The Folly Of Human Conceits

A seagull shat on me today. I stood outside a Fringe venue, waiting to go in and perform and the offending article rained down on me from high, it’s viscous black liquid rebounding off my head and onto my hoodie. I had been mid-conversation with two people who were explaining to me why they won’t be coming to see my show. I smiled and pretended I didn’t mind, because really I don’t. Except up here, in this bubble of competitiveness, repetition and pressure, I do a bit. Why had they not included me in their tiny schedule? I vaguely know one of them and yet they have no interest in all the new words I’ll be saying tomorrow? The seagull poo snapped me back to reality. Gunk on my head, chest and sleeve, I said goodbye and strolled into the venue to do a show based on the theme of ‘tragedy’. Even nature was having a pop at being sharp witted on the fringe.

This festival does strange things to your brain. I have been here most years since 2005 and really believed that I didn’t care about it all. That I’d just get on with doing show after show, day after day, and not get caught up in it’s oppressive mechanics. I specifically put my show on the Free Fringe and didn’t hire any PR, because I said I didn’t care what happened. I’d turned down promotional gig offers and said I didn’t want to exhaust myself and do too much. I had it all planned. I am eight shows in and already I’ve been upset by a review, upset by not having reviews, annoyed by the ups and downs of numbers, infuriated by venue problems, saddened by rain and I’ve nearly lost my voice. My limbs are tired from doing over 15000 steps a day* on cobblestones and the steep steps of the hilly city. I’ve had enough of this place and want to go home. Except there are still 14 days left and I have to do shows on 13 of them before I can.

It is odd to willingly put yourself through something you know you’ll love and hate in equal measure. This year has so many plus points compared to previous journeys: I won’t be making a loss earnings wise, I’ve got a show I really like performing and I’m getting great audiences everyday. However none of this makes up for the mental state you work yourself into when you’re performing every single day, sometimes several times. The adrenaline peaks hit you at irregular intervals, the troughs just as much. There’s no day to switch off and rest your brain. Ignore all those words you’ve written and have to say, and take a temporary vow of silence. It feels like it would be against all EU conventions if we hadn’t willingly agreed to do it, and for many, paid shedloads for the privilege.

It all feels very much like a machine this year. Audiences seem older and wealthier. The high ticket prices and accommodation costs narrowing the punter market somewhat perhaps? Those with money are plastered over every billboard and those without could easily not exist want for those few folk that stumble on their performances in a dingy cave every day. There’s noise and flyerers and banners and critics and students and living in a shoebox like flat, but paying more rent than for your London home. Everyone wants you to see their show, no one’s got time to see yours. There’s rain one minute then sunshine the next. No space to relax. No time outs. No respite from the hordes of people, the endless judgement. It all feels a little much. And I’m very very tired.

Then a seagull shits on you and you realise that really, none of this matters at all.

I spent my free time this morning reading excerpts from Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. In 1990 the Voyager craft had travelled 6 billion kilometres and Sagan asked NASA if they could turn it’s cameras around, and take a photo of Earth from that distance. They did and it appears on the image as the smallest of blue specks, barely the size of a pixel.

‘There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.’

That seagull would’ve shat on any of the performers stood underneath it. No matter their show star rating, or ticket sales or who’d chosen to see them or not. It just needed to shit because nature. Nature is bigger then everything. The universe doesn’t give a shit how my or anyone else’s Edinburgh Fringe experience is going. Life will continue regardless so I should probably try to enjoy it. Even if I now have to wash my hoodie.


* Yes I check my steps. Apparently you’re meant to do 10000 a day, but usually I amass around 5000 but y’know, I definitely think about doing more and it’s the thought that counts right?


I am at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you’d like to hear my shoutings, I’m on the Free Fringe at the Liquid Room Annexe everyday (except the 18th) at 2.30pm: The World’s Full Of Idiots, Let’s Live In Space – The Annexe, Cowgate, Edinburgh Fringe

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