Showing Up for Kids









FringeReview is delighted to welcome back Peter Michael Marino as a guest blogger at Edinburgh Fringe 2018.

This year he is sharing his thoughts, experiences and reflections on his new kid’s show, Show Up, Kids!

“If the main attraction doesn’t show up, the kids still want to see a comedy show! So Pete’s gonna make one up and have the kids (and adults) help write, direct, and design it. What could possibly go wrong? From the creator of the critically acclaimed improvised comedy, Show Up, comes a fresh, fun, interactive twist on the traditional kids show. Raves for Show Up: ‘Hilarious!’ **** ( ‘Hilarious!’ **** ( ‘Hilarious!’ **** (”

14 August 2018

The Thing About Spiders

Kids here are scared of spiders. I know this to be a fact because every day, I ask the kids at ‘Show Up, Kids!‘ what scares them and without hesitation, they say spiders. Yesterday, a wee girl said “tarantulas.” That is one serious spider to be scared of and rightfully so.

Spider-Man, however, is a superhero that many of them would like to be. I also know this as fact because I ask them what superpower they’d like to have and they often scream out “Spider-Man” – which isn’t a superpower, per se, but I suppose they mean “slinging webs.” Webs are slung at the show on a daily basis. Do you know how hard it is to sling imaginary webs and fly around a wee room in a bar packed with children? IT IS NOT HARD AT ALL!

When they aren’t saying Spider-Man, they often say “invisibility” as their superpower of choice. I’m wondering why “invisible spiders” isn’t something they’re scared of. I’m actually creeped out right now just typing the words “invisible spiders.” Great. Now I can’t stop thinking about invisible spiders.

Thankfully, a kid broke the cycle yesterday by yelling out “hugs” as a superpower they wish they had. I didn’t have the heart to tell the lad that he already had that power because maybe he had a peanut allergy and wasn’t allowed to hug people just in case they’d eaten a peanut butter sandwich…which is what I’m sustaining myself with here at worlds’ most expensive arts festival. Do not hug me, kid.

I just thought of invisible spiders again. Ugh. Moving on…

I also ask the kids what they want to be when they grow up. Half the time they say “veterinarian.” In the States, not one child has said this. Perhaps it’s because in Scotland, a lot of house pets get sick from spider bites?

Can we talk about poo? Bogies? Farts? Because those words come up every day, too. How many improvised stories can I do about poo? My characters have been “pro-poo” and surprisingly “anti-poo.” I even played a character that WAS AN ACTUAL POO. His best friend was a fly. Thanks to these kids, I’ve mastered the art of the fake sneeze. And, I’ve perfected the sound of the perfect fart. The scariest part is that the parents are just as entertained at bodily function references as their little ones.

OK.  I just thought of invisible spiders again. This is getting out of control. Gonna wrap this up. And dust every corner of my flat. And under the bed. And in the drawers. And in the toilet. Where the poo lives.


8 August 2018

American Kid Brings Assault Rifle Into Kids’ Show

In Show Up, Kids!, my improvised comedy show for little ones 4-10 years old, I present a battered cardboard box and ask the kids what they’d do with it. They regularly shout out, “Make it into a race car!” or “Make a castle out of it!” Then I stand inside of it and do nothing at all and proclaim, “Look! I’m a cat!” and howls of laughter follow.

At a recent show, I asked the same question and a kid with a screechy American accent shouted out, “Cut it with a knife into the shape of an AK-47!”

Silence. The packed house was literally silent. For a good 10 seconds. And believe me, it’s pretty rare for a pack of juiced-up kids to be quiet for 10 seconds. I felt the color drain from my sweaty face as I looked at the rest of the entirely European crowd who instantly became stone-faced. I replied, “Well, if you’re into that kind of thing…” and hit the music button on my iPad, launching into song, hoping it would clear the air. Phew.

