Tag Archives: Samaritans

Edinburgh Fringe: Want to become a comedian? – Why? Are you ****ed up?

At the end of yesterday morning’s blog, I mentioned the surprisingly not-yet-legendary fact that comics Bob Slayer and Jeff Leach once, in British English, wanked into the face of an audience member at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I had heard before of this (in British English) wankathon, but not the fact that an audience member was involved.

Yesterday afternoon, coming out of The Grouchy Club, I accidentally bumped into Dave Chapple – not to be confused with American comic Dave Chappelle – Dave Chapple is the afore-mentioned wank-incident audience member who is, this year, trying to set a record by seeing 287 comedy shows at the Fringe.

One man faces up to near-legendary Fringe status

This man’s face played a role in Fringe history

“I only have 45 seconds before my next show starts,” he told me.

“It’s all true, then?” I asked him. “The story about the wanking?”

“Absolutely true.”

“Do you remember any details about it?” I asked. “The texture?”

“The texture? Not really.”

“Could you not get out of the way?” I asked. “Surely it takes a little time if they’re on stage and you’re in the front row of the audience?”

“Not in Espionage,” he replied. “They were on a stage and I was on a stool.”

“A stool?” I asked.

“A stool. Carole was sat next to me and she was laughing her head off. I was just grateful I had my glasses on.”

Other oddities at the Fringe yesterday involved…

  • The re-appearance of fake BroadwayBabys

    A re-appearance of the fake BroadwayBaby

    Random punters at The Hive last night having to choose between Sex With Children and Jim Davidson’s Funeral (a one-off performance).

  • Someone stopping me to ask when Machete Hettie was back from holiday in Bulgaria and if she was going to turn up at The Grouchy Club. I hope the answer is Yes. Ask no more. She is a Fringe legend in the making.
  • The re-appearance of what appear to be fake editions of the Broadway Baby free review sheet. When I phoned the person I thought might be responsible, I was told: Ha! Just you wait! I have other news, but I will hunt you down in two days.

Among the audience at The Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon were Italian comics Giacinto Palmieri & Luca Cupani and young comic Jake Baker.

Last year, my Grouchy Club co-host Kate Copstick, doyenne of comedy critics, was judge on the Gilded Balloon’s highly-esteemed annual So You Think You’re Funny talent show at the Fringe.

She was also a judge on an unspeakably dire comedy talent show on ITV called Show Me The Funny which kept trying to pretend it was not a comedy talent show by having the contestants go out and milk goats or some other pointless task.

Well, I do not think they ever WERE asked to milk goats, but it felt like it. Copstick, clearly cast as the evil Simon Cowell judge, was the only decent part of the show.

I express my own opinion.

Do not confuse the awful Show Me The Funny with the excellent So You Think You’re Funny.

It was on the excellent So You Think You’re Funny show that Copstick saw young comic Jake Baker.

A couple of months ago, he asked if Copstick could give him some advice on his act. She suggested he come along to The Grouchy Club one afternoon in August and perform in front of other comics. They would give him their comments.

London’s Evening Standard reports the death

Evening Standard reports the death

At the start of yesterday’s Grouchy Club show, I mentioned that Robin Williams had died, apparently from suicide. Copstick had not heard.

“That’s one of the horrible things about the Fringe,” she said. “things happen in the world and you don’t hear. Thousands die in Syria. ISIS are chopping the heads off children and the most terrible thing here is when someone is given 3 stars instead of 4 in a review.”

In the last week, I have had two comics sharing emotional wobblies with me because they got 3-star reviews that, they believed, panned them. When I read the reviews myself, both were enthusiastic, complimentary reviews with good quotes which could justifiably be extracted to publicise the show. Both comedians got good reviews. Both thought they had got bad reviews.

Copstick said: “I remember, when I was a performer here, spending two weeks being devastated because somebody had written: The show was great. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And Kate Copstick was a revelation.

“I thought: Well, they obviously expected me to be shit! The word on the street must be that I’m rubbish! I went into a spin about that, but real things were happening in the real world.”

After the shock of hearing about Robin Williams’ apparent suicide, she said: “But, then, there are no well-balanced people who go into comedy. You cannot be happy, well-balanced, with proper friends and be a comedian. You have to be fucked-up in some way.”

Luca (left) and Giacinto pose for me in Camden yesterday while an attractive lady casually picks her nose behind them

Religious Luca Cupani (left) & non-believer Giacinto Palmieri

“I am quite happy,” said Luca Cupani.

“Come on,” said Giacinto Palmieri, “you believe in God. How fucked-up is that?”

“He’s so powerful he scares me,” said Luca.

“You’re Catholic?” asked Copstick.

“Yes.”

“Well, there you are,” said Copstick. “You don’t get more fucked-up than being a practising Catholic.”

