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Paul Coulter - 5 Mistakes That Changed History Edinburgh Fringe Interview

As part as our Edinburgh Fringe 2024 coverage we are running a series of interviews with artists and creatives that are taking part in the festival. 

In this interview we speak to Paul Coulter about his show 5 Mistakes That Changed History.

Where did your arts career begin?
I began performing improv comedy with a fantastic group of people in Sydney, Australia ten years ago. It started with classes once a week after work but soon we were gigging multiple times a week and putting on our own shows. Several of the group went on to become full-time comics on radio or TV. We’ve all moved into different types of comedy now, but it was a hobby that went too far!

What can you tell me about your show?
5 Mistakes That Changed History is a blend of history, storytelling and comedy. I tell five stories about five people’s mistakes and how they changed history. The show has been a hit on the Australian comedy circuit and sold-out Edinburgh in 2023. This year I am back at Edinburgh with a brand new show, filled with five new historical mistakes that changed the world.
How would you describe the style of the show?
Stylistically it is a combination of History, Storytelling and Comedy. I do an enormous amount of research to make sure that the History is accurate, I choose great stories that captivate audiences and throw in a lot of laughs. It’s like John Oliver meets Horrible Histories for adults.
How have you approached developing the piece?
I start by reading a lot of History and I pick stories from History that really stand out. whittle it down to a shortlist of potential stories and workshop them to see which work.
Distilling complex historical events to 8-10 minutesadding jokes and making it relatable and accessible is a fun challengewhich is why I always believe that half the writing process comes from performing to a live audience. Based on their reactions I am always altering, changing and finetuning the material. 

How do/will you prepare yourself for a run at the Fringe?
I’ve prepared by touring the show around Australia. Not only are the Australian festivals great fun but it’s the best way to finesse and improve a show. We had a great run at Gluttony as part of Adelaide Fringe Festival, which is the second largest arts festival in the world and then at Sydney Comedy Festival. 

Australian touring provides different challenges, in Edinburgh we have to deal with rain, in Australia sometimes the heat can be unbelievable. We had one week where it was over 40 degrees Celsius with no air conditioning backstage - if you can handle that you can handle anything!
Other than the show, what’s something you’re looking forward to doing in Edinburgh this year?
Watching lots of other shows – it’s my favourite thing in the world and I can’t wait. 

What keeps you inspired?
I get inspired by watching other shows and meeting other performers. There are so many artists creating incredible shows at Edinburgh you can’t help but get inspired.

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the show?
I hope that the audience have a laugh and learn some amazing new thingsHistory can often be taught as a boring procession of mind-numbing dates and names, but it’s all about humans so it can be as weird, wonderful and fascinating as the historical characters involved.

Where can audiences see the show?
I’ll be on at Studio Three, Assembly George Square at 16.40 throughout the entire of the festival.

You can follow the show on Instagram at @5mistakesthatchangedhistory

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