Don’t bribe reviewers, bribe everyone!

Nathan Cassidy on his Ediburgh philosophy

Two years ago in my debut Edinburgh show I played a gig to just two women and Roy Chubby Brown’s agent. That was a strange night. Should I be misogynist? Of course I was – always play to the industry. I’m joking. I think.

Caimh McDonnell’s idea is to pay for reviews – and more mentions like this and it’s paying for itself. I’m also paying people to come to my shows this year, but I’m paying everyone. I’m paying £1 to each audience member who comes to see my stand-up show ‘Free Pound’ and 50p for people to watch my documentary film I Am Orig about a year giving my own money away.

Why am I doing it? Am I desperate for audience? Yep (see above). Desperate for press and attention? Why do people send in Chortle articles FFS?

But they’re not the biggest reasons. Is it for the audience, press and industry, or for the idea itself?

Both shows are about money and generosity so giving away money in them was a natural fit. For the film, I’ve spent a year giving away my own money – on the streets and at gigs. I haven’t given out huge amounts: 50 pence pieces and pounds... but I did give someone £50.

I’m not rich and need the money – to pay for Edinburgh for one thing, PR is expensive! As are Edinburgh escorts, despite the discount being offered via the agency sponsoring Chris Dangerfield’s show (another good publicity stunt see?).

But giving away money has proved to be as addictive as discounted escort girls. I’m a gambler so maybe that helps, but I have got a buzz out of people’s responses as I’ve splashed the cash. These have raged from delight to disgust.

My favourite reaction which I got a few times: ‘How dare you just give money away?! You should give it to charity!’

‘If you take it, you could give it to charity.’

‘…That’s not the point!’

I’ve had the help of the fantastic Barnaby Slater to give away my money for me, and as I watched him hand out my baby’s nappy cash I giggled with excitement like a little girl watching Chubby Brown.
But that’s not the real reason I’m giving away money.

I thought the idea would get some press and it already has in a few national newspapers, so that bodes well to stand out from the Edinburgh crowd without having to resort to wandering around the Mile on a daily basis with a massive foam penis on my head.

I’d like reviewers and industry to come to watch but I genuinely only want them there if it helps me reach out to my audience, which is why I do stand-up isn’t it?

Of course a good review (‘Could be amongst the most astonishing, tear-inducing sights at the Fringe’ Jay Richardson 2011) is better than a bad one (‘The most offensive joke is charging people’ Kate Copstick 2010) but neither affect my mood; it’s how they translate to the audience coming the next night that’s important.

So it’s not about the press. If I want a good review I’ll pay for it.

So it’s all for the audience then? Well obviously I want them to turn up like they didn’t do on that night in 2010. That’s why I’m doing the Free Fringe this year, I want this show to play to as many people as possible. But I don’t think all my audience deserve a pound. Some of them will come in for the money and leave straight away. If any stand-ups I actually like come they deserve more than a pound. If Doug Stanhope, Daniel Kitson, Stewart Lee, Glenn Wool or Chris Dangerfield comes I’ll give them £50. That’s my hooker budget decimated.

That last point is the key to this. There are far more important things to me than press, reviews, industry, even the audience. The respect of stand-ups I like is worth 100 good reviews, even if I have to pay £100 for them to come.

But there’s something else driving me forward, making me give my money away. And that’s someone I loved, who saved his whole life for a day that never came. I’m not telling you the whole story here, as I want you to come to my shows. Why do you think I’ve written this article FFS? Money? Grow up. I spit on your money.

As one of the Occupy protesters said at St Paul’s as we tried to give them money, ‘Money doesn’t exist’. If I win the prize for best article of the month I’ll give the £75 to charity. Now there’s a bribe...

  • Nathan is raising money for charity at Text ORIG99 1 to 70070 to donate £1 to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Published: 17 Jul 2012

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