MySpace invaders

Christopher Hogg on the Bermuda Triange of comedy

Let’s face it, unless you are the crème de menthe of comedy, the chances of you reaching a large audience through a slot on TV or radio is about as statistically insignificant as winning a competition on the side of a packet of Walkers crisps. It isn't just that there are a lot of amazingly talented people out there, it’s that there aren't many slots for new comedy, either.

To put it simply, if you want to have an audience you are going to have to build one yourself, and that will probably be online. But beware! What follows is a cautionary tale about what happened when I accidently crossed over into the weird world of social networks’ terms ad conditions.

Goldenanorak is a writing team that has been doing online audio sketches for a couple of years now. It is slow work, what with kids and work and the fact that there are seven of us, and we’re all dwarves. We try to write a couple of good sketches a month. The best of that work gets recorded in a proper studio and put online on our own website. Our traffic is slowly building, and in audience terms we have filled several large theatres of visitors listening to our work. Some of them may have even enjoyed the experience.

But it makes sense to put your work in as many places as possible, so we spent two entire days building our online profile on MySpace and putting up sketches including Cottage, about an air freshener that makes your living room smell like a latrine. You can listen to it here.

But as soon as we uploaded the sketch the entire MySpace account was deleted instantly and without warning All our work wasted. We emailed for an explanation and received the followig reply.

‘Hello. Thank you for contacting MySpace! Unfortunately, we do not keep records of removed profiles or images. If the profile or content was removed by MySpace, it violated the MySpace Terms of Service. Violations can include a number of issues (inappropriate images, spam, cyberbullying, underage use, etc). Please note that once an account has been deleted, it cannot be reactivated.’

We are still not quite sure why this happened. We can only think that some of the keywords that we used to describe the sketch alerted some automatic Echelon-style censorship machine, which removed our content. Perhaps they thought it was gay porn? Who knows?

A simple online investigation reveals that this experience is mirrored by many people across all the social networks. Some comics have spent years building up a fan base only to find that their only way of communicating with their fans has been summarily removed. I hate to think just how many hours of work was lost when clips were removed from MySpace.

I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for us comics and our wasted time. However I do think that if the social networks has any real notion of the hard work and effort that goes into the content that earns them advertising revenue, they might spend a few moments explaining what has happened before all that work disappears into the cybertrash.

  • Christopher Hogg and the rest of Goldenanorak are performing at the Mercat Bar at 5.20pm during the Edinburgh Fringe, as part of the Free Fringe.

Published: 23 Jul 2009

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