Earlier this year I kicked off a second serial dating Challenge on 30 Dates – 30 Dates Around the World.
First I headed to Dublin, where I managed not just one but two completely blind dates – one was pretty bad, one was a lot of fun. Then I headed to Amsterdam with The Coincidental, for a Double Dutch Date.
Date Three was meant to be in Prague – where I went in May with my sister … Except it turns out a ‘blind date challenge for a blog’ doesn’t translate too well into Czech! Despite having several friends with links in Prague, no one could convince a single local to go on a date with a British journalist who was looking for a one-off date to then write about!
I’m not sure whether I should admit this, but in the absence of a suitable blind date I actually considered hiring a male escort! This second round of 30 Dates have all been a bit different, so I thought a date with a prostitute would certainly add a whole new comedy angle to the challenge … and then I Googled ‘male escort Czech republic’… Firstly I have never seen so many erect penises on the internet in my life! God only knows the state of my internet history now … And the only male escorts I could find weren’t overly bothered whether I was male or female, and cost a minimum of 300 euros an hour! At which point I decided not to bother with a date in Prague.
And so Date Three was a couple of months later than planned, and took me to Edinburgh … a far safer (and cheaper!) place to negotiate a blind date.
I’ve never been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before, and so when I left my 9-5 job last month, and realized I could freelance from anywhere in the country, I arranged to visit an old uni friend for a long weekend. The original plan was to ask him to set me up on a blind date while I was up here, and then I had another idea.
I happened to see a random retweet about a guy called Max Dickins, who was being auctioned on Groupon. I’ll rephrase that … a date with Max Dickins was being auctioned on Groupon. (The first time I typed that, it said Grope-on … now that would be a completely different kind of date!)
It was the first time I’d ever seen anyone else offering to go on a date with a complete stranger over social media. (As most of you know, this blog began by me offering myself up over Facebook to 30 blind dates with strangers).
Inspired, I clicked on Groupon, but the bidding period had ended. In the process, I read a bit more about Max. For the past year, he’d been doing a different Groupon deal each week. He’d had fake tans, become a Lord, had a colonic, changed his surname by Deed Poll … You get the idea. Every ad we avoid on the site, he ends up buying.
Surely, if any stranger would understand my crazy 30 Dates challenge, it was this guy? And so I tweeted him, and asked if he fancied going on a date during the Festival. ‘Ummm yes!” came the relatively quick response.
So much easier than Prague!
We scheduled in a date for Saturday night, my second evening in Edinburgh, and then as the weekend approached, I realized I was in a unique situation. I was going on a blind date with a complete stranger, but one who was doing a run of daily comedy shows at the Festival. I could actually go along and watch my blind date before our date, without him even knowing I was there! And so on the Saturday afternoon, together with three friends, I headed off to watch Max Dickins’ Groupon Adventure. We arrived slightly late and were ushered into the back row of his show, and for an hour, we giggled away as he told us about his crazy challenge.
‘He’s really funny!’ My male friends nodded appreciatively, ‘You’re gonna have a good evening!’
‘He’s really fit!’ my female friend grinned, ‘You’re gonna have a good evening!’
And yes, suddenly I was rather looking forward to my date that evening with The Groupon Guy.
He began to explain the catalyst for his show. His girlfriend had dumped him for not being spontaneous enough, and by chance he’d stumbled across the offer website Groupon, and the hundreds of spontaneous adventures it has to offer. In a bid to prove his ex wrong, he began signing up to different experiences – starting with acupuncture, and gradually developing into alpaca trekking, colonic irrigation and owning hundreds of items covered in his own face. (His own kind of Henley Boy catalyst).
Whilst his efforts didn’t help him win back his girlfriend, when Groupon finally heard what he was doing, the site offered him a unique opportunity. To turn himself into a Groupon deal – which he did, in the form of the blind date raffle.
One bidder was chosen at random from thousands, and sent on a date with The Groupon Guy. And as he rounded off the show, and explained how well the first date had gone with the winner, and that he planned to see her again after the Festival, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed. I hadn’t realized he’d gone on the date already – and it had gone well. But then after all, ours was just a challenge date. He was one challenger, helping out another challenger. Who was I to complain if he just happened to also be rather attractive and funny to boot … Oh the awful things I have to do for this blog! 😉
I left the Pleasance Cellar with a grin on my face – it had been a really good show, and I knew I’d have an entertaining evening. As I was walking out I was handed a small badge with The Groupon Guy’s face on – one of his multiple Groupon purchases!
