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Published on June 24th, 2010 | by Sharilyn Johnson


The More You Know: Standup at Fringes

It’s Fringe Festival season around the globe, with theatre companies, dancers, and – yes – comics puttin’ up shows regardless of their level of talent or experience. Some great, some… not so much.

It can be a great opportunity to catch out of towners who wouldn’t normally hit your local club. Local comics might put together a themed show and create something really unique.

But some of the worst standup I’ve ever seen has been at Fringes.

When I lived in Winnipeg – which battles Edmonton for the largest Fringe in North America – it seemed every year there was a solo standup show produced by a local who I’d never heard of. And I attended every single open mic in that city for about four years, so that’s saying something.

There is nothing more painful than being one of six audience members at a 2pm matinee on the second floor of a pub, watching a 19 year old
struggling though a chunk about masturbation. And realizing there’s still 45 minutes to go of the same guy. Even at amateur nights, you go into it realizing that any pain will be alleviated within four minutes.

The whole idea of attending these festivals is to experiment and take chances seeing things you’re unsure about. But just because it’s a festival, doesn’t mean green performers suddenly have the magical ability to come up with a solid hour. Do some prudent Googling before you buy your tickets. Remember: it’s just as easy for someone to get a Fringe slot as it is to get an open mic slot. Something to chew on.

About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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  • The Colbert Report A-Z

    Third Beat editor Sharilyn Johnson presents the ultimate fan guide to The Colbert Report, available from all major booksellers including amazon.com