Laura Pujos

BROADWAY BABY

Nobody could accuse Pujos of being dismissive about what she sees. Bloody hell no. She attends comedy shows as if she’s been asked to take notes for a Hague War Crimes tribunal; presenting each point before cross-examining it and (usually) finding it guilty of something. This jurisprudence is not in the service of seeing both sides of any argument: far from it. Pujos puts everything she sees through the wringer of watery liberal safe-space university batshit bullshit, and to such an exceptional degree that her schtick becomes oppressive and quite depressing to read.

I’m sure Kae Kurd, for example, is a very funny man but he is done little favour by Pujos’ heavy-handed advocacy. “Addressing the increase in open racism and hate crimes post-Brexit and Trump, Kurd’s strikes me as a necessary voice in comedy in current times,”Pujos attests. “The events in Charlottesville particularly poignantly indicate the relevance and pertinence of comedy shows like his.” Erm… he’s trying to have a laugh on the Free Fringe, Laura; not rescue neo-liberalism from the Nazis.

You get the distinct feeling that Pujos hasn’t seen much comedy; the sheer length of her Kurd hagiography is, to say the least, unneccesary – as is her tortuous deliberations on whether to throw Rosie Wilby’s Breakup Monologues in the bin (it didn’t actually include Rosie Wilby on the day she saw i which, we sense, threw Pujos into an existential panic). Little surprise that when she doesn’t like Thom Tuck’s discussion of ISIS and the Middle East, she uses his review to sing the praises (yet again) of Mr Kurd, the one other comedian she has seen talking about ISIS in her entire short life. Pujos makes it absolutely clear that she supports Jim Crow laws on comedy: “Tuck, a white non-Muslim comedian, is ill-positioned to make half the jokes he does,” she says. Er… what?

She continues: “Particularly problematic moments include a gag that belittles and disregards the seriousness of alcoholism as an illness,” as if Tuck has been abusing patients rather than performing comedy.

The extremist butt-rod isn’t even Pujo’s main problem. It’s not even that she is inexperienced and witheringly boring (her 143-word explanation of how Grainne Maguire pronounces her name will have you praying for death to whichever God is available, whatever your creed and colour). It’s that ALL her reviews really are about herself and her modernist, millennial search for self-betterment. It’s all “I thought” this and “I expected” that and “Oh how disappointed I was” about the other. The sheer pomposity of Pujos’ self-entitled tracts is occasionally hilarious; things are always “sadly” or “disappointingly” not what she wanted, and we should be in no doubt that this sadness and misfortune is universal.

You may wonder whether Pujos even understands her own liberal wahabbism. “They Mail on Sunday’s branding of Tuck as ‘the next David Mitchell’ led me to expect some erudite political commentary,” she says. Well who’d expect the Mail on Sunday to give you a bum steer on who to watch at the Fringe, Laura.

Laura Pujos knows three fifths of fuck all about comedy, and she wants to tell you about the profound personal journey she had watching four and a half hours of it.

Nina Keen

THREE WEEKS

ninakeenIs the world just wrong? Or is Nina Keen just wrong? Because one of the two MUST be wrong.

Nina Keen is not averse to the reviewer-speak standby of saying that a thing does or doesn’t “live up to its title”. So excuse me for saying that, whether she is wrong or not, Nina Keen does not live up to her title. She is not very keen on anything much.

Her lack of enthusiasm is most pronounced on anything – and I mean ANYTHING – that transgresses her sense of propriety and polity. So Simon Munnery’s joke about his daughter “was strangely reactionary as well as deeply uncomfortable”; Daniel Nils Roberts’ “one female character was uncomfortable too; the pathetic erotica author felt rooted in sexist tropes”; Michelle Wolf has “retro misogyny and homophobia, with a dash of transphobia and ableism thrown in. This is confusing, because I could’ve sworn we’d established this was unacceptable ages ago”. Consistently Keen is confronted with things she doesn’t like politically, and these cause her discomfort and confusion. She is unable to separate her own feelings from the requirements of objective analysis. Her conclusion is always that a show has hurt her personally, and so it must be punished. No lapse from Keen’s playbook of social acceptability can be tolerated. Adam Rowe, for example, “used his own weight to justify a fatphobic routine that was at the expense of others rather than himself”. How dare he? Doesn’t he know that comedy has RULES??

