Edinburgh & the Art of Recommendation

I’m writing this the day after returning from my annual trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the hopes that enough of it will still be fresh in my mind.

What always strikes me every year at Edinburgh Fringe is the sheer amount of shows going on. It’s actually really overwhelming, and makes it incredibly difficult to actually work out what to go and see. You could just go and see “famous” comedians (i.e. they’ve done a few stints on Mock the Week or QI), but you’d quickly go bankrupt and besides, where’s the fun in that?

I generally take in one or two bigger names (This year Henning Wehn and Alex Horne – quite possibly the best show I’ve seen), but spend the rest of my time going to stuff pretty much on a whim. But how do I decide whether to watch a show or not.

Of course you can’t move around the city without being handed enough flyers to build a small two-man tent, which vaguely helps with making the decision, but there were more shows I didn’t go to after being flyered, than ones I did.

So why not look at reviews and ratings? Because even if you only look at shows that have 4 stars or more, that only narrows it down to, oh I don’t know, almost every show there!

In the end the decision is usually made by working out what shows are close to me at the time I want to see something, which normally means choosing between a handful of shows. Sometimes this will result in something good, sometimes it won’t.

But there is another way, a better way… a way that I feel is in danger of being lost. I have long held the belief that people don’t recommend things enough anymore.

No wait, maybe they do, but in such a way that it means nothing… generally people (and I’m guilty of this as well) will post generic stuff on social media about how great (a) or (b) is without saying exactly what makes it worth investing some time in.

The art of recommendation is to encourage another person (or other people) to have enough faith in your opinion enough to follow it up. Simply posting “this is great” on Facebook, doesn’t really cut it for me. If you really think something is so good that you want to share it then you must feel strongly enough about it to have reasons.

For example, putting big names aside, the show I would most recommend from Edinburgh this year is Jollyboat. They performed a set of very geeky songs (some parodies but mostly original) which were simultaneously cleverly written and very funny. The songs were catchy, and musically well performed. If you like Flight of the Concords, you’ll love Jollyboat.

Jollyboat – Comedy songs about pirates and computer games

Of course, opinions are like arseholes, but reading that… are you more likely to check them out than if I’d simply written “Everyone should go and see Jollyboat, they’re brilliant”?

When I redesigned this site, I put a Recommendations page to acknowledge people I think are worth at least checking out. I hope I have done the people on the list justice, and I will be adding more as I continue my journey through this life.

2 thoughts on “Edinburgh & the Art of Recommendation

  1. Now! That Phil Cooper (The Musician) is great!
    I always think that photos that show people gurning, open mouthed or ludicrously posed are never accepted as ‘good family snaps’ and yet are commonly used as press shots for funny people! Just a thought! 😀 Glad you had a blast PC! I’m still thinking about the Nachos! 😀 xo

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