Benefit Gigs: an easy way to organise a big night out at the Fringe

30 Jul
Photograph of Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar

Words by Suzy Romer

The beginning of the Fringe brings a sweep of emotions for anyone planning to venture into this magical annual pop-up world. Whether you are a beginner or a regular Fringe goer with years of experience, the initial encounter with the myriad shows on offer via the Fringe Guide, media and street posters can be very daunting. How the hell do you start to narrow down your options? Over the years, most people eventually develop their own methods but if you don’t want to put in quite so much time and money, one effective way to get a head start is to go to a benefit show.

A benefit gig comprises a variety of comedians who are raising awareness and funds on behalf of specific causes and organizations. There is usually a famous compère and a few well-known headliners along with a range of comedians who are famous to a greater or lesser degree. The great advantage of these shows is that you know you will definitely enjoy seeing the performers you already know and like, while you take a low-risk chance on a whole range of other comedians. The relative brevity of each performance means you pack lots of new comics into one evening. If they are brilliant, you can look into booking their solo show; if they are really not your to your taste, you can look at your watch and know that your suffering will end shortly. And there is always the possibility that you see one of the massive stars of tomorrow while they are still unknown.

For some of the bigger shows, you may be lucky enough to see some TV names who are not appearing in any other Fringe shows. Comedy celebrities often have many other commitments that keep them away from the wonderful month of August in Edinburgh but take some time out of busy schedules to visit the place where they enjoyed their rise to fame and give something back. Perhaps it is just an impression but most comedians seem to feel it is unnatural to be in Edinburgh in August unless they are actively participating in the midst of all the fun.

Benefit shows with their low risk, variety, famous names and the thrill of potential discoveries make them a safe bet for a group of friends with varied tastes. It’s also a great idea for an office night out because it encourages people see something beyond their regular list of favourites and maybe discover something new together. For people who have never been to the Fringe it’s like a microcosm of good, bad and everything in between without the time and money invested. And let’s not forget that it is a great way to ensure that corporate funding reaches the places where it can help most.

There are a couple of provisos to remember to avoid disappointment. Comedians have so many work commitments to juggle that sometimes they have to cancel an appearance at a charity event. When you read the words “line-up may be subject to change”, accept that it is more likely here than with other events. The upside is that some of the best performers make a late notice change in order to appear and the surprises on the night can make for lifetime memories.

Another thing to bear in mind is that more experienced comedians sometimes use a ten minute set piece from a previous year’s show because it fits better or because they want to save the full hour of their current show for the viewer’s surprise and delight. Other comedians will present a selection of material from their current show and give you a good indicator of the rest of their set.

Either way, once you know the deal, you can really get a lot out of a benefit performance. It gives you a real flavour of what is going on across the board and makes some of the street posters look more familiar and navigable afterwards because you can see names and faces you know. There is nothing like the joy of beginning to get a hold on what makes this year’s Fringe unique as the goodies and baddies of this year’s adventure begin to reveal themselves.

So what’s on in the way of benefit shows at this year’s Fringe?

Here are six benefit shows to give you an idea of the range available at this year’s Fringe.

1. Let’s start with one of the biggest events. You may have heard of famous long-running benefit shows such as The Secret Policeman’s Ball which was originally organised to raise funds for Amnesty International but has since donated to a variety of great causes. The shows include a host of famous names and have become so prestigious that the show title lends as much prestige to the performers as they originally lent to it. This year The Secret Policeman’s Tour is coming to the Edinburgh Playhouse on Saturday 24 August. It’s hosted by Deborah Frances-White and famous names such as Nish Kumar and Rachel Parris will be appearing. You can also check out Desiree Burch who appears on Punchline’s list of recommendations for 2019.

2. Another big night will be Comedy Gala 2019: in aid of Waverley Care hosted by Josh Widdicombe and Joel Dommett which will take place in the EICC on Tuesday 20 August. Now in its thirteenth year, this production has Jon Richardson and Suzi Ruffell topping the bill as well as Punchline-recommended Rosie Jones and Christopher Macarthur-Boyd as part of an impressive list of performers.

