I 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

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