After seven straight days of selling out (might have been a handful of empty seats) I can now be pretty sure that I won't lose any money this Fringe, which is a lovely place to be. It will though, be interesting to see if the third week follows the form of the last couple of years and ticket sales start to dry up a bit. Perhaps my decision to not take the day off on Wednesday (and then barely publicise the fact) will be a bad one. Can I rely on you to tell everyone you know?
Although I am counting down the days before I can jump in my car and get out of here, I am still massively enjoying the actual performances. I think this has to count as the most successful and enjoyable Fringe of the 17 I have been involved in. A lot of acts are struggling for audiences this year, thanks maybe to the credit crunch and punters deciding to not take chances on names they don't know when ticket prices are so high. So the TV acts in their 750 seat venues are doing well, whilst reliable, but less well known comics are struggling to get into double figures on some nights.
And maybe it's not surprising. Ticket prices are pretty high. It's not the acts fault - hardly any of them will see any of this money. But high rents, PR costs, leafletters, venue hire, agent's commission etc do not come cheap. Something has to give.
I try to pay for the shows I see and even I have been a bit shocked to have to pay a tenner to see someone doing their second Edinburgh on a midweek afternoon. Luckily I have known that the acts concerned are likely to be worth that, but if you were taking a blind punt at it that might be enough to put you off and just go and see the bloke you like on "Mock the Week" for a few more quid instead.
On Friday I played a fun game with Ben "Spaz" Moor in which one of us would pick up a discarded ticket from the street, read out whose show it was for and invite the other to have a guess at the price. I was slightly gob smacked to find out how many people have been charging fourteen or fifteen pounds for entry into their performances. Usually people in massive venues. Whilst newer comics are losing thousands of pounds, increasing numbers of established names are coming up here to walk away with five and possibly even six figure rewards. I feel this, more than any divisiveness caused by the (I think) pretty much unnoticed Comedy Festival is in more danger of destroying what we have here. Newer acts are being forced to spend more and more to give themselves a chance of being noticed, and can never hope to recoup their losses and once stung will find it difficult to come back again. Meanwhile, TV names will come and play 1000 seater venues, punters will go for safety and familiarity and the Fringe will just become a showcase for established talent. Something's gotta give at some point. I hope that we reach some kind of middle ground where people can come up without losing thousands of pounds and can charge prices that might allow people to take a chance on them. How about a brave new world where the bigger your name the smaller the venue you have to go in, so Jimmy Carr plays a 50 seater shed, but charges Â£1000 a ticket so he still makes loads of money (and I bet he'd find enough people to pay that for the privilege), whereas the newest comics go in the thousand seater rooms and charge 10p to get in and still end up with the same amount of money in the end. Come on, let's do it. The revolution starts here.
And I've just found out that so far I have sold 2 tickets for Wednesday. So looks like I better get out on the streets and leaflet!
And if you want to take a chance on a comic that you might not have heard of, but who deserves your support, then why not go and see Jason John Whitehead at the Underbelly
. I haven't seen his show as he's on at the same time as me, but he's been getting good reviews and he's a fine comedian, and he could really do with a boost, so go and see him tonight (and then come and see me on Wednesday!)