Tuesday 12 August 2014

Sockwatching Holiday Special 2014

It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humour, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason.  Reason can only sort out perceptions, but the humour process is involved in changing them.
- Edward de Bono

Me:  Okay, so we’re actually in the car…  I say ‘car’, what are we in?

Him:  The car.

Me:  The car.  On our way back from seeing the Socks.  Did you have a good time?

Him:  Yes.

Me:  What did you think of Edinburgh?

Him:  Well, it was the same as it always is.

Me:  Same location?  Same height?  Same general texture?

Him:  It doesn’t change.

Me:  It does change a bit, it gets older.

Him:  No.  And they still haven’t fixed the cobbles.

Me:  Can they fly?

Long pause.  Like a honey badger after an accident with a mangler.

Him:  No.

Me:  Long paws there.  So, the Socks!  New show.

Him:  Yes.  Mostly.

Me:  The seventh-

Him:  Not our seventh.

Me:  No, not our seventh, it was our…  What was it our?

Him:  Third.

Me:  Third?  Let’s get things in perspective.  Earlier on in the day we dressed up.  Did a bit of cosplay.

Him:  No.  We put on masks.

Mystery Voice:  Seemed like more of a threat to me.

Me:  It did look really frightening.  I didn’t think it was going to come out quite so disturbing.  Sorry about that.  Anyway, here’s a picture of it.

Me:  So, we got landed.  Got a tram.  We didn’t get a tram.

Him:  ‘Got a tramp’?

Me:  A tram.  They’ve put tramlines down now, all through-

Him:  That’s right.  Weren’t they going to have to take them back out?

Me:  I think there was a point where it was going to be cheaper to remove the whole thing than to actually finish it.

Him:  Yup.

Me:  But they’ve finished it and now there’s trams.  And they toll.

Him:  They ‘toll’?

Me:  They toll.  They make a kind of a ‘DONG!’ noise as they’re going around.

Mystery Voice:  So, because Glasgow had the money for the Commonwealth Games did they think they should give Edinburgh some to finish the trams?  They probably cost about the same.

Me:  Ha!  Edinburgh got trams and Glasgow got life-size Tunnock’s tea cakes, which is quite impressive.  Still, here we are on the way back to the helicopter that’ll take us back to the Arctic and…  Oh, yeah!  Socks!  So, they were in the Gilded Balloon again.

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  Different room this year.

Him:  Urm…  Yeah.

Me:  Same entrance, different room.  That was confusing.

Him:  It wasn’t the same entrance.  Well, it was but it wasn’t.

Me:  It was hot, wasn’t it?

Him:  Yes.  I didn’t notice until the show had ended and the doors were opened.

Me:  Sell out show.

Him:  Yes.

Me:  Which was fantastic.  I’m not sure but I thought the room was bigger than last year – or the last few years.  Good on ‘em.

Him:  I don’t think that we really do reviews.

Me:  Ha!  I don’t think we do either.  Let’s see…  There were tellies while we were waiting, that was quite nice, they were showing things.

Me:  I thought the Socks were great.  Well, they’re always great. 

Mystery Voice:  You told them to break a leg for the rest of the run.

Me:  Yeah, at the end we hung around and met the Socks’ manager.  I’d dug out some – When we were down the Nostalgia Mine last weekend I dug out some copies of UT which was quite an intriguing periodical.

Him:  I don’t know anything about it.
Me:  No, you wouldn’t.  And you’re not going to know anything about it for a good few years yet.  I thought the songs were good…  Politics!  Do you want to say anything about politics?

Him:  No.

Me:  Nothing at all?

Him:  No.

Me:  Okay.  It was weird because last year you and I saw the Socks once, me and the Mystery Voice saw the Socks twice and I saw the Socks… three times.  And I haven’t just said that as an excuse to link to all the previous posts.

Him:  Yes, you did.

Me:  No I didn’t.

Him:  Yes.  You did.

Me:  I might’ve done.  I did miss one of the Socks posts so I’d probably better put that link in… here

Him:  Yeah.

Mystery Voice:  I think it’s pretty clear what’s going on here.

Me:  I think it might be.  We’re nearly at the helicopter so we’d better hurry this along.  What are your thoughts on English independence from Scotland?

The Him shrugs verbally.

Me:  Fair enough

Mystery Voice:  It’s what all the kids talk about in school.

Me:  It is.  All the cool kids anyway.  ‘Eifs’ they call it.  ‘England’s Independence from Scotland’.  The ‘Eifs’.  

Him:  Hilarious.

