I have always been cheerfully aware that overall, I have had the luck of the draw with Edinburgh reviewers. The flipside is being constantly aware that the luck will run out, but I didn’t foresee just how spitefully this would happen.
On July 18th, Kate Copstick the celebrated/loathed, famous/notorious, Grand Dame/Bete Noire of the Scotsman’s comedy reviewing team, contacted my venue, the Stand, asking for a free ticket to review my new show on Wednesday August 1st. The decision was mine. The decision was a polite no thanks. The first show is a “preview” show, before my Fringe begins officially on Friday. This is my ninth full length show, and I have never had reviewers on the first day. Kate’s response to this was to throw a tantrum, and mutter darkly that I would not be reviewed by the Scotsman this year.
Fine, I thought. If Kate wants to use threats to try and get her way, let her blow steam. I will not back down to a bully, and I will go without a Scotsman review this year. Rather that than reward her inelegant posturing.
I thought nothing more of it until this appeared in yesterday’s Scotsman on Sunday.
“The egos have landed. Friendly advice for those paying to see Them Off The Telly in their first couple of shows. Reg Hunter, Paul Sinha (picture right) and Andrew Maxwell, among others, are likely to be a bit meh, at least according to their managements. Quite unready for any scrutiny till the end of the week. According to management. These are, let’s face it, just highly paid blokes, standing at a microphone, saying stuff. Stuff they have been standing and saying at microphones for months of previews. And at their scheduled technical rehearsal in the venue. So if they are not ready to be reviewed when the first paying bum hits a seat, er, why not? To be fair, Reg offers his insufficiently-wrought-yet show at the EICC for a mere £9, but you’ll only get a quid knocked off the price of an allegedly below-par hour with Paul Sinha and a £4 reduction for Maxwell, which might buy you a pint to get you over the disappointment of the apparently not-quite-there-yet show. Someone needs to have a word with their management, boys.”
1. “Them off the telly” I appear regularly on a quiz show. I have not performed comedy on the telly since 2016. I believe that my ticket sales reflect both of these facts.
2. “Their management” I have an agent. She is also my counsellor, accountant, poster placement advisor. I have no high faluting team, no PR, no massive posters. But whatever, this was my decision. Mine alone.
3. “Months of previews” I did my first preview on June 13th. I have done 16 since. As a result honing the show has been exponential in the last three weeks. Not ideal, but having performed the show to 500 people over the last two previews, I am pretty damned pleased with it.
4. My preview is £5. The price in the Fringe brochure is a mistake.
5. My 17 previews were spread across 16 wildly different locations and audiences. It is an imperfect tutorial in what to expect at Edinburgh and I am entitled to use the one show advertised as a “preview” as entirely that.
6. The “egos have landed”. I’m not the one who believes that they are absolutely entitled to a free ticket to any show on any date they like, and if they don’t get their way they will do their best impression of an ageing Veruca Salt.
I now know that one day after the polite decline, Kate posted this on Facebook.
“What the FUCK is it with comics who have been doing what they do for fucking decades, AND selling out all the big Edinburgh venues AND are heading up in August to a mainly sold out run AND not diverting discernably from being a man at a microphone saying things at people in seats and not letting anyone in to offer an opinion until days after the start of the Fringe ??????? What part of standing at a microphone saying things you have been fucking saying for months of previews already is it that you particularly need to hone ? Any tech in ANY of your big venues can pretty much handle ‘lights up, mike up, lights down, mike down’ without several days to perfect their slider twitch. I realise it is a long haul climb but your managements need to get the fuck over themselves.
Rant over. And I am well aware this is not everyone. I have a list of names. Seriously – if you are a TV name, career comic who has been doing this for fucking years, why can you not do what the other guys do and hit the fucking ground running ? Other than ego and laziness ? Am currently taking a bag of Scotsman stars, tipping them into a mortar and pestle and grinding them to dust. Sorry. NOW rant over.”
Such dignity from the Scotsman’s’ most senior reviewer of comedy, such dignity. As for the accusation of laziness, I am the one who has been driving around the country for the last seven weeks, adding jokes, morosely dropping jokes, frequently sacrificing comedic dignity to get this show right. All I asked is that for one show, on the first Wednesday, before many, many comedians have even reached Edinburgh, I get a chance to perform it without distraction. My duty to myself and the audience is far more important than Kate Copstick’s need to meet a deadline. It takes a special kind of sociopathic bully to sabotage a show, not because they know anything about it, but because they are just not used to not getting their way. I am sorry to tell you Kate, that to “hit the fucking ground running” has literally nothing to do whether you have blagged a ticket or not.