There’s always a lot of literary activity happening in Edinburgh – just look at UNESCO’s What’s On page if you don’t believe me – but there’s nothing quite like Electric Tales, returning to The Stand once again tomorrow night. I spoke to comedian, writer and ET founder Sian Bevan to find out more.
Andy Stanton is probably best known as the author of the Mr Gum series of books (technically aimed at 7-10 year olds, but I started reading them at 24), and the mastermind behind hit TV show Bag of Sticks. If you haven’t read anything by him and you’re not sure whether you’d like to, my rule of thumb is to suggest you head to your nearest book shop or library, pick up a copy of You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum!, and turn to chapter 4. If it doesn’t make you laugh, there’s probably something wrong with you.
I interviewed the man himself on Monday afternoon after a hectic weekend at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Here’s what he had to say.
If you don’t know of A.L.Kennedy, you should rectify that state of affairs immediately. I first came across her through her column in the Guardian, which is very funny, but she does all sorts of other stuff too – book writing and stand up being the main activities where it’s socially acceptable to follow her movements (although not in a stalker-y way). Yesterday she was at the Edinburgh book festival talking about her new novel, The Blue Book, so I went along to listen.
Kennedy began with a reading from near the start of the book – “it’s page 31. Not much has happened, not much will,” – a passage including the character description, “red shoes and amateur clown hair,” which I loved, although naturally she says it better than I do.
She was then interrupted by an enigmatic lady leaving the auditorium with the chilling words, “I know you from a long time ago.” Not the most traditional of heckles in my experience, so top marks for mystique there, especially as she proceeded to stand in front of the stage repeating the phrase over and over again…
Yesterday I chummed my other half to a BBC Comedy Writers’ Workshop at Potterow. I wouldn’t describe myself as a comedy writer per se, but book nine is down as being humour and any help is welcome. I’m not sure what it will entail – probably pictures of animals with whimsical captions.
It being a rainy Tuesday, the event was only about 2/3 full. It took place in a tent with a lovely star cloth ceiling which kept getting lighter and dimmer on a constant loop and there were also chandeliers, because the beeb likes to spend our license fee on grandeur.
Unfortunately we arrived right as the names of the panel were being read out, so I don’t know exactly who they all were. Hopefully this high quality iPhone picture will help you to identify, from left to right: a writer called John who started out by sending a couple of sketches to producers he liked, Caroline who commissions stuff for Radio 4, Sarah Millican, James Cary, Jane who is from some sort of production company, and one of the guys who is in charge of Newsjack. Continue reading “BBC Comedy Writers’ Workshop: An Overview” →
In this guest post, award winning author Emily Dodd gives you a taste of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s seedy underbelly – the twilight world of stalking.
I first started stalking comedians in the Fringe by accident. I’d recognise them and greet them like one greets an old friend. I was so ridiculously friendly that they were polite; perhaps thinking I was someone they knew but didn’t recognise. You could see them racking their brains trying to work out who I was.
A real friend, Vicki once caught me mid-stalk with Simon Amstell. She edged away, embarrassed. I went to find her afterwards.
“What were you doing?!” she exclaimed.
“I don’t know” I confessed “I just forgot I don’t actually know him. It keeps happening..”
I have received the following missive on the subject of the very first performance at the Inky Fingers Mini Festival. It sounds entertaining, and I for one will be heading along to find out more.
On Monday the 8th of August at half past of the twelve, in the downstairs boudoir of The Forest Cafe, in Edinburgh, comma, myself and Mr James Anderson (Apprentice Tailor) shall be performing unto you a historical presentation regarding – I just saw a chicken, go me – a historical presentation regarding an unexplored nugget in the Edinburghian Fish’n’Chip Emporium that is Time.
‘The Life and Times of an Edinburgh Monster’ is a title that, in hindsight, gives away quite a lot.
It’s pretty rare that a human has the courage to face a monster as fearsome as a dragon. Bearing that in mind, it’s almost unthinkable that a mere sheep might be brave enough to do it. In actual fact, this was very probably the first time in the history of everything. So naturally there had to be a meeting.
I received a text from my other half this morning which read:
My new favourite line from a book: “the birds in the oak trees knew nothing of totalitarian regimes or the cares of humans.”
On one hand, this put me in mind of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Brian: Consider the lilies…
Woman: Consider the lilies?
Brian: Oh, well, the birds then.
First Man: What birds?
Brian: Any birds!
Second Man: Why?
Brian: Well, have they got jobs?
Third Man: Who?
Brian: The birds.
Second Man: Have the birds got jobs?
Fourth Man: What’s the matter with him?
Third Man: He says the birds are scrounging!
Brian: Oh no, no, the point is: the birds, they do alright, don’t they?
Fourth Man: Well, and good luck to them!
Second Man: Yeah, they’re pretty!
On the other hand, it threw me on to the horns of a furious dilemma.
Well, not that furious. But it made me wonder, should it give me hope that lines of prose like that one make it into print? Or should I find it depressing?
Surely, if people are publishing books with lines of prose that are laughably awful, someone at some point will publish one of my books, which are at times not too bad at all. There again, maybe readable books in which incidents of humour are deliberate rather than unintentional are not what the modern publisher is looking for? Based on the evidence above, it’s hard to tell.
Still, I’ve no right to fall into a quandary over this. After all, my favourite line in a book comes from a Torchwood story by Dan Abnett, and was almost certainly not intended to be as funny as I found it. The line in question is:
“Tosh’s new leather jacket was very cool beans.”
How that got past first draft stage, never mind editors, proof readers and the like, I do not know. Perhaps they liked it because it encapsulates the way people really speak an’ that – even though it wasn’t presented in the context of character dialogue?
Or maybe they didn’t notice, because Abnett churns out about a book a week into the assorted Doctor Who and Warhammer empires and there simply isn’t time to read them all. Either way, I love it, and as such am in no position to badmouth poor prose.
But that doesn’t mean I wish to write it. Not deliberately, anyway…