On the run from Andi Peters following a misunderstanding about cruises, Melissa begrudgingly agrees to follow her friend Joanne (and Joanne’s 17th century throwback ‘life partner’ Fax) to the Edinburgh Fringe. While leafleting for Fax’s dreadful stand up show about faith healing and vegans, Melissa endures the highs and lows of pretentious student plays, ‘street typing’, and the knowledge that her shop has been left in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand tills…

Crap Comedy is the follow up to the 2018 novel Crap Holiday. Read it here.

When I say Edinburgh is busy, I mean ‘it’s against the laws of physics to have so many people in one place’ busy. Seriously, I think multiple people are managing to occupy the exact same atoms on the pavement.

The first thing I notice as we drive through the city centre is a group of people waving their limbs. No one seems to notice or call an ambulance. When I point this out to Joanne, she goes ‘Oh, that’s a silent disco.’

‘It’s a what?’

‘You know, a silent disco!’ She looks at me like I’m slow. ‘Um, I think the general idea is that discos are a tool of oppression, because they make everyone conform and listen to the same music. This is a way of fighting that oppression.’

I look again. All I can see is a load of people wearing headphones and getting in the way of people trying to cross the road. One of them has a mullet.

‘What, so they’re all listening to their own music?’

‘Yes, isn’t it great! I might get us all tickets for one!’

Well, that’s something to look forward to.

On the one-mile-a-year journey to our accommodation, I spot the following:

German tourists acting like they’ve accidentally gone to Mars instead of Scotland; Four people breathing fire; A poster on a wall featuring the world’s most annoying looking comedian. He’s doing a ‘wacky comedy pose’. I immediately hate him; Three million stalls selling glowsticks; A naked man on stilts. Oh wait, no, he’s wearing one novelty sock. A load of drama students standing on corners handing out leaflets; A café that sells nothing but Quality Street.

I must have imagined that last one. There’s no fucking way that’s a real thing.

The other thing is that, no matter where we go, we can hear bagpipes in the distance.

The van takes an hour to fart its way to our accommodation, and this time it’s not Fax’s fear of getting ‘arrested’. There must be something about Scottish air that makes people docile and willing to stand IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING ROAD.

‘Beep the horn!’ I yell at Fax.

‘I can’t, that would be rude!’

‘Run them fucking over then!’

He doesn’t reply. Clearly he doesn’t think running them over would be rude.

I reach over him and manage to press the horn once before Joanne manhandles me away. ‘God chill out!’

‘No, I need a piss,’ I reply. ‘I will piss in the van.’

I start to squat and undo my jeans. Joanne takes me seriously, because she whispers something to Fax, and suddenly he’s punching his horn and we’re going 200mph round corners. I’m flattened against side of the van. Jesus, it’s not like I threatened to piss in her fucking candle holder.

The van screeches to a halt at the entrance to a park.

‘Why have we come to the park?’ I ask as soon as I’ve finished retrieving my knickers from my kidneys.

Joanne laughs. ‘No, this is our accommodation! It’s a square, so Fax has to park outside while we get a permit.’

I look out of the window. A sign says ‘St. Andrews Park. No vehicles. Pedestrians and cycles only. Thank you.’

‘Jo, this is a park. Look at the sign.’

I point out of my window, but Joanne’s not looking. She’s clambered into the back of the van and is looking through the piles of crap for something. ‘Got it! OK, you can go in now!’

I grab Fax, which is something I’ve never wanted to do, ever. ‘No, look at the sign! It’s a park! Pedestrians only!’

‘Oh it’s OK, me and M’Lady have permission to park here.’

‘From who? And if you say Gaia, I am going to call the police.’

‘No, it’s a square! Our flat is on this square!’

I do not believe Fax. It doesn’t matter because now he’s pulling the van into the park. He stops by the swings.

‘We’re here!’

I suspect we’re not here.

‘Yay! Let’s unpack!’ screeches Joanne. I stuff my head between my legs, as it’s easier than explaining to Joanne how private property works.

‘No hang on Jo, what address do you have?’

She hands me a piece of paper. ‘St. Andrews Square’. This is not St Andrew’s Square, this is St Andrew’s Park, and we are right fucking in the middle of it. There are houses just over there, maybe it’s one of those? Oh God, people are looking.

‘I think it’s one of those streets over there. Maybe we’re meant to park at one of those houses?’

‘No, it’s fine, we can park here, because it’s going to be a vegan van in a minute.’

I zone out, imagining going behind the slide with Andrew Lincoln, and then I fall asleep. Joanne pokes me awake.

‘Mel, we’re getting arrested!’

‘What?’

‘These police are oppressing us!’

I peer out of the van window and see two fed up looking police officers. They’re trying to explain something to Fax. I don’t know what Fax is saying to them, but I hear the word ‘Gaia’.

As I’m dragging my carcass out of the van, one of the police officers turns to me. ‘Madam, would you mind explaining to your… friend, that we only need him to move the van. We don’t really want to be arresting anyone, but this is a public park, not a car park.’ There’s plenty of parking in the surrounding streets.’

I rub my eyes. ‘Fax, I bloody told you we can’t park here.’

‘I keep telling them we’ve got a permit though!’ wails Joanne.

‘Madam, that is not a permit, that is an address written on a piece of paper. The address you’re looking for is actually over there.’ He points towards the houses at the back. I fucking knew it.

‘Fax, listen to me. If you do not move this van, we will all get arrested.’

‘But they’re trying to…’

‘Shut up Joanne!’ I turn back to Fax. ‘Do you remember what happened when you broke my Daniel O’Donnell mug? Would you like a repeat of that?’

He pulls a face. ‘No.’

‘Well then, I suggest you listen to these guys and Move. This. Van. Now.’

Fax is trying to decide between showing off in front of Joanne, or not getting kicked in the balls and smacked in the face with a frying pan by me. He gets back into the driver’s seat without another word.

Joanne gives me a murderous look, gathers up her skirt, and gets in next to Fax. I turn back to the police.

‘Sorry about that. I did tell them. You must excuse them, they’re… performance artists.’ Probably best not say they’re escaped mental patients, not to the police.

They look at each other and nod, as if that’s all the explanation they need. I bet Joanne and Fax aren’t even the most mental people they’ve seen this afternoon. I heave myself back into the van, and the police stand there to make sure we leave.

Joanne complains all the way to our flat. I tune her out – I’m desperately looking forward to a coffee and a nice sit down on something that isn’t a suitcase or raw metal.

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