Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Richard Herring to boycott 'exhausting and expensive' festival

The comedian said the Fringe has 'changed so much that it's unmanageable'

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The Independent Culture

For fans of comedy this is no laugher matter; comedian Richard Herring has announced he will boycott Edinburgh Fringe Festival because its over-crowded, over-priced and he resents paying £3,000 to live in “student” flat with stained chopping boards and no toilet brush.

Last year there were 49,497 performers at the festival, making it the largest arts festival in the world, but this year Mr Herring, famous for his appearances wearing a comedy Hitler moustache and appearing on BBC panel shows including Have I Got News For You, will not be performing, labelling performing there “exhausting and expensive”.

Mr Herring had been dubbed the King of Edinburgh after performing at 23 or the last 28 Fringe Festivals, but instead of heading to Edinburgh this August he will be performing 12 different solo shows at London’s Leicester Square Theatre.

“It’s just not for me anymore,” he told The Independent. “It has changed so much and got so big that it’s unmanageable. I suffered from it at last year's, being squeezed between the giant TV names at one end and the Free Fringe, which is great, at the other end. So the idea of me coming up and losing money putting on a show seemed a bit foolish, especially when there are so few journalists there now to review it.”

He added that the festival was better suited to younger performers and that he  resented paying £3,000 to rent a “student flat” with “stained chopping boards and no toilet brush.”

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Herring's former comedy partner Stewart Lee has previously complained of 'profit-obsessed promoters' tearing the festival apart

Many acts small and mid-size traditionally accept making a loss at the world-famous festival in the hope a positive review will allow them to take a new act on tour or secure a television appearance, but Herring said that “gamble was no longer worthwhile”.

He said: “It’s not about the money, apart from the last few years I’ve always lost money at the Fringe, but it’s hard to get reviewed at the fringe now – other than by websites you don’t necessarily trust - when most people will either go and see big acts like Jimmy Carr or take a chance on the free acts. The middle part, like me, is being squeezed out. It’s not worth the gamble.”

Herring, who has been described as “one of the leading hidden masters of modern British comedy”, insisted that the festival was still a “magical place” but that “something has shifted” in recent years, leading to a “weird” situation where big television names risked squeezing smaller unknown acts off the line-up.

Herring isn’t the first churlish comedian to complain about the changing nature of the fringe though. Complaints first started in 2012 when his friend and fellow comedian Stewart Lee, a regular at the festival, complained that “profit-obsessed promoters” were tearing the Fringe festival apart. The following year Steve Coogan joined the comedians bemoaning the commercialisation of the festival, saying that it had become “swamped” by promoters.

The interventions from the two comedians prompted head of the festival William Burdett-Coutts to take a swipe at the two comedians and called for an end to “petty bickering” as a boom in free shows at the festival in 2013 sparked a row between promoters over the “terrible experience” for audiences.

For his part Herring performed at the Fringe in 1987 and 1988 as a student, returning in 1992, first with comedy plays and from 2001 onwards with his stand-up shows, missing only 2000 and 2003 in all that time. He will spend August performing in London with eleven shows, including Christ on a Bike, Talking Cock and Hitler Moustache, that will culminate with the premiere of his new hour-long show Happy Now? at the Leicester Square Theatre.