Copstick's Diary: You're paying to watch comics rehearse.

“I get paid for my rehearsals” Marcus Brigstocke told me the other day, when we were discussing how expensive it has been for him to bring his play Red to Edinburgh. Of course he has to pay his actors rehearsal pay. So the production will be good enough to ask punters to pay to see. But as a comic, he does a 'new material night' to try stuff out... and gets punters to pay. He does previews... and gets punters to pay. Or he does (which he isn't) Work in Progress... and gets punters to pay. And that is what the money you hand over is, when you go to a Work In Progress show. Paying to watch Omid... or Kiri... or Stephen... or Nina rehearse. Paying quite a lot, in some cases. There are a couple of dozen of them to choose from this year. If watching someone fling material at the wall to see what sticks floats your comedic boat.

This is just celebrity dick swinging and it should be stopped.

The Book Festival is missing a trick here. They could have a few writers simply bring their laptop up and sit in a darkened room while paying punters watch them knock up a first draft, or a plot outline.

Musical acts can sell tickets for audiences to enjoy the thrill of finding the right key for a song, the fun of technical rehearsals and working on the sound mix.

But it only really seems to be the comics who feel they are fascinating enough to charge people to watch them practice.

And yet again, too, too many name comics – the ones who are easily experienced enough to walk on any stage and do their thing - feel the need to have two or three days without a published judgemental eye in the room. Absolutely unacceptable. How much time do you need to do standing in a room talking to people practice? Lighting fails – speak in the dark. Sound fails – speak louder. This is just celebrity dick swinging and it should be stopped.

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, has been directing some stand ups' shows for this year. I remain entirely unconvinced of the necessity, the efficacy or even the desirability of having an actual director for a stand up show. But now, I am told, some of the stand ups demand that a Non-Disclosure Agreement is signed by the director. Deniable cosmetic surgery for their hour onstage. *sighs heavily and wanders off, shoulders drooping in despair*

Some comics, however, take dedication to their craft to a whole new level. Zach Zucker (aged 24 and a half) – whose alter ego Jack Tucker has been doing stand up in New York for 45 years shaved a bald patch into his head for his run at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. So emotionally devastating was the effect of becoming a baldy that he has decided not to repeat the sacrifice for Edinburgh.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this article has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now