It’s that time of year again, where both fledgling and established comedians hone their acts for that daunting hour at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The North West does quite well for attracting comics to perform, with great Manchester venues such as The Comedy Store, XS Malarkey, The Frog and Bucket to name but a few. But what value do comics get out of these previews? The Public Reviews spoke to a few comedians with upcoming shows to find out.
Comedy duo Him and Me, made up of Shea Taylor and Steve Langstaff, are best known for appearing on Dick and Dom’s Funny Business, and made their Fringe debut in 2010. They also have a great line in YouTube parodies; their latest effort lampooning Cheryl Cole is particularly hilarious. They will be previewing their show as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe, and see great value in the process:
“They’re extremely valuable for getting a show together, we do gigs but as a sketch act it can be hard to know how effective the material is in a 10 spot when you spend half of it trying to win a stand-up crowd round.”
Cheshire-born Kevin Dewsbury is a regular on the stand-up circuit, is taking his autobiographical show Kevin Dewsbury: In…Sane to the Fringe, and will be performing as part of Edinburgh showcase Your Name Here… at the Frog and Bucket. He also sees performing previews as a positive thing:
“Ed Fringe Previews are possibly more important than the performances at Edinburgh themselves. There’s no point taking a half-baked idea up to the Edinburgh Fringe and hoping it will just work out for the best. You can write/create something and think it’s hilarious then try it out in front of an audience at a preview and they all stare at you like you’ve just soiled your pants. Previews are there to help the performer work out what to keep in the show, what needs honing and what should be thrown in the dustbin. The build up to the Edinburgh Fringe is the gestation period, in august I hope to give birth to a wonderful baby, without too many teething problems.”
Also performing at the showcase are Awkward Cough, made up of Ian Farnell, Samuel Oliver and Tom Booth, who are taking silent comedy The Election to the festival. Again, they agree that previews are worth the effort:
“Previews like this are a brilliant chance to test new ideas and to gauge the reaction of an audience. It’s a slightly daunting prospect, previewing something you may not have fully tweaked, especially if it’s a snippet of the show, or entirely out of context from rest of the piece. Not to mention the idea that people might not take to it. But for us, some of the most insightful and useful feedback has come from previews – we really appreciate hearing what audiences think. What they say can change the show in a big or small way, but if it changes it for the better , which we think it does , then it’s certainly worth it.”
Former ‘Beat the Frog’ World series winner Tom Goodliffe is also previewing his Edinburgh show, All In Good Time, at the Greater Manchester Fringe. He appreciates the audience’s role in shaping a successful piece:
“Even if you’re not a particularly ‘interactive’ comedian, stand-up is more of a conversation than a monologue, so doing a rehearsal to an empty theatre doesn’t really work. While most comedians have a good feel for what will make an audience laugh, you never really know for certain until you try the bits out and hear the audience response. You can try bits out in shorter spots around the circuit, but the dynamic of an hour show is different to just putting three 20 minute sets together, so doing full previews is vital.”
Tom also sees the value in performing in any venue necessary:
“There are several comedians, me included, who even do them in friends’ living rooms! It’s actually great practice for playing to small audiences, which almost always happens at some stage during the Fringe. I did one last year to a small, ‘comedy-savvy’ audience – it was lovely but also they gave very useful and insightful feedback, which you don’t often get from audience at normal gigs. And there were party snacks! I’m going back this year, mainly for the cake.”
Him and Me: Sketch Circus is at the King’s Arms, Salford, on 14th July as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe. Their Edinburgh show can be found at the Laughing Horse @ City Café, 2nd–25th August.
Tom Goodliffe: All In Good Time is at the King’s Arms, Salford, on 18th July. His Edinburgh show can be found at Just the Tonic at the Tron, 2nd–26th August. Kevin Dewsbury and Awkward Cough are both performing as part of Your Name Here… at the Frog and Bucket, Manchester, on 4th July. Tom Dewsbury’s Edinburgh show will be at Laughing Horse @ Meadow Bar, 13th–26th August. Awkward Cough’s The Election: A Silent Comedy will be performed at Bedlam Theatre, 3rd- 18th August.
By Tracey Lowe
Tags: All in Good Time, Awkward Cough, Beat the Frog, Bedlam Theatre, Comedy, Comedy Store, Edinburgh Fringe, Frog and Bucket, Greater Manchester Fringe, Him and Me, Just the Tonic, Kevin Dewsbury, Kings Arms, Laughing Horse, Manchester, Salford, Sketch Circus, The Election, Tom Goodliffe, XS Malarkey, Your Name Here