August 13, 2006

Edinburgh is world’s toughest gig for comics

By Paul Majendie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - For stand-up comedians the Edinburgh
Fringe is the toughest gig in the world, but they revel in the
challenge of competing at the Olympics of Comedy.

Edinburgh, Montreal and Melbourne stage the biggest comedy
festivals of the year, and in a straw poll comedians agreed
that if you can make it in Edinburgh, you can make it anywhere.

"You know it is the biggest arts festival in the world and
you want to be at the top of your game," said Australian
comedian Adam Hills about Edinburgh, where inebriated hecklers
are a nightly hazard.

"You will never get hecklers in Montreal. Your audiences in
Melbourne is much more artistic. In Britain there is tension in
the air."

As for the comedians themselves, he summed up the differing
national styles thus:

"The Americans are the slickest in the world. The British
will be intelligent, the Irish will tell stories, the Canadians
will be quirky. What we do best as Australians is piss about."

His compatriot Wil Anderson said Edinburgh is a city which
expects more than jokes.

"They think they are part of the show. It is the toughest
grind and you are surrounded by the best performers in the

Montreal is too corporate for him; he calculated he flew
for 50 hours to deliver four seven-minute showcase spots.

"I can barely say hello in seven minutes."

Englishman Andy Parsons, offering a riotous routine on how
the British love to moan, said: "Edinburgh crowds are far more
used to heckling. The Australians are much better behaved and
Montreal is as good as gold."

American comedienne Maria Bamford, feted in Melbourne for
her offbeat routine, added that she found Edinburgh the most
daunting venue because "there is a lot more pressure as you can
lose a lot of money."

For her compatriot Rich Hall, Edinburgh is a marathon,
exhausting to run, rewarding to finish.

"It goes on the longest, it is the most competitive and you
are bankrolling it yourself."

He revels in the camaraderie of comedians at festivals.

"You feel a bit like mercenaries. We're in Rwanda, now
we're in Angola, next it's Vietnam."

But he mocks the image of the comic as a lonely genius only
smiling on stage.

"You cannot have a better job. All this tortured artist
stuff is just bull."