Comedians Who Got Started At The Edinburgh Fringe by Georgina Rowe

There are so many comedians who are household names in the UK, and it’s almost hard to remember a time when they weren’t. Did you know that some of this country’s biggest comedy superstars, began their careers after appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe? We thought we’d take a look at some our favourites.

This list begins with the comedy royalty that is John Cleese. The ‘Monty Python’ star began his whopping 51 year career with ‘A Clump of Plinths’, which was so popular at the Fringe that it was renamed ‘Cambridge Circus’ and taken to the West End. This step forwards in his comedy career led to writing for TV including ‘The Frost Report’, which is where he first met his eventual ‘Monty Python’ co-stars and collaborators.

Next comes Stephen Fry, the man we all love (well, the large majority of us anyway). Known for everything bar the kitchen sink (including ‘QI’, ‘Blackadder’, ‘Jeeves & Wooster’, etc), Fry first came into the spotlight when performing alongside Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie in The Cambridge Footlights at the 1981 Edinburgh Fringe. This was then televised in 1982 and the rest, as they say, is history…

Musical-comedy rockstar Bill Bailey was unheard of before his 1994 Fringe debut, but when his 1995 tour ‘Cosmic Jam’ went viral (with Channel 4 showing it on the telly and then releasing it on DVD) he managed to make a name for himself. He’s since been on 10 more tours (including one recorded at the Edinburgh Fringe itself), and appeared on ‘QI’ 34 times (the most guest appearances by any guest!).

Sarah Millican, the chatty lass from up north, also (believe it or not) started off at the Fringe. Winning the Best Newcomer award in 2008 propelled her into the limelight, appearing in guest spots on TV panel shows and scoring her own comedy radio show in 2010 called ‘Sarah Millican’s Support Group’. By March 2010 Sarah had become fully viral with her own TV chat show ‘The Sarah Millican Television Programme’, which still airs today.

Another name which we’ve come to know and love is that of Jack Whitehall, the posh toff in that show about students (‘Fresh Meat’ if you didn’t know). He was nominated for the 2009 Best Newcomer award and whilst he didn’t strictly start off at the Edinburgh Fringe, that’s where his comedy career really kicked off. He appeared as a guest on multiple panel shows (like ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’ and ‘Live at the Apollo’) before landing a spot on a TV comedy, ‘Bad Education’, starring as the teacher who is “a bigger kid than the kids he teaches”.

So are there any comedians on this list that you didn’t expect? Are there any that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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