listings Comedy

GUTTED Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 20 Mar

Within nano-seconds of the news of the Old Town fire reaching the lugs of the world's stand-up stars and starlets. a benefit gig had been organised at the Piccadilly Theatre in London. Eddie lzzard, Ross Noble, Jo Brand, Bill Bailey and more turned out to heap their praise on Karen Koren and show their support for a venue which was the heart and soul of Fringe comedy.

Now it's Edinburgh's chance to show its respect with this second benefit gig at the Festival Theatre. To highlight the occasion, we ask past patrons to tell us their lasting memories of the Cowgate comedy institution.


‘Winning SYTYF was great, but my favourite Gilded Balloon moment was when the double act I do (Jupp and George) played the Gilded Saloon on a Monday night. There was only one man in the audience, but we did it anyway. Half way through one of our jokes, he put his hand up and asked if he could go to the toilet. We just stood there and waited for him to come back. A few weeks ago I saw that same man at Haymarket station. I introduced myself but he didn’t remember me.‘


‘The memories I have of the Gilded Balloon are drink and drugs and all that sort of debauchery . . . or at least wishing they were. No, | just like Karen, actually. She‘s great. Karen Koren shows a real love of comedy and a real love of Edinburgh. I remember her in the early days when she was just trying to get a venue up and running - right in the early days, when the Gilded Balloon was a cack hole, you know, just awful. What she's done is really remarkable. Also it's a mark of respect to her - not just the venue and the way it’s run - that comics are prepared to help her out. Even though we all think she‘s a bit mad.‘


‘I did the Gilded Balloon four years running. I just have a memory of sweating profusely the whole time. I‘m sure that if I hadn't gone to Edinburgh to perform at the Gilded Balloon I’d probably be about 13 stone, _ and the reason that I'm still as thin as I am is because of all that time sweating. I‘m not surprised it went up in flames because it was so fucking hot in those rooms. I do have one memory of almost passing out in 97. I remember hardly being able to open my eyes because the sweat was stinging. That’s one very vivid memory. The heat. Can I emphasise that? The heat.‘


‘The first laugh in the first heat of So you Think you’re Funny 1989; drinking all night trying to book flying lessons in the morning; discovering comedy was truly amazing upon seeing Corky and the Juice Pigs;

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Fire down below: the scene from Adam House, two days after the Old Town fire

drumming at Late'n’Live with Arthur Smith singing; donning soiled boxers for money as the beautiful Ross Noble loved the room; 2am Vegas reciting ‘American Pie’; and most of all KK downing a bottle of pink champagne surrounded by the truly unique environment that was the Gilded Balloon.‘


‘The Gilded Balloon used to be at the Counting House and it looked out over people being sick in the beer garden of the Pear Tree. It was one of my first gigs. Some poor bloke was leaning on the bar and having a bit of a chat, which is obviously not very polite when there’s a comic on stage. Karen was not amused by this and smacked him round the back of the head while uttering her immortal catchphrase: “Sshhuutt-uupp!" And he did.‘


‘When I first met Karen Koren she was shouting at a peace benefit at the Assembly Rooms. During the sound check she informed me I would be playing at the Gilded Balloon next festival and I told her to piss off. Next festival I was playing at the Gilded Balloon.’


‘The Gilded Balloon was truly my introduction to comedy. As a punter, as a member of staff and as a performer. My friend Sinead ran the press office and booked me for my first ever comedy gig without telling me (28 February, 1998). I walked on, got the buzz and became a professional homosexual.‘

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