Tag Archives: control

When Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows go wrong – a lesson in audience control

David tells The Gospel Truth at the Fringe

David tells The Gospel Truth at the Fringe

Yesterday, I was talking to multi-talented American stand-up David Mills about gigs that go wrong at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“If you have a gig you don’t want to have,” David told me, “the great thing about Edinburgh is there’s another gig coming tomorrow and the next day and the next day. So you can always redeem yourself. I’m always looking to try to redeem myself.

“It’s like that thing they say about New York: Don’t worry if you fall on your face and everyone sees, ‘cause tomorrow someone else is going to fall on their face and everyone’s going to see that and your failure is going to disappear. And the same thing with any success you get. I say you’re nobody until you’ve got a one star review.”

“You’ll never get a one star review,” I said.

“I’m hoping to get a one star review,” said David. “Some of the greats have had one star reviews.”

“Anyway,” I said. “It’s bad if you get a two star review. But if you actually only get one star, then…”

“…then you’re onto something!” laughed David. “The performers I identify with are the performers who are never satisfied.”

Shows going wrong – or at least diverging from what you thought they were going to be – are not necessarily a bad thing. As evidence…

Matt Price’s new show at Edinburgh Fringe

Matt Price’s show yesterday turned into three shows in one

At the Edinburgh Fringe three days ago, I saw Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia – a very interesting and very funny show unbilled in the Edinburgh Fringe programme. In that, at least, it delivers what you expect from the title.

Yesterday morning, I got a Facebook message from comedian/promoter Nig Lovell saying:

“You should speak to Matt Price about this Machete Hettie gig for your blog. If I hadn’t been there I’m not sure I’d have believed it happened. Part of me is still wondering if I was hallucinating.”

Machete Hettie gig?? I thought. So I e-mailed Matt Price. He told me:

Machete Hetty and Matt Price at The Hive yesterday

Machete Hettie and Matt Price after the show

“Hettie says she will be back today with her balaclava this time. It was one of the best contributions I have ever witnessed at a show, but almost impossible to describe in an email. I’m hoping that the drunk people who took the group photo get in touch because we all need photographic evidence. Basically, a couple of audience members did their first gig last night and to be fair to them they stormed it.”

I then bumped into Charmian Hughes, who is performing at a totally different venue – the Banshee Labyrinth – a couple of doors away from Matt Price at The Hive. She, too, had heard of the Machete Hettie gig.

Hettie was from Ethiopia.

I phoned up Matt Price. He told me Machete Hettie was likely to turn up again – at yesterday’s show.

I was already scheduled to see the lovely David Mills at The Hive in a slot immediately before Matt Price’s show, but I then had a ticket to see the unmissable Tim FitzHigham’s show Challenger at the Pleasance venue soon afterwards and I was not going to miss that.

So I arranged to see the first half of Matt’s show again just on the off-chance that Machete Hettie would turn up.

David Mills’ show was, as always, a mystery.

The mystery is why such an audience-pleasing, sophisticated act has not been snapped-up by BBC2 or Channel 4.

The ways of British television at the moment are passing strange.

After David’s show, as we waited for Matt’s show to start, my heart sank. No Ethiopians were in the audience.

The gig started but where was Machete Hetty?

The gig started but which one was the elusive Machete Hettie?

But, it turned out Machete Hettie WAS there – I had mis-heard. She calls herself a ‘Leithiopian’ – someone from Leith in north Edinburgh.

She had bright eyes, a lively personality and I wished I had been at the previous day’s show.

Matt yesterday started with the words:

“First impressions are kind of weird because, if you don’t mind me saying, you seem a very nice, very respectful audience, very normal. But then I thought that about Hettie yesterday and, by the end of it, I knew more about her vagina than I knew about comedy… Is that a different friend sitting next to you today, Hettie?”

“Ye mind the half a brick? The half a brick?” said Hettie.

“You had a friend yesterday who was a nurse,” said Matt.

“This time, she’s a dental nurse,” said Hettie. “She just fixes yer teeth in the middle of the night.”

About three people started speaking at once, from different parts of the audience.

