Edinburgh Diary: Free-to-view comedy and a case of the bagpipe blues

Comics are complaining about the BBC presenting free comedy shows at its pop-up studio on Potterrow, at the heart of the Fringe. They say that punters seeing panel games being recorded or stars doing 10-minute live slots aren't paying to see full-length shows. They have a point; listings for BBC shows (which must be free, under its charter) fill more than two pages of the Fringe brochure. But the proximity of free quality comedy hasn't stopped 700 people a night paying £13.50 to see The Boy with Tape on his Face at the nearby Pleasance.

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Fringe venues can be unhealthy places – they're often freezing cold, boiling hot, damp or, in the case of Underbelly on Cowgate, dripping water on punters. Comic Tiffany Stevenson, appearing there, says, er, drily, that it's deliberate. "What I like is for my audience to feel they're being waterboarded."

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Performers can spend thousands publicising their show, but two lucky musicians have the kind of publicity money can't buy. Australians Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts are performing Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells for Two at Assembly George Square, and have found that everyone is now familiar with the 1973 classic after it featured in the opening ceremony of London 2012. But one confused punter thought he was about to see Danny Boyle's pageant re-enacted. That's next year, silly.

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Overheard on the Royal Mile, where some children were transfixed by a piper. "Mummy, I'm going to have bagpipes when I'm older," said one. "In your own house, with a soundproof room," came the swift reply.

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References to Jimmy Carr and his multimillion tax-avoidance scheme are proving irresistible. This has caused critics to devise a rather good game; every time a comedian takes a pop at Carr, we reward ourselves with a drink. Just doing our bit for the deficit, Chancellor, you understand. Cheers!

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