If you go to the Edinburgh Festival and you have a lovely time and lots of fun, it's because you're not putting on a show. If you go to the Edinburgh Festival and you have a lovely time and lots of fun and you're putting on a show, then there's something wrong with you. It's like asking a veteran about Vietnam and him grinning from ear to ear and saying "Oooooh, you HAD to be there! Magic memories!" Edinburgh is not to be enjoyed, it's to be endured. Before Edinburgh, if anyone asked me "Are you excited about the festival?" I'd point at something behind them and then leap into a passing dustbin van while their back was turned. In fact the most relaxation I've had in the last 5 days was the 10 hour coach trip in cramped seats with broken air conditioning by a chemical toilet. That's me enjoying myself, that is.
Usually my problem is that I can't get enough people to see my show because they haven't heard of me, and there's no reason why they should see me. Usually they stare at a picture of me on the flyer and say "Njjjjaaaahhhhh" to my face. This time my problem is that lots of people come to see my show in spite of the fact that they haven't heard of me. They are coming to hear things about the Roman Empire. That I happen to be there is by the by. Of course, I'd rather have a full venue than an empty one, but nevertheless I am piggybacking on the back of an Empire. The show may belong to me, but the subject does not. This means that some people will sit and just want to hear history, others will want to sit and hear stand up. Very few people will feel I've got the combination just right. These people love the show and, more importantly, do the bulk of the laughing. It's just a shame that none of them also happen to be reviewers.
I have had a positive review from the Edinburgh Reporter and then a slamming from seasoned seven-times reviewer Rory Mackenzie at Broadway Baby. It's a commonly known fact among comedians that both Broadway Baby and Three Weeks illegally import their legions of reviewers direct from Bulgarian orphanages. The basic summary of the slamming was that the show is too much about history and is more interesting than funny, but also isn't about history at all and is really boring. He gave me two stars. Comedy critics can deconstruct material all they like, but it makes no difference. When something is delivered well, it's funny. When it's not, it's not. If you have an off-day in your delivery, your material can be entirely written off by somebody who doesn't understand live comedy. Still, Rory is new to reviewing, it's early in the festival and I'm sure he'll hit his stride soon enough. My review review? Three stars. See? Encouraging.
He did raise one interesting point, however. The audience aren't necessarily the type of people who would enjoy my style of stand up. They have come for the subject, not for me, and this raises an interesting quandary. Do I bend the history to the joke or the joke to the history? I want my show to actively explain historical events AND to have childish jokes about history. Can I have it all? Should I make some dated Sex and the City reference? Probably not.
The night before, I was having drinks at a bar. People were on nights out and having actual recreational fun - stupid civilians. Two men climbed onto a large plastic cow to have their photo taken. One of them fell off and hit his head on the stone floor below, but got up again and was largely unscathed. A table of people laughed. The friend of the floored guy glared at the rest of the bar: "He's FINE! THANKS for your concern." That's some level of stupid. Bad enough that you're climbing on a plastic cow, but much worse is the idea that you have the right to be furious at other people for lack of sympathy when you do something incredibly stupid like fall off.
I think my Edinburgh show might well be me balancing on a large plastic cow. Most people have just come to see the cow. They didn't count on me. Some people will think "That's okay. He's living in the moment. It's fun. Good for him!" Other people will think "This guy's an idiot. He shouldn't be on that cow in the first place. I hope he falls off." Those people are reviewers, and I guess if I look a little unsteady on its back, I shouldn't expect any sympathy if I slip.