Mick Perrin is Managing Director of Just For Laughs Live & Owner of Mick Perrin Productions Ltd. His current roster of live promotions includes Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran‘s new show “Yeah, Yeah” which begins in April 2011 and Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Bo Burnham.
When did you start producing and promoting comedy?
What did you do before?
I started out as a musician in a punk band in the mid 70’s, and as I became more aware of the talent around me, and lack of my own, I switched to production and tour management. The current director of Julian Clary’s recent show ‘Lord of the Mince’ which I recently promoted, was looking for a lighting and stage manager in 1980 for a UK tour of the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Towns Women Guild Dramatic Society production of ‘Murder Mystery’. Julian was originally one of the ‘ladies’ in the show. I lied about the fact that I was a lighting technician and got the job. I only told him the truth last year!
When did you first go to the fringe?
1983 was my first fringe. I was helping out with a busking band called pookiesnackenburger. We all played in various bands in Brighton and my girl friend at the time was in the band. They performed a street show and also had a collaborative show in the ‘Wire Works’ with Cliff-hanger Theatre Company; as well as working with top street artists like JJ Waller and Tim Bat. These shows became the ‘must see’ shows on the fringe. I used to help them with their gear and also helped ‘bottle’ the crowd. Other busking acts at the time – such as Eddie Izzard – became big fans of Pookiesnackenburger – which eventually developed into STOMP – for which I was the production, tour manager and lighting technician. Edinburgh was the launch pad for STOMP and we got a tour of Australia off the back of it. And the rest – as they say – is history.
When did first starting promoting shows at the fringe?
My first fringe as a promoter was in 2004 with 4 shows. I got into promotion by accident and not by design. I was tour managing Eddie Izzard in 2000. We were on a plane to Australia – having just finished his first tour of the US. He passed me his lap top with a message from his then promoter explaining that he’d taken on a new job and wasn’t able to be his promoter any longer. I asked Eddie what he was going to do now, and he said “Well, I thought you could do it’. ‘It’s not rocket science is it’. So I got back to the UK and formed Mick Perrin Productions. The caveat Eddie had attached was that he wanted to do an ‘Arena’ Tour of the UK and Ireland – and of course this had never been done previously by a stand-up comic. The next year I set about raising the £2,000,000 needed to pay for the production and trying to convince the venues to take the show. I was also tour managing Dylan Moran and Ardal O’Hanlon and Tommy Tiernan, at the time, and took on their promotion. I continued as both tour manager and promoter for a couple more years until I simply couldn’t manage any more doing both on my own.
When does the process begin for you preparing for the fringe and when do you start signing up clients?
Pretty much starts at the previous fringe. It’s definitely getting earlier each year. Last year I had 24 shows at the fringe, but this year I’m reducing to around 12.
Do you literally do everything for shows your promoting from booking venues and accommodation to sorting out posters, flyers, press releases?
Yes. I have a team of dedicated and brilliant staff who literally do everything but the show. We also pay for all the up front costs and soak up a fair % of any losses. Unusually we do not charge a fee.
How do you choose which shows to promote?
I simply love talent. Finding a great act in an off the circuit venue is, for me, like seeing Hendrix down your local pub. Sometimes acts or agents will approach either myself or my staff, but usually we will see something we really like and make the first approach.
One of the reasons you were suggested for an interview was because we thought it would be interesting for you to illustrate to acts what you actually do for them before, during and after the fringe. What do you do before the fringe?
Book venue , book the ad space, submit fringe entry, book accommodation and sort out multimedia promotional stuff like websites. Working with the PR agent we’ll write the fringe entry and press release and try to persuade press to do features on the show. With the approval of the artist and their management we’ll find a designer and organise a photo shoot and approve poster design. If affordable and doable we’ll organise a video shoot for on-line trailer. If required we’ll also book preview shows.
Do you give acts feedback on the show?
When do you arrive in Edinburgh?
Usually 2 days before to check poster sites and try to attend technical rehearsals on difficult set-ups. We have a street team get together in a pub and introduce our acts to their flyerer and event manager.
What is a typical day like for you when you’re there during the fringe?
Typically there isn’t a typical day. I’ll wake up with a mild hang-over (if I’m lucky) and check for any reviews or press. Then I’ll look at the daily sales and discuss with the artists PR and my event managers. Once I’ve see all of my own shows then I’ll start to catch others I’ve heard good things about, or ones I’m interested in seeing. On average I see 3 or 4 shows a day. I’ll try and fit in a couple of meetings and then head out to the Loft Bar or Brookes bar till the wee small hours were I can catch up with both my team and my performers.
After Edinburgh what do you do for the acts? Presumably chase up and receive payments from the venue. Anything else?
As a promoter the end of Edinburgh is usually the busiest period in the calendar as September until Christmas is generally our main touring period. Most of my team take a few days off to recover, and then we gear up for the Autumn tours. Edinburgh payments take a couple of months to come through, so there’s time to get the paperwork in order before receiving the final settlement.
What do you think the biggest mistake acts make when they produce their own show?
The biggest mistake in my opinion is to leave Edinburgh without anyone knowing you where there. If you’re going to spend money on one thing and one thing only then get a good PR person. If there’s a bit more in the coffers then hire a flyerer for a couple of hours each and every day.
What’s you favourite memory of the fringe?
That’s a difficult one… My first fringe, probably. The great and sadly late Malcolm Hardee asked me to help him out with a skit at the fringe press launch. He stood on a soap box and brought the proceedings to a halt by claiming that he had just received news of the ‘tragic and untimely death’ of Glenda Jackson. Everyone in the place was absolutely shocked and some were crying. Malcolm began to talk about Ms Jacksons’ wonderful life in the theatre and the great loss this would be to the theatrical world. At this point he stretched out his hand and, as he had instructed me, I passed him a piece of paper. Again, Malcolm brought the room to a respectful hush, and with great joy he explained that there had been a ‘terrible mistake’ and that it was in fact Brenda Jackson who had suddenly died and not Glenda. We ran for our lives!