Tag Archives: Kevin Bridges

Edinburgh Fringe comedy performer Juliette Burton explains why she will be stripping at an erotic night in London

Juliette in Melbourne this weekend

Juliette this weekend, preparing for her shows in Melbourne

Last time British performer Juliette Burton appeared in this blog, she was heading from Adelaide to Melbourne. Now she has arrived. I talked to her via Skype this morning in an English-themed bar with Frankie Lowe, her composer-sound technician-cameraman.

“When we arrived in Melbourne,” Juliette told me, “we went to a restaurant and someone working there was from Edinburgh. He’s going back in May, so I told him Oh! You’ve got to come and see my new Edinburgh Fringe show in August; I’m writing it with Janey Godley! So I’ve started promoting it already!”

Juliette is preparing her new Look At Me show for the Edinburgh Fringe in August while still performing her When I Grow Up shows in Australia.

Juliette Burton, both below and on top of Kevin Bridges

Juliette on top of Kevin Bridges down under

“I’m performing When I Grow Up at the Trade Hall in Melbourne from Thursday onwards,” she told me, “and there’s a huge poster on the side of the building. My name is listed just above Kevin Bridges. So I’m currently ‘on top of Kevin Bridges’ and I’m very happy about that position. I’m wearing a tartan skirt.”

There was a piece in The Scotsman today,” I said, “which reckons a 5% swing would mean a Yes vote for Scottish independence in September. The Fringe in August is going to be full of references to the Scottish independence vote in September.”

“Well, Look At Me is not going to have much about Scottish independence!” laughed Juliet. “Just independence from the voices in my head, maybe. We arrived in Melbourne last Thursday and I’m not performing When I Grow Up until this coming Thursday so, every single day, I’ve been able to get up and think about the new show.”

“And Look At Me is about…” I prompted.

“It’s about whether who we appear to be is who we actually are – and whether we can change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside.”

I usually hate video clips dropped into live stage shows but, in When I Grow Up, Juliette managed to integrate and interact with them flawlessly. She is also using extensive video clips in Look At Me.

“All the ones I’m going to use in the Look At Me,” she told me, “I shot before I left for Australia. Frankie is sitting here in this bar transcribing the video interviews and I’ve been highlighting them, trying to get ready for the edit.

“And then, as soon as I get back to the UK in May, I’m going to be working with the prosthetic make-up artist to film all the days when I’ll be transformed into different guises. There will be a Lady Gaga-esque day; a day when I will be transformed into a man; there will be an ‘old’ day, an ‘obese’ day, the hijab day and the ‘nude’ day.”

“Ah!” I said. “the nude day.”

Gypsy Wood will be giving Juliette advice

Burlesque performer Gypsy Wood will give Juliette advice

“This Wednesday in Melbourne,” Juliette told me, “I’m going to be meeting Gypsy Wood, who is an amazing burlesque performer out here. She is going to talk to me about my nude performance for Mat Fraser at Sleaze, the erotica night he runs in London. I’m going to be performing there on 4th June. That’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.

“It’s not really going to be a burlesque performance. I don’t know what to call it. Mat Fraser has kind-of erotica pieces. It’s not quite that; it’s not quite theatre. It’s been quite a difficult thing to start doing. That bit of Look At Me is definitely not comedy.

“Frankie’s going to be composing a soundtrack for this 2-3 minute sequence of me stripping in defiance of The Voices in My Head – Society’s voice, my eating disorder voices, my body dysmorphic disorder voices – all the voices that tell me I’m wrong and bad and disgusting and my body’s not nice and not good enough. I’m going to be stripping to defy them and to spite them. So it’s not stripping for sex’s sake; it’s stripping for equality and… and… for independence,” Juliette laughed, “…for Scottish independence!”

“At the Edinburgh Fringe, you’re going to be performing at the Gilded Balloon,” I said.

“Yes. I had to decide if I was going to tick a box that said This Show Contains Nudity. I ticked the box that said it contains swearing, but not the one that said it contains nudity even though, in effect, it will do.”

“Defining nudity is an odd thing,” I said. “I watched Cliff Richard’s 1959 film Expresso Bongo the other night and it’s set in Soho with strippers involved. This is 1959, a fairly mainstream British film and full breasts were visible – only tassels on the nipples. It looked like some French sex film of the 1950s, but it was acceptable in suburban British cinemas in 1959. I guess back then you could see breasts provided the nipples were covered. Maybe if you saw a bit of nipple it was ‘nude’; but if you saw a naked breast with no nipple visible it was not ‘nude’.”

