The funny jobs Edinburgh Fringe Festival comedians did before getting into comedy

There's plenty of talent at this year's Fringe Festival, but what did they do before they were famous? Credit: PA

Heard the one about the comic who works in suicide prevention - or the joker who sold bathroom interiors while dreaming of stand-up?

What about the funnyman who served as a bouncer for William and Kate? Or the one who honed his comic craft writing letters to adult magazines?

They're all among some of the UK's top comedians who have descended on Edinburgh to impress critics and crowds at the Fringe Festival.

And here they share with ITV News the odd jobs they did before they took to the stage and what - if anything - they worked up into material.

Working the audience into a frenzy is hard work - but how does it compare to comedians' other jobs?

Darren Harriott: From working at the venue to working the crowd

“When I got to 'Live at the Apollo' all the staff recognised me, they were so proud.”

Darren Harriott recalled the moment he stepped on London’s most famous stage for comedy but this time without his uniform.

The Brummie comedian worked in security before he could make comedy his full-time job.

"My dad died when I was a kid, my mum doesn't own a house so I needed to work to help out," Darren told ITV News.

After dropping out of college, he found very few jobs gave him the flexibility he needed to do stand-up.

One day he could be hanging with Prince William and Kate Middleton - the first security job he was assigned - and the next day he could be auditioning for a 10-minute TV slot.

Darren Harriott: Good Heart Yute runs from Aug 6-13 and 15-25 at Pleasance Courtyard. Credit: Peter Bates / Darren Harriott

Though the shifts were long and not always where he wanted to spend his Saturday night, he doesn't regret his first job.

Daren said: "I worked some rough clubs where people had knives, there was plenty to be inspired by.”

He even took his job to one of the breakthrough moments in his career when he was up for 'Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central.'

Darren said: “I auditioned in my security clothes, I came straight from work.”

After nailing the audition, Darren has appeared on programmes like 'Mock the Week' and 'Comedy Central's Roast Battle.'

But it wasn’t until he was nominated as best newcomer at the Fringe in 2017 that he felt he could say goodbye to his uniform for good.

“It’s harder for working class comedians, not everyone can come down to the Fringe and stay for a month or take the time to work on their comedy," he said.

Simon Evans: The Risque business model

"It doesn't feel like work, you're absolutely in your element. On stage is the one place you feel at home," says TV and radio star Simon Evans on his day job of 22 years and counting.

"What is work is getting there. 95% of my job is organising and travel."

If that sounds pedestrian Simon's route into the industry was anything but - a tale of fishing trawlers off Australia, homemade juggling balls and penning readers' letters for adult magazines.

His enterprising spirit kicked in while backpacking round the world after university, having realised his dream of becoming a barrister involved a "bit more reading" than he was prepared to do.

"In the course of travelling I learned how to make juggling balls from birdseed with balloons," he told ITV News. "It looked like an anarchist bomb."

Back in the UK the balls proved an explosive hit on Guildford High Street, mainly with "posh girls going to parties" who paid a fiver for the product which cost 10p a pack to make.

Simon Evans: Dressing for Dinner runs from Aug 6-11 and 13-25 at Assembly George Square Studios. Credit: Simon Evans

"Selling the juggling balls allowed me to talk to strangers" and performing as "a cheeky market trader" with a pram were confidence skills which Simon would later draw upon on stage.

The profits also funded Simon's studies for a shot at freelance journalism - briefly serving as the Big Issue's comedy reviewer at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1992 - before a commission from the Camden and St Pancras Chronicle to report on (and take part in) an improv comedy workshop in Holborn changed his career goal for good.

But not before he had honed his craft for storytelling for the pages of Risque, an adult magazine "aimed at couples", who paid £50 for readers' "true" confessions.

While the content of the letters can't be repeated here, Simon recognises he was applying the same rules of structure as he now uses to craft a successful on-stage routine.

"I used to enjoy creating the tension. In good erotic fiction you build tension and release it. ... In comedy, you create tension which you burst with a punchline.

"You get the audience worried that a situation is emerging, something horrific like you might be about to say something racist, for example.

"And then the punchline reveals you're not racist at all. There's a huge relief."

Robyn Perkins: Diving deeper after a fishy start

American comedian Robyn Perkins puts a scientific twist into her stand-up after studying the deep.

“I have this need to tell stories but also like to run experiments with the audience," Robyn told ITV News.

Robyn originally studied marine biology at university because of her childhood love of dolphins - before reconsidering her future.

"I realised I needed to do something more creative but I didn’t know what to do, I was torn between graphic design and architecture," she said.

Robyn Perkins: Mating Selection runs from Aug 6-11 and 13-25 at Underbelly, Bristo Square. Credit: Shaun Collins

“My parents said ‘Why don’t you just get your PhD and then sort it out?’ But you don’t just ‘get your PhD’," she added.

