21st August: A High Priest is doing the Chortle Fast Fringe. No idea who he is. Shame I already have a ticket for something or I’d check it out. He may be a long-lost twin or something.
It’s one of those sun/drizzle days. Rainbow weather. I banged my head on bus but pretended that I hadn’t as I didn’t think anyone noticed. Arrive for The Temps and get my usual breakfast snack; a girl at the coffee bar there is liking my blue glittery nails, although they are beginning to grow out now. Back to French nails for work next week. Tom Webb arrives wearing a stylish Scotsman branded binbag/poncho and we ask him if he’s just come from Alton Towers.
All very relaxed at the Hut by now – we know the techs and they know us, well enough to announce “Dowdeswell, you slaaaag!” as the man himself arrives. Slight panic before the show as the lights are not working, but it turns out that the blackout button is on. Panic over.
I’m worried I’m beginning to finally get the old Fringe Flu which I have thus far escaped. Bit of a cough and a touch of tinnitus. Probably just poor physical maintenance and lots of sitting in dank cellars. I am treated as usual to various menfolk of the cast changing into their “work’ trousers. Amusement is found today by the fact that Robin appears to have his pants on inside out (nothing gross. We could see the tag).
Audience are lovely, and start laughing right from the start – no warmup required. Improvised highlights today included “Ronette” in the audience being particularly masculine today; I presume there were no women sat in that part for a change. James is singing Bel Air, Careless Whispers and Boombastic again. Alex tries again to slam dunk the paper but this audience member dropped the paper ball; however, they do get the Swiss joke this time. Sarah has a feather in her purse and is told you can’t buy things with feathers. It starts to rain, quite obvious when your show is in a Portacabin, and Celia jokes that the sprinklers have gone off upstairs. Here is my view:
Our poor prop sandwich is suffering today. It’s been stuffed down Alex’s trousers, dropped and then repeatedly beaten on the table for dramatic emphasis. As it’s obviously raining outside, our “rooftop breakroom” has had an awning added just for today. Total banter is now “totes bants”, and the Slick Exec likes sweeping so much he is going to demote himself so he can carry on. Celia almost got skewered by a broom running through the set, and as it is still raining, the meeting room “has a leak”. Improvised swearing of the day had to be “arse ferrets”. I played the scene change sting at the end instead of the playout music, but it seems that no-one really noticed.
I have lots of blogging to catch up on – two days’ worth and a diatribe about Late n Live to write, so straight off to Brooke’s for peace, quiet and wifi. On the way there, while I’m waiting to cross the road, a woman got her brolly caught on the Toy Story alien I have on my melodeon bag. We laughed.
Cue a LONG blog sesh. Two of my normal, loquacious posts. Took hours. I was full of ire about Late n Live but it’s going to have to wait until after Gordon Southern’s show, which I hosted a preview of so I’m very keen to go and he’s organised me a ticket. Bump into Gordon in the Dome shop. He nips off to get his show ready. Also bump into Tuck – tell him I’ve got to dash as I’m picking up a ticket for a show; he has to dash also as he’s “off to do the admin” which in my head gets put to the tune of “We’re Off to See the Wizard”.
Teviot box office seems to have a Ye Olde Sweetie Shoppe in it for some random reason. I must come back and get some sweeties. Gordon’s show was pretty fully-formed when I saw it, as it had already been doing the rounds of the Australian festivals, so it’ll be interesting to see if anything has changed.
Bits that stick in my mind are a well observed bit of physical comedy he calls his “History Channel Walk”. I got a Gold Star but failed to catch it – he says “It doesn’t matter. She’s my friend who didn’t pay to get in.” which gets a laugh. He has a gift for succinct descriptions – he is in the Teviot Nightclub which is normally, you’ve guessed it, a student nightclub, or as he describes it “fingering dungeon”. He also gets a big laugh when he has to take a quick toke of his inhaler and calls it his “lung gun”.
After the show I found my star on the floor, but gave it back to Gordon as he was running out. He jumps briefly as there is some kind of air tube blowing off round the back of Teviot where the food stalls are. He’s compering Late n Live Wednesday but I’ll have had two nights up late on the trot and I don’t think I’ll be able to manage it.
Squeeze in Danielle Ward’s storytelling show Playdead, which features Milly Thomas, whom I have mentioned previously, at the end – I’ve been promising her I’ll go for a while now. Ward has to ask at the start if anyone has come expecting her standup show – in retrospect she seems to have regretted alternating them, as it seems people hear a recommendation for one or other of the shows and then manage to come on the wrong day. I have come on the correct day, thankfully.