“Oh God, there’s more of you,” said Matt gently. “Hello, I’m Matt. I was going to do a show, but Hettie came in yesterday and interjected with things about her vagina and we haven’t looked back since. She had a Brazilian.” Then he turned to a friend of Hettie’s in the front row: “Do you have the footage safely?”

“Yes,” the woman in the front row replied. “We’ll put it on YouTube tonight.”

“Would you like a photo for John Fleming’s blog?” Matt asked.

“Oh brilliant,” replied Hettie. “Aye. Oh aye.”

Machete Hetty poses for my porn blog picture

Machete Hettie – keen to be in my porn blog picture with Matt

“It’s a porn blog, but don’t worry,” said Matt. “You told me yesterday about your vagina and today you’re straight in with Half a brick, big boy. I love it. Would you,” he said to the audience, “consider this as not so much a show – more a respite from the rain? Is that OK?”

“Smoked sausage!” said Hettie in dramatic showbiz style.

She had about ten friends and neighbours in different parts of the audience who laughed uproariously.

“Biscuits!” she added.

Matt then brilliantly, under trying circumstances, managed to simultaneously perform his show, interact with Hettie as part of an almost separate show and have an occasional running commentary with two fellow comedians in the audience. It was three shows in one simultaneously, all blending together seemingly naturally.

“Earlier this year,” Matt started, “I was asked if I would ghost-write the autobiography of a criminal and I said Yes. What do you know about crime, Hettie?”

“A lot,” she replied.

The whole audience laughed.

“Now, you might think,” continued Matt, “He has nothing to say, which is why I dipped into the audience just then. But I knew if I said that to Hettie, she would say A lot and it would get a cheap laugh, so I just couldn’t resist doing it.”

“I led a life of crime for 17 years,” said Hettie.

I am now hooked on Hettie and a vast admirer of Matt Price’s ability to tell a good story, control a difficult audience, improvise with control during a show and… well… I am going back to see what happens tonight. Hettie will be back.

Soon to be a doubly act? - Machete Hetty and Matt

Soon to be a double act? – Machete Hettie and Matt The Man

Matt tells me he has given her ten minutes on stage at the start of his show.

“John,” he told me, “I am now performing a two-hander against my will. She has turned me from a comedian into a talent scout.”

So I am going back for more tonight – not least because I forgot to ask why she is called Machete Hettie…

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One of the less well publicised jobs at BBC Television – The man with the gun

Imagine the size of the big studio doors

BBC Television Centre in London. Big studio doors. Big airborne problems.

Yesterday, someone asked me if working as a researcher on BBC TV News’ early teletext service CEEFAX was my first job at a TV company.

No. It was my third.

My first was working as a Services Clerk in Central Services at BBC Television Centre.

They looked after the physical maintenance of the building and things like furniture and carpets. Not glamorous.

If people had problems with their radiators or lights or paintwork or phones, desks, windows or rats & mice and much more… In fact, if you had any problem with any of the fabric of the building or the stuff in your office… the central department you contacted was Central Services where two clerks answered the phones and four other people farmed out the problems to the actual people who could sort them out.

I was one of the two clerks who answered the phones.

I think maybe it was no coincidence that Terry Gilliam – who was one of the Monty Python team based at Television Centre at the time – called the rather bureaucratic plumbing/electrical maintenance organisation in his film Brazil Central Services.

I worked in Central Services for one year during which the BBC carpenters, electricians and general maintenance people were (from memory) about 30% understaffed (and they were – possibly not unconnected – about 30% underpaid too). During my time, there was a three-day week and there was an infestation of mice on the third floor. How the little bastards got up there, I don’t know. And I don’t mean the people who phoned in to complain.

It was very busy.

After that first non-programme-making job at the BBC, the high pressure deadlines of programme making were a dawdle in comparison.

People tended to shout at you a lot because things didn’t get done quickly.

I remember justly-famed BBC producer Dennis Main Wilson (Till Death Us Do Part apart many other shows) throwing a fairly-justified strop in the office one day, flouncing out and attempting to slam the door behind him but it had a Briton spring and so closed in slow motion with no noise. At least that one door worked in the building.