Me:  And, as Tegan once said – she’s Australian, like Noah – it’s one of the most powerful words in the English language.

Him:  What?  ‘Eifs’?

Me:  Eifs.  I dunno.  ‘Index file’?  That’s not going to work.  No-one’s going to get that.  I almost referenced a Mark Watson gag earlier on, because I was starting to steal it by accident-

Him:  Will anyone get it?

Me:  I don’t know.  The thing is it’s not…  I’m going to talk about…  The Mystery Voice and myself have been to a fair few other performances this week and I’m going to write them up in the footnotes.1  Before I do that, I just wanted to finish off by saying a couple of things that…  I’ll edit this bit out.

Him:  Aren’t you going to type this up?

Me:  I have typed it up.  That’s it, that’s the end pretty much.  How many stars would you give the Socks?

Him:  I don’t know.  You’re breaking the fourth wall so much here that you’ve knocked into the fifth wall too.

Me:  Ha! 

Him:  And now you’re leaning against the sixth wall, smashing the fifth wall with a mallet.

Me:  I’m better at destruction than construction.  You have to destroy to create.

Him:  That’s not true at all.

Me:  No, I know.  It’s a rubbish thing to say, isn’t it?  “What are you making there?”  “A MESS!”

Him:  “An omelette.”

Him:  Is that a threat?  What have you got against Mark Watson?

Me:  I haven’t got anything against Mark Watson.  I also don’t have anything against Lucy Porter, Robin Ince, Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, Stewart Lee or Richard Herring.1

Him:  What’s wrong with Mark Watson?

Me:  Nothing’s wrong with Mark Watson!

Him:  Why’d you want to break his legs?

Me:  I don’t want to break his legs!  I’ve got nothing against him at all.

Him:  What have you got against his legs?

Me:  I’m not rubbing anything against his legs.  Stop it!

Him:  Why’d you want to break his legs then?

Me:  I don’t!  Right – that’s enough!  How many stars are you going to give the Socks?

Him:  I’m not allowed to answer that question.

Me:  You are.

Him:  I’m not.

Me:  Same as last year?

Him:  I don’t know what that rating was.

Me:  We can just use the same picture.

Him:  That’s cool.

Me:  Okay.  Lady and Gentleman, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre rating for 2014 is… 


Him:  That’ll look terrible when it’s typed. 

Me:  What?  Just above this?

Him:  Yes.

Me:  And this? 

Him:  Yes.

Me:  And this? 

Him:  No.

In 2015: 

Me:  Lady and Gentleman, the footnotes…

1.  Following last year’s Fringe frenzy, the Mystery Voice decided to plan a more direct assault taking in as many comedians as possible over two days.  Here’s how that panned out.

We started in The Stand as it’s become a tradition.2  Rather than the Richard Herring podcast recording that kicked off the last couple of years, this time we got to see Lucy Porter, who was cheerful, very funny and exactly what we needed to get us warmed up.  And that’s not to be read in a disparaging way – any other time she would’ve been both a headline act and a full night out, but we were binging.

We hung around afterward (take it as read that this happened a lot and I can skip typing it) and got our tickets signed without being chased off by an unbearded Rasputin.  Which was nice.

Next up was a bit of free time, so we wandered Edinburgh, taking photos of the same things we always do.  It rained for a short while – I was wearing a hat, so that was fine – and then the sun came out with a vengeance.  I was hoping for steaming pavements but no such luck.  We headed over the road to a different The Stand and stood behind a fellow with the rules to Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock printed on his t-shirt.  Just saying.


Robin Ince was pacing the stage when we arrived.  We grabbed seats in the front row and sat down just in time for me to realise I’d left the copy of Dodgem Logic in the helicopter.  Oh well.

I’ve been following Robin Ince (like most people) since his Gervais Peril Monkey days, via the book about charity shopping for books, various podcasts and Dodgem Logic articles, so I had a fair idea of how this was going to work out.   And anyone who extols the virtues of pipe-smoking legend (and crustacean nightmare-meister) Guy N Smith is fine with me.

The show started slow, Mr Ince’d lost his voice due to bellowing, but didn’t take long to start accelerating until it reached a glorious fact/tangent frenzy.  Exhilarating and dizzying.  I’d not long listened to the Infinite Monkey Cage episodes that cropped up in the Brian Blessed and Alan Moore anecdotes, so that made me nicely smug.  In a moment of audience participation we got asked if anyone, whilst holding a baby, had ever found themselves having one of those “but what if I chucked it out of the window?” moments.  Ten of us put our hands up.  Turns out this is a good sign because it means you’re less likely to act on the thought.  We also learned about oxytocin, the hormone that makes me weep like an untended lesion during trailers (specifically the one for Fellowship of the Ring – I’m not telling you which bit), Finding Nemo and This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush.  That last one’s a bit of a mystery to be fair, it's probably the chords.  Here y’go, click this and have a blub on me.

