ROY ‘CHUBBY’ BROWN was the first comedian I recall banning reviewers. Back then, as a critic, they sneaked me in, note pad hidden from view, which was just as well.
Royston Vasey, to give him his Sunday title, opened by encouraging the audience to seek out journalists, do them bodily harm, then deliver what was left to his security staff.
That review was the first NO STAR review the Evening News ever ran, not because Vasey doesn’t understand comedy, he does (his timing would put many of today’s self-proclaimed stand-ups to shame), but because of his offensive stag-night material.
Needless to say, his capacity audience at the Edinburgh Playhouse roared their appreciation, but then I wasn’t there for his or their benefit, and he knew it. I was there as the eyes and ears of the reader... as the person charged with giving them an insight as to whether the ticket price of a show, whether £3 or £30, is money well spent.
On the whole, most sectors of the entertainment industry understand that a reviewer is not there to massage the ego of the performer. The problem appears to be that few ‘art’ forms are as ego-driven as stand-up. Perhaps it’s the fragility of those very egos that causes the ongoing friction between press and comedians - Jimmy Carr has never liked being reviewed either.
In the last couple of weeks, two Edinburgh comedy nights at different venues have declined to be reviewed by the News, citing the nature of their acts as unsuitable for the critics’ pen.
One was ‘experimental,’ the other boasted acts ‘trying out new material’ and not ready to be reviewed. Both were happy to take punters’ money, though.
As someone who also produces theatre, I’d never allow a show to open until I was happy it was value for money. Standard practice across the arts - with the exception of comedians ‘developing their act’.
You’ve got to laugh... actually, you don’t.
I guess that’s the fear.