We already filled you in on part one of our trip: My birthday experience in London. Now it’s time to tell you about Edinburgh — the trip you helped make possible. Here the Mike and Megan oral history of Carnal Desire at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!
Mike: We arrived in the center of Edinburgh and walked to the Carnal Desire Team’s Scotland Street flat. One of two that we rented for our actors. It was a fairly nice place: big rooms, high ceilings, great location, and huge windows with views of gorgeous church steeples and green trees.
Only problem: there was a single bathroom for six people. And… ONE towel.
Megan: Here’s Mike: “I think we’re just going to nap and take showers.” Here’s Kinkaid: “I’ll see if the towel is dry.” THE TOWEL.
Mike: When Megan and I heard that, our eyes went wide. We decided to head out towel-shopping immediately. Which gave us an excuse to explore the neighborhood. The scavenger hunt ended at Primark (basically: Target), and we headed back to nap and shower.
After catching up on the various trials and tribulations of the show, we headed for dinner at the Printing Press Bar and Grill, where we enjoyed some gastropub fare that pleased Megan to no end. She may love all things UK, but she definitely prefers (quality) pub grub to the local gourmet fare.
Megan: I wouldn’t even say it has to be quality. Is it well-done meat in some kind of Guinness-related stew? Are there “chips” involved? I’m a happy girl.
Mike: Does the waiter have a British accent? Megan will not notice the fact that she’s been shivering for the last two hours, the trash outside, or the fact that we’ve been eating the same meal again and again.
Megan: Our daily routines were pretty much determined by rain. Summer weather in Scotland means that it was generally miserable out — raining off and on for the whole trip. So during the day, Mike and I would try to walk as much as possible — grabbing food, and finding cafes to grab wifi. But mostly we’d work inside the awesome flat we rented.
Mike: Average number of miles we walk a day: 11. Average number of floors: 95. Which slightly mitigates the unhealthy Scottish meals and endless pints of beer. We explored all corners of the city, from the chaos of the Royal Mile to quiet Stockbridge.
Megan: My favorite of which was hiking up Arthur’s Seat, but I also enjoyed touring the castle, and buying my very first proper rain jacket. (There’s not much need for them in LA.)
And then, perfectly timed with my new rain jacket, we had an awesome experience of getting caught in a very heavy rainstorm and running into a bar where we had “no choice” but to sip yummy Old Fashioneds, as we watch the rain ABSOLUTELY POUR outside.
Mike: Our nightly routine was grabbing dinner at some fun restaurant. Then grabbing drinks while the cast went flyering in courtyard. Which may or may not have helped attendance.
Megan: Then we’d head into the Pleasance Above, to our theater space, which was WAY too big for the most common nightly attendance of our show. (It seated 100+ and we would generally pull in 30 or so on a good night.)
Which bring us too…
Mike: The focus of this trip — and the giant hole that Megan and I have been dumping our hard-earned money and time into… was our glorious show. Carnal Desire: the Collected Works of Philip S. Wilson.
Along with our friends David Fickas and Brice Beckham, we staged it in LA a few times (the most successful being the Bon Voyage Gala, where 80 people seemed to really dig it) — and with the help of an entertainment lawyer named Michael Blaha, we got the show into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is fairly prestigious… and completely mad.
But it’s a once in a lifetime experience, right? Is there another time that we’d stage a comedy show with my friends at one of the world’s coolest festivals, located in one of the world’s most beautiful cities? And spend a week praying that some drunk people would show up and laugh at dialogue that I wrote fifteen years ago?
Megan: Once in a freaking lifetime.
Mike: You may ask… What is the Fringe Festival? The “EdFringe” is a massive festival for theater, comedy, and music — involving 3000 shows for all of August. Some of these theaters hold hundreds of seats. Others are less than 20.
There are four massive complexes (The Pleasance, the Underbelly, the Gilded Balloon, and the Assembly) showing ‘official’ shows. And then there are tons of other free shows. And tons of street performers. Tents with food and drink surrounding the theaters.
And that’s not including a huge city in the middle of tourist season. The city is packed to the gills – every sidewalk from the Royal Mile to the festival venues is bustling – and your head has to be on a swivel as cars and buses speed past in unfamiliar directions. There is very little relaxing when you’re in the center of the city…
Megan: And Mike “I cross the street whenever I feel like it” Horowitz is still alive, thanks to me.
Mike: And then, our show…
We showed up for the fourth production of Carnal Desire. The first one didn’t go so well, due to massive technical problems. The second was apparently better, but nothing like performances in LA. Our actors were told that local audiences didn’t “laugh out loud,” which made things awkward… and stressful.
And as we walked in for Saturday night’s show, we heard that we had sold 12 tickets at the box office. Which sounded pretty sad. (This is why I write TV, where there’s no “there” for people to not show up.) But… when the doors opened, twenty people walked in. And then ten more. And another ten. And another. Until 50 drunk theater fans sat down and the show began.
Dave and the actors adjusted their performance for the Scotland crowd — playing music and dancing at the start and greeting the audience. The crowd laughed at the introduction video, including a few of my lines. And then… it went over really well!
Megan: It was so strange to see Carnal Desire: The Scotland Version — basically the actors got BROAD with it in a way that the the UK audience loved.
And that’s when I realized how very different the LA and Edinburgh audiences were. I doubt most of the people watching had ever read a TV script, so the comedy of the scene descriptions was a bit lost on folks. And some of the jokes were a little too American. And maybe softcore porn in Scotland doesn’t hold all of the same tropes as the ones we’re familiar with? But either way, that first night was magic — so many laughs. And then there was the heckler…
At the beginning of the second act, when Brice says, “no one recognizes the famous late night TV erotica actor,” a super-drunk girl in the front row yelled out, “I know him, that’s Edwin Embarcadero!” And the whole theater fell apart laughing. And then shit got chaotic. Encouraged by the laughter, the Super-Drunk Girl in The Front Row kept throwing out comment after slurred comment. Then, when Kincaid said, “It’s a little ‘TVMA,’ if you know what I mean,” another person from the back called out “no.” And it all started to come off the rails.
Mike and I gave each other wide-eyed “oh no” looks, as we waited for the whole show to fall apart. And then fucking Fickas handled it like a god-damned dramatic wizard. He hit all the right beats, made all the right faces, and the rest of the cast took his cues, and they somehow rode the lightning and came out the other end with an audience that laughed even harder, and loved that cast even more. (Now THAT’S an example of good improv.)
Megan: And then we just repeated different versions of that every night for a week and a half. It was awesome and bizarre and hilarious and confusing and chaotic and repetitive and definitely one of the best experiences of my life.
Once in a lifetime, indeed.
Thanks again and again and again to everyone who donated. The actors are all still talking about what an amazing time they had, and was very much indeed possible because of your generous donations! We did it! We brought non-erotic softcore porn to Scotland!