I've just enjoyed the annual treat of reading the Edinburgh Fringe programme. If you've read this blog in the past, you'll know I've had this pleasure almost every year since 1984, and have watched closely the changes in the festival, and of its programme.
Back in 2015 I noted that the programme grew by about 20 pages a year. That seems to have slowed, with it having grown only 18 pages in 2 years, up from 2015's 440 pages to this year's 458.
The comedy section has remained about steady over recent years, weighing in this year at 142 pages. In 2015 it was down to 137 from 2014's 141 and 2012's 143. This compares to the first year I was in the programme, 2001, where there was a mere 33 pages of comedy.
On which subject, of course, I'm missing this year's Fringe, with the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre taking only their second year off since 2007. But it's good to see lots of familiar faces, and tropes of the programme, that carry on without us. Here are some of the choicest bits.
Aaaaaaaaaaargh. Way back in 1984, Malcolm Hardee made it a tradition to be first in the Fringe programme by naming his show Aaaaaaaaaaargh! It's Malcolm Hardee. In those days there were no separate sections for Comedy, Music, Theatre etc, so Malcolm took pride of place in the alphabetical order with this bit of silliness and originality. This year there is not one, not two, not three, but an astounding nine shows that have all named themselves Aaargh...something. From Aaaaaaaargh! The Malcolm Hardee Awards - who, let's face it, can claim some ownership of the idea - to Aaaaargh! Macbeth. There are also two shows that have begun their show title Aaaand Now..., and five that begin AAA. For the record the first legitimate act's name in the alphabetical listing is Sitcom Trials alumni Aaron Twitchen, who you should go see for that reason alone (as well as because he is excellent).
Acts without their name in the title. I don't know if this was a feature of previous year's programmes (I don't have them to hand at time of writing) but it's noticeable that a lot of comedians, with familiar names, don't appear in the alphabetical listings where you'd expect them to. Their show title is there prominently, but in many cases their name is in the subtitle only. So, hoping it doesn't affect their sales too much, have fun finding the shows by Janey Godley (filed in the Fs for For Godley's Sake), Maff Brown (under T for There's Always One), Jarlath Regan (under O for Organ Freeman), or Don Biswas (under L for Left Wing Conspiracy Theorist). They're far from the only ones to have fallen into this trap (into which we fell with our second show in 2008, The Return Of The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, which was under R in some listings, and T in others!)
Pushing Their Luck With The Title Award goes to the show, Luke McQueen: The Boy With Tape On His Face. Is he banking on the fact that the real Boy With Tape On His Face, who is also appearing this year, now goes by the name of Tape Face? Or is it a gag that's way too clever for me to appreciate?
Wrong Prime Minister On The Poster Award goes, for the second year running, to Newsrevue who had to suffer all last August with David Cameron on their poster and advert, he having unexpectedly resigned a month after the programme was published. This year they have Theresa May on their advert. At time of writing, no-one knows how out of date that will look by August.
Pun titles. Come on, who doesn't love a great pun title. Here are my 14 favourites from this year's programme.
Aaron Twitchen - Curtain Twitchen
Kae Kurd - Kurd Your Enthusiam
Gareth Mutch - Mutch Ado About Nothing
Sarah Iles - The Silly Iles
Georgie Morrell - The Morrell High Ground
Henning Wehn - Westphalia Is Not An Option
Cally Beaton - Super Cally Fragile Lipstick
Gary Tro - SupercalifragilisticexpiGARYTROcious
Adam Kay - Fingering A Minor On The Piano
Ashley Storrie: Morning Glory
Archie Maddocks - IlluminArchie
Lily Lovett Lovett Lovett, I'm Loving It Like That
Nazeem Hussain - Hussain In The Membrane
Mickey Sharma - Sharma Sharma Sharma Sharma Sharma Comedian
And this brilliant question, from the Facebook page of comedian James Cook:
Assisted Suicide, Bat Boy, Brexit, Communism, Ouija, Pinkalicious, Scientology, Stimela, Suicide, Thrones and X? (*Answer at foot of blog)
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are not appearing at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe
*The answer is they're all followed by the words "The Musical" in this year's Fringe programme.
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 16 & 17 Camden Fringe