Chortle is the brainchild of Steve Bennett, who is at heart a decent sort of fanboy with the air of a Dickensian accountant.
Despite going to Oxford University, Steve “Micawber” Bennett still cannot spell very well. He has yet to write a single review that makes cognitive sense from start to finish. He has hung more modifiers than Elizabeth I hung Catholics, and is disparaged not only by grammar Nazis but by grammar Conservatives, grammar moderates and grammar Fabians.
Despite his carelessness Steve writes some of the more balanced reviews in the annual Fringe canon, though it must be said that his abiding tone is best described as ‘Disappointed Edwardian Father’. So-and-so did a reasonable show, but why oh why did he do THIS joke? Why to blazes did she sing THAT song? Why did this sketch troupe ruin everything, and heap disgrace upon their poor parents, by doing THIS routine?
If only they had built a time machine and gone forward to the date of their review by Steve and then listened to Steve, writes Steve, managing somehow to misspell ‘Steve’. When he appeared on the 2016 Andrew Lawrence documentary The Outcast Comic, he appeared, for all his years in the field, to have maintained a rather more conservative view of comedy, in terms of what can and cannot be said, than Lawrence’s fiercest critics.
Unlike most other Fringe publications Chortle has no printed format and does not routinely take in waifs, strays, orphans, refugees or monkeys with typewriters. Instead there is a very select few who form a sort of comedy Justice Super League which, besides Hamfisted Reasonable Man includes Jongleurwoman, Scary Thing, Vituperative Boy and Jay Richardson In Need Of Some Extra Cash Man. In 2014 and 2015 the reviewing went a bit wobbly as Steve widened the gates but seems to have gone back to his A team.
If you need a Chortle review you can send up the Steve Signal, which is a pair of hands wringing themselves in exasperation to the sound of a resigned sigh.
True to our age of poll-defying populism Chortle has become the conservative majority / Jordan Peterson of the industry; far more people subscribe to his stuff than will freely admit, especially if we believe the page-hit figures Chortle quotes to sell its advertising.
Bennett has worked hard to turn his baby into a proper online publication rather than the Steve Times as once it was. Yet anyone told that Chortle is reviewing them hopes that this means Steve himself – good old, reasonable, don’t-scare-the-horses Steve – although they might not admit it, even under torture.