Cunning stunts of the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. No 1: comedian Richard Herring

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?

Like Malcolm, a unique one-off

Last year’s increasingly prestigious poster

In August, I get promoted to a far more important role as one of the judges for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe.

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.

The free DVD for Richard Herring audiences

The free DVD for Richard Herring’s Fringe show audiences

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:

Richard Herring: Fringe Festival funster

Fringe Festival funster Richard’s new show

“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.

Edinburgh Fringe  lamp posters in 2012

Some Fringe shows’  small lamp post posters

“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 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.


Filed under Comedy, PR

5 responses to “Cunning stunts of the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. No 1: comedian Richard Herring

  1. Mike Leigh

    couldnt agree more a waste of money. certain acts are told that they have x amount of seats to sell so a huge poster campaign is necessary- the big acts can swallow the expense but most mid range comics get caught up in the same game and most dont even enquire in advance what the cost to them is. The fact that Edinburgh council have now legitimised fly posting after years of trying to clamp down on it in order to make money out of it is also disgraceful

    • Ash

      The biggest joke is that Edinburgh Council are working with the Uk’s biggest flyposter.
      The London cartel behind the festival City Centre Poster’s owner has an ASBO for Flyposting in Camden. CCP are raking in hundreds of thousands of pounds from the festival every year

      • Roger

        Well it certainly brightens up the streets for the month if you ask me. Who really cares what their background is – I’m sure there’s far worse out there making way more money and its got to be better than the old days where posters lasted ooh maybe half an hour.
        Its still promoting the craft and getting shows known as well rather than some tweet.

        I spoke to one of the staff on the meadows this year – he was a local lad and understand they also do stuff for the rest of the year as well so they don’t appear to scarper off come September. Might be wrong though…

        By the way why does it matter where they’re from?
        You could say that about most who are paid working on the festival – bar staff, hotel staff, sound engineers, venue staff – you name it .

  2. Hector

    Mike what money do council make ? I think you should go and make an effort to actually find out about it rather than post without factual content. The council only saves money from the project work so unsure as to why you feel there is money involved.

    Ash, Camden is over 400 miles away not sure why something in London is an issue unless your mud raking something from 11 years ago. As the company isn’t fly posting not sure why that be an issue here. You like Mike might want to actually go read up on why it was the case in the first place that it came to an ASBO.

    I agree with Roger our streets look better now rather than how the Fringe left it after August each year. No one has to pay for the posters if they don’t want to so i can’t see why the complaints. I bet the biggest people who are pissed off are the ones who don’t get to fly post now or the ones who want the money for themselves.

    Always sadly comes down to people council bashing rather seeing what an improvement and money saver this is.


  3. ASH

    Hector sounds like you may have a vested interest in the poster company, the fact is that CCP/Diabolical Liberties have a very recent history of flyposting in a number of Cities in the UK. The Camden Council case is of huge relevance as the MD of CCP was behind a flyposting cartel that blighted the streets of London costing Camden Council hundreds of thousands in clean up cost and now they are claiming to save CEC hundreds of thousands in clean up costs, wonder how that is. Could it be that they are the very same people that caused the problem?? This information is in the public domain, but it is obviously not in your interests to make people aware of this. Keep up the good work though!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.