An interesting selection of spooky comedy stories. Not too spooky though. The first is a touching tale of a shy courtship by post gone wrong, with an odd but pleasing twist at the end; the reason for the seemingly random words. The reanimating doctor and his Hoover Baby treads the darkness between comedy and horror nicely, and Milly features in a little sketch based on what the people who have to clean up after the more messy crimes (someone has to do it) turn up at a haunted house. Lovely stuff, and something a bit different.
Back to Brooke’s. The Pleasance’s answer to Team GB, Tim Vine at the dartboard and Thom Tuck at the pool table, are in residence. TT and friends retire to a sofa, and we start talking about Olympic events no longer featured, like flower arranging and chess. I volunteer the fact that Team GB have been the reigning Olympic Cricket champions for over 100 years now, and the French team they defeated were in fact ironically made up of British expats. This is true. You can look it up.
Time for us to head down to Cabaret Voltaire again. While I’m waiting for Thom to retrieve his uke and Simba from their secret hiding place somewhere in the Chaplaincy, I see a man with his shirt on inside out (again, the tag). It must be catching. We walk down to Cab Vol and I note that carrying a musical instrument and a Disney soft toy seems to be a really good way of broadcasting you are about to do a show and therefore not worth bothering with flyers. I must remember that one.
Ross/Nala has arrived. We’re trying to work out what Lion King character I’d be. This is what happens when you are talking to someone who, along with you and last year’s tech, has probably seen Thom Tuck Goes Straight to DVD more than anyone else in the world. Including Tuck. This discussion morphs into a debate about whether Nala can be rightfully described a Disney Princess or not. He reckons not, as she has no “flowing locks”, but I counter that she does have a tail.
Someone has left a pile of flyers and, for some reason, an avocado at the back. I joke to the boys preparing the stage area that someone has come prepared with their own fruit to throw. The girl at the back who asked me if it was my avocado, has to agree that that would be a vicious fruit to throw. Splat and a hard centre. Evil. I bag a nice seat, and watch as Thom is stalking his territory, idly singing along to the blues interval music while rearranging chairs in a feng shui pre-show moment.
David in the front row gets lots of “Points!” today. He knows his Disney DVDs. And/or can speak Spanish. Someone at the front laughs so loudly that Tuck’s mask comes off again and he cracks up, saying “I have never heard such a nervous laugh!”. I also notice that he does occasionally betray the fact that he went to an American school, not just by talking about it but also by the fact that in some sentences he says “got” but in others he says “gotten”. Watch a show repeatedly enough times and you begin to notice subtleties within subtleties. It never ceases to amaze me how a comedian can respond to something from the audience with a bit of material that normally comes much later in the show, and then get back to where they should have been in the first place. It comes with familiarity and practice, I imagine. “That was soooo good!” says a girl as she leaves. Last year’s award nominated show for free. It certainly is. I never tire of watching it myself.
My phone external power pack is flat. So now, my phone is nearly flat, so I have to move back to Ye Olde Pen and Paper. Nostalgia.
ACMS tonight so back to Brooke’s. I go via the Dome Shop with Ed Coleman (the face of Ponder Stibbons, as I have previously mentioned), as I want to try and get rid of this potential lurgi before it bites. Baguette with Applewood cheese, big bottle of orange, crisps and chocolate. That should do it. So here’s me having my what I call “brinner” (breakfast/lunch/dinner) half an hour before midnight. I don’t need my pass to get into Brooke’s these days. The boss knows me now. This pleases me.
Food with Nala while he’s on Skype to his lady. I do a bit of knitting to chill. I’ve got a heat rash inside my right elbow from the melodeon bag strap. I suffer for art. Time to start carrying it on the other side for a bit. Brief chat to Mr Legge on the way out about the relative merits of different late night comedy shows, and then off to ACMS.
Ross and I, once inside, gravitate to the back and have a chat with the tech to talk shop about lighting desks for a bit. Find a place at the back to stow my melodeon and settle down for ACMS. Now I am with my tribe, who can do appropriate call and response routines. John-Luke comes on stage to announce “The show will start in one minute… this is for my co-host as much as you”. Tuck stalks past to prove he is in the room, drink in hand, from the bar. Very Pete and Dud. International Comedy for tonight (I did Esperanto at the first week) is a 3 minute routine in Norwegian, which was well-received. Apparently it might have been about cats, so I’m told.
Johnny and the Baptists are the house band for tonight, which involves them singing short snatches of pop songs with the lyrics changed to suit the oncoming act. The first is “What is love? David O’Docherty, O’Docherty, no more”, who does more Bontempi Home Organ style songs, including one outstanding one about what parties are actually like – “Receive the Party!” he shouts before the start.
