Fringe benefits for the comedians staying away from Edinburgh

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

The comedians are revolting! In August, London and anywhere outside of Edinburgh becomes a laugh-free zone as stand-ups decamp to the Fringe.

Now, two comedians who have had enough of the annual schlep to Scotland have set up a rival festival, the Phoenix Fringe, in London.

Alan Davies, Isy Suttie , Mark Watson, Russell Howard and Andi Osho are among those staying south of the border to appear.

“A lot of comedians are very disillusioned with how much the Fringe costs now,” says Tiernan Douieb, co-founder with Tiffany Stevenson. “When I last took a show up in 2011, even if I’d sold all of my tickets, I would still have lost £4,500. Not only that but the pressure means that it’s not really a fringe any more. Audiences have less money and so only want to see acts off the TV. We wanted to set up a real fringe where comedians can experiment. And it won’t cost them anything.”

The festival, which opens on Saturday at the Phoenix in the West End and runs to 11 August, will feature a mix of best-of shows and works-in-progress. Audiences can buy a day ticket for £20, giving access to up to five shows. “And the venue is air-conditioned, unlike most in Edinburgh,” adds Doueib. Touché.

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