This year I'm headed back to the Edinburgh for the third time - but for the first time with my own solo comedy show. It should be an interesting sociological experiment as the show I'm doing is about British Identity. I am, however, quite aware of the fact that, originally from Seattle, most of my time in the UK I've lived in England and for the first few years I was here I barely went outside the M25. I originally thought the circular motorway was actually a moat to keep out the cast of All Creatures Great and Small.
The material I have carefully crafted here in England about being British may strike all kinds of discord in Scotland that I have been unable to predict. The brilliant thing about stand-up is that the feedback loop during a show is very, very short. Set-up, punchline and result. The Scottish element will be there right from the start as the first few shows are 2 for 1 nights, which for some reason draws quite a few of the locals.
How will the Scottish audience react to an American, claiming to be British, who has lived in London for 12 years? I have no idea. And to be honest, I'm okay with that. That unknown is a big part of what makes doing the festival and creating your first hour both terrifying and exciting at the same time. It kind of feels like getting on a roller coaster, and you've made your own car to ride the rails. Only, since you've built it yourself you haven't been able to test it before going through Arthur's Seat Double Loop'd'loop.
I hope the Scots will be more accepting of my adopted national identity than their neighbors to the south. I can't count the number of times that my lovely, intelligent, middle-class English friends have patted me on the head for trying to be British. Tutting that it will never really happen for me. I am sure no one in Scotland can identify with a condescending attitude from England (that's an attempt to be ironic by the way, I'm still new at that one. I'm getting better though, since there was a whole chapter about irony on the citizenship test.)
Plus, the English have an annoying habit of forgetting that they are British at all. Many of them don't comprehend English well enough to read their own passports.
I will say that my newly acquired Britishness makes me quite cynical about any success. Luckily, there is a plucky optimistic American angel in a cheerleader outfit sitting on my shoulder saying, "Goooo Be British!!!! Yeah!!!!"
On my other shoulder a British devil appears as a London cabbie, whispering in my ear, "Go home mate, you know this won't work." He sounds a bit like Dick van Dyke and usually ends up getting the angel drunk on cider.
Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in this internal dialogue. It's a conversation that I think every comic has a version of as they cross the borders. I've seen previews by my comedy colleagues about villages, news, festivals, parents, lovers, and you name it, it's all in there. And what we've all done is closed our eyes, looked into our souls (if we believe in them, there are some shows about a lack of those) and come up with the best we have to say. At least the best we have to say right now.
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