A Baptism of Fire - the Edinburgh Fringe Debut Show

We've seen from shows such as Fleabag in 2013 that success at your Edinburgh debut show can lead to worldwide success. Others...not so much. James Macfarlane chats with three brave comedians, Liz Guterbock, Philipp Kostelecky and Niamh Denyer, hoping to achieve success as they bring their debut full-hour shows to Edinburgh this year.

It’s your debut here at the Fringe! In three words, how are you feeling?

Liz Guterbock: Bigger than Barbie!

Philipp Kostelecky: Excited, optimistic, tired.

Niamh Denyer: I am feeling nervous, excited, a bit overwhelmed and filled with a lot of anticipation! But overall, I feel like I am in a good place and am ready to get on stage for that first show.

Have you been to Edinburgh before?

LG: Yes – I’ve done split bills and a work-in-progress show before, but never at one of the bigger venues. This year I’m at The Pleasance and it feels like a dream come true! I’m so excited to come back to Edinburgh with an official debut…and the right shoes.

PK: I have yes, a few times doing split bill shows and last year I did the AAA showcase. It’s such a fun month to perform and see all the great comedy the world has to offer.

ND: Yes, but only as a visitor to the Fringe and on other occasions. I am looking forward to being there for the whole month and to really get to know the city.

Was a Fringe run always on your radar? What made you decide this was the year to debut?

LG: I think an Edinburgh Fringe run was always on my mind, but being honest, during the pandemic I lost faith that it was something I’d ever be able to do – because of both health reasons and the expense. I know I’m not alone in that feeling, of course. I had to rebuild my strength and capacity for multiple performances after the pandemic, and I felt so privileged to be able to do it last year in a work-in-progress show. It reminded me how lucky I am to be able to connect with people through comedy, and how much we all needed a good laugh. I decided this year was the year to debut because, after many world and life events, the show is finally ready, and frankly, it’s now or never!

PK: It wasn’t when I first wanted to get into comedy, but starting out in the UK obviously, it’s such a big part of the culture here that it very quickly becomes something one would be interested in doing.

I think for me it was very much a “wand chooses the wizard” type of situation. I had been progressing in clubs and live work in comedy, but I grew up watching “the hour” that stand-ups had to present so it just seemed like something fun to work on while doing the rest of my gigs. However, it’s now turned into my favourite type of show to perform, it’s so much to really sit with a crowd for an extended period of time and properly get into the material and share my world.

ND: It’s always been something I thought I would or should do at some point, but it always scared me quite a lot, between the financial constraints and the amount of work it takes. I have had many friends who have done it, so I felt I had a good understanding of what a big undertaking it is. I never had quite the right project in mind, but when I wrote and performed a work in progress of my show, it just clicked, this was the show to take. It was just a gut feeling that I felt this show would work really well at the Fringe. It’s comedy and I think we all need a laugh at the moment, and as it’s just me, so it makes it a bit more affordable and a bit more straightforward to organise.

What are you most proud of in this debut show?

LG: My honesty. Sharing my thoughts and feelings around being an ageing, queer woman who is not going to have children feels scary, but from audience reactions in previews, it’s helped other women talk about their own doubts, fears, and triumphs as they age. It makes me happy to know that sharing my experiences helps other people understand theirs.

PK: I think I’m really happy with how internationally accessible the show is. I’ve toured it across Europe and the UK to a huge range of audiences and I’m really glad that so many people from so many different parts of the world can understand and relate to the subject matter. It’s also super physical and I think combines silliness, socio-political commentary, observations, and storytelling in a really nice way.

ND: Honestly, between all the stress and the admin that one has to do to get to Edinburgh, I have tried to take a moment to just sit back and remind myself that I created something from nothing, and that I have made people laugh. The world can feel like a dark and scary place at times and It’s a real joy to bring some laughter to it.

If you want the audience to go away remembering one thing about the show, what would that be?

LG: That women have a value beyond just their looks and ability to procreate.

PK: All I want is for people to think it was really funny and how incredibly talented I am (joke joke). I really want them to think that had a great time and could forget about their problems for an hour, it’s not a serious show, it’s really just a funny hour of comedy which, if that’s your thing, then come along!

ND: That it was at 1pm in the Coorie at Gilded Balloon’s Patter Hoose so they can tell all their friends to come, oh and that they got free biscuits!

Apart from your show, what are you most looking forward to in Scotland?

LG: The Scottish people themselves! I love how friendly they are. Even though I’m a Californian, I feel like I’ve become a dour Londoner after living here for 12 years because I always get so surprised when friendly Scots spontaneously talk to me on the streets of Edinburgh! I love it.

PK: Well if it’s Scotland as a whole, it’s definitely the people. They’re some of the loveliest and most intimidating in the world and it’s hard to get that balance right and still be incredibly loved globally.

ND: Fresh air, I live in London so I can’t wait to get out in some nature in my downtime. I’ve never climbed Arthur’s Seat so that’s high on the list (excuse the pun!). I also have a couple of good friends in Edinburgh so it will be lovely to catch up with them in their city.

If you could choose any comedian, alive or dead, to share the bill with, who would you choose?

LG: Sarah Silverman. She’s a comedy powerhouse, and from day one has been unapologetic about who she is, what she does and what she jokes about. She’s amazing. I might be a tad too cheerful for her, though!

PK: I think the obvious answer for me would be someone like Bill Burr, George Carlin, or Richard Pryor just for the pure comedic knowledge I could gain.

However, I’m going to go for a bit of an off-beat one with Charlie Chaplin. Although, I don’t know if he would be good to chat after the show to as he didn’t really seem to be able to talk in the movies he was in but I'm sure we can hold up subtitle cards at each other and talk that way.

ND: It has to be Victoria Wood, a total legend.

Of the thousands of comedy shows at this year’s Fringe, why should audiences come and see yours?

LG: Geriatric Millennial is a light-hearted way of talking about something we are all doing: getting older. So, if you’re cool with women ageing, silly voices and jokes about us lazy, entitled, Millennial narcissists, then this is the show for you. And if you’re a Millennial? Then this is a show all about you, so you know you’ll love it!

PK: It’s a really good time, like genuinely a really funny and fun hour of comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously but also has just a little bit of heart so you feel a little warm and fuzzy towards the end!

ND: It’s fun and interactive in a way that doesn’t put you on the spot. You may discover skills you never knew you had. I can almost guarantee you will laugh at least once. Hopefully a lot more than that. Unless you have a heart of stone, in which case, I’ll do my best to crack it.

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