You sense that comedy is not of primary importance in The Telegraph’s pantheon of the arts – even though it lists it in the website’s navigation bar before art, photography, dance opera or even – gasp! – Glyndebourne.
Comedy at The Telegraph is the chief concern of Dominic Cavendish, with chip-ins by other arts journalists, particularly Mark Monahan (The Telegraph seems to think the arts are a fairly borderless terrain, and they all dip their wicks in one another’s disciplines). But Cavendish is the big fish, and so it sort of boils down to whether you think he’s a good reviewer. If you don’t, then there’s no real need to read The Telegraph’s Fringe coverage.
Needless to say, perhaps, nobody at The Telegraph concerns themselves with anything that’s fresh, raw or wet behind the ears. Up-and-comers need to have up and gone before this paper weighs in with a late opinion. The only hot reviews from the nation’s last remaining unfoldable, unholdable broadsheet will come from big venues hosting big stars. There are solid reasons for this, but it’s the equivalent of its art section only discussing Old Masters, or Damien Hirst now that we know he can’t paint and nobody cares anymore. The effect of this is that The Telegraph’s writers are only just explaining Bridget Christie to the people who live in rural Cambridgeshire or Rutland. And it might be just as well if they never knew.
If The Telegraph ever had any currency with the cool kids – which is of course a rhetorical statement – it deliberately derailed it in 2013 when Dominic Cavendish wrote his infamous “Why I walked out of a Stewart Lee gig” article, citing Lee’s “contempt for his audience”.
Similarly his colleague Mark Monahan complained earlier this year that Russell Howard was too scatological. You have to conclude that, for all their stabs at groovy kudos, The Telegraph’s main comedy double-act ends up bogged down in the small-C conservatism of their chosen organ. They both write rather well, but if you can enjoy neither playful, knowing contempt nor playful, knowing poo-obsession for what they are then you may, as a reviewer, have your nose too close to the ground. But then, The Telegraph does not do meta. At least, not until it really has to.