Edinburgh Fringe

Bronwyn Sweeney shares her walkout experience during debut Fringe hour

Bronwyn Sweeney. Credit: Rebecca Need-Menear

As a Fringe debutante, there are certain inevitable Fringe moments everyone tells you to prepare for: tech fails, low audience numbers and the one that scared me the most: walkouts.

I've been gigging on the London circuit for a while now and have been hardened to many things, but up at Fringe it's hard not to take things personally. This is, after all, my show, my baby that I'm presenting to the world. I can't blame an MC or a region or a day of the week. It's just me, myself and my material.

For my Fringe run, I've asked to not know about ticket sales of 'People of Interest' in the audience. I just want to walk out each time and do my best. For my third show, when I walked out, I noticed a cluster of audience members who, from a first glance, I would not have put in my target audience. My show teaches people how to develop their brand through my own personal stories.

While the topic of masturbation comes up within the first two minutes of my show, I wouldn't call it edgy or daring. But around the halfway mark, one man had heard the word 'wank' too many times and walked out.

I was polite to him as he shuffled towards the door but as he muttered something rude, I joked that maybe at 3:30 in the afternoon, it was too early for him to hear me talk about masturbating. As I said that, five more men then stood up and walked out, not discreetly either. One guy just walked across the stage with zero remorse.

I was stunned and told the remaining audience that if anyone else wanted to leave, now was the time, as there was more wank chat to come. There was a long pause before another man stood up and left bringing my tally up to seven.

Bronwyn Sweeney. Credit: Rebecca Need-Menear

When the door finally shut, I wondered how to address the moment. Luckily, on my flipchart were the words, 'Target audience.' I turned to the people in the room and said, 'Not my target audience.'

Without even meaning to, the walkouts had helped me prove a point I was trying to make about knowing who your audience was. In that moment, it was very clear who I was for and who I wasn't for. My show takes people through four key building blocks of branding, and target audience is one of them. The remaining audience members rallied with me and helped turn the moment into a positive. I told them that after experiencing a Fringe first together as a group, we were bonded for life.

I don't want to be ageist, because, in my experience, there have been plenty of older people who are happy to hear me talk about what gets me off (90s Italian football players) and why staying in with a vibrator and eating cheese to me is peak living, but for those seven people I was not their vibe. And that's ok.

A friend of mine told me to treat each show like a workout. And I think they're right. That session hurt, but my comedy muscles feel swollen AF.

From now on, I know I might not be able to control people's reactions to my show, but as a chronic people pleaser, I understand I won't be able to please everyone but whatever happens, I can go home and please myself.

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