#mencallmethings: No longer just for comment boards!

 I’ve been following the #mencallmethings phenomenon with interest. It’s made me thankful that most of my writing is for the print media. Rarely have I had to put up with abuse directed at me thanks to something I’ve written, given the lack of instant feedback options that paper pages present to the reader.

Unfortunately, I recently learned that the anonymity of the internet means that women of minimal prominence can also be subjected to online misogyny.

I’ve been experimenting with the comedic goldmine that is online dating over the last couple of months. It’s one of the free sites where you set up a fairly perfunctory profile and just chat to people who you think you could fancy. I’ve gotten a few dates out of it – some good, more bad, most average.

Some of the profiles I’ve seen are, well, wack. There was the guy who gave himself marks out of 10 for personal and physical attributes (Listening: 4/10, Body: 6/10, Good in Bed: 7/10), and then included a helpful set of benchmarks for potential paramours (Listening: 6/10, Body: 9/10, Good in Bed: 10/10).

Then there was the man of, well, hefty body type, whose ideal partner description concluded with the charming caveat, “oh and no offence but no biggies pls”. Another man had the profile name ‘GetADogUpYa’ – what does that even mean?

The most upsetting experience I’ve had, though, threw into sharp relief just how different people can be when shielded by a keyboard.

A young(ish) man of 32 started chatting with me several weeks ago. We had a few reasonably pleasant conversations, although he tended to give off a slightly stuck-up vibe – as if it would be up to a woman to prove herself worthy of him, and that if she did, she should count herself lucky.

I chalked it up to him being a bit crap at online chatting, although it meant that I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to meet up with him “in real life”. He was determined though, and would ask me to catch up nearly constantly. Eventually, I gave in, and agreed to a quiet coffee on a Sunday afternoon.

Christ, it was painful. For a guy who’d been hassling me for a date on a near-daily basis for over a fortnight, he wasn’t particularly forthcoming in terms of conversation. He sat there, avoiding eye contact while drinking a beer, while I pulled every interviewing trick out of my hat to get a bit of dialogue going. The best I managed was getting him to talk about how proud he is of his secret parking spot in Windsor.

After about an hour, I gave up and announced that I needed to get going. We parted with barely a goodbye, and I walked off thinking that he probably hated me, but at least I probably wouldn’t have to talk to him again.

About a week later, I was logged in to the dating website when he popped up. (I saved the conversation, so what follows is accurate.)

Him: hi

Me: Hello.

Him: want a root?

I blinked. Wait, what?

Me: Um, no thanks.

Him: Shame.

I felt pissed off. The guy had barely been able to carry a conversation with me in person, and here he was asking me for sex. It annoyed me, and I decided not to let it pass.

Me: Anyway, if I did, chances are it would be with someone who could actually make eye contact with me, and speak to me when I’m sitting at a table with them.

Him: your tits are the best thing about talking to u

I didn’t know what to say, but for once, he was willing to fill in the conversational gap.

Him: don’t get me wrong, im not into you at all, but id fuck you in a second.

I issued a final retort: “I’m blocking you now, and I wouldn’t think you’d get very far with this site if this is how you speak to people who were only ever nice to you.”

I went through with blocking him, but the experience left me rattled. Why did he speak to me that way? It was clear from the moment we met that we had no chemistry, but his smutty talk – via the internet – seemed unwarranted and nasty.

This man couldn’t string a sentence together when we were face to face, but given the shield of his keyboard, he was perfectly happy to reduce my worth to my sexual appeal.

Of course, I understand that this nowhere near as horrifying as much of what women have been enduring via online commentary (for a great summary of what’s come out of the woodwork, see Sady Doyle’s brilliantly comprehensive wrap-up).

It does go to show, however, that this undercurrent of online misogyny is even more prevalent than the comment boards would have us think. While men calling them things may have, unfortunately, made prolific women think twice about publishing their opinions online, my experience has taught me that no woman can completely avoid this ugliness. This is a problem not just for the outspoken, but for any woman with a voice on the internet at all, and ignoring it will not make it go away.

