It’s a pretty old story, the one where someone in the performing arts takes exception to the critical content of a review. Those of us in the business of ‘show’ have seen it one too many times. More often than not, the vitriol is reserved for a gaggle of like-minded compatriots, or a paying audience already enamoured with the critiqued party. In this new age of instant communication with the world, the right of reply can be fired off while the subject is still in the midst of a white-hot fury, eyeballs boiling as steam shoots from the ears.
It happened this weekend to Lawrence Mooney, someone I’ve known for nearly 20 years. Someone I competed against in the Raw Comedy national final in 1997. To be honest, I didn’t think the review in question should have elicited such ire. It was 3 stars, better than two, or the dreaded single star (or the ignominious zero). Mooney bashed out a series of tweets that called into question the reviewer’s professionalism, her judgement, and in an egregious misuse of irony, he employed so much puerile profanity, he ended up making one of her points for her.
I’m glad we live in an age where there is the possibility to publicly refute things written in a newspaper, especially opinion, but this is going to set a worrying trend. Newspapers, long ago, left the world of actual journalism and descended into clickbait mania. The more page impressions and shares a particular article gets, the more that particular news-flavoured (like chicken-flavoured) organisation will try to replicate that success. Viral is successful, no matter how it got to be that way. How many reviewers from here on out are going to be instructed to bait comedians, actors, writers and the like? “Can you put something in your review to put their nose out of joint? Let’s get them to fire up and we can make this viral!”
That review, without Mooney’s furious flare-up, would no doubt be read by Mooney and six other comedians, before being forgotten. Are his sales struggling? Did he desperately need a five star flash taped across his posters on Adelaide’s Rundle Street? Does being ‘just a funny guy’ preclude one from also being a comedian? I don’t know what fuelled his fire, but I do know that this will be far from the last salvo. Comedians beware, this festival season is going to get ugly.