Updated: Apr 8, 2022
Edinburgh festival is a month and a half away. It is exam season for performers.
Everyone is making sure they have done enough revision. The result in the weeks prior to the festival is often a lack of sleep, endless comparisons to other comics re how prepared you are and worrying your show is not finished and everyone will spot you as a FRAUD. This panic and lack of confidence can often cause you to end up listening to the feedback of EVERYONE you meet in July, including that audience member who has already told you she ‘doesn't usually find women funny’. The Edinburgh Fringe, alongside most Arts Festivals around the world, can bring out the best in us in terms of our creativity and the worst in us in terms of our pride and ego. I’m not going this year because I need a break and need to look after my spine. This will be the first year in twelve years I haven’t been at the festival and worked as a volunteer, venue manager, technician, director or performer.
I have seen the fringe from all angles and I have had a really wide array of good and terrible experiences.
Thus, based on the conversations I have had with newer acts recently on the circuit, I have decided to write a little list of tips that I wish someone had said to me when I first started performing my own solo work. Here you go.
1) No one outside of Edinburgh is aware of the Edinburgh Festival. It is its own ecosystem. What happens in fringe exists only within THAT fringe. Don’t panic if you have a meltdown, snog everyone, scrap your show, rewrite your show midway through, decide you hate your show. That is okay. It is only a month. 2) The world is not ending.
3) Don't say yes to every gig. It is not worth it. Yes, getting as much stage time as possible is great but you can only truly get better in what you do by immersing yourself in the work of others and supporting and seeing the work everyone else has made. You are part of a collective. 4) You get a ONE STAR review. Okay. Cool. Get cross. That’s okay. It happens. You gonna quit comedy now? No? Okay, well then have a cup of tea and carry on. This won’t be the last bad review you get and why should it - you are experimenting with your craft and you are going to continue to get better and better and take risks. You are not for everybody. Who is? Who wants to please everybody? You know who. Soup. Who wants to be compared to soup? Nobody. So stop panicking. It is only a bad review. Flopping is part of the process. Wear the bruises of the fringe with pride. We have all been there. It will only make you stronger. 5) THREE STARS does not mean it is a bad show. It means it is a GOOD SHOW. Let us stop shaming three star reviews. Three stars is the Neville Longbottom of the star scale - under appreciated and crucially important. Drop your pride for a second too and be honest with yourself - is your show genuinely the BEST show you can make now and is this show what you consider to be one of the BEST shows at the fringe? It is totally cool if it is not - no one is asking you to 'be the best'. Do not put unobtainable pressure on yourself. This is part of the process of fringe and understanding who we are as performers. I am not gonna say ‘don’t read reviews’ because I understand the pressure/temptation, but remember - unless Chortle is funding your lifestyle, paying for your accommodation and covering your living costs it really DOES NOT MATTER what Stevie B thinks of you. 6)You are taking part in the biggest arts festival IN THE WORLD. That is amazing. Be proud of yourself and enjoy it. Very few people get the opportunity. 7) This is for those who are doing their first show… STOP SAYING YOU ARE DOING YOUR ‘DEBUT’. You are NOT A D.J. You are not dropping an album . You are doing your first show. First of many. It is gonna be up and down. Your second show is not your sequel and your third show isn’t the ‘conclusion to a trilogy’. Just have a good time. 8) Awards do not matter. The same way the awards on Speech day at school do not matter. The same way no one cares what GCSE results you got after you turn 17. They are nice and lovely if they happen to you but they are not the BE ALL AND END ALL. If someone starts talking to you about the awards, get up and walk away. Fetishizing the awards is the worry fungi of the festival. It festers in your soul and gives you personality thrush. If anyone is stressing you about the awards they do not care about your mental health. 9) Be wary of those who care what reviews other people are getting at the festival. Be wary of those who relish in the negative reviews of others. These people are silly sausages and clearly have a lot of stuff going on.
10) The most important person to focus on this Edinburgh is YOU. (I don’t mean that in a ‘fuck everyone else’ way). If you are happy with the improvements you are making, you are proud of your material, you enjoy your show and you are enjoying your audiences - then you are having a good Edinburgh. That is a successful fringe festival. 11) You are going to be at this festival for a month - doing a minimum of one show a day. So ask yourself - Are you a robot with 100% solid charge? NO? Then WHY would you expect EVERY show to be the same? Are you human? Do you bleed? If you do - well guess what pal… some days you are not gonna be your absolute best on stage. Sure, you will always try, but sometimes you will be tired and other parts of your life will get in the way. AND YOU KNOW WHAT - that is OKAY. As long as you never give up on the audiences you are smashing this fringe IN THE DICK. Take that from a woman who was performing her show last year not realising she had two slipped discs and who nearly became paralysed the year after. 12) Do not worry if the show is not 'finished' by the first day of the festival. Each show is the sibling to the show before. They aren’t clones. Sure they have the same DNA but they will all come out differently. The material will be the same, but the delivery will be different - same as the audience each night is. Learning this makes your analysis and love for each individual gig easier. 13) If in doubt, eat a vegetable. Chances are you are just dehydrated, tired and lacking Vitamin C.
14) No matter how shit you feel - avoid posting a long facebook status stating how shit the fringe is, how stupid the reviewers are, how stupid the awards are and how ridiculous it is you’ve not gotten the recognition you decided months ago you thought you deserved. Don’t use a hashtag either. Have a bath. Write a poem. 15) The ‘cool places’ are where you and your friends are. Don’t waste time trying to get into places that you never had heard about until yesterday. If you have found a decent place to sit with your mates in a pub that is not rammed with drama students and overly expensive beer you have found the most VIP place in the festival. Have a good fringe. X