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Let them all come. Please.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I broke up with my Year 12 boyfriend after an argument about Australia’s asylum seeker policy.

Like any other weeknight, we were wasting time on the phone (time that would have been better spent studying, in hindsight) talking about how much we loved each other. (Gross, I know.) After about forty-five minutes, though, we’d grown tired of that, and out of nowhere, I decided to strike up a conversation about the Tampa crisis.

Even then, I knew I was a leftist. I’d done a victory dance in the lounge room when Paul Keating won the 1993 election. I was the only person in my Year 10 social studies class to argue in favour of the concept of industrial action. And during this particular time in 2001, I was seventeen and almost socialist, revelling in the height of my shameless idealism.

As a result, I wasn’t exactly prepared for what my boyfriend said when I began waxing poetic on the unjust plight of the refugee. “Well, I don’t think they should be allowed to come here,” he said suddenly. I was speechless, so he took advantage of my silence to add, “They’re jumping the queue, and they don’t do anything good when they get here anyway.”

Shocked, I ended the conversation quickly. I felt sick. I kept thinking, ‘My boyfriend’s a racist.’ It was repellant. I didn’t want to share my heart or my body with him.

The next morning, buttoned into my private school uniform (complete with straw hat), I asked my father a question that I’m certain isn’t covered in any of the parenting books. “Dad…” I said hesitantly, “…is it normal to break up with someone… over politics?

I’d ended the relationship by the end of the week. Before long, I was sauntering into adulthood, utterly convinced that I was right, the racists were wrong, and that sooner or later, Australia would come to its senses.

* * *

I never dreamed that ten years and two more Prime Ministers later, I’d be staring open-mouthed at nearly the exact same spectacle, as loud, harsh voices gleefully rake over the decade-old muck.  

Around midday today, I sat at my desk, quickly eating some lunch and catching up on some reading. Over at The Punch, Tory Shepherd posted about the most recent tragedy involving Australia-bound asylum seekers. Until I read her article, I hadn’t even known this terrible event had occurred. I’d glanced at the headlines earlier in the morning, but all I’d seen were images of Kim Kardashian and ugly fascinators. The death of half a dozen people trying to reach my homeland’s shore didn’t rate a mention next to these more important news items.

A few minutes later, today’s First Dog On Moon cartoon went live. If you haven’t read it yet, I really think you should. It captures (so eloquently) the plea I’ve been trying to voice these last ten years when confronted with bigotry, racism and fear. Let them all come… let them. We’ll be right.

* * *

Ms Gillard, we need to talk.

In my early adulthood, I sat through election after election, Labor defeat after Labor defeat. Every time, I felt like a part of me had died. I drank my way through those long horrible nights, and the next morning, squinted from behind dark sunglasses at people carrying on as usual. How could everything look so normal when the country had gone so terribly wrong, again?

Occasionally, a feature article would pop up about you, anointing you as the great left hope. To the twenty-something me, you seemed like salvation – a strong, powerful woman who knew her own mind, who was capable of true leadership, who could fix things.

Your presence in the ALP helped me keep my own faith. Throughout the twists and turns of the Party leadership throughout that trying decade, I’d tell myself that one day you’d be in control, and the disempowered would be accorded their rights. Even when you came to power in the most destabilising of fashions, I held my breath and muttered that it was all for the best. You would do the right thing. You were good enough. You could do it.

Ms Gillard, what the fuck happened?

* * *

Let them. We’ll be right.

We will be. We will be right. What anyone loves about Australia won’t be obscured by new arrivals to this country (unless what they love is the White Australia Policy, in which case, tough luck, and welcome to the last thirty years). We’re such a self-concerned lot at the best of times, we probably won’t even notice – how hard can it be to just keep on keeping on?

Let’s lose the vitriol, and the lies. Don’t stop the boats – stop the myth that asylum seekers are presented with ten times the benefits of Australia’s pensioners or jobseekers. Hold these so-called journalists to account and stop the spread of untruths. It’ll be okay. We’ll be right.

Sure, some might not like it – just as some don’t like peas, or hipsters, or shopping malls, or baristas who say expresso. But they’ll live. And so will the men, women and children who seek refuge in our country.

