Fringe Dispatches.

Fringe dispatches #2

Edinburgh 2018 is done and dusted. Here's some final festival news and trivia collected up by the British Comedy Guide team...

Shearer!

Would I Lie To You?. Harry Shearer. Copyright: Zeppotron.

Who would you say was the most successful comedy name at this year's Fringe? Nope. Nope. You're all wrong. He was actually appearing, unbilled, in the backing band for Maureen Lipman's show Up for It. Yes, on the bass was Harry Shearer - aka Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap and a host of Simpsons voices, including Mr Burns. They did a tiny bit of Simpsons schtick when Maureen introduced him, and that was it. Intriguing booking.

Wax Works

Ruby Wax: Frazzled. Image shows from L to R: Ruby Wax, Ruby Wax.

Which made you wonder who might have turned up onstage with the great Ruby Wax, when her short run began at the Pleasance Grand: Bill Clinton on sax? Actually, Wax had already made a splash in the Pleasance offices with her scented flyers - anything to waft away the odour of sweaty endeavour was handy by the end of the Fringe. And she managed not to clash with her daughters, Maddy and Marina Bye, who were performing together as the sketch group Siblings a bit later on (and a fair bit cheaper).

Sooz and Friz, do Les Mis

Sooz Kempner.

If you're a Les Miserables fan but can't afford the £50 (or whatever it is) to see the West End stage version, a couple of Fringe shows might have appealed, at the Globe Bar on Niddry Street, near The Hive and Banshee Labyrinth: Edinburgh's own Drury Lane.

Sooz Kempner's thoroughly enjoyable Super Sonic 90s Kid was ostensibly about how '90s video games changed her life, but also included a big Les Mis bit: very impressive it was too. Then 90 minutes after that finished, Friz Frizzle did a whole show - Keyboard Warrior - that promised to "ruin all of your favourite songs", including glum classics from that musical too.

Fake it Til You Make It: Part 1

Image shows from L to R: Chris Gates, Lizzie Kroon. Copyright: Guy Wah.

A lot of comics must wish they could just hand over to an understudy when the Fringe gets a bit overwhelming, like stage actors do. Well, at one stand-up show this year, they were not far off. The comedian 'Alex Garner' is actually the creation of two actors from Brighton, Chris Gates and Lizzie Kroon. Across the festival they've been doing the same gender-neutral show - called Who?! - on alternate days, then taking audience feedback, including star ratings.

The company behind it all - the dramatically titled Atomic Force Productions - will now analyse those responses thinking about issues such as gender bias, which should be interesting. Of course, with just two performers, it's likely that one will be better than the other anyway. But then to be really psychologically significant you'd probably need as many actors as audience members - and that does sound stressful.

Fake it Til You Make It: Part 2

Jenny May Morgan. Copyright: Steve Ullathorne.

The budding erotic novelist Pamela Dementhe has definitely been embodied by the same character comic every day, down at The Grassmarket Centre: Manchester's Jenny May Morgan. But not everyone seems entirely sure how character comedy works: even that most venerable of publishing institutions, The Times, has gotten a bit confused.

They published a piece entitled The Best of What's on at the Festival, and included Dementhe's show, Sticky Digits - but in the Books and Events section, as if she was doing a serious reading. "Pamela is of course delighted," says May Morgan, who knows Dementhe intimately. That enthusiasm may be catching, too: a few days later May Morgan tweeted that someone was selling two of her flyers on eBay (99p, plus 80p postage). "I mean, I have about 600 on me now," commented the comic, "I'm gonna be rich rich rich!"

Money flyers

Bronston Jones.

Speaking of valuable flyers, Ruby Wax's fragrant efforts were not the only useful ones this year - and we're not talking about ripping off bits of them to make special cigarettes. Or using the shiny ones as impromptu plates (come on, we've all done it). No, we're talking about US comic Bronston Jones, whose flyers were pretend dollar bills.

Now, we wouldn't condone this behaviour, but they'd come in very handy if you're in a not-great 'free' show at future Fringes, and the comic rudely insists on only wanting folding money afterwards. You apologise for only having dollars - perhaps attempt an American accent, too - chuck in some of Bronston's flyers and they probably won't notice until you've long gone.

Meanwhile pretty much every flyer has been useful for the improv troupe Hivemind this year: they used them as the jump-off points for their made-up routines. Now there's a source that will never dry up.

The Bucket Lift

Plebs. Marcus (Tom Rosenthal). Copyright: RISE Films.

