Edinburgh Festival '99': Diary Dominic Holland, comedian

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EDINBURGH IS like the Olympic Games apart from the fact that competitors openly admit to taking performance-enhancing drugs. And if you think there's no comedy in the Olympics, check out the synchronised swimming.

For comics, Edinburgh makes no financial or medical sense. Get an audience, that's the first task. Once the punters are in, simply make them laugh for an hour and then sweat on the critics.

A barrel of laughs should be enough but it's not. A good review is official and endures. A bad one is like a tub of Flora. It spreads easily, and lasts for the whole festival.

But what of the poor audiences? As the festival expands, they are overcharged and, it has to be said, all too often under-entertained. The Fringe brochure is full of comics no one has heard of variously described as "the best comedian ever born," or "the funniest living human". Punters must take pot luck and have to endure some spectacular turkeys. They pay good money to see a show that could actually be responsible for shortening their lives.

But, as I said, it's like the Olympics. It's not the winning but the taking part.

Dominic Holland's stand-up show is at The Pleasance, Venue 33 (0131 556 6550), 8pm, to 30 August