November 11, 2008

Edinburgh

Can Marc Hogan, a man who’s never performed stand-up comedy before in his life have a succesful show at the Edinburgh Festival – all to win a £1 bet?

The glorious gothic city of Edinburgh.  I say Edinburgh but actually we’re 10 miles outside Edinburgh in Aberlady, in luxurious accommodation, well a 3 man tent at a campsite that used to be a railway platform. As I’ve discovered hotels get a little booked up during festival (like 6 months in advance…).

However the weather is glorious, well it’s a bit drizzly, in fact it’s raining cats and dogs.

The great thing about Scotland everyone is so friendly, an old gentleman who has been coming to the Fringe for the last 20 years, explains to me on the train that the Perrier Comedy Award  is no longer sponsored by Perrier, it’s sponsored by Intelligent Finance or IF. so it’s now called the IF. Comedy Award.

Doesn’t really have the same ring about it, does it?  I’ve met a lot of finance people over the years, and while I hate to say it, sponsoring a comedy award does not make you funny…

No matter, this is my first time at the festival, and my heart starts to beat a little faster as the train pulls into the rather grand Princes Street station!

As we leave the station the first thing that hits me is the amount of people and then the noise – I can hear bagpipes, Indian chanting and Mexican nose flute players doing a (rather good) rendition of the Braveheart soundtrack.

The e-fringe booking office is conveniently located just outside the station and even though its only 10 am it’s packed. Kirsty (the wife) had cleverly bought The Scotsman, so we could look at the reviews and choose the finest comedians.

I love the fact that the Scots are such a proud nation that they call their newspaper “The Scotsman”.  This wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the UK.  The Times, would never be called “The Englishman”, or the Welsh wouldn’t call their paper “The Welshman”, and as an Irishman born and bred I never once saw a paper called The Paddy

Anyway, what becomes immediately apparent is that the The Scotsman has recommended about 100 shows.  Ok, that’s a lot of shows.  Then I look at the official Fringe Guide – just handed to me by the very nice girl in a purple jacket – this contains about 2000 shows!

I mentally take note that if I have any chance of running a successful show in Edinburgh, I’ll need good PR to get into The Scotsman!

The first thing we notice is how many shows are selling half price tickets, Kirsty thinks this is great as she is half Scottish and loves a bargain.  But I’m not so sure if these shows are any good!

The other thing I realise is there are over 350 venues; in every theatre, bar, public toilet, and even street corner all over Edinburgh.  And unfortunately we need the brain power of Steven Hawkins to work out if we can make it to all the shows we want to see as they are all at different times and different venues across the city!

But that’s ok.  The 1hour queue for tickets allows me to draw a grid and work it all out. Although by the time we get to the start of the queue, half the tickets have sold out and I have to start again…

Now I’ve only been in the cue an hours, but I’m now holding at least 73 flyers. There are attractive young people everywhere handing out flyers, postcards, badges,  photocopies of recent reviews. There are men with sandwich boards, loudhailers, even people on unicycles handing out flyers (they must have destroyed half of Scotland’s trees to print this stuff). I don’t know who they work for, or how you hire them, but by God I think I’m going to need  small army of  these people if my show is going to get noticed!

…Anyway the next 3 days pass in a blur of shows and comedy. I’ve included their Star ratings from The Scotsman or The Guardian and I’d d say they were pretty accurate!

Paul Kerensa did an act about his IPod in the kind of cellar Joseph Fritzl would have been scared of, I liked it, and so did the Scotsman giving it 3 stars.

Andrew Lawrence * * * * The twice if. Comedy (formally the Perrier) nominated comedian was totally outrageous, no subject was taboo, he was really funny, but by god was he brave!

Josie Long * * * * Really sweet comedian, handed out homemade objects from her childhood, had a really feel good message, can’t remember a single joke, but left thinking the world was a better place.

Hans Teeuwen * * * *  And I thought Andrew Lawrence was dark… Hilarious, Scary and quite possibly the rudest mimes I’ve ever seen, I can wait to play charades at Christmas.

The Angry Puppy * * * 4 women sketch group, really funny, a bit like the Fast Show, where they would occasionally repeat the characters, and each time the punch line got funnier. For me the best bit when they ripped apart the Teletubbies and the Night Garden

Lynn Ferguson **** A darkly comic play, made me really think about perhaps doing a character on stage

Brian (Limmy) Limond *** What was really interesting was that at Limmy’s show it seemed that that the show  seemed to be unscripted, but behind him, the script was on PowerPoint, and every joke, mannerism and even coughs were scripted!

Some Free Fringe Comedy (which was absolutely terrible)

Finally we saw Capoeira Knights **** and Shakespeare’s Pericles Redux ***** as Kirsty was sick and tired of Comedy and wanted to see fit men dancing!

The rest of the time I spent running between venues to get to the next show on time. It was like the opening of Trainspotting where they are all running through the streets to the song “lust for Life” especially the bit where I was almost hit by a car.

But anyway, even to my untrained eye, I could see the differences between a 3 star and a 4 star show

It was mixture of confidence on stage, and material, the really good comics could loop back on themselves and would reference a previous joke.

They also could banter with a crowd.  But this is where I realised the enormity of the task.

1. How do I get a venue?
2. Where do I get flyers printed?
3. How do I find a crack team of young people to hand the flyers out?
4. How do I get a review?
5. Where do I live for the month of the show (I’m not staying in a tent for a month)?
6. More importantly how do I write a 50 minute comic masterpiece?
7. And worse, I know I can talk on stage for an hour, but can I be consistently funny?

I’m excited, but I have no idea what to do next and I’m now very nervous about the whole escapade…

If you would like to find out more about Marc, or to book him for a speaking event please visit www.marchoganlive.com