Our current policies and attitudes are killing them. They’re dying in those horrible boats. They’re dying in those horrible camps. We’re systematically stripping asylum seekers of their dignity and security, and the death toll is growing.

* * *

I miss the rose-coloured glasses of my seventeen-year-old self. I always trusted that a government of good people would right the grave and terrible wrongs of the years past. I trusted that a better Australia – a more tolerant, welcoming Australia – would emerge. I clung to that tattered, frayed trust for over ten years.

Now, that trust has deserted me. My country would sentence frightened, desperate people to death rather than welcome them into our bounteous land, and for that, I am ashamed.

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RIP Hunter.

On July 21, 2011, I had the honour of interviewing Hunter, one of the driving forces of the hip hop scene in WA. We had a great, long chat about his new collaboration album with Mortar (Fear and Loathing), the dramas of our beloved Fremantle Dockers and his battle with cancer. Hunter was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and news that he has passed away broke this morning.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked (somewhat ineloquently – I was nervous) about the “best case scenario” he envisioned for the new album’s release. I was expecting him to talk about gigs, sales, fan receptions, that sort of thing. Instead, he opened up to me about his dearest hopes for health and happiness.

What follows here is a direct transcription. Hunter spoke, and I didn’t say a word – just listened. Nothing’s been cut out or changed.

The best case scenario would be that they discover a cure for cancer, and I’m cured, and returned to four hundred per cent health and fitness. Or even if just by some miracle, God sees fit to cure me… or even, to tell you the truth, even just if God just sees fit to let me get through this current chemo cycle and get me my strength back.

I want to take my son and his mum and my family, I want to take them all over to Ballarat, ‘cos we’ve got family in Ballarat. I’d like to take them all over there over Christmas, and just have a nice Christmas dinner – the whole family together for the first time, pretty much. That’s the best case scenario, obviously.

I’ve made some money from hip hop over the years, and I’m going to make a little bit more, hopefully, with this new album. It’s not about the money, but I’m saying that, you know, I’m not going to be working any more so I might as well spend it, and spend some time seeing friends and catching up and seeing a bit of Australia on the way through. I’ve seen a lot of Australia in my life, but there’s a few places I’d like to revisit, like Byron Bay – I’ve got friends up there…

I’d just like one more summer, to tell you the truth. I’d just like to get through one summer, reasonably fit, not too much pain and suffering, and then if I have to go, I’ve got to go.

My greatest wish at that moment was that Hunter would be granted such simple, unassuming dreams, and I’m incredibly sorry that he was taken from his family and friends so much sooner than he wanted.

Hunter was arguably one of the greatest influences on the Australian hip hop scene, period. Not only did he contribute extensively through his own art, but he fostered and encouraged the talents of so many others. He never stopped fighting an impossible fight against his illness, and the love and solidarity that he inspired is exactly what sets Australian hip hop apart from so many other musical communities. We’ve lost a unique voice and an amazing man.

Rest in peace, without pain, Robert Hunter. Our thoughts are with your family and friends.

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The children were our future

It’s not been a good few days for youth.

On Saturday, I awoke to the curious discovery that Norway was trending on Twitter. The subsequent realisation – that this was because a lone terrorist had detonated a bomb in Oslo and massacred a number of people on a political youth camp at nearby Utoya island – chilled me to the point of a numb fury.

Then, on Sunday, an early-morning check of my Twitter feed informed me that Amy Winehouse (a woman just a few short months older than myself) had been found dead in her apartment, following a career of game-changing music and an adulthood plagued by substance abuse.

I’ve been following the media coverage associated with these two events, and it’s been fascinating to watch how the spin has unfolded. Commentary on the Norway attacks has skewed to become an evaluation of our prejudices, particularly after numerous news providers leapt to the assumption that Muslim extremists were responsible (including a particularly disgusting effort from one Andrew Bolt, whose hate-mongering and shameless lack of apology sickened me to the core).

