Some people have asked how my run in Edinburgh went and I’m pleased to report it’s over. I’ve waited a while to post this to make sure I can be sensible and have perspective. Then I thought… sod it! During August I was miserable and that’s certainly why I called my mum every few hours, often crying. I didn’t have any friends and worse than that I had no desire to make friends. I had a terrific opening show followed by the worst show of my life. Luckily the second one was reviewed. That second show was quiet and 50% of the audience seemed to be just getting out of the rain. I realised about 2 minutes into the set that I wasn’t ready for a show at the Fringe. I had no idea how to keep an audience entertained for an hour. I wasn’t even sure how shows worked- what’s a bucket? How could the second night be so much worse than the first. I hobbled through the hour, people left, it was heinous, I made basically no money and then went home and cried. The next day I woke up and re-worked a particularly quiet spot. I wanted to go home but that didn’t feel like an option. I went back to my show that night, even more nervous. I did the slightly altered show and reminded myself to perform rather than just recite the set. It worked and was much better. Learning curve number one at the fringe.
I am thankful that no night was ever as terrible as the second show. I am resentful that I wasn’t reviewed again. Despite the awful show to a tiny audience, the worst thing at my fringe came later in the week when the review went live. Two guys queued for my show and said I’d had really good reviews and smiled. I was thrilled. I performed a decent show, had a fun night, things were good. I got back to my hostel and googled my show. I found the only review. 1 star. I know the things about reviews- we’ve all heard them. Don’t read the negative reviews, everyone gets a bad review at the fringe, just ignore it and work on yourself. I know all of this and still I memorised the critique. I’m healthy. It was weird that I was particularly aware in my head that everyone has felt like a failure in their life but this felt honestly worse than every other failure. I know that seems narcissistic because it is. The reviewer said ‘Dixon has a remarkable gift as a naturally unfunny person’ and that my show was ‘not worth the time or the effort to see’. And those two little piece of shit who told me about my review and smiled- I thought I was making friends but it turns out I was being laughed at.
As anyone creative can attest to, not everyone will love what you’re trying to do. Bad reviews are a staple in creative industries. I knew negative stuff would come. But I always assumed the negative stuff would come after wave upon wave of positive reviews and comments. I figured that by the time I attracted negative attention I wouldn’t notice it because of the overwhelming support. That’s not how it happened. But then if I had attended that terrible show what would I have reviewed myself? I felt like reviewer didn’t get me but in fairness in that audience no one did. Given that audience again, after learning all I did I know I could handle it better but they still wouldn’t have loved it. Free shows are a gamble. When they work it’s better than crack, when they don’t it’s worse than being addicted to crack. Spoken like someone who isn’t even confident what crack is.
The reviewer, who I won’t name, was a theatre student. Not my target audience as the critic was a theatre buff and I perform stand up comedy. I can make lots of excuses about how much this critic didn’t get me. I also could and did spend a lot of time criticising the review and being heinous about the reviewer. S/He was a piece of shit and the article was written in poor English. Truth be told it really hurt my feelings and I was instantly embarrassed that the reviewer had over 1000 hits. Whenever I put something creative online I’m lucky if it tops 100. This person I didn’t know was tearing down my efforts and reaching a far larger audience doing it. I’d love to report that I found a magic way to deal with criticsm. I toyed with the idea of taking a quote out of context for my flyer, literally turning a positive to a negative. I thought about complaining to the website. If nothing else the review was full of mistakes, attacked me in a personal way rather than just reviewed the show and also seemed to suggest I should somehow represent every LGBTQI person and had failed to do so. I didn’t even successfully ignore the review since I’d basically memorised it.
During the fringe, this review and a lack of friends and everything else seemed like a gigantic failure. I know that’s negative. To be honest, reading it back I’m sure I’ll be embarrassed by how ‘poor little rich boy’ it’s going to sound. But it sucks. Failure sucks. It doesn’t feel good and when you fail you feel like the only one. But my failure at the fringe, as embarrassing as that may be, still stands up as something I’m proud of. I decided to do the Fringe with very little experience and now I’m basically an expert. I know how to do this right if I choose to come back. Not only that, I’m a much better performer than I was even last week. If I reviewed myself, I’d award myself most improved. Well in truth I’d probably award myself a grammy and a nobel peace prize, since I’m giving myself awards. But truthfully my run was not much worse nor any better than anyone else’s run. I view it as a failure because it didn’t make me Amy Schumer. But I’ve gained a wealth of experience and actually on my last night I shared it with a group of people who felt like friends. I had made friends with other acts in my venue and from other shows I particularly admired. If I do the fringe again I have people I can call upon for advice. I didn’t have that this year. I owe them all a big thank you actually and an apology for not seeing their kindness clearly enough at the time.
Of course there were some really positive audience interaction. One teenage girl gave me a £10 note and told me that I’d earned it. One couple of burly men gave me £20 each. It’s tacky to mention money but when I was very poor it meant a lot. One young man who came up to me after a show told me that he’d never been able to relate to a comic the way he had been able to relate to me. It meant a lot that a stranger took the time to tell me face to face. That moment is fleeting. It isn’t something solid I can copy and paste to friends in an email. Not like the reviews. But for me it was everything.
Also, the biggest factor that proves maybe it wasn’t all as miserable as it felt- I lost like 2 lbs. I ate basically 8 brioches rolls a day but I wasn’t miserable enough to comfort eat myself into an early grave. If you know me then you’ll know that’s a miracle.
Thank you to all my friends who visited during the fringe and ones that couldn’t but supported me from a far. A huge thank you to my dad for his kind words. And a HUGE thank you to my mum- there were days I would’ve died if I hadn’t been as foul to you on the phone as I was. You’re my favourite outlet for my rage and I’m sorry about that. I’m sure you can’t wait for next year even more than me!
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