On the Fringe at The Fringe

Katabasis, Going Postal
Victoria Street and Victoria Terrace, taken during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
ian_woodhead1Licence CC BY 2.0

After an absence of six years I finally returned for my annual Edinburgh Fringe holiday. In the past I went religiously every year prior to taking on my doctorate and whilst I missed going for so long I also dreaded it a little as the tedious lefty takeover of comedy has not abated and endless (but oh-so-safe) whining about Tories, Trump, UKIP and Brexit now replaces what was once daring and challenging and very much the bread and butter of British comedy.

I have been a major fan of comedy for many years and even during my PhD penury made the effort to attend a (cheap!) comedy show every week. For me it simply is not the full experience without, quite literally, taking a front row seat, intending to be both picked on by the act(s) and return fire with my own heckling. Over the years I’ve introduced many friends to the experience and they (almost) all say they can’t imagine taking a back seat ever again, especially as honing my (and their) heckling skills has become as much a hobby as enjoying the comedy acts themselves.

So it was that this year five of us set out, occasionally joined by two others at several dozen comedy shows over the week. I had the best crack team of hecklers a man could want and we made the snot-nosed, self-obsessed cheap virtue-signalers pay with their death on stage whilst adding substantially to the better brave men and women who took to the mic-stand to entertain and not to preach or lecture.

Five or more was a large enough number we would often split into two groups across the multiple rows at the front in most venues which significantly added to the mischief we got up to – the looks of horror on the comedians’ faces when they realised, yes, we were together, was an absolute picture and our tag teaming heckles were tremendous fun.

Early on we accidentally discovered an almost unbeatable heckle, subsequently repeated at almost every gig – one (or more) of us would hand the act a banana. It was funny at any point, however if we got the timing just so it was uproarious. One of our first victims was one a long-time favourite act – ”Terry Alderton – a completely zany, unpredictable and off-the wall act who studiously avoids politics and whom I would highly recommend seeing live if you have the opportunity. When we saw him he made only one throw away reference to Brexit and that was it.

At one point Terry came off the stage and stood in front of us pretending to honk squeezy horns right in front of our heads. He finished his last ‘honk’ right in front of my face at which point I suddenly made a banana appear in his hand. It was hilarious and I can’t quite explain why – you really had to be there! The best part was his reaction.

He stood in shock for a moment then returned to the stage, turned his back to the stage and had a ‘conversation’ with himself where he said in mock-horror “the banana heckle has done us in!!” – he then incorporated the banana into the rest of the show. My jaw ached from laughing so much.

We subsequently secreted bananas into every gig with us, presenting them at inopportune moments (for the acts). Combined with our general heckling, many acts (and audiences) were convinced we were an act ourselves. It got so bad at one gig another punter told the performer that they should be paying us for our jokes. In response to the exasperated expressions of “b-b-but WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!!?” from our victims we settled on referring to ourselves as ‘the Banana Mafia’. I hope we can reprise our performances next year. Any and all of you would be warmly welcomed to join us (don’t worry, we won’t make you sit at the front with us but be warned its not nearly as much fun taking a back seat)

General impressions

Katabasis, Going Postal
Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Man Alive!Licence CC BY 2.0

Whilst the 2017 Fringe was nowhere near as bad as I think some Postalliers thought it may be, the presence of the regressive left is still strong (although I am reliably informed it has abated some since last year’s 2016 post-Brexit Edinburgh mass Whinge festival). As the regressive “comedy” establishment’s politics becomes ever more insane and polarising however, it is increasingly easier to identify which acts to avoid as their personas and show titles make it clear what you’re getting and you’re less likely to be fooled into attending a lefty muppet amen corner.

A good example was the act immediately following the very first one we saw. Our first show was called ‘Cheetah’ by one Adam Greene. He wasn’t particularly funny, but he introduced no politics whatsoever (especially welcome at 11.05 on a Tuesday morning) and had a very affable delivery. We were at the ‘free’ Fringe, where there is no obligation to pay the acts in advance, you just give a donation on the way out if you liked them. As a result it’s easy to sit in a single venue for a whole day and see a lot of comedy for very little cost if you choose.

