40 words, not many to describe a whole show but that’s the maximum you can have in the fringe programme. People complain it’s not enough. I think it’s fine if you think about it and spend some time editing it. (that’s exactly 40 words)
To quote an audience member in the audience feedback article “if you can’t sum up your show succinctly then I get the feeling your show is going to be a bit of a mess”. The fringe programme is probably the most important piece of advertising for your show. It’s a huge market of potential audience members and all you have to do is write something to persuade them to come along.
Best method for writing blurb.
Before you write anything create a list of the elements that you think will help sell the show, including a concise description of what the show is and what it’s about, useful press quotes if you have any, and if it’s a comedy show something funny.
Test market the “funny” on friends and family to see that you get the correct response. I usually write out the blurb on paper and then watch them as they read it. If they laugh you’ve done it right. Once you’ve decided on these key elements start assembling things into a clear statement.
When you have the first draft of your blurb, see how many words you have, then take another pass at it looking for unnecessary repetition. Use combining words to cut the word count and then keep taking a pass at it making adjustments until you reach the magic number. Always read the listing out loud and make sure you leave enough time so as you can sleep on it, and look at it again the following day to see if you still like it. Bear in mind that the 40 words also includes your show title. So for the “The Great Big Comedy Picnic – Free” I actually get 34 words to describe the show.
How to submit show details and register show with the Fringe office.
Show submissions to the fringe office are done through the participants section of the edfringe website which is only accessible once you pay a one-off £10 registration fee. When registered you can enter shows into the programme using the automated system which allows you to save your progress and make changes before final submission. The on-line system gives you an exact word count and won’t let you list anything over the 40 word limit.
In the past I know people who have tried hyphenating words to trick the software, only to receive a phone call from the fringe office informing them they’ve gone over the word count and need to do it again. The fringe office manually check every listing so don’t waste time trying to trick the system it doesn’t work. Shows can also be registered by fax or post.
Shortly after registering your show the fringe office will send you a proofing copy of your shows entry in the programme for you to check all details are correct. They will give you a small time window if you need to change anything.
Hints and tips for writing blurb.
If you’re doing a free festival show then I think it is helpful to include the word free at the end of the show title, it might cost you a word but it’ll get a healthy flow of free-loaders drifting in once the festival starts. You don’t need to repeat the term free in the blurb.
It’s helpful to include positive press comments from respectable publications. Comments you’ve submitted yourself to a website using a fake name, for example, “Genius” http://www.sitenonehaseverheardof.com don’t fool anyone and put punters off. So if you don’t have press just write more funny stuff.
Speaking of genius if you’re promoting a comedy show then a small piece of advice don’t use the word “genius” in your blurb. It’s the most over used term in comedy. A quick search of the website ComedyCV reveals shows there are currently 92 comedians using the word on their CV. However if you happen to be an actual genius, such as, a mathematics expert or you can do a Rubiks cube in under 2 minutes using just your knob, then it’s a good idea to mention that. If you’re just doing material then show everyone how unique a comic talent you are by finding a better and more original way to describe yourself.
Just a reminder that there is a discount for listing a show in the fringe programme two weeks before the main deadline closes. Check Edfringe site for timetable. You are still able to edit your programme description and change the supplied image up to the final deadline at no extra cost. Definitely worth doing. The money saved can be put to a better use during the fringe.
Fringe programme entries from 2010
You can download a full version of the 2010 fringe programme by clicking this link. It is about 68mb and is in PDF format so you’ll need adobe reader to view it. There is also an on-line version here.
Have a look through it to see how shows list themselves. Look out for shows similar to the one you’re thinking of producing and see how they sell themselves.
I think the following shows are good examples of well written blurb.
Sarah Millican: Chatterbox
Sarah’s only criticism at school was that she was a chatterbox. Still is. Now it’s her job. She hopes the same fate didn’t befall the school bike. http://www.sarahmillican.co.uk
The Lost Letters of Cathy G
In a junk shop I stumbled across a wad of letters forgotten since the 1960s. Mixing stand-up with storytelling, I’ll blow dust off these tales of love struck boyfriends and hopeful groupies. http://www.freefestival.co.uk
Paul Sinha – Extreme Anti White Vitriol
Paul Sinha has been described as a gay man, doctor, quizzer, bachelor, acclaimed comedian and racist. This year he’d like to deny one of those, while adding new labels of his own. ‘Truly wonderful’ (Scotsman).
Paul Kerensa – Borderline Racist
Dutchmen think Germans are bicycle-thieves… Latvians swear in Russian… Finns: introverted sauna-lovers… ‘British Comedy Award’ nominee (writer: ‘Not Going Out’, ‘Miranda’, ‘Now Show’) uncovers every nation’s thoughts on their neighbours. **** (Metro). ‘Wildly talented’ (Chortle). http://www.paulkerensa.com
Josie Long – Be Honourable
Josie presents a ramshackle call-to-arms. Come, or she’ll find you and cut your face up real good. She’s 5’5″. Every show she’s done has received 2,3,4 and 5* reviews, so she must be doing something.
Jim Bowes – Obsession
Are you obsessed with something? Did climate change end when the financial crisis started? From collecting stamps to checking doors are locked ten times, is life making us all…obsessed? ‘Very funny’ (BBC.co.uk). http://www.jimbowes.com
Phil Kay – Radio Free
Come witness meticulously planned mayhem … finally all the fantastic ideas that Phil can never remember on stage can come out to shine in this live radio show. Tune in, set memory, adjust volume and listen.