Then I asked the kids, “What scares you?” and a wee Scottish lad said, “Donald Trump.” The crowd screamed in knowing laughter. Then I asked, “What do you think is gross and disgusting?” and a little English girl raised her hand and said, “Theresa May.” Again, huge laughs.

Except for the American kid and his dad, who were suddenly the stone-faced ones.

I improvised a quick story involving Trump and May and unicorns and Spider-Man, with our nations’ leaders being portrayed in a silly, yet admittedly non-flattering light. Again, squeals of laughter from everyone…except the two Americans.

Within seconds, they were up and headed toward the exit. “Everything all right?,” I inquired as the dad struggled with the door. “Yeah, we’re just meeting someone.” And out they scurried with their Yankee tails between their legs.

I whispered to the crowd, “And those people, kids, are what you call Conservatives.” We all had a good chuckle at this teaching moment as I proceeded to improvise a detailed story about poo, clowns, and Katy Perry. You know. What you’d expect in a kids’ show.

‘Show Up, Kids!’ plays at noon every day at The Counting House. The adult version ‘Show Up’ plays the same room at 16:45 every day. It’s exhausting. Information at




6 August 2018


So, I’ve got this kids show and this adult show with almost the same title and almost the same format. I get the audience to give me suggestions in both shows. The adults are always a bit hesitant at first. The kids can’t wait to shout things out. I like the kids. Helps the show move along.

In the adult show, it’s things like a revelation they had, or a weird job, or a childhood trauma. In the kids’ show it’s:

  • Things that Scare You
  • Things that are Gross
  • What You Want to be When You Get Older
  • What Unusual Pet Would You Like to Have
  • What Superhero Power Do You Want to Have
  • What Famous Person Do You Want to Meet

I do a practice round in the kids’ show before I launch into the fully-improvised-acted-out-once-upon-a-time-show. This practice round is like Mad Libs with the kids simply filling in the blanks.

On four occasions, when I asked, “What’s gross?,” they’ve replied “Donald Trump” three times and “Theresa May” once. As usual, the orange man Donald is winning.

When I’ve asked, “What scares you?,” they’ve replied with loud noises, slugs and…Donald Trump. Same things, really.

Then I launch into the second part of the show where I write their suggestions down on over-sized Post-It Notes (who are actually the paper sponsors of the show) before I improvise a story using weaving together all of their stuff and here are some that I’ve gotten in the past few days.

What things will your kid shout at me? Bring it. I’m game!

Show Up, Kids! plays at the Counting House on West Nicolson as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival every day at noon. More information at

30th July 2018

Seeking EdFringe Reviewers 10 and Under

As the cheery crowd poured themselves out of the venue following my first Edinburgh preview of Show Up, Kids! at the Fringe for Bairns, a fellow performer overheard a 6-year-old boy proclaim, “I’m very glad we saw this, mum. It was rather delightful. I’d see it again.”

Photo: Mikiodo

When my pal informed me of this exchange, my instinct was to run out into the courtyard, find the kid, and coerce him to repeat his glowing words into a recording device so I could broadcast his review all over the internet.

I also wanted to ask him if he always used the word “rather” in conversation, since I’ve used it maybe three times in my life.

Alas, I couldn’t do that – for a little girl was sweetly asking for another rainbow promotional sticker by gently tugging on my shorts, and 4-year-old identical twins were cavorting on the stage with wigs and hats while simultaneously banging on my iPad with Kit Kat-covered fingers. I had to gently usher them all out of the theater (AKA: bar) so the next act could set up. They were Australian clowns. You don’t wanna mess with them.

This kid got me thinking.

Why did I pour over hundreds of pages of journalist and reviewer contacts to find just the right ones to cover my show? Why did I read their previous children’s show reviews? Why did I even send out dozens of personalized press release emails to full-grown adult reviewers asking them to review the show? Why did a lose sleep over not getting any replies? I’ve always loved the insightful reviews of critic Amy Taylor and I wished her daughter a Happy 4th Birthday on Twitter; a subtle hint that the show was tailor-made for her Taylor family. I even read noted theatre critic Lyn Gardner‘s children’s book Into the Woods as inspiration for the fractured fairy tale section in the show…and I gave it a 5-star rating on Amazon.

