‘I’ve come to say thank you’: Big names return to support Edinburgh’s outskirts | Edinburgh Festival 2022

Ohen Omid Djalili first performed on the sidelines of the Edinburgh Festival in 1993, it was to an audience of three, and they all demanded refunds after it was mistakenly advertised as a show of one hour. “I thought the show was so funny it would get a lot of laughs. I had calculated the jokes and laughs at 55 minutes – it was 33 minutes short.

Thirty years later, Djalili returns for what he said was his last fringe, and to show his gratitude to the biggest cultural festival in the world.

“You don’t do these things for money, you do them for love. My career really started at the festival in 93, so it’s a nice way to end it. I came to say thank you.

Djalili is among a plethora of big-name established comedians who, according to fringe general manager Shona McCarthy, have returned as a “statement of support” for the festival, which returns on August 5 after it was canceled in 2020 and will unfolded as a stripped-down affair in 2021 because of the pandemic.

“One of the things I noticed even as the shows started to register, and with our first release on sale, is how many big names who would have seen themselves as having passed the fringe or not needn’t are back in 2022,” she said, adding, “It’s like Mock the Week lineup.”

This support is much needed for top venues, which have warned ticket sales are down around a third from pre-pandemic levels, with the cost of living crisis, travel disruptions from the summer and continued Covid concerns cited as reasons.

William Burdett-Coutts, the artistic director of theater operator and promoter Assembly, said he hoped sales would catch up this week as part of a post-pandemic trend for later bookings, to ensure the financial stability of his room.

Established comedians such as Djalili, Rachel Parris and Marcus Brigstocke said their comeback is about challenging themselves and surrounding themselves with other creative people and their work.

“I don’t go up there and storm, I always go up there and push. It is the same marginal experience. It’s a feeling of trying hard, of rewriting, of shaping your show. I don’t think I will ever surpass it. If you’ve been doing it for years, it feels like home,” Parris said, adding that despite her profile, she was still nervous about selling her four nights.

That philosophy is shared by her husband, Brigstocke, an established comedian who “does exactly as he did 20 years ago” — including in the same room, she said.

Parris said the atmosphere will be especially special this year.

“What I’ve noticed coming back this year and touring is the real excitement, a real feeling of, ‘We’ve missed it so much.’

Sikisa Bostwick-Barnes sees her fringe debut as a “comedy bootcamp”. Photography: Adrian Tauss

“People are so happy to find stuff live and they realize how important it is after two years of Zoom gigs. I hope the audience will feel really, really excited about this, like all artists do.

Djalili said artists also had more time to refine their sets during the pandemic. “The level of comedy will be the highest it has ever been and will be matched by the excitement of the crowd,” he said.

While the fringe has always been a career launch pad for comedians, this year is unusual in that some established artists are performing shows for the first time, having found alternative ways to build their careers.

One of them is Sikisa Bostwick-Barnes, who has made a name for herself on Zoom gigs – which she credits for giving her greater exposure – and time slots on shows such as Jonathan Ross ‘ Comedy Club on ITV during the pandemic.

“There’s an argument that the purpose of bangs has changed, especially with social media platforms like TikTok – people have done very well on TikTok – if they really need bangs to advance their careers “, she said.

Instead, she views her run at the Pleasance Courtyard — an unusually high-profile venue for her debut — as a “comedy bootcamp.”

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“Hopefully by the end I will have learned a lot about myself, but also grown as an actress and performer,” she said.

Bostwick-Barnes added that financial pressures were making things more difficult, with accommodation costs rising this year in part due to changes in student rental legislation which meant fewer apartments were available.

She worked two full-time jobs to afford her run, adding that even if her show sold out, she would lose money. “It was the case where I worked really really hard and didn’t really sleep much to achieve a goal in the hope that it would pay off.”

  • Bostwick Barnes beginning stand-up show Life of celebration will be at the Pleasance Courtyard Below at 8:25 p.m. for the month of AugustFor tickets go to www.edfringe.com

James C. Tibbs