Winehouse, meanwhile, has been inducted to the infamous 27 Club, hailed by many, and suddenly topping the charts again. There’s been no shortage of voices prepared to comment on the insidious nature of the media coverage that haunted her throughout her short career.

What I keep thinking about, though, is the tragedy and wastefulness of seeing promising youth so totally snuffed out.

In the case of the Norway attacks, the message of Anders Behring Breivik in choosing his victims is terrifying. In executing his terrorist attack, Breivik first detonated a bomb in downtown Oslo, in proximity to the Prime Ministerial offices and government buildings. While undeniably tragic, his choice of target is not what one might call surprising. Politically motivated, he sent a political message.

His next step, however, was rank with viciousness. Disguised as a police officer, he went to the island of Utoya, where the Norwegian Labour Party’s annual youth summer camp was taking place. He killed 68 people. Most of them were aged about sixteen.

It’s this act that cuts to the very heart of a nation – indeed, to the very heart of the world. Breivik’s choice of victims reveals the depth of his hatred for Norway’s political leadership. It wasn’t enough for him to terrorise the people who currently hold the power; he took special care to attack those who idealise them. He sought to destroy a particular line of political thinking from its point of genesis: the minds of the young.

Breivik invested more time, more energy, and more deadliness in extinguishing the lives of Norway’s bright, politically aware youngsters than the actual politicians. For the seat of power, he left an indiscriminate and less effective car bomb. For a group of teenagers, he personally ensured their mass execution.

The implications of what Breivik did are so utterly horrifying, it’s little wonder that people are preferring to focus on what part their prejudices have played in the subsequent reportage. We’ll not be able to deny the impact for much longer, though, and will need to look carefully at what could motivate a man to snuff out the brightest lights of a nation’s young.

Understandably, we are petrified of the notion that we are not protecting our children. The idea that the actions and ideology of powerful adults contributed to the death of teenagers is terrifying – after all, couldn’t we be doing or saying something that will one day inspire similar anger within a madman? What if our own children find themselves in his path?

Similarly, we can’t resign Amy Winehouse to the stuff of myth fast enough. We don’t want to hear that a tacit tolerance of her behaviour, in exchange for occasional displays of her talent, contributed to her premature demise. “It was her choice to drink!” people cry out. “She decided to take those drugs!” The fact that, as an artist, she has been allowed (even encouraged) to live outside the boundaries of legality and morality, for our own entertainment, is brushed away.

In both instances, young people who sought to distinguish themselves, to push boundaries, to explore new concepts and ideas died in the space of one tragic weekend. In both instances, they shouldn’t have.

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Live Music: what I’m in it for

Recently, I was having drinks with a few colleagues when one announced that he hated going to see live music.

For me, that’s almost blasphemy. I’ve been addicted to the gig experience ever since my parents took me to see Meat Loaf at the Perth Entertainment Centre. I was twelve, and I was hooked. My constant need to seek out the thrills of a good gig has seen me indulge in a habit that has eaten up countless hours of my adult life and cost me approximately all my money. To cap it all off, I’m a gig reviewer. Live music is my thing.

There are a couple of reasons that my colleague said what he said. One is that he loves stirring me up. He had a few slightly more credible reasons too, though, including a dislike for crowds, a hatred of overpriced drinks, and a failure to see the point. “Why should I pay money to hear the same songs I can already hear at home?” he said.

I’ve been thinking on this, and as much as I couldn’t believe what he was saying, I can see where he’s coming from. Why, in this day and age, considering the advent of lip-synching, technology-fuelled sound effects and noise restrictions, do we still seek out the experience of live music?

In so many ways, live music can be a humungous let-down. I remember when half the Perth indie scene was up in arms because, after forking out their hard-earned dollars to see Cat Power, they were instead treated to a set of crying and self-flagellation before the artist walked off stage.

Then there’s those other cats, The Cat Empire. Their set down by the Swan River back in 2010 was a triumph, but all anyone talked about was the fact that they didn’t play The Car Song.

