Alex Edelman began immersing himself in the Boston comedy scene while still in high school. Edelman matriculated to New York University and graduated to the ever-present omnipotent New York City comedy community. But it wasn’t until he went overseas that he began to find success. First in Israel. And now this summer, most spectacularly, in Edinburgh, where Edelman won the Best Newcomer prize in the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards for his first Edinburgh Fringe show, “Millennial.” (John Kearns won Best Comedy Show for “Shtick” while “Funz and Gamz” won the Fringe’s Panel Prize). Here, in his own words, Edelman offers his advice and perspective on making the grade in Edinburgh.
New York comedians always talk about stage time. How you need stage time to get better. How important stage time is to getting you “seen.” And I’d been playing wonderful clubs in New York like StandUpNY and Eastville Comedy Club and the Comic Strip, but the reason I decided to do the Edinburgh Festival was for the stage time. Over the course of the past month, I’d say I’ve accumulated more than 70 hours of stage time.
Here’s the thing about Edinburgh: it doesn’t matter where you come from, really.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve performed in the cool rooms, or what UK or US circuit comedy clubs you play. It doesn’t matter if you have the TV-ready five minutes packaged to go. It only matters if you can do an hour of sharp and resonant material, if you’re a funny comic, if you’re an original voice. To the panel of judges, and the reviewers watching you, you’re encountered very much the same as the audience that comes to see you, and that’s as someone stood in front of them for an hour. And for those audience members and award recognition and industry attention, you compete against thousands of other shows, many of which have good comedians doing great work. Pre-Edinburgh credits – especially in the States – hardly matter, once you’re there.
Besides me, the US was well represented in comedians like Eddie Pepitone, Tom Rhodes, Al Lubel, Will Franken, and other ‘first-Edinburgh’ newcomers Julian McCullough and Brent Weinbach. I got to see them and perform with them over the course of the month and they all did great.
The big secret of Edinburgh is that it takes a ton of work. You have to get a fresh and cohesive and hour together, and I knew that if I wanted to bring a show, then it’d be important to make sure I had one. The problem, which is that we don’t have a preview system – a series of pre-Edinburgh gigs where comedians do hours to get their show ready – in New York, meant that I took nearly three months to move to the UK to get the show ready. My family, the other comics that I work with, and my US and UK management understood that and supported the move. By the time I did my first show in Edinburgh, I had done my hour about 30 times.
The other thing about doing well in previews is that it built good buzz. Even though credits don’t matter in Edinburgh, word-of-mouth is crucial, so other comedians and press saw that I was getting a strong show ready and when I got into Edinburgh, the show kind of had a reputation.
There are some meetings to take here and some live work performing and hopefully opening for some bigger comics. There are a few more festivals. The show will make a transfer to a nice theatre in London for a bit. But already, the US industry attention — there’s a TON of it if you’re ready and doing a good job, and even before the nomination and the win, a lot of great people had seen me — has lead to some cool stuff back home, I think.