This week's big questions: Has the Edinburgh Fringe grown too big? Has Twitter gone too far?

This week's big questions are answered by stand up and novelist, Jenny Eclair


You’ve been playing the Edinburgh Fringe for 30 years. How has it changed?

There are more places to eat. Seriously, it’s pop-up this and noodle that and I’ve already spotted a bratwurst van near my venue – I do love sauerkraut. I used to come up to Edinburgh and guarantee losing a stone: fear and cigarettes for a month is a really effective diet. Now that I have given up the fags and am consequently very greedy, I will have to keep an eye on my sausage consumption. There are also loads more gyms and health clubs, unfortunately. I liked it when Edinburgh thought gyms were a bit sissy.

Is the Edinburgh Fringe too big? Would it not better for so much talent to be spread about the calendar and the country?

This city is the ideal size for a festival, but I do fear it’s getting borderline obese. The fringe brochure is bewildering and I’ve been saying for years that the festival needs trained Fringe “Buddies” on hand to guide confused punters through the maze. These could be out-of-work performers which would add a nice touch of bitterness to the scheme. You’ve got to get organised, plan your route, carry a banana with you, and remember while it might be pissing down outside, your venue is likely to be sauna hot. If you need to strip down to your bra, make sure it’s a pleasant one.

You seem to enjoy Twitter but its dark side is coming to the fore. Why is that?

Argh, how sad that the playground should occasionally turn into a cesspit. I’ve been moderately lucky – a few “you’re shit” comments but, on the whole, much laughter, loads of information and lots of friends. The downside of social networking is that horrible people can hide behind fictional identities. The reality of most trolls is that they are socially incompetent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are harmless.

How best to respond to trolling?

Block, block, block. Occasionally, I will get a snide comment and if I react, the comment will be removed or I’ll get an apology. Twitter is very open to misinterpretation, especially when no one bothers with grammar. I’ve taken offence on a few occasions, because I’m prickly and I’ve read something the wrong way. Thing is, you’ve got 140 characters, so if you’ve made a boo-boo you’ve always got enough space to say sorry.

As a northerner what do you make of a Tory peer describing the North-east as “desolate” and suitable for fracking?

Typical nimbyism. I’m scared of fracking. This country is too small to risk it. My parents live up in Lytham St Anne’s near Blackpool, which was fracked a few years ago – and subsequently had a small earthquake. You can call it a tremor if you like, but the earth moved and it wasn’t good for me. I always think of the earth’s crust as being a bit biscuity. Fracking is like drilling into a massive Ryvita: bits are going to start breaking off. It’ll all end in tears and crumbs.

David Cameron has laid down Facebook rules for his children. Should parents monitor their children’s use of Facebook?

How? I’ve never had to stop my daughter doing anything. They have to develop their own moral code. That said, she barred me from Facebook about 10 years ago, because she said I’d use it to snoop on her. Weirdly, I obeyed! Doesn’t mean I haven’t used other snooping methods, but I think (from what I can gather) Facebook puts kids under horrible pressure to be seen to be having “fun”. I think the most important thing we can instil into our kids is that “fun” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes “fun” is really exhausting and boring. I try to avoid it as much as possible.

A quarter of parents are said to be hiring a tutor for their children over the summer holidays. What do you make of that?

Great work for graduates! I see it from the POV of being the parent of a 24-year-old; there’s not much out there for tons of bright post-uni kids. There’s always the hope a good tutor will inspire where a dull teacher won’t, but it shouldn’t be necessary. What’s weird is that it tends to be parents who have already opted into the fee-paying system who are forking out for tutors on top of school fees! That’s like volunteering to pay twice for the same thing, which is a bit mad.

The Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee have, we are told, made Britain a happier place. Was that the effect they had on you?

Yes, it’s good to be reminded that we are stylish and plucky. My natural inclination is to sneer at everything, but both occasions proved just how brilliant we are at putting on a show and how cool we are even when we’re doing something madly traditional. I thought the river procession would leave me completely cold, but fortunately on the day I was invited into a set of barristers’ chambers overlooking the Thames – so I was kept completely warm, dry and stoked up on chicken thighs.

Jenny Eclair‘s stand-up show ‘Eclairous’ is at the Edinburgh Festival at the Gilded Balloon, 7.30pm from now until 17 August. Her novel ‘Life, Death and Vanilla Slices’ is published by Sphere

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