If this year is your first trip to the Fringe, you’re in for the time of your life. For once, all the hype and marketing is right – there is nothing quite like it in the world. But to make the most of it, time and money are, as ever, of the essence. Fortunately, you can save yourself heaps of both if you know what you’re doing. So don’t end up skint and frantic – here’s our editor, Robert James Peacock, who has been doing the Fringe for fifteen years, with the things that could have helped him, if only he’d known them sooner…
1. Book your key shows in advance. Nothing worse than the ‘sold out’ signs going up on something your heart is set on. But keep fixed plans to a minimum, and leave plenty of breathing room in your schedule. ‘Must-sees’ have a habit of disappointing and the highlights of a Fringe are nearly always unexpected.
2. Allow yourself time just hanging out in a Fringe ‘hub’ – Pleasance Courtyard, Bristo Square and Summerhall being the obvious ones. Grab yourself a coffee, do some celeb spotting, chat to random strangers in a sober, respectful, non-creepy manner (at least in daylight hours; after that everyone’s your new best mate) and hear what they’ve been seeing. Hang around long enough and you’ll likely get offered ticket deals and the occasional freebie for underperforming shows.
3. Get yourself a bus day ticket. You can get them from the driver. Most venues are very walkable from the centre, but for four quid you’ll save yourself shoe leather, time, and a sweaty barging match through the crowds of tourists. Plus it’ll encourage you to try out some of the further flung venues.
4. Be courteous to flyerers, who are everywhere. No, you don’t want one, but they’ve got a show to sell, and it’s part of the game. They’re probably skint, hungover and keeping that smile on their face is taking all their willpower. A little friendly repartee never goes amiss.
5. Wander the free shows – free to get in that is, there’s usually a collection at the end (or, in a ‘gag’ more than one comedian will use, pay to get out). They’re lower profile, but not necessarily lower quality. Clusters of free venues can be found on Canongate, Cowgate and the Southside. Some surprisingly ‘name’ artists now opt for free as a business model. You could see one of them. Or you could see an incomprehensible Japanese fella whose AV has failed humming film theme tunes and dying on his arse. Either way it’s good.
6. Party (quite) hard. Do at least one ‘big’ night that you end up paying for for the next day/week/lifetime. And don’t blame me.
7. Don’t laugh if someone does a weather or food joke. It only encourages them. “In Scotland, they call this summer!” “Fried mars bars! Fried mars bars?!?” “Ever tried getting a salad in Scotland?” They’re the fallback joke and they’re not funny. They must be eradicated.
8. Be prepared for randomness. You might get accosted in the street by a troupe of evil clowns, you might bump into someone dressed as a hippo in the pub toilets, you might get dragged on stage. Oh yes, most of all, you might get dragged on stage. Just go with it. No-one has ever been properly humiliated at the Fringe. No-one. Nearly no-one.
9. Walk out of a show if you absolutely must, but consider this: that performer has often nigh on bankrupted themselves for an hour slot in a twenty-seater pub backroom. And for why? Fame is unlikely. Therefore, it can only be the pure compulsion to perform. They’re mad, and they know they’re mad, so think very carefully before compounding their misery. Is your time really that precious that you can’t bear to be in the same room as them any longer?
10. Keep an open mind. Obvious but sound advice. What’s the point of going home with stories of seeing that TV comedian who’s touring your local theatre in three months’ time? Better to say you’ve seen a naked Venezuelan sumo wrestler farting the hits of Coldplay while being beaten round the face with a dead haddock (18:45, 7-30 August, excluding Mondays, @ Avalaff on the Fringe, Sidesplitter Venues Pisspants Comedy Loft 3)