Robin Ince wound up by encouraging us to rebel through reading, then said nice things about my Prisoner T-shirt and signed the copy of Mustard I’d bought as a back-up.  More on Mustard later.

Sara Pascoe was in the Assembly Two (moved up a notch from last year).  The show went by really fast – relaxed and confident and, again, very, very funny.  The complicated stuff was more hidden in the mix this time which doesn’t detract from the bite.  Sara Pascoe’s fantastic and you should really go and see her.  Right now.

So that’s the final show of the first day, Richard Herring’s ‘Lord of the Dance Settee’ in the Assembly Theatre and the audience numbers were down.  The venue itself reminded me of last century midnight screenings at the Sherman, catching the last bus into town and bracing for a long walk home after watching The Exorcist.  Again.

I’m guessing that because Mr Herring’s got a play on this year – ‘I Killed Rasputin’ – that’ll be why the podcast’s not on.  The free programme included a few Metro articles and a lively piece on the play itself, kindly reprinted by The Guardian for anyone who didn’t get a copy.

The performance was excellent – as you’d expect – various examples of movement versus inertia disguised as slapstick and reminiscence, garnished with a soup├žon of heckler obliteration.  I’ve got one quibble - and I’m not proud about this - but William Hartnell never appeared in the Doctor Who opening credits.  As we're disguised as a Doctor Who blog, I’m kind of obliged to mention this sort of thing.  Mr Herring’s thinking of Patrick Troughton and pretending to be older than he is.

Afterward, Mr Herring signed me a Mustard while the Tattoo exploded in the naked distance.  He handed it back saying, “You’ll have to get the other one now.” 

More on this later.  First… Mustard!

Back when I was still sharing a flat with an imaginary Wampa, a chum sent me a huuuuuuuuuuge Alan Moore interview.  This was the part of Mustard's initial run, back when it was inky black, cartridge white and A4.  Over the years it turned into colour, first as a section in Dodgem Logic, then transmuting into an A5 magazine before finally giving up the physical and becoming a totally digital thought experiment hiding over… here.

Day two started in the same The Stand because every day the Mystery Voice and I spend in Edinburgh has to.  It’s (probably) a tradition.2

Stewart Lee’s trying out some ideas, so this was a work in progress.  During Lee’s superb set a poster of Katherine Ryan peeled itself off the wall and floated like an autumn leaf until it came to rest at the Mystery Voice’s feet.  It was an odd moment.

Okay, this is the one. 

Both of you know that I don’t watch TV, so I was at a bit of a loss when it came to Katherine Ryan.  I’d seen and heard her on Have I Got News For You and The News Quiz respectively, but that was it (and I might well have been distracted at the time).  Being keen on all things Canadian this was the gig that the Mystery Voice had been most looking forward to – and also the first one he booked.  So, I went into yet another The Stand totally oblivious to what was likely to happen and ended up being blown away.  I’m slightly biased here, due to becoming part of an interactive experience, brace yourselves...

The Mystery Voice, for the first time ever, grabbed a seat in the front row without cajoling.  The show kicked off pretty quick, Katherine Ryan bounding on stage cradling a disturbingly lifelike baby.  Before I'd totally realised what was going on, I’d told her my name, my secret identity and been handed a baby to look after.  Having some experience in not dropping babies, this wasn’t half as embarrassing as you’d think, once I’d got through the whole “but what if I chucked it out of the window?” thing.

Every so often I’d get singled out for a compliment or a question or a swift bit of humiliation.  To whit:

Katherine Ryan:  Al, what’s a ‘Cougar’?

Me:  Ah...  A sexually aggressive older woman?

Katherine Ryan:  Yes, Al.  “A sexually aggressive older woman.”

Confessional, confrontational, confident, confidential and um… Conadian?  No, that doesn’t work.  Anyway, she nailed my accent, signed my ticket, favourited a tweet and totally made my Fringe.

We lost the Pleasance a couple of times, a shy building’s an alarming thing.  Mark Watson was great – slick and very good.   Treadmills, terrorist balloons, terminating tedious telephone calls by terrifying the talker and other alliterative delights including Tank Engines, tweets and tents.

As we made our way back to the helicopter, the Tattoo started exploding in the sky again.  Like a triumphant conclusion.2 

2.  Or an old charter, or something.

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