Sean Hughes, The Glasgow Herald, 1st August 2012
I have decided to return to the Edinburgh festival good and proper this year.
‘Why’ you ask. Can you just read the piece and stop interrupting my flow please. In the interests of imaginary whenever I refer to the festival read as the buxom red head from Mad Men.
I have been flirting with the festival for the last couple of years, eyeing her up, seeing how well she has aged, a peck here and there but no commitment but it is love and I have decided we are going to give it a go. This is not sentimental crap vomited out to sell a ticket. Not the’ there will always be a part of me that feels part of Edinburgh ‘ variety, having said that I do have psoriasis so in my case it’s actually true.
I am forgoing my Sky + for a month to do two different shows on a daily basis which kind of read well on paper but I am 46 years of age and already in the age bracket where I might well have a major stroke. It gives me an opportunity to finally put to the test weather the body and mind are in tandem or am I about to play out a cruel joke in public and be hospitalised in the first week. [Book early}
Already thinking of the hills my emphysema has started ordering cabs.
‘Why, we ask again’ What is with you people? As the great Take That once said ‘This tax fraud is foolproof yes?’
Okay my dad died awhile back and I have written a show about it called Life becomes noises and Edinburgh is the only festival that I could trust to take such subject matter to her bosom. As you can imagine this is not a great selling point for a show and the attitude is why would you want to do a comedy show about that? Even word of mouth will be tricky, ‘ I saw a good show about a dead dad’ ‘No, you’re okay we are going to go to see a new kid on the block who talks about shopping trolleys in canals’ To me a show about death seems the most natural thing in the world to do.
This is the way society is these days, people hear a word and the brain shuts down but bizarrely it is the most uplifting show I have ever done. I will not give you the hard sell. The best comedy comes from the heart where you feel you can relate to it and if done well should shake you up a bit inside. This is where I am coming from and the only agenda I have is to put a smile on your face and made you feel better about yourself. I take on all the burden of emotion in the show so you can simply enjoy it. Each night I will also do a stand up show to loosen up other ideas otherwise I might well start seeing Hamlets ghost.
I cannot reiterate how important the festival is to comedy. When I was a child we lived on a road where even to this day the residents are proud that it has a cul-de sac, so proud that they don’t even like French people stepping over it. We knew our place and we knew our kind and the border was not breached. To me it was a metaphor for escape. I knew there was knowledge to be gleaned yonder, this is where we could open our minds and take the first baby steps towards wonderment but nobody wanted to get on the bus. Out of anger and frustration I stayed and busied my self retrieving shopping trolleys from the canal. Even then I knew I wanted to do comedy as I had seen a Richard Pryor video and I somehow could relate to this middle aged fucked up crack addict and even to this day have never seen anything as powerful. I waited until I saved up enough money from my water damaged scrap metal business and escaped to London to do become a comedian.
O my God the lights did flatter London. The comedy clubs were mystical. I expected basements of opinion, a meeting place of freedoms. I came at the end of the truly alternative comedy scene. These were brilliant minds that wanted to overthrow the entertainment business. These were brilliant people who were trying to change things, change things with words. It is a crying shame that their legacy was to unknowingly help bring the whole comedy scene full circle. The mainstream has been given back to the dullards. Recently a comedy producer put out a tweet looking for the name of a comic who was good at political comedy. I tweeted back ‘Lenny Bruce’ as a hilarious quip. She thanked me and then went to get his details off the net in the hope of booking him.
There is not much better than watching a comic in full flight for the audience or the comedian. If that laughter is coming from deep with in it truly is magical and unstoppable. There is a certain type who had absolutely no choice but to be a comedian. Now there are a lot more now who are not comedians, they just do comedy as a job for the spoils. Some of them are very skilled but have forgotten that this is an amazing opportunity to speak truths. I have never understood comics who use writers, where the hell is the fun in pretending somebody else’s ideas are yours?
As I was starting off it was all changing back again where the big clubs wanted safe big hitting sets played to boozy crowds. It was pretty common denominator and it was certainly not what I bought in to. I tired of it very quickly until I heard of this curvy redhead called the Edinburgh festival and I fell in love. I told others that this festival was a metaphor for creative outcasts, an explosion of expression with liberal amounts of liberalism. They saw it as too long a train journey.
The festival has never been scared of words and this is why it is more vital than ever. I will be saying my words through out August. I would like to point out that no metophors were hurt during the making of this article. To finish, although not in my show, here is a poem about death. There is nothing to be frightened of. Here are some words.
DISPOSING OF THE BODY
My father did not hold my hand
I did not hold my father’s hand
We never felt the need.
Instead we led a merry dance
Breathless after our dance
They turned on the lights
We were shuffled out
All talk was of missed opportunities
We would dance no more.
We were told to deal with this
In the cold light of day
The last dance was not to our favourite song
Isn’t that always the way.
He is gone and this is new
It is trite to say I miss him
I am the next leg of the relay
Forced to run against my will
To honour the family name.
As he departed I remembered him
Waiting for me at the airport arrivals.
He tried so hard to look nonplussed
His pride pushed his lips towards a smile
His hands stretched out, not to shake mine
Instead to ease me of the burden of my bag
My lightness of luggage
Made his love a given.
This is why it was a joy to carry
The luggage that was my father
As we danced him to his final resting place