“Our Sneak Peeks shows are different to normal comedy gigs, and we’re very careful to advertise them that way,” says Edinburgh-based comedy promoter Marlene Zwickler.
“They’re more like an actor’s workshop. When you arrive, it doesn’t feel like a normal comedy gig,” she adds.
“The artists are generally rolling out brand-new material, as opposed to work they’ve tried a few times in other places.
“It’s a real safe space for them to come and try out new stuff, literally with their notes on stage.”
Practice makes perfect
In other words, it’s a kind of practice which the audience are allowed to sit in on for a small ticket price; enough to give everyone involved petrol money, says Zwickler. Yet more than that, they’re an integral part of the show – the comedians are here to find out what an audience thinks of their work, as much as their colleagues.
Besides, Zwickler promotes a great roster of comedians. The intended line-up for this weekend, which sees some of them doing work on their material ahead of shows at next month’s Edinburgh Fringe, has veterans Craig Hill, Kai Humphries and Gareth Waugh, alongside relative newcomers Connor Burns and Liam Farrelly.
“It’s usually slicker than you’d expect it to be, with the occasional crash and burn, but it still works out to be fun,” says Zwickler. “They’re always really, really funny, because these are funny people.
“The artists all sit in the room at the same time, and they help each other with script editing,” she adds.
“It’s like a workshop. If you want a comedy show to take a date to, well, unless they’re really into comedy, this probably isn’t for you.
“But if you’re into the nuts and bolts of the art form and you like a laugh which is a bit more casual, it’s really interesting. It’s funny, but it’s also a real insight into how comedians develop stuff.
“There’s no compere, it’s not like that at all. Usually the most senior person introduces it at the start, just to make sure the audience knows what they’re going to get, then they get straight into it.
“There are bottles of water onstage, towels – we don’t quite have a bidet there, but you know…”
Always fresh material
Zwickler has been running these shows since the mid-2000s, in small rooms in towns and cities including St Andrews, Stirling and Kilmarnock.
Her regular audiences there are used to the format, and she hopes Perth adapts quickly to Sneak Peeks’ first visit there.
“Our audiences know it’s all new,” she says.
“Then when Daniel Sloss (another Sneak Peeks regular, who won’t be appearing this time) rolls out his brand new stuff, they know they’re going to see it on tour or on TV at some point later on.
“We go to great lengths to make sure the audience doesn’t come suited and booted for a Saturday night out.
“The artists’ only problem is just to turn up with enough stuff to try out, but they’re not allowed to use old material – maybe once or twice when somebody’s run out of stuff, because the audience wants to be entertained. It’s low-key, but it’s really good value.”
MZA Sneak Peeks! is at Perth Theatre on
Friday July 8 and Saturday July 9. www.horsecross.co.uk