This is only my third Edinburgh Festival and it seems like a lifetime ago when I did my first one two years ago, and yet I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in the past few years in conversations with most Standups. When asked whether they are doing Edinburgh, several comedians who are not doing it respond with something along the lines of “No,I’m getting married”, “I’m buying a house” or “I really need that operation” To paraphrase Bill Shankley, “People say that the Edinburgh Festival is life or Death. I can assure you it’s much more important than that”.
The key word in surviving and even enjoying the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is perspective. If you can avoid the snake oil salesman, keep your budget under that of the GDP of a small Pacific Island and genuinely realise that one Edinburgh show doth not a career maketh, then you have a chance, albeit a slim one, but a chance of actually getting more out of the festival than you put in. At the end of the day, you need to have reasonable expectations of what you want from the Festival and how you can get it. At the core of this should be the desire to be a better Stand-up after the festival than before it. And this is nearly always the case, the improvement from clubbing 20-minuter to a festival debutante converts you from a sprinter to a marathon runner. A marathon runner who is often left with no legs nor a shirt on their back, but a marathon runner nonetheless.
At a festival where even awards are no guarantee of immense fame or TV exposure, the key to avoiding the nervous breakdown seems to simply having a show that you’re proud to do to however few people a day. Both my Edinburgh shows have gone on to have a life and tour, (the first one is till touring but it was a Stand-up show about the Death Penalty. Sometimes it helps to corner a market) and it really made all the pain more bearable.
Oh, and then there’s the reviews. I advise getting a review buddy, where you both protect yourselves by agreeing to read your buddies review and then advising them to steer clear or plaster it across every flyer/poster/social networking plug tool. Reviews can take the wind out of your sails, and quite frankly the sea from your keel, skin from your bones,etc… so a review buddy who steers you away from the judgment of a critic who had the bad taste to come see your show on a Saturday( yes, Saturday crowds, the crowds where hope goes to die) can help with all this.
And the end of the day, the one thing to remember after all this, is that it’s only a Festival. Right? Right?