Juliette Burton (Photo by Helena G Anderson)

Juliette Burton prepares for Look At Me
(Photo by Helena G Anderson)

“Yes,” said Juliette, “if you have nipple tassels on it’s not really nude and if you have a c-string – the gusset of a g-string – then I don’t think that’s counted as fully-nude either. I’m going to have to do a lot of research to make sure I really am above-board. I guess it’s the tone, the intention that matters, like a lot of the things being discussed recently about comedy in the UK. It’s the intention of the words that are used. Whether it’s about rape or race. In any of those ‘taboo’ subjects, you have to be accountable. If you say something intelligently with the right intention, then I think anyone can surely artistically be allowed to do anything.

“It’s really important for me to take Look At Me to a crowd that’s under 18 years old – I want the message of the show to be about body confidence and celebrating body diversity in a way that will make people laugh and feel included and happy – I want to make sure the nudity that is included is not sexual or grotesque. It will be part of the over-all story of body celebration… That doesn’t sound very funny, but it’s going to be hilarious!… But I’m still terrified about the idea of me being nude… It’s going to be difficult.”

“I’ll post this blog today,” I told Juliette

“Me on top of Kevin Bridges is the most important thing,” she said.

“Ah,” I replied, “that’s your BBC News training coming out.”

(Juliette used to be a BBC broadcast journalist.)

“I do love a Reithian Lecture,” said Juliette.

“A Reithian lecher?” I asked.

“A Reithian Lecture,” Juliette said. “The Reithian ideals of the BBC are very important to me. I would love all my shows to adhere to them – to educate, inform and entertain all at the same time. That would be the ultimate goal.”

On YouTube, there is an 8-minute mini-documentary about one day in the shooting schedule for the Look At Me video interviews.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Performance, Sex

Nine more answers to questions asked by virgin Edinburgh Fringe comedians

Edinburgh Fringe 2012: an ordinary street scene

What performing looks like at the Fringe

A couple of days ago, I re-blogged some two-year-old Answers to nine questions asked by first-time Edinburgh Fringe performers

Here is a follow-up which I also blogged two years ago. I have made slight updates, particularly in the final answer

1. IF THERE ARE ONLY TWO PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE, SHOULD I CANCEL THE SHOW?

No. Even if there is only one person in the audience, perform the show. You do not know who those people are in the audience (particularly at the Free Fringe and the Free Festival where there are no complimentary tickets). I have blogged before about an Edinburgh Fringe show performed in the early 1990s by then-unknown comedian Charlie Chuck. There were only four people in the audience. He performed the show. Two of the audience members were preparing an upcoming new BBC TV series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and, as a direct result, Charlie Chuck was cast as ‘Uncle Peter’ in the series. After appearing in that, he was no longer unknown. The Edinburgh Fringe is all about publicity and perception.

2. BUT IF I GET LOW AUDIENCES, SURELY I AM A FAILURE?

Very possibly, sunshine, but not necessarily. In reality, it means you are an average Edinburgh Fringe performer. Unless you are on TV, you will not get full audiences unless there is astonishing word-of-mouth about your show. Scots comedian Kevin Bridges could not fill a matchbox, even in Scotland. He appeared on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow on BBC1. After that, he was filling auditoriums the size of Bono’s ego. What is important at the Edinburgh Fringe is not the size of the audience but who is in the audience and the perception of your impact by the media. It is not How Many? but Who? which is important. It can also be argued that, if you get an audience of zero then, by definition, no-one knows you had no audience, so there is actually no harm in media terms. The Edinburgh Fringe is all about publicity and perception.

3. BUT I AM GOING TO THE FRINGE TO GET SEEN BY AUDIENCES, AREN’T I?

No you are not. You are going to the Edinburgh Fringe to lose money. A comic whose name I have tragically forgotten, so cannot credit, likened it to standing in a cold shower tearing up £50 notes. You may have sold your grandmother into sexual slavery to afford this trip to the Fringe, but you are not in Edinburgh to perform shows to ordinary people. If you wanted to do that, you could have gone to the Camden Fringe or down the local pub on a Friday night. You are going to Edinburgh, the biggest arts festival in the world, to get seen by critics and, with luck, by radio and TV people, all of whom can boost your career. If you can create good word-of-mouth among the small audiences who do see your shows at the Fringe, then that may attract a few of the influential people. And, if the media perceive you as being successful, then you ARE successful even if you are not. The Edinburgh Fringe is all about publicity and perception.

