For comedians, autumn hails the start of the new term. Post-Edinburgh Festival, we return to our respective parts of the country, broken, dishevelled messes but ready for what the new season holds. This is actually a really good time for us as despite the liver damage incurred ‘in the field’ we are comedically, on top form having performed everyday for a month. We’re like Navy Seals... but less buff.
What also makes this time special is the wealth of charity gigs that pepper the latter part of the year because it offers us comics a chance to give something back and helps unravel the extraordinary self-concern we generate during the Edinburgh festival.
Comics return from this part comedy trade fair, part endurance test for show-offs. I say ‘returned’ really I mean they get ‘spat out by’ and have about 2 weeks where Edinburgh is the furthest from their minds then around October, the murmurs start again. "You going up next year?" "Thinking about the Free Fringe?" "What the show about?"
Something strange seems to occur in the head of a comedian when they arrive at the festival. You become so enveloped in it that you soon believe that this is how life has always been. Doesn’t every high street have overenthusiastic drama students performing mercifully brief rendition of ‘Mein Herr’, flyerers ambushing passersby and RADA trained thesps sprayed bronze standing very, very still for some spare change?
Our cocooning becomes so total that if someone told us we were the last remaining survivors of a nuclear attack, we’d bemoan dwindling audience numbers. We’re so self-involved that if we were told there’d been a nuclear attack, most comics would say...’Yeah, well I’ll tell you what’s really shocking. Look at this two star review I got in the Guardian!’
So what a blessing it is to not only return to normality, of sorts, but to the many worthwhile causes that we can support simply by getting on stage and telling some jokes.
There are some great causes out there too. I’m proud to have performed at gigs for Amnesty International, War on Want and Amaze, a small Brighton-based charity for children with learning difficulties. Sometimes, however, you do get the odd cheeky blighter who tries to take advantage of people’s benevolence.
I was invited to perform at a “fundraiser” organised by a young man who contacted me. When I asked him what the cause was, with no guilt or awareness but with foppish delight he declared, “Oh me and a couple of guys wanna do a trip round Africa!”
Now, I’m not against this form of fundraising per se but I’d rather my contribution went towards, you know, helping people rebuilt their homes after a flood or supplying a school with much-needed equipment not funding some Oxbridge graduates on a jolly round Gambia. Hasn’t Africa suffered enough?
But remember, if you are booking a charity comedy show over the next couple of months and the comedian’s arrive looking like Edward Munch’s Scream, don’t think they’re not pleased to be there. They’re probably just still recovering from Edinburgh.