“That’s true,” said Luca.

“I shared a flat,” continued Copstick, “with a practising Irish Catholic and she was quite a badly-behaved girl. Every time we had an appalling, badly-behaved party, she ended up under three different guys with four different kinds of drugs and spent the next morning going: Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin!

“She would go down to Confession, come back and do exactly the same thing again and then go: Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin! It was virtually a split personality. Half of her was shagging as a main hobby and a way of life – she specialised in married men – Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin! – and the other half of her was devastated by the sin of it.”

“I am protected,” said Luca, “because I don’t have so many girls going down on me so far.”

“How long have you been a comic?” Copstick asked.

“Five months,” said Luca.

“Oh, it will come,” said Copstick. “Giacinto, tell him.”

“They don’t” Giacinto said. “At least, not to me.”

Jake Baker performed at The Grouchy Club

Jake Baker performed at The Grouchy Club

“I’ve had the same girlfriend since I was seventeen,” said 24-year-old Jake Baker.

“Wow!” said Copstick, shocked. “Seven years! That’s amazing!”

“There’s still plenty of time for him to ruin his life,” I said.

“You can’t be a comedian,” said Giacinto.”You’re not fucked-up enough.”

“Why do you want to be a comic?” asked Copstick.

“It looked like fun,” said Jake.

“For you or for the audience?” asked Giacinto.

“I quite liked stand-up when I was at university,” said Jake. “I thought I’d give it a go, I’ve enjoyed it so far, so I guess I’ll keep going as long as I enjoy it.”

“Why did you want to be a comedian?” Copstick asked Giacinto.

“Because I have things I want to say. I like to play with my mind.”

“That’s the other thing, isn’t it?” I said. “To get things out of your brain.”

“I think now,” Copstick said to Jake, “the danger for stand-up is that there are lots of guys around your age who don’t really want to be stand-up comics. They want to be famous and they want to be on TV and they probably want to host something ideally within the next 18 months. For the last few years I’ve been able to go and see clones who have not really got anything to say.

“I think the worst thing you can have in politics is a career politician – someone who has not had a life but who went to university to do politics and then become a politician’s assistant and then a politician. In the same way, there’s nothing worse than somebody who goes to a comedy workshop or class – and you can tell them a mile off. They’re doing it by numbers, because comedy is a secondary drive. The primary drive is fame and television.

“So I think you’re coming into comedy at an incredibly crowded time, which is bad news. But the good news is most of the crowd are shit.”

A helping hand held out in a comedic world

A helping hand held out in a comedic world

Just for the record, Jake was very good. Not perfect. But very promising.

As I finished writing this blog, a lady came up to the table I am sitting at in Fringe Central.

“Can I give you this?” she asked in a soft voice, handing me a card. “If you need anyone to talk to. I know it is not always easy for you guys.”

The card was from The Samaritans.

If only she knew.

If only she knew.

I had already had an e-mail from Lewis Schaffer.

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Answers to nine common questions asked by innocent first-time performers at the Edinburgh Fringe

Next Wednesday is the deadline for the reduced-rate entries in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Programme. Until next Wednesday, the cost is £295.20p. After that, it goes up to £393.60p. So, in a spirit of altruism and pomposity, I thought I’d give my personal opinion on nine Things You Need to Know About the Edinburgh Fringe…

1. HOW MUCH DOES ACCOMMODATION COST?

You know the phrase “an arm and a leg”?

If you think you can get anything as cheap as that, you are having an idle fantasy or you are taking hallucinogenic drugs far stronger than you should if you want to stand upright on a stage.

And, if you haven’t been up, you have no idea. The Edinburgh Fringe is unimaginably large and sprawling. It is the biggest arts festival in the world; Edinburgh is a relatively small city. Last year, there were 21,148 performers in Edinburgh simply for the Fringe. That is just performers. Then you have the back-stage, administrative, media and service industry people and the audiences themselves.

Last year, there were 40,254 performances of 2,453 shows in 259 venues. And that’s just the Fringe. Simultaneously, you have the separate official Edinburgh Festival, the Military Tattoo, the Art Festival, the Book Festival and the Television Festival. Any one of those would be a major event on its own in any other city. In Edinburgh, they are happening simultaneously. Plus there are endless other events and street theatre on a massive scale. And just normal meandering tourists. Last year, at the Fringe alone, there were around two million bums-on-seats for shows. No-one knows exact figures for sure because of the increasingly large PBH Free Fringe and Laughing Horse Free Festival numbers.

It is a simple case of Thatcherite market-led supply and demand. The demand for accommodation is enormous; the supply is severely limited.

Someone I know who is friends with an estate agent in Edinburgh was told – this is true – that one rule of thumb they use for calculating rental rates for flats during the Fringe is to ask the owner: “How much is your annual mortgage?” That then becomes a fair amount to charge someone for the month of August.

