Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Before The Fringe

What’s the point in going to the Edinburgh Festival? A massive competition where every participant must pay thousands of pounds for the grand prize of the off chance that Kate Copstick call you a cunt in print. If you even dream of getting anything more than that from the Edinburgh Fringe you’re an incredible idiot. You spend all day trying to weave in and out of street entertainers (when will the PC Brigade let us go back to calling them tramps?) and 8 year olds excitedly handing out flyers only to bump into a comedian who will tell you they saw that bad review you got in Festered, the student website that thinks everything that isn’t Daniel Sloss is old, boring and confusing. Then you have to listen to that same idiot comedian who will go on and on and on about how they’re being ripped off despite selling out every gig, every night for the last four years and yet they still go back to the money-grabbing, soul-destroying evil of the Big Three venues. Is there still a Big Three in Edinburgh? Didn’t one of them die? But, hey, don’t let me put you off going. There’s over a million shows to see, some of them free, and it’s always worth checking out some unknown, unheard of show that no one else has discovered yet. What I’m saying is, please come to my show. I need the money.

Look, it’s fun being there as a punter. The cheapest B&B in Edinburgh is a £150 a night cupboard in Newcastle, then you can pay £10.50 to sit through an hour of over-rehearsed and under-written sketches by Gilsby & Prick, a double act who met while hitchhiking up to the festival, in a venue that is basically a crypt that will drip condensation on you constantly. Don’t get any in your eye though. That’s how 28 Days Later started. And why not travel to the Edinburgh Festival in style too? I’m already up in Scotland and can heartily recommend taking the Caledonian Sleeper train. It leaves Euston at 11.50pm and comes complete with a wet pallet and a grey, sticky pillow to lie wide awake on for the 8 hour journey ahead. If you’re lucky you’ll get a berth all to yourself. If you’re unlucky you’ll end up sharing it with a man who constantly sings no matter how many times you remind him that you can hear him. Guess which one I was. Either way, the train gets you into Edinburgh in time for you to burst into tears.

There’s a reason I’m saying all this and I regret not saying it sooner. You don’t really NEED to go to the Edinburgh Festival (you can just buy a ticket to my show, I’m not going to pressure you into actually turning up) because there are still preview shows going on this week. I only found out that I was doing the festival about five weeks ago so could only get about seven previews in, which is about a quarter of the amount most people seem to do, but these were the most fun gigs I’ve done in years. When you go to Edinburgh in August you will see the finished version of a comedian’s show and it will be slick, precise and professional. Well, not mine but pretty much everyone else’s. I mean, really. What is the point in watching something of quality? I want to see it rough around the edges, experimental and desperate. If I don’t see a comedian cry into a puddle of his own urine by the end then IT IS NOT A SHOW. I want to hear the umms and errs of a never-before-performed routine. I want the excitement of getting it right, the disappointment of getting it wrong and the silences, oh ladies and gentlemen, those loooooong silences until the embarrassed cough of the punchline. I genuinely love previews.

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen Rich Fulcher, Bennett Arron, Bridget Christie, Caroline Mabey and Thom Tuck trying out brand new stuff in front of audiences and it’s been just fantastic. I know their finished shows will be great but there’s just something about seeing it when even the performer themselves isn’t really quite sure what comes next that makes it utterly exciting. I’ve seen Robin Ince preview too but, as his finished show will still be him basically arguing with himself every night, that doesn’t count. And my own previews have been a joy, maybe not for the audience but definitely for me. Even the shit one at The Albany where I forgot every single thing in front of an audience of 7 friends and 2 other people was fun really. Previews should really be the finished show. We should all preview throughout June and July for the Edinburgh Festival and then not go because it doesn’t exist. Even the actual month of August was just a dream.

There are still previews going on so don’t make the mistake of not seeing them. Here’s some I really recommend you see:


Bridget Christie at The Fix in Camden
Richard Herring in Colchester
Sara Pascoe at the New Wimbledon Theatre
Lewis Schaffer at The Source Below in Soho, London
Carey Marx at East Meets Jest in Clapham
Edward Aczel at Comedy Bunker in Ruislip

Thursday 28th

Richard Herring in Cardiff
Tiffany Stevenson at The Top Secret Comedy Club in Covent Garden
Jigsaw featuring Dan Antopolski, Nat Luurtseema and Tom Craine at The Junction in Cambridge
Kerry Godliman & Paul Sinha at Tara Studio in Earlsfield
Lloyd Langford at Hampstead Comedy Club

Friday 29th

Caroline Mabey and Holly Walsh at The Black Sheep in Crystal Palace
Tiffany Stevenson at Abbey Fest in Wimbledon
Jigsaw featuring Dan Antopolski, Nat Luurtsema and Tom Craine at Colchester Arts Centre
Richard Herring in Cardiff
Stephen Carlin at Hampstead Comedy Club

Sunday 31st

Richard Herring in Newcastle
Bennett Arron in Balham

Oh, look. There’s just loads. I gave up looking but you shouldn’t. And they’re not all in London either so check what’s happening in an arts centre or sticky, smelly room above a pub near you. BUT DON’T MISS OUT ON SEEING THESE SHOWS NOW. Remember, in a week we’ll have lost all of these wonderful, unpredictable and funny previews to expertise. It’s a great shame.

Also, thanks very much to everyone who came to see the Curse Sir Walter Raleigh previews. I had so much fun. Special thanks to the people who came to and performed at The Phoenix shows throughout July, in particular Neal who came to all of them. I very grateful indeed. I hope to see you in Scotland.

Tickets for CURSE SIR WALTER RALEIGH at this year's Edinburgh Fringe are now on sale here:

Tickets for POINTLESS ANGER, RIGHTEOUS IRE 2: BACK IN THE HABIT at this year's Edinburgh Fringe are now on sale here:

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Holly said...

No, no, no, dear boy, unlucky on the Caledonian Sleeper is when you've been too poor for a berth ticket and just end up with a seat. Then it's basically like being on the normal London-Ed train except it takes longer, there's less room, and you go from being dead tired to terrified of falling asleep in case one of the other passengers who shares your level of crankiness and horror goes on that stabby rampage you've been fantasising about since Watford Junction.

Neal said...

I came to one of them by "mistake"! OK, it was T & C's leaving do so I felt I should. (Bloody funny, anyway.)

Anonymous said...

Well done Michael on doing the fringe. I know the fear, and I have felt the disappointment (too many times). But you are right, it's the "doing" that counts. That you love what you do can be the reward (I like the cash too). I loved your blogs in the run up to and during the Fringe. Insightful and moving. Again, job done, so congratulations!
Brendan O'Carroll