British Comedy Guide

Published: Thursday 3rd August 2017

A microphone on a stage. Copyright: Ian Wolf.

Fringe comedians remember their smallest gigs

The Edinburgh Festival is about to start, and many Fringe shows are set to have packed audiences: indeed, some have already completely sold out. But, across comedians' careers, they do sometimes have to deal with much quieter rooms.

We asked some of the performers at this year's Fringe to remember their smallest audience. Click on the comedian's name to find out more about the show they're performing at this year's festival.


Andy Daly: Monsters Take Your Questions. Andy Daly.Andy Daly

There is a club in New York called Dangerfield's that attracts a touristy weekend crowd and no one I knew in the comedy world ever played there. It was sort of a mysterious place but I found myself right across the street from it one night and dropped in to ask if I could do a set. The manager shrugged and put me up and it was not until I was done that I realised I had literally just done a set for zero people. I later heard the place was a mob front, but don't quote me on that! I didn't say nothin'!

Colin Hoult / Anna Mann in How We Stop the Fascists. Colin Hoult.Anna Mann

I once performed a 5 hour piece called Journey of Me from Birth to Middle Age. Sadly no one but the usher turned up. Still, I performed it for him. And that usher went on to become ITV's Lewis. I like to think my little show inspired him. Although he was violently ill throughout.

Annie McGrath: Ambivert. Annie McGrath.Annie McGrath

I have performed to four people before, but it was in a shed so it was actually a sell-out gig. I think in that situation it's difficult not to enjoy yourself because the novelty of being in a shed is enough to keep the gig going... For at least five minutes anyway.

Eleanor Colville: Bigamous. Eleanor Colville.Eleanor Colville

I performed once to an empty bar and 4 waiters. Needless to say it was a riot and I got free drinks all evening.

Erich McElroy Tops Trump. Erich McElroy.Erich McElroy

Two. It was a preview booked in a very, very, very small art centre theatre. It wasn't sold out, there was room for more. I knew one of the people from my old day job and he brought a friend. It went pretty well considering, except for when the 'friend' tried to heckle me. That's a low point, when you have to throw out the only two people in the show.

The Rise and Fall of Marcus Monroe. Marcus Monroe.Marcus Monroe

I once performed for zero people but 20-30 alligators and crocodiles. Video on YouTube

Micky P Kerr Is Lay-Z. Micky P Kerr.Micky P Kerr

I tend not to count people at gigs but I recently did an Edinburgh preview show in June to 11 people (I counted them out of shame). It went so badly that I rewrote the show. It's the bad gigs that improve you as a comedian so I'm glad it happened really.

1 Woman, a High-Flyer and a Flat Bottom: Samantha Baines. Samantha Baines.Samantha Baines

Well 0, unless you count my reflection as a person. I run through the show on my own and sometimes in the mirror to work on physical stuff!

Sleeping Trees at the Movies.Sleeping Trees

Due to an administrative error on our part we one performed to three toddlers in a crèche. Their mothers were also present but they were drinking coffee and chatting throughout the entire show. One of the kids wouldn't stop hurling a toy truck at us. Still probably our best show to date.

Stephen Bailey: Can't Think Straight. Stephen Bailey.Stephen Bailey

I once performed to five people - Wendy (Mum), Geoff (Dad), Jess (Sister), Claire and Michelle (Cousins) - it was in the living room and I did a rendition of S Club 7's Bring it All Back. They loved it.

Well Thumbed.Terry Victor

Doing Well Thumbed on a box office split at an arts centre in Reading just over a month ago - just the one paying punter. So I asked him if he wanted it to go ahead. The bastard said yes. I was outnumbered: the real audience man, two arts centre volunteers and my wife who'd come along as a kind of roadie. Together they laughed so long and loud that I had to retime parts of the show. And I got 100% of the box office receipts. Oh yeah.

Tom Houghton: Class Half Empty. Tom Houghton.Tom Houghton

I remember with my old group doing a gig to a mum and dad with their baby. One part of the show was audience participation. We got the dad up on stage and effectively took away 1/3 of our audience. I'm going to take the baby not crying as a win. Though now I remember I'm not 100% sure it wasn't breast feeding at the time. Still counts!

Tom Mayhew: Fragile Fragments. Tom Mayhew.Tom Mayhew

I once performed a gig to 3 friends; they claimed it was "an intervention". It went quite well, considering.

Twayna Mayne: Black Girl. Twayna Mayne.Twayna Mayne

I performed to two people once. It was like a really awkward date between three people. I wanted to cancel the show but they'd come to see it.

Will Duggan: Perspicuator. Will Duggan.Will Duggan

1/2. And by that I mean one 8 year old boy who was left with me while his parents went in the beer garden. I was a glorified babysitter. Except I didn't get paid. It went terribly. Would not recommend. 1*

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