My Edinburgh Fringe moment

By Peter Rosengard, September 13, 2013
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Four weeks ago I woke up and thought I’d do a one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe. This was an unusual thought because I’m a life insurance salesman in London.

I rang William Burdett-Coutts, who has been “The Fringe” for over 30 years.

“Will, what you need is a bit of glamour and excitement. You need a show starring a life insurance salesman.”

“Peter, you’re right, we are somewhat lacking in the ‘life insurance salesmen’ department this year.”

Maybe he didn’t use those exact words. But I knew what he meant.

“Actually, we can squeeze you in for one night on August 20.”

“Is there much competition?”

“Not really, apart from the other 2,000 shows on at the same time.”

“I’ll have 5000 flyers printed: ‘Buy a policy during the show and I’ll give you your money back.’ How many people does the venue hold?” I asked.

“125.”

On August 17 I took the midnight sleeper to Edinburgh. The last time I’d taken it was 12 years ago when Lily was five and I’d promised her the top bunk. She cried when she saw our cabin had only two beds, both on the floor. I had to tip the cabin attendant a tenner to get us a downgrade to second class, where they still had bunk beds.

For two days I walked up and down the High Street handing out flyers, along with 2,000 other flyer-hander-outers for the other 2,000 shows. On the morning of the show I rang the box office to check on ticket sales. “How many have we sold?”

“Four.”

“Four! Are you sure?”

“Hang on, I’ll double check,” he said. “Sorry. Three.”

“How are the ticket sales going?” my friend asked later.

“We’ve only got 122 seats left,” I said. We had just four hours to go before I was due on stage. Picking up our last 300 flyers I charged into the crowds.

At 6.15 I turned the corner to the venue. I was greeted by one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen: a queue. There must have been 70 people standing in the pouring rain. I ran over: “The Adventures of a Life Insurance Salesman”?

They nodded. “How did you get them here?” asked my friend.

“I bought up all the tickets and told them it was a secret one-off show to which they were invited. The ones in kimonos are Korean dancers. Do you think they’ll like Woody Allen-type humour?”

I came shyly on stage in suit and tie as a depressed motivational speaker. After 20 seconds, I suddenly started dancing crazily to the club dance anthem Hey Ya! by OutKast. The audience went crazy!

I turned to the packed room.

“And they said a life insurance salesman couldn’t pack this place out!” I shouted. Amazingly they laughed and kept on laughing. Nobody walked out.

Last updated: 10:45am, September 13 2013