Reviews Reviewed

Not a lot to report today: a speedy turn around the volcano, the discovery of a second-hand shop selling DVDs at 99p (Quantum of Solace is now mine), eating raw broccoli whilst pretending to be a giant eating a tree, and a gig marred by a very drunk woman who hadn’t grasped the notion of ‘performance’. Very difficult to follow a line – or finish a sentence – and there I was wanting something nice and straightforward after last night.

The most interesting thing was the occasional RT on my tweet:

“Joe Bloggs has written 45 reviews for @BroadwayBaby since joining in August 2012.” So you can imagine the quality.

I’m not singling any individual out here, and if they are in the business of dishing it out, they should expect to take it. No this isn’t the response of someone on the receiving end of a bad review – ‘Everything is Purple’ hasn’t even been reviewed by anyone other than Plymouth Comedy Collective, Twitter, and someone on a blog. If comedy has a purpose, though, shouldn’t it be to expose hypocrisy and unbalanced power, to mock human weakness and vanity?

And what could be more ridiculous than a comedy reviewer? Performers are desperate to get reviewers in, but who are these reviewers? A small and temporary army with nothing better to do in their summer holidays. It’s a great opportunity to see stuff for free, get your work published, and feel important for a month. And if you can feel important in Edinburgh, that’s a nice boost to the ego I wouldn’t deny to anybody, though with the ubiquity of quotes on posters and flyers, it does feel like a lot of power in questionable hands.

Do reviews mean anything, though? I’ve had great gigs and terrible gigs, some for which I’m responsible, others not. I’ve been most proud of getting through the difficult ones: I survived it, I did my thing, I left victorious and to overuse a metaphor, if that particular audience didn’t want to climb aboard my comedy bus to Funny Town, there are other audiences out there who certainly do. What I’m sure of, however, is that a reviewer wouldn’t have the experience or skills to tell whether I’m a good comic doing a bad gig or a bad comic doing a brilliant gig. I’ve read bad reviews of people whose work I love, and glowing reviews of some terrible hack acts. Indeed, my online habits include looking for reviews that are contrary to my own opinion (The Matrix is, frame by frame, a dreadful film. I love reading idiots’ five-star responses). The only thing a review is good for is quote mining for publicity purposes. And for bad reviews, you merely have to be a bit more careful about which quote you mine.

Reviewers, by and large, don’t find talent. Audiences find talent (or maybe, talent finds an audience). The only reviews worth having are laughter, the opinions of fellow comics and the person who booked you. So reviewers, write your reviews in the knowledge that perhaps one (unrepresentative) per cent of your careful prose, inside jokes and deft analogy might be attached to an act. We will mine your paragraphs for micro-carat gems, polish and set them in 200pt type and plaster them over our publicity, taking joy in doing something so dishonestcreative with your withering, impotent typing. Do yourselves a favour, Three Weeks and Broadway Baby reviewers: after the Fringe, go to London. Go to Westminster Abbey. Go to Poets’ Corner, and find someone whose work you can’t stand. Remember everything about their style that you hate, and every hour you wasted on trying to understand their supposed talent. Then go try find Critics’ Corner.


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