Fringe Benefits?

Tonight at the fringe I saw one of the comedians whose material I’ve enjoyed for years, do one of the best and most well constructed stand-up shows I’ve seen at this fringe. Afterwards he told me that he’d had the lowest audiences numbers this year than ever before. He’s not on telly. He probably won’t get an award, or get to tour the show. In the first week I walked out of a stand-up show for the first time in my life. All the jokes were half written and unfinished, lazily strung together as though it had been barely thought through. The performer was amiable and interesting enough but as a stand-up I couldn’t bring myself to sit through it. By week three they’ve had several 5 star reviews and their career continues upwards.

Now I won’t name either act and I don’t wish to be malicious about the latter one. I am fully aware, through my own trial and error and flailing career, that comedy is subjective. I’m also aware that the second comedian may well have changed their show in the week and a half since I’ve seen it. So totally fair play to them. I just think it’ll never stop being odd how the Edinburgh Fringe works. Is it worth it? Unless you are one of a few who soars through the month with packed crowds, all the reviews and buzz and wins awards, it’s hard to say. Even then it can be hard to say as people who’ve had such a month return to normality in September to a much smaller amount of rapturous applause, as the bubble of August pops. None of this is necessarily a good or a bad thing when you’re doing the job you enjoy. It just, as it does every year, makes me question why on earth we do it.

This year I’ve been doing my 5th solo show, and my 9th Edinburgh Fringe since 2005. I can’t quite tell you why. In my head I wanted to do this year to make a show really good. Hone it day by day and so by the end of the run I’d have an hour I could take to many places and perform, knowing it would work. I’d like to think I’ve managed that, but as I near the end, I realise I don’t really have anywhere to perform it for after the fringe, which negates the point of doing this fringe in the first place. I’ve had a couple of nice reviews, and some of the best audiences and audience comments I could’ve hoped for. People I like and know have come along and said lovely things. But, as many performers are probably thinking before the comedy new year begins on Sept 1st, what next? Industry haven’t been, venue bookers haven’t been and while I will accept responsibility for this (I didn’t pay for a PR this year on account of not being rich), I still find myself grumbling that it hasn’t happened. This is the Edinburgh mindset working it’s charm on my exhausted brain.

I’ve not been out drinking much this festival, partly on account of being old and grumpy and refusing to take part in the noise and mindless banter of late night bars. Partly because I am old and tired and can’t really handle taking part in the noise and mindless banter anymore either. There might be a downside to this in that I’ve not remotely been networking, which is supposedly an important part of it all. On the plus side this means most of the nice conversations I’ve had, have been sober ones. One such conversation with one of my closest comedy chums had him remind me of something he’d said to me a while back. If due to some magical, impossible miracle I could be on any comedy TV show currently on UK television, what would I be on? I couldn’t answer him. As contrived as that sounds, there’s honestly nothing that I feel I’d want to do, or wouldn’t ruin in some way. It made me realise that after this fringe I think I need to go back to making my own stuff again. I’ll get this new show filmed hopefully, I’ll sort out my own tour and keep plodding along until in a few years I forget everything and decide to do the Edinburgh Fringe again. Once again the mental minefield will begin again. And actually, that sounds pretty ok to me.

Only 5 sleeps till I’m allowed to go home….


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