One week and no tears yet! Not even close! Sure, there are two weeks to go, so I shouldn't get cocky... but I'm totally not going to cry. How could I? The Fringe is the most amazing event I have ever been a part of in my life. I love it here. Who cries over love?
[Note to New Readers: I was warned by several people that bringing a show to the Fringe would be the best time of my life, but I'd also cry quite a lot.]
There's no way I could keep up with a daily diary at my first Fringe. Frankly it would take too much time from spending actual time experiencing this place. There is too much to see and way too much to do as a one-person performer/producer/promoter/punter.
Rather than break this up day by day, I'll separate the experiences into three entries:
THE FRINGE PERFORMER:
I'm only a week into the 25 days, and I'm an exponentially better comic.
Midnight Show: Night 6 of "Life's Short. I'm Not!" would have been my absolute favorite set of my career, but then Night 7 was even better! To be honest, doing my first solo hour scared me immensely. One show in and I was hooked -- 60 minutes is a freeing amount of time, because I hit my favorite bits and still have time to play. So far, I've had small audiences of about 20-40 people (more on that below), so I feel like I'm hosting intimate gatherings, rather than playing to the rafters.
The beauty of a small crowd for a storyteller is it feels like dinner conversation, rather than a raucous party. I love feeling walls of laughter from hundreds of people, but it's not personal. With a small crowd, I get to know them and flow freely into material that feels right for that audience specifically. I can take risks and experiment. I have yet to do the same set twice. Besides doing different material here and there, my "classic" bits have taken on all new life. Frankly, I'm just having fun!
Daytime Show: I co-host "LOLympics Live" with Marcus Ryan. Neither of us had been in a duo before, but within three shows, we found our groove and played off each other to great laughs. I didn't think I'd like teaming up with someone, but it's become incredibly fun. We bring in different guests each day, so I'm getting to see a variety of interesting acts. We also ask audience members to come up and tell some kid-friendly jokes. The most memorable were from the 10-year-old redhead boy from Barbados who said he only knew racist jokes. As comics, we immediately put him on the mic. Um, they were pretty racist. Kid friendly isn't.
Guest Sets: Besides doing my two shows, I'm trying to pick up other shows around the festival. A fun late-night hangout is Lach's Anti-Hoot. L.A. comics might compare it to the Unknown Theater in its prime. My favorite show but least favorite set was my night at Set List. I described the show in my last post: improv-based stand-up. It's not easy. It was the hardest time I've had onstage in a while, because it involves staying out of your head, without constantly reminding yourself to stay out of your head. So once I got in my head, it was a rough set. Even the best Set Listers will tell you a bad one is like a punch to the face, so it might make you tear up a little. Just a little, but I didn't cry...
Best Heckle so far: Forty-five minutes into my solo show, a drunk vomited into the seats.
Best Review: Afterwards, the crowd told me to finish the show. They were willing to sit in the stench to hear the end.
Second Best Review: This writer was there for my best set ever, I'll let him sum up my show: http://thechroniclesofanerd.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/edinburgh-fringe-bucket-list-reviews/
How could I cry after a review like that? Because it's only one, and not one of the "Big Ones." And they might not be such a fan.
THE FRINGE PRODUCER:
My shows are part of the Free Fringe Festival by Laughing Horse. They run a dozen or so venues where they don't charge the performer rental fees and the shows are all Free to See. Unlike performers in ticketed venues, Free Fringers don't pray to recoup rental fees with ticket sales. This is definitely the way to do a first Fringe, because now it's just on me to be funny and to figure out how to get people to see me because I need laughers, not money.
Perhaps removing a lot of the financial stress of the Fringe might explain my lack of tears... or it could be that I'm not a little girl.
THE FRINGE PROMOTER:
Besides the giant acts in the large venues, it's up to the individual shows to figure out how to get butts in seats.
Everyone will tell you handing out fliers is the way to go. I now agree. Before the festival, I invested in print ads and even managed to get a bit of press, but I can honestly say the majority of my crowd is there because I personally handed them a flier within an hour of the show. Fringe Fans are looking to be entertained right here, right now. They might make plans to see a show later, but if they didn't invest in tickets, they'll probably do something else interesting that comes their way. Like me. But how do you make your flier more interesting?
"LOLympics Live" is an easy sell. It's international comedians telling jokes. Marcus and I wear AUS and USA sweatshirts while handing out fliers and put "gold medal" stickers on passersby. Who wouldn't want a gold medal sticker? So people stop, laugh, go inside, watch a show, move along. Espionage is a great venue because it's right off the Royal Mile, so there are lots of people around who may very well need a break.
"Life's Short. I'm Not!" takes a bit more creativity, but I've found my angle. The show is at Midnight in the Meadow Bar, which means it's late and it's off the beaten path. Espionage-size crowds aren't realistic for a first-time, no-name Fringer. So how am I getting crowds that are bigger than some of the ones I've seen in paid venues?
First things first, my fliers are adorable: Who doesn't want a monkey? But now that I've stopped them, I've got to get them to three dark streets away from food vendors, bright lights and shiny things. So this is my method: I "chat up" beautiful ladies using all the charm that got me into all the trouble that created all of my comedy that makes up late night acts. Once I convince the ladies to come, I simply tell the men that the room will be filled with ladies. It's all said with a smile and gets laughs, and it's that personal interaction that gets them to come. The beauty of this approach is that they actually get to know me a bit before they come, which means they already like me when I take the stage (or they wouldn't have come). It's sort of like creating an instant fan-friendly audience, and I'm just now realizing why the shows are so fun.
I've been fortunate to have a crowd at every show. When I hit my first no-show. I'll probably cry.
THE FRINGE PUNTER:
Because of all of my other duties, I haven't had that much time to actually be a fan at the Fringe. Hopefully, that changes now that I'm figuring out my schedule here.
I did see Rick Shapiro crush it one afternoon. If you're at the Fringe, go see him. He's one of my comedic influences. Working with him years ago, he inspired me to find the freedom I now explore onstage every night. And no one does what Rick does how Rick does it. He is a unique talent.
I'm looking forward to actually going to sit in the crowd of Set List. It's fun to watch without the pressure of knowing I'm going up soon. "You walk the tightrope, funnyman!"
I'm now scheduling shows to see over the next two weeks. Some I've heard about here, some are people I want to see again: Billy the Mime, Boy with Tape (two mimes, really?), Jim Jefferies, Hannibal Buress, Adam Hills, FORK, Stewart Lee, Martin Mor, Jim Smallman, I Heart Hamas, The Economist and a few more. I'd love to see Eddie Peppitone do his hour, but his show conflicts with mine.
Either this glorious weather is part of Climate Change, or Scotland has the worst PR ever... Hmmm, maybe it's always this sunny and clear and they're just trying to keep the English away... or maybe God's not crying at this Fringe either.