In 2007, Jason Cook took his first solo stand up show to the fringe, selling out for the bulk of the run, and earning 5 star reviews. Since then his follow-up shows have received similar acclaim and he’s successfully taken the shows on the international festival circuit with appearances in Melbourne, New Zealand and Amsterdam.
Why do you go to the fringe and do comedy festival shows?
The bottom line is that you do the fringe to show the industry what you can do if you are given the blank canvas of an hour, what you can create in that time. There are loads of other reasons, to become a better comic, to just be part of the experience, to hang out with other comics you don’t see all year, but ultimately it is an industry showcase.
To save me from doing a lot of swearing at google, what is your history of Edinburgh shows?
First show 2005 – Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus
2006 – Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus vs Malcolm and Mirriam
Both character shows, the rest have been solo stand up.
2007 – My Confessions
2008 – Joy
2009 – Fear
2010 – The End (Part one)
Do you choose themed shows or just a straight hour of stand up?
Themed, I always try to have a theme. It shows that you can have a narrative arc that runs for an entire hour and ties everything together and is ultimately very satisfying if you get it right. You don’t get the opportunity to do an hour every day for a month anywhere else in the UK, to hone it and perfect it. It becomes not only an hour of jokes, but also one big long complicated joke all of its own.
How do you choose a theme?
I usually think about what I want to say, or if a significant event has triggered something in my life, try to weigh up if it has enough depth to carry an hour show based around it. I had wanted to do a show called “hate” and I did some research and after about a month decided it was just too negative a show to do, I think it would have made people angry, so it went in the bin.
How do you assemble a show?
Lots of scribbles on paper of material that I have now that might work, and subjects I should write stuff about to fit in to the overall picture. Sometimes you have loads at the first draft (The Joy show was like that). Other times you have to mess around with a LOT of different pieces of material to get it to work coherently (the Fear show was a pain in the arse with regard to that)
Best piece of advice anyone gave you about the fringe?
Robin Ince told me that when you are there your shows work in thirds. A third you will think are great, a third average, and a third you will hate. Even if the audience have a great time, sometimes it’s just not up to the standards you set yourself. The trick is then to think after a bad show “Well, that’s one less of them left to do”. Helps you keep your sanity a little.
What do you think the most common mistake acts make at the fringe?
I don’t really know, I’m still making a lot myself if I’m honest. Probably going up too soon in your career, or going up with a show you haven’t road tested that much.
Most effective way of selling a show?
Just doing sets at other shows, do ten minutes then hand out flyers to the audience that have just seen you. If you have done well, they will want to see more. Flyering the royal mile gets very low returns on your efforts.
What’s your favourite memory of the fringe?
Probably my dad being in the audience of a sold out show that I had written about him, and it was the first time I had sold out a show at the fringe.
Least favourite memory of the fringe?
Getting my first 5 star review and going out drinking to celebrate, the next day I had a horrendous hangover and a lot of my comedy heroes came to check out the show and my performance was awful. Taught me a very important lesson about the fringe which is that basically, you have to decide why you are there. To work hard and advance yourself (whether that be career-wise or just to perfect your skills as a comic) , or just to party and hang out. I’ve seen scores of people try to do both and fail miserably.