Amanda Palmer, Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal and Mark Chavez
The Americans visiting the Fringe share their reflections on Edinburgh
This article is from 2011.
The Yanks are here, and they’re ready to paint the town red, white and blue. Amanda ‘Fucking’ Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal of variety show Hot Tub, and Mark Chavez of physical comedy duo The Pajama Men take a long look at Edinburgh through American eyes
What do you pack for Edinburgh?
Mark Chavez: Tabasco sauce.
Amanda Palmer: An extra ukulele.
Kurt Braunohler: A saline IV, and an extra two pillows.
Kristen Schaal: He needs two extra to hold his head in place.
KB: Yeah, pressure makes me feel more comfortable.
MC: I find it difficult to pack. We went to Montreal first before this, and there was this fricking heatwave. It was so hot. So it’s hard to fathom going someplace where it’s cool right now. Like, how could it possibly be cold in August? Anywhere in the world?
MC: I brought along one pair of pajamas for the show, and I just bought three pairs of pajamas from Marks and Spencer. I tried Jenners, but there was nothing. Good ones are really hard to find. I try to avoid heavy flannel because it’s so sweaty, and silk pajamas just look weird. Shenoah and I found this cache of pajamas in Marks, and we each bought three pairs.
KS: I brought two suitcases, one of props, and one of dresses. I got excited and bought a couple of dresses, and then a couple more.
Anything you’ll miss when it’s time to leave Edinburgh?
KB: Just the barbecue culture. I’ll miss all the barbecuing.
AP: Doing Twitter gigs. I’ve got in the habit of doing these spontaneous gigs. When I find a cool venue I’ll reach out and see if I can squat in the venue for a gig. Like in the Meadows, or up a hill, or a tent in George Square, late at night. The Fringe is really great for that, people are really open about giving up their spaces for performances.
Favourite places to hang out?
KB: We go to Hendersons a lot.
MC: I was going to say Hendersons, they do such good salads.
KB: We’re kind of addicted. In the past six or seven years the place has exploded with good places to eat. It wasn’t always like that.
KS: It’s way better now. Now almost any restaurant you go to, you can be confident you’re gonna get a great meal.
AP: Me and Neil [her husband Neil Gaiman] are going to Banns for dinner tonight. I also love the Forest. I’ve been holed up in there a lot too. You know you’re going to run into random, really cool people in there.
KB: Is that the hippie place, on the way to Gilded Balloon?
KB: Oh, that place is really cool. I saw a noise gig in there in 2004.
Any memorable nights out in Edinburgh?
MC: I remember when I first met these guys [Kurt and Kristen]. There was a part in their show where they pull someone out the crowd and make them go on a date with Kristen. Shenoah [Allen, Mark’s comedy partner in The Pajama Men] and I had got there late so we were in the front row, which I hate. Biggest fear ever, I get pulled on stage. I was so scared. We’d never met. Kurt was the waiter, Kristen was the date, in a restaurant. You had to draw a picture of yourself, and I drew a picture of myself on the date with a thought bubble saying ‘I heart Mark’. The audience seemed to like that.
KB: I once made someone a minister in the Water of Leith [Kurt is a minister of two churches; the University of Life Church, and the Church of Spiritual Humanism]. It was my last night in Edinburgh so we had no more shows, and we stayed out all night. It was 8am, and we were very drunk. We all just got naked and got in the water. I made this dude a minister. We made it very ritualistic, there was a whole photo shoot and everything. The sun was out, we were all wearing sunglasses. It was kind of perfect.
AP: I’ve had all sorts of weird situations on nights out in Edinburgh. Four years ago, I managed to get myself adopted by this family. And I came back and stayed with them two years ago. There was this dad and his son at a show. The son was a Dresden Dolls fan and brought his dad along. I did my show, then paraded a bunch of people to this after party at the Bongo Club. I was beatboxing and very drunk. Somehow I broke my front tooth on the mic, onstage.
KB: Which tooth?
AP: This one [points to front tooth]. And I drunkenly ask, ‘Is there a dentist in the house’. And this guy’s dad is a dentist. He slotted me in the next day. He fixed my fucking tooth for free and invited me over for dinner. How cool is that?
On Scottish stereotypes:
KB: We don’t really have that thing about Scots being mean with their money in America. Actually the main Scottish character we have in America is a cartoon duck with lots of money.
MC: Scrooge McDuck? But he’s also really tight! I think that’s where the whole ‘Scrooge’ term came from?
MC: I guess there’s the cliché about it being a violent culture. It doesn’t help with all those giant swords in the tartan shops playing the techno bagpipe music. I’d love to go in and be like, ‘Can I … buy a sword?’
KB: I’ve never seen Braveheart.
KS: Which one is that?
KB: Mel Gibson plays this guy Braveheart, with a giant sword.
KS: Hmm. If Al Pacino can play a Cuban, Mel Gibson can play a Scot.
KB: I recently asked a friend, ‘Did Braveheart really yell “Braveheart!” all the time when he did things?’ Like going into battle? Totally honest question. I guess not.
MC: I yell out ‘Mark!’ when I do things. Like when I get out of bed. ‘Mark!’
MC: Scotland also gave us that dog - Greyfriars Bobby. A little dog that was so loyal to his master? That’s so sad. I just read an article about that whole thing. Dogs really can mourn. They are loyal. They bond. When you pet them, it sends out a bonding hormone.
KS: I like the Loch Ness Monster.
KB: I love scotch.
KS: My boyfriend is half-Scottish, he’s coming in a week. He loves scotch. He collects it. He’s got tons of bottles, and some bottles from the year he was born. He’s got [voice drifts off] quite the drinking problem …
Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen, Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 27 Aug, 7.35pm, £16 (£15); The Pajama Men: In the Middle of No One, Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 29 Aug, 9pm, £13—£14 (£12—£13); Evelyn, Evelyn (with Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley), Assembly George Square, 17-21 Aug, 9.10pm, £13 (£12); Amanda Fucking Palmer, HMV Picture House, 25 Aug & The Arches, Glasgow, 26 Aug. Follow @amandapalmer, @pajamamen, @kristenschaaled and @kurtbraunohler for details of additional performances.