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 5 am.
Sadly, the Penny Black closed for 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 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.
Anyone thinking of taking in Late ‘n’ Live should also take time out to watch Set List in the same venue. Starting at 10.30pm and hosted by charming Kai Humphries, it has a rolling bill of different comedians each night.
Styling itself as “stand-ups without a safety net”, the show is totally unscripted, the comics having to present improvised material on a series of random words and themes which appear on a screen behind the stage.
I was on the show the other night and it really does provide the performers with a unique adrenaline rush and makes for compelling entertainment. It is very tempting to have a drink before appearing on Set List just to calm the nerves and clear the mind. However, some comedians have drunk too much before the show which can sometimes mean things go a little bit pear-shaped.
If there is one thing I have learned from playing the Fringe for over 20 years it is that alcohol management is key to survival. This year, I am appearing in a comedy play The Bench in the early afternoon, so hangovers are not really desirable.
Our director, Jojo Sutherland is also appearing for the second year running in a two-hander with one of the grande dames of Scottish comedy, Susan Morrison. Their show at The Stand, Fannies at Five is a thoroughly enjoyable, largely off-the-cuff romp and should be on everyone’s must-see list.
The Fringe is undoubtedly missing some of its legendary characters who could take a session in the bar in their stride. 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 up 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 The Idiot, he is also appearing every afternoon at Espionage in Laughing Horse’s Best in Comedy Chat Show. He definitely is someone worth paying the price of a pint to see.
Late ‘n’ Live, 1am at Gilded Balloon Teviot, Bristo Square
Set List, 10.30pm at Gilded Balloon Teviot, Bristo Square
The Bench, 2.15pm at Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, Rose Street
Fannies at Five, 5.05pm at Stand 2, North St David Street
Gus Lymburn: The Idiot, 7.55pm at The Beehive Inn, Grassmaket
Laughing Horse Best in Comedy Chat Show, 4.15pm at Espionage, Cowgate
Vladimir McTavish is appearing at The Stand’s New Town Theatre, George Street, Edinburgh with his solo show “25 Years Of Stand-Up” at 6.50 each night (Except Tuesday 14th)