A matter of opinion

Tony Cowards didn't realise who would be reading his criticism...

What follows is a warning to any comedian who readily airs their opinions on internet forums. Those views that you think no one is paying any attention to could end up facing greater scrutiny that you could’ve ever imagined.

Let's get this out in the open right from the start, I’m not a massive fan of Stewart Lee. There, I've said it. Personally I like my comedy to be full to the brim of punchy gags and one-liners, which is why my comedy heroes are Tim Vine, Milton Jones, Steven Wright, Mitch Hedberg, Gary Delaney et al, In Stewart Lee’s stand up I don’t see the comedy genius that others do, however the beauty of comedy is that it’s subjective. I appreciate that to a lot of people, especially among other comedians, Lee is held up as one of the best stand-ups of his, or any other, generation. Unfortunately he leaves me cold.

So when a discussion was started on a comedy forum about the relative merits of the first series of  Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle TV show I expressed the following view, naively under my own name, generally agreeing with a previous poster;

‘I have to be honest, I don’t get him either. People rave about him but I just see a slightly embarrassing 40+ year old man ranting like a teenage student activist whilst labouring “jokes” and being, what seems, almost deliberately unfunny. Still different strokes for different folks, can’t say I ever really got the big deal about Bill Hicks either.’

A bit of a throwaway post and one which would’ve been long forgotten had it not been for Stewart Lee’s, admittedly amusing, use of bad rather than good quotes on his fan newsletter, where my post became edited as: ‘Embarrassing old man ranting like teenage student, labouring “jokes”, deliberately unfunny.’  Tony Cowards

Now while I agree I did say all of those words, I do feel that the editing has increased the venom of my previously fairly gentle critique.

Still, this was only being used among many other – mostly much harsher – quotes on his website and his mailouts to his fans, so not to worry.

Imagine my surprise, however, when someone told me that this comment featured prominently on Mr Lee’s Edinburgh Festival poster for this year’s Fringe!

Ironically I was previously embroiled in a misquoting incident from the other side, when an overzealous promoter, without my knowledge, took some of my Chortle review comments out of context – provoking a Correspondents piece on the practice.

Anyway, I wish Mr Lee well with his Fringe show, and in a strange way I thank him for taking my name up to Edinburgh for me, as I am not attending this year. But the moral of this story is be careful what you put on the internet, as you never know who’s reading.

  • Stewart Lee is appearing at the Stand in Flickwerk 2011 at 5.15pm throughout August. Tony Cowards will not be in Edinburgh this year but details of his gigs are at tonycowards.co.uk

Published: 30 Jun 2011

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