Elis goes to Edinburgh

I haven't had an anxiety dream for years. I think the last ones were probably due to a childhood phobia of swimming I had in the late 80s, and in general I'm quite a laid back person.

I don't beep the horn too much, I've never cut up a partner's clothing and thrown it into a canal whilst screaming "it's the look on your face I HATE," and I used to laugh at John McEnroe, thinking smugly to myself "why is he making all that fuss? It's only tennis." I have been suffering from anxiety dreams of late, however, and these are exclusively to do with the Edinburgh Festival.

Allow me to introduce myself: I'm Elis James, comedian, writer, and guest blogger during this month's Edinburgh Festival.

I think I should explain what the festival is first, before I start moaning about it. It's the world's largest arts festival; it runs for the whole month of August and, if you weren't sure from the title, it's held in Edinburgh.

Thousands of performers from all over the world will take over the Scottish capital for four weeks, whilst local people watch some shows, rent out matchbox-sized parts of their flats at extortionate rates to people too desperate to quibble, mutter to themselves angrily that Princes Street is too crowded during the day, and secretly love the fact that Glasgow has nothing to compare with it.

It's the comedy section of the festival that I'm concerned with, and this year I'll be performing my second solo show which I'm writing at the minute.

Now, this is where the anxiety dreams set in.

There are an estimated 2,500 shows on at Edinburgh, about 850 of which are comedy, and thus I suppose it had better be good. It's like taking meat to a barbecue - you'll be given short shrift by your hosts if you turn up with some gone off Winalot you've fashioned into sausage shapes, which you try to pass off as Tesco Finest chipolatas.

Worryingly for me the world's finest comedians are there, thus raising the standard to an annoyingly high rate, and so expectations are high across the board. Also, having been to Edinburgh a couple of times now, I will get reviewed by all manner of people, which terrifies me in a way I find difficult to explain.

The broadsheet newspaper I have read every day since I was 18 is going to review my show this year apparently. If I get slammed by them I may as well ask Shoot! Magazine to come along, just so I can get criticized by every publication I've ever ordered from a newsagent. I wonder if Wizzer and Chips runs a review section. That'll complete the set.

You're probably wondering why I'm putting myself through this. Well. I love comedy. Really, really love it in the same way a football obsessive can be as happy watching Sunday morning pub football as they are an FA Cup Semi-Final, I will gladly discuss why Tizer is a funnier drink than Sprite until I'm told to go home or social services are called. I am also unable to hold down a real job, and thus writing a new show for Edinburgh is a sort of must, because:

  1. I can't move back in with my parents as I'm 29, and
  2. Dad's still angry about the Blu-Tack stains I left on the wall when I took down my Radiohead posters in 1997.

And so my hands are tied. It's comedy or gun running, and not only am I chronically unfit but I have a pretty limited knowledge of the criminal underworld.

With less than a week to go until the festival starts, I am finalising the show at preview gigs up and down the country, ie I go on stage with a notebook and a dictaphone, and during the day try to shape these recordings into something worth hearing.

These shows are billed as Edinburgh previews and are often double bills with another comedian doing the same thing, and the audience is aware of what's happening (apart from the woman in Swansea who walked out on me a few weeks ago, 'FOR HAVING THE CHEEK TO PRACTICE ON HER!' It's like when a band do new songs at a gig, or as part of a radio session, but I don't have a tourbus, merchandise, or drugs hidden in my equipment which I smuggle unawares into other countries.

So. I have written a show called Daytripper, and will perform it every day at a venue called The Tron on Hunter Square, at 7.40pm. By the next blog I'll have an idea of how it's going, and will promote the show either by:

  1. lying and saying it's good, or
  2. bashfully admitting that it's going well and ask if you fancy coming.

I'll also have an idea of which shows are hot and will let you know, and will fill you in on any japes I get up to with my flatmates - I am in digs with three hard living, hard drinking comedians, so will let you know if our flat is like the last days of Rome (or the last days of Crossroads).

It will probably be like fresher's week, but every now and then one of us will burst into tears because "someone on Twitter has said that my show lacks foc....oh yeah focus".

See you on the other side.



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