A Tour, In Theory
I’m going to get right in there with a question this week, if you’d be happy to answer it. My question is:
If you live in the UK, whereabouts do you live? If I were to come on tour to a city near you, would you be interested in coming? If none of the cities I name later on are near you, is there a city near you that you think has a good arts/comedy scene that I haven’t considered, that I maybe should?
I’ve been talking to a lot of people recently about the Edinburgh Fringe, and noticing what I hope is a gradual shift in attitude towards it. I’ve written several times here before about the Fringe having become more and more of a careerist gauntlet as it goes on – “I simply must go up every year in order to show myself to “the industry” so I can continue to be allowed to work in comedy.” This obviously doesn’t hold true for every piece of work taken up to the Fringe, nor is it necessarily wrong for people to have adopted that mindset – for many years the comedy industry pretty much did operate like that, with each year’s Fringe being the deciding factor in who tended to get the most work over the subsequent year, and only the enforced gap of the pandemic seems to have prompted some changes in that model. But it certainly is unsustainable.
As I’ve been budgeting for my own show this year, and seen how the costs have skyrocketed, I’ve realised that going to the Fringe every year simply won’t be possible for me any more. This year I’ve been lucky enough to get some funding that means I can absorb a lot of the costs, but I can’t merrily assume I’ll be so lucky every year, and I certainly couldn’t cover the costs I’m covering this year every year out of my own pocket. I’m going to the Fringe this year because it’s an important place to me creatively and, in a way, spiritually, and I’ve missed it a lot over the last 3 years. After 3 years, I see no point in going back there with something I haven’t worked hard on, so that’s why I’m pushing to make this show as good as possible, and trying to give it as much of myself as I can. After that, I think I’ll take at least one or two years away from it to pursue other avenues of working, until I’m ready to put the same amount of time and energy into a new idea. I kind of hope that, gradually, everybody’s approach to doing the Fringe starts to follow a similar pattern, with people taking stuff up there when they have something they really care about that they really want to show to people up there, and then take a year or so in between to explore other creative avenues and figure out what the next big idea is going to be (I know lots of people already do this, and what I’m suggesting isn’t revelatory, but I do think it’s far from being the default approach to show-making around that festival).
What often used to happen at the Fringe is that by the end of the month people would just be getting to the point where their show had crystallised into something really great, with lots of people talking about it and interested in seeing it, then they tend to do maybe a few dates in London, then they throw their show in the bin and start thinking about a new show so they’ll be ready to do it all again at next year’s Fringe. There’s an assumption that if you’ve played to nice audiences in Edinburgh, then your show has been seen by everyone that wants to see it, but if we can detach ourselves from the need to get a new show ready for the next year, there’s actually a huge amount of opportunity for us to get our work seen by many more people, and actually make some money from it, by spending another year taking that show round the country. So I find myself in the new position of putting together a tentative tour for late 2022 or early 2023!
A picture I found on Google of the interior of a tour bus. I’ll probably do the tour in something like this, I think.
So, if any of my readers here could help me get some sort of a handle on how I could put that together, I’d be hugely appreciative of your answers to the question earlier! Obviously I’ve never been on a formal tour before, and am not a big name in comedy, so I’m not planning on putting together a mammoth tour of dozens of dates at big venues – I’m hoping to organise something that’s a sort of pilot project for the idea of touring, to find out if it’s a vaguely sustainable model for making my work in future – one year of making a Fringe show, one year of touring/radio/podcasting/whatever, then a third year of something else, haven’t really figured it out yet, then back to the Fringe. My plan is to put together a handful of dates in cities where I know I can sell a decent number of tickets, either to local friends, or to audiences I know I’ve built up there through festival appearances etc, so that each date can at worst play to a small core audience of friends and fans, and hopefully serve as an opportunity to expand on that core a bit and find nice new audiences all around the country. My estimate for which towns that would cover are:
London, Edinburgh, Brighton, Norwich, Leicester, Bristol, Sheffield, York, Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham.
So over to you guys – have I missed off places where you think there are good arts scenes, or do you live near a town where you think there might be a decent local audience for me? Happy to consider adding dates if people can think of somewhere I’ve neglected!
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – Last week I was lucky enough to be a guest at the BBC Audio Drama Awards, and was very proud to watch my friend John-Luke Roberts win Best Comedy Sketch Programme for his Sound Heap podcast, and the amazing Bridget Christie also won Best Narrative Comedy for her wonderful series Mortal. You can read about it here!
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – The scene in The Phantom Of The Open where Mark Rylance pretends to be a Frenchman called Gerard Hoppy is, hand on heart, the hardest I’ve ever laughed in a cinema. Just joyous.
Book Of The Week – The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn. This is a follow-up to Winn’s brilliant The Salt Path, and continues her story past the point where she and her husband finished walking the South West Coast Path. It suffers a bit in comparison from not having as clear a narrative arc or purpose, but she writes about nature beautifully.
Album Of The Week – I have finally finished listening to all the Meat Loaf albums I’ve not listened to before. I finished with Hell In A Handbasket which is, sadly, a bit rubbish. But what a hero. What an all-time great.
Film Of The Week – The Phantom Of The Open, which I mentioned before. It’s quite formulaic and cheesy, but it’s also a film that knows exactly what it’s setting out to do, and does it masterfully. I absolutely loved it.
That’s all for this week! Let me know what you thought and, as ever, if you wanted to send this newsletter on to a friend, or encourage others to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it. Take care of yourselves, and see you next time,
PS Here’s an incredible dog I met this week. Looks made-up to me.