Laura Kidd


laurakiddLaura Kidd is alright at reviewing, I suppose. She seems to get the measure of Lewis Schaeffer, saying “it takes almost the full 50 minutes of his show to start liking him”. That’s when other reviewers go off him, so it sounds like she saw a good one. And four stars is generous (in a good way) for a show where she warmed to the comic only during his closing statement.

She does her best with a tiny word limit to describe Matt Roper’s Wilfredo character, although she does grate with her “my quest” style of writing: “From the moment I enter what could be the rankest-smelling Fringe venue…” Keep yourself out the picture, please. You going to someone’s show is not a thrilling adventure for the rest of us.

I was also aggrieved at her needling of Tom Goodliffe for having a routine about liking tits. “Amongst the gentle enthusiasm, a jarring section on how much he loved ‘boobies’ as a young man leads to a much-needed denouncement of The Sun’s Page three and the misogyny and violence prevalent in hip hop,” she says. Good job he put that denouncement in, eh? Otherwise he’d be no better than a RAPIST. Liking ‘boobies’, indeed! And well done for quarantining the word ‘boobies’ inside some inverted commas, otherwise we’d all have caught rapism! For fuck’s sake. Let the boy talk about boobies if he wants to. Boobies, boobies, boobies. I love boobies and I’m made of cloth. Boobies are great. Yummy lovely sexy boobies. Did any feminists die, Kidd? No. Is Emily Davison spinning in her grave? No, she’s fine with it. She probably loved them too.

To be honest, there’s a bigger issue at stake here. Laura Kidd has a full and interesting life outside reviewing. She performs Britpop songs on a ukulele under the name She Makes War. She goes for long walks and writes blogs, such as the most recent one which read “[I] am treating this whole trip as an artistically enriching adventure. I love seeing how other people perform their material, hearing the things they choose to share with a room full of strangers and especially witnessing the clever ways they get their stories across”, adding “I need my own 50 minute Fringe show next year”.

So… What are you DOING, Laura? We see so many young reviewers at Fringepig, and some of them we can do nothing for. They’re reviewing because they just can’t think of anything else to do. I blame the government. They have no purpose of their own, Laura, so they attempt to piggyback on the talents of others. But look at you, Laura. You’ve got it all going on. You’ve told us how much you love performance. You seem to understand just how delicate a thing it is. But then you go home and you start processing it, like spam or cheap soup or offal sausages. People like you with your little clattery keyboards, Laura, processing ART into 120 words of  “meh”.

STOP IT. Save yourself. Go home, Laura. Write that Fringe show. And come back next year as someone with a proper contribution to make.

Michaela Plaidface

George Robb


georgerobbThis reviewer has, apparently, “been a fan of the Fringe ever since the age of 14, after stumbling upon it during a long journey from Argyll to England”. One senses that something is missing from this story, such as “as his mother desperately scoured the country for a school where he wouldn’t be bullied”. Perhaps his parents were trying to reach the border on foot before Mr Salmond has it closed. Looking at his photograph, in which he seems to be holding a gin and tonic and pointing at the camera as if to say “No, YOU da man!” he can’t be much beyond 14 now.

It’s important to get a handle on novice reviewers, and novice Robb certainly is. Any reviewer who comes straight out of the traps with a five-star review hasn’t been long in the game, and I don’t care whether they went to see a puppet show or the second coming of Christ. Yet Robb betrays himself a little here: “This improvised story-book adventure… is a sell-out once again,” he tells us of Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised. Again? What, on top of their first Fringe show all those hours ago? This is the first day, after all, that Three Weeks has posted any reviews. Again after last year? Please explain. Have you seen them before? Are they your mates? Are they your family, trying to earn some coppers to pay off a human trafficker? What’s going on, George? “They appear flawless,” he says, in a review that seems to sweep him up in hysteria. We believe him, of course, but we’d like to know, to put it in legalese, the extent of his relationship with what he’s looking at.

Thankfully, Robb has found, within the cramped confines of a Three Weeks review, the space to swing a simile: “Watching Rhys James is like being attacked by a swarm of flies – his punchlines surround you in an indiscernible flurry, slightly annoying but also pleasantly tickly.” I came out of this allegory like so many people come out of shows: I can see what he was TRYING to do, but I wasn’t sold. Alas, swarms of flies are never “pleasantly tickly”, and to suggest that they are you need to be either quite eccentric or some sort of enormous pervert. And I am sure that Robb is neither of these. He’s not nearly old enough to have turned either that bad or that interesting.

Michaela Plaidface


Mathew Tansini


matthewtansiniMathew Tansini writes as if he knows a lot about comedy. His convictions are such that, if you knew less about comedy than Tansini, you might well be taken in. But to know less than Tansini you would need to be from a place that doesn’t understand stand-up comedy, like Afghanistan or the Isle of Wight.

