16 August 2012

On the economics of the Edinburgh Fringe

This past week, people in Edinburgh paid £31 to see the television comedian Michael McIntyre's warm-up shows of work-in-progress for his forthcoming stadium tour. Personally I never do warm-up shows for my own standup. My grandfather was of the opinion that you couldn't polish a turd. He did, however, believe very strongly in lacquering them, and lost many friends after insisting they sat through a piece-by-piece display of his entire collection.

Critics complain that £31 is too much for Michael McIntyre's try-out show, competing, by virtue of its appearance in Edinburgh this month, with free fringe performances by unknown talents. But Michael McIntyre's £31 warm-ups were not part of the Edinburgh fringe and so he was not obliged to observe its ethics. The high prices do mean, however, that McIntyre could afford to pay significantly more than the £200 he recently offered a Yorkshire security guard if he'd beat up an inflatable sex doll wearing a mask of my face.

My tickets in Edinburgh are £15, but I do not think it is wrong for Michael McIntyre to charge twice that, or for his colleague the television comedian Frankie Boyle to charge £29 in the same venue. Television comedians guarantee a good night out to cash-rich fun-seekers, and so are priced accordingly. My tragedy is that, irrespective of any merits I may or may not have, I am valued only by people unlikely to pay higher ticket prices.

- Stewart Lee, Observer, 5 August 2012.

See also: Stewart Lee on emigrants - 'Is there any cultural stimulation - any kind of good documentaries or theatre or anything like that?'  Emigrant: "No, there's nothing like that here, Stew. It's like having your brain cut out and having it flung into a swamp"
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