Julian Hall's Edinburgh Festival diary

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The Independent Culture

At his Book Festival event, Newsnight's Gavin Esler (right) spoke of a documentary he made in 1991 about who could defeat George Bush Sr for the Presidency. He suggested to Democratic party bosses that Bill Clinton was their best candidate, an idea met with a prophetic put-down: "What? Governor Zipper Problem?"

John Ryan's show, Hurt Until it Laughs, delivers a positive health message. It was in this context that he suggested to a persistent heckler that he desist, as it was bad for his health. At this, another audience member shouted that it wouldn't be such a bad thing if the heckler had a heart attack. "That's a bit harsh," said Ryan. "Surely you wouldn't want the man to die?" The heckler's heckler replied: "I wouldn't mind – I'm an undertaker!"

Menzies Campbell and his Book Festival chair Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland's political editor, enjoyed some knockabout banter at the former Liberal Democrat leader's event. Taylor mentioned Campbell's appearance at the 1964 Olympics in the same breath as his own love for Dundee United. "From the sublime to the ridiculous," proferred Campbell. But Taylor had his revenge. When Campbell later remarked that he was happy that his event had sold out, Taylor riposted: "As a liberal, being sold out must be a familiar experience."

Comedian Dave Bloustien's debut Fringe show is free. To ensure that punters could book seats in advance, he registered tickets at the box office for £0.00. "The show's been a sell-out success," Bloustien says. "There was a particular clamour when the two-for-one offer went online."