'Dear reviewers, this is how much I care about what you think'
Comedian Alfie Brown addresses the journalists at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2014.
Dear reviewers, this is how much i care about what you think: I care a lot! I read all my reviews because I am obsessed with what people think about me. I am a comedian and it should come as no revelation to anyone that I want my ideas to receive affirmation. The reason I believe comedy is addictive is because comics fall in love with people endorsing their personal truth with laughter. We are less alone with laughter, it’s harmony.
Lots of comics don’t read any of their reviews as they find it helpful to keep a clear headspace, to not have criticism interfere with what they’ve chosen to do and what they believe in. This suggests either a fear of discovering you are bad or a lack of egoism. There is also the argument that reviewers are just people and you should want to please everyone. That is all very well, but not everyone can write eloquently about ME. This is the mania of the performer – me. I want everyone who comes to see my show to enjoy it (they won’t). If it is your job to say whether or not comedy is good and I think you’re good at your job and you are going to broadcast your worthy opinion on the internet, I can’t help it – I care and I’m interested.
I spend a lot of time with comedians and especially enjoy the company of those who, like me, have a monomaniacal love of stand-up as an art form. I could sit and analyse routines and writing methods till everyone was dead. I’m not saying this is the best way to be; everyone works and is engaged with things to different levels, in different ways, and it makes no one better than anyone else. I want to get better at comedy – as all comedians should – so why would I not read what an employed critic thinks is wrong with me?
I have learnt things this way. Steve Bennett’s review of me for Chortle two years ago contained criticisms that I agreed with and that I have worked on (not being funny enough the main one). Brian Donaldson’s review of me last year was a depressing three star review of the worst show I did that festival. Now it might be obvious to most that you should not berate your audience for not laughing at your jokes, but it took the reading of his review for me to address that unpleasant reaction to failure.
Good criticism and journalism paints the mood changes in cultures shifts. There can be a beautiful relationship between critic and performer. There seems to be an awkward attitude between us performers and you critics, but dudes, we should hang out. It would be interesting. The better you do your job, the better we do ours. So thank you. Even to Kate Copstick who, after coming to review me last year, was very excited by the critical light bulb that was now beaming over her head as she beavered over to me and said in earnest:
'I’ve worked out why you’re a cunt!'
I found this particularly amusing as it doesn’t allow for the possibility that I may not be. But I’m quite sure she’s right, and I can’t wait to find out why I’m a cunt again this year Kate.
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