Look What Happened: Comedy

Part ONE of three.

During my week, I have seen shows, had my interview for the upcoming Mela Festival (be there, the programme looks brilliant!) and had my knowledge of comedy and the circuit rekindled. I don’t want to say I know a lot about the circuit but…well…ok, I actually do. It is predominately down to observation, logic, and being a long-time consumer of the industry. A number of things have cropped up in my mind since seeing these shows, so prepare for three connected posts (seen above and below). Read them in whichever order you wish. Just if I put them all together, you may need to take a series of beer and cake breaks. …Maybe that’s not a bad thing…

It was only last year’s Fringe I began to notice the bigger names in comedy limiting audience capacity. I’d love to say that perhaps they are feeling the renowned bite that comes with the Festival:

  • PAY the venue a large sum of money to cover their backs if your show is a flop.
  • MARKET your face off where and when you can.
  • Invariably PERFORM to more empty seats than people.

The reality is that the better known comic names have more money than they would let you believe – after all, the history of comedy stems from the self-deprecating jester who is always worse off than the audience he/she plays to – so it is more likely to be the latter clause. Or, the bigger gigs aren’t what they were promised.

And they’re no longer selling like they used to at the Festival anymore. Familiar faces will always return, and people will flock, but it seems that more and more people are deferring. A certain Jason Byrne is no longer the promised sell-out; Jerry Sadowitz (granted, he is an acquired taste) has picked yet another venue he can’t pack to the rafters (2011 saw him perform at the Playhouse. Still not sure why he did that). Bongo club, The Stand, the Udderbelly, McEwan Hall – some audience capacities are limited due to the space; others are limiting how many seats can be occupied.

I wonder if perhaps it is more noticeable because the circuit has changed, too. Once upon a time, you had to play the clubs/pubs as means of getting your name out. Now, it seems you play a handful of those types of gigs, get yourself an agent who’ll bag you a seat on some dense tv panel show, and apparently that constitutes a reputable comic career.

So that sounded a bit bitter, whoops. But the presumption has always been that the more coverage you receive, the more audience you appeal to and therefore ticket sales to your shows. The Fringe would beg to differ. As do I. I’ve stopped trying to understand why the bigger names in comedy bother coming here anymore; financially, they receive nothing, and in terms of ticket sales, they steal customers from other new stand ups who could do with the break more than the likes of Brigstocke, Vine, Hunter, etc. That’s the free market for you.

Then again, some older names in comedy are returning (Sayle, Davies, Toksvig, Munnery, Hughes) which, in my eyes, is brilliant. The circuit is in dire need of another shake up.

And a better quality of talent.

*Boooo. Hisssss. Oh no she di’nt*


Part TWO. Craig Campbell & Alexei Sayle.

Part THREE. Jerry Sadowitz (following the Ad-Lib section).

3 thoughts on “Look What Happened: Comedy

  1. Hey, I was the one who asked the question about writing strong female characters, and I was trying hard to not to be insipid– maybe I failed, but I DID try to not do the awkward heaps of praise thing like that one guy (I remember the phrase “greatest minds our nation has produced” being used, and the people on the stage looking uncomfortable) or to talk to Sir Terry like he was no longer capable of thinking for himself. Mostly I just wanted to tell him that, as a lady, being able to read about characters like Tiffany meant a lot to me, but I had to shove a question in there somewhere.

    1. Ah, seriously?! That’s so incredible you found me! 🙂 I liked your question, because it was a fair point, as were most of the questions really. And he writes females of all ages. But I guess for me it was a case of we were all in there for the same reason: we love his work, we love what he does, he means something to everyone in the room; how many more times does that need to be addressed (and in some cases quite lengthy detail) because there were a lot of people who probably had just as pertinent questions as the next person. I don’t know, it seemed a bit unfair to everyone who didn’t get the very brief opportunity. I just loved his one liner replies to everything; his reply to you made me laugh the most, wee cutie that he is.


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