Not everything always goes to plan at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In fact, with so many shows and so much to come together, it’s no surprise that things sometimes go a little – how shall we say – off track.
We asked six top comics to tell us their worst moments during their Edinburgh careers to date, and they reveal some fascinating stories of loneliness, disastrous shows, and dog poo. Starting with…
I remember the first time I came up to the Edinburgh fringe as a performer five years ago. I had only done a few gigs and I decided to spend a week at the Edinburgh fringe.
I didn’t have a show, I just tried to pick up short spots here and there. I stayed in a horrible hostel which was a 30 minute walk away. Also in my dormitory were 12 Australian backpackers who were the most noisy, smelly, rude Australians I have ever met.
I barely slept the entire week. To make things worse I only knew one other comedian who was up and every time I arranged to hang out with him he’d always have to rush off to do a gig or hang out with someone with fewer bags under their eyes.
It was the loneliest week ever. One plus point was that I got very good at hanging around after shows making it look like I was waiting for someone. Useful skill. It was a brutal introduction to the fringe.
I remember getting home and telling my mum that I would never go back again. I’ve been every summer since.
Steve Bugeja: Unpronounceable is at Just the Tonic at The Tron at 5pm, 4th – 28th August (except 15th). Tickets here.
Anna Mann (creation of Colin Hoult)
A lot of you are too young to remember this but back in the 80s there was one horrid year where Thatcher made it illegal to act in any way “camp or puffy” at the fringe. I was then performing with my 4th husband Phill Chessington in a very clever piece called Gay Hamlet.
Fearing arrest, the entire thing had to be reworked at the last minute into a show simply called Hamlet. It was a disastrous year but it did lead me to create my finest fringe hour, the satire Shut Up Thatcher.
Colin Hoult/Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 7pm, 3rd – 28th (except 17th) as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Tickets here.
Many years ago I was in an absolutely terrible sketch show. The first performance was phenomenal. Silence. Stone cold silence.
The audience seemed genuinely furious we had detained them to make them watch our half arsed offering. I can still see the face of a man in the second row, his brow furrowed in this painful mixture of confusion and anger.
We ruined his day, and he couldn’t understand what he had done to deserve such punishment. Near the end of the show it came time to do a stage punch, and to add injury to insult we managed to completely bugger it up; I accidentally broke my colleague’s nose live on stage. Blood everywhere.
The show disintegrated moments later. We generously left the only member of the troupe, who incidentally was oblivious to what had happened, standing alone on the stage forced to explain to the audience that the show had apparently finished, but that he didn’t know why.
Our technician informed us that the feedback from the audience ranged from the bemused, “It was alright, but the ending was a bit weird”, to the triumphant “that was so bad, I’m glad one of them got punched in the face”.
Garrett Millerick: The Dreams Stuff is Made of is at the Pleasance Dome at 9:40pm 3rd – 28th August (except 15th). Tickets here.
Jennifer Byrne & Vicky Falconer-Pritchard (Yeti’s)
The best and the worst moment happened at the same time- an audience member once got so excited he stripped naked on stage, which was brilliant! But once it was all hanging out he didn’t really know what to do with himself so just jiggled around a little bit and left. After that point whatever we did next was just going to be a disappointment.
Yeti’s: Demon Dive Bar is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 9:20pm, 3rd – 29th August (except 17th). Tickets here.
My worst fringe moment (discounting, I presume, the moment where my boyfriend broke up with me about six days in on a bench in the Meadows that I then had to pass every time I went home) was probably doing a spot that I thought had gone passably well. Then, in the bathroom afterwards, overhearing some women talk about how dreadful I was, how I was the one who really brought the side down and how they couldn’t believe no-one had told me I wasn’t funny and didn’t I have friends who cared enough to be honest with me?
And then the subsequent dilemma of “Do I stay in the stall and cower in shame till they leave?” versus “Do I go out there and make it horribly awkward?” I went with the latter option. Because why should I be the only one dying inside?
I gathered up what was left of my crushed dignity, flounced out of the toilet and stared them both down. I can’t say it was particularly satisfying. They looked miserable, I felt miserable, and I’d cut short my wee just so I could catch them before they left, so even I was uncomfortable.
Andrea Hubert: Week is at the Gilded Balloon Counting House Sitting Room at 3:45pm, 3rd – 29th August (except 15th & 16th). Tickets here.
After being asked for my “Worst Edinburgh Fringe moment”, I found it so hard to pick just one it made me question why I ever came back!
Maybe the time my dad fell asleep five minutes into my set? Or being stared at by 40 prison guards? Surely, the time I was threatened with death by a nice Glaswegian chap who I asked to be quiet at the back of my gig?
It has to be the time I left a gig and immediately stood in dog poo. I then turned around to check my shoe, lent into the road and got hit by a passing bus’s wing mirror, only to finally drop my phone and smash the screen.
Comedians spend so much of every August shattered from staying up late and gigging 5 times a day, this left me so close to tears. I think it’s testament to how brilliant the Fringe is that after the lows you have year on year, it drags you back in. Either that or by the next year you just forget. Maybe I’ll keep this is a reminder next July.
Pete Otway: Six Years Since Then is at Just the Tonic at The Mash House at 5pm, 4th – 28th August (except 15th). Tickets here.