I remember I once drove the brilliant Sofie Hagen to a gig in Cardiff about seven years ago. I was doing the middle 15 spot and she was headlining and that's what you do when you're starting out; you drive the headliner to the gig in exchange for stage time and a tiny amount of money that barely covers petrol.
Sofie was the perfect road trip companion; great chat and a great listener, kind and considerate and also offered to contribute some petrol money too, which not a lot of acts did. Anyway, after a few miles on the M4 she said she'd asked around about me before getting in the car with me (something all female acts sadly have to do every time they get in a car to a gig), and she said she'd been told by lots of other comedians that I was "the nicest guy in comedy". This was lovely to hear although I remember thinking "did no-one say funniest?".
Anyway, it was about the same sort of time that someone else said my stand-up style was "gentle comedy". I'm not 100% convinced they meant it as a compliment, but I decided to take it - and what Sofie said - as one. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment. Because that was, and still is, me. Gentle, friendly, silly. Some might say a push-over, including my nearly three-year-old daughter who directed me around the living room this afternoon like Martin Scorcese in her one-man off-beat production of a 38 year-old pretending the sofa was a car that won't be at Edinburgh this year (or ever).
I've always tried to get through life by being nice, by being gentle, by being silly and clearly it comes through in my comedy. And I'm ok with that, because comedy needs to be truthful to who you are. But also because we need gentle, friendly comedy. Arguably more than ever. There will always be a place for raucous, loud, ranty, political, shocking, racy comedy. Sometimes you need to hear a comedian seemingly on the edge pouring their heart out on stage and taking down everyone in their way. There are going to be so many great shows like that at this year's Fringe and they will be brilliant.
But there will be plenty of people going to the Fringe this year who may prefer a show that's gentler, softer, quieter (well, not too quiet, as there will still be laughter). Some people coming to the Fringe may not realise that not all comedy shows have swearing, in fact some acts (like me) try not to have any in their sets
Not all comedy shows have audience members sitting in the front row being picked on. Not all comedy shows have risky subject matters or mother-in-law jokes. (Mine, for example, has a punk song about Bing Bunny from CBeebies and a montage of babies looking hungover while sleeping.)
There are some comedians (like Sofie Hagen) who have made it their mission to set up gigs that are welcome to all and provide gentler, kinder environments. Comedy should be a safe space, not just for the acts but for the audiences too.
Then, when you add in the state of the world at the moment, there's another reason we need gentle comedy this year. It's been a full-on couple of years and there will, of course, be tonnes of hard-hitting shows this year tackling some very serious subjects by some very skilled comedians using comedy to break through some dark parts of life. I can already think of a few who will be putting on shows like this that will probably change your life and leave you with that gut-punch feeling where you need to walk around Edinburgh for a couple of hours afterwards to try and process what you've just seen and learned. Those shows are pivotal to the Fringe and you should 100 percent go and see them.
But as much as we go to live performances to learn and remember, we also go to escape. For every one of those shows that leaves you staring into space, thinking about the state of the world, there are shows like mine that offer an hour's light relief from all the seriousness of the world and the Fringe. Gentle comedy shows are the glass of water on a night out after you've necked a pint.
My daughter is the star of my Edinburgh show. (Well, her and former Republic of Ireland striker Tony Cascarino. You'll have to come along for that one to be explained.) And she's a bit like the Fringe. She is manic, and does everything at 100 miles an hour, she is creative and full of ideas and above all she is very, very funny. But she is also kind, thoughtful, gentle and silly. Plus she loves to boss me about.
The Fringe is all these things and that's what makes it the most beautiful month in the creative calendar. I hope you'll add some gentle comedy shows to your list this year and have a wonderful Fringe. Now I must get back to be ordered about by the tiny Martin Scorcese that lives in my house.