Most people think of flights as a necessary evil, especially short haul ones. They take you from A to B, but you end up spending the majority of the journey looking at your watch waiting to land. Anyone who was taking a trip to the Fringe this year probably expected the flight up to be a familiar formality, buckling in, watching the interpretive dance of safety instructions and counting down until the wheels hit the runway.
However, this year's Fringe goers taking a flight from London to Edinburgh on August 22 were in for a surprise, which is not something you usually want to hear about a plane journey. Luckily this surprise came in the form of comedian Richard Herring, who was the live in-flight entertainment.
With Herring taking to the skies, the Virgin Atlantic flight became the unofficial 300th Fringe venue and the first one at 30,000 feet. Earlier in the month other London-Edinburgh flights saw Russell Kane, Carl Donnelly and Tom Craine all taking to the 'stage' normally occupied by flight attendants to provide live comedy as part of the 'Virgin Atlantic Live: On Air' activities for 2014.
Admittedly, it was unclear what to expect from the idea. The premise sounds good, but maybe people would faithfully don their noise cancelling headphones to block out the unwanted jet engines whilst missing out on a close up show with one of comedy's greats. Even worse, there was a chance the whole flight would not know how to react and merely remain silent, drowning themselves in English awkwardness at the sign of a break from routine.
Fortunately, neither of these scenarios came about. The initial surprise and quaint curiosity of many of the passengers quickly turned to applause and laughter, as Herring was announced and promptly took to the PA. It was delightfully refreshing to hear the witty tones of Richard Herring surround the cabin. Not to say the flight captain's welcome and farewell were lacklustre by any means, but he was faced with stiff competition to say the least. Perhaps Herring should be employed full time by Virgin to narrate the journey, though even he may be hard pressed to carry out observational comedy from the clouds throughout. Particularly on longer flights when all you have to work with is different seas and mountain ranges.
Although his time was limited, Herring did a fantastic job of breaking any ice that may have been lingering amongst the passengers, fully acknowledging the situation he was in and actually making the most of it. Resisting the temptation to make use of the potentially panic-inducing material that was available to him by the nature of the gig's sky-high setting, Herring's performance removed all need for noise-cancelling headphones, as the passenger's laughter was more than sufficient to make any other noise inaudible. If a comedian can be as funny as he was through the PA on a plane, then it is a real testament to their ability to entertain. Surely every comedian should be required to pass the 'Virgin Atlantic' test (not as dubious as it may sound) in order to prove their worth. Richard Herring certainly passed with flying colours.
The only downside of the experience was the thought that every other flight will never be the same after what felt like the honour of having a comedian come and perform for you in your front room. What is usually a period of your life that revolves around waiting for it to end, this really did feel like it couldn't go on long enough. However, like every other flight I actually did end up checking my watch, but only to see, to my disappointment, that the journey time and Herring's allotted time had come to an end. I can only hope that both Richards, Herring and Branson, make this combination of comedy in the flight cabin happen again in the future.