Portsmouth comedian James Alderson spills all on the highs and the lows of Edinburgh Fringe

Comedian James Alderson from Waterlooville
Comedian James Alderson from Waterlooville
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James Alderson is a familiar face on the comedy circuit and has been making people laugh as a stand-up comedian for almost a decade. 

Last month the 44-year-old from Waterlooville, took his show, Bring Back The 80s, to the Edinburgh Fringe which turned out to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions – even for a seasoned performer like James. 

James Alderson with his wife and children

James Alderson with his wife and children

Through the highs and the lows it was his family, who were 400 miles away, who kept him grounded. Here he reveals how it went: 

‘Making the decision to take my brand new stand-up comedy show up to Edinburgh was a difficult one.

‘I’ve been doing stand-up for nine years this autumn and while I’ve been to Edinburgh three times before for the festival, I’d never done a full run of the whole month away from my wife Charlotte, and children Louis and Joe, who have supported me so much during this rollercoaster of making my way in the comedy world. 

‘When the idea came to write a show about the 80s and how my childhood compared to my sons’ childhoods, it almost wrote itself.

‘That was back in spring 2018, and since that time the media seemed to fill with nostalgia and 80s-themed shows and products.

‘It got more and more exciting writing the show and previewing it at all the festivals around the country, ahead of the big Edinburgh Festival in August. 

‘As a comedian, it actually costs thousands of pounds to take your show to the festival.

‘We pay extortionate amounts for accommodation, the design of our leaflets, posters and printing, the hire of the venue and staff, and so much more.

‘It’s effectively a trade show for comedians pitching our jokes and shows to audiences and the industry, hoping to gain interest. 

‘With a tour across Hampshire happening later in the year it was the chance to perform, tighten, perfect and sometimes rewrite the show every night for 21 nights in a row to hundreds of people. It worked.

‘For the first few nights while I was still getting to grips with the content of the show I fumbled through jokes, forgot bits, and sometimes even mechanically performed the show like it was a wedding speech.

‘Slowly but surely though, it was set in stone in my mind and I started to play with the format, develop the jokes, and add some new ideas and strip out the rubbish that was simply not worth keeping in. 

‘A few audience reviews stung and criticised my show early on, but it really did the trick.

‘It made me sit up and take stock, but at times being away from my family really made me wonder what I was doing. Had I made a mistake thinking this show was worthy?

‘Why were these audience members feeling so negative about the show? I FaceTimed my family every day, and updated them on my show and what I had been up to, and they sent me photos and clips every day too.

‘The wonders of technology, eh? It made me feel a little more connected to them but more than 400 miles apart still left me a little isolated, especially when emotions about the show were running high in the early stages.

‘Edinburgh is such a vibrant city and coming out from a bad show to bustling streets is such a clash of emotions. Luckily, after hard work and rethinking, almost all the shows after the first week absolutely rocked.

‘My wife gave me much needed advice and reassurance along the way and I kept creative and made my show something I am so proud of. Even my 12-year-old gave me some solid level-headed feedback.

‘Amazingly it really did open my mind to the reality of what I was doing. 

‘For the last few weeks I was getting amazing feedback and it blew my mind.

‘What a contrast to the first week of shows where people found it hard to look me in the eyes after the show, and here I was getting reviews that most could only dream of.

‘That’s really what comedy is all about. You keep working on your jokes and don’t give up.

‘But, more than anything, you turn to your close friends and family for support and know that this job is a real rollercoaster.

‘From one minute to the next the show can turn from a stern-faced audience member to someone crying with laughter and someone falling off their chair in stitches – as happened in show 10!

‘Being a comedian is such a solitary job.

‘In the wings and on stage on your own and travelling on your own and staying places on your own.

‘Without family and close loved ones, it’s easy to become obsessed with material that is rubbish or – even worse –  believe you are hilarious.

‘Loved ones keep you grounded and also keep you focussed on why you are doing it all.

‘That is so important when you’re in a strange city surrounded by thousands of other comedians all vying for audiences and their praise. 

‘I’m back now and looking forward to touring in Havant, Fareham, Portsmouth and Southampton and hosting my own clubs in Horndean and Portsmouth.

‘Making people laugh and laughing with them is the best job in the world, and now having a show that I’m proud of that really does touch the nostalgic funny bones of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s is such a joy.

‘Who knows, maybe some will bring their children, and families so they can learn what life used to be about.’

Keep up to date with James’s latest shows by heading to

jamesalderson.net.