See Edinburgh Fringe without leaving L.A.: Where local comics are testing their festival acts


Around 11 a.m. on a recent Saturday, the first of five work-in-progress comedy shows began to unfold onstage at the Elysian Theater. The audience was encouraged to provide feedback. And between the five hourlong productions, bagpipe music filled the Echo Park space.

For performers Sarina Freda, Natasha Mercado, Charlie James, Miles Woods and Griffin Kelly, this “Edinburgh Fringe Percolator” was a chance to test material before they journey to the famed Fringe festival in August. For Los Angeles audiences, it’s an opportunity to experience the Fringe without actually traveling to Scotland.

The annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe is billed as the largest performing arts gathering on Earth, with tens of thousands of performances held in about 250 venues across the entire month. Before the talent arrives for the spotlights, they’re often refining their work — in L.A., that’s in places such as the Comedy Store in Hollywood, the nearby Kookaburra Lounge in the Ovation complex or the Lyric Hyperion in Silver Lake.

The 2-year-old Elysian Theater is trying to establish itself as an Edinburgh artists community, a spot to share ideas, via its Frogtown home and its Facebook group. The nonprofit is hosting Edinburgh run-throughs of Rachel Kaly’s mental-illness-minded “Hospital Hour” on July 15 and “Demi Adejuyigbe Is Going to Do One (1) Backflip” on July 14 and 16. Natalie Palamides is scheduled to perform her Edinburgh-bound “Weer” five times this month. “Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note,” part of the 2023 Fringe, gets revived by Ash on Tuesday.

Toni Nagy presented “Grape Culture” with Sarah Buckner five times at the unrelated Hollywood Fringe Festival in June in preparation for her Edinburgh debut. Nagy will have a second title in next month’s festival, the cathartic parenting journey “Go to Your Womb,” in which she stars with her daughter, Adelia Aldrich.

“I’ve had to take an unconventional approach to my career because everything I make tends to push against the status quo,” Nagy said. “Bringing two shows to my virgin Edinburgh Fringe may seem like a bold move, but … they complement each other thematically, and if I can get through rehearsing and performing with my 13-year-old daughter, I can do anything.”

Jay Light’s vagabond “Wrong! A Dark Comedy Game Show” started at Alamo Drafthouse in Los Angeles and went on to tour in New York, Chicago and Austin, Texas, before settling in the Comedy Store in October. Three comics compete in committing “cancel-able offenses” and making “questionable decisions” in the show, which plays July 22 in the Comedy Store’s Belly Room before it moves to Edinburgh.

At the Ovation complex, formerly known as Hollywood & Highland, Fielding Edlow’s “Gaslighting Is My Love Language” promises “a brutally honest, unapologetically explicit, and immensely entertaining hour of comedy” July 25 in the Kookaburra Lounge.

A crop of Edinburgh shows also in previewing at the Lyric Hyperion, including Natasha Mercado’s “#1 Son” on Saturday, Milanka Brooks’ “Mum and I Don’t Talk Anymore” on Monday, Kym Priess’ “Loser Lion Party Bus” and Jackie Skinner’s “Beautiful Night” on Tuesday, Catherine McCafferty’s “(Not) That Bad” on Wednesday and Alex Kern’s “Thank You So Much for Coming” July 13.

Kyle Ayers brings his “Hard to Say” back to the Lyric Hyperion on July 22. The show centers on Ayers’ trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain disorder, so the comedian’s goals in Edinburgh feel as personal as they are professional.

“I’m most looking forward to just the supreme chaos of it all,” Ayers said. “I will be well outside of my comfort zone. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before, and I am trying to embrace that aspect. I want to see shows I never thought I’d see, meet people I never figured I’d meet, and perform for people who otherwise may never see my show.”

The Elysian runs workshops and discussions for confirmed Edinburgh talent and the “Fringe-curious” alike. “Opening night is important,” Kelly cautioned at one Saturday session, noting that early reviews carry weight. But the pressure persists, as comedy gatekeepers and tastemakers can pop up at any point in the marathon of nightly sets.

Naked Comedy producer Sam Varela said one trend is crowdfunding. “This year everyone is just more broke,” she says, citing the Hollywood labor strikes and dearth of jobs.

So much time and effort goes into making an Edinburgh show a success. For L.A. audiences, previewing the work provides a glimpse of that process.

“The first time I did Fringe, it really made me appreciate and understand the DIY comedy approach that has exploded in the last few years,” Light says, noting the collective development that was required to get his show to the stage, “It took two years to make it good enough in front of a crowd as it was on paper.”



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