ED2014 Columns ED2014 Comedy

Barry Ferns: Top ten Fringe publicity stunts

By | Published on Wednesday 13 August 2014

Creativity is bursting from the seams of Edinburgh over the Festival, it’s everywhere. And not just on stage, it’s also in the PR and marketing of hundreds of shows.


We comedians will go as far as it takes to get noticed at the biggest arts festival of the world and I’ve pulled quite a few stunts in my time at Edinburgh, from performing the first show on top of Arthurs Seat, to doing a sketch show with pensioners in it, to changing my name to Lionel Richie by deed poll, to making up entirely fake reviews of my show.
But performers have been at it from the very beginning – and here’s a top 10 of those stunts for the uninitiated:

10. The First Stunt. In the 1960’s one sketch group actually pushed a number of naked men and women down Princes Street in a fleet of wheelbarrows. They got a crowd. They got publicity. They also got arrested. It was the 60s though, surely everyone was doing it?

9. The Accidental Stunt. For use in his landmark show ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ Simon Munnery painted a mini cooper Gold and drove it all the way up to Edinburgh from London to use in the show. When he arrived, however, he found that it didn’t fit through the doors of the venue. Doh! Still it made a great story…

8. The Loss Making Stunt. In 2011 Nathan Cassidy offered £1 to every person who attended his Free Fringe show. He swears that (somehow) he didn’t lose money doing it.

7. The Schoolboy Stunt. In 2012 Knut and the Gang began sticking penis stickers on rivals posters. They stood out a mile, and got a lot of (angry) attention. When threatened with legal action, they issued this statement “I apologise if one of my cocks got up anyone’s nose”

6. The Relevant Stunt. Two years ago, Jim Smallman got his show title ‘Tatooligan’ tattooed on his stomach. That is certainly commitment.

5. The No-option Stunt. In 1986 comedian Martin Soan was camping in a tent, with his wife and their new baby, outside the back of The Pleasance. One morning they awoke to camera crews and photographers. Apparently his family were part of “The new artistic underclass” and became instant Fringe heros.

4. The Brass Neck Stunt. Pondering how to get audience for their shows, Arthur Smith and Malcolm Hardee wrote themselves a glowing review under the name of a notorious reviewer, and Arthur managed to drop it into the “To Publish” tray at The Scotsman newspaper. It was published the next day and their shows were instantly sold out. Genius.

3. The Nationally Reported Stunt. In 2003, Aaron Barschak gate crashed Prince William’s 21st Birthday dressed as Osama Bin Laden. His show sold out that Festival, but Aaron was never heard from again (!)

2. The Political Stunt. In 2013 Gareth Morinan’s publicity stunt of listing his own show 12 times in the festival programme made a Fringe Board Member resign in protest – thus inadvertently giving Gareth even more publicity. That board member certainly thought that through.

1. The Hilarious And Spontaneous Stunt. When he got into a dispute with another performer, Malcom Hardee didn’t complain, no, he just waited until his rival’s show had started and then (along with the audience from his own show) drove naked on a Tractor through that performers show, ruining it, and thus making it legendary in the exact same moment.

‘The Barry Experience’ was performed at Laughing Horse @ Espionage at Edinburgh Festival 2014.