Tag Archives: Edinburgh Festival Fringe

What I Done Saw At Edinburgh 2015

I’m back from a sunny (!?!) and fun-packed week up in Scotland’s craggy and beautiful capital city.  For those readers not in the know, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is one of the most important events on any comic’s calendar…certainly in the UK but, increasingly, abroad too. In fact, the US-based comics of note who came over this year include Kyle Kinane and Michael Che.

Gorgeous Every Single Time

Gorgeous Every Single Time

The festival lasts a little over three weeks (inclusive of a few ‘preview’ dates) and also features theatre, music, dance, family friendly shows, puppetry, street performance, you name it.

The whole city has a deliriously giddy arts-camp sort of feel with every other person you encounter ready to flyer you for their show.  As most shows typically run in hour long slots, you can make a mission of it and try to cram up to 7 or 8 shows in a day (that’s allowing for the oh so necessary beer and pie breaks–if you don’t drink or eat you could probably fit more in).

I had planned on going up for the whole run this year, which would have been my first time doing so, but my plans changed when I didn’t get the venues I’d applied for.  Doing a full run in Edinburgh is hellapricey. You have to consider your accommodation for the  month, which is always extortionate, your promotional costs, eating, drinking, etc… As crucial as the experience is, doing the entire run at the Fringe is a slog, a drain, and a real test of your stamina. Some people barely make it out alive. I snapped a picture of this shrine to desperation on Niddry street.

Whatever gets you through the night, comedy soldier.

Whatever gets you through the night, comedy soldier.

 

To be fair, I got a later offer of a midnight slot at a venue…but it wouldn’t have suited my comedy. I’m not aggressive. I’m not blue. I’m an American lesbian comic nerd abroad.  I don’t need to invite more heckling into my life. As such, I’m saving my pennies until next year. I’ll apply again and cross my fingers for the venue lottery to swing my way.

Happily, however, I got to go up for a week of shows.  I was hosting Gag Reflex’s compilation show (Gag Reflex Presents…) and improvising with ComedySportz.  It was a real treat to be asked to work with Gag. They are a powerhouse of a comedy agency in the North and the professionalism with which they run and promote their acts and gigs is refreshing and emboldening (special thanks to Forest, Connor, Alex, and Hannah). I was on the bill with 4 acts:  Chris Washington, Sean Nolan, Benji Waterstones, and Tom Lucy. I’d never worked with any of them previously and I found them all to be delightfully funny, cool guys.  Also, The Boy With Tape On His Face stopped by to do a ten minute set. Unbeatable.

Moi

Moi

The ComedySportz shows were also a treat. Initially concerned about our 7:30PM slot…we found, in the long run, that being a kid-friendly show at that hour may have actually benefited us as there was much less competition around at that time.  We had lovely, up-for-it crowds, genius children, and quite a few folks who came back to 2 or 3 shows.  Frosting on the cake? We got to play with the Chicago team’s Nathan Jansen, Nick Semar, and Bethany Remeley. Amazing improvisers and a hell of a show.

Now, I’m back from the fun, I’d like to pass on some recommendations for gigs up there…if you’re planning on heading up before the close of the festival (and you totally should).

What I done saw this year:

Baby Wants Candy:  I see this show EVERY year. Why would I go and see the same show for £14 pounds every dang year? Because it’s different every time. BWC is long-form musical improv (with a full band) as performed by some of the world’s best improvisers. They, unfailingly, make me laugh my face off. I hope they never stop spending their August in Scotland.

Nick and Nathan of BWC

Nick and Nathan of BWC

 

Speaking of classy improv:  Austentatious.  This London-based improv show has been in receipt of glowing reviews since they brought their show up north and I finally got to catch them this year. It’s pitch-perfect, knowing, clever-silly fun. May have to make this an annual exercise as well.

Went and saw my good buddies at Gein’s Family Gift Shop for their ‘Volume 2’ hour of sketches. Darker and funnier than ever, Kath Hughes gets a bit more stage time and is perhaps the most menacing of them all. My friend Kat came to their preview at Sidekick recently and now feels like comedy is ruined forever because nothing will ever be as good.

Kath and I got to try the new wings joint in Edinburgh (It’s helpfully called ‘Wings’) and it’s amazing. Lots of varieties from gloppy blue-cheese to buffalo ranch, a fun beverage list…and…most importantly…a shit ton of pop culture crap just strewn about the joint. The tables are all themed. There was Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who…we got to sit at the Jurassic Park table.  You need to go there. Regretfully, I did not vine a wee video of my water glass wobbling.

Kath Hughes, being a winner, per usual.

Kath Hughes, being a winner, per usual.

