Joseph McAulay


josephmcaulayJoseph McAulay concerns himself with theatre in the main, and makes only occasional sorties into comedy.

While a thesp overview of comedy is sometimes helpful and revealing, McAulay gives the overall impression of someone who wishes the comedy he’s watching could be a bit more – well, theatre-y. It’s clear that he sees the driving ambition of comedy (to make people laugh) as rather a low target. Of This Is Your Trial he concedes that the comedians managed to do the very least expected of them: “Both did a competent job of using the format to make witty and interesting jokes”. He continues: . “These did admittedly produce funny moments. Overall the show is enjoyable, but that’s almost the problem: it’s just enjoyable… you’ll have a few drinks before, laugh at the time…” To which you sort of want to say “Not everything is Titus Bloody Andronicus, Joseph.”

In case we hadn’t realised that he was roughing it, he lets us know quite clearly at the end of reviewing John Robertson’s The Dark Room: Symphony of a Floating Head: “It’s not often than I find myself enjoying myself in a pitch black room surrounded by other sweaty fringe goers while an Australian man shouts at me. Anyone who can make an hour of this entertaining deserves to be checked out.” How does the adjective ‘Australian’ play in the awful environment the critic overcame? Is it being used as a pejorative like ‘horrible’ or ‘stinky’?

In any case, the fact that McAulay is happy to put himself three times into five words: “I find myself enjoying myself” tells you who is the most important person in his reviews.

This may be why McAulay emphasises whether or not he has enjoyed himself – which, to older comedy reviewers, is as gauche as a restaurant critic talking about the actual food – and whether he’s seen anything life-changing. We can’t argue with that in principle. He certainly understands what he sees: his description of John Robertson as “a deranged dungeon master on a power trip” who “holds the entire show together through his presence and charisma” is a good precis. He’s pretty shrewd when he gets away from himself.

The accompanying picture of McAulay makes him look about 7. Maybe he’ll develop a bit more empathy as he ages.

Billy Coconuts

Lorenzo Pacitti

lorenzopacittiYou can’t help but be drawn into Lorenzo Pacitti’s reviews. He makes no effort at all to impress us with big words or elaborate sentence structure. He never once pauses to expound on the bigger ideas that are put forward by the show he’s watching. He’s a ground-level reviewer who allows himself to get caught up in the excitement of the audience, and he’s all the better for it.

“Despite significant technical problems which result in her performing without a mic for 90% of the show, Luisa strolls through an hour of girl-power fuelled, bombastic comedy,” he explains of Luisa Omielan in a review not short of bombast in itself. And although he concedes that “occasionally the show can descend into men-bashing”, Pacitti is happy to side with the audience’s approval.

Indeed, it’s astonishing how many reviewers neglect to mention the audience at all. Perhaps they think it’s unprofessional, somehow, to let a show’s environment impinge on a review. It’s a mistake, I think, and a self-deception. Acknowledging the challenges or benefits surrounding a show can only make a review better, and Pacitti seems to be cogniscent of this.

“Despite the single digit crowd, there’s a pleasant atmosphere in Bar 50 as the few punters here tonight hang on Harriet Dyer’s every word,” he tells us, in a nice review that quickly plummets into words like ‘hackneyed’ and ‘stretched’ but still maintains that “It’s impossible to deny how fascinating Dyer is as an individual.” I was a bit confused by this review and wished that Pacitti had taken more time to explain himself.

There are no such problems in John Robertson’s Nifty History of Evil, where he explains the nature of the show just enough not to spoil it. He tells us “He can be telling you about what exactly the Marquis De Sade did with his penis or exotic torture techniques, and do so with the same charm and glint in his eye as the pleasant Aussie who watched with a big grin as his queue filled up.” Pacitti has an endearing lightness of touch.

Sadly he goes on to talk about “the chaotic nature of the show” which, in my experience, usually means that the reviewer just couldn’t keep track of it. But Pacitti is very much a reviewer who sets out with the intention of enjoying himself.

Jemyma C Noevil


Fred Fletch


fredfletchI doubt that anyone else out there has read as much Fred Fletch as I have, for the simple reason that Fred Fletch is the most irritating reviewer that has ever lived, or will ever live, in this universe or any other. I doubt anyone else has got past a single paragraph.

“He makes the Underbelly his bitch, utilizing the lights, atmosphere and precisely zero-fuck,” says Fletch of John Robertson performing The Dark Room. “It’s hard to describe,” he says. It isn’t, actually, but Fletch is certainly not up to the task. His review is a wittering prattle of crap that gives not the vaguest clue what the show is about and at one point includes the phrase “ass-hammer a woman-shaped clothes horse” for no reason whatsoever except that he really wants to shock you.

Mostly what Fletch writes is just unsifted rubbish: “If someone thinks Funky Music by Wild Cherry melds seamlessly into Sweet Dreams by Eurhythmics, stay clear – that guy clearly wants to lay his space-eggs in your thorax.” “Previously it was a whirlwind trip through mind-reading and easily-sunburned Harry Pottery. This time he flexes his comedy muscles over whatever bag of cat intestines and wolfbane [sic] that gives him the power to guess cards.”  Occasionally, though, his sebaceous glands leak into his brain and he just turns desperate. “Sure, he does requests, but like strippers, if you want him to hammer-dance or cry softly into your crotch, tradition dictates you slip him a fiver.” Grow the fuck up.

Sorry, it’s catching. Fletch peppers everything with the word ‘fuck’, or else ‘goddamn’ and ‘ass’, like a teenage boy who has just heard an album with a parental advisory sticker on it. Actually, forget the word ‘like’. Fred Fletch is precisely that. In a comedy landscape where dozens of young performers try too hard to be edgy and are punished for it by reviewers, who decided we need a reviewer who thinks he’s Andrew Dice Clay?

The last paragraph of a review is usually where I try to see the other side of things; in this case I would be scrabbling about for some means by which to give Fred Fletch the benefit of the doubt. So to give Fred Fletch the benefit of the doubt he may be a character reviewer that Skinny editor Bernard O’Leary just made up, a sort of Baconface of the critic community. So, if I’ve fallen for a joke here, well done. You got me.

I’m not cross. If Fred Fletch doesn’t really exist I’m just very relieved.

Business Leopard