This adorable kids’ comment made me realize that I should’ve been spending weeks and weeks on getting actual kids to review the show. Why was I trying to win over adults? The show was literally written for kids. The kids also provide the plot points. They provide the sound effects. And they change the set, props, and music every time I take a swig of water from my oversized “special” juice box.

It’s a well-known fact that kids read reviews written by other kids. I mean, has an 8-year-old ever read a review by Joyce McMillan? I don’t think so. She gave me a one-star review six years ago for a different show and there were plenty of kids at that sold-out show all the time!

The kids have really been into it this new show. These little angels (and frequent devils) would probably write some awesome reviews. So what if some of them are still toilet training. At least the reviews will be short. And kids love the shape of stars. Just like me!

So, gentle reader, I’m asking you to send your little reviewers my way. They get two comps (note: it’s a free show). They’ll have reserved seats with their names on them. Heck, I will even help by transcribing the words coming from their mouths into words posted on the WORLD WIDE WEB. And then they can brag to their friends that their 5-star review got retweeted five times (by me).

Come out, come out, wherever you are, kids.


28th July 2018

I’m on the early train from London to Edinburgh, getting psyched to get the ball rollin’ at Fringe. I’m in first class for five hours of comfort, free drinks, and that sweet WiFi so I can make posts like this while furiously checking my social media for any mention of either of my shows – “Show Up” and “Show Up, Kids!” Alas, nothing. No worries.


The train isn’t as packed as I thought it would be. Perhaps because Fringe doesn’t officially start for five days. I don’t see any familiar faces (performers, producers, journalists that I might recognize from their ancient Twitter avatars). The family of four next to me have American accents. I know this because I’m American. It’s Dad, Mom, and two kids. I overhear Dad telling the beverage server that he and the fam are headed up to Edinburgh.

“What do you plan to do there?,” asks the server.

“Ah, just show up,” mumbles Dad.

OMG. Dad just said, “show up.” He’s talking about my show. He proclaimed for all the carriage to hear, “We are going to Edinburgh Fringe to see Show Up.”

This is exciting. The buzz begins. On the train!

I took a breath. I felt it out. And I went in for the kill…

“Funny,” I cheekily whimpered, “I’m delighted to hear you casually dropping the name of my show. Or chuffed as they say around here.”

Surprised, Dad says, “What’s your show?”

“Show Up.”

Dad just smiles at me. There’s an awkward pause.

“My show is called ‘Show Up’ and I overheard you say the words show up so I either thought you were coming to my show or maybe it was just a good sign that others would come or maybe it’s confirmation bias – you know, when you hear or see something that reminds you of the thing you are wanting to see or hear so you’re just biased to hear or see it and so you do, and that’s what maybe happened here, but don’t worry I’m not going to flyer you on the train because that would be really pushy and also I don’t have any flyers on me cos they’re at my venue, The Counting House…it’s my fifth time at the fringe but my fourth time at Counting House and I love it there. Have you seen shows there?”

Dad smiles. Nothing. And now I’m thinking all the other people on the carriage heard this exchange and are thinking about what a wanker I am and how they already hate me for trying to get punters for my show ON A TRAIN.

After a pause…Dad points out the window and says,”Do you know if those are hay bails or wheat?”

“I have no idea. I’ve done this train trip a few times but I don’t know. Have you not been on this trip before?”

“No. We’re just going up to Edinburgh and then heading north from there for a little holiday. Why are you doing a show in Edinburgh? Americans do shows there?”

“Yeah. At the Fringe. Aren’t you going to the Fringe?”

“What’s that?”

So, I explain what it is and its history and what kinds of shows there are and what kinds of venues, and Dad asks me if I have an extra American electrical adapter that his daughter can use for her iPad.

It’s gonna be a long trip.