Tim Arthur from Time Out Magazine.
How do you choose which shows to review?
There are a number of different factors which all come in to play when I’m choosing which shows to go and see. There are ones which my editor would consider ‘too big to miss’, there are shows which I want to see because I want to follow the progress of someone’s career, there are ‘buzz’ shows and there are shows which you take a punt on because you like the idea of basic concept.
Have PR people ever persuaded you go and see a show?
All journalists have been persuaded to go and see shows by PRs. Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar.
What’s the best way to get you into a show?
Be the funniest show around. If more than three or four people tell me that’s the show to see, then I’ll feel compelled to see it. By ‘people’ I don’t mean PRs, acts or friends and family.
What are the best shows you’ve seen at the fringe?
I’ve seen a lot of amazing shows from some truly amazing artists like Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson, Tim Key, Tom Basden, Russell Kane, Harry Hill, Will Adamsdale, Jason Cook, Ed Aczel and on and on…
Can’t really ask about the best without mentioning the worst. What are the all time stinkers?
For every one great show I’ve seen I’ve seen ten mediocre ones, two that I would consider absolute shite and the odd one that made me feel physically violent with rage. It’s not fair to name and shame people here because I’d feel guilty about just rattling acts off without explaining fully why I thought their shows were so bad. But they know who they are and I will never get those hours of my life back.
Have you ever caught anyone altering one of your reviews for their shows on posters?
No. But if I did I’d metaphorically cut their balls off. I saw Pete Jonas use his no star review from Chortle on his posters last year in what I considered a misleading way. If I’d have been Steve I’d have torn him a new one.
Do you think free shows are good for the fringe?
Free shows are great. I feel I should confess that I did one myself this year so I do have a vested interest in this. But overall I think they’re great for acts to be able to try stuff out without the chance of losing thousands of pounds. I think it gives audiences the opportunity to see some fantastic offering from a broader range of artists.
How do you think free shows can improve and be taken more seriously?
It’s all about quality. The less hit and miss it is the more people will take it seriously.
Is there any magic formula for a good show or is it simply a case of you know one when you see it?
As a comedy critic the main criteria I look for, however obvious this may sound, is that the show is funny. Although themes and narrative arcs are all well and good they mustn’t be there at the expense of the jokes. I also believe that people shouldn’t do shows in Edinburgh unless they truly have something they want to say. The best shows I’ve seen have been driven by passion – passion for the gags, passion for the subject matter and passion to communicate with an audience. They can be silly or intelligent, shocking or enlightening but they have to truly come from a performer who is expressing themselves truthfully not just trying to land themselves a slot on a panel show.