Money and Hegemony at the Edinburgh Fringe

How about that for a snappy title? I must still be under the influence of all these politically aware (leftie) comedians I’ve been going to see. Though, out of all them, no-one as yet has mentioned the most striking element of Edinburgh’s current visual landscape – the huge, monolith-like ad-boards strapped to every lamp-post, traffic-light-post and available garden railing in the city centre; on them the gods of yesteryear – Alan Davies, Frank Skinner and the rest – gaze down on us flanked by comments like ‘the funniest thing you will ever see’ and ‘life-changing’. It’s proper old school propaganda – don’t bother with the new wee guys – we’re the real deal. Don’t believe them! Get yourselves out to the Free Fringe and discover the brilliant new talent that is out there.

That’s the hegemony, now the money. You’ve heard the old chestnut – that Tory scandals are always to do with sex and Labour/socialist ones are always about money? Socialists are obsessed with money maybe because we (yes, I do include myself) don’t start out with much of it. Keeping that in mind we’ve devised a little game to be played at the Free Fringe: when the show ends and the inevitable happens – ‘This is the Free Fringe, but… ‘ and the bucket is produced, try and guess what will be said next. In the vast majority of cases the performer will be charming and funny and say ‘give what you can / what you think it was worth’. However, in my experience, any show that is of a political or leftie nature (I haven’t actually seen any right-wing political stuff as yet) they will always – always – put a price on it. ‘Shows up the road are charging £15, so…’; ‘A drink costs £4, so give me the price of a drink’ ‘; ‘What can you buy for £10 these days?’ I guess they probably expect their audiences to be the well-heeled middle-classes and whilst they may have the interests of the poor and downtrodden at heart, it’s like they don’t actually expect them to be at a Fringe show. Seriously though and that aside if you see a Free Fringe show and the performers don’t seriously piss you off and you don’t get into a fight with anyone, always try and give something. And if you’re really on the breadline – just tell the performer you liked the show (if you did!) and say you’ll recommend them through the usual channels. Going back to my initial point, maybe it’s just as well right-wing nut-jobs don’t tend to put on shows as I can guess what their lines would be like – ‘Don’t worry about the money, my dear – you can pay me in kind… ‘

Talking of money – Aaaargh! It’s the Monster Stand-up show (until 24th Aug, 15.00 @ Jekyll & Hyde pub) is terrific value. Five comedians in one hour hosted by your genial – if slightly wasted – host Masai Graham – who brings you the equally value-for-money Aaaaargh! 101 Jokes in 30 minutes (see my earlier review) at the same venue later that day.

First off was Jon Pearson – imagine going to see your bank manager and he starts telling you about his marriage break-down; not in a melt-down kind of way but matter-of-fact interspersed with twisted little barbs of petty revenge. Coupled with tales of going to weight-watchers and starting to date again – it’s perfect fare for anyone who has ever split up with anyone. For the full story you’ll have to see him at WNCLUB on George Street @ 12.30, until 23rd Aug.

Next up was Nicole Henriksen – whimsical, charming and slightly bonkers – her show is called Rainbow Rabbits with Rabies (Bar 50 @ 23.00 until 11th Aug); which kinda gives a ‘something nasty lurking in the sugar-bowl’ impression… interesting. Potentially risky abortion joke ending – bold!

Freddie Farrell is also appearing the same venue immediately after this show as well as The Counting House (22.30 until 24th Aug). Name, looks and voice all have good comedy potential; reminded me a bit of Johnny Vegas but with actual comedy material! Effective routines including a tale about remonstrating with would-be gangsters.

Dane Baptiste was probably the slickest member of the line-up with a ticketed show (17.30 @ The Pleasance) and numerous telly appearances. Assured routines about friends and their pretentious pronunciation of McDonalds meals (‘feelay of fish’). Good stuff.

Last up was Jay Handley; looks like Jesus; slightly sad-sack style with tales of folding his business to pursue his dream of doing stand-up. Nice laid-back style with sketches of everyday scenarios where paranoia creeps in (bus seat etiquette). Catch him at The Dragonfly @ 22.10 until 23rd Aug.

