My show kicks off this Friday so I’m putting all the last pieces into place. That includes organising the shopping for the week. Long gone are the days of surviving on beer and late night pizzas. The last thing you want after a good show is find out you’ve run out of milk and the supermarket is closed. That can very quickly turn a 5 star performance into a 2 star evening.
Top of my shopping list is bananas.
Years ago I read an interview with the then-Scotland manager Gordon Strachan. He said he ate bananas because they contain potassium. He said the potassium converts into energy, which in turn gives you extra strength. So he would eat a banana before the game and another one at half-time, and that extra energy would kick in 20 minutes later. Well that’s what he claimed, so I’ve been doing that before my shows for the last couple of years. Mind you, Gordon failed to qualify for the 2016 Euros or the 2018 World Cup, so maybe he’s not the right person to be taking advice from.
I’ve been going out running every day to get fit for The Fringe. Maybe this is something that only other performers will understand but you have to get in training for standing on stage and talking for 60 minutes, every night for 22 days. It sounds like the easiest thing in the world to do but it’s not. I have to work out when I’m going to run out of steam and start flagging. It’s like training for a marathon. So far I’ve managed to run all the way to the Scotmid shop. That might sound impressive but I live next door to the Scotmid shop.
I take my training seriously. At the beginning of Lockdown I ordered some light hand weights. A couple of weeks later I ordered some heavier weights. The month after that I ordered a kettlebell. By the end of March my bedroom looked like the gymnasium in Strangeways prison.
As yet, I haven’t seen any real improvements … and the Amazon delivery man has strained his back.
I can’t wait to start my show. The Fringe is a wonderful thing when you’re in the thick of it but the months leading up to it are nerve racking. I’m alway full of doubts and worries. Is this funny? Will this work? How quickly will the Fringe ticket-website crash?
I don’t do many previews, 5 or 6 at the most. I prefer to test out the material in comedy clubs, that way I know I have some solid routines as a foundation. But I like to have 2 or 3 pieces that aren’t honed-down. I like the excitement of “where will this routine go tonight? What is the actual point of this routine? How can this routine grow?” The audience do a lot of the work for me. They show me where the laughter is and the point me in the right direction. But I’m not giving them a cut of the door money so bother don’t asking.
I’m lucky that I live in Edinburgh otherwise I could never afford to appear at the Fringe. Before I moved to Scotland I rented a series of Festival flats. I remember one flat I shared with a mime artist and a fire eater. It was very quiet but very warm.
I know that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the most prestigious arts event in the world and whole careers can be made or lost during the next 3 1/2 weeks but as I live within walking distance of my venue this is the PERFECT gig for me. I can load my washing machine, saunter up to my venue, do my show, saunter home, and unload my washing machine. Yes, it’s a glamorous life. I’m the Joan Collins of Leith.
Years ago I would have been hanging out in the late night bars, like the Loft bar at the Gilded Balloon, but not now. I’m completely over that. The pretentiousness, the looking over peoples shoulders to see if someone more important has entered the room, and all the bragging. The constant bragging! A few years back I met a young man who claimed he worked in television. He was holding court, surrounded by comedians, talking about his work on the American sitcom ‘Frasier’. Now, ‘Frasier’ was one of my favourite sitcoms but it ended 20-odd years ago, and this man was far too young to have been involved. I asked him a couple of questions about his ‘comedy career’. It turned out he worked for one of the TV channels that had bought up the rights to show repeats of ‘Frasier’ in Britain. To me that is NOT the same as working ON ‘Frasier’. To me that is the equivalent of being an accountant.
After a show I love strolling back down Leith Walk and getting away from the Fringe/media bubble. Getting back into real life. There’s usually a couple of people on the street who recognise me and ask “How’s the show going? Are the audiences enjoying it?” … which is nice, but I’d prefer the tight-fisted fuckers bought a ticket and found out for themselves.
My favourite Leith Walk experience was three years ago – a man standing outside the Central Bar shouted at me “Hey Jo, can I ask you a question?” I thought it would be something about my show or the Festival so I stopped. He then asked me “Does the 25 bus go up to the train station or should I get the 49?” I love that. I love that sense of belonging and community. Anyway, I put him on the number 42 to Portobello.
The other thing I love about Leith is the complete lack of posters. I’m not convinced they work anyway. They’re like white noise. There’s too many to look at. I think they just fade into the background and don’t provide any purpose. They’re not actually for the public. They’re for the performers ego.
I know that because I remember my first Fringe way back in 2001. I spent a small fortune on publicity. I turned up at the venue and saw my face on a huge poster. I felt so proud. I felt so important. Then I noticed a drunken man doing the traditional Scottish thing of urinating in the street — all over my face! Not quite the Fringe welcome I was hoping for but it has always stuck with me. The Guardian gave him 4 stars for his “gritty portrayal of inner-city existence and the futility of life” … while the Edinburgh Evening News said “he was drunk and causing a disturbance”.
So, what can you take away from this article? Bananas! Seriously, eat a couple before your show.
Good luck everyone. X
Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble is at The Stand Comedy Club daily from 4th August at 8.20pm