Destinations, Europe, Planning, Scotland, Travel

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Gilded Balloon Press Launch

Have I told you that we love comedy?  Yip, we’re big fans of stand-up comedy. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the mother festival of all arts festivals in the world and comedy is her favorite child.

At the Gilded Balloon Press launch, we get a glimpse of their line-up for this year’s Fringe. But what is The Fringe? Read on.

We have something other than old buildings, playparks, homeschooling or road trips to blog about.  Something that doesn’t even revolve around the children if you’ll believe it.  It’s not our “niche” either. Oh wait, that’s right; we don’t have a niche 😝. We’ll blog about anything that takes our fancy ok!

No, seriously; It’s nice to write about different things and we’ve loved our road trip of the UK, but 6 months in things can get predictable. A change of not just scenery but the topic is a breath of fresh air and that’s what we got last night at The Gilded Balloon Press Launch for The Fringe 2018.

Our Comedy Flavour

When it comes to comedy, we prefer the clever, mostly clean stuff.  Love. Love. Love. Michael McIntyre. We’ve not seen him live yet, but it’s on the ol’ bucket list.  His brand of funny is addictive.  He sees the humor in every-day mundane things and makes us laugh to the point of crying about it because we can relate.  Our other favorites are the crew from the 8 Out Of 10 Cats, a British comedy panel show hosted by Jimmy Carr. We’re long-time big fans of team captain Sean Lock but more recently also of fellow team captain, Jon Richardson. We actually enjoy most of the British comedy panel shows.  In almost ten years of watching these comedians, we’re still big fans and that speaks volumes.

Jason Manford, Sarah Millican, and Nish Kumar are hilarious.  From what we’ve seen, their sets are not completely based on profanity, twisted shock tactics and cheap below the belt humor. Yes, you get the odd PG18 content, but it’s not constant rubbish dumped into our ears like many lazy comedians resort to.

Milton Jones! I want to wrap him up and keep him in my pocket all day and take him out when I need a laugh. Just looking at his face gives me the giggles.  His crazy one-liners are legendary.

Back to The Fringe

The Fringe really is the biggest arts festival in the world.  Last year The Fringe ran for 25 days and featured 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues.  Ticket sales increased 9% from the previous year and reached record sales of 2,696,884 by the end of the festival.

It’s on every year in Edinburgh during August and this year it runs from 3 to 27 August, starting tomorrow (at the time of writing this post). Many performers and shows started out at The Fringe and went on to become famous.

In 1947 a small number of acts arrived uninvited to the Edinburgh Festival and performed on the outskirts of Edinburgh to appreciative crowds of festival-goers. The next year someone wrote a review about these acts and said that it’s unfortunate that they were so far out on the ‘fringe’ of the city.  The term stuck and so did the ethos of no criteria or invitation required to perform at The Fringe and still today any performer can show up and take part.

We didn’t check all show prices, but tickets for the majority seem to vary between £6 to £12,50 and some are more expensive.

Many shows are free and some venues have adopted the PWYW system that allows you to pay what you want when you exit the show.

To buy tickets, find out more about ticket options, tips to plan your trip and to download the program visit The Fringe website.  
You can also download the free app to your phone.

If you go to The Fringe, dress in layers.  Weather can change quickly to cold and rainy, but venues can be hot and stuffy.

There’s plenty for families to do and enjoy at the Edinburgh festival including the many kiddies shows that’s on at The Fringe, but the comedy scene in general is mostly not geared for families.

When it comes to food and drink there’s almost too much to choose from.  We walked past every food van to make sure we see all the options and we couldn’t pick.  In the end, we sampled eats from a few vendors and shared to try it all out.  A Chicken and bacon bagel from one van, a small serving of spicy Thai beef & cardamom stew on rice, a savory cheese and pepperoni crepe. The slow roasted pulled pork on a soft bab with applesauce and a rich gravy from the Aporkalypse van was our winner. For dessert, we shared a warm sticky toffee Belgian waffle. Each dish cost between £4,50 to £8.

What I didn’t see on any menu were fried mars bars.  It’s on my list of things to have in Scotland and I’ve yet to find somewhere in Edinburgh to try it.

Karen & Katy Koran of The Gilded Balloon

The Gilded Balloon

We were given tickets by a friend for the Gilded Balloon Press Launch held the night before The Fringe kicks off at the Gilded Balloon theatre.

The Gilded Balloon was started in the ’80s by the promoter, Karen Koren.  It’s now one of the largest and well known theatres of Edinburgh  Fringe.  Tonight’s press launch was the first official on-stage appearance of her daughter, Katy, as Creative Director. Katy welcomed the press and general audience and took the opportunity to thank the Gilded Balloon staff, production team and its supporters before the show started.

“I’m not retiring. I’ll be the one behind the desk with my feet in the air while Katy does the heavy lifting”. -Karen Koren-

I’m sure the press guys who sat at the front tables with the crazy-big cameras will be writing the real in-depth reviews on each act.  The hallowed journalists who I’m forever begrudging their writing prowess. This kitty is not too old to learn new tricks.  Where do I sign up for the next crash course in journalism or creative writing?!

