What’s The Best Music To Walk On To? Edinburgh Fringe Comedians Have Their Say
The legendary Edinburgh Festival Fringe is upon us. The biggest arts festival in the whole entire world has been running for nearly 70 years and attracts around two million punters during the month of August. Every type of art form is available; circus performers, jazz bands, drag acts, mime and a quite a lot of student performances of Shakespeare.
But for a significant number of tourists, there is one reason alone to hit the streets of Scotland’s capital and that’s to see comedy. Thousands of acts will fill any public place they can and some where they shouldn’t, over the next four gruelling weeks of the Fringe. Most of these acts will lose money, their own self-esteem and will leave doubting why they ever considered a career in comedy. So why do so many do it? The chance of mass exposure. Many of the award-winning acts and nominees will be offered TV work, tours abroad and see their star shine (Sophie Duker, James Acaster and Spencer Jones have all flourished from being nominated in recent years). Fame obviously isn’t the only reason to chance the festival. It allows comedians to create an hour long show and have the chance to express themselves, outside of the small time slots on the comedy club circuit. Not forgetting the chance to go and be amongst their fellow colleagues rather than driving home alone, with only a Greggs’ for company on the way back from a club night in Grimsby.
To explain the festival to anyone who hasn’t been is nearly impossible. But spending five days running around venue to venue, constantly battling the higgledy-piggledy streets of Edinburgh is a rush. Discovering some of the most amazing acts, out of the 3,000 shows on offer, is a simple joy. OK, there is the frustration of returning home from the Fringe and on explaining to your friends and loved ones of the amazing acts you saw, they may not have not heard of any of them and ask if you had seen Michael McIntyre or Romesh Ranganathan. Maybe not, but their eyes will light up when they hear you can see the likes of Jayde Adams , John Robins and even Dave Benson Philips in an intimate venue. The question is though, what goes through the artist’s minds when they are backstage in the minutes before they are due to perform. How are they going to make that big entrance and get the crowd ready to “strap in” for an hour’s comedy?
RGM asked a host of comedians of Edinburgh Fringe past and present, which music they use to walk on to and for heaven’s sake why?… This is what they had to say.
“So, this show is about the last year of my life and all the hilarious tragedies. My musical taste is that of a hipster asshole. Sun Ra, in the morning on purpose. Tinariwen a nomadic band from I believe the Sahara was a big hit in 2022. Right now I am on a big Grateful Dead kick, like different live jam versions of the same song. So to get pre show and walk on music I basically have to negotiate what I think is awesome vs what people actually will or want to listen to while awaiting my “art”. I want to walk onto something fun. “A good beat. The kids can dance too in other words.” I think it will be Fugazi waiting room or Roky Erickson 2 headed dog. Soft easy for when they are settling. Unnecessary rock star to walk out! “
“I walk on to a mash-up of Hail to The Chief, the official anthem of the President of the United States, and Happy Birthday, which was famously sung by Marilyn Monroe to JFK in 1962. She sang it in the dress that Kim K wore to the Met Gala. I guess technically I sing my own walk-on music because I start the show with a recreation of that performance. Yes, I know, impressive. For the record, the song I play in my Airpods to get hyped right before I walk on is You! Me! Dancing! by Los Campesinos! If you come to see my show just imagine Marilyn Monroe throwing elbows in a pit right before she walks out onstage.”
“I’m making a comedy show this year which is pretty much the opposite of most shows I’ve made before, in that it is, at -least initially, unabashedly high-status. Most shows I’ve made have played off a sort of quirky-oddball-energy that comes from my position as a fairly low-status, non-threatening performer, but this year I’m exploring a lot of stuff about ego and control that means my persona onstage is that of a shameless, brazen, megalomaniac magician. So it was clear that something incredibly cheesy, brash, high-status and dumb was needed. Of course (and I say this with the utmost respect to them, I absolutely love the guys), music gets no cheesier or dumber than AC/DC. “Thunderstruck” is the obvious choice for cheesy rockstar entrance music but I think it’s been used a lot, so I’ve gone for “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)” because it still has the big, dramatic build-up but it’s maybe slightly less overplayed.
