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Vote Frank Chickens!

Stewart Lee on that Foster's poll

In the small hours of July 20, I received a badly punctuated e-mail advertising Foster’s through the medium of The Foster’s Comedy God poll, which invites the public to vote for the all-time Comedy God from 30 years of Perrier/Eddies/Edinburgh Comedy Awards nominations.

Three pints drunk, on Foster’s ironically, I responded with admittedly ill-advised rudeness, but here’s the main reasons why the poll is deeply flawed:

  • No one can possibly have seen all the nominated shows and there is no video evidence of most of them, as they pre-date the You Tube mass-media era, so the vote is immediately unfair and skewed towards the most well-documented and famous names, especially from the last few years.

  • Some of the winners and nominees, such as the hit 2000 show Arctic Boosh, are listed under the name of the performers (Mighty Boosh) others under the name of the show (Jackson’s Way, where the performer Wil Adamsdale is not listed). This is like having a music vote where Never Mind The Bollocks is listed alongside The Beatles. ie it is stupid.

  • In these polls, whoever is freshest in the public mind tends to win. Perhaps Foster’s know this and have calculated that their brand will be associated with an already popular name. But this is the Fringe. To be in keeping with the spirit of the Fringe the sponsor’s money should be used in promoting new or unknown things not giving a high profile award to an already established name.

  • Of the nearly 300 performers involved not a single one has been asked if they mind their name being used to drive traffic towards what is essentially a big Foster’s advert. Artists should not be co-opted into commercial promotional activities without their express permission. (I do appreciate this could be seen as an extreme position, and that many people on the list will be happy to be promoted by Foster’s reciprocally, seeing the relationship as a symbiotic one, like that between maggots and a wound.)

  • Some listed names (Emma Thompson, Steve Coogan) had already distanced themselves from The Edinburgh Comedy Awards, during the period that they were owned by Nestle, in support of the World Health Organisation’s criticisms of the company’s developing world ethics record, and yet here they re, mysteriously airbrushed back in to the history of the award, like Trotskys in reverse.

  • The entrance criteria and the number of nominees are just two things that have changed significantly since 1980, so there is no way of comparing fairly nominees from different eras as the criteria by which they were suggested for consideration, and the pool from which they were drawn, have all changed significantly.

  • This silly poll discredits the Fringe generally, and comedy specifically.

  •    The poll is so poorly thought out and unfair that it is either the work of idiots in a hurry, or else it was done badly on purpose in order to ensure that a famous name wins to buoy up the Foster’s brand’s association with the Edinburgh Comedy Awards and ensure coverage.

  •   There are loads more things wrong with it that I can’t be bothered to even think of.  Why not make up some of your own? It’s a load of shit basically.

It is essential for the Spirit Of The Fringe that Foster’s are shown that the world’s best arts event, which has been shaped by many hands over many decades, mainly for no money, or even at performers’ own financial loss, has its roots in a post-war spirit of hope and reconciliation, and is not something that can be exploited in this way, especially without individual consultation. 

In my e-mail I chose at random Frank Chicken, the Japanese female performance art duo, as an example of possibly worthy winners who would not get a look-in under this illogical and unfair voting system, and the Twitter world has adopted them as a cause.

This was never my intention, and I was drunk when I sent the e-mail in a fit of annoyance anyway, but they are now leading the field, and it appears we should embrace them.  If Frank Chickens become Comedy Gods then Foster’s will have been helped to actually sponsor some actual art, and fans of Foster’s all over the whole world will be made aware of that wonderful, indefinable, mischievous, playful thing we call the Spirit Of The Fringe!

Since Frank Chickens shot to the top of the poll earlier this week, Foster’s keep redesigning their site to make it as difficult to vote as possible, especially for older people who have trouble understanding computers, presumably to disenfranchise deliberately fans of Frank Chickens, who are likely to be in their 40s and 50s. You can still vote here – but you have to enter a code in a box, though if you are pressed for time there are usually quicker ways to vote explained on Twitter if you search for ‘Frank Chickens’.

Heineken UK brands director Mark Given has explained that ‘comedy plays a singular and important role in the lives of Foster’s customers’ and says that he looks forward ‘to facilitating and fostering their engagement with comedy in all its guises through the support for comedy’s most prestigious awards’. (*see footnote)

Reading this, I think Mark wants genuinely to help the comedy loving Foster’s drinkers to engage with comedy ‘in all its guises”, so this vote is the public’s chance to help Mark to broaden these epicures’ humour horizons and introduce them to a taste of the real variety of comedy on the Fringe, rather than just allowing mass public ignorance to foist upon these poor and trusting drinkers an already familiar and well-known name.

Hopefully, the joy of discovering the true Spirit Of The Fringe may engender in the Foster’s drinkers some of the same joy and euphoria which they have previously derived from alcohol.

Vote Frank Chickens, for fairness and change, and please circulate this blurb as widely as you can across internet social networks.   

* Footnote: The exciting thing for comedy fans about Mark’s assertion that ‘comedy plays a singular and important role in the lives of Foster’s customers’ is that, assuming Advertising Standards Authority regulations apply to this promotional tool too, there must be some data to back up the extent to which this love of comedy is true, ideally in relation to consumers of other beers. It would be fascinating to know which beer drinkers like comedy the most, and which kind of comedy they prefer. Presumably this data exists, unless the assertion that ‘comedy plays a singular and important role in the lives of Foster’s customers’ is just PR guff without a grounding in any serious study of the relationship between beer brand preference and taste in comedy.

Posted: 30 Jul 2010

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