Frodo Allan

BROADWAY BABY

You know that bit in the Fisher King… (yes I know nobody watches the serious Robin Williams films anymore but you MUST have seen this one)… you know that bit where the lonely office worker lady says to Robin “Are you real?” because he’s being the sort of lovely, dreamy boyfriend everyone wFrodo Allan

On top of this admirable tendency to show mercy, Allan seems to understand what he’s watching and can precis it without boxing it or giving the game away. Of Twonkey’s Christmas in the Jungle he says: “Everything is fitting to a plan”, although “the plan might be written in green crayon on the side of teapot”. It’s nice when reviewers can review in the spirit of the thing they’re seeing without, you know, going a bit dickish with it like every lame duffer who has reviewed Austentatious in the style of Jane Austen.

He’s an odd fish though. His biog states that the press call him “The Godfather of Scottish cabaret”… hmm. Well he’s certainly a lot more Gambino when he reviews his chosen genre. In fact there are some cabaret show ponies who get their heads cut off. But for some reason he goes nice and easy with pretty much every bit of comedy he sees. Is it because he doesn’t take it seriously? Is comedy a bit of a review-holiday for him? Frodo, are you real?

Like a lot of Broadway Baby reviewers since it left the constraints of of print, Allan can be a bit verbose – for example taking 75 words to tell us a Mulholland routine was a bit near-the-knuckle. He also needs to read his stuff through. He tells us twice that he was gutted that he didn’t have enough cash to buy Juan Vesuvius’s mixtape after the show. (Maybe he wants us to take the hint and buy it for him?) He also writes “The angry comedian is a common trope these days and Mulholland is brilliantly pissed-off at the world” twice. It seems that Allan likes to write in pithy sentences and then move his favourite one to the end as a conclusion, but does a copy-paste instead of a cut-paste. I’m guessing. In any case he needs to edit his own stuff because I’m sure the only thing the editors of Broadway Baby ever check is their Snapchat and the wet patch behind their ears.

Laura Pujos

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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.

Eva Hibbs

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We were beginning to think that the art of the reviewer brainfart was passed, so thank all that’s holy for Eva Hibbs. Her small stack of reviews so far provide some of the most perplexing and intractable sentences yet committed to the canon.

Hibbs has reviewed some shows with very out-there conceits, which in itself shows a healthy interest in the unusual. In such cases it can be best to explain the idea behind the comedy or just leave it well alone and concentrate on the jokes. Hibbs makes the error of going in halfway so that we’re intrigued but left scratching our heads. Of Kill The Beast’s Don’t Wake The Damp, she tells us “‘The Damp Is Rising’, where the team make the most of their screens-on-wheels set-up, is performed to a West End standard and, like the bacteria itself, lingers for a while after it’s introduced”. I can GUESS what’s going on here (I think), but why am I doing all the work? I didn’t get the free ticket did I?

Her review of James Veitch is clearer; a man “cursed by his friends and family for taking jokes too far”. “This has got to be some of the most satisfying stuff of the summer,” she declares. Such unmitigated and positive conclusions are rare and wonderful. She should make more of these conclusions and do less explaining about how she arrived at them.

It comes down to Hibbs’ use of words really. “It’s rare to get people laughing to the point of crying whilst simultaneously spreading a sense of poignancy,” ‘Spread’ belongs either with a noun or with a cliché like happiness. I’m not sure what consistency poignancy has but it’s hard to imagine it being spread. It’s odd little hiccups like this that evoke a sense of Alan Partridge. “To wrap Kill The Beast’s third show up in a nutshell would be to allow the ‘nut’ a coconut status,” she attests; a statement that would be right at home on Mid Morning Matters. She returns to the coconut later in Kill The Beast’s review, like a comedian doing a callback to a routine that had failed to begin with. “Like a coconut – what’s inside is not the most robust and actually comes out flooding, at speed.” Er… what?

Goodness knows what Briony Redman is meant to take away from her review; the conclusion finds that “Yes, favouring tested models of success limits room for originality, but what should we actually do about it?” It doesn’t make any clearer sense on the page.

The blunt conclusion is that Hibbs is reaching for a prolix writing style that is possibly out of reach and wouldn’t serve her needs anyway. She simply needs to tell us what is going on in the show and whether or not it works. “The energy with which Kill The Beast transport you, however, cannot be contested.” [she writes]. “We’re nothing if not taken back there, to a time a before, to a style of things that, no matter whether you were born in ‘55 or ‘95, is equally nostalgic.” I have no idea what this statement is doing, what it wants or why it hangs around so long with its mange and its sad eyes. The only civilised reaction to it is to take it outside and shoot it.

