Everyone in Edinburgh lives up four flights of stairs. It’s really funny watching the smokers.
I am performing at the Edinburgh Festival. I have discovered there is more to Edinburgh than just the homeless and the castle. Each morning I wake up to the sound of a little Scottish man in a red kilt playing bagpipes outside our window. He’s not very good and sounds like a tramp has crushed a load of bottlenecks and a sound has escaped which resembles something Scottish.
Edinburgh is a geographical phenomenon in that it’s the only city in the world where you are always walking uphill, no matter which direction you are walking in. By the time this festival ends, I’ll have calves the size of beer barrels.
Being in Edinburgh for a month is like existing in a glass jar with many other paranoid versions of yourself. It is a wonderfully unrealistic cocoon to be in. There are no bills to pay, no meetings to attend, no floors to clean.
I talk to normal folk with normal lives who reside in the real world. I ask them what they are up to and they tell me things like, “I am recycling padded envelopes.” A part of me quite envies them.
Everyone in Edinburgh lives on the top floor. I am living with two other comedians in a flat on the fourth floor of a big Victorian house. I have never felt healthier and have to leave for my show two hours early to embrace the four flights of stairs. It really is entertainment having to watch the smokers. Each afternoon we sit around the kitchen table discussing how it went the night before, and how we made the leap from being amusing at home to arrogantly assuming we could start charging people to listen to our nonsense.
My audience is full of ever-reliable, white middle-class Guardian readers, and I do like to point this out to them as they smile awkwardly through my gags about racism and guilt.
But tonight they shouted out: “No, we read the New Statesman!”
I became very afraid; I knew these people would know some truths about my life. I take for granted that, thanks to this column, people know what I’ve been doing. It’s like they’ve been revising me. I’m waiting for a particularly learned member of the audience to interrupt me and correct me on the details of my anecdotes. “Excuse me, Ms Mirza. I think if you refer back to the New Statesman, 27 February, you’ll find the man who stormed into your dressing room said your comedy was ‘terrible’, not ‘shit’.”
The levels of alcohol consumed, together with the heat in the venues, tend to have a detrimental effect on people. A lovely young woman came to my show a few nights ago, but had to leave after 25 minutes. I asked her where she was going. “I have an appointment,” she replied. I quite admired her ambition of trying to fit a comedy show in between appointments. The strangest moment came when a couple left 15 minutes into my show; trying to make a hasty and unnoticed exit they said, “Sorry, we’re in the wrong show.” What? And it took you 15 minutes to realise I wasn’t a shouty Australian with a handlebar moustache?
Edinburgh in August is like a month-long annual general meeting of the comedy world. You see faces you recognise and say polite hellos to them. Then everyone gets drunk in the evening and pretends to like each other. All anybody wants to know is how good your reviews are. Comedians base their lives around a five-star system. If there are floods, a comedian would only ask: “Yes, but how many stars did the flood get? Is it a good one?
Edinburgh can be magical. I woke up at midday then went to watch the brilliant poet John Hegley at one in the afternoon, followed by a comedy show about a woman and her stalker. It made my stalker look quite tame. I might call him when I get back into the real world and ask him to recycle my brown envelopes.