ED2022 Comedy ED2022 Interviews

Rob Auton: The Crowd Show

By | Published on Saturday 6 August 2022

We’re big fans of edfringe veteran Rob Auton, who has garnered many positive reviews from our writers over the years, and is a past winner of one of our ThreeWeeks Editors’ Awards. Which means we are always glad to see him return to the Festival. 

He’s known for his quirky and brilliant shows – each based on a narrow, specific theme – as well as his excellent books, and it’s always a pleasure to catch up with him. I arranged a chat to find out more about this year’s show, and some other things. 

CM: Those who know you will already know what style of performance to expect, but for anyone else, can you explain what kind of shows you make?  
RA: Basically I pick a theme and challenge myself to write about it, and speak about it, for an hour in an entertaining way. It’s a mixture of thoughts I think are funny and thoughts that I didn’t laugh at when I had them but thought they were worth sharing. I’d like to think they all have a positive message about existence in some way. It’s me coming to terms with being alive really. 

CM: Can you tell us now about the new show – ‘The Crowd Show’ – what is the topic and what drew you to it? 
RA: I’m interested in crowd behaviour and people coming together to make something they can’t make when alone. I started writing it in 2019 and was planning to do it at the Fringe in 2020, but obviously with what happened I wasn’t able to do it. As pretty much everyone is, I’m fascinated and obsessed by people and being a person, I wanted it to be a show about coming together and connection. 

CM: You’ve done lots of shows on very specific topics (nine I think?) – how do you go about choosing the topics you cover? Is it a bit random or do you think about it a lot before deciding? 
RA: I normally land on a theme quite quickly and test myself to see if I can find anything interesting to write about. I want to make shows about things that are going to age well. I’ve done shows on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking, time and now crowds. I want to be able to do these shows in 20 years time and know the subjects will still be current.

CM: Are you looking forward to being back in Edinburgh? What makes you keep returning for the Fringe? 
RA: Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to it. I just want to make my show as good as possible and doing it every day for three and a bit weeks is a good way to learn about the show and what you want it to be. I love the city and how far it is from London. I’ve had some of the best times of my life up in Edinburgh and am keen to build on the times I’ve had by creating new experiences. 

CM: What do you love most/like least about the Fringe? 
RA: Most – the fact people are making things. Least, the stable things I need – such as eating well and sleeping well – become a lot more of a challenge to accomplish. Not because I’m going out all the time and getting hammered, but when you’re in a place that isn’t your home for a month it takes a bit to get settled. 

CM: What’s your best Fringe memory? ,
RA: One is from 2012 when I was flyering for my show about the colour yellow by sitting in a yellow paddling pool on the Royal Mile. Yellow stuff all over me. A lady came over to me and gave me £10 and said I’d made her day. 

CM: Aside from performing, what else do you get up to in Edinburgh when you are up for the Festival? 
RA: I like watching what people do in the street. I sit on steps and try to take minutes where I can, but mainly I’m just focussing on doing my show every day. 

CM: What advice would you give to a first time performer about how to get through the Fringe period? 
RA: Be polite to flyerers. Eat broccoli as much as you can, walk about a lot. Get a decent waterproof and some solid shoes. Don’t over think bad gigs, don’t over think good gigs. People are going through a lot so up your tolerance levels.

CM: Let’s talk a bit about life outside the Fringe now: can you tell us a bit about you and your past? How did your career begin? Did you always want to be a performer? 
RA: I feel like that is quite a big question to drop in there! So… can you tell us about you and your past?!

I can tell you about yesterday. I was on the Royal Mile watching a guitarist, it was quite crowded. A lady came by on a bike and had a real go at people watching the guitarist for standing in the road. I thought “wow that lady is going to have a very long month if she’s going to be cycling down the Royal Mile every day”. 

I was born in York. I started off enjoying drawing, then that turned into writing ideas down instead of drawing them, then I just thought about ways to get ideas to people. At the moment it’s standing up and saying them at the Edinburgh Festival. 

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
RA: I’m lucky that I’ve got a lot of good memories from being on stage and being off stage. I made a podcast every day in 2020, I was pleased with that.

I had a shouting match about the colour of a pepper with an audience member on stage once, I was pleased with that. Seeing my book in Foyles on Tottenham Court Road was a big moment for me. 

CM: Ah, yes, your books. Tell us more about them.
RA: I need to remind myself how fortunate I am/we are to be alive and how incredibly small the chances of us being here are, and I do that to myself through writing and drawing. When I write and draw it makes me look at myself and others and the planet I’ve been born onto – the books are me doing that. Any ideas I’ve had that I liked enough to want to make a record of through writing go into the books. 

CM: How did the pandemic affect your work life? How did you get through it? 
RA: I was due to be going to the Melbourne Comedy Festival for the first time and was meant to be doing my biggest tour yet, but – obviously – all that got cancelled/postponed. I had already made the decision that I was going to do a daily podcast, so most of my time went into that. It was great to have a place where I could put my ideas every day for a year. 

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
RA: I just want to be able to keep making work and keep furnishing my life with experiences I cherish. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after the Festival? 
RA: I’m going on tour in the autumn and in 2023 I’m starting my daily podcast again. 

Rob Auton performed ‘The Crowd Show’ at Assembly George Square at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: www.robauton.co.uk | twitter.com/RobertAuton