Key points from our CoDI info sessions

In January, we held two information sessions for researchers interested in performing at this summer’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. Our show producer, Stephen Wright, and resident MC, Susan Morrison, were there with me (Sarah Anderson), the University-side organiser, to take questions. We also heard from a couple of researchers who’s performed before!

Key points from the session

The Dangerous Idea

By ‘dangerous’, we mean something that will challenge and interest people. This could be something that will inspire visceralemotions, such as capitalism, but could also be something that provokes in a different way, such as the value of romance fiction. We have had very successful shows on both in the past! It’s all about finding the right hook.

Is this stand-up comedy?

No. Most of the shows will have some humour in them, which could come from you but also could come just from the MC, Susan – we’re not expecting you to be a comedian. Your show doesn’t need to be on a funny topic – we’ve had death, cancer, youth crime and terrorism in the past. What you’re aiming for is some emotional colour and variation, as this helps make it entertaining.

Finding your hook

The advice is to start with a bold assertion, even if it’s not your actual belief based on your academic research, to hook people in. This should be at the top of your show description in the Fringe programme. You can then use your show to gradually work back from this, playing devil’s advocate with the audience and introducing evidence.


It is good if you show is relevant to current affairs, but isn’t essential. Also bear in mind that what’s topical now may not be by August. We don’t know, for example, what will be happening with #MeToo by then.

Length of the show

It’s shown as an hour in the programme but, by the time you’ve got in and got out, you really just have 50 minutes.

Show format

The shows are supposed to be a conversation with the audience. Don;t expect to speak for more than 20 minutes and expect for this to end up more like 15. Our record was just 8 minutes before the audience took over!

How many performers?

You and the resident MC, Susan Morrison, are enough. A second performer could work, if it makes sense for your topic, but no more than that. The only exception is the audience – you can invite them up on the stage (as long as you remember to tell them when to sit down again!).


If they make sense for your show, bring them! The more Blue Peter/homemade, the better – it is charming, makes you (a very clever researcher) seem accessible and human, and can bring humour. Make sure you can get it on and off stage quickly, though. We don;t have teams of helpers, lifts or a goods entrance for anything big and heavy! And stay away from anything that needs plugged in.


Don’t use them. End of.

Selling your show

The central marketing – social media and liaison with Edinburgh Fringe – is done by the central team (the University and Fringe teams). As performers, we need YOU to sell your show too! This could include using your own social media, making a short video, letting our central team know your niche audiences in good time so they can help you, or even flyering Fringe beer gardens. This all means that doing the Cabaret is more work than your average talk.


We now know we’re going to be in the New Town Theatre, which is usually the Freemason’s Hall on George Street. We will probably be in the basement again, so will need to look at access for those with limited mobility. This venue is part of the Stand Comedy Club’s Fringe programme, and is locally managed by our producer, Fair Pley.


We are aiming to do two shows again in 2018, but are not yet sure what time of day these will be. We plan to run two shows every day of the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe.

Age suitability

In 2017, daytime shows were advertised at 14+ and evening shows as 18+. However, these are only guides for the audience – there is nothing to stop someone bringing an 8 year-old if they want to (but that is their responsibility, not yours). As long as the content of your show is roughly what is said in your description, it’s up to the audience to make an informed choice.

Next steps

Full information about performing at the 2018 Cabaret is on these pages. Please browse them! Key deadlines coming up are:

  • Thursday 1st March 2018 (5pm): Deadline for submitting draft programme text to
  • Tuesday 6th March 2018 (9.30am-1pm): CoDI bootcamp @The Stand: Writing your programme text – REGISTER HERE
  • Wednesday 21st March 2018 (5pm): Deadline for submitting final programme text and paying registration fee
  • Friday 22nd June 2018 (9.30am-1pm): CoDI bootcamp @ The Stand: Stagecraft – REGISTER HERE