Well, this is rather early in the fringe for it to all be kicking off over posters. I went out the other morning to have coffee with my not-girlfriend Angela Barnes and we passed a lampost advert (them big cardboard ones that are wrapped around lamposts) of a well-known comedian who shall remain nameless. Actually that’s gonna be difficult, let’s give him a pseudonym…erm… Rustle Cain. There we go.
Now, a comedian like Rustle Cain is gonna provoke a divide in people, anyone who is that young and doing so well will always get backs up along the way, and that is par for the course with doing comedy regardless. It’s a well documented truism that comedy, more than any other artform, incenses people when they find something that doesn’t fulfill their own particular remit of what is funny. It’s bizarre, especially when you consider it is all down to personal taste, but there we go, we live with it. Nothing else comes near, if you and I were to go a Mcdonalds and you got a Chicken Sandwich because you don’t like cheeseburgers, you wouldn’t lose your shit if I did buy a cheeseburger. You definitely wouldn’t go onto Twitter and write “@cheeseburger UR FUCKIN SHIT AND SHOULD BE DEAD” based purely on the fact that your taste doesn’t agree with @cheeseburger, but this is the sort of thing comedians deal with on a daily basis, and the bigger the star the more vitriol is hurled. Myself & Ed Gamble live in daily fear that our episode of Russell Howard’s Good News is repeated on Dave or whatever late at night because we know that we will awaken to a torrent of notifications saying how unfunny we are and also that we are retarded (which we already knew). We were only being nice boys having a turn of the television, we weren’t doing anyone any harm, but people go insane with anger.
So Twitter is one thing, and if you go along with that as a thing then you take the rough with the smooth. I only get hate on Twitter very occasionally, it’s almost always the same unjustified hate based on a popular horrific misconception about me and has led to me blocking in the region of a thousand people and counting. I will normally call them dicks and hit block (been advised to just ignore them, but I don’t do ignoring very well. Come to my shows and chat whilst I’m on and watch how awful I am at ignoring. It sometimes makes me violent…). The one place though which I really don’t think abuse should be aimed, is on posters. Come to gigs and heckle or tweet at us or whatever, but to paraphrase Travolta in Pulp Fiction; “Don’t fuck with another man’s posters…just against the rules”.
And it really is, it’s shitty, it’s sly, it’s cowardly and we can’t respond. And those posters cost us a lot. I mean a lot lot. So when Angela and I were walking over to our coffee date we stopped by the lampost advert for Rustle Cain as it had attracted a bit of graffiti. To be fair, I’ve seen worse written on a Rustle Cain poster, but regardless, when I have also paid silly money for the same publicity there is nothing I can be but empathetic and furious on his behalf that some piece of shit has defaced his property through – almost certainly – sheer jealousy. More disgustingly, I’d further wager it was a fellow comedian, albeit one languishing bitterly way below him.
So anyhow, I was waxing lyrical to Angela (in between kisses of course) about how people defacing posters has always been something that has properly wound me up, and when we got over to Bristo Square it was a massacre (metaphorically). Lots and lots of posters had been defaced. If you counted them up in Bristo Square alone, my estimate would be that twenty grand of posters had been damaged (and that’s a conservative estimate – it was that at least). And they had all been damaged by the same show. This is another baffling and idiotic thing about this, a lot of the damage done to others posters is because morons decide that their audience will be gullible enough to take free stickers from shows and then stick them all over the fucking place, including over other people’s very expensive publicity.
And I am looking at you Richard Herring yes, because you should know better. If your lampost adverts for your play (and don’t think we all haven’t noticed you have lampost adverts even though you said last year you wouldn’t have them again and made everyone feel stupid for buying them) had been covered in stickers and defaced by some other show, you’d be the first to throw your toys out of the pram. This year you are giving your audience fucking stickers. It’s not like they are going to put them on the front of their school books, it isn’t 1996, they are clearly going to stick them places they shouldn’t. I like you and you are a funny man and I am sure your play is brilliant but come on. Ok I am your friend again now.