Of course, because I am who I am, the show actually works to undo a lot of the high status cheese that this persona has built around himself, so the AC/DC track sets an expectation that the rest of the show then has fun unpicking, but it sets it really well. In previous shows I’ve tended to use walk-on music that supports my own energy as a comedian, in that I’ve chosen wilfully obscure, slightly confusing stuff like looping elevator music or a children’s glockenspiel version of “Candle In The Wind.” This is the first year where I’ve consciously chosen walk-on music that will have a direct emotional impact on the audience that I can then have some fun playing around with.”
“As a musical comic, I probably take walk-on music a bit more seriously than I should. My 2022 show “Is It A Bird?” has a loose “superhero” theme, so I wanted something on-brand. It might feel obvious to pick a “funny song” to open a comedy show but that’s actually counterintuitive – because a “funny” song can often end up fighting the tone of your show. Instead, consider choosing a serious/earnest track. That way, your comedy will standout against the pomposity of your selection. For example, I was toying with Lazlo Bane’s “I’m No Superman” (best known as the Scrubs theme-tune) before landing on the more contemporary “Something Just Like This” (Coldplay feat. Chainsmokers) for its ‘aspirational’ qualities – while staying lyrically on-theme. Note to performers: whatever you choose, make sure you have your opening music prepared in every conceivable format (not every venue has good Wi-Fi, a disc drive, the right iPod cables, etc). Happy walking-on!”
“My walk-on music is a cover of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy by the Vitamin String Quartet. It was part of the Bridgerton soundtrack, and it makes me feel so sexy! And when I feel sexy, I look funny. I play a character called “Lord Christian Brighty”, who is a total bastard. Bad Guy is an understatement. So I think it’s only fair to wave a big red flag in my audience’s face before they fall in love with him. But despite my best efforts, they always do. Always”
“If I ever get to choose music for anything I will no doubt go for booty house every time. My thinking is just: always go hard on a vibe. I hate nothing more than easy pop listening. I mean, I understand the natural impulse to stick to something safe with broad appeal thus setting the tone for a welcoming night of comedy. But come on, pick a side. Look, I’m not even into it, BUT if someone was to throw on some aggressive screamo before a gig…yes I would hate it, but I would respect it. I may have once (twice) taken this too far when I asked for ‘ass-n-titties’ by DJ Assault as my walk on music- because the singalong I tried to initiate when I eventually got to the stage didn’t fully work out. Which is weird, because it’s really not hard to learn the words. It’s literally ‘ass, titties, ass and titties, ass ass, titties titties, ass and titties.’ Keep up. I’ve now settled on ‘Seasons’ by Six Foe. Same feel, slightly less ass and titties, all the hype.”
“Yes sir I can boogie, The Fratellis. They’re great and he smashes that. Sets the mood. And you can come on at any time. Save the last 1/3 of the song for the end of show walk off to cheering. Uplifting whilst also being totally cheeky silly and funny. Plus it’s Scotland. So everyone can boogie or could boogie better. But you feel to boogie.”
“The music I have chosen for my walk on music this year is what I like to call ‘Fanny Waxy’ music more commonly known as meditation music or whales singing to wind chimes! The song is called ‘Ganesh Invocation’ by Shantala and it may seem like a strange choice for the start of a comedy show but don’t worry it comes with a gag and it is one of the songs I listened to while at my Ayuascha retreat so I think it’s necessary for people to understand the mood of that experience I am sharing with them! My Exit music will be Pink’s ‘Don’t let me get me’ from her 2001 Missundaztood album so I am working backwards using the music I am listening to now at 32 to figure out the world versus at the tender age of 12! When in doubt my go to is a bit of Lizzo for some pre show listening or walk on music she will make me feel sassy and gives me confidence that I can usually only find at the end of a vodka bottle!”
