I've been to the past thirteen Edinburgh Fringes as a punter, student, director, aspiring stand-up, actual stand-up, 24-hour marathon man and - my current incarnation - jaded old veteran. There are various tricks you learn, when you've been in the game as long as I have.
You learn how to avoid hoodie-wearing students flyering for 'a bold, thought-provoking take on Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', set in the Big Brother house', but you also learn the compassion and fellow-feeling necessary to take the flyer anyway.
You become expert at dodging through two-inch gaps between 80-year-old American tourists ambling up to the tattoo, because you're meant to be in a show in four minutes' time.
You know it's not a good idea to say yes to the question 'do you fancy doing a gig at 3.40am tomorrow? - no money in it, but it'll be a lovely audience.'
You come to expect to spend at least six hours of every day with raindrops the size of rats blowing in your face.
Yet the odd thing about Edinburgh is that you never quite seem to absorb any of these lessons, any more than you ever learn not to expect too much from an uncle's Christmas present. You carry on making the same mistakes. I try to survive the experience by eating bananas, going for long runs and - this year, anyway - watching the Olympics.
Mark Watson: The Information, Assembly George Square, to 27 August (0131 623 3030)
Among my fellow comics, I recommend Sam Simmons, whose show is a unique and occasionally terrifying combination of biscuit-eating, IKEA furniture assembly, existentialism, shouting, early 90s pop and sometimes jokes. It's the sort of thing Edinburgh used to be all about, and still can be if you look hard enough.
- More about:
- Big Brother
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Reality Television