4. I AM A COMEDIAN. AUDIENCES ARE NOT LAUGHING ALL THE WAY THROUGH MY SHOW. WHY?

Well, probably because you have a shit show, so tweak it or consider a career working at a call centre in Glasgow. There are some comics who should reconsider their lifestyle and bank balances. On the other hand, most comics are insanely insecure for very little reason. I have sat through many a show where the comedian thinks the audience did not like part of the show because it did not get enough laughs but I know for sure, because I was in the audience, that the punters enjoyed the show tremendously. They were just mesmerised in rapt attention during the quiet but important bits. It is all about perception.

Street art at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012

Street art truth at Edinburgh Fringe in 2012

5. BUT WHY DON’T AUDIENCES LAUGH AT EVERY LINE?

Possibly because a good comedy script is not 100% laugh-at-every-line. Not over a whole hour. If you think your show is that funny you are either deluded, on cocaine or have a serious psychological problem (not that the first or last is any drawback in comedy). Watching a man take 10 seconds to jump off a cliff 66 times in a row is not exciting; it exhausts and bores the viewer after a while. What is exciting is a rollercoaster. A build-up followed by an adrenaline rush. Excitement followed by relief followed by excitement followed by relief followed by a climax. Ooh missus. An hour-long show is about pacing. If you remove the build-up before the punch-line, you will lose the laughter on the punch-line. Of course, the highly-experienced comic can get three subsidiary titters in the build-up followed by a big belly-laugh at the climax. Ooh misses. Ooh missus. Even (billed in alphabetical order) the brilliant Jimmy Carr, Milton Jones and Tim Vine, who mostly deal in one-liners, have pacing where their audiences can relax amid the laughter. It is all about perception.

6. SHOULD I WORRY IF I DO NOT GET REVIEWS?

Yes, but it is largely a matter of luck. I always tell people they have to play the Edinburgh Fringe on three consecutive years. The first year, no-one will notice you are there. The second year, you have some idea of how the Fringe works. The third year, people will think you are an Edinburgh institution and the media will pay some attention to you. You have to go for three consecutive years. If you miss a year, when you return, you are, in effect, re-starting at Year One. It is not just audiences but critics who change year-by-year. Critics reviewing shows at the Fringe may not have been doing it two years ago. The Edinburgh Fringe is all about publicity and perception.

7. I ONLY HAVE 30 MINUTES OF GOOD MATERIAL. WAS I WRONG TO ATTEMPT TO DO A 60-MINUTE SHOW?

Yes. You are an idiot. You should have delayed your trip to the Fringe and gone next year. Going before you are fully ready is never a good idea. Yes, go up and play a few gigs on other people’s shows. Yes, go up as part of a three or four person show. But, if you are doing your first solo 60-minute show and you have anything less than 80 minutes of good material, you risk rapid ego-destruction.

8. IF I GET REVIEWS, ARE THE NUMBER OF STARS IMPORTANT?

In Edinburgh, absolutely. The stars are everything – provided you get above three stars. Put four or five stars on your posters and flyers – with short quotes – immediately. All your competitors – and, in Edinburgh ALL other performers, however seemingly friendly, are your deadly competitors – will be using the number of stars on a review to boost their own ego or to try and deflate yours. After the Fringe is over, the stars mean bugger all. They are unlikely to bring in crowds on a wet Thursday in Taunton. But their real value lies next year at the Fringe when you can quote them and they will have some effect. And always remember the admirable enterprise of the late comic Jason Wood. Highly influential Scotsman critic Kate Copstick gave his Fringe show a one star review. The next morning, all his posters in Edinburgh proudly displayed a pasted-on strip saying “A STAR” (The Scotsman). The Edinburgh Fringe is all about publicity and perception.

