5 Things I Learned at the Edinburgh Fringe
*Originally posted September 23, 2015
Some tough love for the sensitive performer…
This is my 6th hour at the exhausting but exhilarating Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I love this festival and everything it has to offer. It is an emotional roller coaster where some days you find yourself riding high on that five star review and the next day you’re curled into a ball licking your wounds, after performing an hour show to a packed-out room of dead silence.
I’m sure you’re a great person. I’m sure your show is great too. But when shit hits the fan at the largest arts festival in the world, we the artists turn around to see who threw said feces in the first place. Sometimes it was us and we didn’t even realize it.
1. IF YOUR SHOW ISN’T GOING WELL IT’S PROBABLY YOUR FAULT
This year I spent two days trying to figure out a cheap way to get novelty condoms to pass out at the end of my show. They were going to be so cool. They were going to be different colours and have my face and show information on the wrapper. I was researching sites and manufacturers for days until a friend pointed out I was putting off working on my ACTUAL SHOW.
Your publicist, venue, and flyer team, and Fringe Artists Services can only do so much for you. I can’t tell you how many of my pals (me included) have shown up with a show and shrugged, saying, “It’s still not quite working. But I’ll figure it out.”
You had a year. You didn’t make your deadline and now you’re whining over a pint of lager, saying your venue isn’t offering you “any support.” If you didn’t create something that makes an audience think “Wow, I want to tell my friends about this”, then you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain and that’s why BBC4 isn’t calling. It’s a tough nut to swallow but there you go. Now put down the badge making machine and use the time to punch up your show.
2. AT A CERTAIN POINT IN THE EVENING YOU’RE NOT “NETWORKING” – YOU’RE JUST DRUNK
I remember during my first year I was told about the importance of networking. So I stayed up in bars talking to comedians and I drank, and I drank, and I drank. And I met some of my greatest friends on those evenings. But let’s be honest, at 3am any chat I had with a booker, agent, or promoter didn’t further my career. We were all tired and booze-ridden. The next day we’d wake up and have only a vague idea of what we talked about the night before.
It’s OK to just go to bed early. Then when someone who shows up to watch your show who can help you, you’ll be ready to give your best performance.
3. THERE’S ONLY SO MUCH YOU CAN DO TO GET INDUSTRY TO THE SHOW. AT SOME POINT JUST GIVE UP AND HAVE FUN
You’ve been an admin demon from the start: making spreadsheets, contacting press and industry and then following up in a reasonable but persistent manner. Good for you!!! That’s not easy to do. And now it’s getting late in the game and NONE of them have gotten back to you.
It’s OK. At the end of the day, the goal is to perform a great show every night, thus bringing joy to the ten people who DID show up. Don’t get upset that one of those ten isn’t Copstick. Be happy that those ten did show up. And knock it out of the park. Do good this year. Maybe you’ll get more of a response from said industry next year. Edinburgh isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. You got to pace yourself. And that’s true about showbiz in general. If you do your research you’ll see most “overnight success” happens to people who’ve been working at it for years.
4. MAYBE THE REVIEWER WAS RIGHT AND YOU DID GIVE A 3-STAR PERFORMANCE
Did you pull an all-nighter then decide it’d be fun to climb Arthur’s Seat at sunrise before your 4pm show the next day? Did you see that only three, just three, people showed up to watch you so you phoned in the whole performance? Did you end by shrugging and going, “so I still haven’t found an ending?” Have you been performing for a whole two years and this is your first hour? Well, maybe the reviewer is a dick. And maybe what you do isn’t their cup of tea. Or maybe you were hungover, self-righteous, under prepared, or just new to the game.
5. YOU TOOK A CHANCE ON YOURSELF. SO BE PROUD OF THAT. WHATEVER HAPPENS IT WAS WORTH IT
You took a huge part of your year to come to Edinburgh, you’ve laid down a large chunk of money to do it, and you threw your heart into what you wrote. Congrats – you did it. And because you did it, you’re a unique individual. How many people in the world actually think “I have a story worth telling to multiple strangers and it’s even worth those strangers’ money”?
You thought it and THEN you put it to action. Which is even HARDER to do. Most people have an idea but stop short of creating it in a play/show/video/painting/book. You did it. You took the step. So if everything else falls apart, you made it further than most people. Learn from any mistakes you make and apply those lessons to the next go around.
You’ll be fine kid. I believe in you. But what’s more important: you believed in you.
*This article originally appeared in WOW24/7.