I myself came horrifyingly close to the ultimate disappointment back in 2004. I was completely obsessed with Radiohead, so much so that when they announced their Australian tour (comprising solely of concerts in Sydney and Melbourne), I booked a ticket for their Melbourne show without even thinking twice. I traipsed merrily across the country for one night in the company of Thom Yorke and 15,000 other souls. It was fantastic – but probably less so for the thousands of ticket-holders for the following night’s show. The next day’s concert was cancelled due to Thom Yorke’s ill health, and the veins of the internet ran rich with protestations from devastated fans… many of whom, like me, had flown in from elsewhere to attend.

Indeed, there are many, many horror stories. Boring shows, bad attitudes, crappy venues, sound problems, aggressive punters… and don’t even get me started on the nightmare that is Australian music festivals. None of it comes cheap, either.

So, what are we doing it for, then? Why do we keep shelling out money and turning up to venues, queuing in the cold, arguing with bouncers about everything from our jackets to our footwear, fighting to get a drink and inevitably standing behind the world’s tallest men, who also like to flail their arms?

I think it’s about the totally unique moments that you can only get with a live concert. A gig that I see will never really exist in any other form than my memory. Sure, others will see the same show, but not from where I was standing. They won’t hear exactly what I heard, or be looking at exactly the same spot on the stage that I am.

My greatest memories of live shows could never be captured on a CD. The Frames’ rambling inter-song anecdotes change from gig to gig. Michael Stipe stared down his audience from the Burswood Dome stage, before locking eyes with me and cracking a giant grin (I promise that’s real – I have friends who will vouch for it). Then there’s M-Phazes hilariously shit-talking Mantra for rapping too fast, the heart-breaking tremour in Guy Garvey’s voice when singing Switching Off, Matt Bellamy’s piano cadenzas, performed with his guitar thrown nonchalantly over his shoulder…

…and there’s that rush. That moment when you feel like you no longer have bones, just a vibrating bass holding your entire body together… that’s not a feeling you can get anywhere else.

So, I’ll keep going to gigs, even with the odds – technological, temperamental and logistical – all stacked against the possibility of a truly brilliant show. I may come away poorer, tired and permanently hard of hearing, but it’s worth it for even just the chance of seeing something incredible, unique and irreplaceable.

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The Royal Wedding: Lay off the haterade, guys

Guess what, everyone? I don’t hate the royal wedding.

Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t watched any of the television coverage today (and even if The Chaser’s coverage had gone ahead, I probably would have just put it on mute and only looked if Chris Taylor was on screen). I’ve skipped over the various inserts that have been littering the daily papers. I’ve avoided the urge to purchase any memorabilia to mark this momentous occasion.

But I don’t hate it.

A lot of people out there do, though. I’ve seen countless articles and comments crying out against the incessant media coverage of the event. (I haven’t seen much actual coverage – just the opinion columns complaining about it. I’m sure it’s all out there somewhere.) Apparently it’s all we’ll be able to watch on TV tonight, too… because that’s what we do on Friday nights. We all watch free-to-air TV. (For crying out loud! If those are your routine plans, you have bigger problems. Get a DVD. Get a book.)

Personally, I’m finding it all pretty easy to skip. Turn the page, change the channel, look away, do something useful – it’s not that difficult. We’ve all been doing it to NRL games for years. However, there seems to be a level of vitriol reserved for the union of Kate and Wills that, frankly, has caught me quite off guard.

Apparently, we’re just furious that these two young adults have decided to get married, in a public ceremony, into which the Queen has elected to pour much of her cashola. (And enough about “public money” being spent on the event. The Queen’s salary is a matter for the British public and parliament to decide. We don’t tell anyone else how to spend their money after they’ve earned it, so why are we weighing in with regards to her?)

Seriously, though – if we’re so annoyed about having to hear about Prince William’s happiness, why were we so eager to be party to his grief?

When Princess Diana died, the Royal Family’s avoidance of the media was met with rage from a public who felt they were being denied an acceptable display of grief.

William was only fifteen years old; his brother Harry, just twelve. The most heart-wrenching image from Diana’s epic funeral, which broke just about every known television viewing record, was of those two young boys trailing in the wake of the coffin, which bore a bouquet of white roses and a card that simply said, “Mummy”.

