Pic: Billie Scheepers for Sunday Times Style
A second sold-out run at the Fringe in Stand 4. Reviews:
Thanks so much to everyone who came to the show. It ended up being a lot more about Brexit than I had intended… Because I didn’t feel that you can talk about being middle class anymore without talking about the effect of the EU referendum, which has split the middle class right down the, er, middle. A lot of the show was rewritten and reworked through July. This new focus led to some “interesting reactions” (euphemism) in the room on some nights as audiences were frequently split between Remain and Leave themselves, especially amongst those who were fans of The Good Life. (Not saying that Margo and Jerry would definitely have voted Leave but…) I would never get anyone to out themselves as to how they’d voted in the room but it’s always fairly obvious who’s laughing at what. All that was fascinating and not something that will happen at any other Fringe, I imagine. So I kind of felt privileged to witness it. Although it was often also extremely odd.
On the other hand, there were always young people in who had no idea what The Good Life was (which I find wonderful — these are the people who come to a show called Be More Margo without having a clue who Margo is — I love these people). And there were always non-Brits who also had no idea about (a) The Good Life and (b) what we think of as the definition of “middle class”, Americans especially. The whole show was designed to examine how we define the middle class and took Margo as a starting point so I don’t think too many foreign types went home completely confused. Just mildly confused. Except for one Danish woman, a Professor of Economics, who admitted to being cheerfully clueless throughout but seemed to be able to enjoy life in spite (or perhaps because) of this. This must be the Danish way and a very nice way it is too.
Mark Lawson wrote about the effect of Brexit on shows here and gave Margo a mention. Meanwhile I wrote in the Sunday Times about losing weight partly because I was sick of making fat jokes about myself and in the Financial Times about whether it matters what you look like on stage (answer: yes, for good or bad — although whatever you look like you can use it to your advantage. Or I’m telling myself that as I have eaten loads of chocolate biscuits to get over Edinburgh withdrawal).
Twenty four hours to go! I arrive in Edinburgh tomorrow. On BBC Radio 2 with Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp this weekend, I gave some tips for the Fringe based on my Edinburgh traditions: people who I make a point of going to see every year. I’ll post some more tips soon, once I’m up there. Everyone I’m linking to here I would recommend to anyone — but I particularly recommend if you’re going up to Edinburgh for the first time and/or you don’t have much time. There’s a mix of the traditional/quintessential Fringe and the new/surprising. For the full experience, you also need to throw in something you get randomly flyered for and don’t really want to go to.
Lucy Porter — Consequences — a new Edinburgh venue and a brand new show: always witty, inspiring, though-provoking and the best kind of silly.
Jo Caulfield — Pretending to Care — The first show I saw when I first came to Edinburgh as a punter in 2009 was Jo Caulfield at The Stand and I have never forgotten it. It was a work-in-progress that year and she was reading stuff she had written that day off a clipboard, the first time I had seen anyone do that — it was raw and fresh and brilliant. Always sharp and original.
Tom Allen — Indeed — I can’t go and see Tom Allen too much because he makes me laugh in a painful way. He has beautifully crafted material and wonderfully caustic observations but it’s his delivery that really kills me.
Austentatious: An Improvised Novel — Just the best long-form improv. Six performers in Austen period costume dramatise a novel, the title of which is suggested by the audience. I must have seen them about 10 times now and I can 100% promise that every single show is different, every moment is improvised and every performance is guaranteed excellent. This is a Fringe must, especially if you haven’t seen improv before (or if you “hate” improv — it will change your mind).
If you are chomping at the bit and want to book many things at once (yes, do this!) then on R2 I also mentioned Lauren Pattison (Katherine Ryan tour support), Laurence Owen (new Tim Minchin) and Lolly Adefope (brilliant sketch work). But I have a million more recommends (well, maybe not that many — although there are over 3,000 shows) coming soon. Or message me on Twitter @vivgroskop telling me what kind of thing you like and I will suggest stuff.
Thrilled to be on talking about Be More Margo with Alistair McGowan (one of my all-time favourites), Evelyn Glennie (the most inspirational woman imaginable), Matthew Herbert (wonderfully innovate and eccentric soundscape creator), Phil Gayle (news hero!) and Clive Anderson (presenter hero!). I just about managed to keep it together despite getting a bit weepy during the Scottish folk singing from Karine Polwart and the plinky-plonky Vietnamese music from Hanoi Masters. Listen again here.
