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Fringe flu

As with Freshers week, every day was spent drinking and eating some awful food. Of course healthy food is available in Edinburgh, but the Scottish have such a creative range of fried foods that it's hard to resist. Days later, it's me that's feeling battered. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

I'm utterly exhausted. My nose is streaming, and I'm going through toilet roll like a 14 year old boy going for the record. This is what happens when you spend just 5 days at the Edinburgh festival.

I wouldn't mind, but I came back 4 days ago. On the very last night there I felt my throat start to get a little scratchy, and now I feel as rough as ever with it. This is what is known as Fringe flu.

Perhaps you've heard the term Freshers flu before, which is the term given for the unusually high number of people who get colds during the first couple of weeks of the university year, starting on account of such a high number of people turning up in one place at one time. After the partying ends the academic year of lectures begins, at which time the students gladly stay in bed to allow the cloud of disease to pass.

Well the Fringe is like this, but so much more. As with Freshers week, every day was spent drinking and eating some awful food. Of course healthy food is available in Edinburgh, but the Scottish have such a creative range of fried foods that it's hard to resist. Days later, it's me that's feeling battered. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

I have been up to Edinburgh a number of times, performing with my improv troupe ComedySportz. It certainly helps being able to have what is essentially your extended family to live with during the festival. Every year I have been previously I have not organised anything to do beforehand. Well this year was different.

This year I was determined to actually get round and see as many shows as I could, as well as performing myself. For the first time ever, before travelling, I actually sat and booked myself tickets to see shows rather than just tagging along with others and their plans.

I'm so glad I did, because I got to see a full array of comedy that left me, as a stand up comedian, feeling nothing less than inspired. Such strong routines, concepts, delivery. Shows ranging from one person free entry shows right up to larger scale collaborations in the largest, most prestigious venues.

It makes me feel hungry to perform more solo stuff myself. Unfortunately, I know from talking to many friends on the circuit how hard it is to get anything resembling a decent venue in a decent time slot. It's amazing how far out of the city centre you can walk and still be walking past "venues". Dead end locations that not even the most inspiring performer could fill, and yet there is still the quantity of acts willing to put on shows to have those slots taken.

As such, there is no guarantee that after writing a show you could get to perform it in any meaningful way at the Edinburgh Fringe. A few years ago I did a solo show for just one week at the Fringe. After dithering on which venue offer to take, the best slots went, so I ended up performing on the top deck of a bus at 1am.

No, really. And yes, I did take the offer, because I wanted to push myself, see if I could do an hour. Despite everything, I managed to fill that bus every day. What a strange boast. Perhaps I should send my CV to Stagecoach.

The difficulties in putting on a Fringe show of course doesn't take away from the many great, successful shows that are on in Edinburgh. In fact, it's a sign of how good they are because they are doing well in the face of such competition.

Aside from my wants as a performer, as a fan of comedy my hunger was certainly sated. I know I don't have to, but here is a (very) brief run down of the shows I saw. If reading this means that anyone going up to the Fringe sees a show they might not have ordinarily, then this will all be worthwhile. Shows purely in order of when I saw them:

Sam Simmons - Spaghetti for Breakfast (9pm, Underbelly Potterow) - As it happens, the best show I saw at the Fringe happened to be the first. Aussie Simmons delivers a smartly anarchic show, and I'm not just saying that because at one point he made me wear a lettuce toupee!

Austentatious (1.15pm, Underbelly) - They get a title from the audience then improvise a 1 hour play in the style of Jane Austin. A fantastic troupe performing longform improv. No beat is missed. The show I saw involved a rap battle between Eminem and his greatest foe, Dr Dre(fus). Don't worry, no spoilers. It's improv, there can't be!

George Egg - Anarchist Cook (2.45pm, Gilded Balloon) - Your standard comic-cooks-a-three-course-meal-only-using-hotel-room-equipment. Oh wait, that is unusual isn't it? A unique experience with a wonderful host, and you even get to eat the food at the end.

Paul Sinha - Postcards from the Z-List (5pm, Stand 1) - Before becoming a 'chaser' (in the TV quiz sense, rather than a sexual predator), Paul was an excellent stand up comedian. His chops are just as strong as ever as evidenced in his latest show.

Pierre Novellie is Anxious Peter (9.30pm, Pleasance Courtyard) - Really likeable performer with an Anglo/South African background which is mined to great effect. First time I've seen Pierre, I enjoyed his stuff

Tom Binns - The Club Sets (12.40pm, Assembly George Square Gardens) - In terms of pure funny, you really struggle to get better than Tom Binns, especially as he showcases the best of two of his established characters alongside a new skill - ventriloquism. Seriously, as a stand up comedian I think we might have to assassinate this guy before he works out how to clone himself and perform ALL the gigs.

Jellybean Martinez - Mr Saturday Night TV (3.15pm, Just the Tonic @ The Caves) - A truly unique Fringe experience. Jellybean mixes audience participation along with various sound and visual cues to create his very own Saturday night TV line up. Except that in this particular tech heavy performance, the sound completely failed after 15 minutes. What followed was a performer improvising a show to his back teeth, whilst pulling the audience along with him, and they absolutely loved him for it. Well done that man.

Stuart Goldsmith - An Hour (4.55pm - Canon's Gait) - I know of Stuart from the podcast he hosts - The Comedian's Comedian podcast - where he, a comedian, interviews comedians, about comedy. Simple. This was a wonderful, absolutely solid hour of comedy. His comedy is unique to his experience, which is more than fine as being in his company is an effortless pleasure. What's more the show is free! (well, it's free to get in...)

Christian Steel - Gloom Hunter (9.15pm, Cowgatehead) - a well seasoned pro act used to headlining clubs all around the country, this is his first Fringe show. He's still finding his feet with the format, but he has already led a fascinating life, and has some very interesting stories to tell indeed. If nothing else, see him so you can marvel at how he is still actually alive! This is also a free show (well, it's free to get in...)

Michael Legge - Tell it like it is Steve (12.10pm, Stand 2) - Like Stuart Goldsmith I became aware of Michael Legge because of his output online, mostly through his acerbic blogs and Vitriola, the new music podcast he co-hosts with Robin Ince. And, this is also a wonderfully put together hour of personal stand up. To keep an audience's full attention for an hour just by talking is no mean feat. Not a power point display in sight! - Also, it's always nice to start your day with a good dose of anger.

Stewart Lee - Room with a Stew (2.15pm, The Assembly Rooms) - Married to Bridget Christie, so I thought I would give him a go. Apparently he has a bit of TV work lined up. Good luck with it Stu!

Javier Jarquin - Card Ninja (3.45pm, Sin) - Stand up comedian presents a card stunt show. Yes, but what's his USP? Oh... right. Great comedy showcasing Javier's unique skills, that reminds me of my very own ComedySportz - it's not a kids show, but it is a show that's suitable for kids (as long as you don't mind your kids hearing the word "bollocks" a few times. From Javier, I should point out, not ComedySportz!).

Chris Martin - This Show has a Soundtrack (8.45pm - Three Sisters) - Yes it does. An interesting concept that only enhances Chris' already strong stand up in this hour show evaluating his last year. Chris' show was straight after ComedySportz in the same venue, and he was killing it every night in terms of audience numbers. And why not, it is also a free show (seriously though, you have to give a donation at the end).

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