I don’t live in Edinburgh anymore, but I still think of myself as a local. I always visit Edinburgh in August because people have a good reason to be out every night and I can simply perch myself in the Pleasance, send a few texts and wait for my past to catch up with me.
For those local to Edinburgh, the Festival is a bit like a party in a shared flat. Early evening (the first week) no one’s really here yet. That’s OK, because we can enjoy things on our own for a while with adequate leg space and fewer bodies means it isn’t as noticeable that the air con is still broken from last year.
Later, the numbers become a little worrying. If lots of people come, we don’t really have to do anything because they’re not all here to see us. But if no one comes, I’ll wonder if it was something I did. Mid second week, (closing time) everyone just appears at once and starts to make a mess. Lots of people; lots of fun. Until we’d rather they all cleared off so I can get some sleep.
If you’re a comedian new in town, be friendly and polite to the locals. Don’t call the festival ‘Edinburgh’. It’s ‘the Festival’ or ‘the Fringe’. A lack of specificity is, at the very least, mildly disrespectful to the other 11 months of the year.
Definitely go and see some shows, but not just the ones that get good reviews. If a show gets two stars, all that really means is that the reviewer didn’t like it. How can you know if you agree with them unless you check too? If you liked the look of the show before you read the review, go see the show anyway and if you think it’s a two star show, bookmark the reviewer.
Reviews will help you take the temperature of what’s good at the Fringe, but word of mouth is what got everyone hot and sweaty in the first place. The flyerers are always the most well informed people at the Fringe. Be polite and ask them to sit down at your table. They’re usually pleasant, and if not they won’t be around long anyway before they have to run off to keep the people employed to clear the tables of flyers in gainful employment.
Don’t waste time asking: ‘Have you seen the show?’ (always no). ‘Are you in the show?’ (look at flyer: if flyerer is on the flyer, they’re in the show). ‘How many stars is that out of?’ (Fiev. It’s always five. No one ever knows why. It saves space on the flyers is as good a guess as any).
Ask the flyerers what their favourite show has been. They’ve seen most of them and spoken to everyone who has seen everything else. Their favourite won’t be what they’re flyering for and their loyalty cannot be bought! At least not for £7.50 an hour, cash in hand.
My favourite comment from a flyerer this year when I said: ‘No thanks’ was: ‘Fair enough, probably the right choice.’ Bless him. He then recommended I see a show I loved that’s now getting four and five star reviews. Out of five.