Dear comedy performers. Just a few suggestions before you plunge headlong into the boiling soup of an Edinburgh August. They are meant to be helpful. Not all reviewers are as old and rancid as I. But, generally speaking, they will become so eventually. So if this is not helpful this year...
Once my words are out there in the public domain, they are your words.
You may or may not be spending a ridiculous amount of money on production and promotion. Be aware, just because you are paying them does NOT mean they know better about your show and how to do the best for it. For example, when a reviewer, a judge or some 'industry' hanger-on whom you fondly imagine is going to transform your career is coming in to see the show, you must, if you can, STOP THEM from packing your audience with random passers by, junior members of their staff and, worst of all, hordes of still hung-over, hi-vis vest wearing flyerers and FOH crew who are only really here for the parties and who will spend the hour sniggering amongst themselves, failing to get any of your material and checking out returns for Jack Whitehall on the App. Contrary to what promoters and PRs seem to think, it is simply not necessary to be squashed into a packed room full of the disinterested and the unwashed in order to appreciate the worth of an act. A review is not for audience numbers. It is for the show. I have, several times, seen four and five star shows and been in an audience numbering fewer than those stars. I have sat alone and been enthralled and delighted. I have never, ever, looked at the conscripted numpty beside me and thought… “well if HE thinks it's funny ...”
It is a Fringe Festival (just…) There will be noise. There will be random occurrences. Your venue is either some part of a pub or club, of something carved at phenomenal cost, out of somewhere belonging to Edinburgh University. Or a tent. We all know how tooth-grindingly annoying Silent Disco is. But it is. So get over it. Or use it. Don't just whine each time the tuneless singalongs start. Pretty much everyone experiences noise spill. Be happy if you are experiencing it in the Banshee Labyrinth (for free) rather than one of the George Square tents where you are likely to be paying a small fortune to have nothing but a few metres of tarpaulin between you and the party animals outside. And, quite honestly, if you cannot be funnier than some noise spill… I'd go back to the day job.
Getting your PR (if such you are splashing out on) to hassle me endlessly throughout the Fringe is never a good idea. If you are desperate then please feel free to come up and talk to me yourself. I am generally not hard to find in Edinburgh. And I would always rather talk to the performer than the pimp. Also, make sure your management/PRs are not behaving like arseholes on your behalf. If you really are so underprepared and not very good at your job that you cannot be seen by anyone with an actual opinion before you have practiced your 'standing in a space saying things at people' for three days then I would rather not waste my life on seeing you at all. But if you are cool about early reviews, make sure your 'people' are not being difficult just because the Fringe is all about dicks on tables.
Generally, if you do have management, a promoter or a PR, do try to stay hands on. They are working for you. It is your money they are spending.
Finally – and you did not hear this from me – I am very firmly of the opinion (albeit it is most certainly not shared by my employers) that once my words are out there in the public domain, they are your words. To use as you please. I am equally of the opinion that the ellipsis (three little dots, for those without a full education) is the single most useful thing in English grammar. It is your friend.
A tiny example of absolute brilliance in dealing with a bad review – without resorting to the ellipsis – concerns the late lamented Jason Woods.
He was a terrific comic. But one year I felt he was merely strolling through a show of old impressions and lazy material. Because I knew how great he was capable of being, I was quite hard on him. I gave him one star. The paper comes out late night. Before midnight, the front of the Assembly Rooms in George Street (where Jason was performing) was covered in massive posters declaring “Jason Woods. A Star. Kate Copstick, The Scotsman”. Genius. THAT is how to deal with a bad review.
Although judging by your press releases… I fail to see how ANY of you could get a bad review...