9. WILL I WIN THE PERRIER PRIZE?

No. Partly because it no longer exists. The name has changed several times. But mostly because you just won’t. Don’t be silly. Fantasy is a valuable part of the performer’s art, but never fully believe your own fantasy.

You stand a better chance of winning one of the increasingly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards – the longest-running comedy awards with the same name at the Fringe. And, unlike their insignificant competitors, the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are guaranteed to run until the year 2017 because we have already had the trophies made.

It’s all about publicity and ramping or maybe camping it up.

It’s all about publicity and ramping or maybe camping it up.

I allegedly organise them, but intentionally try not to be too organised as that would be lacking in respect to Malcolm’s memory. Do not bother to apply to me because there is no application process, plus it interferes with my chocolate-eating.

Your show format is probably neither that original nor, frankly, that good and we will almost certainly hear about anything which actually IS that original. In Edinburgh, word-of-mouth is the strongest thing after a deep-fried Mars Bar soaked in whisky for 20 minutes.

The Edinburgh Fringe is all about publicity and perception.

To quote Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks’ movie The Producers:

“When you’ve got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!”

A good show will not necessarily get noticed amid the adrenaline-fuelled mayhem in Edinburgh.

A well-publicised show will get noticed.

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, PR, Theatre

Nine more innocent questions posed by first-time Edinburgh Fringe comedians

A while ago, I blogged Answers to nine common questions asked by innocent first-time performers at the Edinburgh Fringe.

As the Fringe is only a fortnight away – and as I could not bloody think of anything else to blog about today – I felt compelled to answer nine more mythical questions posed by comedians:

1. IF THERE ARE ONLY TWO PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE, SHOULD I CANCEL THE SHOW?

No. Even if there is only one person in the audience, perform the show. You do not know who is in the audience (particularly at the Free Fringe and the Free Festival where there are no comp tickets). I have blogged before about an Edinburgh Fringe show performed in the early 1990s by then-unknown comedian Charlie Chuck. There were only four people in the audience. He performed the show. Two of the audience members were preparing an upcoming BBC TV series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and, as a direct result, Charlie Chuck was cast as ‘Uncle Peter’ in the series.

2. BUT IF I GET LOW AUDIENCES, I AM A FAILURE, SURELY?

Very possibly, sunshine, but not necessarily. In reality, it means you are an average Edinburgh Fringe performer. Unless you are on TV, you will not get full audiences unless there is astonishing word-of-mouth about your show. Scots comedian Kevin Bridges could not fill a matchbox, even in Scotland. He appeared on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow on BBC1. After that, he was filling auditoriums the size of Bono’s ego. What is important at the Edinburgh Fringe is not the size of the audience but the quality of the audience. It is not How Many? but Who? which is important. And don’t call me Shirley.

3. BUT I AM GOING TO THE FRINGE TO GET SEEN BY AUDIENCES, AREN’T I?

No you are not. You are going to the Edinburgh Fringe to lose money. A comic whose name I have tragically forgotten, so cannot credit, likened it to standing in a cold shower tearing up £50 notes. You may have sold your grandmother into sexual slavery to afford this trip to the Fringe, but you are not in Edinburgh to perform shows to ordinary people. If you wanted to do that, you could have gone to the Camden Fringe or down the local pub on a Friday night. You are going to Edinburgh, the biggest arts festival in the world, to get seen by critics and, with luck, by radio and TV people, all of whom can boost your career. If you can create good word-of-mouth among the small audiences who do see your shows at the Fringe, then that may attract a few of the influential people.

4. I AM A COMEDIAN. AUDIENCES ARE NOT LAUGHING ALL THE WAY THROUGH MY SHOW. WHY?

Well, probably because you have a shit show, so tweak it or consider a career working at a call centre in Glasgow. There are some comics who should reconsider their lifestyle and bank balances. On the other hand, most comics are insanely insecure for very little reason. I have sat through many a show where the comedian thinks the audience did not like part of the show because it did not get enough laughs but I know for sure, because I was in the audience, that the punters enjoyed the show tremendously. They were just mesmerised in rapt attention during the quiet but important bits.