Caught Kate Smurthwaite in her new show Lefite Cock Womble (I’ll let her explain the title at Viva Mexico every day at 17.00 until 23rd Aug (not 12th)). Now, I support pretty much everything Kate stands for but when I go to see her I feel like I’m stuck in one of those middle-class dinner parties that used to feature in Bremner, Bird and Fortune. I also want to subvert the Voltaire quote: ‘I agree with everything you have to say but probably wouldn’t feel the need to defend you’. The show starts, as usual with Kate, with the ‘who’s got a nice job and who’s got an evil job?’ routine. Fair enough, but I get the feeling if I came out as a non-skilled minimum wage earner there would have been an embarrassed silence followed by being given the address of the nearest food-bank. As it was, the show I was at had Kate’s super-fan in the front row and a nice chat about his nice job ensued, so that was – nice. Come to think of it he may have been the same guy from the day before at The Michael Gove Expose but I can’t be sure… I’m sorry if this is sounding a bit mean – I like Kate and her bold defence of important issues like feminism, socialism, freedom of speech – but shows like this are always going to be a bit of a leftie love-in. However Kate does get my daily ‘most brazen appeal for inflated remuneration by a socialist performer’ award by saying ‘you would pay ten or fifteen pounds for a show like this… ‘ yeah, okay, have heard that one before – then ‘if you’re unemployed or really struggling for money… let’s call it two pounds!’ I wouldn’t have minded but this was following on from her detailed description of a particular lobster-guzzling, all-expenses-paid TV gig that she received as the regular go-to-girl for a leftie quote. Move over Tony Blair – that’s all I can say!


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5 Responses to Money and Hegemony at the Edinburgh Fringe

  1. Erm fuck off. I do not “regularly” get all-expenses paid TV work. This happened ONCE and was so unusual that I put the story into my show. The majority of TV and radio appearances i do are UNPAID. And lots of people have told me about their minimum wage jobs and been applauded for their hard work and laughed along with about the downside of it. That other shows like mine would charge 12-15 quid is a fact, I then I say that I’m not looking for donations on that scale, that I think those prices are too much for a one-hour show. Write what you like about my comedy but please be honest.

    • sonyanemec says:

      Hi Kate, thanks for your comments. First off – apologies for implying that you regularly receive all-expenses-paid gigs of a luxurious nature – I appreciate that expenses (not ‘fees’) received for general media appearances are probably quite modest but still something that people in ‘ordinary’ jobs don’t usually get. I always do speak and write honestly and it’s my honest opinion that as a minimum wage earner I would have felt uncomfortable saying so during your show. I saw over 50 shows on the Free Fringe and it was my honest observation that ones with a political slant quoted hard cash sums – like ‘two quid if you’re unemployed’ whereas I did hear quite a few other (non-political) performers tell people to keep their money if they were really hard-up, which I thought was nice and less alienating.

  2. Kate says:

    But I do say that. I always say “I love being part of the Free Fringe because it means everyone can be a part of the festival regardless of their circumstances”. I know my script. I don’t say “two quid if you’re unemployed” I say “if you’re a student or you’re out of work at the moment let me ask you for two quid”. But loads of people don’t contribute but say they’ll recommend me to a friend or give me a voucher for half price pizza they’re not going to use or whatever.

    Then you say “I get the feeling if I came out as a non-skilled minimum wage earner there would have been an embarrassed silence followed by being given the address of the nearest food-bank.” But I am telling you that this exact thing happened loads of times during my run and there wasn’t an embarrassed silence, nor did anyone hand out the address of a food bank. We joked about the trials and tribulations of shift work, the need to raise the minimum wage and on more than one occasion someone working minimum wage while being a single parent or caring for a sick relative was declared “biggest do-gooder in the room” and applauded by all. So I’m telling you – for a fact – that the thing you felt would happen would not have happened. I have empirical proof of this.

    So you’re just expressing a prejudice based on what I look like or my accent or whatever assumption you’ve made about me. You’ve come into the room while I’ve been being nice to someone with a professional job and assumed that somehow represents the only group of people I relate to. It simply isn’t. So it’s your problem, not mine.

  3. sonyanemec says:

    Tell you what – why don’t you re-write my review as you seem to have a good idea of what you want in it. I’ll even let you keep the parts where I said I admired you and your work. I was only expressing an opinion which I believe – whatever way our country’s going – is still allowed. As for exhibiting prejudice re appearance/accent – I hardly think so as I caught one of your shows last year and saw you in Austerity Pleasures this year and liking what I saw (and heard) came along to the show in question. Now you may think there is something lacking or inherently wrong with me in that I formed the opinion I did but then I believe it’s your right to express that view. The hugely ironic thing here is we probably agree on most major issues, so surely someone more diametrically opposed to you and your views deserves your time and vitriol a whole lot more than I do.

  4. Kate says:

    It’s not vitriol. I put a lot of love and work into my shows and I care a lot about how they are received.

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