Simon Fearn

BROADWAY BABY

simonfearn-320 Reading a Simon Fearn review puts one in mind of one of those QVC infomercials where they have 20 minutes to fill and only a set of Tupperware beakers to talk about. Fearn covers every angle, in the most plodding way, almost as if he’s got one eye on the word count to see if he can stop yet. Meanwhile he’s not really telling us anything.

“His punchlines tend to be clever and original, and the tone is amusingly downbeat,” he says of Alex Kealy. They ‘tend’ to be clever and original? Surely they ARE clever and original, or else they’re not? I can’t see where ‘tend’ comes into it. And how is a downbeat tone intrinsically amusing? Of Zac Splijt’s LJ Da Funk he opines “The persona allows Splijt to get away with punchlines that are sometimes convoluted and sometimes outrageous, swapping the more anecdotal style favoured by a lot of stand-ups for surreal, bite-sized routines, often pitched a healthy distance away from reality.” What does any of that mean? What is a ‘healthy’ distance away from reality? I still don’t know whether this guy is any good or not and I can’t see what’s different about the act Fearn has seen. If Fearn had been ordered to write a review without giving anything away he probably couldn’t do much better than this.

Fearn ticks off all the tropes of lazy reviewing. He makes the fatal error of pointing out that one act may not be the best thing to see “with so many stand-ups at the Fringe” but that “For a free show at midday in a small venue though, you could do worse”. Similarly “Newcastle Brown Male is the perfect choice for a late evening comedy gig”. When he states that “Kealy’s stand-up is still better than most and always enjoyable” he sounds like that person in the audience who hated it but really wants to say something nice. His reviews stop just short of “imagine learning all those words” or “I could never get onstage like that”. It reaches a head in his bizarrely detached summation of Lana Schwarcz’s Lovely Lady Lump about her experiences with breast cancer: apparently she “deserves credit for sharing a terrible experience in a relatively light-hearted tone.” Yes. Have some credit, Lana. Go on, help yourself to credit. I’m not going to tell you exactly what sort of credit you’re getting, Lana, because I don’t want to get involved. But the credit is over there and you are allowed to go and get some with a spoon. Not too much! That credit is for other people too.

All of this round-the houses pedestrianism might be fine if his reviews were appearing in the Llandudno Argus detailing the town hall entertainments for pensioners, but when talking to the most comedy-savvy audience in the world it’s not quite what we need.

Still, you can’t say that Fearn isn’t fair since his piece-by-piece show autopsies invariably leave no part of the  carcass uninspected. What’s more, he always tries to find something he likes, even if that does tend toward trite “on-the-whole-it-was-great-though” conclusions. To conclude in Fearn’s own style, there are much better reviewers out there on the Fringe, but for a quiet bit of reading reviews while sitting in a puddle of warm swarfega, you could probably do slightly worse.

Louise Jones

BROADWAY BABY

louisejonesLouise Jones could do with reading over her work and tightening things up a bit. She uses the word ‘conceit’ and the phrase ‘padded out’ a bit and there are quite a few typos to trip the reader up.

But such things are only worthy of mention because they impede what could be very good reviews, giving a nice overview of what works and what doesn’t. She mostly looks at sketch comedy, and does manage to give the impression that she understands the tenets of this métier: “It’s a tricky feat to maintain an exciting and entertaining plotline in improv for fifteen minutes, let alone three plotlines across an hour, but unfortunately this struggle shows with some awkward silences,” she says of Beings.

Some reviewers willfully ignore the crowd in the room, instead basing their reviews on some transcendent quality they claim to have recognised in the act. Jones bases her judgment on the reception each passage of the performance receives, and is particularly alert to the duff bits: Jokes “don’t land as well as intended” is one of her standard lines. Towards the End of her What A Load Of Skit review she makes the reviewer’s error of telling the sketch troupe how they SHOULD have done a particular piece; never an edifying sight.

There are some bits where the explanation breaks down into something that needs unpacking. In discussing Katherine Ryan she states that “Ryan responds to her Twitter trolls following a clip of her being found out of context abroad”. I can guess what was going on here, but I’d only be guessing. Looking at What A Load, she says: “Set ups like shopping on Amazon or the idea of Shakespeare writing in a Starbucks are brilliant concepts”. I would actually like some more convincing here. I mean, you must know they don’t LOOk like brialliant concepts when you say it like that? I don’t, for one second, doubt that they are – but a little more exposition could go a long way.

Marigold Bumbellina-Froome