Our party were quite pleased with how we’d started and considered staying at the venue for the next act. I checked the programme – ‘Breaking Black’ with Njambi McGrath. The description was (verbatim) – “What is life like in a hostile post-Brexit Britain for a British/African woman”. Sneers of disgust and swearing ensued. We exited stage left immediately.

There were so many shows listed with similar SJW-like descriptions (especially in the theater section) we wondered whether the Fringe had actually become some kind of group therapy session for regressive idiots to masturbate their neuroses on stage. At least, as I said above, this at least made them generally easy to avoid.

Alas a little bitter lefty politics littered a substantial portion of the shows we attended that were not explicitly political. All – and I mean ALL – delivered the most pathetic, cheap jabs. It became tiring very quickly even if the rest of their shows were generally entertaining. I’ve never heard the word ‘racist’ used so many times in a single week. All I can say is thank god for our heckling team and thank god also for the few edgy acts still out there who pushed the boundaries and restored some hope for us (more on some of them below). The audiences were 99% white and of the 1% of black faces present the vast majority were as far as I could tell American tourists. It made the cheap low brow virtue-signaling through vomiting ‘racist’ this and ‘racist’ that everywhere all the more pathetic. Who, exactly, did they think they were playing to?

Another aspect that rapidly dulled the senses was the sheer volume of American and Australian acts who had an opinion (you can guess what opinion) on Brexit. And of course the assumption that everyone present had voted remain leading to them taking the liberty of saying whatever they wanted about “Brexit voters”. Needless to say, the Banana Mafia gave them no quarter and they could not avoid us because we were always at the front.

We had one particularly stellar smash up with an Australian act (I won’t name him just yet – let’s just see if he learns from this in future…) in a tiny venue called ‘The Wee Room’ (it really was wee). I don’t think any more than twenty of us could fit into the room. Which was bad news for the performer with a quarter of those people being the Banana Mafia. For once everyone in the room was a Brit (and from various parts of the country) and a little older (mid thirties and up). Combined with our own mischief this led to a very interesting dynamic indeed.

The Ozzie opened with a few stupid one liners about various well known political figures being “racist”. No one reacted. So he upped the ante. He stated (with no related joke or context whatsoever), “Nigel Farage is a c*nt”. Again no one responded. I immediately said “That’s fine, because cunts are useful”. Everyone laughed. Our Ozzie friend suddenly realised he had his hands full and attempted delivery of more neutral material.

Too late. The audience had decided we all liked eachother a lot more then anyone liked our supposed entertainer. We did not let up with the heckling and pretty much everyone else joined in. To make matters worse for our Antipodean Ass, he couldn’t understand some of the regional accents and asked for “translations”. We ended up entertaining ourselves as an audience as all the regional jokes erupted. It was an incredibly warm vibe and I had a real sense of ‘team UK’. It also revealed what was bubbling under the surface of a lot of comedy audiences (as did my encounter at the end of last year with Nish Kumar – see this comment for a detailing of that particular showdown) and I think the comedy scene is in for a massive shock very soon.

The only consistent let-down amongst the audiences themselves were the young local Scots. I don’t know what’s happened to Scotland in the last six or seven years (OK, well I do), but by God the young adults have suddenly developed rigid sticks up their arses. Poker faces for any jokes that were even mildly off the PC Orthodoxy Wagon and a very low tolerance for heckling punters and raucous acts. I can only suppose they were expecting every show to be a bubble-confirming lecture or sermon. Everyone else we encountered seem to be enjoying themselves regardless.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with some recommendations and some warnings. If you see any of those in the recommended list (there were plenty more I could have added, but did not want to make this missive any longer than it was already!), support them if you can. Comedy is only going to return to its roots if we support the better acts and shun the virtue-signaling cry-bullies.

