I’ve seen a lot of fantastic acts that would have been gonged or booed off by an average audience almost immediately, and almost as many mediocre or offensive ones who’d have been thoroughly welcomed.

Yeah.  I think it’s particularly strange for alternative comedy to say “let’s allow the audience to decide”, because that is not what alternative comedy’s all about.

Lots of audiences don’t care if you’ve stolen jokes, they don’t care if your stuff is a bit racist, they don’t care about your politics.  But in the 80s, a bunch of comics decided that they knew better than audiences.  That the best way to revolutionise standup comedy, and make it an art and a movement, was to self-impose rules.

You’ll hear some people say things like “funny’s funny”, and “if the audience laughs, who cares what anyone else thinks?”  Don’t trust those people.  They are probably bigoted Tory joke thieves.

Some competition runners are well-meaning, I should say.  But even the nice promoters, when it’s an audience thing, I’m immediately suspicious.  There’s a nice one in [REDACTED] which I did a couple of years ago, and the promoter really does seem to want to give new acts a boost.  But … why doesn’t he just pick his favourite acts?  Why go through this system at all?

It seems like the audience element is what’s important to him.  The audience can confirm which act best combines competence with likeability.  The system’s better than most competitions as well, with each audience member choosing their favourite, second, and third favourite acts.  Points are added up like in Eurovision.

A friend of mine won a heat a couple of weeks ago.  He got the most points.  However, he wasn’t the act who got the most “first place” votes - he merely managed more points.  He won by being everyone’s second choice.  Like what they say about Coldplay; nobody’s favourite, but successful nonetheless.

And that sums up competitions.  The act who got the most “first place” votes was too contentious to be awarded the victory.  And I’m suspicious of the reasoning there, because that act was a woman.


Women-only competitions, or Asian-only competitions, etc etc.

Although everything I’ve said still applies, these do have one major advantage on the scene, which is that they bring together acts who are likely to experience similar difficulties on the scene.

It’s harder to do comedy if you’re not a straight white able-bodied man in his 30s with a sensible haircut and a sharp suit.  The more you deviate from the pattern, the harder it becomes.

But the beauty of standup is that anyone can do it (in princple, anyway - the hardest thing is being able to afford to gig enough to get good).  I know acts with speech impediments, with mild and even severe cerebral palsy, one who’s literally unable to speak (and performs with a speaking computer).

People going through similar difficulties benefit massively from meeting similar acts, I think.  I know some of my female friends have made lifelong friendships at these kinds of gigs.  So, yeah, those are great.

Just a shame they’re competitions.

sonnetscrewdriver said: Do you have any thoughts on open-mic nights that practice audience-led veto (booing or gongs or klaxons and the like)? Vital motivation for newcomers to hone their material, or simple bullying masquerading as entertainment? Or both? Or neither?

I’ve got to say, I completely hate them.  I hate all competitions, actually.

"I suppose there are some advantages to them," I was about to say, but hang on - why am I being so reasonable here?

They’re just awful.  Standup comedy is an art, and like all art, ranking pieces of work from “best” to “worst” is harmful.  Also inevitable, I suppose, but that’s no reason to go out of your way to reward a minority at the expense of the majority.

I avoid them, on the whole.  They’re not even that bad for me - I’m a pretty straightforward act, with enough self-confidence that I can handle competitions.  But I’ve seen them destroy really exciting acts.

Even the very best ones are awful.  Last year, I went to see one of the heats for the BBC Radio New Act of the Year, and … well, the results were acceptable, but I could tell that some acts (who didn’t make it) took it hard.

There’s so much standing against an aspiring comic.  The last thing the industry needs is further encouragement for acts to think of their fellow artists as rivals.

Gong shows are the worst, because they’re also humiliating.  But even for acts that do well in them (I’ve done gong shows, never been gonged off), it makes you question yourself.  You go, “Is my first joke good enough?  What if it’s too long?  Too strange?  Will it split the room?  What if some of my jokes offend Tories / monarchists / postmen / etc?”

And you edit.  You get rid of anything contentious, anything risky, anything interesting.  You trim your stuff down to a safe, beige set.

No!  Awful.  Write risky material, and do it in rooms where it might fail.  That’s what standup comedy should be doing.

Competitions also encourage established acts to lie about how long they’ve been going (because many “new act” comps are for people who’ve been going less than a year or something like that), which means they’re (a) unfair; and (b) an even more efficient way to make new acts hate themselves.

