Adventures in Edinburgh Fringe Flyering

Comedian Ellen Waddell took our flyerer-at-large Emma O'Brien on a jaunt to show us the secret life of flyering

Feature by Emma O'Brien | 25 Aug 2017
  • Ellen Waddell

Three days into the Fringe, a comic noted on Twitter that within three minutes of walking round Edinburgh, you'll see some sick. Yet, with three days to go, the smell of regurgitated vegetarian bratwurst lingers less than the odour of crushed dreams as flyer after flyer is trodden underfoot.

Flyering is part of the full warts-and-all Fringe experience. Intrepid comedian Ellen Waddell is flyering for her second solo show It’s Better To Lie Than To Tell The Truth And End Up Alone In A Ditch Crying. It's a free show, has a mouth-dryingly long title and the leaflets are bright pink – this flyering lark will be a doddle, right?

Tagging along with Ellen to flyer outside her own venue, The Cellar Monkey, our start proved largely fruitless. Though she did managed to tempt a few stragglers through the door at the last minute, it is a location bang in the middle of a residential area. Nobody wants to be accosted.

Although this was a victory compared to night flyering at The City Cafe. The rationale of going there was to 'exit flyer' a popular show (in this case Mae Martin's Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated hour). But the experience can be summed up in four words: Everybody Wants You Dead. Not even the sincerest smile, amazing sequin shorts and Converse combo could charm a response there. Then again, due to the massage parlour across the street, it's fairly understandable that a bored looking woman in sequins could easily be mistaken for a lady of negotiable affections.

A disturbing effect occurs in long-time flyerers. It was at City Cafe we saw a panel show flyerer begging a hug from an American tourist – perhaps because this was the only person to acknowledge his existence in the entire hour.

The safest location for daytime flyering is the less risky zone around Gilded Balloon and Assembly. Not Assembly Gardens though. Oh god help you if you flyer Assembly Gardens. Lots of the big venue flyerers pitch up here, which is good because people anticipate flyering and are less rude. But there are notable exceptions, such as the guy who, after taking Ellen’s flyer, dropped it on the floor right in front of her. Then there was the woman in an Edinburgh Uni hoodie who rode down Potterow on a bike screaming “I wish it was September”.

Practice made perfect though, and out of a nice pitch about how great the Free Festival is, and having spun this gold at several punters, I returned to Ellen triumphant with no flyers left. Only to find that meanwhile she had been approached by another flyerer who decided she “looked sad..." and asked, "Has your boyfriend dumped you? Come and see this, it'll cheer you right up?”

This left us to speculate on the nature of a) Ellen's resting face and b) that guy’s Tinder profile.

We found middle-aged women more receptive to flyering pitches. Though tread carefully if, like Ellen, your show contains a long exchange about spunking in your face (as much as your mum is well up for that). And when the big venue flyerers are flyering each other out of existential despair, it's probably time to go home.

Lessons learned? As much as you may resent someone stepping into your path to talk about interpretive dance when you're on your way back from work, you have to acknowledge the sturdy emotional constitution it takes to do this every day for a month. Be nice. Be gracious. For the love of god, if someone hands you a piece of paper with their face on it, get round the corner before you drop it down a drain. So many dreams in your hands here, guys.

With grateful thanks to Ellen Waddell. 
Ellen Waddell:
It's Better to Lie Than to Tell the Truth and End Up Alone in a Ditch Crying, Laughing Horse at The Cellar Monkey, 7.30pm, until 27 Aug, free