The “spin” was overwhelmingly sympathetic. Diana was “The People’s Princess”, and her death a tragedy. Her sons’ lives would be all the emptier without her. Public sentiment was that William and Harry would hopefully, one day, find happiness.

And now that William has, apparently we don’t want to know about it.

We can’t have it both ways, people. We can’t only show love when it’s preceded by tragedy. Well, we can – a lot of us are doing it right now. But it looks shallow and cruel.

So, I don’t hate the royal wedding. In fact, I wish William, who lost his beloved mother far too young, all the best for his special day. I won’t be watching, because I don’t really get a kick out of it, but I don’t begrudge any of those who do. Perhaps everyone else who doesn’t really fancy the idea of watching these two shiny-haired whippersnappers get hitched can follow my example, and just find something else to do tonight.

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The Origin of the Species: A response to Justin Hamilton

I would like to preface this article by saying that the views expressed in it are my own, and not necessarily those of any persons, companies or publications with whom I am affiliated. All quotes are from this Justin Hamilton article unless credited otherwise.

On April 20, comedian Justin Hamilton let fly with a post titled Endangered Species: Reviewers. It starts as an attack on the quality of the Herald Sun’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival reviews, deviates into a sulk about the idiotic journalists who missed the “concept” of his show Circular, and finishes up saying that Festival attendees should just pick their shows by reading the Twitter feeds of their favourite comedians, because comedy reviewers suck.

Charming, Justin. If we think of your piece as Two Star Wars, can mine be nicknamed The Reviewer Strikes Back?

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. I have a full-time job, not in journalism, and in my spare time, write and blog. I have never earned a fee for writing a review. I have never written for a major daily paper. I contributed a number of articles to the Inpress Festival Guide and have filed reviews on several MICF shows over the season, including one on Circular. I consider stand-up comedy to be one of my favourite art forms to write about, and have dedicated considerable time and personal resources to seeing and covering as much of the Festival as possible.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that Justin Hamilton’s comments pissed me off. Most upsetting was the utter contempt that his writing showed not just for reviewers, but for audiences in general.

Firstly, let’s talk about this irritation at the Herald Sun’s coverage of the Comedy Festival, with which it is a Major Media Partner. Hamilton appears quite shocked that the Sun’s promise that “every show will be reviewed online” has led, not to a series of pieces that discuss stand-up in a considered and nuanced way, but to a heap of idiotic reviews.

Well, blow me down, what is the world coming to, oh my fathers, et cetera. After all, surely everyone was expecting journalistic gold to come from such an esteemed publication.

Festivals like MICF form alliances with crapbuckets like the Herald Sun over advertising dollars and reader traffic, not because of quality journalism. To even suggest that the Sun would sponsor MICF because a throng of eager cadets wanted to sink their teeth into comedy reviewing is almost the best joke of the Festival in itself.

During the Festival, certain Herald Sun reviewers annoyed me so much that I started looking for their reviews simply because I knew that if they hated something, chances were I would love it. However, it’s also worth remembering, as The Age’s Craig Platt said, that a paper’s obligation is to its readers. Considering that the Herald Sun’s target audience lap up the words of Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine, it’s quite possible that their shithouse comedy reviews are catering to their demographic with perfect precision.

Alright. The Herald Sun sucks. What was Hamilton’s next point?

Ah, that’s right. This: “…The more obvious you are in what you’re trying to achieve, the more this seems to help out the reviewers… I named my latest show after the structure of the material. ‘Circular’ literally refers to the fact that everything that happens at the start works towards the middle of the show and then begins unravelling back to the beginning but with new consequences. Not one reviewer has noticed this, thinking it is just a show with loose tales strung together.”

I filed a review of Hamilton’s show prior to reading his post. It turns out I figured out part of what Hamilton was trying to do – I noticed similar themes running through the beginning and end of his show. I will also say, to all comedians, that if absolutely no reviewers have picked up on your nifty structuring or hilarious meta-joke, that doesn’t make them idiots. If the reviewer isn’t across your cleverness, there’s an excellent chance that the punters aren’t either – and that doesn’t help you.

