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.
Writing in today’s Guardian about 1976, supposedly the greatest year ever for Britain. Certainly the hottest summer ever. A great year for the country, perhaps. But not for three-year-old me… The only good thing that happened that summer was my engagement to George (pictured above). Read more here.
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.
This is my last programme at the Independent Bath Literature Festival (10 days, 150 events, 20,000 audience), where I’ve been Artistic Director for the past three Festivals. It’s a job I love and I couldn’t sum up this year’s programme better than blogger Claire Hayes, one of our army of 200 volunteers:
“This year marks the festival’s 21st birthday, and – just in case the impossibly hip might consider it over the hill – is defiantly themed Forever Young. And, despite appearances from luminaries like Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks and Tracy Chevalier, this means Viv Groskop, in her final year as Artistic Director, has resisted the lure of the literary pipe and slippers in favour of a record number of emerging new writers.”
To help us celebrate our 21st we have a great cast: from Gloria Steinem (with Jenni Murray), Sebastian Faulks and Pub Landlord Al Murray in The Forum to Pat Barker, Joan Bakewell, Austentatious and The Shakespeare Gala (featuring Salon Collective and Extempore Theatre, the world’s only Elizabethan-language improvised play) in The Guildhall. Full programme (26 Feb to 6 Mar) here.
Writing this piece for the Guardian on all the things I’ve inherited from my grandparents was cathartic but also difficult. I hoped it would help me to give away (throw away?) some of their stuff. But it just made things worse: it made me want to keep it all the more…. Still waiting for the phone call from Britain’s Biggest Hoarders. Some great advice in the comments and this issue sparks an interesting divide: half of the comments say “Get rid of it all — you will feel better”, the other half say “How could you ever let this treasure go?” I’m still torn.
This was great fun to write. Highlights for me? Lionel Richie at Glastonbury (“When he was not reinventing himself as the “commodore of love” (“We [the Commodores] decided: we’re gonna make love to every girl in the world. That was our mission statement”), the 66-year-old Ritchie was celebrating selling 100m records.”), Suranne Jones in Dr Foster (“Was there anything on TV more deliciously entertaining and brilliantly captured than Jones as the GP Gemma Foster”) and Catastrophe (“Is there anything funnier than two hopeless but likeable people having a baby together? Apparently not.”).
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.