This could all be written down to youthful idealism if it were not for the frankly juvenile outbursts. “We, the audience, have feelings, and violent and demeaning jokes fucking hurt.” We can only suggest (assuming that it is Keen who is wrong, rather than most of this year’s Fringe), that Keen put a trigger warning on everything outside her window and not venture beyond it until she can deal with the actual world. Because if there’s one thing the Fringe doesn’t need it’s any more of this Student Union pisswank that seeks to invalidate anything that doesn’t toe the line of insipid subservience to a single line of reasoning.

Keen admits as much when she gives Chris Coltrane four stars for defending political correctness in his show. Correct score for Coltrane’s show, I grant you, but wrong reason. Stars mean little enough already, let’s not turn them into goodie tokens for people we just happen to agree with.

Keen also likes to say that just because something is… whatever… that doesn’t make it funny. “Singing a thing doesn’t automatically make it funny” [Rachel Parris]; “Being right about something doesn’t make it automatically funny” [Simon Munnery]. It helps though, doesn’t it, Nina? I’m sure it helps.

Izzie Fernandes

EDFRINGE REVIEW

izziefernandesI don’t know how YOU review Fringe reviewers, but I do it like this: I make a document of all their reviews so far and go through it with a highlighter: yellow for things I would question, red for bits that I like. But the reviews of Izzie Fernandes were so streaked with yellow you might think they had jaundice.

Well, I say ‘reviews’ because we generally wait until we have two or three in order to get a sense of the reviewer’s style. But the one attempt so far by Fernandes is such a catastrophe that we thought we should attend to it immediately and mop it up like a breakage in the booze aisle, before something terrible happens.

Fernandes’ writing style, if that is what we’ll call it, consists of a stream of non-sequiturs linked with the Pritt Stick of some unfathomable idea. Adjectives are given jobs they don’t know how to do and nouns wander aimlessly around her prose as if looking for the exit. Paragraph breaks occur seemingly at random and could really be put anywhere; even the middle of a sentence would work as well. Flights of fancy stay airborne for about as long as a fat chicken can.

Some ludicrously of pantomime and simultaneously explicit content pervaded Ewins’ energetic performance. With raisins aptly revealed as the MILF’s of the grape world, there were some laughable gems. Ewins surpassed his own expectations and transformed a relatively inauthentic narrative into something more consistently comic and crowd-pleasing. His suggestion that he was merely ‘playing guess who with his career’ was unnecessarily harsh and if you have a spare evening and want to rest your legs in front of some lighthearted comedy with a beer or two, take Ewins up on the offer to let him share his Day Job with you.

If you imagine pooing your pants five times and then sitting down in it, that’s the sort of compacted mess we’re talking about here. The only thing you can learn about the comedy of Mat Ewins from this review is that it left Izzie Fernandes with thoughts she struggled to express. Especially when she writes things like: “Ewins delivered the set with an ease of performance allegedly more inappropriate than a time he performed a kid’s show with a boner”. How can an ease of performance be inappropriate? We need a noun to attach a value to. Especially when we’re talking about boners.

His own spiel about a pie factory (a favourite joke for what his website terms this ‘very hungry comedian’) was interrupted by his exclaiming “fucking hell I need to stop ad libbing”. Such casual interjection gave the stand up a fresh, rustic feel.

Gave it a frigging what, now?

Fernandes is done no favours by Edfringe Review’s practice of running a second review alongside the first, to give a second opinion. In this case you’re scanning the other one desperate for some clarity or pointers.

I could go on and on, but it’s really a bit too depressing. Fernandes wonders whether Matt Ewins’ Day Job really is his day job, but this certainly shouldn’t be hers. If English is her third language then I’m deeply sorry and I commend her to keep grappling with our difficult mother tongue. If it’s her second then she should maybe get some more lessons before carrying on. And if it’s her first then her school needs to be bulldozed as a matter of national urgency.

Billy Coconuts

Ben Shannon

THREE WEEKS

benshannonBen Shannon is a likeable presence whose relaxed hand on the tiller eases the audience into the situation, combining a light-hearted patter and confidence beyond his years. Don’t take my word for it, though. Because those were not my words. They were a reviewer’s words, back when Shannon was in Three Men and a Saucepan in 2013.

Now here’s an interesting thing. Back in 2004 Michael Legge was given a one-star review by a reviewer who was Probably Not Very Good (I know, I know) and who later decided to be a comedian. The fact that Michael Legge did not make him very welcome whenever the two should meet is one of those stories comedians now tell in the backs of cars.