I had relatives and friends in Edinburgh until three years ago. Now I have to pay. It’s horrendous.

The phrase to bear in mind with everything connected to the Edinburgh Fringe is “like lambs to the slaughter”.

But, like the mud at Glastonbury, it is addictive.

2. SHALL I GO UP FOR JUST ONE WEEK?

No.

The first (half) week is dead and tickets are half-price or two-for-one. You will get low audiences and even less money. If you do get audiences, they will fall off a cliff on the first Tuesday, when the half-price deals end.

The second week is usually almost equally dead.

The third week perks up a little.

The final week is buzzing.

But, if you have not been there since the very beginning and only go up for the last week, you will have generated no word of mouth about your show, no momentum and no review quotes to put on your posters and flyers. And you will be wiped off the face of Edinburgh awareness by a tsunami of other shows which have all these things.

That is if you even get a review, which is highly unlikely.

Whenever a foolhardy Fringe virgin asks my advice, I also tell him/her:

“You have to go up for three consecutive years”

The first year, you will be lost and ignored. The second year you will, with luck, know how to play the system. The third year, reviewers and audience will think you are a regular and you may get noticed.

I know one act who has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe three times. Great act. Wonderful. Got 4-star reviews every time. But, because he/she could not afford to go up every year, there was no momentum building from year to year. He/she, in effect, had to start from scratch each year as an unknown.

Remember that it is not just audiences but reviewers who have a high turnover. The punter and reviewer who saw your show two years ago is probably not in town/ not reviewing this year.

3. CAN I RELAX ON THE PUBLICITY FRONT BECAUSE MY VENUE’S PRESS OFFICE AND THE FRINGE’S PRESS OFFICE WILL HANDLE ALL MY MEDIA PUBLICITY?

You have no idea how it works.

No they won’t.

The venue’s press office is not there to specifically publicise your show. They publicise the venue and act as a central contact point. They will try to be even-handed, but they have lots of other shows. They cannot do constant hands-on publicity for you.

Same thing with the Fringe Office. They are a central contact point. Keep them informed. But they are too busy to do the impossible and publicise your show. Last year, they were dealing with 40,254 performances of 2,453 shows in 259 venues. And with 21,148 self-obsessed and wildly disorganised – possibly mentally unstable – performers. This year, the numbers will probably be higher.

The Samaritans are the ones to ask for help in Edinburgh.

4. DOES MY VENUE’S STAFF KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING?

No.

Trust me.

No.

Most only arrived a week ago, some are Australian and the ones who are not have little experience of anything outside their friends’ kitchens. They probably had no sleep last night and are certainly only at the Fringe to drink, take drugs and, with luck, get laid by well-proportioned members of the opposite sex. Or, in some cases, the same sex.

Trust me.

With help and advice, they could organise a piss-up at the Fringe but not in a brewery.

5. HOW MUCH MONEY MIGHT I MAKE?

Are you mad?

You have to assume a 100% loss on your investment. Even if people make a profit, they usually calculate that by ignoring accommodation costs and the amount of money they would have made anyway if they had not gone up to Edinburgh.

6. I HAVE A PROMOTER AND/OR PRO AGENT. HE WILL LOOK AFTER MY INTERESTS, RIGHT?

He might do. And you might win the EuroLottery. Or he might try to screw you rigid.

One thing to look out for is an agent/manager/promoter’s expenses.

One performer I know went up with a well-known promoter who was looking after seven shows that year. He quite reasonably deducted the cost of his own accommodation and transport. But, instead of dividing the total costs by seven and spreading that cost between all seven shows, he deducted 100% of the cost from each show’s profits, thus getting back 700% of his total costs.

Another thing to look out for is agents, promoters or managers who take their percentage off the gross, not off net receipts. They should be taking their percentage off the genuine profit – the net receipts after deduction of genuine overheads and expenses. If they take their percentage off the gross receipts before deduction of overheads and expenses, you are being severely disadvantaged.

Alright. They are fucking you.

If your show makes £100 but costs £90 to stage, then the profit is £10. If the promoter/agent takes 10% of that net profit, then he gets £1 and you get £9.

If your show makes £100 and the promoter/agent takes 10% off that gross profit and the show cost £90 to put on, then he gets £10 and you get zero.

And, in both those examples, the show made exactly the same amount of money.

And let’s not even get into the games which can be played with the point at which they add in or deduct VAT.

7. IT’S MY FIRST EDINBURGH. WILL I GET FINANCIALLY SCREWED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE?

Yes.

8. WILL IT RAIN?

Yes.

9. SHOULD I GO BACK AGAIN NEXT YEAR?

Yes.

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