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- Fringe 2012 - a ruddy thorough introduction
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Edinburgh Fringe 2012 – a ruddy thorough introduction
Behold! A leaf through the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe brochure, and some written-down thoughts on this year's comedy offering
The Edinburgh Fringe 2012 is upon us. Tourists will gravitate towards the Royal Mile and stand around with backpacks. Comedy lovers will roll around Bristo Square and Pleasance Courtyard like tumbleweed, collecting and discarding flyers without even noticing. Gag hags will loiter outside venue exits twizzling their hair. Comedians will lose their mind. Comedians will crowbar the tram into their opening 5 minutes. The Stand will be the best venue but it won't be as well attended. Someone will take their clothes off onstage at Late n Live. I will run to at least 2 shows every day. Venues will be magicked up in forgotten corners of the city. It will rain. The locals won't use umbrellas.
The certainty of it all is somehow reassuring.
And yet, so many rogue elements to be excited about. For starters - the shows! 60 million of the fuckers across 10 million venues (roughly), some great, some woeful, most somewhere in the middle. Last year's Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Adam Riches is staying away – who's gonna take his crown? Alarmingly, there's no Robin Ince or Paul Sinha this year. IT'LL BE LIKE CORRIE WITHOUT BETTY TURPIN AND VERA DUCKWORTH. But there is so much to recommend also. Edinburgh is Funny (LiF is now donning its summer plumage) will be publishing its top 40 Fringe tips at the end of July after 6 weeks of trawling the previews. And prior to that, there will be "who's who" articles to help you make sense of the overwhelming number of shows to choose from.
In the video above, I (editor of this joint, Paul Fleckney) have a leaf through the Fringe brochure picking out shows of note/interest/ridicule – an idea shamelessly nicked off that random punter who used to do that on YouTube. But did he have a bagpipe version of Let Me Entertain You going in the background? Hell no! Take a look, see how long you last.
Some early loin-moisteners that you might want to get booked in for include: Reginald D Hunter in a tiny venue, Return of the Lumberjacks (a Canadian holy trinity of Glenn Wool, Stewart Francis and Craig Campbell), Set List and James Acaster; and there is talk of excellent things coming from the direction of Sarah Kendall, Stephen Carlin, Danny Bhoy and Diane Spencer.
There are also plenty of great acts doing free shows – newbies like Adam Hess, Richard Todd and Adam Belbin; and some old hands like Charlie Chuck, Phil Kay, Phill Jupitus and The Greatest Show on Legs.
And of course there will be loads of strange shows that will only ever see the light of day in Edinburgh, from Noise Next Door's 24-hour improv adventure, to the Edinburgh audio tours courtesy of various comics, to Mark Watson/David O'Doherty's Edinbrolympics, to Arthur Smith being carried up Arthur's Seat in a sedan chair.
But these are all just a handful of the thousands of shows out there, and as ever, any Edinburgh is Funny recommendations come alongside the recommendation that you ignore all recommendations at least once a day, and just pick something at random. Be curious. Take a chance.
• Well, hopefully London won't kick the shit out of itself this year, but it will be hogging some attention in the form of the Olympics – and whether this will dent ticket sales is one of the biggest questions facing the Fringe 2012.
• Also, the aforementioned Stand is expanding – it's taking over the Assembly Rooms in George Street, which is a massive deal for the club. It's forever the comedians' favourite and the more discerning punter's favourite, but maybe this year by taking over the Assembly Rooms its commercial clout will finally catch up with its reputation.
• Another talking point is the Alternative Fringe, which has expanded since its embryonic first year in 2011. It is another manifestation of how much frustration there is with the Fringe "model", where comedians stump up huge amounts of money to perform, rather than promoters, with those costs then getting passed onto the punter. It also pits itself against the careerism of the main Fringe, with its aim to "recreate the spirit of adventure that existed before alternative went mainstream".
A free Fringe has co-existed with the paid Fringe ever since Peter Buckley-Hill began the PBH Free Fringe in 1996, but in recent years not only has it got bigger and more successful (see the recent Edinburgh Best Newcomer nominations for free Fringe acts Imran Yusuf and Cariad Lloyd) it's also got bolshy. It wants to close the gap between free and paid Fringe, and has noble intentions of getting a fairer deal for comics, and by extension, the punters. The £5 Fringe was a similar attempt in 2009/10, but it couldn't locate a business model.
The Alternative Fringe has just one venue but it is a good one – the Hive – a venue that even back in 2006 sought to bring "an alternative experience to that of overrated, over priced Late Night showcases". So we have been here before, but the comedy landscape has changed so much since 2006 that perhaps the Alternative Fringe, run by former tour manager Bob Slayer, will really take root this year. Among its performers are Trevor Lock, Lewis Schaffer, Phil Kay, David Mills and Nick Sun.
• Finally, I hope more of the well-known comics use their shows to talk about current affairs. Any current affairs, I don't care which. So few are the "state of the nation" shows that we have to seek them out like mudlarks. Last year we had to look to overtly political comedians such as Andy Zaltzman, Kate Smurthwaite and Josie Long, but we shouldn't have to. At least we had Andrew Maxwell, whose show was steeped in news even before last year's riots, and even more so after them. There are a few green shoots to be spotted at this early stage – Mark Watson is taking stock of where we are in our relationship with the internet, and on a much more subtle scale, but as ever it's out on the Fringes that comics are engaging with the wider world – be it Chris Coltrane or, more subtly, character comic Kieran Hodgson, a few of whose creations indicate that maybe he at least reads the papers.