3. Another event with profits destined for the amazing Waverley Care is Crosstentatious at Underbelly at 9.30pm on Monday 19 August. Here, the phenomenal cast of comic performers who usually perform as Austentatious enact a spoof Jane Austen novel suggested by a member of the audience (their regular format) and cross-dress into the bargain.

4. For a fantastic late-night performance (quarter past midnight at Assembly George Square on Sunday 11 August) we recommend For Robin Williams: A Benefit in Aid of Mind and SAMH. Punchline favourite Nish Kumar is hosting this one and guests include Laura Lexx and Sophie Hagan.

5. Dame Esther Rantzen will be making an appearance in Edinburgh as the presenter of the Benefit in Aid of Silver Line (a confidential helpline for older people) in the Stand’s New Town Theatre at 9.10pm on Monday 5 August. The line up is still to be confirmed so anything could happen!

6. For lots of TV names, check out Barnardo’s Big Comedy Benefit at the EICC at 8.30pm on Wednesday 7 August. Ed Byrne, London Hughes and David O’Doherty are some but not all of the people you will recognise on the role of participants.

Remember, there are plenty more benefit shows out there so you can choose your favourite performers, good cause or, ideally both and have a great night out in the process. If you only put one finger into a comedy pie this year, a comedy benefit might just be your perfect pie.

Impertinent Questions for Glenn Moore

29 Jul

Glenn MooreWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

Lower-lower-back.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?
Michael York in Curb Your Enthusiasm saying “Bum, fuck, bugger and balls.”

Who should come to see your show and why?
Anyone making full use of the babes in arms policy – double the audience that way, and I get to start building a fanbase amongst the very newest generation.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?
I’m going to say my housemates’ shows, to avoid any unpleasantness from them: go and see Garrett Millerick, Pierre Novellie and Phil Wang.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?
St Peter, to tell me I’ve just performed so well that I’ve passed away.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.
Bella Italia at 10am for their breakfast menu, then at midday a trip to Café Rouge, followed by an afternoon snack at Bella Italia. After my show at 4pm, I’m usually peckish, so I tend to have a post-show Bella Italia. By the late evening, regardless of whether or not I’m hungry, that sweet siren song of Bella Italia will oft call me back for one last meal.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?
If a show goes really well, I go out for dinner straight afterwards and eat alone – it really brings me crashing back down to earth afterwards. I promise I genuinely do this.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?
Would you rather be alone forever, or meet the love of your life but at the age of 100 you get eaten by a shark. You’d mostly have a perfect life, but on that final day you’d be sat there in your care home thinking “Logistically, how’s this one going to pan out tomorrow?”

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?
It’s going to a nightclub that you insist is great, and even when you arrive to find it burned down years ago, you spend hours trying to break in.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?
A signed Tim Vine ticket from a gig I couldn’t make 10 years ago that he wrote some very nice comedy advice on.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.
I pitched to her an idea for a book, after which she said “It is imperative you never, ever repeat that idea.” That bad apparently.

Buy tickets for Glenn Moore: Love Don’t Live Here Glenny Moore here

4pm | Pleasance Courtyard | 31 July, 1-25 Aug

Impertinent Questions for John Hastings

28 Jul

John HastingsWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

Pun pun or shit cutter brah.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

All of them. Someone said cranberries once and I died.

Who should come to see your show and why?

I am proper and even haters can gain entry but should step to the left.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

Me in a mirror.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

Tuna melt and some garlic chips. So my kisses that night will be memorable.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

See above tuna kiss answer

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

Show not long. Pre-show Quaaludes are a bit more of a gorilla to remove one’s self from.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

I don’t play that game. I live it.

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?

I once fucked a beehive in the name of fishing rights. That seems similar to this.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

My faith in Jesus and my need to be an atheist.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

He is not being paid for the festival.

