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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Everybody hates the Midlands, and other lessons from YouGov’s latest spurious polling

Dorset, which people like, for some reason. Image: Getty.

Just because you’re paranoid, the old joke runs, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. By the same token: just because I’m an egomaniac, doesn’t mean that YouGov isn’t commissioning polls of upwards of 50,000 people aimed at me, personally.

Seriously, that particular pollster has form for this: almost exactly a year ago, it published the results of a poll about London’s tube network that I’m about 98 per cent certain* was inspired by an argument Stephen Bush and I had been having on Twitter, at least partly on the grounds that it was the sort of thing that muggins here would almost certainly write up. 

And, I did write it up – or, to put it another way, I fell for it. So when, 364 days later, the same pollster produces not one but two polls, ranking Britain’s cities and counties respectively, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that CityMetric and YouGuv are now locked in a co-dependent and potentially abusive relationship.

But never mind that now. What do the polls tell us?

Let’s start with the counties

Everybody loves the West Country

YouGov invited 42,000 people to tell it whether or not they liked England’s 47 ceremonial counties for some reason. The top five, which got good reviews from between 86 and 92 per cent of respondents, were, in order: Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Somerset. That’s England’s four most south westerly counties. And North Yorkshire.

So: almost everyone likes the South West, though whether this is because they associate it with summer holidays or cider or what, the data doesn’t say. Perhaps, given the inclusion of North Yorkshire, people just like countryside. That would seem to be supported by the fact that...


Nobody really likes the metropolitan counties

Greater London was stitched together in 1965. Nine years later, more new counties were created to cover the metropolitan areas of Manchester, Liverpool (Merseyside), Birmingham (the West Midlands), Newcastle (Tyne&Wear), Leeds (West Yorkshire and Sheffield (South Yorkshire). Actually, there were also new counties covering Teesside (Cleveland) and Bristol/Bath (Avon), too, but those have since been scrapped, so let’s ignore them.

Not all of those seven counties still exist in any meaningful governmental sense – but they’re still there for ’ceremonial purposes’, whatever that means. And we now know, thanks to this poll, that – to the first approximation – nobody much likes any of them. The only one to make it into the top half of the ranking is West Yorkshire, which comes 12th (75 per cent approval); South Yorkshire (66 per cent) is next, at 27th. Both of those, it may be significant, have the name of a historic county in their name.

The ones without an ancient identity to fall back on are all clustered near the bottom. Tyne & Wear is 30th out of 47 (64 per cent), Greater London 38th (58 per cent), Merseyside 41st (55 per cent), Greater Manchester 42nd (53 per cent)... Not even half of people like the West Midlands (49 per cent, placing it 44th out of 47). Although it seems to suffer also from the fact that...

Everybody hates the Midlands

Honestly, look at that map:

 

Click to expand.

The three bottom rated counties, are all Midlands ones: Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire – which, hilariously, with just 40 per cent approval, is a full seven points behind its nearest rival, the single biggest drop on the entire table.

What the hell did Bedfordshire ever do to you, England? Honestly, it makes Essex’s 50 per cent approval rate look pretty cheery.

While we’re talking about irrational differences:

There’s trouble brewing in Sussex

West Sussex ranks 21st, with a 71 per cent approval rating. But East Sussex is 29th, at just 65 per cent.

Honestly, what the fuck? Does the existence of Brighton piss people off that much?

Actually, we know it doesn’t because thanks to YouGov we have polling.

No, Brighton does not piss people off that much

Click to expand.

A respectable 18th out of 57, with a 74 per cent approval rating. I guess it could be dragged up by how much everyone loves Hove, but it doesn’t seem that likely.

London is surprisingly popular

Considering how much of the national debate on these things is dedicated to slagging off the capital – and who can blame people, really, given the state of British politics – I’m a bit surprised that London is not only in the top half but the top third. It ranks 22nd, with an approval rating of 73 per cent, higher than any other major city except Edinburgh.

But what people really want is somewhere pretty with a castle or cathedral

Honestly, look at the top 10:

City % who like the city Rank
York 92% 1
Bath 89% 2
Edinburgh 88% 3
Chester 83% 4
Durham 81% 5
Salisbury 80% 6
Truro 80% 7
Canterbury 79% 8
Wells 79% 9
Cambridge 78% 10

These people don’t want cities, they want Christmas cards.

No really, everyone hates the Midlands

Birmingham is the worst-rated big city, coming 47th with an approval rating of just 40 per cent. Leicester, Coventry and Wolverhampton fare even worse.

What did the Midlands ever do to you, Britain?

The least popular city is Bradford, which shows that people are awful

An approval rating of just 23 per cent. Given that Bradford is lovely, and has the best curries in Britain, I’m going to assume that

a) a lot of people haven’t been there, and

b) a lot of people have dodgy views on race relations.

Official city status is stupid

This isn’t something I learned from the polls exactly, but... Ripon? Ely? St David’s? Wells? These aren’t cities, they’re villages with ideas above their station.

By the same token, some places that very obviously should be cities are nowhere to be seen. Reading and Huddersfield are conspicuous by their absence. Middlesbrough and Teesside are nowhere to be seen.

I’ve ranted about this before – honestly, I don’t care if it’s how the queen likes it, it’s stupid. But what really bugs me is that YouGov haven’t even ranked all the official cities. Where’s Chelmsford, the county town of Essex, which attained the dignity of official city status in 2012? Or Perth, which managed at the same time? Or St Asaph, a Welsh village of 3,355 people? Did St Asaph mean nothing to you, YouGov?

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

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*A YouGov employee I met in a pub later confirmed this, and I make a point of always believing things that people tell me in pubs.