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A Beginner's Guide To Reviewing Comedy

17/02/2016 1:17 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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This week, Melbourne comedian Lawrence Mooney got some heat at the Adelaide Fringe for calling out a reviewer on her lack of qualifications.

I never read reviews during festivals, but like so many comedians, after Lawrence went nuts, schadenfreude led me to have a gander at the offending review and I was surprised to see I'd got a two-star for my preview show on Thursday. Not outraged, mind. Surprised. It wasn't great, nor woeful. Personally, by my own standards, I'd give it a three, tops. But for a preview it did its job and I did mine.

I have no intention of calling the reviewer in question names. If she hated it, that's her right. But after Lawrence's altercation with a former real estate writer's review (and yes that is a fair gripe I'd say -- sending a real estate writer to review a comedy show is just icky), curiosity led me to look my reviewer up to see if it was the same lady. So I was surprised further still when I recognised the reviewer in question and, for all intents and purposes, I thought she'd laughed from start to finish at my show.

Comedically, I'm fairly pretentious and I want my audience to work, bring their A-game and dig for subtext. Consequently, I'm kind of a dick on stage and frankly I bomb more than most. I'm definitely not for everyone and I like it that way. Anyone that listens to my podcast will attest to that, as I play a lot of audio of audiences not understanding bits and me slagging them off relentlessly.

I told you I was pretentious.

I get that journalism is tough and often you get the gig you're asked to do. But surely, if one doesn't know anything about an art form it's probably best not to be quite so condescending. The former real estate writer called out Lawrence's abilities and professionalism, as did my reviewer, who as far as I can tell normally writes about new cars.

So let's break it down. Because, like Lawrence, I'm calling out credentials here and what one can and can't complain about when reviewing a comedy show. And frankly, after 26 years in the business, one Perrier award, every single festival on the planet, 10 albums, 23 solo shows, six specials, a book, a stint in rehab, a ton of punches in the head, a lot of booing and just as many standing ovations -- I've earned that right. When sitting at the learning tree it is the fledgeling writer's job to show just a shred of humility, not mine.

In case you've forgotten, I'm kind of a dick.

Number one:

The writer actually had the gumption to question my know-how because I ran over in a preview show. Even going so far as to patronise and claim, "After twenty years plus in the business he should surely do away with running over".

No. Just no. The writer should know better and here's why, because I told her:

It was a preview show and I'm an international working in front of a brand spanking new demographic to me. During which time, as any international in a brand new market would do when there was no one on after them, I ran over trying everything out I've written in the past six months. (And last time I checked, coming up with a new 90 in such a short while is something to be revered not condescended to). I even checked with the crowd if that was okay. I told them that's what I was doing and if they had to be somewhere they could leave without reprisal. At the end I even thanked them all for indulging me the (perfectly usual) exercise. I don't know how I could have made it any clearer. Were there dips? Of course there were. But trying everything at a preview? That's experience, not a lack thereof. Anyone with even half a clue would know that.

Number two:

The reviewer in question complained about my volume.

Those of you in the know, will know what's coming.

I'm partial hearing, my hearing aid got broken in transit and one of the speakers was busted and I had a hard time checking it on opening night (new room and all that). I could be a PC victim douchebag -- which, incidentally, is exactly what the reviewer did with Lawrence -- dragging the fact that the writer was a female into the argument when it had absolutely nothing to do with their altercation. I could very easily complain of my disability and insist all involved went to sensitivity training. I really could. But instead, I'd rather ask they do just a lick of frikken research. Please. You're a newspaper, for crying out loud. I travelled half way round the world. You have google at your fingertips. Pure, unacceptable indolence.

Number three:

And this is a doozy: she had the gumption to complain about swearing at a comedy show and to even be so presumptuous as to judge me on my energy drink consumption.

By this logic, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, George Carlin and Eddie Murphy all sucked (for their swearing, not their caffeine habit). I mean, what year is it in Adelaide? And how the hell does me drinking from a watered down Monster can affect anyone's enjoyment of a comedy show? And yes, I water it down if you must know. Up until now I was never aware it could ruin a show for people. Plus it was over 40 degrees celsius.

Wait a minute? Did you just hear me say over 40 degrees celsius?

Yes, you did.

And you did 90 minutes?

Yup.

Of new stuff?

Yup.

In a new town?

Yup.

And you managed to keep a room full of people in that heat entertained, with no air conditioning, for 90 minutes?

Yup.

That's pretty damn impressive.

Yes, it is. Thank you for noticing and doing your research into how hard that is.

I imagine you drank a lot of fluids.

Yes I did, but apparently that was a downside.

Rule number one -- did I make you laugh? If I didn't, then as far as you're concerned I sucked. But don't waste, my, your and your readers' time with this truly irrelevant nonsense.

Pseudo-punditry will never sour the appetite of true comedy fans. For sure, the rule of thumb is to never respond to reviews ever, (or in my case, even read them) but this is this city's lead paper. And for an international festival, letting anyone take a bash at reviewing is just embarrassing.

This is not a personal attack on the writer herself, but on her paper. If anything, the writer in question seemed like a perfectly nice lady who (again) appeared to be enjoying herself. In fact when it came to the actual comedy material I performed she actually had nothing but praise. Unjustifiably patronising understated praise, but praise nonetheless.

So I give this paper in question 1 star. I refuse to say its name lest I give it more traction. Unprofessional, trivial and ignorant -- just a waste of column inches and cyberspace, with all the research and conscience of a YouTube commenter. I hear the fringe in general have repeatedly made complaints to the paper for their sheer lack of professionalism and hopefully this attention will force them to lift their game.

If you are in Adelaide and want to check out which shows might chime with you, check out www.ripitup.com.au. Some of their writers are actual comedy fans. Even going so far as to visit other festivals and actually widening their knowledge of the art.

Oh, and while you're at it, go see Lawrence Mooney. He makes me laugh like a drain, but only go if you like laughing... or, y'know, comedy.

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Brendon is currently drinking way too much Monster, swearing, running over and speaking far too loudly at the Adelaide fringe click here for tickets

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