Yesterday was another big one. I'd woken in time for breakfast, but was slow to get moving and really only headed out of the room after 1pm. I spent the afternoon sussing out where I needed to be for the shows that night, hoping to minimise the sprinting and getting lost of the previous evening. Ah, the luxury of time. Thankfully, I'd been more sensible with my purchases, and three of the four shows that night were in the same place.
I kept wandering, trying to get a feel of the city and surprising myself with how much of it was familiar. We'd visited after I finished year twelve, so about five or six years ago. Every now and then a little squall would roll in and the pedestrians would cower in shop fronts before moving on. I made it up to the castle, which I almost didn't recognise due to the huge three-sided stands they'd erected (in six weeks, apparently!) for the Edinburgh Tattoo.
As my first show of the evening was at 6pm, I'd wandered back around to the room before heading out. The first stop was Josie Long. She's a really energetic and bubbly comedian, who was adorably impassioned and genuine in her interactions. As people were walking in and being seated she had spontaneously started chatting to people about and dancing to songs from her iPod. She took a surprisingly political direction in discussing social justice and her feelings of powerlessness against the government, which while still broadly amusing I was unable to entirely appreciate due to a lack of local knowledge.
Despite being there early for Josie Long, I had to leave the theatre to queue up and go in again. Of course, since people had got there early for David O'Doherty there was a big line and I had to go to the back. Thankfully, being on my own I was able to get a single seat up the front. O'Doherty, who blends longer stories with musical comedy, delivered an hour that was surprisingly touching. He'd broken up with his girlfriend at the end of last year and had wallowed in depression for months before facing his fears and moving on. It was at times sad, at times in inspiring, but always honest and still very funny.
I left the Pleasance Courtyard, where the two acts had been, and raced around the corner to the Bongo bar to see Simon Amstell. Amstell is probably best known as the host of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, in which he showcased his acerbic wit to take down bad musicians. I must admit to feeling an odd kinship to him, as he waxed philosophical about the meaning of life as an atheist, and attempting to find human connection with others. He managed to enunciate so many things that had been circling around in my head for ages, in a poignant and clever way. He spoke about travelling alone and how when by himself he was able to discover who he was, unfettered by the limits created by the expectations of the people around him. It was moving and profound and blackly funny.
When Amstell had finished, I had a bit of spare time before my final act of the night, back at Pleasance. Until then, I had time to grab something to eat. I wandered towards the hub I was at yesterday and found a cool Thai takeaway place that adjoined a bar. It was apparently very popular, with queues during the day, but they asked me to wait for twenty minutes because they couldn't take any more orders. They seemed pretty exhausted, which given the time of year is not a particular surprise.
I had the time, so I went and grabbed what turned out to be a cider - not my usual pick, but pleasantly inoffensive as it was neither sweet nor sour, just refreshing. I almost considered grabbing a burger, but the allure of a Massaman chicken curry proved too much, and I returned to the Thai place. It was great, if not particularly spicy, and despite striking up a nice conversation with another guy, suddenly realised I needed to get back to the last show and had to dash out apologetically. I made it back with plenty of time, for the 11pm show: Mark Watson's Edinborolympics.
Slightly different to the other acts, the Edinborolympics was really just an excuse for Mark and his comedian friends to fuck about. He was hosting, sure, and in a pleasant, Wil Anderson-ian way, but it wasn't stand-up and not gag-filled. There were three other comedians competing for the gold medal by completing three events. The first was a sack race in a double sleeping bag with a member of the audience. As it happened to be the last night of the show's season, many of the other winners were back for a final face-off, including both Kumail Nanjiani and David O'Doherty. O'Doherty kept running in and messing with the contestants, like by tipping water on the floor in the sack race.
The second was the so-called 'admin' round. This was seven tasks to complete in five minutes, including peeling an orange, writing a limerick, going downstairs to buy refreshments, making toast and putting on as many of the audience's clothes. Of course, as the comedians started to realise what they had got themselves into, their bad tempers and lack of enthusiasm for physical exercise was hilarious. Jason Byrne, representing Ireland, wore thirty pieces of audience clothing and was actually sweating by the end of it.
The final task was ditching three pieces of fruit at an audience member's head. The furthest direct hit was declared the winner. Oh, the audience member had a helmet on. Comedians lobbing bananas across a lecture theatre at a woman wearing a helmet is, naturally, hilarious. After Jason Byrne had been declared the night's winner, he was joined by some of the previous champions to participate in a tug of war. David O'Doherty tipped another jug of water on the floor beneath his opponents and the Irish team won easily. Of course, the comedians and audience had been drinking, so while it wasn't the kind of structured laugh-a-minute show that the others had been, for a late night game show it was enjoyably riotous.
It's fair to say I've laughed more over the past two days than the previous two months combined. It was, looking back, adorably naive to try and see seven shows in two nights (seven and a half hours in thirty), but even knowing that I wouldn't have changed it. I feel absolutely confident that I experienced the Edinburgh Fringe. I saw the city, alive and energetic, and with throngs of excited people on every corner. I saw great comedians I admire, up close and personal, and met a few of them too. They were all genuine and friendly.
I am sore and tired and probably sickly. I ran kilometres in pants that aren't for running, and sweated my way to five or more different venues. There were moments where I was so sore from laughing that I was ready to beg the performer for relief just so I could exhale. It was hectic and poorly scheduled and all over the place, and I ate poorly through all of it, but goddamn if it wasn't fucking brilliant too and you should all go.