One of the things which had to be sorted out was the occasional problem of pigeons and other birds in studios.

The studios at Television Centre had big scene dock doors – like a film studio. They often had to be left open. Birds occasionally got in. Not often, but sometimes. Usually pigeons.

If you had a TV show in the studio, you did not want a bird squawking or flying around or shitting on the performers and set during the recording or – even worse – during a live show.

Studios are big. They have high roofs. It is virtually impossible to get a bird out quickly, if at all.

So what do you do? What did we do?

The answer is we phoned Rentokil, who sent a man round sharpish with a rifle and he shot the bird. He had to be a skilled marksman. Because the roofs of TV studios are covered with tens, perhaps hundreds of lights and there are electric cables everywhere.

For the sake of the nation’s entertainment, many a bird has been shot.

It is, perhaps, one of the less well publicised, yet vital, jobs in television.

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“When I went down, it was about six inches long!” she said, still horrified

The horror… The horror… and they are getting bigger…

After the Edinburgh Fringe finished, I drove back to London from Edinburgh on Monday night – Well, actually the early hours of Tuesday morning. My eternally-un-named friend was looking after my house while I was away.

When I phoned her at 2.00am on Tuesday morning, there was initially no reply. This was because she was out in my back garden with a torch and a two twigs. She had looked out into the garden from my back bedroom and there, illuminated in the light from my kitchen below was what she described as a scene of horror.

“When I went down, it was about six inches long!” she said, still horrified by the memory.

She told me the full details yesterday.

“Hold on, hold on,” I said, scrabbling to turn on my iPhone’s audio recorder, “The slugs are getting bigger and now they’ve developed an ability to re-grow their heads?”

“They always had this ability,” she replied. “I just read about it on Google.”

“And they’re getting bigger?” I said. “Why are they getting bigger?”

“Because they’re eating a lot,” she said “and it’s been raining a lot.”

“They’re drinking a lot of water and they’re bloated with rain?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “they’re eating all the little plants.”

“And you said something about squidginess,” I prompted.

“No, no,” she said. “No more! Another subject. Let’s find something jollier.”

“You could be part of my increasingly prestigious blog,” I said. “Just the sqidgy reference. Give me the squidgy.”

“Well,” she relented, “I was a bit tired with putting boiling water on them, you know, to kill them. And then you have to drain off the boiled water and then I was adding salt and washing powder, because they seem to be able to come alive again even after all these terrible things. You find one that’s crawled out of the pan before dying.”

“Crawled out of the pan?” I said, surprised. “The pan?”

“Or a bird’s come along,” she continued, ignoring me, “and tried to lift it out and decided they didn’t like the flavour of washing up liquid or salt.”

“Pan?” I repeated.

“It turns out that copper,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “is really good for killing black mould. So we’ve now got to look for a lot of copper things on eBay.”

“Is black mould relevant to the slugs?” I asked.

“No,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “Well, it is slightly. There was a point where the grossness of everything and the looking round… I did try to spread coffee over one area at one point, because they don’t like coffee.”

“Slugs don’t?” I asked.

“The egg shells have worked a treat,” she continued, cheering up. “They can’t climb over egg shells. It’s too jagged. Egg shells are very sharp. You can cut things with egg shells.”

“I’m surprised chickens can get out of them,” I said.

“Anyway…” my eternally-un-named friend said, “there came a point where I couldn’t be bothered putting them in the water. I thought I’ll just squidge them to death… because I’m not actually touching them… So the end of a plank or something… bashing them and trying to rub them… And they ended up in little pieces, which I left there… Only to return a day or so later and it was like seeing half a thumb lying there, which had suddenly grown a head.”

She paused.

“It was gross!” she said, and started laughing uncontrollably.

“The pan,” I eventually interrupted. “There was a reference to a pan.”

“Well,” she said, “the pan is what I’ve been putting them in, with the boiling water.”

“Out the back door?” I asked, with visions of slugs being cooked in the frying pan on my cooker.

