Stuart Goldsmith is a comedian, actor and street performer that has been appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe is one form or another since 2006. Since his first solo show The Reasonable Man gained favourable reviews in 2010, his reputation has grown steadily. He is also the creator and host of the popular Comedian’s Comedian podcast; essential listening for anyone interested in the writing and performing process. We asked him about the podcast, his new show, and his Fringe recommendations.
Could you tell us a little bit about your show (Like I Mean It), and why we should come and see it?
It’s an hour of me smashing the absolute bollocks off the room. Admittedly there are some meaningful bits about resenting your new family, closing the eyes of a corpse and howling with rage in your car, but it’s about 92% bollock-smash.
You’re part of the PBH Free Fringe again this year. What do you see as the pros and cons of ostensibly not charging for your show?
There’s nothing “ostensible” about it; there’s no charge. As a former street-performer (who was into crowdfunding before it had a cool name) the donation model is really exciting to me. I never guilt the audience into paying. I go out of my way to let people off the hook and make them feel good about not paying if they can’t or don’t want to. That way the people who do want to pay think I’m classy, and they cough up more of my goddamn money.
How do you go about writing a Fringe show that you’re satisfied with? Are you a careful planner or do it under last-minute pressure?
I was always a careful planner but now I have a baby I have less time and so need to work smarter. My new system is to write hard for a week in November and then crash through a week of previews. Then when I tour in Spring I do that all-new preview material in the second half, and make the audience aware of how I’m work-shopping newer stuff. Perhaps I’ve created a way to write piss-weak new material that only works to my audience, but on the other hand I won an award for my new show when it wasn’t finished. So take that, haterz!
You’re well known for your Comedian’s Comedian podcast. Do you think it’s helped you become a better comedian, and do you think it’s ever threatened to overshadow your career as a stand-up?
Good question! It’s certainly more globally-recognisable a brand than my own stand up, with over eight million downloads now, but it’s also something that wouldn’t make sense as a product if I weren’t a gigging comedian. I enjoy doing it so much I can’t think of anything negative about the experience, apart from the psychologically-draining constant-homework effect of all the research I have to do. It’s helped me become a better comic in lots of ways, mostly to do with its audience reach helping me go on tour, which I find a very creative environment, and the boost to my confidence as a comic. Every so often I do I find myself using a specific technique that a guest has suggested, but the benefits are far more often to do with recognising that we all struggle, and that just because I’m feeling negative about a particular aspect of the job doesn’t mean I’m the only one who feels that way. It’s great to be connected to and contributing to comedy.
Who has been your favourite guest on the podcast ever?
Don’t make me choose a favourite baby! OK then, today, James Acaster. His commitment to his craft is inspiring, and he’s got a lovely voice.
What are the best and worst aspects of the Fringe? What keeps you returning every year?
Best: it’s the one time of year we all feel normal. Everywhere you go comedians are behaving like comedians and no-one’s telling us off for it.
Worst: the ceaseless branding and rebranding of public space. I like a Fringe that’s the sum of everyone working together, rather than huge organisations throwing up polystyrene Disney-esque fake gardens with security guards. I understand why it happens, and I don’t hate anyone for it, I just think it’s a shame.
What other shows are you looking forward to seeing at the Fringe?
Mat Ewins – I will see everything he ever does until I die. He makes me laugh til I cry.
Gráinne Maguire – brilliant political standup with a dash of whimsy.
Joseph Morpurgo – responsible for some of the best ideas I’ve ever seen made reality onstage, he makes my brain shiver like a poisonous frog.