Preview: Helen Lederer at the Book Festival

Helen Lederer
Helen Lederer
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FROM the first day I arrived here (fresh faced, anxious and mad) to become part of Naked Video, I loved Scotland. I loved the team (Gregor Fisher, Elaine C Smith, Andy Gray, Johnnie Watson, Tony Roper and Ron) - they all made me very welcome.

They were already well known in Scotland and I knew nothing about anything. At the time, all I’d done was some radio, a bit of stand-up, and some TV (Happy Families by Ben Elton), but I was the English girl and remained so.

It was such an exciting era. If only I’d known it at the time, but I was too anxious, as happens when you start out. Anxious and driven.

My first Fringe was about 25 years ago. I was in a sketch show that just missed the Perrier Award - pity there wasn’t an official category for that - and I went up more or less every year for the next 15 years.

Like most people, I usually cried at and some point, either broke up with a boyfriend, or got off with a new one, but generally behaved very badly in some way or another, and was on seven Pilsner lagers a night.

The smell of hops reminds me of the pain and the ecstasy of it all; the staying up till three in the morning, eating kebabs. Or sloping along Princes Street, reeling form a dreadful review, trying not to feel wounded, crushed or annihilated.

These were intense times.

I remember doing stand-up with Arnold Brown in a Masonic Lodge the same year Rik Mayal was up in the Assembly Rooms, selling out.

He came to see my show and vice versa. I also met the new groupies that came with the territory...strangely this was not a problem I had to deal with.

The last ‘Edinburgh’, I took my play Finger Food to the Assembly Rooms. I sold out. It was a very small room. My mistake was not doing stand-up, but at least I lived to tell the tale (ish).

I have a deep affection for Scotland, born out of the Naked Video days. I have such good memories of laughing so much in rehearsals I was nearly sick. lan Pattissons’ sketches were so hilarious (and rude) some of them had to be let go because we couldn’t put them on air.

If only I could find them now, they’d make the headlines, trust me.

My problem is, I’ve never been rude or mad enough, but now I’ve written my first comedy novel, Losing It, the gloves are off, and I’m loving every moment.

I love writing. No one can be mean to you. I was so thrilled to have Losing It nominated for the Bollinger PG Wodehouse prize for comedy literature as I have never won a prize before... except for a ‘Positon Badge’, aged 10, for standing up straight.

I am writing the next one and feel that finally, I can now enjoy other jobs (can’t wait for Ab Fab in November in which I play Catriona as an old person), while writing as a way of getting laughs, but from behind my desk.

Why didn’t I think of that before? Who knows I might even get some votes for the Edinburgh First book prize.

Every vote is a drink at the bar on me. Book Festivals are stand-up, but without the gags and more love.

Helen Lederer will be presenting A Funny Novel From a Funny Woman on August 25, 7.15pm, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square, she will also be judging the Literary Death Match on August 26, 4.25pm