EARL OKIN'S 500th FRINGE SHOW!!!

(and farewell to The Edinburgh Fringe)

AUGUST, 2000.


EARL OKIN reached his unprecedented FIVE HUNDREDTH (he's in the Guinness Book Of Records) performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the millenium year, 2000. To reach this figure, he began with a modest single week's run in 1983. Bitten by the Edinburgh 'bug', he has returned every single year since, averaging over 30 performances per Festival for the last few years. He will reach his 500th performance toward the end of his year 2000 Edinburgh Festival. He says it will be his last.

Who knows...He may make a return visit one day but, certainly, this will be the end of a magnificent 18 year run.

Here is a short list of Edinburgh press-quotes about Earl.

(For his last review and the short Scotsman article written by Earl explaining why he no longer wishes to participate in the Edinburgh Fringe, despite continually selling out this year, please go to the bottom of this page.)


Meanwhile, here are all the 18 covers of all the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Official Programmes that have contained listings of Earl's shows. Truly, the year 2000 will mark the end of an era. If you're reading this before August 2000, make sure you don't miss seeing Earl Okin at The Edinburgh Fringe!

1983...........................................................1984

1985.....................................................1986

1987........................................................1988

1989..........................................................1990

1991............................................................1992

1993......................................................1994

1995.......................................................1996

1997..........................................................1998

1999.....................................................2000


AND NOW THE FINAL REVIEW.
THE SCOTSMAN.

OLD HORNY MOUTH SAYS GOODBYE

This is Okin's final year at The Fringe. As a treat for his audiences, he is playing a selection of his greatest hits.

For those of you who have never seen him before - and ther can be precious few in this category - his act is made up of some gentle banter and songs. Lyrically dripping in irony, the tunes are cut from the cloth of Jazz, Blues and even Country, delivered by Okin's honey of a voice.

As the show ended and the fans yelled for an encore, Okin declined, saying, with a twinkly in his eye; 'I'd love to do some more, but that's all that I know.'

It's the end of an era.
Some years ago, Earl Okin was among the first recipients of Mervyn Stutter's Spirit of The Fringe awards (see elsewhere on this Website). On the last day of his final Fringe, therefore, it seemed only appropriate that he was now awarded what Mervyn called a 'life-achievement' award, only half tongue-in-cheek. Here it is...


Looking back at this period in my career, (I can now do so with more detachment), I'd like to help those who have been or are contemplating 'doing Edinburgh'. I should have continued being there myself, had it still continued being an enjoyable experience, but, on the Comedy side of things at least, The Fringe lost all of its Fringe joy a good decade ago when it was invaded by cynical and commercial elements, mainly based in London, who saw Edinburgh as a great place for MARKETTING their artists.

The year I last performed at The Fringe, I was invited to write a short valedictory article for The Scotsman. This is what I wrote...

"1983 and I, Fringe virgin, with the wrong show at the wrong venue, managed to turn things around by playing to a guaranteed late-night audience at the late lamented Teviot Row Fringe Club. Overnight, my audience rocketed frrom single-figures to a respectable 128! I crept into profit and got hooked!

Seventeen years on, approaching my 500th performance and always having managed make a profit at Edinburgh, wonderful memories flood back...artistes met, shows enjoyed, hilarious moments witnessed (not to mention an international career forged)...all thanks to The Fringe.

My long-standing success has been due to basics...I provided an unique, high-quality show alerting people to what was on offer by working really hard, doing 5 and 10 minute spots anywhere and everywhere. That's the only way, I found, for TV, Radio and Newspapers are only interested in newcomers and celebrities instead of what they ought to be interested in...quality!

But Fringe Comedy ain't what it was! Following the formation in the early 90s of the 'Big Three' venues...The Pleasance, The Gilded Balloon and the Assembly Rooms...the TV-connected and London-based agencies were quick to invade. They planted a Trade Fair in place of Fringe Comedy and created a two-tier festival through cheque-book promotion. Hype replaced word-of-mouth and comedy audiences now increasingly look for the so-called 'big names'. This is the very world that I came to The Fringe to avoid!

The cosy connections between TV companies and agents has drastically narrowed the range of comedy on The Fringe. Where are the musical-comedians, clowns, physical-comedians, comic jugglers, poets, magicians etc. that used to be on offer? You certainly won't find them on the list of Perrier nominees with only the rarest exception. TV companies only look for stand-up and sketch comedy and so that's what the agencies provide.

Some agents finance marketting costs by risking the money of their artists...never their own!

This exploits their own artists, of-course, but also and simultaneously, puts self-financed artists at an immense disadvantage. They cannot afford to be at the big venues except at least popular times of day and the TV scouts will not be looking for new talent anywhere else, because they are basically too lazy.

The Fringe Board, from which I have just resigned, comprises some 15 members, elected by about 30 members of the Fringe Society...hardly a very democratic system. Yet it is supposed to represent all sides of The Fringe. It really needs people who have a clear understanding and recent first-hand knowledge of the problems facing today's SELF-FUNDED Comedy (as well as other genres) of Fringe performers. They need to recognize the supreme priority of having another Fringe Club where performers can get an audience based on their talent, rather than on advertizing-capital. Most of all, the Fringe Board must now confront the invasion of our beloved Fringe by cynical, self-serving London-based agencies before the canker spreads and destroys other areas of the Edinburgh Fringe apart from comedy.

If they do, then I'll know that tomorrow's Fringers willhave what I have enjoyed for so many years."

Sadly, I have to report that The Fringe Board have done none of the things that they should have done. They care nothing for the 'Ethos Of The Fringe', but only their 'bottom line'. Yes, there's the Free Fringe, but that's a whole other thing. A lower level, you might say.

'Open entry' to The Fringe always used to mean that you could take part however SMALL and POOR you are. It was NEVER meant to mean...however BIG and RICH you are. They have allowed The Fringe to become a sort of Thatcherite Free Market area where the weak go to the wall and the richest soak up increasingly more of the profits; increasing percentages of the Fringe audience attending shows at just 3 out of over 100 possible venues. The Fringe Board could and should have done things to level the playing field, but they haven't...in my opinion, a gross dereliction of duty...

Nevertheless, there will always be newcomers who will want to test themselves at The Fringe and...the FIRST year, the reviewers will take notice. BUT, the SECOND year, they'll be old news. THAT's the time when maybe you'll need help.

So, if you do, just e-mail me at...

spats@spats.demon.co.uk

...and I'll do what I can to give you the best advice that I can...


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