Fake News at Edinburgh Fringe 2019: atrociously poor hack-job of a show

Fake News really annoyed me.

It annoyed me because I’ve now seen about thirty shows on the Fringe – have seen how the best, most creative, most intelligent shows really struggle to attract an audience – and Fake News was sold out.

Out of everything I’ve seen this year, Fake News is by far the blandest, weakest, laziest, cheapest attempt at a ‘show’ at the festival, but because its performer can afford a nice space at the Assembly George Square and some decent marketing, people are literally queueing at the door in the hope that a ticket-holder doesn’t show up so that they can get a seat.

In the cheaply set-out room, featuring nothing but a chair and a table, Osman Baig appears and addresses us as attendees of a lecture on ‘Journalistic Integrity’ for the ‘Millennial Times’ (the first sign that this show is going to be tragic – in the millennial sense, that is). He says he’s going to tell us a story about the ‘worst night of his life’, but first he’s going to pointlessly recount his internship at the online news organisation. I’m not really sure why he did this – it’s not funny, it’s not realistic, and it’s not smart. Mostly, it’s just really fucking boring. If we were really attending a lecture on ‘journalistic integrity’, why would the speaker detail his employment history for half an hour?

Baig’s character is so unrealistic and unconvincing that it would be impossible to ever believe anything he says. Apparently, this character joined an internet news corporation (whose real-life analogue is something like Buzzfeed) looking to report on serious stories such as the situation in Yemen. Who the fuck joins Buzzfeed to report on Yemen? Apparently, this character is smart, but also actually believes in a crackpot conspiracy theory that Osama Bin Laden is still alive that he finds on the dark web. Apparently, all the major news organisations of the world pick up on his story and contact him, whilst everyone on social media now believes that Osama wasn’t killed– this would never happen, because not everybody is a fucking idiot.

Strangely, there’s also a final speech which suggests that Baig believes that A) fake news isn’t actually a real thing, and isn’t a danger, and that shitty hack publications like Buzzfeed aren’t propagating it; and B) that there is some transcendent, otherworldly value to clickbait journalism that’s under threat. He’s not only objectively incorrect, because fake news is an issue, but an imbecile too for supporting a journalistic trend that prioritises Facebook income over reporting on actual stories. If this was ironic – and it definitely didn’t feel ironic – then he’s done a pretty awful job of conveying it.

It feels like the lowest possible amount of skill or effort has gone into every single minute element of this show. There appears to be no research or thought put into the political points, the script is baggy and false, there isn’t a single joke that raises more than a smattering of polite applause, the set is uninspiring, the lighting is so conspicuous it looks like it was designed by a child, the random insertions of music feel forced and abrupt. Absolutely nothing works about this show at any time during its performance. We’re just seated with crap views in a medium-sized, overheated room listening to a bad actor deliver a bad script.

This is ‘satire’ for the lowest common denominator: what is it trying to say, and who is it trying to say it to? This is the kind of show that uses ‘Trump’ or ‘Brexit’ as the punchline to a non-existent joke to try and elicit a cheap laugh from the audience. “I’m relevant!” it screams, just as it says precisely nothing relevant at all.

I just checked and found out that Fake News is sold out for every single performance until the Fringe ends on the 26th August. If you’re reading this, you should thank your lucky stars you don’t need to sit through such a heap of shit.


James is a postgraduate law student at LSE, and London Student's Chief Arts Editor/Film Editor. He wants you to know that Christopher Nolan is overrated.

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