The largest arts festival in the world is the biggest it has ever been this year, and some skinny, bitchy New Yorkers are in on the action.
Funny girls Katie Hartman, 25, and Leah Rudick, 26, make up the raunchy sketch comedy duo Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting. They're just two of the record 21,148 people performing in 2,453 different shows at Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe this month. Thirty of those shows were created in New York City, including Nilaja Sun’s acclaimed one-woman piece about public schools (No Child…), an interactive film-noir using iPods (Suspicious Package), the off-Broadway hit Celebrity Autobiography and dozens of works by emerging artists, some with questionable names (Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting).
The three-week-long Fringe, although an institution within the arts world, has a free-for-all feel. It accepts all kinds of performances, from full-fledged plays to puppet shows to stand-up comedy acts. The festival has no artistic director and no vetting process for performers—anybody can put on a show provided they get themselves to Edinburgh and find one of the 259 venues in the area willing to host them. This means that actors and comedians often end up paying thousands of dollars to perform, in hopes of getting inspired and getting discovered. Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry performed at Edinburgh as students. So did many of the Monty Python cast members.
Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting is on its way to the festival for the second year in a row. They’re participating in Peter Buckley Hill’s "Free Fringe," which means they don’t have to pay for their performance venue provided they don’t charge anyone for tickets to the show. (Hill, a comedy songwriter, received the Festival Fringe’s Spirit of the Fringe Award for his work arranging free venues for comedians.)
At last year's Fringe, Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting performed 25 free shows at 11 P.M., slept in a room they think was haunted, ate a lot of haggis and walked away with an offer to act in a TV-show pilot. When they came back to the States, they signed a manager and fielded dozens of offers to perform around NYC. Both women think things wouldn’t have happened as fast for them had they not made the trek to the festival.
“Who knows? Maybe we would’ve just quit comedy in general if we hadn’t gone,” said Hartman.
“I probably just would’ve just gotten knocked up,” said Rudick.
WNYC caught up with Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting the night before they left for Edinburgh.