Who? Douglas Walker
What? Douglas Walker Presents: Of Christmas Past
Where? Underbelly, Bristo Square (venue 302)
Are you prepared for what this year’s Edinburgh Fringe has in store for you?
This will be my 11th Edinburgh Fringe, so to some extent I feel prepared for whatever it can throw at me. Last year I did my improv show, Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised, at noon and my solo show at 10.45pm every day. So I more or less had a show every 12 hours for the whole month. It was totally exhausting. This year I’m delighted because I’m doing exactly the same but my solo show starts five minutes later, so I think that’ll make all the difference.
On the other hand, you never quite know what will come out of a Fringe run. I think the reason the Fringe is so important to me, and many other comedians, is that opportunities arise that you never would have considered.
What is the premise of your Edinburgh show this year?
The show is an exposé of the true origins of Santa Claus. It covers about a hundred years of history, unwrapping mysteries and deceptions that have been used to pull the wool over our eyes for decades. It’s a narrative comedy theatrical documentary, which really is the best genre.
What was the biggest obstacle you face(d) while putting this show together?
Well the biggest obstacle is always money, in a variety of ways. For one thing it costs an unholy amount to put on an Edinburgh show. Just so much money. For months and months before Edinburgh you reach pay day and you’ve scraped together just enough to pay this deposit or that invoice and then you have no money for the rest of the month until the next instalment is due. And of course trying to balance working enough to earn that money and having enough time to write is a nightmare. It’s not an original or entertaining answer, but these failings are made up for by how completely true it is.
Artistically though, this is the first time I’ve done a narrative show, and it was difficult to find ways to showcase work-in-progress versions, as you can’t really take 20 minutes from the middle of the story and perform it in isolation. The audience would just be lost. So it was sort of all or nothing with previews. It just had to come out in one.
Who would most enjoy your show?
I think the show will be popular with conspiracy theorists, and people who love Christmas, but also people who hate Christmas. You probably need to have heard of Christmas to enjoy it. The style of comedy is very theatrical, and quite smart. I performed the show in Brighton recently and an audience member came up to me afterwards and said he had loved it, but was going to go home, do some reading and come back the next day to try and get the other half of the jokes. Which he then did, which I was pretty flattered by. There’s a lot to chew over in it.
Do you have any other Edinburgh show recommendations?
One that I’m excited about is Stand Up Philosophy. It’s a mixture of comedy and philosophy performed by a mixture of comedians and philosophers and it is one of the most interesting shows around. I’ve performed at a few in London and hopefully I’ll get to do a couple during the Edinburgh run. I’m also looking forward to The Worst by Clara Cupcakes. She’s an Australian comedian with a background in clowning and burlesque, and this show is a live action video game. Her shows are so creative and always look amazing, as well as being hilarious. And of course the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society is always a winner.
What is your favourite thing about Edinburgh as a city?
I grew up in Edinburgh so it holds a very special place in my heart. I think it is truly beautiful; a feast for the senses. Except smell. Edinburgh is not a fragrant city. I think it is a testament to the city’s ingrained sense of history that it has striven to maintain it’s old nickname Auld Reekie well into an age when there is no need for anything to smell that bad. The Cowgate on a Monday morning is one of the most terrible and humbling experiences I can think of; that we, humanity, are capable of making that smell occur. But apart from the smell, it’s magnificent. I’ll go for chippy sauce.
What are your plans for after the festival?
So much of my life centres around the Edinburgh Festival in one way or another, it is the culmination of a year’s work on a new show, and the birth place of new opportunities for the coming year, that I think of it as the end of the year. The natural cycle has come to an end. I always find myself making New Year’s resolutions in mid-August while I am in the heat of the Fringe, resolutions that no one could keep once they get back to the humdrum world of September. So I plan to get fit, learn a language, go to more live music, finally get round to hanging some pictures in the living room, and take more risks.