The 2017 Scottish Comedy Award Winner Vladimir McTavish Gives His Tips for the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe
Everyone in comedy I’ve spoken to in the past month, comedians, producers, venue owners and promoters alike, say that their Fringe sales for this year are markedly up on 2017. And it would seem this is not the business being its usual pre-Edinburgh bullish self.
Pre-sales at The Stand Comedy Club in early July were up by nearly 20% when compared with the same time last year, and other venues I spoke to were saying that advance sales are markedly higher than in 2017. All of this points to 2018 being a bumper year for comedy on the Fringe.
So why is this? For starters, 2017 saw the emergence of three major new venues: The Gilded Balloon’s Rose Street Theatre, Monkey Barrel Comedy off the Royal Mile and The Stand’s New Town Theatre on George Street. All three were unknown quantities last year, but are now entering their second term with greatly enhanced reputations and markedly higher-profile shows in their programmes.
Monkey Barrel boasts two previous Edinburgh Comedy Award winners in Phil Nichol and Tony Law, and it would not surprise if the venue did not provide the winner for one of 2018’s major awards.
The New Town Theatre had a relative low-key roster of comedians on its bill in 2017 but this year has attracted a number of big-hitters as diverse as Radio 4’s Miles Jupp to the outrageous Jerry Sadowitz who has been shocking the good people of Edinburgh for three decades and will doubtless do so again this August. The Rose Theatre hosts a number of new comedy plays, including a new production featuring local favourites Grant Stott and Andy Gray.
Some people have suggested the increase in ticket sales this year could be a result of Brexit and the weak pound causing more people to holiday in the UK. However, I am more inclined to think another Brexit Effect: the Government’s ham-fisted handling of the whole fiasco, which has left the public with a huge appetite for satire.
As ever, there is an enormous choice of political comedy on offer. Perennial Fringe favourite Matt Forde brings his latest offering Brexit Through The Gift Shop to the Pleasance Courtyard, while The Stand once more hosts the marvellously silly left-field, yet acutely-observed left-wing musings of Andy Zaltzman. Meanwhile, two of Britain’s finest political impressionists, Rory Bremner and Jan Ravens appear for one week only at Underbelly George Square. Ravens’ impression of Theresa May is truly a thing of beauty.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Scottish Comedian of the Year Leo Kearse brings his show Right-Wing Comedian to Espionage on the Free Fringe. Kearse’s political views may be deeply questionable but his comedic ability cannot be denied.
Inevitably, in the wake of #MeToo, many shows at Edinburgh this year are tackling the issue of sexual harassment. Perhaps the bravest and hardest-hitting of these will be Tales Of The Unacceptable, which will play at The Stand for one night only on Monday 20 August. Presented by comedians Seymour Mace and Sameena Zehra, the show focuses on stories of sexual misconduct in the comedy industry itself.
Yet perhaps the most interesting show on this subject is Liam Withnail’s Homeboy at Monkey Barrel, an hilarious look into the confused status of the straight white male in today’s climate. Having seen it in preview, I think this thoughtful, inventive but above all funny, show could be a wild card for this year’s major prizes.
Vladimir McTavish will be writing regular updates on the Fringe for Daily Business Magazine
He is appearing at The Stand’s New Town Theatre, George Street, Edinburgh with his solo show “25 Years Of Stand-Up” from Friday 3rd to Sunday 26th August at 6.50 each night (Except Tuesday 14th) www.thestand.co.uk