And now Michael Legge has been reviewed yet again by someone determined to straddle the fence of arsery and artistry while only pissing on one side of it. This time he’s got a four, so there’ll be no stern talkings-to (probably) but you have to ask yourself: where do these people get off? Not just the fence but, you know, generally? How do you SIT THERE, assessing someone doing comedy, write that it wasn’t very good, or it was okay, or it was brilliant but then a bit MEH, and then go and do it yourself, fretting about whether there’s one of those cunt reviewers in?  It’s like Jack the Ripper moonlighting as a prostitute, and hoping he doesn’t end up going home with a wrong’un.

We might shrug if Ben Shannon wasn’t bothered about opinions and that it’s, if I may quote The Wire, “All in the game”. But he tells us very proudly that he got three stars from Three Weeks on the first day of performance back then. Presumably – to misquote Victor Kiam – he liked the review so much, he joined the company. And he provides a quote from that nice Marc Blake, who used to play Helmut the German. So opinions mean a lot to him, as they do to any new comedian. Here’s mine: choose a bloody side.

If he chooses to stick with reviewing he’s by no means bad at it. His sentences are well formed and nicely paced. More importantly he manages to get his passion across in a short space of words. He occasionally tails off into throwaways like “you won’t regret” going, or “Edinburgh will be seeing more” of someone, or, in the case of Ivo Graham, the rather verbose “it would be foolish to ignore the fact that he is one of the circuit’s truly talented wordsmiths, and his skills only continue to improve”. Three Weeks only prints slug reviews, yet you can’t help imagining Shannon’s eye is on the word count and his mind, no doubt, on how many stars he needs to dish out to avoid difficult confrontations with his comedy peers as he goes to new places and meets new people.

This is why moonlighting doesn’t work, and why Mister Kipper doesn’t allow us to give these subterfugees more than one pig. So suck on your single sausage, Mister Shannon, and next year come back as a baddie OR a good guy. You can’t be both at the same time. This isn’t The Wire.

Jemyma C. Noevil

* Note: Ben Shannon is performing with Mike Reed (not, we presume, the dead one who was married to Pat Butcher) at Moriarty’s (Venue 332) for the Free Festival at 4.15pm daily. It’s free. Please donate enough money at the end that he can leave reviewing behind him.

Louise Mason

MUMBLE COMEDY

louisemasonOh Mumble Comedy, must we play this game again? Oh fine. Here we go then.

Louise Mason is a real person who actually went to review things. The fact that she writes exactly like all the other Mumble Comedy reviewers, who in turn write exactly like Damo Bullen (and we know he exists because he sends us emails claiming to be Napoleon) is purely coincidental. Make no mistake: Louise Mason is a person and she went to see Juliet Meyers.

Mason (I feel dirty) was certainly not sitting there looking for themes or concepts. With Meyers, as with the other things she saw, she recorded what happened like a copper with a notepad. When she tells us that “In a dark, packed out and rather sweaty loft, Juliet Meyers ran through the corridor shouting and “welcome to the stage….Juliet Meyers!” … her baggy black t-shirt with stars, galaxies and orange writing reminded me of Back to the Future” you have to wonder what the internet has done to journalism. With no word limits the prose has become baggier than Ms Meyer’s T-shirt and more interminable than the cosmos depicted on it. Add to this Mason’s penchant for rhetorical questions (“Where will she take us?” “What would a show about being an outsider be without jokes about religion, race, politics and feminism?” “What can a counsellor do without having people to counsel?”) and you have the makings of tortuous reviews.

It’s not her fault, of course. Mason writes (of Nathan Cassidy) the sentence “Peppered with jokes about mid-life crises and his failed relationship, the audience are on his side.” Mason has no idea that she has told us the audience were peppered with jokes. It must be difficult, what with the ongoing headfuck of probably not existing, to keep in mind that a sentence must have a subject. Nor can Mason see the amusing ambiguity of telling us that Joe Rowntree has a “genius free show”. Statements come screaming out of the mist like civilians running from a bomb atrocity; missing verbs, articles, subjects, qualifiers, possessive apostrophes… The horror, the horror.

Mason turns out sentences the way Eastern Europe used to turn out cars: raw, unfinished, unsafe and liable to collapse under the force of a hard stare.

But fuck it, she’s had her free ticket. Well, someone has.

Billy Coconuts