Edinburgh Fringe Preview
A Performer’s View

Tom Bell – Comedian and Actor (A member of tobeseen)
Edinburgh, July 2008

Tom Bell
The Edinburgh Fringe

I first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2000. I started comedy at University, purely amateur stuff, and ended up taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe in my first year. I had no idea what to expect, and the sheer majesty of it, endless shows on every subject from every corner of the globe, here, in Edinburgh. It was incredible, but such hard work. We would force flyers on an unwilling public for up to 6 hours a day and then still only play to a handful of people, but we didn’t mind, not once, we were all just so thrilled to be there. Away from the comfort of friendly student audiences I quickly realized how bad our show was (our best review all run said I had “the delivery conviction of a turnip”) it just didn’t matter, I was hooked. I saw shows that inspired me with their scope and beauty, performers I wanted to emulate and some truly awful shows, worse than my own, which cruelly gave me hope.

This year will be 6th time at the Fringe. These days I have a team of eager students flyering for me, a great venue and intimidating men working on my PR. It’d be easy to flounce around scoffing at first time performers, imagining I’d “made it” but in reality the only thing that matters is how good your show is. That’s part of the appeal of the Fringe, that anyone can become a Fringe success, almost over night. But for every show that does make it, there are still thousands left floundering. Last year I got lucky. The Scotsman newspaper saw my solo stand up show and gave it a 4 star, pick of the day, review. This was despite not having done any posters or flyers for the show and having written it in a week. It was on in the back room of a pub as part of the Free Fringe (where performers don’t pay to hire rooms and don’t charge for their shows) and all lit by an old desk lamp. An hour after that show I was on stage at a major venue performing the show I had spent months writing and almost £4,000 on promoting and producing. That show didn’t get any reviews.

This year I’m doing the same, two comedy shows, one on the free fringe and a higher budget one. Hopefully reviewers will flock to adorn us with stars and audiences will shower us with laughter, but I know it’s best not to go in with any expectations. Even if reviewers see a show, even if they loved it, even if they hugged you and cried at the end, they don’t always print them. So if you’re thinking about it, be warned, it’s expensive, it rains a lot and you might only play to one person, but I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t glad they went. Just hope that one person likes the show. And if they don’t, there’s lots of pubs.


Tommy & the Weeks: Powershow!
5.45pm @ Pleasance Attic
“gloriously surreal”, The Guardian

Tom Bell & the Age of Rockstar Death
2.55pm @ The White Horse (Free Fringe)
“very good indeed”, The Scotsman


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