"What do I want played at my funeral?" The comic asks a packed Pleasance couryard crowd. "Rugby?" heckles a voice from the back.

The 72nd Edinburgh Festival is only a week in and the key themes are already becoming clear - and it's not so much a barrel of laughs as a form of nervous, mass hysteria. Lightening the mood like a summer thunderstorm above the Royal Mile, this year jokes on every comedian's set feature death, anxiety and Brexit.

The Bledisloe Cup has also emerged as the latest source of ribaldry for Kiwi acts in what is now a truly international festival.

But if you're in a need of some light relief, there's plenty of choice a programme of 4200 events in 500 venues. Not bad for a city a third the size of Auckland.

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The Edinburgh festivals have been declared the UK's top tourist event. Photo / Getty Images
The Edinburgh festivals have been declared the UK's top tourist event. Photo / Getty Images

The world famous Edinburgh festival is well underway, and the normally dour and buttoned-down Scottish capital has doubled in population with an influx of tourists and hopeful performers.

Among them is a modest cluster of 30 Kiwi comedians. Buoyed on by the success of New Zealand's Rose Matafeo winning the 2018 comedy show award, the Aotearoa contingent is small but influential.

New Zealand makes a small but mighty contribution to the international acts. Photo / Getty Images
New Zealand makes a small but mighty contribution to the international acts. Photo / Getty Images

And it's not just comedians dreaming of being spotted. The Scottish summer festival, and largest in the world, was recently named the UK's top attraction by a round up of 500 Lonely Planet experiences.

Even curmudgeonly Edinburgers are coming round to the festival at last.

"On balance I think the festival is a good thing," says Craig Reid.
Edinburgh local, Craig, forms one half of band The Proclaimers with his brother Charlie.

"It's still a fairly small city, and the numbers that come at the height of the festival - almost – swamp the place."

Take a punt: Edinburgh Festival Fringe transforms the city into a moving spectacle. Photo / Getty images
Take a punt: Edinburgh Festival Fringe transforms the city into a moving spectacle. Photo / Getty images

As life-long Edinburgers, and performers the duo have conflicting feelings towards the festival.

"It's about as big now as it can get. And we've been saying that for 20 years.

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"But for as a performer it's great.

Traditionally the city empties of locals for the month of August. During "silly season" – as it's dubbed – and you can't move without bumping into a show promoter. But hosting the world's biggest arts festival is also a point of pride. Particularly for performers.

As Charlie said, recounting early gigs during the circuit, it's an atmosphere musicians, actors and comics just can't resist.

"You're not going to make any money that's for sure. And the chances of being spotted are slim.

"But that's what makes people think it's worth a punt, it's what keeps people coming."

Surviving the festival

Take the damn pamphlet

Walking the Royal Mile in August, you're likely to be plastered with show bills. Don't resist. This is a time honoured tradition of the festival. After being handed your hundredth laminated A5 poster, it's far less agro to just take the bill – resistance is futile.

Sermon on the mount: Arthur's Seat can be an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. Photo / Getty Images
Sermon on the mount: Arthur's Seat can be an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. Photo / Getty Images

Don't fit too much in

Unlike the pamphlets – which can be recycled – you have to be a bit more discerning on the performances you say yes to. Your time and patience is finite. Festival burn-out is real. You can often sport those tourists dozing in cafes, who have tried to fit in too many shows a day. Three performances a day is good going, four is heroic, five is approaching a nervous breakdown.

Live like a local
When in Edinburgh, do as the locals do and Edinburger off. Sometimes you need to schedule in an interval into your city break. Getting some time out of the city is a vital part of Fringe festival survival.
Cross the Queensferry bridge and head into Fife, or just outside the city the Pentland Hills are an easy drive. Failing that, a walk up Arthur's Seat or the dean walkway near the Waters of Leith can be a great oasis of calm. Rest, refresh before heading back into the fray.