“Well,” she explained, “I gave up with the salt and washing up liquid. It was costing a fortune.”

“Do you pick them up with tweezers?” I asked.

“Sometimes I pick them up with sticks,” she explained. “You know how I’ve been eating with chopsticks a lot? I’ve been getting a bit more dextrous.”

“You’ve been using my chopsticks from Beijing?” I asked, slightly worried.

“No,” she reassured me, “I’ve been using twigs like chopsticks, only it’s a bit tricky.”

“Surely slugs are slimy and slide off?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “you pincer them between the two sticks and lift them up. Do you remember nothing of chopstick technique?”

“And you have a pan of boiling hot water out the back door?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “I stick them in an empty, dry, copper pan and then I just pour the… I’m usually making myself a cup of tea, wander out into the back garden… See one… Oh blimey! There’s a slug!… Next thing you know, I’m having to go into full operational mode and pour my boiled water which was going to make my cup of tea over a slug instead. By the time I’ve finished the whole awful procedure, I have had no tea and wander round the garden to see if there’s any other things out there. The biggest drag of it all is when you have to pour off the boiled water so you can tip the little bodies into the green bin. It’s all geechy and slimy and they all look quite gross.”

“How many have you killed in the four weeks I’ve been away?” I asked.

“Maybe thirty,” she told me.

“That’s around one a day,” I said. “Can’t we eat them?”

You eat them,” she replied. “in a frying pan of your choice. I’m not going to have anything to do with them.”

“You can probably make a fortune selling them to some foreign restaurant,” I suggested. “They’re probably a delicacy in Norway or Burundi or Sarawak or somewhere.”

“I’m sure you’ll love them,” my eternally-un-named friend said.

“I’m still not clear about the washing powder,” I prompted.

But then she changed the subject. Intentionally. Successfully.

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Why I had to eat half a grapefruit for my birthday breakfast today & for the slugs

The British Olympic team parade in their gay Abba costumes

I was slightly unsettled last night by the sight of the British team at the Olympic Opening Ceremony walking round the track wearing what appeared to be gay Abba tribute costumes. Now I have to face dead slugs. Only time can tell which will leave the greater psychological scar.

I blogged last month about my eternally-un-named friend’s triumph in building a better mouse trap and drowning one of the diminutive rodents overnight in my living room.

Now she has turned her attention to species cleansing my garden.

Planks and an unexplained copper chamber pot in my garden

She likes plants, which means she dislikes slugs, which is why there were three short wooden planks lying in my garden yesterday morning. And an unexplained chamber pot.

“They crawl around all night, doing their heinous things,” my eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday morning. “The slugs. Eating your plants and then, before dawn starts, they need somewhere to hide.”

“Like vampires?” I asked.

“Yes,” she agreed, laughing in an unsettling way. “Like vampires and Daleks,” she said. “They need somewhere to hide that’s damp and away from the sun, because they dry out. The slugs. The whole thing about them is they go round on their slime everywhere and they don’t like to dry out. That’s why they do their eating at night.”

“I know you put the planks down,” I said, “so the slugs will hide under them and you will find them in the morning. But there is a chamber pot involved. I didn’t know I had a chamber pot.”

Oddly orange and very dead slug barely visible in chamber pot

“The chamber pot,” she explained, “just happens to be the only thing I can use to put the salted water in. And it has a dash of washing up liquid. I don’t want to use saucepans and plates – obviously.”

“But I didn’t know I had a chamber pot,” I said. “The first I knew of it was ten minutes ago. I know I have a bad memory, but… And it’s metal!”

“I got it on eBay,” my eternally-un-named friend explained.

“But why a metal chamber pot?” I asked.

“It’s copper. It’s a lovely colour,” she said.

“But you will hear the sound of your own plops,” I said. “Why did you buy it?”

“Well,” she said, “I like copper and a chamber pot is always useful.”

“For killing slugs?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “You either lay planks down on the ground near the plants – which they will hide under when the day comes – or you can use half a grapefruit.”

Grapefruit: weapons of mass destruction in the slug war

“You drop the grapefruit on them?” I asked.

