The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) is a competitive market for comedians, all vying for an audience for their shows. Hundreds of shows are spread all across Melbourne. A good review can significantly help promote a show, so it would presumably follow that a bad review would have the opposite effect and turn people away.
Given the number of shows on offer at the MICF it would be unrealistic to expect one reviewer for any particular media organisation could attend every single show on offer to truly be able to compare and contrast each one. Instead, there are many reviewers sharing the load, and no doubt, some shows are not even reviewed by some media. The challenge of any review is it really only reflects the view of one person. ONE person. Often there is no consideration mentioned in the review about how the rest of the audience responded to the show. It’s a personal opinion. Humour itself is not always shared by others. What one reviewer finds hilarious, because of their own life experiences or simply taste in humour style, may not be even the slightest bit amusing to another reviewer. Was it even a show the reviewer was interested in attending or was it simply assigned to them? Did they consider the nature of the show and the intended target audience and was the most appropriate reviewer selected?
Sitting in the safety of a work or home office, and typing away at a computer, it is easy to use words and descriptions that would never be said directly to the performer. That’s the “safety” of writing a review: the concept that a critic can write whatever he or she likes without any consideration of how those words may impact a performer, as well as potentially effecting the career of that individual. Some critics seem to enjoy creating fancy phrases to indicate their disdain or loathing of a particular show – as if there was some sort of a journalistic award for the nastiest critic. But on the other side is a performer, an entertainer, a comedian, a person, waiting to discover what the audience thought of their show and all their hard work and creative effort. Some seasoned performers simply avoid reading any reviews and leave that to their publicists and managers to sift through.
On April 16 2015, just in time for the closing weekend of the MICF, the Herald Sun published a list of the “best and worst” shows as rated by their reviewers. What may have seemed like a fun idea at the time by the Herald Sun has the potential to do significant damage to a performer’s career. Creating a “best of” list is one thing, but do we really need a “worst of” list? Is it just an exercise in click-baiting to grab reader attention? And is it really fair or even accurate?
The Butterfly Club have responded to what they describe as a “deplorable” article about the “worst MICF shows” by giving some of those performers another opportunity to share their real talent with audiences.
Next week, The Butterfly Club are mounting an encore season of MICF shows with a difference: each night will feature some of Melbourne’s brightest comics whose chance for an audience evaporated the minute they were included in the “worst” section of the Herald Sun list. The season will feature performances from Miss Itchy, Claire Sullivan, Sean Bedlam (of Two Bearded Ladies) and Beau Heartbreaker.
“These are bright, talented performers who took the financial risk of producing their own shows, and lost a fair go at an audience due to a careless editorial choice – they deserve better”, said Simone Pulga, director of The Butterfly Club.
“I personally think these are good shows, but that’s not the issue: reviewers write what they please. The issue is commodifying bad reviews to drive web traffic at the expense of people who can’t bite back, a shameful act of editorial cowardice”, said Mr Pulga.
The Butterfly Club, long renowned for supporting the careers of independent artists, have curated the encore seasons in a bid to raise awareness and support the performers. They call on audiences and the wider comedy community to come along, see the shows, and give these performers a fair chance.
So, thumb your nose at the Herald-Sun, head off to the Butterfly Club and make your own decision. One thing is certain – these performers will be doing their absolute best to ensure you have a fabulous night of entertainment.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Dates: Wed 6th May – Sat 9th May
Tickets: $20 Full, $15 Conc