This was going to be the first (and I would assume only) date of my life that I would go on, with a badge with my date’s face on in my pocket!
My friends tried to convince me to turn up on the date wearing all of their badges, like some comedy stalker … but I was in two minds whether to tell The Groupon Guy I’d seen his show or not. Was it better to suggest I knew nothing about the show? To let him start from a clean slate? To see if he used jokes from the show in real life?
As it turned out, one of the first questions he asked me, after I’d met him outside the Brass Monkey pub, was what shows I’d seen that day. I’ve always found it impossible to keep a secret, and in the back of my mind I also knew how odd I’d found it back in March when the Online Sleuth had announced mid-date that he’d already read loads of my blog and knew all about me. And so I answered the question honestly, telling him that we’d seen his show that afternoon, and that we’d all really enjoyed it.
As I’d expected, The Groupon Guy was easy enough to chat to. We discussed our respective challenges, and it was really interesting, after my first month working freelance, to chat to someone who had been working for himself since he’d left university. The life of a comic sounds just as fun and random as the life of a dating blogger, and it was easy enough to find common ground.
As I don’t know Edinburgh too well, The Groupon Guy took me on a bit of an impromptu tour of the city, stopping in various pubs along the way. We found seats outside a pub on the Grassmarket, and chatted and people-watched, before heading back to The Pleasance – the same venue where he’d performed his show earlier that day. The Groupon Guy had got tickets for a late show. We arrived with ten minutes to go, and went to get another round of drinks. As I laughed about how my friends and I had spent the day running late for shows (including The Groupon Guy’s own show), we looked at the tickets, and realized we were at completely the wrong venue! We had just five minutes to get across Edinburgh to the Udderbelly tent.
One taxi, and a sprint finish (which almost saw me lose my tights) later, and we sat panting in the upper rows of the Udderbelly amphitheatre, about to watch the popular Horne Section. Alex Horne, and his five-piece band mix stand-up, cabaret and live music each night, helped by special guests.
It’s a rather odd experience to go and watch a comedy show with a professional comedian, because suddenly you don’t feel qualified to have an opinion on whether something’s funny or not! I’d realized earlier in the day that when I find something funny, I’ll look across at my friends’ faces to see if we’re sharing the joke, or every now and again one of us will lean in to make a comment about how good or bad something is. But sitting watching comedy with someone who does it for a living (and who probably knew everyone performing on stage) was a really different experience! I almost felt too scared to pass judgment in case I said the wrong thing – even though comedy is obviously completely subjective. I also didn’t want to be too overly critical in case I was insulting one of his friends! And so I sat rather rigid, occasionally peeking over to see if he was laughing at the same parts I was.
Luckily the show was a good one. We danced a ceilidh from our seats, watched the band perform a song with Henry Hoovers on their heads, and laughed along as the Umbilical Brothers put their very own unique spin on Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.
After the show we headed out into the Udderbelly beer garden for drinks. It was already midnight, and yet it only felt like we’d met an hour or two beforehand. It was at this point that I got a brief snapshot of the life of a stand-up comedian at Edinburgh. The Groupon Guy seemed to know everyone – and it was lovely. The Fringe is genuinely a real community – actors and comics who’ve attended every year since they were at University. We met other comedians, agents, people who distribute flyers. Everyone has an Edinburgh legacy.
A few rounds later, and we finished the evening in a bar with some of the Groupon Guy’s friends from University, talking about sketches they performed seven years ago, and how The Groupon Guy’s gran had seen one of his friends naked.
I had a really fun date – and for someone who has never been to Fringe, to see it briefly through the eyes of a stand-up comedian was really interesting, and such a unique night out. I definitely saw a different side to the Festival than I would have by simply attending as a punter. I got home at 4.30am … without doubt the latest I’ve ever got back in from a date (though part of that was because it took 45 minutes to get a taxi from Edinburgh town centre!)
I cannot stress what a great place the Festival is. If you’ve never been before – GO. It’s addictive! The shows become like tapas! You come out of one, and want to go straight to try another. In the last two days I’ve been to eleven shows, and I literally have no voice left. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud so many times in a day, and for so many different reasons. I’ll do another post with show ideas, in case anyone reading is heading up later in the month, but what I will say now is that this weekend has been one of the most fun of my summer so far, and I still haven’t spent as much money as I would have on that one hour with the Czech gigolo …
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
His Edinburgh Festival show Max Dickins: My Groupon Adventure is on at the Pleasance Courtyard every day at 3.30, up to August 24th.