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Edinburgh 2013: How to Have a Hit Comedy Show at the Edinburgh Fringe

Bob and Jim

BobJim Pub 1 300x195 Edinburgh 2013: How to Have a Hit Comedy Show at the Edinburgh FringeHello, we’re Bob and Jim, a neo-vaudeville double act.

We debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1994 in a piece of feminist physical theatre. It was well received and made two ladies weep publicly before midday.

Since then we’ve been back up nearly every year, enjoying as punters and performers the many classrooms, pubs, cafes, cinemas, caves, nightclubs, booths, Masonic lodges and strip-joints that transform into ‘venues’ every August.

In order to get on telly, and become famous enough for the casual reader of this blog to have heard of us, we need to have a hit show at the Edinburgh Fringe. We know how to do this, we’re just biding our time.

While we continue to enjoy the journey, you are more than welcome to take the advice outlined below and run with it. One thing the last 20 years has taught us is patience; we’re perfectly happy for some fresh-faced troupe of youths to reap the benefits of our experience, step in ahead of us and become the next big thing. And then we might decide to become the next big thing after that, if we feel the time is right for us.

So, here’s what you need for a hit comedy show at the Ed Fringe:

1. Be Original.

The proper critics up at Edinburgh have seen all the different types of comedy done well and done badly several times, so you need to wow them with something new. It’s often a good idea to be structurally inventive and throw in a few postmodern twists. For example, pretend your show’s gone wrong with hilarious consequences.

2. Don’t Be Too Original.

Nothing puts off audiences and critics alike more than not being able to  describe what they’re going to see or what they’ve just seen with reference to something off the telly that most people have seen. Intriguing hybrids work particularly well at creating an air of originality whilst reassuring people you’re not too outlandishly pioneering. For example, ‘It was like a cross between Miranda and Rab C Nesbitt or The Two Ronnies meets The Mighty Boosh. We experimented with this latter spiel when flyering our show, Modern Urges, a couple of years back. It backfired because most people tended to dislike either The Two Ronnies or The Mighty Boosh.

3. Create Instantly Recognisable Branding.

Our act is called ‘Bob and Jim’ which is very easy to remember because it’s also our names. Sometimes people do get it wrong though, and call us ‘Jim and Bob’, which is a shame. We also dress the same way all the time, we have a logo and a colour scheme and – new for this year – we have similar beards. Our distinctive branding is one of the things that has brought us most dangerously close to the super-stardom we’re keen to delay, though we have been careful to offset its effectiveness by spending almost no money on advertising.

4. Do Publicity Stunts.

This is another one of the things we’ve generally avoided so far, in our ongoing effort to postpone our inevitable success. We did send underpants with the ‘Bob and Jim’ logo on the back to a number of reputable publications (probably this one, can’t remember), and hid small garden gnomes in their offices. Our favourite stunt done by someone else was when another act handed out penis and testicle stickers to audiences, who then stuck them all over other people’s posters. Paul Daniels, Christine Hamilton, and many other deserving individuals had the stickers on their mouths all over Edinburgh. That’s the best thing we’ve seen anyone do at the Fringe for a while.

5. Get a Good Agent.

But start off with a Nice Agent who’ll buy you cups of tea and feign interest in your creative efforts.

6. Get Nominated for Awards, or Win Them.

These accolades have a fairly short shelf life so you have to capitalise sharpish. If you win something in 2008, you can boast about it in 2009, but by 2013, people are asking, ‘Why are they still lowly Fringe wannabes when they won that competition ages ago? Must have been a fluky one-off…’ etc.

7. Build Up a Following Over Several Years.

8. Create ‘hype’ or ‘a buzz’ around your show.

Not too sure what either of these things are or how it’s done. Being full of youthful dynamism, vigour and spunk certainly helps, but the chances are if you’ve worked your way through steps 1-7, you won’t have much youth, vigour or spunk left.

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  • James Alex Smithson

    Amazing. These guys are just amazingly amazing and amazing, but not too amazing that you forget they’re amazing. Amazing.

  • justejudexultionis

    I don’t agree but I don’t know why.


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