I’m taking Between Us to Edinburgh Fringe for the first time this year, so I wanted to hear from other seasoned improvisers about their Edinburgh experiences. I caught up with Sean Mason who’s performing with ComedySportz and Crime Of The Hour.
Rachel: Tell us about your shows.
Sean: ComedySportz is a competitive short-form show where two teams go for comedy gold with gags, games, sketches and songs. There’s a referee on hand to ensure a good clean match — it’s a family friendly show after all — with penalties for bad behaviour and bad jokes.
Crime Of The Hour is a very different beast, with very dark, true, crime-inspired scenes and sketches improvised from real stories. Definitely not one for the kids that. Well… I guess it depends on the kids!
Rachel: What do you enjoy about performing at Edinburgh?
Sean: Getting to perform every day with some of my best friends to audiences that already know what improv is or are open-minded enough to try something new and a bit silly. I love the vibe of creativity, inspiration and fun that permeates the fringe but also that quiet camaraderie you have with other acts — those knowing nods and winks when you know everyone is exhausted as you pass each other in the corridors of venues.
Rachel: You’ve been going to the Fringe for 12 years. What have you learned?
Sean: In any show, with any audience, you can be the best part of someone’s day even if you don’t think you were at your best. I learned this when we were doing Comedy Unplugged, a late show that was filling a drop-out spot, which meant audiences were a little quiet. A guy came to a few of these shows and I got chatting to him. He had just come to grips with a lot of big personal stuff and was in a difficult place mentally. He’d loved how playful and silly we were. So whilst we thought it was a thankless gig, the show had really made him happy after he had been struggling with so much.
Rachel: What advice would you give to a new show at Edinburgh?
Sean: No matter how tired you are, how hungover, or how small your audience, give 100% to you show. That audience didn’t pick your show out of thousands just to watch you phone it in. And make use of your performer discounts too. You can get info on where you can get discounts in the Fringe Central guide.
We learned the hard way to avoid promo stages in venues that aren’t venues, run by marketing people who don’t know what a show needs. If you rock up and the man in the office didn’t even know you were coming, just leave and get a Tatti Dog from Piemaker.
Rachel: What do you find difficult about performing at Edinburgh?
Sean: Other performers. Always. People who treat it like a competition or a cattle market or are just plain rude. I was really shocked to watch an act bully people into cash donations at a free show — all the while eating into the next act’s get-in and totally against the spirit of the fringe. We’ve always been part of the Free Festival because we believe it shouldn’t cost everyone an arm and a leg to watch shows. If you’re doing a free show you have to accept some people won’t or can’t afford to donate. Just ask them to tweet about you or leave a good review somewhere.
Rachel: Do you have any particular goals for this year’s Edinburgh?
Sean: I’ll have just got back from the ComedySportz World Championship in America (a week of workshops and shows with ComedySportz teams from around the world) before doing three shows a day for two-and-a-half weeks so my personal goal is to get enough sleep to function! The goal is always to put on the best shows we can. Anything else is a bonus.
Rachel: And where can we see the shows?
Sean: ComedySportz is on from 1st to the 17th August at 12:20 at the Pear Tree and at 16:30 at Free Sisters. Crime Of The Hour is on from the 2nd to the 10th August at 23:00 at Greenside @ Infirmary St.