Lynn Ruth Miller – Granny’s Gone Wild
Lynn Ruth Miller, the world’s oldest cougar, is 77! She raps, she jokes – she’s gone mad. Her show is comedy at its worst – outrageous proof that when body parts drop to your ankles they can still swing.
Bob Slayer – Punk Rock Chat show
Wild liberating banter, games and stories from a rock’n’roll tour manager who has travelled the world with Stooges, Electric Eel Shock, Bloodhound Gang etc. Punk rock comedy: no rules, no limits, no refunds! http://www.bobslayer.com
Robin Ince Asks Why? – Free
Troubled youth in middle-age returns with new queries about existence and other problems. ‘Grade A bile … great hour by a great comedian’ (Scotsman). ‘Intellectually audacious’ (Evening Standard). May contain Belle and Sebastian references.
Imran Yusuf – An Audience with Imran Yusuf
The fast-talking lyrical machine-gun comic slows it down for a deep and meaningful look at life with personal stories and a unique life philosophy. http://www.imranyusuf.com
Andrew Collins – Secret Dancing
The woolly, liberal half of Collings and Herrin goes solo courtesy of PBH’s Free Fringe, with a humorous, genial, rambling guide to urban survival, walking with pigeons and a demonstration of dancing on public transport without detection.
Dan Willis – Michael Jackson World’s Greatest Entertainer
Can Willis prove that Michael Jackson is truly the world’s greatest entertainer? A celebration of the music and moves, with a few laughs along the way. Suitable for all ages. **** (List). **** (ThreeWeeks).
The Dead Comedian’s Socks
London in all of its macabre comic glory comes to Edinburgh in the form of ‘The Dead Comedian’s Socks’. This review will showcase the best of up-and-coming comedy talent found in the capital city.
Some observations on other listings.
I don’t want to single out people for the choices they’ve made but I just picked out these two listings from the programme to illustrate a point.
The Phil Knoxville Superhero Sideshow – Free
Join Phil Knoxville on a rollercoaster ride of comedy and twisted magic. Proving a mild-mannered comedian can possess superhuman powers. If variety is the spice of life then this will blow your pants off!
Moon Dog – Free
Enter a world of fantastic stand-up comedy with Kate who likes astrophysics, space, vegetarian jumping spiders and crap superheroes. If you like Steve Martin … well, so does Kate! And it’s free.
If you look back again at Robin Ince’s listing or Josie Long’s they don’t use the word comedy or comedian in them. Shows are listed in the comedy section and in the genre guide they’re listed as stand up, so there is no point repeating these terms. I’ve underlined the repetition in both of the listings above to highlight those areas where they could have saved a few words. It’s also worth noticing how the full name of the act appears in show titles but in the blurb it’s often reduced to just a first name. This is a good way to save a word.
Fringe Programme Images
The 2010 fringe programme was radically different from previous years because it was the first one to include images with every show listing. Some shows benefited from this and others didn’t take full advantage of it. The biggest difference is that it radically alters your timetable for producing artwork. Previously I used to produce the Picnic artwork in July as we only had a listing in the fringe guide. To include an image with your listing you need to have an image file with the fringe office in April.
Looking at the programme from 2010 there were a few different approaches to choosing an image. (I’ve put links to the related artists website on the photos below clicking the image will take you to their website)
Option 1. Is probably the best option if you’ve got an advert in the programme but not massively necessary if you’re only planning on having a campaign based on posters and flyers. The main objective should be an eye catching image.
Option 2 is a safe bet. It gives the show an air of professionalism but possibly isn’t as effective as options 1, 3 and 4.
Option 3 works well and gives shows the air of professionalism. It tends to be used more by theatre productions but can work well with comedy.
Option 4 I think works really well and shows your audience some “out of the box” thinking. It can certainly create a unique selling point for your show. If you want to include an image that is representative of your show then a photo library should have something of interest. You can get cheap high resolution print images from iStockphoto. You can also try the photo sharing site Flickr. Make sure you contact the owner of any image you select to get permission to use it. Photographers own the copyright of any image they take.
Option 5. Is convenient and helps to give the free festival branding. The downside is your show loses its USP. Numerous other shows have the same image and it’s easily forgotten. It’s better to put some time and thought into it in April not be annoyed with yourself in June when the programme comes out for taking the time to do it right.
Option 6. Also a good choice. Image files don’t have to be a photo it can be a graphic image or logo fitting your show.
Option 7. I’m not going to single any shows out but if you look through the programme it’s obvious which shows are letting themselves down and the most annoying thing about that is it’s the free shows that are doing it. The paid venues insist of you having high quality artwork. It does make a difference when it comes to marketing a show. Spend some time finding a great image.
Hints and tips on image selection.
The size of the image in the programme is quite small so when cropping images to fit the 29mm square bear that in mind. You need to be close in on the subject with no wasted space around them. It’s worth getting a print out of the image at actual size before you send it to the fringe office to see if the print version works. Computer screens can be quite deceptive as images often appear brighter than they will print out. Images on screen can also appear bigger than actual print size. Free photo editing for basic tasks like cropping can be done on the Pixlr site, Aviary site and Picnik site (Picnik lets you add text to photos so may well be the best option). Full colour print outs can be done in any high street photo shops for approx 30 pence each. You should be able to fit 6 shots on to one 6×4 inch print.
Click on any of the images in the article and it takes you to the related artists website if there is one. In addition to his main website Paul Sinha also has a wordpress site called “Indian Poof”