Edinburgh Fringe Festival is over, and I barely survived. Thanks to all who came to my shows in the beautiful and historic Dans Palais. It’s a theatrical tent that is over a hundred years old, and the ghosts haunting the venue adored my shows and helped me make my voice reach new heights. I scarcely could comprehend that the tender notes and fragile yet mellifluous country whispers emitted by the monitors and speakers were made by my very own vocal cords. I don’t think I am an amazing singer, but in the Dans Palais, the spirits of those who have sung and played and joked and danced in there before me, took pity on my flagging health and growing disillusionment at the racism/sexism/homophobia I found myself on the receiving end of on a daily basis, and made my voice sound like an angel’s – albeit a racially/sexually frustrated one. The ghosts of the Dans Palais not only helped my singing – they helped me write a shitload of pretty great jokes.
I was supported there not just by metaphysical means. I had the best crew in the entire festival, who would bring me manuka honey and lemons and ginger and sometimes other things that I wont mention here, which I needed and was most grateful for. Sometimes the technical crew are not treated well by the “stars” of the festival, but to me, the crew were my stars. They were my celebrities. I wanted to photograph them secretly and love them afar, like my favorite pop idols. I needed them as much as I worshiped them. I was ill from the moment I emerged, jetlagged and confused into the icy northern air of Scotland, and I am still not better – hopefully Australia will lift my spirits and my mucus.
Edinburgh was rough for me. My apartment was across town, and part of my illness was due to the fact I had to commute on foot about 9-10 miles a day back and forth from my venue and I could never get a cab in the frozen rain. Cabs don’t stop for people of color there, even if they are wearing obviously expensive coats. I was attacked by racial slurs and sexual harassment and odd insults about being fat during my walks through the residential areas and the parks. I finally resorted to wearing headphones so I wouldn’t have to hear people, mostly kids yelling at me. Some schoolboys screamed “thunder thighs” at me and I was so furious I chased them down with my camera phone. I got some shots and posted them on my twitpic. Not faces, because they are kids, but I just did it to scare them. Oh how they ran. It was really funny and satisfying for me, albeit undignified for a 42 year old woman running down a gang of 15 year old boys with an iphone screaming, “You think I am fat? Say it again! Say it into this camera! Say it! Say it say it!!” omg they ran! It was real good.
I just couldn’t take people screaming shit anymore, so headphones blasting Camille O’Sullivan helped me forget the ugliness of the street insults I heard trying to walk through the Meadows 10 times a day. There were lots of warnings that I shouldn’t walk through the park alone at night, that comics were targeted because we were known to have cash from late night gigs, but I was filled with so much anger, I made it a real point of pride to walk the Meadows alone, especially after midnight, my rage sparkling around me like a holy glittery aura made of razor blades and shattered glass. I would hold a small pointed knife (yeah it’s a Corpus Christi necklace but it is fucking sharp and could take out an eye) in one hand and then a big umbrella in the other, held tight and aikido style. No one stopped me or said a thing and if I were the dishonest type I probably could have been the one relieving people of their money.
I almost had several nervous breakdowns. One was an ill advised late night show near the very beginning of the month. The show was so insanely bad, and after having to go up after many straight white male comics talking their talk of ‘race’ and ‘sexuality’, when I got up, the audience booed me on sight. I am talking about booing and hissing before I began speaking. Getting booed on the way to the microphone. Perhaps they were embarrassed because they’d been laughing at jokes about ‘asians’ and ‘gays’ and ‘women’ all night – and the subject matter they’d been on the floor in hysterics about suddenly shamed them because they saw that I was a witness to it, and now they had to face me. I bombed so badly, but in an odd way because the audience were definitely laughing, but they were stifling their laughter, hands over their mouths, for to laugh at me, meant to show that I was right. For whatever reason, they could not bear for me to be right. Because I wasn’t white. Because I was a woman. Because I was putting my sexuality out there – my gayness was not something I was ashamed of, or even explaining. I was talking about it, as this is me, that is who I am.
