Ian Fox has been producing and performing comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival since 2003. This year he's decided to write a book to share his wealth of experience with other acts. It's called How To Produce, Perform and Write An Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show. Basically, it delivers exactly what it says on the cover. No false marketing here (unlike some performers' Fringe flyers!).
It is a thorough book - covering every aspect of organisation one needs to consider in regards to performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. Both in the planning stage, and when you're actually in Scotland in August performing. The advice is mainly tailored to stand-up and comedy sketch acts, but much of it could be applied to other genres if you're not a comedy performer. Both free and ticketed shows are considered.
Topics include how to book a show at the festival (venues, timeslots, dealing with the brochure etc); a look at all the costs associated with the Fringe; a detailed section on marketing your show; how best to get to the festival, what to bring with you; what to do when the festival actually starts; and advice on managing your show and sanity during the month (or for however many days it is you're performing).
The 'how to' is never patronising, and each page delivers lots of tips and ideas without overwhelming. Examples and case studies from the author back up the points made.
Even those that have already been performing at the Fringe for a few years are still likely to take something new away from reading the book... for example, have you considered how best to organise seat ushering? What the best policy is in regards to under 18s in the audience? What to do if someone is filming your set? Where's the cheapest place to get flyers printed? What's the most effective format for a show title? How to get cheaper rent at the same accommodation next year if you've managed to find a good flat?
Perhaps the only section that the book is light on tips at the moment is in regards to what sources to use to find good accommodation, and some of the scams and pitfalls to look out for when dealing with a landlord. We say 'at the moment', because the good news is that Fox has said he'll regularly update and add to the text in the book, and anyone who has purchased a copy will be able to get updates via his website or their eBook reader.
If you're a first time performer thinking of performing in 2013, one thing to note is that whilst the book does give advice on what to look for when picking which venue to perform in, it doesn't list any venues in particular. Not a surprise, as there's 100s to choose from (so not enough room to mention them all)... thus it'd be wise to attend the festival this year to scope out potential rooms.
A latter part of the book is taken up writing and formatting an hour-long show, road testing material, and other such topics related to creating the actual comedy show itself. Whole libraries have been filled with books dedicated to the art of performing so this might not be the perfect book if you're looking to learn the craft, and Fox perhaps gets a bit bogged down in case studies at this point. However, there's still some useful content within this section, particularly in regards to previewing your show and dealing with good and bad reviews.
The final chapter of the book is the most entertaining, as Ian Fox (pictured) is very honest as he recounts some of his worst experiences at the festival. The tales are fun to read, although they're not being recounted just for our entertainment - they also act as good case studies in regards to situations it'd be good to try and avoid yourself.
Frustratingly for nosey parkers like us, the author doesn't name many of the other guilty parties involved in the escapades recounted, but you can understand why considering some of the subject matters touched upon. His stories include having to work with comics possessing jaw-droppingly inflated egos; the damage drunk cast members can cause; arguing with other flyerers on the Royal Mile; discovering the hard way why having an interval in a free show really doesn't work; the perils of living with a flatmate who had become so withdrawn he's stopped bathing; and tales of various slightly more light hearted japes and practical jokes.
How To Produce, Perform and Write An Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show as available as an eBook for a very reasonable price. As Fox puts it on the back cover, it's about "the price of two café lattes and a muffin, without the social awkwardness of having to sit with the author in a coffee shop." However, we'd recommend getting a printed copy for easy reference. You can get a paperback version via Lulu.com for under £7