One grad scheme later, Robyn came to the UK to be a landscape architect and on a colleague's recommendation, tried a stand-up class for the first time.

Robyn said: "It was the first time I held a mic and two or so years late I quit my job to do it full-time.

“Once I decided this is what I want to do, I do it."

With her love of all things aquatic on hold, she enjoys the world away from the office, adding: "The passion comes from making people laugh and the feeling of sharing my life with complete strangers."

Alasdair Beckett-King: The animated indie kid

“I’m very unsuccessful in a variety of fields,” flame-haired funnyman Alasdair Beckett-King told ITV News.

Games designer, illustrator and translator are just a few of the jobs he has to his name and to his relief he no longer washes pots in a kitchen.

Embarking on a career path he never expected after film school, Alasdair said: “I taught myself animation somehow and that led to making indie video games.”

With ”the invisible Python” Terry Gilliam as a hero of his, Alasdair hoped the laughs would come with his newfound artistic skills in the same way it did for the Monty Python member.

Alasdair said: "When I finished film school I started stand-up, it’s so much cheaper.

Alasdair Beckett-King: The Interdimensional ABK runs from Aug 6-18 and 20-26 at the Pleasance Dome Credit: Alasdair Beckett-King

"Comedians were far more funny than the people I surrounded myself with at film school.”

And his creativity works hand in hand with his comedy. He animated the trailer for his new show ’The Interdimensional ABK’.

Alasdair said: "I feel quite lucky to work on the things I love to do."

Although he’s happiest on the stage, he has toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher like his father in the future.

"I’m not sure I’m ready just yet, (but) I’m worried I might actually be quite good at it,” Alasdair added.

Jenny Collier: Bathroom sales to Britain's Got Talent

Jenny Collier is quick to point out the sharp difference between her job as a comic and the days when she talked customers through high-end bathroom interiors.

"It's a completely different world. In the bathroom showroom you're polite, wanting to do everything right for the customer," she tells ITV News.

"But in stand-up you have to face heckles from the crowd. You basically have to tell the customer where to go."

Jenny's other pre-comedy roles involved a stint at a fertility clinic, which she worked up into stand-up material on her experience "meeting people who were having trouble conceiving while I'm single, 28 and my phone screensaver is a picture of my family dog".

She also developed a successful routine for an appearance on Britain's Got Talent from the mixed endorsement from her boss at a Newcastle broadband call centre, who praised her in front of staff as being as "technical as a ferret" but with the voice of a sex kitten.

Jenny Collier: The Jen Commandments runs from Aug 6-25 at Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire Credit: Jenny Collier

Ant and Dec were impressed with the Welsh comic's authentic Geordie accent, too.

That national exposure may have surprised some of her former colleagues who came to see one of her "ropey" early shows while stand-up was an evening open mic hobby.

"Nobody said 'you're deluded' - but I'm pretty sure they thought it when I told them 'I'm going to quit this job' to do this full time," she said.

That decision isn't in question now as the professional comic embarks on her 10th year at the Fringe and sixth as a solo stand-up.

Jenny says she doesn't begrudge her peers who fast-tracked it into industry straight out of school.

But she is glad that she could mine her myriad short-term jobs for golden material.

"It gave me something to talk about - I don't know what I'd have talked about instead. I'd have probably resorted to more toilet humour."

Martha McBrier: Three cheers for mental health

With a 33-year-long career as a suicide prevention officer, it often surprises people that Martha McBrier shares her stories from work on the stage.

But the Glaswegian stand-up said it's all part of "working a room".

Whether she's counselling or in a comedy club, Martha truly believes that laughter remains the best medicine.

Martha said: “Humour is absolutely vital and an instant way of connecting with people.

“You just speak to people like you’ve known them your whole life. If you make a joke, it breaks the tension.”

After suffering from a brain tumour which left her deaf in one ear, she found it difficult to build up banter and deal with heckling from the crowd.

Martha McBrier: Happiness Bully runs from Aug 7-25 at Laughing Horse @ The Counting House. Credit: Martha McBrier

But by adding stories from her real-life into her routine, she quickly became popular with audiences.

'Happiness Bully’ - her most recent storytelling show - explores the idea of being pressured into positive thinking, mixing honesty with humour to talk openly about mental health.

From alcoholics to overly motivational managers, she weaves in characters from her set moving away from the improv she once relied on.

Martha said: "I keep it so no one can be identified but there are characters that most people can relate to."

And she doesn't plan to quit any time soon, adding: "It becomes your life and if I didn’t do it, what would I talk about on stage?”

Martha donates her earnings from each show to the charity Samaritans - minus enough for a celebratory bottle of Merlot at the end of the season.