“No. You cut the grapefruit in half and then eat the middle out,” she explained, “then over-turn it  and put it on the ground near the plants like a little hut for the slugs… And you maybe put some water around the area because they are drawn to anything that’s damp and then they hide under the hollowed-out half grapefruit and think Oh good. I’m not going to dry out during the day. But you find then the next day and, em…”

“You kill them?”

“Well, only one fell for my plank ruse this time,” she said, “but I read an article on Google that said, in one hour, you can collect one hundred slugs.”

“In a small space?” I asked.

“It didn’t say…” my eternally-un-named friend mused, “It didn’t say what size of space. But I suppose, if you had a very large garden…”

“Like the back garden of Buckingham Palace,” I suggested. “If the Queen did it, she’d probably get a hundred. I think I read somewhere that she likes grapefruit.”

“I would think, in your garden so far I’ve easily caught twenty odd.”

“Yesterday?”

“Over a period.”

“I don’t suppose Prince Charles would approve of his mother stalking and killing slugs,” I said, lost in my thoughts. “You had that dream last night.”

“Mmmm…..” my eternally-un-named friend said, also lost in thought. “About a giant…”

“Slug,” I said.

“Ye-e-e-s,” she said.

One casualty in the on-going back garden war of attrition

“What was it doing?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just had to find a bucket of water big enough to stick it in. The chamber pot was not big enough… And then there are the eggshells…”

“The eggshells?” I asked.

“Well, an alternative is – though you can use all these at the same time, of course – and I think you should – Slugs don’t deserve to live if they eat my sweet peas… Look at the size of my sweet peas! Can you remember what size they were last year?”

“I… I…” I spluttered ineffectively.

“They’re less than half the size!” she told me, her voice rising.

“What’s happened to the top half?” I asked.

“The slugs have eaten them,” she told me.

“But slugs don’t eat from the top down,” I said. “They can’t levitate.”

“Yes,” my eternally-un-named friend agreed, “but that’s why they don’t grow any further, because someone went and ate them when they were starting. They’re half the height and that bush which is supposed to be a pom-pom bush is…”

“… now only a pom?” I suggested.

“Every little sprout!” she said, passionately. “They chew on the new sprouts. A new sprout can’t turn into an older sprout if someone’s gone and eaten it.”

“Won’t the poison just kill them?” I asked.

My eternally-un-named friend has been spreading little blue poison pellets around my back garden for the last few weeks. When we returned last week after a week in Milan, there was a small mound of dead and decomposing slugs under a an up-turned flower pot.

“Another thing which will apparently kill them is coffee,” my eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday.

“Coffee?” I asked.

“I will try pouring coffee – obviously not hot – over the plants… I don’t think it will damage the plants but, anyway… slugs don’t like it and they’re not sure why…”

“The slugs aren’t sure why?” I asked.

“The experts,” she told me reprovingly. “They think it’s maybe because of the caffeine drying-out the slugs.”

“There’s always cocaine,” I suggested. “They’d run around so fast they’d burn their stomachs off and die in screaming slug agony. But why eggshells?”

“I told you,” my eternally-un-named friend said patiently. “They’re like the Daleks. They need a flat surface.”

“Daleks can levitate now,” I pointed out.

“They can’t climb over sharp edges,” she said, ignoring me. “So you put broken eggshells round the bottom of the plants like an impenetrable barrier.”

“Like tank traps,” I said.

“Yes,” she said supportively. “Well done.”

“And it is true,” I said. “You never actually see Daleks at the bottom of plants, do you?”

“Well, in your garden you do,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

A Dalek hides in the undergrowth at the bottom of my garden

“But won’t the poison pellets just kill them?” I asked, persisting. “The slugs, not the Daleks.”

“The blue pellets are very ugly on the ground,” she replied, “and they don’t work when it gets wet, because the whole thing of killing them is with the dehydration. And apparently the poison pellets work by attracting them. So, if they don’t eat the pellets and you haven’t managed to kill them, then you’ve gone and attracted a whole lot who are going to lay eggs around everything and you’re going to have the whole same problem keep happening and, basically, you’re doomed.”

