BBC film The Fringe In 12 Jokes tells the story of Edinburgh in gags

ExclusiveFriday 6th May 2022, 10:06am by Jay Richardson

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

The BBC is to mark the Edinburgh Fringe's 75th anniversary this year with a documentary featuring a host of top comedians, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Currently filming in venues around the Scottish capital, The Fringe In 12 Jokes will include interviews with Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry, Paul Merton, Frankie Boyle, Lucy Porter and Henning Wehn, among others, reflecting upon their festival debuts and Edinburgh's impact upon their career.

A co-commission for BBC Two and BBC Scotland, The Fringe In 12 Jokes will tell the story of the world's largest arts festival, with each performer telling a joke leading "into the film's bigger themes and the personal story behind the joke".

Also appearing in the film is Francesca Moody, the original theatrical producer of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, which began life as a play at the 2013 Fringe before its BBC television adaptation became a global smash hit.

The documentary is being made by factual specialists Oxford Film and Television, whose credits include the American-focused Channel 4 and Comedy Central (US) co-productions The Kings Of Black Comedy, Queens Of Comedy and Heroes Of Jewish Comedy, as well as documentaries fronted by Terry Jones, Vic Reeves, Alexei Sayle and Alan Davies.

Image shows from L to R: Stephen Fry, Tony Slattery, Emma Thompson, Paul Shearer, Penny Dwyer, Hugh Laurie. Copyright: BBC

Presenting the 2019 Edinburgh Comedy Award to Jordan Brookes, Fry, who won the inaugural prize - the Perrier Award, as it was known in 1981 - as part of a Cambridge Footlights troupe that also included Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery, declared: "The Fringe means everything to me. I wouldn't be here without it.

"Anybody who has the guts, who feels like they have something to say, this is what this place is about and it's staggeringly exciting, it's brilliant and there really are no losers because all of you in here and all your friends are funny people and good people who have things to say."

Waller-Bridge echoed that sentiment earlier this year. She explained that: "Fleabag wouldn't have seen the light of day if it wasn't for the unique opportunities this festival offers young artists. It gave me and my creative team the freedom to put on work exactly how we envisioned - something rarely afforded to artists."

Speaking in an interview with the Fringe Society, for which she was fronting a £7.5 million fundraising campaign to safeguard the festival's future in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, she added: "As well as being an thrilling experience for the public, the Fringe is also the biggest arts marketplace on the planet. It's where critics come to review, the arts industry comes to book work, artists come to meet each other, and audiences come to be inspired. There's nowhere like it on earth.

"Artists, live performers and many other creative professionals have been left completely at sea by this pandemic. The Fringe is the island where they can finally share their work with their audiences, develop their skills, and create opportunities for themselves once more."

Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has exploded from originally encompassing eight theatre companies across five venues, to more than 3,800 shows in 2019, and more than three million tickets sold. It is surpassed only by the Olympics and football World Cup in global ticketing sales.

However, many comedians have voiced concerns that despite much talk of reforming the festival post-covid, costs remain prohibitive for many performers, particularly for accommodation during the month of August.

Plenty also speak of the mental strain of performing night after night in the same venue for nearly a month.

Boyle, returning to this year's festival with the show Lap Of Shame, is inviting audiences to "come see me completely implode at the Edinburgh Fringe".

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