The flyering has begun. Although the starting pistol hasn't quite been fired, previews are being performed, Edinburgh is humming and crackling. The Fringe essentially starts today.
If you're a performer, then right now, you’re all about getting your show up and running. And that’s as it should be. But here's some advice from someone who's doing his seventh Fringe in the last fifteen years: Obsessing about your own show will only help you up to a point. It’ll make it better, but there is a law of diminishing returns.
So after a few days, stop obsessing and start looking outwards, especially while there are many performance spaces with many empty seats, cheap tickets and good deals. Make use of them because one of the most useful things to come out of your being at the Edinburgh Fringe for a month is not the impact of your own show which will, mostly likely, vanish without trace (as indeed most of mine have). Right now, Edinburgh is filled with your comedy peers, both present and future. So here’s my advice:
Go and see other shows. Some of them will be extremely inspiring and you’ll see what’s possible. I remember being heavily affected by some sketch shows that showed the way in terms of the sort of sketch comedy I wanted to do.
Go and see other shows. You may end up working with some of these people in the future, so it’s a good idea to see what they can do on their own terms in an hour-long Fringe show. You may spot someone you’d like to collaborate with next year.
Go and see other shows. Then you’ll have stuff to talk about with other performers and you can hear their opinions on comedy and you’ll understand more about what excited and inspires them. You might end up collaborating with these people in the future, so it’s good to have a handle on what they’re into as well as what they do.
Go and see other shows. Then you can feel smug about having seen someone who can fill the 02 in six years time. You saw them when they half-filled an 80-seater. I still fondly remember early Bill Bailey and Ross Noble Edinburgh shows I saw in the 90s. (I also remember standing next to a guy called Brett handing out flyers outside the Gilded Balloon. This year, he won an Oscar for the song ‘Man or Muppet’.)
Go and see other shows. Some of them will be reassuringly awful and you’ll feel better about your own show.