Did someone mention bucket speeches? Several comics this year seemed to be the victim of their own success in those buy-a-ticket-in-advance-or-pay-what-you-want venues. Let's not embarrass them further here, but they'd sold well in advance and became all-ticket shows, but didn't seem to realise and so stood at the back with a bucket like a lemon as everyone filed past just waving tickets at them. Of course, if you've only paid a fiver you could put more in...

On the other hand, Plebs and Friday Night Dinner star Tom Rosenthal didn't usually ask for donations after his work in progress shows, apparently - "I'm on TV and to be honest I don't need the money" - but did whip up a whip-round at the final show for his tech and the Monkey Barrel staff. Nice. He was actually appearing at Monkey Barrel, by the way. That'd be a bit weird otherwise.

Young walkouts

Owen Roberts. Copyright: Ben Carpenter.

Fringe shows do come with age ratings... but not everyone notices before booking tickets for their family.

40 minutes into his performance, Charlie Partridge's recollection of an orgy proved too much for a school group, but some quick rhyming about 'twisting' toned it down for the remaining ten year-old in the front row.

Meanwhile Owen Roberts was left feeling guilty after a primary school aged girl was taken out of his 12+ show having discovered the tooth fairy isn't real. Ouch.

Sometimes having under 18s in the audience can prove helpful for a comedian though. Henry Paker was able to turn to some young teenagers in his front row to get advice on how to remove adult websites from a browser's internet history. The comedian's subsequent idea of replacing the deleted logs with a list of websites one's partner would approve of, rather than just leaving the history list suspiciously blank, is a genuinely genius idea?

Cat Pictures

Cat Pictures to Music for an Hour.This year's most avant-garde show was probably Cat Pictures to Music for an Hour. The promotional blurb spoke of "no refunds"... although it would be hard to see how anyone would be able to issue a complaint, given the show was exactly as the title described.

The creators behind the show still haven't revealed themselves, but we did get a statement about the show arriving in our inbox:

"Mmmmmrrrowwwwwrrr you, Miaou miaou! Meow meow meow meow Edinburgh Fringe meow. Meo meo. Meo meo. Mjau gruelling but hilarious. Meo! Mjeong mjeong. Mjeong. Mjaw. Mjawwwwwwww... Mjaw mjaw. Mjaw £5 mjaw mjaw, miau. No refunds. Miaou."

Fire alarms

Lauren Pattison.

The Pleasance Courtyard's sensitive alarm systems managed to trigger on multiple days again this year, causing mass evacuations from shows, despite no actual fires. When are they going to sort that out? Or maybe they keep it as it is a handy way for any comic dying on stage to get out before the end?

Top marks to Lauren Pattison then for sticking to the 'show must go on' mantra. She led her audience outside and completed her hour in the car park.

Hidden brochure messages

The people that edit the official brochure have featured on our pages in previous years, for blocking humour and swearwords from appearing on their pages.

However, this year Alex Love managed to get messages like "fuck the big 4 [venues]" and "the brochure fees are too high" into his listing this time. He admittedly had to use some shorthand though, hidden in his image, to get past the censors.

Spot the difference

Avalon's 2018 Fringe brochure on the left, next to the official Fringe brochure.

Avalon, one of the biggest comedy promoters at the festival, produced a brochure looking a lot like the official programme, but just featuring their acts. A closer look at the covers though reveal some clues they're not the same thing - for example, the man's trousers seem to have come undone in Avalon's version.

The Bad Boss Awards

Bad Boss Awards 2018. Copyright: Ian Wolf.Most comedians and venues are looking to grab as many festival awards as they can during August, but there was one set of trophies people were actively trying to avoid: The Bad Boss Awards.

Run by activists with the Fair Fringe Campaign, the awards aim to highlight exploitative working conditions in venues and bars. The organisers took nominations from workers in person and via an online form, and then put a selection of nominations up for an online public vote.

This year, C Venues 'won' the Poor Pay Award (their staff are classed as 'volunteers' meaning they don't have to pay them minimum wage), and also the Horrible Work Environment Award. Meanwhile Just The Tonic was selected as the recipient for the Rubbish Rotas Award.

The awards were announced on a red carpet outside the city's museum, but as the venue owners didn't show up to the ceremony to collect their trophies the hosts then had to leave the red carpet behind to go to the venues themselves to try and track down the 'winners'.

British Comedy Guide is officially cutlery safe

Accident Avoidance Training for Cutlery Users - Level 2: British Comedy Guide certificate.

To end our 2018 coverage on a high: British Comedy Guide is proud to announce that, following attending Ian Crawford's show Accident Avoidance Training for Cutlery Users - Level 2, we are now certified as being safe to hold knives, forks and spoons. We look forward to trying for the Level 3 grade next year.