So secure is he in his convictions that, of Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else!, he writes “I was so ready to tear this show down. I had essentially already written the review, I was only really going to the show for validation”. He then seems to expect our admiration that he changed his mind. Sorry, Tansini, but nothing doing. I’m shocked you have the effrontery to admit to such ignorance.

His other misassumptions include the belief that Tom Stade lives stateside and that Lewis Schaffer is a character act. And so he prattles on for several hundred words having accepted his own premise, never once breaking off to doubt or qualify himself, or maybe (perish the thought) do some research.

Tansini writes like a teenager (whether he is or not I couldn’t say), but there is far too much of him saying how bored he is and how much he had to glance at his watch. His being bored generally provokes a one-star review; you sense that having Tanisini in your audience is like being asked to tap dance for an over-indulged child. But then he wouldn’t be the first Broadway Baby reviewer to turn into King Joffrey at the sniff of a notebook and pen.

Yet it’s not all bad. He does seem to appreciate bravery and candour, from Geoff Norcott’s vindication of budget cuts to a Scottish audience to Sam Avery’s fifteen minutes of fame and failure in Rock and Dole. He certainly has the right instincts to review comedy. It would probably serve him better to moderate his opinions with reminders that they are just that: opinions – not the unalloyed truth. And do some bloody research.

Michaela Plaidface




Lily Blacksell


lilyblacksellIt’s always difficult reviewing reviewers who are bed-and-breakfasting in comedy when it’s clearly not their specialism.

Blacksell spent the 2013 Fringe reviewing music, but then reviewed one comedy show – Alistair McGowan. Why? Because “back in the day, Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression was a firm family favourite in our house”. Right then. So I expect you liked it? “Alistair McGowan is fantastic at what he does.” Good, glad we cleared that up.

Why do publications like Broadway Baby let anyone review anything? Not just in terms of hiring people more wet behind the ears than the average otter, but in letting any one of them dip their snouts in whichever Fringe trough appeals to them? If they would at least pretend that their reviewers had a background, if not expertise, in their chosen area of entertainment it might garner more respect.

To sum up this review of Lily Blacksell: Lily Blacksell really likes Alistair McGowan, so she asked if she could have a free pass to see Alistair McGowan. And she really liked Alistair McGowan because, as we have by now established, Lily Blacksell REALLY LIKES Alistair McGowan. So four stars to Alistair McGowan, we’re sure they’re warranted. And it’s fitting that he’s accredited by someone impersonating a comedy reviewer.

Michaela Plaidface


Joe Walsh


joewalshI really cannot say anything about Joe Walsh that would sum him up better than his own sweet words. Take this: “It’s not important that a show hosted by Jo Caulfield is essentially starting at the bottom of a steep hill, as stimulating as her observational comedy and mundane audience interaction are.” So, you’re starting from the position that we ALL dislike Jo Caulfield because you do? Sterling work. Let’s continue with Walsh’s appreciation of Tim Vine:

“A song, ‘Pen Behind the Ear’, plays throughout the auditorium as he attempts to catch a biro on the back of his ear, lasting for thirty seconds or so. He played this song seven times, at which point I think even his most stalwart fans were beginning to falter. We sat there watching a man aware that he was doing something entirely uninteresting, aware that the time was pushing on midnight and we had homes to go to, but who did not stop until, mercifully, after eight rounds of the song, he succeeded. And why did he keep trying? Because this was about him.”

Words fail me. Not because I’ve seen a room destroyed by ‘Pen Behind The Ear’. Not because of the (always unforgivable) insinuation that the reviewer has something better to do. Not even the astounding lack of empathy for a performer doing something that may not be working this time around (what SHOULD he have done, just abandon the gag?) Not even the basic comedy nous that trying the audience’s patience is THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE JOKE. Not even, by itself, the assumption that Tim Vine was on some sort of ego trip trying to entertain a crowd for charity, for free, on his one day off. It’s none of that, and all of that. It’s the oily, cloying arrogance that oozes out of Walsh’s every syllable.

Walsh clearly sees himself as a bit of a giant slayer, and one with unimpeachable views about what comedy should be. This is all very well, but his casual assassinations don’t make him look nearly as big or clever as he thinks they do.

Walsh’s reviews are long, and there’s an awful lot of throat-clearing before he gets to the point (His Barnardos Event review rattles on for three paragraphs before he even starts to discuss the gig). It’s as if he’s doing a drum roll for himself before he arrives at his earth-shattering pronouncements.

Yet, when he likes something – really, really likes it – Walsh stops talking out of his nether reaches and properly engages with the thing. His Richard Herring review, for instance, is bubbly and insightful and only about 50 words overlong rather than 200. Here, his overblown turn of phrase comes across as charmingly eccentric rather than unhinged. “Even when he discusses masturbation, he veers clear of crassness and plants his flag sternly upon the knoll of insightful humour,” writes Walsh. Well, let us all bend our steps to that impossible knoll.

Michaela Plaidface