In the UK, I was told over and over that women aren’t funny, but for whatever reason, I am. It was like being told over and over that I am not a woman. It was a compliment wrapped up in used toilet paper. It’s dog shit in a baby blue box from Tiffany’s. I got paid handsomely for that horrible gig and spent it all on a gorgeous handbag. Also, my good friends Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman and Hari Kondabalu were at the show, and they carried me out from backstage and brought me to a local bar and poured red wine into me and administered an epidural of love and support and unequivocal praise and then we all took a pedicab home, covered in a blanket and it felt like we were in a horsedrawn carriage. They healed me sufficiently for the trip back and I got home and called a friend in Nashville and cried and screamed for two hours, which used up all my minutes for the entire month. What kept me from chartering a plane back home – which I was on the verge of doing every single day, whether it was someone making the mistake of quoting a negative thing a reviewer had said – and from now on – if you feel the need to tell me about something like this – take a breath – and then don’t do it. DON’T TELL ME WHAT REVIEWERS HAVE TO SAY. DON’T TELL ME. DON’T TELL ME BECAUSE YOU THINK IT’S COOL THAT WE HAVE THE KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WHERE YOU CAN BE ‘HONEST WITH ME’ BECAUSE NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE – WE DON’T. DON’T TELL ME. DON’T TELL ME. DON’T TELL ME. Take a breath, and DON’T TELL ME – or someone saying that they should bring back ‘queerbashing’ because they didn’t think a gay comic was funny, or fellow comics from sexual and ethnic minorities who I was thrilled to meet and immediately complimenting and praising their stamina and talent and tenacity for surviving and thriving in a place like this – being openly and unabashedly nasty to me because they thought I was some kind of threat because I am trying to do the same thing and surely in a place like this there’s not room for both of us to strive, or perhaps my success makes theirs insignificant and they go out of their way to insult me in any way they can so that they can show the white audiences that even though we are ‘the same’ it has no bearing on anything and that they are ‘better’ for insulting me, that they need to distance themselves from me because they want to be judged on their merit and not on their association with their race/sexuality/etc – etc. What kept me from coming home, defeated and sick and feeling like I had failed a nation – a few moments that kept me going….
My incredible shows at the Dans Palais. The audiences were incredible. I loved them. I needed them. They came in droves every day, rain or shine. They made me feel like I belonged. I guess I do. They loved my singing and my jokes and asked for more every night. These were some of the best shows I have ever done in my life.
After midnight backstage with Bob Downe and Camille O’Sullivan, drinking wine and being in love with each other. Camille had seen and loved “The Sensuous Woman” in NY, and couldn’t believe I knew her work. She’s one of my favorite singers of all time. She is the boss bitch.
Singing with Bob Downe at Rich Hall’s hoedown. He was my man, my Bob. We call each other “Mom” and “Dad.” One night without dad I sang Emmylou Harris and I felt like I offended the crowd with my nonwhiteness yet absolutely undeniable talent at singing country music like it should be sung as I am a bonafide country singer who records in Nashville and lives part time in Atlanta. I am fucking country. My name is listed at the Ryman Theatre in Nashville alongside Minnie Pearl, Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks and Elvis Costello. I know that sounds weird, but I actually really am proud I played that venue. So there. They should be proud.
Scott Capurro’s Position with David Mills every day at the Gilded Balloon at 4:15. I checked into that show every day like it was a 12 step meeting.
Trying to pursue Hannah Gadsby to no avail. Her show was stunningly funny.
Semi-stalking Paul Foot until he came to my show and really enjoyed it. He’s my favorite.
Bitching at Bruce Devlin’s show with Ava Vidal, Tom Allen with W. Kamau Bell in the audience. Bruce and I also had some fine, fine fine meals together. Maybe I ate more than I should but I don’t give a shit – it was raining and I had to walk 10 miles a day in it.
Leather Jackets from All Saints – ok I bought two. I deserved them I really did.
Watching The Jane Austen Argument and Andrew O’Neill with Holly Gaiman and Bob and basically having a musically life changing evening.
Catching moments of Evelyn/Evelyn at Assembly and Amanda Palmer‘s gig at the HMV Filmhouse because we were scheduled at the same times and so I had to race across town to see one or two songs which wasn’t enough but worth everything to me.
Late dinners at Amanda and Neil’s with Eric, Superkate, Jason Webley, Holly and all various and sundry family – oh I ate so much my pants are painfully tight after this month.
Briefs, briefs, briefs, briefs and briefs. My boys…. Especially Fez and Mark. My beautiful boys.
See you next year Scotland.
Fez from Briefs and Me