The star-t of a problem

Mark Davies says 1* reviews should be published

Last week I read with interest that Scottish what’s on guide The Skinny will not be giving any performance at this year’s Fringe anything less than two stars.

The reason given for this by comedy editor Lizzie Cass-Maran was that ‘this is the Fringe, not the Oscars’ and that ‘they [the comedians] weren’t trying to sell you anything – many aren’t even charging for entry. They were just trying to make you laugh’.

Two statements that surely can't be disputed? Well as a lover of comedy, an occasional performer and someone who recently started to run a monthly gig, I think this stance is wrong!

Comedy has exploded over the last few years and can now be seen everywhere; people have never had more exposure to stand-up than they do now and as such the number of people performing comedy has risen 100-fold. So I can't understand The Skinny’s decision to sugarcoat their reviews. Do we go down the road that some schools have, to cut out competition, so there are no ‘losers’.

But some performers need to be told if their show is a stinker. Now some will say that a review is just one opinion, and one man's junk is another man's gold, but saying all shows are rating at least 40 per cent is so wrong. If The Skinny are simply just refusing to publish one-star reviews, then any act that doesn't get a Skinny review will always wonder...

Every comedian has died a horrible, horrible death on stage at some point. But there is nothing worse than hearing other comedians then tell you how good it was and that the audience were wrong. Self-aware comics try to work out how to change their set so it doesn't happen again. The deluded ones dismiss the lack of laughter in front of them and carry on performing drivel, filling the circuit with cringeworthy comedy, which punters will hate. Bad nights will turn them off live stand-up, and they stick to the safety of TV for their comedy fix.

I know it takes balls to stand up and tell jokes, and I know that what a comic does may not be to the reviewer’s taste. But I also know that most, not all, comedians would rather hear a truthful assessment of their show, regardless of whether they choose to believe it or not. By stepping up to the plate, comics should be able to take criticism!

And The Skinny, I believe you should rethink your stance for next year. Two stars for this misguided policy.

Published: 17 Aug 2011

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