The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected – Jo Caulfield’s Fringe Diary part 3 - On The Mic

The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected – Jo Caulfield’s Fringe Diary part 3



The BBC tent is much smaller  this year. That’s a good thing. Giving away free tickets to too many shows definitely affected audience-numbers at other shows.

Why take the chance on seeing a new comic, if you could get a free ticket to a recording of ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’?

I know one man who would go to the BBC recordings every year. He would apply for tickets for every single recording. Didn’t have a clue what the shows were but he’d apply for tickets anyway. He’d get free tickets for 15 or 20 different shows. He didn’t pay to see anything. People like him are ruining the Fringe.

I asked him how he was getting on this year. He said he was loving the Festival. He said “I walk uptown and go into bars and venues I’ve never been in before.” He’s enjoying the experience of discovering buildings in Edinburgh that he’s never been in. To me that is more important than going to a radio recording.

Mind you, he still hasn’t been to see me, so he can go and fuck himself. People like him are ruining the Fringe.


I’m a big supporter of the Free Fringe — let me stress that straight away. And I know the “bucket speech” is an important thing to do, but I’ve seen too many comics using the exact same “bucket speech” script. A script that unwittingly attacks fellow comics at, what is perceived to be, the major venues.

The speech goes along the lines of “the comedians at the big venues are charging £10 or £15 and I think my show is worth the same, so please put £10 in the bucket.”

I would politely ask that they change the script to “the comedians at the big venues are not consulted over their ticket prices, the venues and promotors set the prices, plus the comedians at the big venues have much higher overheads and there are countless hidden charges that will screw them out of every penny they think they’re making, and most of them will leave in debit…anyway, if you enjoyed my show please drop whatever you can spare into my bucket. Thank you”.

Several years ago I received my settlement statement from one of the major venues. My ticket sales were just over £77,000.

I was given a cheque for just over £7,000.

I haven’t a fucking clue where the other £70,000 went*.

*I later found out one of my hidden charges — I was being charged every day for the use of the microphone. I could have bought a top-range mic, used it for the month, thrown it in the bin and saved myself a couple of hundred pounds. Always read the small print!

Let’s agree that it’s expensive for ALL of us to do this. I don’t care if you’re playing the Assembly, Pleasance, The Stand, Banshee Labyrinth or a tent pitched up in someone’s back garden — performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is ridiculously expensive. So hats off to Monkey Barrel, Just A Tonic at The Caves and The Tron on Hunters Square. Reasonable ticket prices, great venues, and exciting mixtures of acts. I don’t think I’ve seen a bad show at any of those venues. Mark Nelson, Rachel Fairburn, Liam Withnail – all on blinding form.


If you want a bit of free entertainment, here’s something you can do … take a walk up the Royal Mile … go up to one of the caricature artists … and ask them for directions to the National portrait gallery — then stand back and watch them cry.


As a resident I love the vibrancy and excitement around the city. All the bars and cafes are busy. There’s a good atmosphere. I take reflected pride in visitors venturing out of the Fringe bubble and discovering areas like The Shore and Portobello Beach.


As a resident is I get annoyed at all the crowds. My favourite bars and cafes are too busy. And areas like The Shore and Portobello are ruined by all the visitors.


Earlier this week I was asked “You were one of many signatories of the open letter criticising the organisers of the Fringe for scrapping the app and the spiralling accommodation costs among other things. What is your take on the situation, and has the Fringe Society response been enough?”

I’m reposting my reply…

“I have appeared at The Fringe every year since 2001. I have lived in Edinburgh for over 10 years. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who works for or is involved with the Fringe Society. If I didn’t read about them, I would not know they existed.

I’m not calling for the Board to resign or be replaced but the Fringe Society should refund part of the registration fee it charges comedians after failing to provide an app, because they fucked up. THEN they should resign or be replaced.

They gave some half-baked apology about “the distress that this has clearly caused” and how the app would have cost £100,000 to make viable for this year … then admitted to providing accommodation for reporters from many national newspapers. Wow! That really is a slap in the face for Chortle, Wee Review, One 4 Review, Broadway Baby, etc — all the longterm reviewers who have covered, and supported, the Fringe for several years, out of their own pockets.”

If that doesn’t get me unanimous 5 star reviews from Chortle, Wee Review, One 4 Review and Broadway Baby, they can all go fuck themselves.


There’s a children’s story about a goose that lays golden eggs. I can’t actually remember the whole story. I think a man buys a goose and then he kills it or he fucks it or the goose replaces Dan Wooton on GB News and the viewers don’t notice the difference. I can’t remember. But the main thing is: the goose was laying golden eggs and the man does something that ruins it.