Anyway, they’ll have the best photos and professional opinions for you too.  I’m afraid we only have pics here of some of the performers taken with my humble Samsung phone for you to squint at and compare with profile shots borrowed from the Gilded Balloon website.

Notably, the stand out feature of the night is the variety. The acts could not be more different from each other with music improvisation and cabaret acts to strong individual classic stand-ups and silent circussie-esque comics. As with most stand up comedy shows, the majority of acts are not family-friendly and you need to be thick skinned to not come away feeling slightly insulted or harassed by some of the content. We were ‘unscathed’ but we overheard someone who sat nearby saying they felt “a little insulted” after the show.  Comedians speak their mind.  They are brave creatures in a way because they often bare their souls and show strangers who they really are. Yes, they’re funny and most stick to the lighthearted stuff, but it often gets dark and you should be prepared for that if you go for the first time or the 100th.

Below is the line-up.  We’d pay to see most of their shows, but others were sadly forgettable. We wondered if some of them were told about the press launch last minute because they came across as slightly unprepared.  Each act had only 4 minutes to showcase their goods; a teaser to leave the audience wanting more. Tough job! Not one we’d want.

By the way, the ‘compere’ is like the hostess or master of ceremonies who introduce the other acts and keep the audience going while promoting their own brand at the same time.

The Line-Up

1. Laura Lexx (Compere – first half). She has a super energy about her. A likable character with sharp off-the-cuff whit. We get why she was the compere and we’d go see her show.


2. Gamarjobat. Funny guys who put on a silent clown-like circus act. We’re queueing already!


3. Justin Moorhouse. He didn’t have green hair or a clown face for the 4 min taster, but he still made us laugh ranting about the little monsters 13-yr olds can be.

4. Lost Voice Guy.

Lee Ridley, star of Britain’s Got Talent has a Sold Out Show! A brilliant mind caught in a disabled body.  He made Brendan laugh; really laugh out of his tummy and that doesn’t happen all the time.  Honestly, although his comedy is undeniably great, I’m not sure I’d go see his show unless he sits down. I’d rather listen to and laugh at his brilliance on BBC4 and know that he’s comfortable.


5. Ana Anastacia. Cabaret act. Over the top, but we like her voice. Good voice.


6. Ben Hart – Magician. West End star and multi-award winning magician. He was one of our favorites and his show is family friendly with a rating of PG12. We’d definitely like to see more of this guy.

7. Zoey Lyons.  Fuuuuuuunny! In a different league.  Yes.  We’re buying tickets.

8. Notflix. Improvised singing comedy act with a band.  Maybe they’re brilliant, but in the allotted 4 minutes we didn’t get it.

9. Janeane Garofalo. You’ll recognize the American actress.  She hit the mark, but much of her references are from across the pond and went over our heads.  She comes across as a scatty conversationalist with a brilliant mind.


10. Scott Gibson – ‘lots of swearing’. That’s what I wrote down during his show and he warned the audience about the swearing himself.  Brendan definitely wants to see his show. He’s angry-guy act is hilarious and I’d love to buy a ticket too but I’d want to push the parental guidance button to tweet over the swearing. I’d sign up for his army of fat people any day.

We’d only be great over a short distance, but we’d be great and the catering will be out of this world. – Scott Gibson


11. Jay Lafferty (compere 2nd half). Classic stand-up comedian.

12 Masie Adams. Classic stand-up comedian.

13. Murray Hill – comedian from New York in his debut at The Fringe.


14. Louisa & Bernie. Her show is called Politics for bitches and she did her set with her gorgeous dog, Bernie, who had lots to say himself.  We’re not sure if Bernie is part of the main act, but I’d like to see her show anyway.  I was intrigued because it seems to touch on the more serious topics in life that are hard to talk about in most situations and I’d love to hear what she makes of it all.


15. Hot Brown Honey.  Sheeeeesh! Get ready for an in-your-face culture lesson.  They seem a bit angry, but the dancing and singing are awesome.  Book front row tickets for me, please? I’ll quietly sneak out before the scary part where they turn into The Beast.  But my greatness, they have enough sass, rhythm and strong opinions to entertain and educate in a league of their own.  DO. NOT. TOUCH. THEIR. HAIR. Please?!

Hot Brown Honey were all fully clothed during their show. They, in fact, wore full combat style camo suits. Don’t know what this poster’s about?!




We can’t describe the vibe of The Fringe to you other than amazing.  Like Brendan said; for everyone back home – it’s like The Klein Karoo Kunstefees on steroids. The numerous beer gardens are clean and beautifully decorated with flowers and fairy lights all around.  Staff at each entrance make sure it stays a safe and fun place for everyone.  Restrooms are in abundance and everywhere the ground is covered with fake grass carpeting which is brilliant.  It’s easy to get a cab, they’re clearly visible all over the city. We used Uber to get in and out of town from our Airbnb.  Its well organized and I think anyone can have a wonderful time at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.


Lindsy & Brendan


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