THERE'S an article of mine in the Scotsman today about a four-part BBC Scotland series about Late 'n' Live, the 25-year-old Edinburgh Fringe comedy institution that kicks off at 1am and finishes round about 5am. Audiences arrive at the Gilded Balloon with a whole evening of drinking behind them, which is partly why the club has a reputation for being the most raucous on the circuit. Comedians approach it with trepidation.
I watched the first episode on a preview DVD last night and can't wait to see the rest. As well as capturing a sense of the onstage antics, it gives a great insight into the thinking of the comedians as they look back on their experiences and reflect on the fun and the fear of it all.
In my telephone interview with Lynn Ferguson, who wrote and narrates the series, she told me how much the footage had reminded her of the importance of the Edinburgh Fringe. "The Edinburgh festival is an incredibly important institution," she said. "What it does and its effects on the arts and culture can never be over-estimated."
It echoed the feeling I had as I wrote The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide last year. Of course, I already knew the Fringe was a thrilling thing – just as Ferguson did before she made her series – but talking about it to performer after performer only made it seem more astonishing still. Everyone you meet has intense stories to tell about it and every story is different.
Ferguson also made a remark that is pertinent to the chapter in The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide about taking the next step beyond the Edinburgh Fringe. When you have a hit on your hands, the advice in the book from producers and performers alike is to be wary about signing up to the first offer that comes your way – especially if your discussions are out of hours.
"There were so many deals done in Late 'n' Live, I
can't tell you," said Ferguson. "I think I arranged a tour of Hong Kong just over the bar one
night. These weird things where you'd go, 'Yes, I'll do that,' and then you'd
think, 'Did I just say I'll go to Hong Kong?'"