Gareth Richards analyses the power of crowds
The introspective comedian weighs up his chances at the Edinburgh Fringe
This article is from 2012.
In her excellent book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, Susan Cain describes an experiment that shows the dangers of being around other people. 32 volunteers were asked questions about some 3D shapes. When they answered the questions, by themselves, they got them right 86% of the time. When they were placed in a group of people all confidently getting the answer wrong, they only got the question right 59% of the time. Being around people getting it wrong made them more likely to get it wrong.
As a comedian, all this suggests to me a terrifying question: what if the audience is getting it wrong? How can we guard against mistaken audience responses?
The answer is for each of us to make sure our responses are our own and not merely what we feel is expected of us.
When you’re at the Edinburgh Festival, you might come to one of my shows when there’s a buzz before it even starts, when the audience decides to make me their king for the hour, when there is love in the room; or you might come to a quiet one, when people seem bewildered to be there, when it feels like a waiting room, where it seems like there must have been some terrible mistake.
Whichever one you come to (and yes, you’re coming, you are going to come) don’t let those around you decide whether you enjoy the show. They could all be wrong. Decide for yourself.
I understand this may go against me, if you come to a good one and decide it’s rubbish, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. The sound of a person in the dark, against all the odds, irrespective of anyone else, laughing because they found you funny is heroic, and is the greatest sound of the Fringe.
Gareth Richards: Introvert: Never been to Disneyland, Pleasance, 0131 556 6550, until 27 Aug, 9.30pm.