent that makes me sound thick as fuck, but normally the Suits in comedy are much posher, much more eloquent. Alex is unashamedly stupid-sounding, and there’s something quite endearing about that.
“I hope you’re looking after yourself up here, duck,” he said, before offering to buy the chais.
He comes across friendly, possibly a tad camp – although the way he makes love to women certainly doesn’t.
“Missionary, minimal kissing, and absolutely no butt-stuff,” he explained.
I tried not to be too taken with his seeming down-to-earthness, as I didn’t quite trust Alex yet. I recently won an award, the prize of which includes a script commission from Channel 4, and since then production companies have been all over me, wanting me to develop the project with them. I’ve been more coveted than a ham and cheese oatcake in Stoke.
Was Alex exaggerating his working-classness in an attempt to get closer to me? Was he trying to foster a familiarity between us? You never know whether these people are being real – another producer the other day turned up to meet me in a full Adidas tracksuit.
“Alex, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure can, me duck.”
“How much is a pint of milk?”
“Ermm, well duck, it’s…. Erm… ooo,” Suddenly his accent changed. “Uh uh, well - it all depends on the markets,” he started to sound more posh by the second, “you’ve got to realise that since Rishi took over at the end of the last year, the pound has stabilised,” he was now doing that weird thumb pointing thing politicians do, “we’ve had tough decisions to make and we need to get inflation under cont–”
“Sorry mate,” I said. “I think we’re done here.”
I chugged the rest of my chai and left.
“Ta-ra, duck,” I said.
See you next time! X
Lorna Rose Treen
Originally not aired on 02/09/2023
It’s the finale of this year’s “Comedians in Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” and, depending on what side of the woke divide you’re on, I’ve saved the best/worst ‘til last.
Winner of Dave’s Joke of the Fringe, Lorna Rose Treen is widely known for causing the death of comedy. The Sun newspaper has been leading this charge, recently publishing a picture of Lorna’s face next to a gravestone with the engraving “R.I.P. COMEDY” on it.
Lorna has also faced a backlash on social media, many of the attacks aimed at her ranging from misogynistic to autistic.
The joke that stirred this controversy, and caused the Sun to proclaim comedy’s cause of death as “wokery”, is the following:
“I started dating a zookeeper, but it turned out he was a cheetah!"
From my point of view, it’s difficult to understand why this joke has caused such anger. Traditionally, a short pun like this always wins the award. I thought we all knew that these joke lists were a bit of fun.
“I’m really sorry you’ve faced so much venom over this, Lorna,” I said. “I thought maybe you could come on and defend yourself a bit?”
“What do you mean, defend myself?” She replied.
“Sorry, obviously you shouldn’t have to. I just mean… the idea of the joke being political or woke in any way is kind of crazy. I wondered if you wanted to talk about that?”
This is the thing that’s surprised me the most. I watched Lorna’s show and it’s an excellent hour of daft character comedy. You’d be hard pressed to find anything remotely political in there, yet she seems to have been dragged into the culture wars.
“Who says it’s not political?” She said.
“Oh… erm… what do you mean?”
“Well for me, it’s a comment on consumer-capitalism and the system we find ourselves living under.”
“Right, okay,” I said.
She went on.
“The Zoo is a microcosm of the Patriarchy. The animals are objectified, valued for their aesthetic, outward qualities. What of the Giraffe’s inner psyche? Does a chimpanzee not have dreams? Within the joke we learn that everyone is trapped by this paradigm. Even the Zookeeper – archetypically a male figure and ostensibly the winner within this system – is shown to be no different to one of the animals.”
I was dumfounded. I couldn’t think of anything to say, then suddenly Lorna piped up again.
“This is oat milk in this Chai, right?”
“Erm.. sorry Lorna, I just need to pop to the toilet.”
I left and didn’t come back.
See you next year! X