We're ten days into the Comedy New Year (which of course starts a week after the end of the Edinburgh Fringe, on September 1st, interestingly always pretty cosy to the Jewish New Year - it's in our blood people) and most comics I know are figuring out how they can take what they did at the Edinburgh Fringe and fashion it into something that'll either improve them as an act or make the industry take notice. Or that'll just barely pay the bills. All at the same time as beginning to plan their assault on another set of never-ending festivals, be they Leicester, Adelaide or Edinburgh 2016 (not a typo, I know one or two people that far ahead in their planning.)
This year's Fringe for me was fine. Not a down-in-flames catastrophe or a blazing glory triumph. I went to Scotland for 25 days, I entertained about 1,000 people and had some pretty decent shows. It was emotionally and artistically pretty fulfilling, but not particularly ground-breaking and no one in the press or industry paid much notice. Do you know what? It's really great not to be bothered about that this year, because the one thing it has done is coalesced where I think I'm going and what I think I'm doing. So rather than look back on the Fringe of 2014 as one of stars, reviews, bucket takes and nominations (of which only 1 in 4 is applicable to me anyway), here's a list of my favourite things to have happened in my 3 1/2 weeks up there. As much as I'd love to return from Edinburgh aloft on the shoulders of other comics every year, that's an unsustainable dream and most of them would collapse of exhaustion somewhere around Dunbar anyway. Instead I'm going to revel in the things that made me happy as a human, and leave the comedy trade fair nonsense for another year.
1. Being heckled by a 14 year old girl who came to watch my show with the words "Stop it Ben, you're ruining my childhood!" in response to one pretty gruesome Wizard of Oz gag.
2. Being hi-fived by the same girl after coming back to see my show a second time with her family and saying it was awesome. Don't wanna humblebrag too much, but there's something about a trans-Atlantic teenager dropping the A-bomb about you that really makes the ego swell.
3. That girl not being the only return customers I had - my favourite being Henry who brought loads of friends back and then let me caricature him as an Edwardian racist for most of the show.
4. Winning Knightmare with Jay Foreman, despite over-thinking almost every part of the show.
5. Go 8-bit, especially Colt Cobana destroying Rachel Parris at Street Figher.
6. My fourth show in which I initiated the World Breast Feeding Championship - something which the ladies in the front row seemed pretty eager to participate in.
7. I had a story in the show about setting fire to the naked stone penis of a Christ on a crucifix with some friends whilst on a Jewish summer camp (sorry Christians.) I loved the story, but could never get it to work reliably apart from one day when the front two rows was packed with people who used to go to the boarding school where said phallo-pyromania occurred and they went ape-shit. I even made up a fire and brimstone chaplain for the story and they asked how I know him so well.
8. Making one of my oldest jokes finally work properly by changing just one simple word. Jimmy Carr's right about those one-liners guys, devil's in the detail.
9. Learning that even if it's a really, really, really good joke, audiences in Scotland peppered with tourists will not get a cricket joke.
10. Eviscerating the quickest heckle (15 seconds into starting the show guys) I've ever received and coming to some sort of resolution with the guy by the end of the show.
11. Seeing Brydie Lee Kennedy every day - there is no better tech/show lieutenant out there.
12. Funz and Gamez. Twice.
13. Not losing thousands of pounds.
14. An audience member leaving halfway through the show to go on a date and screaming "fuck you all" at the room (in jest; just) when she wouldn't tell us about the date.
15. My final Laughing Horse Best of the Fest show, which ended up starring an inflatable penis dog.
16. A completely insane show half-way through the run where phantom dance music played inbetween the floors of the venue, there was a zombie invasion and my sanity gently crumpled to the floor.
17. Walking up Arthur's seat at 5:30am on my final morning, wonderfully refreshed (take a bow Brydie) to me greeted by sunrise and Rhys Matthewson rocking a Fidel Castro look with a cigar.
18. Discovering two audience members who had only been dating for 8 months already had a child and work-shopping their child-rearing arrangements with the audience.
19. Being poisoned by the dastardly underhand creeps at La Gerrigue and dying on Arthur Smith's legendary late night tour of the Royal Mile.
20. Properly letting go and free-wheeling onstage more than I ever have before. I've always enjoyed really riffing and doing crowd-work, but a combination of my natural inclination and a great pint and pep-talk from Russell Hicks (plus seeing his inspirationally good show) meant that by the end of the Fringe I managed to improvise an entire 45 minute show. It was the best thing I've ever done on stage (so far.)
And that's what I did on my holidays...