Canadian comic Mae Martin is doing a free gig at City Cafe this year. Her solo show ‘Us’ was excellent. Her affable and confessional story-telling ability made the hour fly by.

Kyle Kinane. A thoughtful buzzsaw of comedy. Of course he impressed. But then again, I’m a fan. Apparently he mixes up different material every night. No two shows are exactly the same?

AFVS: Another Fucking Variety Show. A Gag Reflex show, legend of the burlesque and cabaret scene, Lili La Scala comperes a glorious variety of acts onto the stage. On the night I attended, Christina Bianco (as featured on Ellen, impersonating everyone from Babs to Whitney) was there.

I didn’t have time to see all the shows I would have wanted to. But, here’s a few more shows that I saw preview versions of and which are also absolutely killing it with amazing reviews at the festival:

Michael J. Dolan: Miserable Guts

Fern Brady: People Are Idiots

Peter Brush: Older The Oldest Dog That Ever Lived

Lou Conran: Small Medium At Large

Jonny Pelham: Before And After

I can also recommend a whole fleet of comedy friends and colleagues whose Edinburgh shows I HAVEN’T seen but who I know for a fact, are amazing: Joby Mageean, Red Redmond, Freddy Quinne, Dan Nicholas, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Joe Lycett, Steve Bugeja (who will be at Sidekick Comedy in September), Harriet Kemsley, Bobby Mair, Phil Ellis, Seymour Mace, Silky, Martin Mor, Sam Gore, and a buh-billion more, so I’ll have to stop now. The point is…there are tons of shows, both free and ticketed, that are worth your time and money. The city is absolutely lousy with choice.

Get yourself to Edinburgh!

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And Now, A Personal Message…

Hello blog-reader.  I’m taking a quick break from the regularly scheduled list of great things to plug the show I’m doing in Edinburgh.

You may or may not know that I pursue stand-up comedy.  I work a lovely and forgiving day job full of nice people and kind policies like flexi-time and good vacation packages.  But, by night, I do stand-up as often as I can.  What you may not know is that  I am ALSO a writer and performer in a Manchester-based sketch troupe called The Tourists.  We’ve done some shows and festivals locally, but we’re really:

a. excited

b. scared

c. humbled

d. chewy

to be part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year.  (The cool kids call it ‘The Fringe’).  It is the biggest arts festival in the world. That’s right, smooch, pow, click, THE WORLD!

The guy on the left knows what I'm talking about...

Here are some stats that I lifted straight off of Wikipedia:

The Fringe 2009 sold 1,859,235 tickets[3] for 34,265 performances of 2,098 shows in 265 venues, over 25 days,[2] for an average of over 74,000 admissions and 1,300 performances per day. There were an estimated 18,901 performers, from 60 countries.

Born in 1946, you’d  think that this annual influx of traffic would make this tidy and historic city of Edinburgh feel overly congested…and it does clog things up a bit…but it never quite feels as bad as Times Square at rush hour.

Bonny!

The festival showcases just about every art form that you can think of…from Shakespeare companies to flamenco dancers to rock bands but it is of mega import to the comedy world–especially if you’re looking to beef up your comedy resume in the UK.  It’s the goal of just about every UK comic to have a well-reviewed solo show in the Fringe Festival at least once in their lifetime if not a semi-annual pilgrimage with new material every few years or so.

Last year, I went for up for a weekend to merely view some shows as a tourist (the name of my sketch group!  coincidence…spooooooky), as I have every year since I arrived in the UK, and I managed to pick up about three 10 minute spots.  This is possible because there are SOOO many comedy shows going on every day that the comedy world needs the equivalent of a ‘supply teacher’ sort of agency to fill in for comics who have cancelled spots with late notice.

I shall definitely be pursuing more of the same this year.  I’m hoping to exercise my set quite regularly for the duration.  But the primary reason for travelling up this year is actually because of the aforementioned sketch show.  Details can be found here:

http://thetouristscomedy.com/

I’ll also be updating that sketch company blog with quickie reviews of shows I’ve seen and notices of when I’m lucky enough to snag some stand-up gigs.

There’s a ton I want to see this year.  Some big US comics are always over for the fest.  Can’t wait to see Hannibal Buress’s solo show.  I saw him last year at the Glasgow fest and he was great.  He writes for 30 Rock nowadays.  Also want to see Lee Camp–a terrific comic outright but he also writes killer political material.  A couple of terrific British sketch groups are on the go…Lady Garden, Wit Tank, Him & Me, etc…  Between picking up scrap of gigs, doing the daily show with the sketch group, and watching shows I hope to be a very busy bee.

Anyway come and see us, The Tourists, if you’re planning on a wonderful journey to the town that best resembles Diagon Alley.

Come for the culture, stay for the fried Mars Bars.

Part of a complete breakfast.

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