What's This Fringe Thing, Anyway?

Ah... the Edinburgh Fringe Festival -- or, is it the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? I've heard it both ways. I'll resort to calling it the Fringe and just assume people will know what I'm talking about. This makes it less confusing and shortens it to a digestible size. You can do this with a number of things. For instance, instead of saying the term "soft jazz," simply say jazz with a soft "j" (pron. yazz). You can also ask abbreviate pencil down to "pen."

When I tell people I'm doing the Fringe most people have the same reaction. It goes something like this:

"So, what have you been up to Michael?"

"Oh, I've been keeping busy. I'm doing the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh in August."

They're face opens up in wide-eyed awe. At this point my shoulders suddenly find thinner air as I rise four inches taller than my scoliosis typically allows and I start to feel rather smug knowing that this person -- most often someone whom I like and respect, yet yearn for a). their validation and b). their admiration -- is completely jealous and will soon grovel at my feet asking if I need any help because they'd love to go. It's everyone's long-term goal, right?

They say, "Wow! What is that?" My scoliosis returns.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest open-access arts festival in the world. Sounds impressive, eh? Well, it is and it sort of isn't. You see, because it's open access the number of acts has ballooned over the years. Basically, in order to be a part of it all you have to do is a have a Fringe-approved venue say, "Alright! Fine. Yes. You can perform here." This is great because it allows for tons of talent to show their stuff at one of the most attended cultural events in the world. And yet, trying to stand out in the company of nearly 3,000 other shows is a difficult task, especially when you're from the United States, have zero clout, and have limited funds thanks to a steadily strengthening Great Britain pound. Or, is the dollar just weakening? Someone explain economics to me, I feel my checkbook would thank you. As would my mother, who would be happy to stop sending me $20 in unmarked bills so I can eat food... and so I'll give her back the cats I took for ransom.

And of those 3,000 acts 36 percent of them are comedy. Great!

The open-access thing also seemingly makes it easier to be a part of the Fringe, though I don't know how many people aren't able to get in every year. Though, I got in, so maybe the selection pool was smaller this year due to the Olympics... But, easy or not to get into, the Fringe has given the world things like Steve Coogan, the Mighty Boosh, the first full performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and countless others. Not to mention Beyond the Fringe, which essentially jump started the modern comedy scene.

When I explain all this to people they nod along politely, even admiringly -- Aha! I've got you right where I want you! -- and then I am met with a, "That's cool."

It is indeed. And I walk out with my shoulders and head held high...though my head hurts because of the altitude sickness induced by the thinner air four inches about my aforementioned slouch.