Back to Pete and Dud – ahem… John-Luke and Thom. Cue ACMS’ resident dipsomaniac to announce “I’ve got a new drink! I have a brown drink, and a blue drink…”. “Don’t encourage him” says John-Luke, so of course they do, and Tuck begins to create what is probably the first (and probably the last) beer and blue WKD cocktail.
TT: “Bottle is my friend”.
JLR: “Preferably full, and with the lid on”.
TT: “No, potential friend”.
And now for Ben Target (Esperanto pronunciation guide would be Taĵej – always useful to use a language that has rigid pronunciation to remember how to pronounce odd things. Basically it’s like Hyacinth Bucket). Apparently he has promised not to make a big mess. Everyone is expecting a big mess. Our MC’s stand at the side of the stage looking daggers as Ben takes to the stage. Johnny and the Baptists sing “Heeeeeeeey, Ben Target! (oooh, ah)” and the scene is set.
Two men, one in pants (of course), one in a towel, kneel on the stage playing chess for some minutes, echoed by the woman behind who is doing face painting (a choice of the barcode from a Club biscuit, a slighlty wonky clown face, a spolier of the ending of Sixth Sense, or three ducks on a wall – I saw all of these displayed in the Dome afterwards). Thank the Muse for ACMS. Surreal isn’t just random. It means it is beyond real. So it has to be grounded in reality. Things have to be logically possible, just out of context.
Anticipation builds. Enter about 20 people carrying shaving foam pies, to the music of “We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be” from Bugsy Malone. You can guess what happened next.
Ten Seconds of Mayhem
There is now shaving foam all over the stage, up the backdrop, and on Tuck’s elbow. The chess players have continued to play through the orgy of soapy destruction. Finally Target shouts “Checkmate!” and a wrestling match ensues between the two chessplayers. Wonderful stuff.
Brief cleaning up ensues.
TT:”At least this time we can shave the stage clean”.
I go to the bar for a drink as it’s as hot in here as ever. Phone now totally flat. Walking back I get an odd olfactory experience; if I turn to my right I can smell stale sweat, and if I turn to my left I can smell shaving foam. It smells like a school changing room in here.
Tuck is being the facepainting pimp, picking people out and leading them by the hand to be painted. He tries to get me in as well but I tend to come out in hives with a lot of things, and I don’t want “Bruce Willis is a ghost” picked out in red welts on my face for the next few days, so politely decline. I’m sure she does use hypoallergenic paints but you can’t be too careful.
The next act involves a video screen, which is being set up. Tuck is fiddling with his microphone as if a guitarist is about to come on.
JLR: “The sound doesn’t come out of the screen”.
TT: “This one is for the up sound. Yours is for the down sound”.
JLR, baffled, does as he is bid, and the video begins. It is a long, complex and wonderfully animated intro sequence to someone announcing briefly that he can’t come.
Back to our hosts. John-Luke tells his alphabetical celebrity story, to the sound of Thom audibly banging his head repeatedly on his microphone. Then we are treated to some of Thom’s eyebrow acting. On the audience being asked if they have any requests, “Sober Eyebrows” gets a big laugh.
Next act is Tom Bell (“Underground, overground, Tom Belling free”). Ideas for novel stag do’s culminate in a “meat hammer” game, in which a man from the audience (Irish, but having to wear the stag’s uniform of St George Flag wig) has to batter some random meat in a bag with a hammer and guess what it is. He loses. Thom decides he wants the Scottish Breakfast pack (now somewhat dented) and sidles up to steal it from the stage.
The next act obviously hadn’t got the memo. He thought alternative and experimental meant edgy. He did have some good points and the audience received him politely, as I think they’d worked out he’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, but it didn’t really fit in, and the two comperes come on afterwards and look at one another as if to say “what now?” and promise more whimsy to come. Fortunately, in a short time the audience are spontaneously chanting “Whim-sy! Whim-sy! Whim-sy!”, prompting Tuck to raise his arms and shout “I love you!” with emotion at his beloved audience, and all is well again. Cue the whimsy. A lion on a hill, talking about famous lions.
All of the painted ones are now called to the stage as if it were a re-enactment of “We are the World”, swaying behind Johnny and the Baptists as they do a great song about Quentin Blake. The singer says “this is wierd” and Tuck, on his offstage mic, replies “No it isn’t”. This is ACMS. I must go to some of the London ones.
On the walk home, the bakery is baking, and playing ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”. Lovely tune, lovely smell.