My unexpected birthday breakfast today – half a grapefruit

“I’m doomed?” I said.

“Death and taxes and slugs,” she said.

So it goes.

Happy birthday to me.

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The Edinburgh Fringe now insists on artistic control of all shows’ promotion

Comedian Lewis Schaffer lost his shirt staging Fringe shows.

In 2009, I staged a show at the Edinburgh Fringe titled Aaaaaaaaaarrghhh! It’s Bollock Relief! – The Malcolm Hardee Award Show. No-one batted an eyelid. More’s the pity.

Not when the title appeared in full in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme. Not when flyers were handed out in the street. Not when posters appeared in the refined streets of Edinburgh.

No-one cared about the word “bollock” back then.

But yesterday, in an online response to a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News about censorship in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Programme, comedian Jackson Voorhaar wrote:

A quote in my blurb was actually censored to “the b*st*rd offspring of Eddie Izzard and Noel Fielding”. Surely in that context bastard is a perfectly legitimate and inoffensive term?

My last couple of blogs have been about the Edinburgh Fringe Programme’s new-found puritanism where, for example, Richard Herring’s show Talking Cock (which had no problem in 2002) now has to be printed as Talking C*ck in the Fringe Programme because it might offend someone – despite the fact that, in August 2012 (as was the case in August 2002), large posters will festoon the billboards of Edinburgh saying Talking Cock and random pedestrians will be given A5 flyers advertising Talking Cock.

Vivienne Soan of London’s Pull The Other One comedy club talked to me yesterday about the title of the Stuart Goldsmith show, which the Fringe has insisted cannot be listed as Prick but has to be listed as Pr!ck. Vivienne sensibly said: “I think that, at first sight, they look like the same word… but actually the latter is slightly funnier/cleverer. Therefore,” she added a tad mischievously, “the Fringe programme are also insisting on artistic contro!”

She raises an interesting point here.

As Richard Herring told me: “Underneath the silliness and twatdom it’s a very important issue.” And it is.

Last night Mervyn Stutter, who has been staging Fringe shows for 26 years, asked me about the Charlie Chuck listing which the Fringe this year objected to as being “ungrammatical”.

“Strangely,” Mervyn told me, “I find that more sinister because it will affect so many more people with perfectly safe show titles.”

The 40 word Fringe Programme entry is an advertisement for each performer’s Fringe show. It is an ad paid for by the performer. It costs almost £400. So, if you use all 40 words, it costs £10 per word. If you used only 20 words, it would cost £20 per word.

Mervyn Stutter says: “If we pay £400 then we should choose exactly the wording we want. If it doesn’t ‘make grammatical sense’ then what happens next? An angry letter to the Fringe from an audience member demanding better grammar or just that we – the performers who pay for it – lose some audience?”

This is the key point.

Does the Guardian tell Renault it has to change the wording for a new car ad because it does not conform with the Guardian’s own ‘house style’? Does Exchange & Mart or eBay tell advertisers their ads are ungrammatical or must be changed into an appropriate house style?

The Fringe Programme is perfectly entitled to have a house style for its own wording. But not for paid advertisements. Occasionally, in the past, the Royal Bank of Scotland has taken out ads in the Fringe Programme. Were these vetted by the Fringe for proper grammar and checked for adherence to the Fringe Programme’s own house style? Bollocks. They were not.

Part of the blurb for absurdist comedian Charlie Chuck’s new show Cirque du Charlie Chuck mentioned above (trying to make every £10 work count) was submitted as:

Charlie Chuck back with cabaret, organ-playing, drum-smashing mixed-up magic, with burlesque bits of French songs and lady assistant.

The Fringe changed this to (the capitalisation is mine to show the changes):

“Charlie Chuck, IS back with cabaret, organ-playing, drum-smashing AND mixed-up magic, with burlesque bits of French songs and A lady assistant.”

The Fringe insisted: “These words are required to be added to make sure the copy is in our house style.”

Note they said “are required”. Not suggested. Required to be added.

