Adapt or die

Steve Day on how the credit crunch could hit comedy

I'm in the Assembly Rooms cafe, waiting to meet Kate, wife of fellow comic Bill Bruce, to give back the keys to their lovely Glasgow flat that they so kindly let me stay in this past week.

As I wait the room is filling with what I can only describe as media types. Loads of them all up here for a month long-jolly at the expense of the actually talented people who pay for this whole festival. These lot are the nearly talented who work as PRs, editors, critics, production assistants, and so on, who as their titles suggest, get by using the work of others. Edit it, film it, criticise it, but never produce any actual 'it'.

I've nothing against them, but I feel a chill wind will blow in their direction soon. The credit crunch, recession procession, gloom scroom, is coming soon to a media organisation near you.

It's in the air already, so I'm glad I'm working in the free comedy part of the Fringe. I have no overheads, pay no PR person to go to parties on my behalf and don't have to flog tickets at fifteen quid a go. Above all it's fun.

The free part of the Fringe is a growing entity, and though we're not yet at the level of the traditional mega-venues like this one, or The Pleasance, I'm sure it will happen. The people around me probably don't yet know it exists, in the same way dinosaurs were not aware of the rodents around their feet, but we are here.

Recessions are good for good comedy and bad for bad comedy. In times of austerity initially the thing people can save on is a night out, but pretty soon the need to cheer up manifests itself.

In the Thirties escapist musicals and music hall boomed. Recession in the early Eighties saw alt. comedy take off. This time will produce its own comedy boom, but the changes economic circumstances will shake out the old and the redundant and bring in something new. There is a lot of dead wood around at the moment, lots of it will go. These people around me will in the most part adapt and survive, their near talent is for self-preservation, but things will be different.

In all of this the free festival has nothing to lose, everything to gain. Surviving til the next one is a more pressing personal challenge. I hope I manage to outlive the firestorm of the next year or so and catch whatever comes after it. Who knows?

Published: 12 Aug 2008

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