I am currently serving on a jury at a High Court in a city somewhere in England. I do not think I can be imprisoned for saying that in print, though who knows?
Every year, I tend to get slightly nervous at this point in case inspiration fails the performers and there are no worthy candidates for the annual Cunning Stunt Award, which goes to the best publicity stunt promoting a Fringe show or performer.
I have blogged recently about a couple of people who have done or are doing things which might possibly be considered publicity stunts.
In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned Sarah Hendricks on her 800 mile cycle trip from London to Barcelona. But that is not a publicity stunt; it is part of creating her show.
Another is Juliette Burton and her escapades. Among other things, she went to Buckingham Palace in a wedding dress in an attempt to marry Prince Harry and become a princess and has recorded a song in an attempt to be a pop star. Both of those are, I think, similar to Sarah Hendrickx’ bike journey: they are not stunts – they are an integral part of the creation of her show.
But Juliette’s music video to promote the song arguably is a stunt: it will go onto YouTube in July to promote the show.
Last week brought a more obvious contender for Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award nominee in the form of a press release from comedian Richard Herring in which he says he has decided not spend lots of money on lamp post ads during the Fringe and instead spend lots of money giving a free DVD to members of his audience.
This is Richard’s 10th solo show in 10 consecutive years, so everyone who attends one of his live We’re All Going To Die shows at the Fringe is going to be given a free DVD entitled 10, comprising his “favourite routines from the previous nine shows, plus his thoughts on each show and an exclusive reading of a blog that inspired the new show”.
Why is he doing this? It sounds like a cunning stunt to me but, says Richard:
“The other impetus was discovering that it cost me £3,000 to put up big lamp post adverts. Posters like these are so ubiquitous during the Fringe that I don’t think they have any impact anymore. And they’re all covered in four and five star reviews, which are usually from some obscure website or paper which isn’t fooling anyone. If we all stopped doing it then we’d save a lot of money. I thought, this year why not spend this £3,000 on something that people might actually want and give a gift to the people who actually want to see me rather than create an eye-sore annoyance to people who don’t? I think we’re throwing our money away and if other acts have three grand to spare for PR, then there must surely be more imaginative ways to spend it. Or they could just keep the £3, 000.
“Every Fringe many acts pay thousands of pounds to landlords, promoters and PR firms and end up in serious debt. It seems a shame that advertising costs are also so high, especially when the Fringe brings so much revenue to the city already. It might be time for a journalist to investigate where the money from the various poster campaigns go and what the Council’s part in it is.”
One of my fellow increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judges – Scotsman reviewer Kate Copstick – thinks Richard’s idea is more ‘right thinking’ than actually a fully-fledged cunning stunt.
“Richard is absolutely right,” she tells me. “There is an indecent amount of money spent on posters and flyers at the Fringe. There is some sort of misbegotten idea that it is necessary.
“It is absolutely not.
“And the only people really benefitting are the private companies given the big hoardings by the City Council. They make a fucking fortune. Along with said Council and the University.
“I cannot remember a time when seeing a poster slathered in five star strips from ifailedgcseenglishbutnowigetfreeseats.biz.twat made me want to do anything other than smack the act in the crotch with a rolled up copy of Pointless Freeloading Fuckwits and How To Spot Them.”
Richard has posted on YouTube his explanation of his complaint against the cost of postering, which ends with the words “All I’m really trying to do is make you come and see my show.”
The Jury is still out on whether it is a worthy cunning stunt.
But Bob Slayer has been talking about doing an unknown stunt, so Richard may have some strong competition.