Plus, the prizes for competitions are often massively out of proportion to the act’s ability level.  WUSA, the Welsh Unsigned Standup Award, rewards its winner (usually a relatively new act who’s mainly used to small rooms of comedy savvy lefties) will be given a paid weekend at Cardiff Glee Club (playing to hundreds of drunk birthday parties / stag&hen dos / work nights out) and a support spot for a famous act like Omid Djalili or Alan Davies (playing to high-hundreds of people who are there only to see the famous act).  So your “prize” for winning the thing is a bunch of high-profile gigs you’ll find incredibly difficult to play.

I also hate the big clubs that require you to win a competition to get an open spot.  Sorry for jargon - what that means is that, in order to be allowed to perform 10 minutes of comedy unpaid on their professional nights, you have to win a gong show.

It’s like asking people to sit an exam, and if you get the top score, you’ll be allowed to apply for a job.

Death unto all the clubs that do this.  Just give them an open spot, or don’t.  Look at the act’s CV - is it decent?  Then give them a chance.  Ask for references if you must.  Anything except this risible system of turning comedy into something gladiatorial.

The only reason competitions exist is to make money.  It’s entirely capitalist.  It’s not about finding exciting new acts, it’s not about helping them develop.  It’s just easier to promote competitions than regular comedy nights, and here we are.

Anonymous said: It wasn't PS who said they couldn't think of any argument for "Amy's pregnancy makes her character/story sexist" that wasn't in itself sexist.

No, but he did post something that can’t possibly be read any other way.

What do you think he means by “deeply troubling”?

I love the fact that he was half human once, in 1996, and we all can’t quite cope with that. But we love Paul McGann, so we just kind-of swallow it, it’s just kind-of ingested somehow. […] I don’t like the half human thing. I’m certain he isn’t half human. But I think it’s kind-of … it’s less interesting to say it doesn’t count. And I literally always wanted to put in a line, I ALWAYS wanted to put in a line saying, someone says, “are you human?”, he goes, “no, but I was once in 1996, or 1999, it was like a 24-hour bug”. And I think that’s really funny. But do you know why? Part of the reason I never put that in was it’s a bit too self-referential. But also, well I’m spoiling the TV Movie if I do that. In that time, like it or not, Doctor Who was half human, and everything in that story says that he was half human. And you can’t not count it. So I don’t think you ignore it. I think you just - It’s like putting up with people. […] You kind-of have things you don’t like, and you think, well I’m not going to look at that. And even when people have things about their past that don’t make sense, you go, okay, I’ve got my version of you. So you kind-of live with those mistakes.
Russell T Davies
I always remember thinking, having done School Reunion, remember thinking, we’ll bring her back every year now. Before The Sarah Jane Adventures came along, I’d be thinking, every year he will land in Britain now, and she will be in a little house with K-9, saying “hello Doctor, I’ve got a case for you”. And they’ll have an adventure every year together.
Russell T Davies, on Elisabeth Sladen

Anonymous said: Nobody cares what you think either. -unnoun

Ohhhhh!  Okay.

No, you’ve got it wrong.  I didn’t say nobody cares what Tumblr user theonlyspiral thinks, I said don’t give a fuck what he thinks.  I wouldn’t dream of commenting on anyone else’s opinion of him.

I really wasn’t speaking for anyone except me.

Anyone who doesn’t care what think (and why should anyone care what I think, really?) is more than welcome to ignore me.  I actively encourage it, if anything.

Anonymous said: The hypocrisy, mostly. Yours in particular. -unnoun

I’m all ears.

Anonymous said: You really don't have much room to talk. -unnoun

I have no idea what this is about.


I’m disappointed you’re relying on simple misreading rather than an actual point.

I don’t give a fuck what you think.

(Source: philsandifer)

(Reblogged from theonlyspiral)


I understand that, but when looking at the actions of both MRA’s and third-wave feminists, they’re basically a match made in heaven. I’m just saying, there are men and women who really do believe in their movement and defeating courtroom bias, just like some women and men who are truly striving to abolish oppressive gender stereotypes. I’m looking at the actions, not the definition, not what it used to be.

I mean, okay, sure, there’s plenty of jerks on the internet.  Doesn’t change the fact that one’s a progressive movement, and the other’s a reactionary one.

Also … courtroom bias does exist, sure, but it’s men that are privileged, despite widespread belief that women are more likely to be given custody rights etc.  It’s amazing how small the list of legitimate issues the MRA “movement” is.

(Reblogged from seeyoulaterxo)