Brian Ferguson's Diary: Week Zero

It has been something of a tradition for 'Week Zero' to begin trying to shelter from the rain, clutching a pint, at Underbelly's big purple cow.

Kenny O'Brien, director of The Stand Comedy Club, impressed with his ability to speak without drawing breath for ten minutes
Kenny O'Brien, director of The Stand Comedy Club, impressed with his ability to speak without drawing breath for ten minutes

Not so this year after heading off to a special event at the EICC to mark the 70th anniversary of the festivals.

But the mugs of tea, shortbread and chat-show format, with culture secretary Fiona Hyslop lobbing under-armers to Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan, Fringe Society boss Shona McCarthy and film festival chief Ken Hay, felt a bit lame. The all-too-cosy feel was completed with a “happy birthday” rendition and flowers for the host.

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It was a very different story at Le Monde, one of the more bling meccas on George Street, for the Scottish Comedy Awards, surely one of the noisiest rabbles I’ll encounter this month. Some of the most raucous cheers were reserved for Richard Gadd, who was – somewhat bizarrely – honoured for winning the Fringe’s big comedy award a year ago, and Isla Nelson, three-year-old daughter of stand-up comic Mark 
(pictured far left), who is the star of his hit online videos for BBC Scotland.

One man who left empty-handed but deserved a medal was outgoing Radio Scotland boss Jess Zycinski, who gamely endured grief all night from aggrieved comics who had failed to find their way on to the airwaves.

As many a publicist who has rung me in recent months will now know, I’m not a critic. But if I was, I’d be awarding five stars to The Stand director Kenny O’Brien for a barnstorming speech at the launch of New Town Theatre – a replacement for St Andrew Square, from which the Fringe has been well and truly banished, to the dismay of many. He drew breath during a ten-minute tirade just once – to dramatically roll up his sleeves, revealing a lengthy list of prompts scribbled on his arm.

He could not resist a reprise at The Stand’s own launch, comparing the infrastructure installed for the Edinburgh International Festival’s opening light show Bloom as “a bizarre attempt to subvert Islamic terrorists by hoping they will wander round and round the black cubes”.