Saturday, February 6, 2010

Raising the stake

With the Empire final done and dusted, it's now decision time for my next Edinburgh. Actually the two things are related, given that a couple of "observers" from the C Venues came to see me in Hackney, liked me and offered me a slot. The C Venues are the biggest venue outside the "big four". One of my favourite comedian/comedienne was with them last year, to protect his/her identity I'll call him/her "a source". So I asked this source what he/she thought of the experience. At first he/she gave me a negative assessment, but for very interesting reasons. Apart from financial considerations, the main accusation was that they got the reviewers to see the too early, when it wasn't honed yet. Most of us at the Free Festival / Free Fringe struggled to get reviewers at all, and my friend Ashley got a good review at the end of his run, which must have been very frustrating. Being reviewed early is a good thing, it's up to us to be ready for it, sorry source. And then he/she told me a couple of things that really made me sway towards the "yes" side. The first is that performers have free access to all of the other C shows. I really want to enjoy the Fringe as an audience member as much as a performer and last year's C programming was excellent, with "The Trial" being my favourite show of the entire festival. The second was that the girls working at the venues are all very pretty. Oops, I might have revealed the gender of my source here, but hopefully there are enough lesbians in the comedy circuit to leave this quite open. So at the end I decided to accept the offer. This means that next year I will go commercial, if not pro. Part of me feels sorry and even slightly guilty for "betraying" the Free Festival / Free Fringe "movement". I want to make it clear that I don't consider myself in any sense "beyond" this kind of show, in fact I'll do a free show in Brighton in May. I'm still convinced that everybody who thinks that a free show is always a worthless show is an idiot, as not only big names like Robin Ince and Lewis Schaffer have demonstrated, but as I'm convinced that many of my friends will demonstrate again this year. But it's also true that the world is full of idiots and having a bit fewer of them to convince makes for a nice change. But I know myself well enough to be conscious that the main motivation in this decision is sheer vanity. And a very expensive vanity at that. But there has already been a positive consequence. After signing the contract I had an almost sleepless night, fortunately spent not at reading my bank statements, but at writing my script. I heard an interview with Jimmy Carr where he said that what really gets his writing going is fear. Apparently it works for me as well. I'm really raising the stake for this year's Fringe, both in financial terms and in terms of time and energy. Maybe I'll fly too close to the sun and I'll suffer a terrible fall, but maybe I really need this challenge to discover what I'm really capable of. Only time will tell.

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