Unfortunately I’ve seen that happening in certain parts of The Fringe.

The big one for me is ‘Compilation’ shows. Three or four comedians for the same price as a solo show. I remember a time when The Fringe had an unwritten rule that compilation shows couldn’t start before 10 pm. The main venues wouldn’t book them because they would clash with performers who had put a lot of time and effort into creating their own one-person shows. It was a way of protecting the solo performer.

For an audience it’s a complete no-brainer. What are you going to do, pay £10 to see a comic you don’t know or pay £10 to see four comics you don’t know? The law of averages says you’ll enjoy at least one of them.

It’s a shame that so many new comedians are struggling to get audiences because they’re up against compilation shows. For new comics it must be an absolute nightmare. I hope one or two people read this and realise that by taking part in  early evening compilation show, they are killing the golden goose.

Oh…Just remembered I’m doing The Stand’s Pick of The Fringe at The New Town Theatre on Friday 26th…but generally I don’t do them. But I understand that comics need the money because they’re paid gigs…it’s tricky. But you are supporting something that is your own direct competition.

Oh…and I’m also doing benefit for striking refuse workers on Wed 24th  at The New Town Theatre – it’s an amazing bill, including Jason Byrne, Mark Thomas and Kiri Pritchard Maclean.

Yes I’m a hypocrite but no-one will read this far, so I think I’ll get away with it.


Show done. Pack up equipment. One quick drink with friend. Walk home. Home. Feeling hungry. Something to eat. Too late to have a full meal, sandwiches again. Watch a bit of TV. Go to bed. One hour later. Wide-awake. Adrenaline from show still pumping through my body. Can’t sleep. 2 a.m. get up. Downstairs. Put on washing machine. Back to bed. 3 a.m. Wide awake. Fucked up sleep pattern. Thinking about show. They got the lights wrong again. And a joke I want to change. Or should I move it to later in show? Still can’t sleep. Getting hysterical. It’s going to be like this for a whole month. 5 a.m. still awake. Worrying about lunchtime gig I’ve agreed to do. I shouldn’t do it. I should only do my own show. Why do I take on so much work when the most important thing is my own show? Relaxation tapes don’t work. Soothing sounds irritate me. Hypnotherapy tapes don’t work. I hate the hypnotherapists voice. Sleeping tablets don’t work. Someone mentioned special UV lights. Online. Amazon. Researching bedtime lights. 6 a.m. Fuck! I have to be up in two hours. Fall asleep at 7 a.m. Alarm goes off at 8 a.m. My whole day is completely ruined. I love the festival.


I worked on the Graham Norton show for six years. The amount of time and effort that was put into choosing the right guests, researching the guests, writing a topical monologue, rehearsing desk pieces, etc — it was a full-time job. It took 5 days preparation to record one show. At The Fringe this year I’m seeing adverts for people I’ve never heard of throwing together a chat show, inviting in one or two other people I’ve never heard of … and do you know what they do? They sit around and talk absolute half-hearted bollocks.

If you really have to unleash your inner Johnny Carson at least do some research, set the guests up to tell an interesting story, have something worth talk about.

And if you’re charging an entrance fee — pay your guests!


Every August you can walk into a 100 venues and you can see 100 fresh-faced hopefuls giving it a try. They think it’s going to be easy but they soon discover – they just don’t have what it takes — to work behind a bar when Scottish people want a drink.

I worked in bars for years and I know it’s harder than it looks.

Last night I heard one man shouting at the bar-staff – “Oi, you, ya poncy drama student wanker  – I’ve been waiting 10 minutes – where’s my fucking drink?”

I just looked at this man and thought — “why did I marry him?”


We’re approaching the final week. I’m still hoping a major talent spotter or one of the big promoters, such as Jack Good or Larry Parnes or Don Arden, wonders into the Stand basement and realises that I am the future of skiffle music.

I have my banjo and my washboard and I am ready to lay down the soundtrack for the hipsters, pill poppers and groovy cats of Auld Reekie.


Apparently a baby started crying at Matt Forde’s show. The state of our nation’s politics – I know exactly how that baby feels.


A ‘controversial’ comedian has shocked some audience members by being ‘controversial’.


I was told some flyering teams are charging up to £20 an hour? Is that right??

Hey, if you can get that price, take it. I might do that next year. Hand out leaflets for five hours a day, for twenty-six days and I’d make enough to pay for a flyerer at the festival the following year.



Thursday 11th August – AND WE’RE OFF…!  (part 2)

Thursday 4th August – The Calm Before the Storm (part 1)

Jo is performing Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble at the Stand Comedy Club until 28th August.

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