My new comedy routine comes with a warning: come and see me while you can, because I might not be on the circuit for much longer!

I am really looking forward to getting back up there in front of live audiences during my run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, starting on 6 August, but as we try and adapt to coming out of lockdown and Covid restrictions, I will see how it goes before deciding what the future holds for me.

The show (at The Beehive in The Grassmarket) is called “Unprecedented” – because we’ve not heard a lot of that word this year, have we?

I am just relieved and delighted it is going ahead. For a long time, we didn’t know if the Fringe would be on or off, whether we able to have people in a venue, would they be able to sit or stand, would they have to wear masks, and so on – so a lot of the preparation has been very last minute.

I certainly have no shortage of ideas for material, because I have had enough time during the pandemic to think about them! These ideas usually start out as something, then evolve over the month, and take on a direction of their own. Even if there are limited numbers, I will come out of it with a decent show for when we are eventually able to play in front of bigger crowds.

I can imagine people who are looking to see a few comedy shows may do so with a slight feeling of dread, that the pandemic is all they are going hear about. With that in mind, I will not be talking specifically about the pandemic. We have lived through it already – do we really want to spend even more time talking about it at a comedy show? Instead, I am hoping my show will offer a bit of release for people.

I would advise people to come and see me this year because I might be retiring. It just depends on how things go and if people come and see me…. which means now that naebody will show up and force me into retirement!

Whatever happens, it will be a relief to see people again, and hopefully they feel the same way about coming to see me.

Last year I did a couple of Zoom gigs, but it is nowhere near the same experience – for the comics or for the audience. You need people in front of you - to get that instant feedback and reaction that you can see and sense. I did do a gig on Facebook too, and it was even worse than Zoom, you couldn’t see anybody – not even a couple of faces. It was very weird. You can’t see anyone or hear anyone. What comedians usually do if they are having a bad gig, is to speed up so they can get on to the next punchline. I was aware of this happening as I went along and it felt a little uncomfortable. I wouldn’t have wanted to be doing that kind of gig, week after week, so it’s a massive relief that we are finally going to be able to have face-to-face audiences again.

Zoom gigs are not the future. They were part of lockdown, and they were worth the experiment, but no thanks – not for me. I have also been asked to do a gig in a garden and I can just imagine a couple of dugs barking and heckling me in the corner!

I did a gig the other week in Elgin in a wee restaurant, which was great, just to see people again and see people with a smile on their faces. I was dead nervous before and when I was going over the material in my head during the day I was forgetting some of the punchlines, but once you’re up there it works out fine. I think the audience were just happy to be out!

I just enjoy making people laugh, and let’s face it: after the past 18 months we all need it.

What has kept me going personally during the pandemic has been having a good partner. I met someone right for me, Natalia, and she has been great for me, and my mental health.  I am lucky to have her  - she keeps me going. I am also trying to convert a big Fiat Ducato van into a campervan and hopeful we can take off and get away somewhere.

Hillwaking and the outdoors is a huge thing for me trying to keep my mental health good – even if the walks are getting that bit harder as I get that bit older. I just turned 58 you know! I have done 191 Munros, so I still have another 91 to do. I will get to 200 by the end of this year and see what the next target is, but I would like to do them all.

So I have been coping okay, but I think it’s fair to say there is going to be so much more help needed with their mental health in the months and years ahead, and ironically this will be accompanied by cutbacks.

I have been lucky to have a partner who is supportive but I recognise that there are a lot of people struggling and feeling isolated. There are people under a lot of financial pressure – that was the case before the pandemic, where every penny was important, so the pandemic has put them in an even tighter spot. Money worries can be the catalyst for a plunge in people’s mental health. Any anxiety people already had has been further compounded by the pandemic – they might have added worries about the virus itself and what the future holds. That's why charities like Support in Mind Scotland are so important. So please get in touch with them if you feel like you're struggling. They'll help you get the extra support you need.

*Gary Little, Unprecedented, runs at The Beehive, 18-20 Grassmarket, 6pm each night from 6-30 August (except 9-10 August). Visit https://tickets.edfringe.com/ for tickets and more details.


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