Caro Meets Festivals Interview

Tiernan Douieb: Phoenix Fringe

By | Published on Thursday 30 July 2015

It’s that time of year again. Yes, Phoenix Fringe, the comedy fringe festival that’s perfect for Londoners who don’t want to go to Edinburgh, is back for a ten day extravaganza of super stand up.

Tiernan Douieb

To find out more about what’s happening this time, I spoke to that nice Tiernan Douieb, festival organiser, about Phoenix Fringe, but also a bit about his own show and plans for the future.

CM: For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about why Phoenix Fringe began, and who is behind it? What inspired its creation?
TD: It was created by Tiffany Stevenson after she decided that just because she and other acts didn’t want to go to Edinburgh that year, that we shouldn’t be able to have a fringe of our own. One where you can actually try new ideas and which is both affordable for the act and the performer. And thus, the Phoenix Fringe was born in 2013!

CM: When it began, did you expect it to be a one-off, or was there always a plan to bring it back each year? Do you expect it to continue?
TD: We had no idea it’d sell so well! Our first year did have Russell Howard on, who we knew would sell out, but the audiences were so supportive of everyone. We sold a day ticket for £20 to see all shows on that date and everyone that bought one would come to all three shows so no one was left without a healthy sized crowd.

CM: Can you give us an idea of the range of acts performing this year? Are many of them also headed to Edinburgh, or is this very much an alternative to that?
TD: We don’t usually have acts that are going to Edinburgh but due to the Fringe starting later this year we decided we’d let some of those acts do the first few days of the Phoenix Fringe. We’ve been quite picky though! There’s a very wide range of acts, from Milton Jones, Kerry Godliman, Ardal O’Hanlon all the way to Gareth Richards, who lost his free fringe venue in Edinburgh so now isn’t going, some of Norway’s best comics and Lady Carol, who’ll be serenading the crowds with her unique vocal style.

CM: It’s probably an impossible question to ask you, but what would you name as the highlights of this year’s Phoenix Fringe?
TD: Ok, this is hugely biased as I’m on that night too, but Sunday August 2nd, after me, has Andrew Maxwell and then Nick Helm and that is a ridiculously good evening of comedy. I’ll be watching all of that, definitely.

CM: Are you appearing in the line up yourself?
TD: Yep, see above! My show is an Edinburgh preview and it’s on 2 August at 5.30pm. It’ll be the last one I do before I go to the Edinburgh Fringe.

CM: Will there be another winter event this year? Can you envisage further expansion for the ‘brand’?
TD: I’m sure there will be. People need a laugh in February and it’s useful for acts to try out new stuff before Melbourne Comedy Festival. Not sure if we can fit more than that in a year, though, and we wouldn’t want to tire our audience out!

CM: As you have said, you are taking a show to Edinburgh again this year. Yet you previously seemed pretty disillusioned with the Festival – what made you decide to keep going?
TD: Thanks to co-running Comedy Club 4 Kids and doing my show on the Free Fringe I can make the festival actually affordable now, which is a big difference to when I went in 2011. I did a half run on the Free Fringe last year and realised how much less stress there is when you aren’t worrying about getting enough audience to pay back all the hefty bills. Also, I’m looking at using the Fringe differently now. What I hope to do over the month is make my new show really polished so that I can take it on a mini-tour and to other comedy festivals after August. I’ve realised it’s pointless to pretend that the Edinburgh Fringe can do more for you than that when you’re one in 2500 shows a day, and there are few other places you can do a show everyday for a month and really hone it.

CM: You seem to be having a rather successful Twitter career (ie, you always seem to get featured in these round up articles about the funniest tweets about ). Is there a secret to your success?
TD: Erm, I think it’s just relentless tweeting! I’m horribly addicted to it and wish I wasn’t! I do make a point of trying to tweet a lot of jokes rather than endless promotion. Although this week it’s been all about the Phoenix Fringe so I have been losing a few easily irritated followers!

CM: Can you tell us about your video ‘This Isn’t For You’?
TD: It’s a filmed version of my last solo show, which I toured around the UK and did a half run at the Edinburgh Fringe with. I sort of realised that in this age of self created content, I didn’t need to wait around for a DVD deal that would probably not come anyway. So a friend of mine, the very talented Ben Hilton, offered to film my show properly, on 4 cameras and in a dingy proper comedy club basement in London to a lovely crowd. I hate seeing footage of myself but I’m really proud of that and it’s sold okay for just £1.99 a download! Hopefully I’ll be able to do it for my next show too.

CM: What’s next for you?Any new projects in the pipeline?
TD: Gotta get this new show finished first, and then I’m going to hopefully be taking that around the country a bit. Other than that, I think I’ll take a little break post Edinburgh and try and write a short film idea I’ve had in my head for a year. I’m also still determined to get my Partly Political Broadcast videos up and running again if I can. There’s a little post it note program on my laptop that has a list of things I’ve been intending to work on for a while so I’m going to aim to make it shorter and get them done! I say that , but I’ll probably just end up tweeting a lot instead.

Phoenix Fringe runs until 8 August. See this page here for a list of events and visit Tiernan’s website to buy his video.

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