Copstick: Just as well the Fringe is Free Access … are you not a bit old for all this ? OK, as a fellow wrinklie, I can tell you, you ARE a bit old for this year in particular
Simon Fanshawe: I am far too old for this. When I last performed here, I did three and half weeks at 10.30 at night. This year I am doing five shows at 2.30 in the afternoon and everyone can get home for a nap. I can’t work out whether I am still too young for it to be admirable that I am on the Fringe or old enough that it’s poignant.
When was the last time you were here ? What were you doing then ?
I last performed at the Fringe in 1992 – thirty years ago. I did three years exploiting my Perrier win and then quit for broadcasting. I had hit a wall with stand-up, was becoming fearful of audiences and hadn’t got any more to say. Now I have LOTS to say…..
More horrifically when was the FIRST time you were here ?
1981. The Masonic Lodge in Hill St with Tony Allen and Sharon Landau and my lovely late friend Jenny Harris (who started the Albany when it was in Brighton) came to the first show – there were about 20 people in the audience – and laughed at everything I said. Then she took me to the pub and brilliantly tore the show to shreds every day till it improved.
I can tell you now, it felt so much more free then. This year’s Fringe is SO censorious.
I am not in Edinburgh yet. But when I read that shows have trigger warnings, I worry. The Fringe is a Darwinian crap shoot. You never know what you’re going to see: Latvian Feminist full frontal Vaginal poetry about childhood abuse or American evangelicals singing tunes from the shows (possibly my worst ever random choice). I am putting a trigger warning at the entrance to my show: “If you can’t bear decent disagreement and are possessed of an overdose of moral certainty, then you will almost certainly be disturbed by the consequences of coming to my show”
It feels like twenty minutes ago people were scared to come out as good old-fashioned gay and now we are up to hour nipples in the inexperienced young who have recently ‘come out’ as ‘only likes sex on a Monday or if there is an R in the month’, or identifying as the colour pink, and are doing an hour of your time on the subject. Thoughts ? As one who has lived through it ALL ?
They are all confusing personal identity with sexual orientation. It reminds me of when the Taliban banned brown paper bags (they really did – something to do with the glue) and I just thought there’s a regime with time on its hands. Now we oldies won them total legislative equality, they’ve got nothing to fight against. And they’re desperate to be special so they die their hair blue, come out as non-binary and think it makes them interesting. Someone said to me the other day. “I’m just a boring heterosexual” And I said: “Those are two separate things”.
When you come out you cross the barrier from shame to self-acceptance and then frequently suffer the consequences which is prejudice. And prejudice is pretty stupid. It’s pretty binary. When someone smacks you in the face it’s because they think you’re a lezza or a pouf. When their fist hits your flesh, no one’s asking your pronouns. So in politics who cares about your individual salami sliced personal identity? That’s so narcissistic. If these people had love bites, they’d be self-inflicted.
What is YOUR reason for taking an hour out of my life ? (HINT : this is the bit where you promote your show)
During lockdown I wrote this book called The Power of Difference. And I realised that I what I think about the world and my years of performing stand up means that I have the content and the platform. It’s like everything I can do coming together in five shows called “The Power of Difference” at the Assembly Bijou 19th- 23rd. I have cast off my inner Ben Gunn and want to be out there again. (for the unread, Ben Gunn was a hermit in a cave in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island… you see I am so old I have to explain my references)
You should know that this Fringe, in terms of talking about boys/girls / neither / both / trans and self identifying as any or all of the above is probably the most narrow minded I can ever remember. Thoughts ?
The problem is not that people want to identify as this that or the other. They can identify as a giraffe or a mongoose as far as I am concerned. But what they can’t do is insist that the rest of us believe it, in the face of material fact. What’s depressing is that disagreement is now treated as enmity, words as ‘literal violence’ and difference rejected rather than embraced. Transwomen are transwomen is a far more interesting story than transwomen are women, it encompasses a far deeper reality, describes a far more interesting journey. I am all for people trying to find themselves. I just wish men weren’t finding themselves in women’s spaces.
Back to the top … is it just because we are old ? Or DO we actually know / remember better ?
Well, for instance, the struggle for lesbian and gay equality is pretty recent. So there are people alive who know that history in their own lives. If you were 17 in 1967, when homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK, you’re 72 now. They remember. But it’s amazing how much that recent history is being re-written by a generation who live in the glow and safety of its success but who haven’t had the courtesy to consult the people who won it for them before they amend it to suit themselves. They are trying to alter the past to fit their present. There’s a wilful amnesia.
Do you think this will be remembered as the Golden Age of sexual/gender freedom. Or merely the beginning of understanding, when, unfortunately, it all went a bit mental ?
There is undoubtedly far more sexual freedom. But that is being confused with Pride and liberation. Somebody kindly said to me the other day that he’d looked me up and he hadn’t realised how involved I’d been in fighting for equality. Then he said “I’m not actually LGBT myself” And I said: “Well, you can’t be all of them…” And he said “I am part of the K community”. I said “K?” He said “Yes… the Kink community”.
I don’t know what he does to be part of the K. I am not sure I want to know. But to be honest I don’t want to be asked to be “proud” of middle aged men who wear nappies or men who have their boyfriends on dog leads or people who on a Saturday night want to get together and nail their foreskins to the kitchen table. That’s not gay Pride it’s the Love Parade. Fine.. help yourself to the cleets. But don’t confuse it with the political fight for equality here and abroad. Nigerian gays aren’t parading in leather they are hiding in terror in case they’re beaten or killed….. Sorry not many jokes in that answer. But absolutely tons in the show…..
Simon Fanshawe: The Power of Difference, 14.30, Assembly Bijou, August 19-23