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Quick Quiz: Clive Anderson

By | Published on Friday 28 July 2017

This August the Edinburgh Festival celebrates its 70th anniversary. To mark the occasion, we have asked a plethora of performers about their personal Fringe experiences.
To kick us off, the cast of the iconic improv show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ get all nostalgic as they return to the Edinburgh stage once again. Today, Clive Anderson.

TW: What was you first ever experience of the Edinburgh Fringe?
CA: I first went to Edinburgh in 1974, which I now realise is closer in time to the Festival and Fringe starting in 1947 than it is to today.

Anyway, I was in a university revue. In previous years, to make ends meet, actors from Cambridge had performed in serious dramas – Shakespeare or ‘Aristophanes’ in the original Greek, that sort of thing – as well as being in the Footlights. But in 1973 they had lost a lot of money and the whole thing was cancelled for the following year. But then, at the last minute, we signed up to do just the Footlights show, which was a lot easier to do and to sell on its own.

We’d been performing that year’s revue since June anyway. We’d had something of a roller-coaster ride – even performing in London’s West End and on TV – both more or less disastrously – but in Edinburgh we had a great time. I think we got plenty of laughs. My memories, though, are mainly of merry-making off stage.

TW: What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen performed at the Fringe?
CA: About ten years ago I saw a Canadian actor called Raoul Bhaneja perform a one-man ‘Hamlet’. The words Shakespeare, Canadian and one-man might not attract everybody. But if it wasn’t the best thing I have ever seen on the Fringe, it was certainly the best way to see ‘Hamlet’.

TW: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen performed at the Fringe – so bad it was good?
CA: I have seen a few ropey things, but I get too embarrassed for the performers to find things so bad they are good. Especially if you are in a sparsely filled room where everybody can hear you scream.

TW: Which of the Fringe shows you performed in do you most fondly remember – and why?
CA: A few years ago I hosted an AIDS benefit late night at the Playhouse. It was quite a raucous, funny show ending about two or three in the morning.

The organisers said they wanted us to do a bit right at the end of the show where we read out some of the names that had been stitched on to a memorial quilt, commemorating people who had died of AIDS. The quilt was already a huge world-wide project and I couldn’t see how this would work. How meaningful could it be to read out just a dozen or so names from the many thousands on the quilt? This would not impress anyone.

How wrong I was. By the end of a benefit show the good cause can be all but forgotten in the excitement, but this brought the focus back to the point of the whole night. Laughter did turn to tears. It was an extraordinarily emotional experience, all the more so because I had been so doubtful as to how it was to work.

TW: Name a Fringe performer – past or present – who you’d love to see participating in ‘Whose Line?’
CA: I think Robin Williams did take part in the American version of ‘Whose Line?’ on TV a few years ago. But it would have been great to have him performing with us here on stage. Actually, it would have been great just to have him with us at all.

TW: Other than performing and seeing shows, what is your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh during August?
CA: A number of old friends of mine and their more or less grown up children are often in Edinburgh at the same time during the Festival, and we can usually manage to get together for a huge reunion lunch. Hard to beat.

‘Whose Line Is It Anyway? – Live At The Fringe’ was performed at the Assembly Rooms at Edinburgh Festival 2017.