Edinburgh Diary


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The Independent Culture

Comedian recalls useful advice that started him on the path to glory

Who are these fresh-faced young bucks? Why, it's Harry Hill and Al Murray, making their debuts in Edinburgh two decades ago. The two comedians performed at the Fringe's longest-running talent showcase The Comedy Zone in 1991, on a bill with Andre Vincent and Brenda Gilhooly.

"We switched the line-up around all the time, even though Harry was clearly the best and you always wanted him on last", says Murray, who is currently previewing a new Pub Landlord show in Edinburgh. "Harry was radically different from anyone else in the stand-up world. And because he had been a doctor, he was used to hard work and was incredibly focused. I got into comedy chiefly because I didn't like the idea of getting up in the mornings. I remember him saying to me once after a gig, 'If you worked really hard, you'd do really well'. I took that to heart."

Life upstages art in the drama of the Olympics

Those suffering post-Olympic withdrawal may find symptoms somewhat relieved by The Prize, a verbatim theatre show in the Underbelly which tells the stories of 25 athletes preparing to go to the Games.

Richard Stockwell and Steve Gilroy spent months interviewing Olympians but found the stories were unfolding more quickly than their script could keep up with. Among those voiced is Freya Murray, the Scottish long-distance runner who was called up to replace Paula Radcliffe in the marathon at the last minute. Also featured is Kat Copeland, who won gold in the double sculls. Have they rejigged the show to include her victory? "We haven't, no", says Stockwell. "We do put a little caption up at the end, though." Almost as good as a podium moment, then.

Flight of Conchords actor returns with spoof chat show trial

It's a good Fringe for Flight of the Conchords fans. Rhys Darby (aka Murray) is performing his show all month and now Kristen Schaal (aka superfan Mel) is coming to town to film a new spoof chat show. Speak Easy will air on BBC3 later in the year but on Tuesday and Wednesday she and the co-host Kurt Braunohler will do two free "work-in-progress" shows at the Jam House, in which they will interview the alter-egos of a host of character comedians.

Let's hope that it fares better than Hot Tub, the show the pair brought to the Fringe last year. The Independent on Sunday found it to be "as sterile as a second-string US network sitcom with laboured badinage and plasticky cheer".

And now for something completely surprising

While relations between several of the Pythons have turned poisonous in recent years, the friendship of John Cleese and Michael Palin has always remained fairly cordial. Still, Palin was surprised when his old colleague announced his fourth marriage on the cover of Hello! at the weekend. "I'm actually shocked!" he told the audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival. "I thought John was going to be married in September. I was supposed to be going..."