It really is a minor miracle that there are not more road traffic accidents in Edinburgh in August.
The city’s streets are thronged with tourists, many of them walking exceedingly slowly gazing up at the castle, while frantic performers and festival-goers are trying to get through the crowds in time for the start of the show they are either watching or presenting.
People wander across the road texting or reading street maps, trying to avoid people handing out flyers. Thankfully the traffic in the city centre is moving so slowly that it is unlikely that anyone would be injured if they were to be knocked down. I have lost count of the number of times I have managed to walk down The Mound in less time than it takes the bus to get from George IV Bridge to Hanover Street.
Added to this, a lot of people wandering about the city are very drunk indeed, and they can be in an advanced state of inebriation at virtually any time of day or night. Many of these people are my fellow comedians.
It is probably because I’m getting a bit older, but the Fringe for me isn’t the same drink-fuelled, 24-hour hedonistic party that it once was. When I first played the festival in the early nineties, it seemed that everybody was drinking until four in the morning at the Gilded Balloon’s legendary Late ‘n’ Live, before heading over to West Register Street in time for that mythical drinking den Penny Black to open its doors at 5am.
Sadly the Penny Black closed those doors a good some years ago, but Late ‘n’ Live is still very much alive and kicking, at the Gilded Balloon’s Teviot venue. The show starts at 1am and on weekdays takes the form of a two-hour stand-up show. This is stretched to four hours at the weekend, with a live band rounding the night off. While not quite the bear pit of old, it is still guaranteed to be a rollicking, boozy, fun-filled night.
The Fringe is undoubtedly missing some of its legendary drinkers these days. Malcolm Hardee sadly passed away more than a decade ago, and it is several years since Johnny Vegas brought a show to Edinburgh. However, there are still comics who are prepared to pick that mantle. Gus Lymburn is one such performer. A true force of nature, he has the unique talent of playing drunk while sober and appearing sober when drunk. As well as his own solo show at the Beehive, called The Idiot, he is also appearing every afternoon at Espionage in Laughing Horse’s Best in Comedy Chat Show. He definitely is someone who is worth paying the price of a pint to see. I can guarantee you a good time at his show, although I can’t guarantee that he will be sober.
If you do want to catch a show where the comedian is sure to be off the booze, it’s probably best to go and see one of the many Glasgow-based acts who are playing on the Fringe. The likes of Jamie Dalgleish, Gary Little and Raymond Mearns all have a daily commute along the M8 which means they have an alcohol-free August. Which only goes to show how bizarre this city is during Festival time. When else would Glaswegians be the soberest people in town?
Vladimir McTavish is appearing at The Stand’s New Town Theatre in George Street with his solo show “25 Years Of Stand-Up” at 6.50pm each night until Sunday 26 August