Acts to Avoid

John Robertson (multiple acts)

Unfortunately we were attracted to Robertson’s acts because of his focus on sci-fi fandom and general geekery. Don’t bother, even if you’re the most ardent geek, fanboy or fangirl. He’s so painfully Guardian and right-on it will make your eyeballs bleed. The only thing that made it tolerable was when we saw him he was part of a panel. On his own I think if I was forced to watch him I’d become the world’s first libertarian suicide bomber.

I can make you Tory
Leo Kearse

This was an incredible disappointment. “I can make you a slightly right-leaning pro-establishment tw*t” would have been a more accurate show title. It was sold as a show where Kearse would “slaughter sacred cows with razor-sharp wit”. He didn’t even attempt that until half way through the show. The first half was Kearse virtue-signaling himself about Brexit. He openly accused Brexiteers of being racist etc and extolled the wonders of mass immigration (he’s based in the highlands in case you were wondering…).

He made a token effort to criticise the catastrophic global warming hysteria only to use it as a pivot and say that even if it was true, he’d be safe in Scotland whilst Brexit-voting East Anglia would be underwater and he’d take great pleasure in turning away the refugees.

The only remotely edgy thing he did was take on identity politics, but really that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. When he was on point he was good, but his material is clearly designed to bring hostile virtue-signaling audiences onside and alienates anyone actually right wing. What a missed opportunity.

Comedians Against Humanity
Hosted by Yianni Agisilaou

On paper this should have been hilarious. The premise was that everyone in the audience is given cards from the game ‘Cards Against Humanity’ (if you haven’t played it – you should!) and these are used as the basis of an improv show by a team of comedians as audience members shout them out. It had some funny moments at first but the performers quickly reverted to lame virtue-signaling, which the overwhelmingly young and dumb audience lapped up, especially when they used the mythical gender wage gap as a running theme. Utter tedium.

Acts to See

Terry Alderton – See above!

Puppet Fiction
Present Company Live

Pulp Fiction told through the medium of puppets. Brilliant.
Despite being a daytime show, these folks didn’t dull anything down for kids present in the room or appeal to any PC notions whatsoever. They had to do a lot of very funny ad-lib work, especially during the violent scenes as the puppets’ strings would get tangled up with eachother and the props.

Paul ‘Silky’ White

A very experienced comedian – and it really comes through in his calm delivery. Not a single political rant – his entire set was ad-libbed off audience reactions (including a strike by the Banana Mafia). The only time he became explicitly political was when a complete idiot accused him of assuming someone’s gender in the audience. White summarily humiliated “the virtue signaling twat” and we (of course) joined in by giving said SJW muppet a banana.

Comedy Boxing
Laugh Mob – Sam Kissajukian, Kyle Legacy & Ruven Govender

Two comedians go head to head over several “rounds”, which includes a round of non-stop heckling and a final round where one of the comedians actually gets to punch the other with boxing gloves on. Raucous and unpredictable. The participating comedians have to be very quick witted and thick skinned. A perfect show for the Banana Mafia!

Comedy and Commentary to Bad Wrestling Matches
Brendon Burns and Colt Cabana

Does what it says on the tin. Two genuine ex-wrestlers comment on footage of the funniest and most insanely stupid wrestling matches you’ve ever seen. This was a particularly interesting one in the context of the Fringe because they explicitly said they get so few “Fringe / Guardian types” attending their show and those who attend it give the show great ratings despite obviously not having understood it. Delightful. I think the “Fringe types” were probably confused by the sight of two alpha male gobshites on stage and only attended so they could tell their right-on mates how they slummed it at the Fringe and got out alive. As for us, we managed to provoke one of the wrestlers into jumping from the stage onto us.

Which was fun. 🙂

© Katabasis 2017

Eraser of Love’s take on the Fringe from last year is here.