Occasionally the Edinburgh Fringe throws up an unexpected surprise, a young upstart performer that takes the Fringe by storm moving onto great things or a show you think you won't like that you end up loving. It's not often that the unexpected surprise takes the form of a (then) 85 year old entertainment legend.
In 2009 DARKCHATTERs David & Katerina went to see "Nicholas Parsons Happy Hour" and duly provided it with nominations for Best Entertaiment and Special Awards for "Jo Caulfield" and "Daniel Sloss". Sadly, they lost but the host deservedly became the first recipient of our Lifetime Achievement award.
Despite a busy schedule the legend that is Nicholas Parsons gave us this interview:
When did you 1st come to Edinburgh?
I first came to Edinburgh as a visitor in 1946, when it was first launched. I was a young aspiring actor then and was fascinated by all that was on offer.
Why did you come?
I came to see this new wonderful theatrical event.
What did you expect?
It lived up to my expectations. Top class entertainment in a fabulous setting.
How did reality differ from expectations?
I did not have any preconceived expectations so it was all exciting and new. The first time I worked in Edinburgh was on The Fringe at the Queen's Theatre doing my one man comedy show (An Evening with Nicholas Parsons). This was in 1990.
I was booked to appear on The Festival Proper at the Museum Theatre in 1998 to present my cultural show devoted to the life and work of the great nonsense poet, Edward Lear, titled How Pleasant to Know Mr Lear. It was a huge success and I have worked the show at many festivals since. I later did a stage version of Just A Minute at the Citadal venue at Carlton Hill. The BBC have recorded two editions of Just A Minute for the radio series at The Pleasance for the last 20 years.
I first presented The Nicholas Parsons Happy Hour at The Pleasance 11 years ago and am returning for the 12th successive season this August, appearing at The Cabaret Bar in The Pleasance Courtyard.
What is the best thing about the festival?
The best thing is the excitement you experience wherever you go. Everyone seems more relaxed and at ease, surrounded by a host of entertainment. An incredible choice of varied shows of every kind, particularly on The Fringe, which has grown from modest beginnings to the incredible organisation that exists today.
What is the worst thing about the festival ?
The worst thing is the weather. It invariably seems to rain at some time during the Festival. It can be cold but it never seems to dampen the spirits of the visitors.
What has changed over the years, for the better and worst?
Over the years the biggest change has been the vast number of shows that are now presented on The Fringe from the inumerable different venues. This is all for the best. I cannot think of anything that has changed for the worst.
Roughly how many shows do you see each festival?
I see between 35 and 40 shows during my stay there and I always watch any performer who is going to guest on my show.
What were your favourite/worst Edinburgh shows to watch?
My favourite show in the past was Jerry Springer The Opera. There is nothing truly bad. You just admire the dedicated performers, displaying their talent and hoping it will lead to something bigger and better.
Who is your favourite overall performer ?
I have many favourite performers but over the years I have particularly enjoyed Jason Byrne, Ross Noble, Adam Hills and many others all of whom have guested on my show.
Which is your favourite venue?
My favourite venue is The Pleasance Courtyard. All the venues there are different but I particularly like The Cabaret Bar where I work.
Where is your favourite place to eat and drink?
My favourite place to eat is Iggs Restaurant and Tapas Bar, 15 Jeffrey Street but I do not have a favourite place to drink as I am not a serious drinker.
What are you most looking forward to in Edinburgh this year?
I am most looking forward to in Edinburgh this year is packed houses for my show again.
Who has been your favourite guest over the years?
I have had many favourite guests over the years. Too many to single one out as my show relies on the spontanaety of the moment. One guest who has been on the show many times and never fails to be brilliant is Jason Byrne.
Who decides on your guests and do you see their shows beforehand?
I decide on my guests but I plan each show with my helpful assistant, Maria Hanna. I see the shows of all my guests beforehand so we can have a spontaneous conversation. It is the only professional way to work".
Nicholas Parsons' Happy Hour is at The Cabret Bar, Pleasance Courtyard from 9-26 August at 17:10
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