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Monday, June 18

Post Match Report

I have gotten myself into trouble lately with my picking over the remains of a gig after the fact. The thing is I have a habit of recording most of my gigs, so I have the ability to go back over it and work out what really happened. I'd like to believe that the recording device has a dynamic range which makes it a little more pessimistic in respect of the laughter response. On a couple of occasions I've come to believe this when I've heard an alternative recording, which makes the room sound funnier. However, perhaps it's just a way of explaining away the awkward silences or minute bubbles of amusement that I hear on some of these recordings.

Note: I rarely re-listen to a gig. It's rarely about re-enjoying a previously good experience. I say rarely in that there have been some moments I've wanted to remember. Perhaps I want to bask in my success, or perhaps I want to internalise it so that I can somehow embody that sort of amusingness at a following performance. I don't know. Believe me, I'm aware that I naturally want to rest on my laurels. Believe me again when I say that I also don't believe in myself so much that I feel able to do that. I am a hard task master and I will not allow myself to gloat too much about past successes.

I constantly repeat my mantra:

You are only as good as your next gig

This means you can't really do much with your opinion of the last gig except learn from it. It won't count for anything next time.

It's amusing that both of the reviews of my performances, which I read on Thursday last, have resulted in some sort of pseudo-dialogue. In the case of my friend saying how good he thought I was, my non-agreement with his opinion, has caused him to post further. I'll stop that dialogue now by saying "thanks - it means a lot" and I even mean that. In the case of the reviewer whose review of the ill-fated gig on Wednesday was, quite frankly, rather painful to read and not entirely factually correct, even though I think the pedantic correction of the facts would have had no effect on his ultimate opinion, there has been much shilly-shallying on his website regarding what he wrote. It's amusing to watch, since I think it reminds us all that what we write and choose to publish comes with the risk of someone else having an opinion on it and letting us know.

Thing is, it takes a certain amount of guts to go on stage and say "here's my stuff, hope you like it". Worse than that are the people who go on stage and say "here's my stuff, please like me" which was, essentially, one of the reasons I failed on Wednesday - I got into the uncertainty of this latter case, rather than the cheery jollity of the former. When I've had a good gig, it's always because I've demonstrated something amusingly, rather than asked "is this funny?". Either way, though, you stick your neck out. I'm not so scared of it. I consider there to be a difference between who I am inside, and what I do on stage. It's not really me out there; it's a stylised version of me. However, nobody wants to do a shit job. To think that someone hated what you did is a bad feeling. The idea of doing something to cause entertainment is to get people to be entertained, not irritated and unimpressed.

When someone reviews something, the instinct is to qualify what the reviewer knows about the subject. This is why there's one reviewer that I really don't want to be reviewed by - the one whose reviews I 99% of the time totally agree with and the remainder of the time, still understand. He was at a gig I did recently and I fell to pieces - thankfully, no review. Of the other people who write reviews, and I've been reviewed enough to know what it feels like, you can write off their comments, good or bad, on the back of saying "well, what do they really know about the world of comedy?". You CAN do that. Perhaps you shouldn't. A single person loving or hating you is worth a single person loving or hating you. If you can cause that sort of reaction in someone then you're either very good or very bad (at least at the time of being seen). That's worth something. But... you're only as good as the next performance, and you probably don't just read your reviews to an audience.

I would have to say that it takes guts to write a review as well. If you don't think it does, then you're not taking the review process very seriously. To publish your opinions for someone (maybe the reviewee) to see is also about sticking your neck out. So, it's important to say what you feel and know what you're talking about. If you are only saying what you feel, then you don't need to know much. If you are writing about what constitutes "hack material" or "challenging comedy", then perhaps you need to know more. I'll say this about the process of review, though. If the reviewer tries to score points off the back of the review; if they try to make themselves look good by what they've written, at the expense of the reviewee, then they don't deserve respect. The common artifacts of this are when the reviewer makes a joke about the appearance of the act, or sneers at what they've seen in a manner that seems to compare the subject of the review with the wit of the reviewer themselves. Anyone who writes a review like that wants to ask why they wrote it. If you review to make yourself feel good, then you're not reviewing, you're just slagging stuff off.

The Edinburgh Festival starts in a few days (quite a lot actually, but it's soon enough). The city will be full of reviewers. Some will be arrogant self-serving types. Others will be enthusiasts trying to write down their reaction to what they've seen. Some of the "scores" will be very arbitrary. That's the nature of opinion. Some reviewers will deserve stringing up for the hatchet jobs of ignorant arrogance they bestow on the insecure performers who are just trying to ply their trade and improve their craft. Some of the reviewers will provide constructive feedback that can even be used to help plug the show. I know which sort of reviewer I'd like to be.

Sadly, when you've thought something is shit, or you haven't enjoyed it, it's hard to be constructive. In fact, I've seen some shows that have angered me so much, I've wanted to wreak revenge on them. So perhaps a lot of what I've just written is a lesson for me to learn too.

Anyway, the point is that a post-match analysis is all very well and it's very good to have opinions, but the future gigs are still all to play for. I feel optimistic about tonight's gig (not necessarily with any particular justification) where I'm trying out some new material. I feel like last night's gig went okay, under the circumstances (I lost a string in song one, which knackered some of my playing, and the room was a bit awkward to do comedy in), though I suspect most people's memory of it is more positive than the recording actually proved to me when I listened to it back.

What really matters in performance is making the most of the moments as and when they arise. This means going into it with a present-tense sort of an attitude and walking away from all reviews - bad AND good.

So, if you've ever felt like reviewing me well, then thank you. If you've ever slagged me off, shame on you. If you have read reviews and paid attention to them (and I address this last bit to myself too) then double shame on you. What matters most is the comedy I'm yet to create, either spontaneously (there were a couple of amusing moments last night which just kinda happened) or in a hideously pre-planned way.

Let the future commence.


Blogger Gaz Liddon said...

Fair points though you're confusing credible reviewing, written for an audience and intended to inform with what some bloke has written on his blog.

I'm not a stand up or a reviewer. I'm not dependant on the time and attention of an audience for a reason to write my blog. The main motivations are fairly prosaic and self focussed; a bit of practise at writing and an outlet of record the day to day.

The way I see it is as I don't make any demands of an audience it's not realistic to expect me to bow to the demands of an audience if there is one. Especially on a blog as anyone reading it is reading it by choice. I've no marketing budget, it's not been fly stickered all over town and I haven't been cold calling people to go on my site. All readers have actively sought it out themselves.

Anyway, this is what I think is good advice though:

- Don't google your own name unless you've a ridiculously thick skin
- Instead of dwelling on set backs, use them as material. I really like Richard Herring's way he dealt with getting the Telegraph's Worst Comedy Experience of 2005 award, he wears the thing like a badge :)
- Keep on trucking, you're spot on concentrating on the future.


7:45 PM  
Blogger Ashley Frieze said...

Opinion's opinion. I think my point is that anything I choose to make available to the international internet - i.e. the whole world - is something I ought to stand by. I should point out that I often write on my own blog to think things through. So, the challenge of how to express one's opinion without coming across as a dick or a bit patronising, is one which I'm very interested in.

Aware that this is turning into some weird sort of blog version of tennis, let's leave the discourse there, eh?

12:26 AM  

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