Comedy: How Bristol won the Edinburgh Fringe
The first thing I saw when I got off the bus in Edinburgh city centre this year was a gigantic billboard for Degrees of Error, the Bristol Improv Theatre’s in-house company, advertising their show Murder She Didn’t Write. They were over at The Pleasance, one of the city’s largest venues, packing the room nightly and getting rave reviews.
I took the billboard as a good omen. Nine Bristolians towering over the city, greeting the world’s comedy fans as they arrived. Bristol had definitely planted its flag firmly in the Edinburgh soil (I’m not sure what our flag is, but I assume it depicts a heraldic beast holding a can of Red Stripe above a Latin motto that translates as ‘Cheers Drive’.) As well as being inspiring, the billboard also featured one of my housemates, which acted as a brilliant daily reminder that I owed him £83 for a water bill.
Bristol had a great Edinburgh Fringe this year. John Robins was the joint winner of the Fringe Comedy Award, Riordan Deehan Jackson won the Chortle Student Comedy Award (making him the second Bristol University student in a row to do so, after Tom Gidman won in 2016), and both Morgan Rees and Robin Allender made the final of the So You Think You’re Funny? competition, with Rees eventually coming second runner-up. I’m probably biased, but this makes me far prouder of the city than constantly being voted Best Place for Millennials to Hot-Desk, and other things of that nature in the national press.
Everywhere I went I encountered Bristolians, both performing in shows and watching them. I mention Filton in my own show and, more often than not, it would get a cheer of recognition from a Bristolian in the audience (and once from a resident of Plymouth who decided to cheer anyway.)
I had the best Edinburgh Fringe of my life. My gentle little show managed to find an audience amongst the flashier, more alluring acts and, most importantly, my Mum enjoyed it. My parents drove all the way from Dorset to see me, and my Mum volunteered to hand out flyers beforehand. She was so convincing that she filled the room completely and couldn’t get a seat for herself. She stood against the wall parallel to me for the whole show and, every time I told a joke, the audience looked at her first to see if it was OK to laugh. Luckily she has a pretty good sense of humour.
Many comedians struggle with disruptive audiences at the Fringe but mine were uniformly lovely. I think this was due to my flyers and posters, beautifully designed by Bristol’s very own Sad Ghost Club.
The great thing about having a pink flyer with flowers on it is that you don’t have to perform to the sort of people who are threatened by a pink flyer with flowers on it. I even got a glowing review. It was from my Airbnb host but it still counts. “Tidy and considerate” is definitely going on my posters next year.
My fellow Easton resident Becky Brunning had a great Fringe too. I’ve seen her show Beaming at various points over the last year, most notably in her living room with an audience of six, and it gets better every time. She describes it as “A coming of age story (with detours), a show about how she learns to overcome herself and her fantasy world, whether it’s choosing a sandwich, knowing how straight to be, or deciding whether to take yet another driving test.”
Becky has had an eventful year: starring in Broadchurch and taking her show to the Perth and Adelaide Fringes before coming to Edinburgh. Her Fringe is best measured numerically: 22 shows (12 sold out), 1 persistent ear infection, 1 surprise gig with Dylan Moran, and 2,653 leftover flyers (an educated guess.)
Becky and I are proud of our shows and we wanted to preserve them, so we’ve decided to film them at The Bristol Improv Theatre on Saturday, September 9. It’s free entry on the condition that you laugh. Come and be immortalised! (Also my Mum is coming and, this time, I’m saving her a seat.)
Martin Pilgrim & Becky Brunning: Live Stand-Up Taping Sept 9, Bristol Improv Theatre. For more info, visit improvtheatre.co.uk/events/martin-pilgrim-becky-brunning-live-stand-up-taping and www.facebook.com/events/358865714545528
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