Honestly! The things people do to try to get nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award are many and varied.
Yesterday, I got a message from comedian Gareth Morinan:
“I’m emailing to inform you of a minor scandal that I have caused on a largely redundant committee of the Edinburgh Fringe Society,” he said.
This is the umbrella organisation which publishes the annual programme listing shows appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe. It does not decide – no-one decides – who can perform at the Fringe.
“I am a member of the Fringe Participants’ Council,” Gareth told me yesterday, “along with a random hodgepodge of promoters and venue managers.”
“This year, I listed my show 11 times in the Fringe Programme (see p88-90), and explicitly state how what I did was a more cost-effective way of advertising in the programme than buying advertising space.”
As he explained in his listings, Gareth said: “These 11 listings are for the same show. Why have I chosen to list it as 11 two day shows, rather than one 22 day show?… These 11 two day listings cost a total of £880. One page of this programme can fit 12 listings. Yet an advertisement taking up just a quarter page costs £1,200. You do the maths.”
But this stunt had a consequence.
Yesterday Gareth told me: “An agent/manager/promoter resigned from the Participants Council in protest over what I did (I technically broke a rule about listings, but the Fringe only noticed this after she told them I had).”
According to Gareth, the agent/manager/promoter said in her resignation letter:
“I feel I need to protest at Gareth’s 11 entries in the Fringe programme… It shows a mean spiritedness towards the Fringe in terms of the comments regarding the costs of advertising and registering. I don’t think a person behaving in this way has the interests of the Fringe at heart and I don’t feel I can serve alongside him… I also can’t see myself being able to accord the respect I would wish to fellow Society members who seem to be on boards and committees for their own personal advantage, not to do the work we undertook to improve matters for all participants when we agreed to join. So it will be better if I resign. I hope you will understand and accept my decision.”
I have to say I am a little surprised, because Gareth’s piece of self publicity – listing your show 11 times in the Fringe Programme to save money on taking out a quarter page ad – and getting more advertising space in the process – seems to be exactly in the true spirit of the Fringe.
Gareth told me: “I resent the implication that I’m only on the Council for personal advantage.”
My immediate thought was: Why on earth are you NOT there for personal advantage? Surely that is why most industry people are involved with Fringe committees. And absolutely right.
But Gareth argued: “What do I personally gain from being on the Council? I am a mediocre comedian, I probably have less financial stake in the Fringe than any other member of the Council.”
More relevantly, he then added: “The people I represent tend to think the Fringe is about pushing boundaries.”
Aye. That, I thought/think is the point of the Fringe – and certainly it was one of the reasons for establishing the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards.
I felt the Fringe was being treated – and sometimes treating itself – too seriously.
There was also the fact that establishing the Awards would enable me to get free tickets to Fringe comedy shows for ten years.
But back to yesterday.
Gareth continued: “I thought I’d try and needlessly blow this up into silly proportions if possible. Partly to make a point about the Fringe, but mainly because I’d like to use her resignation as a cheap publicity stunt for myself, thus adding some irony to the situation. I don’t know if you have any interest in writing about this story, but if you do let me know. It’s all just a bit of fun.”
I told Gareth last night that I was not interested.
He replied: “My hugely meaningful political journey is just starting… I will keep you in the loop!”
When I woke up this morning, I had changed my mind. Thus this blog.