It's all about stamina, isn't it? Because the Fringe is a tiring thing. Being a comedian is a tiring thing. Even (or especially) with all the people, it's a lonely, lonely, tiring thing. It's like standing in the middle of a see-saw, rocking both ends, seeing how long you can hold your balance. Your friends stand around waiting for you to fall off and hurt yourself. When you do they all go "Awww". But they don't mean "Awww". They mean "Serves you right you stupid cunt, I could see that coming a mile away! Go on, cry! And by the way I got four stars off Fringegibbon.com!" That's what they mean when they say "Awww".
There's a thin line between being funny and being ridiculous. Between being the extreme embodiment of one strand of your personality and being a living caricature. Between 'not taking yourself too seriously' and your whole life being one long, drawn-out post-university fallow period.
We'll all had moments, talking to/at a hot afternoon crowd that are staring back at us like we're giving induction at a Soviet gulag. We hear our own voice in our head and we think "Who is this wanker? When will he shut up? Oh come, sweet death, and shut this tedious prick up!" And then, at last, they laugh at something, and the prick that you were just listening to becomes you again.
I don't have the patience. I was walking down Blair Street yesterday thinking about all this when I tripped on one of the paving slabs Edinburgh Council has arranged at such creative, nonconformist angles. You probably know that Blair Street is very steep; so steep that all the buildings on it are slowly sliding down towards Cowgate. When I lived in Edinburgh as a student the City Cafe was three inches closer to Hunter Square. I know because I measure it every year with the same bit of string, and I've marked where it's at. I'm sure the same thing is happening on Niddry Street, but then who cares about Niddry Street?
Anyway, I started the process of tripping and, as soon as I realised I was tripping I reminded myself that falling down a steep street is worse than falling normally, because my face would have a greater arc to swing before meeting the pavement. And then, concussed, I would slide languidly down that stupidly steep street like battered luggage down an airport reclaim. So I galvanized all my limbs, telling them to do all they could to keep my face and Blair Street at odds.
So in short I'm running down the street, even though I'm not in a hurry and nobody's chasing me. I'm just trying to overtake my own face. My arms are probably flapping about and I'm clattering down the street, like a dick, trying to rein in my face and pull it up. It took ages, largely because my face had the wind behind it and my legs are out of shape. It took so long that, somewhere in the middle of the thing, I thought "Can I be bothered with this? This is a lot of work. Maybe I should just take the hit. Cut your losses, Liam. You'll never catch that face. Let it go. There'll be other faces."
But I persevered. I caught up. I came to a juddering stop. The people at the pavement tables were sniggering. Horrible, unwanted, unsolicited laughter. If I'd just hit the street they'd be going 'Awww'. But then, in Edinburgh at Fringe time, we all know what 'Awww' means.
Liam Mullone's show, A Land Fit For Fuckwits, is at Stand 4, 28 York Place, August 3-27 (not 13) at 3.30pm. There's a preview on August 2 at 2.20pm.