When queried about this, Fringe Publications Manager Martin Chester confirmed that “as long as your copy… is grammatically correct… it can be run.”

His full explanation was:

“As long as your copy adheres to the style guide found on edfringe.com, is grammatically correct and within the 40 word limit (including your show title) it can be run.”

There are two points here…

  • What does it matter if it is ungrammatical? If an act were to pay the Fringe £400 to run a badly-written Fringe entry which made the show look bad, the performer seem illiterate and it persuaded punters NOT to come to the show, that is entirely the act’s problem. The Fringe officers – if they are hanging around and have loads of time on their hands – might kindly suggest the entry could be improved. But, if they are taking £400 simply to print the ad, then (provided the wording is legal and ‘decent’ by their standards) the English grammar contained within the ad is nothing to do with them. And…
  • Why do £400 paid-for ads come within the Fringe Programme’s house style at all?

A house style exists to homogenise the style of a publication created by a single entity.

It is reasonable that a document or publication written by the Fringe itself should have a house style.

It is unreasonable that a Programme listing hundreds of separate £400 paid-for ads in which individual performers are trying to uniquely distinguish their own show from the (literally) thousands of other shows should have all the £400 paid-for ads homogenised into a single style.

It is artistic nonsense. It is financial nonsense.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that comedian Jody Kamali told me that the Fringe Office “said I couldn’t use three dollar signs in a row ‘$$$’ in my Fringe entry, as it didn’t fit their ‘house style’.”

Call me innocent, but to have $$$ in your show title is not going to offend any man, woman or child who reads it. I fail to believe it will psychologically damage or morally offend anyone. I am unaware of $$$ being any obscure sexual term and I somehow think the Fringe’s own imposed C*ck and Pr!ick are a tad more objectionable than $$$.

What insanity is ruling at the Fringe this year?

This all seems to be the opposite of why the Fringe Programme exists. It seems to be the opposite of why the Fringe exists, the opposite of what the ‘open to all’ nature of the Edinburgh Fringe itself is supposed to be.

Performers and acts are not invited to the Fringe. Anyone can perform anywhere. You just have to arrange it yourself. The Fringe as an entity (the Fringe Office) does not stage, produce or directly promote the shows.

It can cost, over-all, around £7,500 to stage a fairly average Fringe show – venue costs, accommodation, promotion (including £400 to write Fringe Programme’s 40 words) etc etc.

100% of this is paid for by the performers.

The Fringe does not pay for the shows. The Fringe does not pay for the £400 show listings within the Fringe Programme.

So why does the Fringe claim that the £400 small ads (because that is what they are) within the Fringe Programme have (in the words of the man in charge) to “adhere to the style guide” and be “grammatically correct”?

In the Edinburgh Evening News yesterday, Neil Mackinnon, Head of External Affairs for the Fringe, said:

“It is not for us to vet the content of anyone’s shows – that’s one of our principles”.

Well, he is talking bollocks. And they are not even disguised, Photoshopped bollocks.

The Fringe are vetting the content of the ads people pay £400 to run. And not just for what they now (but did not in previous years) regard as ‘rude’ words. According to the Fringe’s own Publications Manager, the paid-for £400 non-rude words are vetted because they have to conform with the “style guide” – no use of $$$ in a title, for example – and be “grammatical”. Why?

The road to hell really is paved with good intentions.

In effect, the Edinburgh Fringe are now insisting on artistic control of the promotion of all Fringe shows. And charging performers £400 for the privilege not to have control of their own advertising.

The people who think of themselves as ‘good guys’ have turned into ‘rip-off’ merchants.

American comic Lewis Schaffer (who is staging two shows at this year’s Fringe – that means two Fringe Programme entries at £394 each) commented on a blog I wrote a couple of days ago:

“Next year I am not going to register my show with the Fringe and instead I will spend the money more effectively by paying the first 700 punters £1 each to come into my show. Or enrol everyone who comes to my show in a £700 lottery. Or spend £700 extra pounds buying drinks for the other acts bled dry by the Fringe Society.”

He may not be joking.

And he has a point.

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