I have spent practically half the Augusts of my life at the Edinburgh Fringe, so it’s very strange to not be up there this year. I made the right choice. Edinburgh is so overcrowded and expensive. So it’s great to be in London…. Right?
Apart from me, my home town is almost totally empty of comedians. I feel a bit like the little lame boy left behind by the Pied Piper. On the plus side if an asteroid smashes into the Scottish capital and wipes out all my rivals, I will finally be in demand for TV panel shows. So fingers crossed. Don’t worry, the Edinburgh landlords will have made enough money from this year’s rents alone to each build a vast Space Ark to take them to safety.
As a wizened and broken veteran of 23 Fringes I would like to pass down my wisdom to the fresh-faced newbies. Like many others I am offering my Fringe Survival tips, even though the Fringe is so eminently survivable that I can’t think of a single performer in the last 25 years who has failed to survive it. Which given the amount of abuse that they will be putting themselves through in terms of drink, drugs, unprotected sex as well as receiving from reviewers and punters is remarkable.
1) Eat jacket potatoes. This really is the number one tip. Not to excess, obviously. We daren’t risk another Brian Harvey. But once a week, fill your stomach with some stodgy carbohydrate, preferably from the aptly named Tempting Tattie in Jeffrey Street. Cheese and mango chutney is my filling of choice. A combo that has totally failed to be named “The Richard Herring” by the ungrateful owners of the shop.
2) Drink, take drugs and have unprotected sex. As I have proven above none of these things have (immediately) killed anyone at the Fringe before, so you’ll probably be OK.
3) Do not seek out overnight success – The Fringe is there for you to learn and to work out if you have the staying power to make it in this frustrating and fickle business. Due to the huge numbers of shows at the Festival the chances of you being “discovered” or even reviewed are infinitesimal. It will be frustrating because you think you’re awesome. But you’re not awesome. You’re still pretty ropey. And however good you are, you will be much better if you come to the Fringe for the next five years.
Personally I am really playing the long game on this. Sure I’ve been going up since 1987 and no one knows who I am yet, but when I finally hit, I am going to be ready for all the fame, fortune and sex with supermodels. And enjoy the five minutes I have of all that before I die.
4) Don’t listen to the advice of old comedians. They are just trying to stop you stealing their work and will give you advice that will sabotage or kill you. Of course as I am an old comedian then you mustn’t listen to my advice, which means you must listen to the advice of old comedians. And they’re all saying, “Give up, you’re really no good.”
5) Enjoy it. There is no way you will enjoy it. The Fringe is horrific. But you might enjoy it retrospectively. I cried myself to sleep most nights at my first Fringe in 1987, but now I look back at that summer as the best of my life. So it only takes 28 years before you will enjoy this. So enjoy it. In 28 years time.
Very sad to hear about the death David Nobbs. Last time I saw him he was having a cigarette with Barry Cryer outside the BBC Light Entertainment Christmas party, giving a robust “come and a go if you think you’re hard enough” to the Grim Reaper. The bony bastard got David in the end, but the spirit and wit of the man will not be extinguished. R(eginald) I(olanthe) P(errin)