The Fringe sometimes feels like a sea of talented people trying to get noticed, and making a dent in today’s super-competitive industry seems massively daunting. But many well-known comedians still cut their teeth at the festival, so how do they do it? We catch up with comedian and writer Rosie Holt, winner of The Sitcom Trials 2013, and find out about what it takes.
Tell us about your new Fringe show…
It is my first solo stand up show! We often hear from male comics about the dark underbelly of sex, but not enough from the females, which is a shame as I think women are gloriously insane. My show covers the anxieties of sex with the help of some very silly songs (you can find my ‘UnSafe Sex Song’ on YouTube) I think the ukulele lends itself nobly to very dirty lyrics.
How did you start out in comedy acting and writing?
I trained as a ‘serious’ actor at LAMDA and never considered comedy or writing as a career at all. Then a year or so after graduating I had a bad one night stand and wrote a sketch about it to cheer me up. I was working at an Orwellian reception with a lovely man called Clayton and he read it and suggested we make it and put it on YouTube – so we did and people responded well and I thought I’d carry on with it. Now I can’t imagine not doing comedy, I love it.
How long have you been coming to the Fringe and how have your shows changed?
The first time I came to the Fringe was when I was 18, doing Shakespeare at midnight (not an easy sell) but I fell in love with the whole festival and it remains one of my favourite places on the planet. I have been up many times since (sometimes doing very dodgy plays indeed), but last year was the first time I went up with my own show and as a result it was a much more exciting (and terrifying) experience.
Tell me about the Sitcom Trials. What sorts of things has it led to?
The Sitcom Trials was great. We had to write a short sitcom episode and perform it on stage, and then had to pass through various nerve-wracking rounds in front of a live audience. Winning it scored me my own show at The Gilded Balloon last year and various acting and writing opportunities. It also gave me the necessary confidence boost to plug on with my comedy.
Has winning the Sitcom Trials made coming to the Fringe any easier?
I don’t know yet! Last year I had written a comedy show with four other actors in it and this year it’s just me, so that brings new challenges.
How have you found developing a one-woman show in comparison to the four-strong act?
It’s definitely a very different beast but I am loving it. When you are acting with other people you can bounce off them and there is a wonderful camaraderie, but it is nice only being responsible for myself as I am rather neurotic by nature so would worry terribly if an actor was unhappy or something. Also there is something thrilling about it just being you and the audience. I’ve done a few solo gigs now and it’s always exciting.
What do you think are the most important factors in developing a comedy performance/writing career today and how big a role has the Fringe played in it for you?
Persistence and getting yourself out there as much as possible. There are so many opportunities to get into comedy now – open mike nights, competitions, YouTube, Twitter. Explore them all! I love that this is an industry that favours those who put the hours in. Also I think you shouldn’t be afraid of trying and erm…dying. It happens to the best of us.
Like many performers, you were caught up in venue problems with the Free Fringe – what happened there?
Oh golly, whenever I try to explain it to people I go cross–eyed. Very public disagreement on who had the licence for the venues all played out over social media. So we were told we’d lost our venues, then we hadn’t, then we had again. Now I am at a new venue and a new slot and it is not what is advertised in the brochure. I am planning to sing rude songs on the ukulele on the Royal Mile so that my lost audience follow me like the pied piper to Frankenstein (where I am performing).
Your characters can be pretty hapless – what’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you at Edinburgh?
I once was in an abysmal play which we were so embarrassed by that we would experience intense guilt whenever we fliered someone who then came. One night we had four audience members and two walkouts.
Have you got any advice for developing comedy writers thinking of coming to the Fringe?
Do it! See everything! And make sure you eat something green!
And lastly, will you have time to see any shows yourself and is there anything you’ve particularly got your eye on?
I adore Tim Key, I want to marry him. He is doing a work in progress tour and I will be there on the front row looking manic (in a good way obviously)