My 13-year-old self would have been thrilled to be sitting next to Martin Kemp OF SPANDAU BALLET FAME. My 43-year-old self was also pretty embarrassing. Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp are sitting in for Graham Norton this summer on the Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2. Much talk about Edinburgh, why people do stand-up comedy (a very good question), avocados, The Kids From Fame (they played High Fidelity for me!) and, less gratifying, golf. That was mostly Martin. That is what he does now. Not GOLD. But GOLF. Well, we all have to age somehow.
I think this is the favourite interview question I have ever had. Interviewer: “You are very brave bringing a show about Britishness and being middle class to Edinburgh. Because there is a lot of hatred towards the English. Are you not worried?” Me: “No. I am extremely English and therefore extremely self-loathing. We can bond in hatred. It’s the perfect match.” Bring it on!
(Pic on title page: Matt Crockett.)
What is it about Waitrose? Writing in The Pool about Waitrose and that news that proximity to the branch of the most middle class grocery store in the universe can add up to £40,00 to the value of your home. Not being in such a position (I’m not in walking distance of the hallowed portals), perhaps I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder… Margo would have been OK in Surbiton. I think maybe they have three branches.
In Wow 24/7. A crybaby Remainiac writes… This is a bit of a million dollar question. (Or in the case of Edinburgh economics, which are weighted against your average stand-up, a minus 47p question.) Can Brexit be funny? Seeing as many comics feel as if they have no choice but to talk about it (including me — I have been working on a show about Britishness and class for six months — how could I not, even if it has meant reworking the entire show?), it’s not even a question. It had better be funny. Or else.
I have only ever had weird experiences aboard the Blundabus belonging to comedy legend Bob Slayer. So I can only imagine that doing a one-hour show aboard this vehicle will be even stranger. The bus is as it sounds: it is a bus. A double decker bus. The upstairs is converted into a comedy bus with seating and a stage area. (Yes, you do have to use your imagination a bit. And I will have to stoop. For the audience it is very comfortable, I can report.)
I will be performing the last not-in-London show of 2015′s Edinburgh show Say Sorry to the Lady at the Nottingham Comedy Festival at 6pm on Saturday 14 November on the top deck of this bus. I’ve done stand-up on the bus and I’ve been a guest on Irish comedian Christian Talbot’s addictive show Cheaper than Therapy on the bus. This time I will have the bus all to myself for a whole show. Well, hopefully, not quite all to myself. Tickets here. Review of the Edinburgh show here. See you there, people of Nottingham who want to come to comedy on a bus! I have every faith this is an actual demographic.
Edinburgh is over. What an amazing month. Having barely survived two weeks the previous year, I had a lot of concerns about managing the whole month — 24 shows at The Stand, plus guest spots and stints at the Edinburgh Book Festival interviewing Irvine Welsh, Anne Enright, Kirsty Logan and Peter Pomerantsev. But it was spectacular. Not least because Edinburgh is a great place to live for a month. (Although I did cry when I came home and saw a red bus again for the first time.)
Say Sorry to the Lady pulled in a five star review, this from Funny Women (“cleverly structured and the kind of show that gets wilder and funnier towards the end of its run”) and played to full houses most nights, thanks to the excellence of The Stand. More on behind the scenes here, on the inspiration for the show and why sorry is not the hardest word in TV Bomb here and on why women should stop apologising in the Guardian here. By which I mean that women should stop apologising. And they should also stop apologising in the Guardian.
Writing in today’s Sunday Times Style about the challenge facing over 1,000 performers this month: what on earth do you wear on stage if you’re doing the same show night after night for a month? Plus dashing between loads of other shows? It’s hardly a recipe for glamour.
“I have a one-hour evening show almost every night this month, plus some other shows during the day. I chose it, I love it, but it’s also trial by image. The buzzword for performers this year is “TV-ready”, which means trying to look 15 years younger than you are, pretending to be really into yoga and drinking a lot of coconut water. That’s the face and the body sorted, but when it comes to clothes, there is no code. Unless you are a 21-year-old man, and then you must wear skinny jeans, a slogan T-shirt and Mr Whippy hair.”
Thanks to Kyle Hilton for the illustration. Someone in the fashion department (who advised on the wardrobe choices above) obviously thinks I should dress like Velma from Scooby Doo. Hmm. Whatever happens, I will definitely wear something on my bottom half.