Regardless, it wasn’t Richard who was responsible, even indirectly, for the stickers that had caused the damage around Bristo Square – it was another show which I have decided not to name. I’ll explain that in a moment…
This wasn’t audience members putting a sticker of an old man randomly up, this wastargeted. There were stickers for this other show everywhere. Not just on people’s posters and adverts, which would be bad enough, but prominently on them – like over people’s noses. Some had already been peeled off, leaving a white patch of pulled away print that was equally unbecoming. I knew I had a poster nearby and had a quick look, I’d got away with it. I was both delighted to be unscathed and then immediately furious that my poster wasn’t in a prominent enough position to be noticed by the vandal – my PR literally cannot win.
There was already stuff about it on Twitter, and both myself and Angela piled in with solidarity and to let it be known that this isn’t how it’s done. I guess there may be an element that people who come up here truly independently and do all their own PR and flyering and postering etc, think that people who come up here with big agencies (which invariably is the case with the massive fuck off cardboard ads) are privileged in some way, and shouldn’t care if the indie kids pilfer a bit of poster space. If we can afford those posters then we can surely afford to not care if something that’s performing in a cupboard somewhere sticks something over it. You really couldn’t be further from the truth, the vast majority of us are far, far worse off than you. Our Edinburgh budgets break us. I have never, in all my life, had the same amount of money that my show costs in my bank account. I cannot afford the Edinburgh Fringe and I am not in a minority – somebody else pays it for us and then we pay it back to them from our wages for years to come. Slowly. Those lampost adverts cost thousands of pounds, and it is difficult enough for us to come to terms with that already, such a ludicrously unjustifiable expense that it is, without someone in the dead of night causing criminal damage to them without a second thought.
I found out later one from lovely Mark Dolan that he had seen these stickers over one of my lampost adverts in another part of the city. He told me that five minutes before I went onstage so he’s a thoughtless buffoon but I also like him very much so I’ll let that one slide. I marched back to Twitter and contacted the show in question…
So let’s have a bit of honesty here; I think I always knew I would never be invoicing them for the damaged adverts. I was furious, and there was certainly an element of me wanting to give them a panic by saying that, and let them have a bit of the stress back that their actions had caused myself and many of my contemporaries. Their reply was contrite and blamed it on an “over zealous” flyerer or something. Well, whatever. They also said they were going to take all the stickers down that night. Well, fine, but even taking them down is gonna tear the posters, damage is done. I had to keep reminding myself of that, because the more they replied the more I actually began to feel like a bit of a bully. I totally wasn’t being, but here was a show, in the same boat as me – just trying to sell some fucking tickets in a massively oversaturated market place, that had made the wrong call. I don’t know if they’ve done a fringe show before, I know nothing about them, but I know that by now they definitely realise they fucked up royally doing what they did, and they certainly won’t be doing it again.
So I decided not to name them here for that reason, and for the fact I didn’t want to give them any publicity (good or bad), didn’t want to indirectly encourage people to give them shit on Twitter and didn’t want them to have any more guilt over this (which, by the way, I do hope they did have). After I sent my last tweet to them being cross, I had a pang of guilt myself, thinking how I would feel in their position, if I’d done something idiotic in the name of publicity that backfired (and if you’ve seen my show this year you will know that I am not beyond doing idiotic things that backfire), and I realised with clarity that it would have me in bits. The Fringe is stressful enough and it’s perhaps not the best call we all made to round on someone who dropped a bollock, who clearly doesn’t get how all this works just yet.
(Incidentally, I often do things thinking I am being funny or cool that make me cringe very soon after. Yesterday I bumped into Stewart Lee and family, Stew had one of his kids on his shoulders and was bounding along happily. I said to him “Mate this doesn’t work”, meaning how this happy scene contrasted with the curmudgeonly-cool man-in-charge-of-comedy image. He laughed and played along, but then when I walked about five minutes more I felt proper embarrassed. I’d just said to a man that his family didn’t work. How fucking rude is that? I’m still appalled at myself. It does work Stew, ignore me).
So this other show we were on about; To my knowledge from their Twitter feed they did go around the city and remove all the stickers, and they also tweeted later on that at the end of that shitty day they had found they’d locked their keys in the venue. Karma’s a fucking bitch eh? However, punishment served and we can all forget about it.
Unless one of Herring’s stickers ends up on my posters, then the P&G/Herring war is back on.
RAY PEACOCK – HERE COMES TROUBLE – 9:25pm Underbelly, 30 July-24 August 2014. Tickets at underbellyedinburgh.co.uk or 0844 545 8252