Reviewers are, first and foremost, looking to capture the experience of being an audience member at a show. After all, that’s what their readers will be looking to evaluate – “Will I have fun at this? Will I enjoy it?” It’s not their job to explain the jokes to the audience – a review should whet the appetite of a reader, not spoil the show entirely. While the failure of reviewers to pick up on his cleverness is clearly irking Hamilton, he needs to understand that whatever is going over the heads of his reviewers is most likely doing the same to his entire audience. Reviewers are not out with a specific agenda to dumb him down.

This brings us to Hamilton’s general derision of comedy reviewers, which, in my opinion, appears to deviate from being a specific attack on the Herald Sun at this point, and becomes a tirade against all comedy critics. Here’s where he starts swinging: “… there are no comedic journalists we can 100 per cent respect… How can you be good at reviewing comedy if you only see shows for three weeks of the year?” Apparently, the fact that he doesn’t see reviews of the Comedy Club, Spleen and similar in the papers every month means that the journalists who write reviews during the Festival aren’t worth taking seriously.

Once again, Hamilton appears to have forgotten the precious relationship between column inches and advertising dollars. Every paid writer has a story where a labour of love was cut due to an editor having to run a piece written to placate an advertiser. It’s an ugly truth, but there it is. Not every single scribbling of every single journalist ends up printed. More importantly, not every event attended by a writer ends up as an article. If a performance isn’t reviewed in print, does that mean that the audience was devoid of writers? Don’t count on it.

For most reviewers (at least the ones I know), a lot of time and effort goes in to learning as much as possible about their subjects in order to offer a balanced and informed opinion. Contrary to Hamilton’s belief, most reviewers don’t turn up to a show completely cold (the Sun’s shitness notwithstanding). For my part, I can’t even begin to think how many hours I spend trying to keep abreast of developments in music, film, theatre television and, of course, comedy.

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth remembering that Australia has a relatively small comedy scene. It’s a quality one, but we’re hardly on the level of London and New York. Covering the same few comics at the same few venues, month after month, probably isn’t going to be particularly interesting to a publication’s readers. That’s why the Festival attracts reviewers in droves – media are welcome, material is fresh and performers have brought their A-game.

This brings me to what I felt was Hamilton’s most callous statement, the snarky, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, review.” (He goes on to add that “…those who can’t review, work for the Herald Sun,” but really, the damage has already been done before he even gets that far.)

Well, Justin Hamilton, you did it. You caught me out.

I grew up with an all-consuming passion for the arts and music, as well as considerable knowledge of their conventions, but no real talent for performance. I’ve looked at these crafts which inspire me and wondered, “How can I contribute?”

I realised that I could write. It’s what I’m good at. I decided to step forward and tell people about what fascinated and interested me, and urge them to engage with the exciting array of cultural experiences that are on offer.

When I see a quote of mine being used by an artist I admire to promote their work, or find out that someone bought tickets to a show on the strength of my recommendation, I am thrilled. Not smug or complacent, but thrilled.

However, to Justin Hamilton (whose show I thoroughly enjoyed, despite his constant app-hawking), what I offer is worthless. Apparently, my lot deal in “ill-informed opinions”, irrelevant compared to the Twitter feeds of his comedian mates. Because they don’t excel at the art of stand-up themselves, he holds his reviewers in contempt. What of the potential audience that listen to them?

Hamilton does, however, acknowledge that in the digital age articles don’t become trash overnight, but are “…imprinted with digital ink forever, tattooed on the Internet for everyone to see.”

Indeed, Justin. We certainly saw it.

Thanks for sharing.

Update: I have been the beneficiary of a lot of traffic thanks to Craig Platt’s wonderful piece over at The Last Laugh Blog. Please check it out if you haven’t done so already. For reasons I don’t wholly understand, WordPress is not currently letting me add a hyperlink, but the address is here: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/comedy/blogs/last-laugh/reviewers-under-attack-20110422-1dr9l.html

Posted in Hey, that IS what she said | 5 Comments