WELCOME to the world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where new and seasoned talents light up the stage, and laughter becomes the ultimate bonding agent.

More than just entertainment, the Fringe is my haven – a month-long escape where I dive into life’s chaos, find my people, and uncover inspiration in the most unexpected corners.

Sure, the political scene might be a bit of a downer, but during four weeks in August, comedians work their magic, turning Brexit, independence debates, and our politicians who seem to have stepped out of a satirical play into side-splitting jokes. 

The whole UK political saga of the past seven years reads like a crazy comedy script, straight out of  The Thick of It. Comedians manage to weave humour out of our country’s chaos, transforming difficulties such as the cost of living crisis, the struggling NHS  and the housing hell into a shared belly laugh. 

It is not that we are finding these issues funny and jokes are not giving us any solution. But humour becomes a survival kit in the face of adversity. And in those moments of laughter, the weight of the world seems to lighten up.

The National: Edinburgh Festival Fringe

In the heart of the buzzing crowd, I’m not just another face – I am part of a lively gang seeking solace, unity, and a good dose of chuckles amidst the madness. Comedians dive into tales of everyday insanity that we all recognise, and suddenly, our differences seem to fade away, leaving us all united in laughter.

As I settle into my seat, I am reminded that it isn’t just laughter that brings us together; it is our shared experiences. Each punchline weaves into a colourful quilt of frustration, acceptance, and the pure ridiculousness of life. 

One thing is for sure – the vibe in 2023 is worlds apart from my first Fringe experience back in 2014. This time round, one prevailing theme just won’t let go – decline. The sense that Britain is on a downward spiral, that the UK is in a rough spot of its own making. 

The fact this theme pops up in every comedy show I have caught so far, and that the laughter it evokes from the audience has a tinge of desperation to it – you know, the kind of laughter that screams “politics has broken my soul to pieces and no-one can ever mend it” – it makes me realise that this feeling has seeped into our collective consciousness. 

It is a risky place for a society to find itself, especially months before elections, when people start doubting that a brighter future is even possible, when alternatives seem scarce and when they feel  there is no clear, practical solution on the table.

READ MORE: The statues that stand out as part of Scotland's built heritage

That is when we turn to laughter as our medicine. In a world where negativity feels like a never-ending downpour, humour acts as our faithful umbrella, shielding us from the grimness. Honestly, we are practically begging for it.

One aspect of the UK that I truly appreciate is the ability to find humour in just about anything,  even the most disheartening twists and turns of politics, and especially when it comes to poking fun at politicians themselves. 

I believe this inclination is especially valuable during times of crisis, as it contributes to maintaining social harmony. In my view, the decline of political satire in France in recent years and the simultaneous surge in political anger and frustration, unlike anything  I’ve witnessed before, are not  totally coincidental.

The loss we experienced with the disappearance of Les Guignols de l’info, a satirical puppet programme akin to Spitting Image, had a profound impact. I vividly recall spending my entire childhood watching this show every evening and eagerly tuning in for the weekly round-up on Sundays. It was uproarious, it took irreverence to new heights and it was unapologetically humorous in its portrayal of politicians.

The Le Pen family depicted as prejudiced referees; former prime minister Lionel Jospin as a disillusioned, exasperated politician fed up with idiotic voters; former president Jacques Chirac always appearing in superhero attire and being dubbed Super Liar – these images remain etched in my memory.

AND how could I forget Monsieur Sylvestre, a puppet resembling an evil, money-hungry Sylvester Stallone, representing American capitalism and cackling as he watched images of children  starving in Africa? A significant portion of my early political education was shaped by satire  and I miss this programme giving  us an opportunity to mock those  in power.

The most recent casualty of the retreat from satire in France was a daily show hosted by Belgian journalist and comedian Charline Vanhoenacker on the public radio station France Inter.  

Each day, she and her team of comedians cast a satirical spotlight on French politics through sketches and songs, occasionally even confronting the politicians they were parodying in the studio.  Naturally, her show and its brand of humour ignited controversy, and shortly before the summer hiatus, the radio station’s leadership announced its decision to discontinue it.

In a world that sometimes feels like it is teetering on the edge, where the UK’s state of affairs and global uncertainties loom large, the role of satire becomes more crucial than ever. It is not just about a good laugh, it is about our way of navigating the stormy waters of modern times.

Satire has this uncanny ability to take the most absurd aspects of reality and hold them up to the light, exposing their flaws and contradictions. It is like a mirror reflecting back the sheer madness that often characterises our political and societal landscapes.  

And let’s face it – in a year like 2023, where the world’s problems seem to have amplified, we are in dire need of that reflection.

That is the beauty of satire – it has the power to unite. It forms a shared language, a common ground where we can all laugh at the absurdity and lament the challenges. 

When we gather at the Fringe or any other platform where satire thrives, we aren’t just individuals, we are a community, finding solace and strength in our collective response to the chaos. At least  we are in this together.

But satire doesn’t stop at just pointing out the flaws. It goes beyond the surface to prompt reflection and change. 

As we laugh at the portrayals of inept politicians and baffling decisions, we are also spurred to think deeper about the systems that allow such situations to arise. Satire ignites conversations, prompting us to question, challenge, and ultimately demand better.

In a time when hope can seem scarce, satire offers a glimmer of optimism. It reminds us that we  have the power to laugh in the  face of adversity, to find common ground amidst division, and to  spark change even in the most challenging circumstances.  Satire isn’t just a coping mechanism – it’s a call to action, an invitation to see the flaws and strive for improvement.