 

Buy tickets for John Hastings: 10 John Hastings I Hate About You here

9.30pm | Monkey Barrel | 1-25 Aug

 

 

Impertinent Questions for The Delightful Sausage

27 Jul

Delightful SausageWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

The coal hole.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

As he’s a father,  Chris is desperately trying to curb his swearing. Often this leads to lots of hilarious subversions suchs as “Ffflippin’ wally-pops” and “Blo-omin’ wagglestaff!”

Who should come to see your show and why?

It’s very silly stuff. Incredibly niche and really not for everybody. That said, it would be lovely if everybody came.

The only other thing to note is that we have found that our ‘fanbase’ do steal, so keep an eye on your valuables.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

Ooh, there so many exciting acts to see! Top of the list is probably Jayne Edwards as Top Bodybuilder Brian. We’re also excited to see new shows from Jen Brister, Jess Fostekew, Sunil Patel, Nick Elleray, Alasdair Beckett-King, Desiree Burch, David Callaghan, Richard Brown. And that’s not even scratching the surface. Sure we’ll be able to squeeze in sleep somewhere.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

Bobby Davro, wearing nowt but a bowtie and holding a tatty dog. Not really, just love the idea of this popping up on his Google Alerts.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

We roll out of our bunk bed before dawn. The day starts with us screaming the word “success” into each other’s faces as the sun rises. The morning is dedicated to a mixture of silent prayer and frenzied internet searches. We perform the show and none of the audience have nosebleeds. As has become tradition, we’ll finish up the day with a tatty dog. Then another. And another. Quick trip to A&E to get the chest pains checked out. Doctor tells us it’s probably wise to lay off the tatty dogs. Sure, we’ll just finish this last one.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

Our show is in the highly coveted noon spot so we tend to follow it, rather boringly, with cold pop and frantic admin.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

In our show we pose the ultimate ‘would you rather’ question to an audience member. Here’s the impossible choice; would you rather eat one bowl of your own shit or have a million pounds tax free? Tough one.

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?

Brexit’s like a trip to Frankie & Benny’s. A nostalgia-fuelled attempt to recreate a history that never was, where all you’re really doing is crunching down 3 courses of shit.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

We’re surrounded by friends and loved ones. All of them have told us, from the bottom of their hearts, that we should stop. We won’t though. Not until the council puts a bullet in our brains.

 Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

Our agent’s been begging us with tears in her eyes to stop describing our show as “the sexiest Manga ever”. We’ve also been forbidden from revealing our actual ages. Isn’t the skateboard enough?

Buy tickets for The Delightful Sausage: Ginster’s Paradise here

12 noon | Monkey Barrel | 2-12, 15-25 Aug

 

Impertinent Questions for Laura Davis

26 Jul

Laura DavisWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

Arse.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

Children’s. Or a pet cockatoo.

Who should come to see your show and why?

So far the only people I’ve ever had a problem with in shows are old men who only want to talk over me, and drunk women who want to talk amongst themselves. So anybody who isn’t that, please.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

Since I’ve been living in the UK it’s always lovely to see Australian acts with brand new shows. Demi Lardner, and Josh Ladgrove this year in particular.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

Sir David Attenborough would come and pick me up after my gig to go explore a coral reef. I guess there’s also really good souvlaki on the boat.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

Wake up late, go get coffee and cake at Lovecrumbs bakery. Have a nap. See some early shows, or sit and talk with people outside the blundabus until it’s time for my show. Have a great show to a nice audience then get a baked potato and have a smoke in the meadows while it starts to get dark. Go drink scotch at ACMS watching the total and utter chaos until about 2am then walk home via the ‘good’ fried chicken place.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

I find sort of the opposite. I’m up after a show and it’s nice and then the adrenaline slump hits about an hour later and you feel like you need to refuel or go to bed. That can be hard during Fringe because you might have another show an hour after yours, right smack in the danger zone.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

Would you rather live a life enjoying what you do each day or have financial stability so you don’t have to worry?  Oh, wait. What game?

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

All the people who told me that it takes ten years to get good, and another ten to get better. Seeing it as a marathon and not a sprint has always helped.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

If you didn’t pay I wouldn’t stop doing it but you should, because I’m really good at it and that seems much more fair.

