The worlds biggest arts festival is in Edinburgh every August. I live in Edinburgh. It just so happens that I also like live comedy so it would be a shame not to take advantage of this.
Please share in our experience of the Fringe…
Probably too late for this year but, if you have a particular comedian or show that you want to see, most have cheap preview tickets and 2-4-1’s for a couple of nights. These are especially good for more experienced, tried and tested comedians who have already been touring their show elsewhere. We always get a bunch of cheap tickets for the “must see’s” for a fraction of the cost.
Dealing with flyerers
Those bearing flyers are, more often than not, a complete pain in the arse. They come in various different flavours, 1.) those promoting their own show, 2.) Those promoting their friends’ or family’s show 3.) those employed by a 3rd party to promote someone’s show.
The general rules are thus: don’t let them interfere in what you’re doing. If you’re on your way somewhere, don’t let them stop you. You may have to be rude. Don’t worry, by the second week of the fringe, they will be quite used to this. If you’re not really doing anything, i,e, sitting in the Pleasance courtyard having a drink, accept their flyers but have a wee look to see what flyer is for before entering a adiscussion. A handy tip is to mention what you already plan to see. Those in the know deserve some chat, but if you mention that you’re seeing David O’Doherty (like we did last night) and they stare at you blankly, they don’t deserve to be promoting someone’s show. John Bishop recalls the time when a promoter actually tried to give him a flyer for his own show. He played along, “is he any good?” “Apparently he’s alright”.
Comedy at the Fringe is pretty much dominated by a collection of main venues, namely The Pleasance, Bristo square, George square, the Stand and the labyrinth of stairs joining Cowgate and Victoria street. The Pleasance will have some big names but in reasonably sized rooms which really helps the atmosphere. It also has the famous Pleasance Courtyard where you can sit with an overpriced pint of Fosters and spot comedians pretending they want to blend in. “Assembly” used to be based, aptly enough, at the Assembly rooms on George street. With this being in the midst of renovations, they’re relying on their other venues across the city. They’ve taken over where the Spiegeltent used to be at George square – a funfair-like garden with 3 different rooms with a central garden area of plastic grass, picnic tables and deckchairs. It was dead comfy when we were there on Wednesday but then, that was the first day of the fringe. I expect it to get unpleasantly full in no time at all.
The Stand must get a mention. It is a quality comedy venue all year round cited by top comedians (see Stewart Lee‘s “How I escaped my Certain Fate”) as being one of the best in the UK. Being north of Princes street, they get a little bit left out of the buzz that’s around Bristo square and the Pleasance but the quality of their acts always ensure that there’s something there for you to see. It’s a small room though so if the act you want to see is playing there, get your tickets WELL in advance and turn up good and early to ensure you get a seat.
You just have to walk down any street in Edinburgh in August to come across a venue. Most pubs, cafe’s, churches, galleries etc all have the “Fringe Venue 235” sign up outside. If you have plenty time, pop in and see what it’s all about.
There is always someone there to tell you who you should see at the fringe. Keep an eye on reviews. Kate Copstick is a well respected comedy reviewer who writes for the Scotsman. A bad review from her is often bad news for a show’s sales.
Twitter is a great place to get the festival from the performer’s view. Most of them are on there. Look at the #Edfringe hashtag and see what everyone else is saying about the fringe too.
Most folk have friends who know (of claim to know) comedy. Listen to those people. You can normally tell if you’d fancy the show or not by their description. If you haven’t heard of them, try searching for them on Youtube. There might be a clip of them.
A week or so into the festival, chat (or secretly listen) to strangers in Pleasance courtyard or at the Teviot bar next to Bristo Square. First hand reviews.
Basically, if you like the look of something, try it out. That’s what they’re there for.
There’s no escaping it, it’s not cheap. £3.50 at most venues for a pint of lager. Tickets for anyone who’s had any kind of tv or radio exposure will normally be upwards of a tenner. If you haven’t managed to take advantage of the preview or 2-4-1’s, there’s the PBH’s Free Fringe running across the city. It pretty much does what it says on the tin. Free gigs. And normally in pubs which means not so inflated costs for your drink. Bonus! Makes it easier to take a chance on an act if you don’t have to pay to get in.
There are plus and minus points to living in Edinburgh during August. One of the advantages is knowing that, while you can’t get to work on time because the tourists have made the bus run half an hour late, you’re not paying hundreds of pounds to sleep on someone’s sofa. If you don’t have somewhere to stay, I can’t help you with this, so don’t ask.