5. BUT WHY DON’T AUDIENCES LAUGH AT EVERY LINE?

Possibly because a good comedy script is not 100% laugh-at-every-line. Not over a whole hour. If you think your show is that funny you are either deluded, on cocaine or have a serious psychological problem (not that the last is any drawback in comedy). Watching a man take 10 seconds to jump off a cliff 66 times in a row is not exciting; it exhausts and bores the viewer after a while. What is exciting is a rollercoaster. A build-up followed by an adrenaline rush. Excitement followed by relief followed by excitement followed by relief followed by a climax. Note I never mentioned sex. An hour-long show is about pacing. If you remove the build-up before the punch-line, you will lose the laughter on the punch-line. And I still did not mention sex. Of course, the highly-experienced comic can get three subsidiary titters in the build-up followed by a big belly-laugh on the punch-line. Even (billed in alphabetical order) the brilliant Jimmy Carr, Milton Jones and Tim Vine, who mostly deal in one-liners, have pacing where their audiences can relax amid the laughs. Just like sex, in my experience.

6. SHOULD I WORRY IF I DO NOT GET REVIEWS?

Yes, but it is largely a matter of luck. I always tell people they have to play the Edinburgh Fringe on three consecutive years. The first year, no-one will notice you are there. The second year, you have some idea of how the Fringe works. The third year, people will think you are an Edinburgh institution and the media will pay some attention to you. You have to go for three consecutive years. If you miss a year, when you return, you are, in effect, re-starting at Year One. It is not just audiences but critics who change year-by-year. Critics reviewing shows at the Fringe may not have been doing it two years ago.

7. I ONLY HAVE 30 MINUTES OF GOOD MATERIAL. WAS I WRONG TO ATTEMPT TO DO A 60-MINUTE SHOW?

Yes. You are an idiot. You should have delayed your trip to the Fringe and gone next year. Going before you are fully ready is never a good idea. Yes, go up and play a few gigs on other people’s shows. Yes, go up as part of a three or four person show. But, if you are doing your first solo 60-minute show and you have anything less than 80 minutes of good material, you risk rapid ego-destruction.

8. IF I GET REVIEWS, ARE THE NUMBER OF STARS IMPORTANT?

In Edinburgh, absolutely. The stars are everything – provided you get above three stars. Put four or five stars on your posters and flyers – with short quotes – immediately. All your competitors – and, in Edinburgh ALL other performers, however seemingly friendly, are your deadly competitors – will be using the number of stars on a review to boost their own ego or to try and deflate yours. After the Fringe is over, the stars mean bugger all. They are unlikely to bring in crowds on a wet Thursday in Taunton. But their real value lies next year at the Fringe when you can quote them and they will have some effect. And always remember the admirable enterprise of the late comic Jason Wood. Highly influential Scotsman critic Kate Copstick gave his Fringe show a one star review. The next morning, all his posters in Edinburgh proudly displayed a pasted-on strip saying “A STAR” (The Scotsman)

9. WILL I WIN THE PERRIER PRIZE?

No. Partly because it no longer exists; they seem to call it something different every year. But mostly because you just won’t. Don’t be silly. Fantasy is a valuable part of the performer’s art, but never fully believe your own fantasy. You stand a better chance of winning one of the increasingly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards for comedy – the longest-running comedy awards with the same name at the Fringe. And, unlike their insignificant competitors, the Malcolm Hardee Awards are guaranteed to run until the year 2017. I allegedly organise them, but intentionally try not to be too organised as that would be lacking in respect to Malcolm’s memory. Don’t bother to apply to me because there is no application process, plus it interferes with my chocolate-eating. Your show format is probably neither that original nor, frankly, that good and we will almost certainly hear about anything which actually IS that original. In Edinburgh, word-of-mouth is the strongest thing after a deep-fried Mars Bar soaked in whisky for 20 minutes. The Malcolm Hardee Award judges this year are (in alphabetical order) famed Scotsman critic and Show Me The Funny judge Kate Copstick, inconsequential little old me,  The Times’ esteemed comedy critic Dominic Maxwell and the wildly prolific freelance Jay Richardson. Please feel free to wave £50 notes in our faces and offers of two-week holidays in Barbados with lovely 20-year-old nymphets (that holds for all four of us).

Look, in Edinburgh, the most important thing of all is self-publicity. Thus Malcolm Hardee Week at the Fringe.

To quote Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks’ movie The Producers:

“When you’ve got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!”

Here endeth the lesson and – only temporarily – the self-publicity.

4 Comments

Filed under Comedy, PR, Theatre