 

Buy tickets for Laura Davis: Better Dead Than a Coward here

9.10pm | Heroes @ Bob’s BlundaBus | 1-25 Aug

 

Impertinent Questions for James McNicholas

25 Jul
James McNicholas

Photograph by Idil Sukan

What is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

Badonkadonk. It’s fun to say, it’s an onomatopoeia – it’s got everything you’d want really.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

People who aren’t supposed to swear. Newsreaders.

Who should come to see your show and why?

Everyone should come. It’s ostensibly about boxing, but it’s really about family, fighting and (very briefly) jellyfish. If you’re a fan of my sketch group BEASTS you should come. If you aren’t a fan of BEASTS you should also come because this is different.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

My mate from BEASTS Ciaran Dowd is bringing his brilliant Don Rodolfo character back to the Pleasance, this time having laid down his sword (and presumably his penis) to don the dog collar and become Padre Rodolfo. Meanwhile Tom Parry, who worked with us on BEASTS and has directed The Boxer, has got himself a properly joyful stand-up show. I’ve seen both in preview and they’re going to be fantastically funny.

I’m also directing a show by newcomer Raphael Wakefield called Wengerball. It’s the story of Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, but it’s told with real warmth and proper jokes. Raphael’s a very talented lad and it makes me simultaneously proud and jealous.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

I’m usually pretty knackered after the show, so ideally there’s nobody there to greet me – but, inexplicably, there’s a vase full of peanut butter milkshake. Heaven.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

I wake up and I am thinner and more handsome. I fly to the venue (because I can fly now) and they tell me my show is sold out forever, so I perform a ceremonial burning of the all flyers and publicity material. I perform the show, and during it I realise I’m not wearing my glasses but it doesn’t seem to matter – my vision has been magically fixed. At the end of the show, everyone just starts getting off with each other. I leave because it’s actually a bit awkward. And then I have that milkshake.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

In BEASTS, I was infamous for taking a long time to get changed etc after the show. I like to take some time to clear my head and clean my body. A pint straight after the show usually helps.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

“Would you rather have creative fulfilment, or a stable income?” And I ask myself it every day.

Whats your favourite Brexit metaphor?

I really don’t think James Acaster’s teabag metaphor can be beaten.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

Audiences. That’s the brilliantly meritocratic thing about comedy: if you can make an audience laugh, that’s enough.

Tell us something your agent doesnt want us to know.

There are too many things. I’ll tell you something my agent doesn’t want you to know: she sleeps with a hammer and a gun under a pillow. And that’s not a joke.

Buy tickets for James McNicholas: The Boxer here

4.15pm | Pleasance Courtyard | 31 July, 1-13, 15-25 Aug

Impertinent Questions for Kieran Hodgson

24 Jul

Kieran HodgsonWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

‘Sort of the top of your legs/lower-back area.’ I’m a bit of a prude.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

Eric Cartman.

Who should come to see your show and why?

People who like wholesome, good clean fun and who don’t mind a lot of factual content.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

I’m dead excited about legend Arabella Weir’s debut solo show, Does My Mum Loom Big In This?, and I missed Olga Koch’s show last year so must catch up with her before she goes to America and is mega-famous.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

A pension.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

Tennis on the Meadows to start (it’s free to use the courts before 9), ideally with Al Roberts from Sheeps, then a nice breakfast somewhere followed by a great review coming out for me and a terrible review coming out for one of my many enemies. Go up Arthur’s Seat, watch one of my many enemies’ terrible shows in the afternoon and boo throughout, then shower, do my show which goes brilliantly, then two pints (no more) of ale at the Dagda Bar with one of my many enemies, over which we become friends.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

Usually it happens over the course of two pints, and I do it by means of two pints.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

Being crushed to death by a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks because they’re just the same, in actual fact.

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?

Acaster’s one about the tea is pretty definitive, surely?

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

The constant support and encouragement of loving parents. Yuck, I know.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

Oh my agent wants you to know everything, they’re very open that way. I’d tell you something I don’t want you to know but then that would defeat the object of the question and now I’ve written way too much without telling you anything.

