The story of poor Lady Gaga and her off-stage sick bucket. She said, “I went backstage and vomited and I did not want you to see this. It happens to me sometimes.” “Sometimes”? In that dress surely “most days”? Also in today’s Sunday Express column: teenagers and GCSEs. First they’re told the exams are too easy and count for nothing. Now it turns out they’ve been marked down in an attempt to curb grade inflation. Who’d be sixteen again? Plus: Bad news for old fathers from Nature magazine. Architects’ floor plans uncovered for Friends, Mad Men and Sex and the City. And an instruction to Prince Harry to put on his missing pants and watch The Hangover. Because what happens in Vegas never stays in Vegas.
Gaga MonsterBall Tour pic by TamTam.
Nine gigs and only one cancelled for lack of audience. Welcome to the Free Fringe. Two lovely, packed gigs to finish at Comedy Brass at the Meadow Bar with Anthea Neagle and Scott Adams and WLTM with Phillip Wragg and Elena Kombou, with the brilliant Michelle de Swarte headlining. I have erased all mental trace of the power-surge-afflicted microphone at the So You Think You’re Funny? semi-finals and now only happy, false memories of that night remain. Above, on the chalkboard of the Gilded Balloon for the first time. “Boom.” As they say.
Writing in today’s Independent about comedy, being offensive and the importance of silliness. The most offensive (and silly) thing about Edinburgh is how exhausting it is. Despite the intensely reviving properties of Luisa Omielan’s hi-energy Beyonce show last night, Edinburgh has broken me. Six shows down, three to go. And there are people here who have done over 70 shows in four weeks. They look virtually dead.
Good shows at Domestic Science at Canon’s Gait, Funny’s Funny at the Free Sisters (different line-up every day at 7pm) and Funny Women at Harvey Nichols. Bit hit and miss (code for: NIGHTMARE) on the outer edges of the Free Fringe. Everyone moaning that audiences are low because of the Olympics and the recession. It cannot have anything to do with the quality of the shows. (JOKE, JOKE, alright?) But you can make it work. The (free) Beyonce show is turning people away.
What I’ve loved: The Horne Section, Tom Webb, John Gordillo, Lucy Porter, Tim Shishodia and Pat Cahill’s show, Luisa Omielan’s What Would Beyonce Do (catch it tonight or tomorrow if you can — at the Meadow Bar, 10.45pm). I will be in bed.
Beyonce pic by Naomi Nunez.
In September issue, book of the month is Nell Freudenberger’s The Newlyweds, a very clever, funny story about a mail-order internet bride from Bangladesh. Her geeky husband George, an IT man from Rochester in the state of New York, is pleasingly awful. Also highly recommended: Herman Koch’s The Dinner, which everyone is talking about. And the latest from Nicci French, the husband-and-wife crime writing team, Tuesday’s Gone.
Red’s August reads include Wife 22, a funny and clever novel about a bored maternal type whose life is transformed when she volunteers for an anonymous email survey about her sex life, and two of my favourite reads this year, Where D’You Go Bernadette and Tigers in Red Weather (also one of my favourite covers of the year). Plus I reviewed Tigers in greater depth for The Independent: “A stay in Martha’s Vineyard you won’t forget in a hurry.”
Three years ago I went to Washington DC in pursuit of Barack’s “burger n’ dog trail.” Now back for a travel story for Red magazine, spending most of my time supposedly eating what Michelle Obama eats: chocolate custard milkshake from Shake Shack on 18th St NW, the Michelle Melt turkey burger from Good Eats Eatery on Pennsylvania Avenue SE and Cajun-style fries cooked in peanut oil from Five Guys at Dupont Circle. She has Madonna’s arms. But Homer Simpson’s gut. And now so do I. Only without the Madonna arms.
Milkshake pic by Alex Gorzen.
So I interviewed Stephen Mangan in a grotty cafe in north London. (Was the cafe the PR’s choice or Mangan’s? Not his, I’m sure. He is too classy. Unless it was a double bluff. He drank builder’s tea and was utterly charming.) Anyway. Mangan was in rehearsals for Birthday, a new play for the Royal Court by Joe Penhall, where he plays a pregnant man in hospital, about to give birth. By the time we had met the play had not opened so I had to read it instead of actually seeing it. Which was an interesting experience — during the interview I got the sense that both of us really like the play but we were both in the position of not knowing whether it would actually work on stage because it had not actually been staged yet. I’m seeing it in July.
Afterwards I talked to the playwright Joe Penhall who admitted that he felt uncomfortable about writing about childbirth as a man. But also appeared to suggest that women are wimping out when it comes to covering life-and-death issues in the theatre: “It crossed my mind that someone is bound to accuse me of robbing a woman of her chance to tell her story. But it’s a free country. You can buy computers in shops and get to work on them. Someone is bound to pop up and say, ‘What’s wrong with a woman going through labour?’ But the theatre is a complex art form and you have to do things to circumvent convention. If you want to see a woman going through labour? It’s on TV every night.” Brutal. Buy a computer, woman playwrights!
Royal Court pic by Oxyman. Birthday pic by ArtisticZen.
Paper review on Sky News with LBC’s Ian Collins and Sky’s Jayne Secker. About ten seconds in we all realised that no-one would be watching us in the entire universe because England vs Italy had just gone to penalties. Curiously liberating. Ian Collins and I had a stand-up row (or as stand-up as you can get when you are sitting on a TV sofa) about the welfare state. It was the tree-falling-in-the-forest of political debates. So let’s pretend it never happened. Because it might as well not have done.
Sky News picture by MorningFrost. Old television pic by Maximiliano Galardi.
Great time at the Funny Women Semi-Finals at Music Palace, Crouch End. Lovely venue, big crowd. Sofie Hagen, a young Danish comic, was the winner. A curse upon her. And it was worse. She was really good. A double curse upon her. I came runner-up alongside Kerry Bilson.
This gives us both a Wild Card for the Finals in September. Meanwhile Bridget Christie did a knock-out headline set which was massively inspiring and massively depressing at the same time. I will never be that good.