Vladimir McTavish: Those Black Eye Friday punchlines are a real pain
Christmas is behind us, New Year is still to come and it is one of the most relaxing few days of the year. The week leading up to Hogmanay always comes as blessed relief, as it signals that the sheer living hell of Christmas is out of the way for at least another 11 months.
The December party season is without doubt the worst time of year to earn one’s living as a stand-up comedian. Playing to audiences of drunk office parties made up of people who don’t even like each other is an annual chore we all approach with the same degree of enthusiasm as Theresa May must approach Prime Minister’s Questions each week, knowing that a boisterous, boorish and noisily uncivilised hour lies ahead.
The Friday of the last full week before Christmas has long been known as Black Eye Friday as it is peak time for office nights out. Nothing sums up the season of goodwill quite like a fight at taxi rank or a rammy outside a kebab shop at two o’clock in the morning. This year, I played to the most civilised and appreciative Black Eye Friday audience ever. In a prison, of all places. I did two gigs in HMP Barlinnie, and both were an absolute joy to play.
Not one single drunk idiot in the crowd, not a novelty Christmas jumper to be seen, and no one using their phones during the show. Who would have thought that the best place to tell jokes at Christmas would be inside a jail in Glasgow? How many of that audience were banged-up in the nick as a result of misbehaviour the previous festive season is, of, course, anyone’s guess.
Miraculously, however, the minute the clock strikes midnight to usher in Boxing Day, people become human once again. They are still out partying, but are now in the company of friends and family and all that office party aggression has gone – at least until the start of December next year.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that midwinter festivals are essential in a country like Scotland, where the only alternative would be three solid months of dreary bleakness.
A country where night time starts at four o’clock in the afternoon needs decorations, fairy lights and booze. Here in Edinburgh, we now welcome thousands of tourists at this time of year to further brighten up our dour Scottish gloom.
Indeed, this year I actually found myself entering into the spirit of Christmas more than I normally do. I made an advent calendar. To be totally accurate it wasn’t an advent calendar, it was a Brexit calendar. Every day in December I opened a window to find a picture of a different member of the government who had resigned in 2018.
What lies ahead in 2019 is still, of course, a complete mystery. Even the Government does not know. In fact, the Government would appear to have no more idea of what lies ahead than any of us.
Christmas tourism is worth millions to the economy of Edinburgh. No one knows what effect Brexit will have on this.
In fact, if the UK crashes out of Europe without a deal, will we still get a German Market in Princes Street next year? Good luck for the New Year. We’ll need it.
Vladimir McTavish will be appearing at Monkey Barrel Comedy, Edinburgh on Sunday, 30 December, at 8pm.