Arthur Smith's 45 year Edinburgh career that has ranged from appearing in a student revue to getting arrested on the Royal Mile - earning him the title 'Fringe legend.'

There were just four years when the veteran comic didn't make the annual trip north - and two of them were during Covid.

The Balham broadcaster can lay claim to knowing more about the world's biggest arts festival than most; as he points out, they even named their pinnacle Arthur's Seat after him.

My First 75 Years in Comedy is a love letter to the annual bonanza of drama, comedy and performing in strange places. (There's a gag about going to have a bath and finding a Belgian mime artist in it.)

Coming to the Pleasance in March, the Grumpy old Man' shares his sometimes "ridiculous" contributions, which have stretched to staging Hamlet, singing Leonard Cohen, and co-writing a hit play.Ham & High: Broadcaster and comedian Arthur SmithBroadcaster and comedian Arthur Smith (Image: Newsquest Archive)

"The fringe has been going for 75 years and has always been a playground of my imagination," he says. "My first year was 1977, a group of us from University took a revue show - there was no stand up then and it felt quite studenty. Early on it was a great chance to meet other aspiring comics. Alternative comedy started at the same time as Mrs Thatcher came to power - we were the woke generation reacting against all that."

The opening of London's Comedy Store in '79 was "a real inspiration".

"I saw Alexei Sayle, Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson - venues started springing up, along with a whole new breed of comedians."

Smith didn't immediately turn professional, he worked as a dustman, road sweeper and English teacher for a while. But after the inaugural Perrier comedy award was handed to Cambridge Footlights Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson in 1981, Edinburgh became a launchpad for comedy careers.Ham & High: A street circus performer at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Picture: PAA street circus performer at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Picture: PA (Image: PA)

"It changes endlessly, it's much bigger, there's so many performers looking for attention, and it's so expensive to find accommodation - all the locals leave town and rent their flats out for two million quid. But I don't think you'd find a comic who didn't start their career at the fringe."

It started in 1947 as a sideline to Edinburgh's international festival.

"It was born as a way of bringing people together and had a certain organic quality; most arts festivals you have to be invited, but one of the great things is anyone can have a go, you can perform in a phone box, and people do."Ham & High: The Edinburgh Fringe runs every August. Picture: PAThe Edinburgh Fringe runs every August. Picture: PA (Image: PA)

Asked if Edinburgh audiences are different, Smith says: "They are more attentive, they are there for the show so there's not so much heckling, but sometimes you do shows late - I used to MC one that started at midnight - and there's not many jobs where you go to work and everyone is drunk."

There were times early on when he "died on his arse," but says that's "part of growing up as a comedian." And amid the cameraderie, there is schadenfreude: "I am ashamed to report when someone you know has terrible reviews you get some sort of pleasure from it."

As for getting arrested: "I'd take alternative tours of the Royal Mile starting at 2am, making up stories about Mary Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce. Everyone was drunk and it could get out of hand, (comic) Malcolm Hardie used to call the police at the start to liven things up. Simon Munnery got arrested first, I went to show support, and got nicked for breaching the peace and possession of a megaphone. I got off with a £100 fine which I never paid, so technically I am still a wanted man in Edinburgh."

The incident is even funnier when you know that Smith's father, who he discusses in the show, was a south London "beat copper" in the 50s, as well as a POW in Colditz.

"Only the officers were allowed to escape, he had to make tea for the posh guys. My joke is he had to wipe the arses of old Etonians - as we must all continue to do.

"He never liked arresting anyone because he had been a prisoner himself but he became a gaoler looking after the people who were arrested. One day, when he was off duty, two drunks came running up to us shouting 'Sid'. Because of the kindness he had showed them, they thumped him on the back and asked 'is this your nipper?'"

While the age gap between Smith and his audiences has widened (he often asks: "Is there anyone here who has never had sex under a Labour government?") he's a believer that "laughter is the shortest distance between two people".

"Laughter is a way of coping with the absurdity of life. A roomful of people laughing together is one of the best things in life. I always get a high off it."

Arthur Smith My First 75 Years in Comedy is at The Pleasance from March 16-18.