Buy tickets for The Tales of Kieran Hodgson (his four acclaimed shows) www.edfringe.com

6.30pm | Pleasance Courtyard | 14 – 25 Aug

 

Impertinent Questions for Tom Ballard

23 Jul

Tom Ballard.jpgWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

“Ba-donk-a-donk.” No question

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

Selina Meyer.

Who should come to see your show and why?

HUMAN BEINGS HAHAHAHAHAHA seriously I need money

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

Bryony Kimmings. I’m a Phoenix, Bitch looks insane and that’s a pretty great title.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

A pile of underpants from the Chippendales who have just been in the audience and thought I was so funny and clever that I deserved endless sexual pleasure. Either that or a nice cake.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

Wake up. Remember it’s my day off. Go back to sleep.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

I am usually exhausted and sweaty and gross so I tend to get a mac’n’cheese and have a shower then collapse into bed. It’s tough but I manage to do it because I’m a professional.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

My friends and I once come up with “Would you rather CLEAN a toilet for the rest of your life or GO to the toilet for the rest of your life?”. I think about it every day and I’m still not sure.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

Natasha Bedingfield’s 2004 pop masterpiece Unwritten.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

I like Natasha Bedingfield’s 2004 pop masterpiece Unwritten.

Buy tickets for Tom Ballard: Enough here

9pm | Monkey Barrel | 1-12, 14-25 Aug

 

Impertinent Questions for Yuriko Kotani

23 Jul

Yuriko KotaniWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

“Get burnt”

I used Google translation and translated “bum” from English to Japanese, then Japanese to English again, and it became this word.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

My family’s dog. I can tell she is doing that from her facial expression, especially when I’m taking photos of her.

 Who should come to see your show and why?

Everyone who is reading this!

Thank you.

 Who are you excited about seeing this year?

There are so many comics I’m going to watch but I’m picking five here. (In alphabetical order)

Cally Beaton: Invisible

Eleanor Tiernan: Enjoy the Spotlight Responsibility

Johnny White Really-Really: Unending Torment!

Sarah Kendall: Paper Planes

Spencer Jones: The Things We Leave Behind

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

Dogs. Many dogs that Pleasance Courtyard is full of dogs.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

It’s a sunny day but not hot, not too cold. Low humidity and not raining but a bit of drizzle around 7pm make people feel like want to be indoor and watch something.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

Sometimes 30 seconds. Sometimes 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

I finish drink whatever I was drinking before I got on stage. Usually I don’t remember this part. But I think I’m doing it.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

In Japan, I don’t think we have this game.

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?

In Japan, I don’t think we have this game.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

Audience’s reaction.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

Last year, I told my agent that I do jogging and I just run in that morning. It was the last time I did it.

 

Buy tickets for Yuriko Kotani: Somosomo here

7pm | Pleasance Courtyard | 1-11, 13-26 Aug

Impertinent Questions for Ray Badran

22 Jul

Ray BadranWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

No comment

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

Babies

Who should come to see your show and why?

Everyone should cause it’s funny!

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

Myself! That’s why I’m going to install full length mirrors across the back of my room so I can watch myself, live.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

Some seafood platter/fancy cocktail/Gift card for unlimited money/my wife

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

August 12 (No show that day).

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

After so many amazing gigs I have built up a tolerance to it so I cannot help you here, sorry.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

Would you rather have dicks for eyes and sight OR have normal eyes but not be able to see.

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?

I don’t really get it

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

Still trying to answer that myself but probably the fact I’m an idiot.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

Well on the first Friday of every month, she asks all her acts to meet at her office, and then she forces us to write new jokes out at gun point.  She keeps saying she would never actually kill us but one time I had writers block and I thought I was going to die. She also told me to never tell anyone so if you’re reading this don’t tell her please.

Buy tickets for Ray Badran: Everybody Loves Ray here

9.45pm | Pleasance Courtyard | 1-11, 13-25 Aug

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