Uber’s in-car stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe is the worst idea in the entire history of comedy

Andrew Maxwell entertains some Uber passengers. Image: Uber.

This morning, I was lucky enough to receive not one, not two, but three emails from the same PR company telling me about an exciting new show happening at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Likely knowing I’m such an enormous fan of the festival that made my life a living hell for five summers, I was more than happy to indulge them by reading the press release for what I soon discovered to be the worst idea for a Fringe show this year. This is not a feat that’s easily accomplished.

In partnership with Uber, the release said, otherwise absolutely fine comedian Andrew Maxwell will be performing twelve free 15-minute gigs in the back of an Uber. So, while you’re stuck in traffic in an over-congested city centre full of hundreds of thousands of tourists, you can listen to someone tell you topical jokes that were prepared solely to get money from this brand sponsorship.

This press release, as you may expect, is full of some precious gems and tactics that I’m shocked more PR companies aren’t attempting. Here are five of my favourites, which I’m sure will entice you into getting yourself a ticket to this capitalist charade.

There’s nowhere to hide from what will inevitably be a decidedly average bit of comedy

Let’s start with the actual concept of this show. It’s described as an “intimate” gig with Andrew Maxwell – a candidate for the last phrase I ever want used in relation to a comedy show, along with “four-hour” or “Jeff Dunham”.

That intimacy, it would also appear in the kindly attached photos, will be in the way of Maxwell, in some cases, sitting right next to you, without even the shield of the passenger seat to hide your dissatisfied, discomforted face.


The Regional Manager at Uber literally criticises his overworked, underpaid staff

As if Uber doesn’t shit on its employees enough, Alex Robertson, the company’s regional manager, was quoted in the press release as saying that “Lots of drivers who use our app like to think of themselves as comedians”. In other words, this is him saying, “I know you work hard for little money at a company that’s infamous for limiting its workers’ rights, but please, allow me to use you as the ass end of this joke, which is passive aggressively telling you to shut the fuck up.”

It’s worth noting too that he also refers to his staff as “drivers who use our app” rather than, say, “our drivers” or “the badly paid people who are, in fact, the only way this business can actually fucking run”.

The main press picture shows the Uber driver looking absolutely fucking miserable

Nothing screams, “We are kind to our staff, also please enjoy some hastily prepared jokes” like a photo of a man staring down the camera with a microphone labeled “COMEDY” and a gig-economy worker looking like he’d rather be sat in a literal pile of shit than be anywhere near this guy.

The show will be “cutting-edge observational comedy and acerbic social commentary, with the sights of the Scottish capital”

What better way to view Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument, and Greyfriars Bobby than with the backing track of someone screaming at you about Brexit and laughing at wailing bagpipes into an inexplicable microphone – you’re all in the back of the same fucking car – for a quarter of an hour.  

The one joke, the ONLY JOKE, they’ve included from Andrew Maxwell is pathetically shit

I hope you’re sitting down (as Andrew will be about to tell you!) for this bit of humour that’s meant to sell you on this already deeply uninviting, unsettling comedy set:

“Andrew Maxwell said: ‘The Uber Comedy Car gigs will be just like my stand-up, except, of course, I will be sat down.’”

TWO TIME EDINBURGH AWARD NOMINEE. LIVE AT THE APOLLO. HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU.

Thank you, Andrew, and a bigger thank you, Andrew’s PR team who are presumably the dry, humourless people who decided to put the most shit bit known to man as the one joke to include in this press release. Thank you for this brilliant bit of comedy, the true nail in the coffin in the worst sell for a Fringe show I’ve seen this year.

So, if you’re in Edinburgh over the next three days, you can get yourself a free ticket (honestly, imagine the fucking cheek if they charged) to one of the twelve gigs via the Uber app. And if you go, do tell Andrew Maxwell to thank his PR people who spammed me all morning for bringing this superb bit of comedy to my attention.

Sarah Manavis is digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

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What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.