“This year’s show looks like I may come on to Connection; by Elastica. Just love the way it growls with those filthy big guitars. The bit at the start before it kicks in is almost deliberately flimsy so that you underestimate quite how naughty the drop is going to be! Just gets me pumped. I first heard it on Trigger Happy TV in the late 90’s which is where I found a lot of music. The soundtrack was packed full of forlorn indie gems that made the show feel more like a sad play about an outsider lost in a world he didn’t understand than a prankster shouting into big a phone or dressed as a snail slithering across a zebra crossing!”
“My walk-on music has always been Taylor Swift – and although this year I am performing my debut hour, it is important to note that my use of walk-on music dates back to before I even started comedy. In my head, or at least through my headphones, there has walk on music every time I have entered a new room. Taylor Swift has always privately provided the walk-into-a-new-space-and-pretend-I-am-the-main-character soundtrack to my life – her music is played for my walk to my bus, my walk onto my bus, my sitting on the bus starring out the window (preferably while raining), and my walk off the bus to wherever I was going (presumably to sit somewhere and listen to Taylor Swift). Now that I get to have actual walk-on music that other people can hear, it was just a matter of choosing which of her songs to go with. My show is called ‘Just A Normal Girl Who Enjoys Revenge’ and is essentially me spending an hour reading off a list of everyone who has wronged me in the past. For this reason, I thought it would be frankly foolish to look past the very inspiration for my show – the song “Look What You Made Me Do” – a song in which Taylor Swift says she’s “got a list of names and yours is in red underlined.”
“My show is called You Could Have It So Much Better which is taken from the Franz Ferdinand album/song of the same name. I really got into them again during the lockdowns, this album particularly I played to death but the show isn’t about the band or their music. I just loved the title. and it’s upbeat and gets everyone buzzing as you walk on. We really could have it so much better if we only tried to work together but for some reason, everyone seems to put themselves first, more so since the lockdowns it feels. The show doesn’t really have a theme. It’s just an hour of comedy and that’s it. No hidden message, no drawing attention to any worthy cause. It’s just an hour of your life where you’ll forget about all the shit around you and lose yourself in pure, all consuming laughter. “
“This year, I’m doing my debut stand-up hour Chelsea Birkby: No More Mr Nice Chelsea. Reviewers have always often called me sweet and innocent, but forget it!!! Now I’m trying to embrace my bad side and be openly hostile (if that’s okay?). For my walk-on song, I’m gonna play Fat Joe’s ‘What’s Luv’. Offspring’s ‘Want you Bad’ (playing as the audience enter) fades out, I shout ‘ARE YOU READY FOR A SHOW?”, the audience (usually) reply “yes/woo/cheerful noise”, then volume up and on comes Joe saying put the f**kin mic on” and someone (his sad tech?) says “mic is on” and the music kicks in with Ashanti’s dulcet tones. It gets a laugh and then there’s a banger to get me to stage! Plus the show starts in the early 00s when I first learned how to be lovely, so it’s thematically on point. Thanks Fat Joe!”
“It’s important to make the music enjoyable for the audience and fit the show. If it was just down to what I’d like to listen to I’d walk on to Nine Inch Nails every night, but I don’t want to scare anyone away before I start telling jokes. This year, my show is about how my family are all from different countries, (Spain, Morocco, Ireland, and Wales), so I try to include a bit of flavour from each country in the playlist before the show.
Libre by Nino Bravo is one of the greatest songs ever written, so that’s definitely going in, but most likely the late 90’s pop-rock cover as it’s a bit more upbeat. I’ve been hanging out with a new band called The Trawlermen who play a bunch of Irish Folk songs, so I’m going to try and get them to record Whiskey In The Jar for me. I don’t have a Moroccan tune yet, so I need to do some research. I usually walk on to something a little heavier from a Welsh rock band, most likely songs by Buffalo Summer and Hazmat.
I’ve had a fair few fun drunken nights with Buffalo Summer drummer, Gareth, in The Duke; which is a legendary dive bar in Neath, where the band are from. It feels good to walk out to something loud and exciting, grab the audience’s attention right away; it makes the show feel like an event, rather than a regular comedy night in a function room of a pub. Hazmat are a band from Wrexham that are just blasting great grungy stuff out right now.