Everyone likes seeing stars | ...especially when there's only one of them, says Nigel Lovell

Everyone likes seeing stars

...especially when there's only one of them, says Nigel Lovell

In a recent Correspondence piece, Isn't it time the stars went out?, Chortle editor Steve Bennett revealed he is considering ceasing to attach star ratings to reviews.

In order to assess whether this is the right approach we first need to investigate who actually reads reviews?

Well, the majority of reviews get three stars. Three-star reviews are read by: The Act Being Reviewed, who will be desperately looking for good quotes that can be stuck on a poster. No one sticks three stars on a poster so it'll have to be a bastardised quote that makes the show sound amazing.

The Act's Partner, who will be desperately looking for any positive comments so that they can help the act get over the disappointment of only getting 3 stars.

MI5, who will be desperately looking for evidence that the act is a terrorist.

Four-star reviews are read by: The Act Being Reviewed, The Act's Partner, The Act's Agent, and anyone who is unfortunate enough to be on social media when the review gets released. The Act and their agent will publicise this review as much as possible and shoehorn the phrase, ‘four stars’ into any conversation. Oh, and MI5 who will still be desperately looking for evidence that the act is a terrorist.

Five-star reviews are read by: The Act Being Reviewed, The Act's Partner, The Act's Agent, other promoters, jealous contemporaries and the public who rely on them to help them choose which shows to see. MI5 also read them looking for evidence that the act is a terrorist.

However, if you want your review to be read by everybody then there's only one rating that will do. EVERYONE reads a one-star review.

The Act will read it looking for evidence that the reviewer didn't ‘get’ the show.

The Act's Partner will read it looking for any grammatical errors to prove that the reviewer is an illiterate fool incapable of making judgement on anything.

Promoters and agents will read the review to find out whether the act is truly awful or actually a genius.

The Public will read it as they love watching the acerbic venom of a critic’s pen as it cuts the hard work of an act to shreds.

MI5 will read them as, well you need a bit of light relief when you are looking for terrorists.

MI6 will read them as they'll have been forwarded across by MI5.

Most of all other comedians will read them, because ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ We all know that it can happen to us at any time, for any reason. The reviewer who starts by saying, ‘I've never seen live comedy before…’; the reviewer who turns up on the day that all the tech fails; the reviewer who turns up at the same time as three stag/hen parties who cause chaos; the reviewer who just happens to come when you are having an off day. It can happen to anyone, including this year's Foster's award winner John Kearns (for the Lunchtime Club in 2011).

This year's most talked-about critique wasn't for an award winning show, or for a brilliant five-star performance though, it was this one-star review of Marcel Lucont. Last year, Chris Barnes suddenly found that his show The Barnes Identity packed out after it received a one-star review. I must declare my own self interest in the star system as without it then my own show, the Worst Show on the Fringe, which only features acts who've received a one star review at some point in their career, could not exist.

Stars are an important part of the Edinburgh experience, there are so many reviews (more than 200 from Chortle alone) that very few people will get a chance to read them all. We all know that the star system is flawed however it provides a rough guide as to which reviews are worth reading.

You may think that I've missed out two- star reviews, but no- one reads them, not even MI5.

• Nigel Lovell has had two, three and four star reviews but is striving for the whole set.

Published: 1 Sep 2014

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