Australian Pete Jonas is a stand up comedian living in London who performs all over the UK. In 2010 he took the show “Dark Side of the Poon” to the fringe, overnight it became embroiled in controversy and one of the most talked about shows at the fringe that year. As Pete is mentioned in two of the critics interviews so it seemed fair to give him the right of reply.
“Dark Side of the Poon” was an unusual experience for everyone involved. What your original intention for the show, why did you do it and what did you think you’d get out of it?
I did a two-man show in Edinburgh in 2006 called Brokeback Britain, which was about two foreigners moving to the UK and discovering it was shit. It was a risky show – slagging off Britain for an hour to British audiences. But it got great reviews and was totally sold out.
Since then, my act has mostly been about my failed relationships, with some tongue-in-cheek chauvinism thrown in. Dark Side of the Poon was a bigger version of that. It was a proper fringe show, with props, an animation, some over-the-top Powerpoint and of course the puppet scene in which I was confronted and then battered by a giant vagina.
Over 1000 people saw the show and it got some good reviews. I just didn’t expect the Baroness of Humourlessness to be sitting in the shadows trying to ruin it for me.
How did you go about constructing the show?
Like most comics doing their first solo show, I pulled together the material I wanted to present and then set it to a narrative. The story was that I was trying to understand why my relationships fail, but instead of realising the truth, I blame my ex-girlfriends and make silly chauvinistic jokes about it. The appearance of Martha Poon at the end was to set me straight and avenge my ignorance.
What were the previews like?
I did eight previews, which wasn’t enough, but a few got cancelled because of the World Cup and the July ‘heatwave’. Most of them were well received. It was difficult getting the Martha Poon scene right, but in the end I think that scene and the Powerpoint ‘Relationship Audit’ were the highlights of the show.
Exactly how much does a 6 feet 4 inch vagina costume cost? Who made it? If you’ve still got it where are you keeping it?
Producing Martha Poon cost about £700 all told. A prop maker from South London called Martin Soan made it. The detail was extraordinary. It now resides in my basement, packed-up in a 7 foot surfboard bag.
The zero star review from Chortle caused a lot of controversy, tell us about what happened after that?
I had to just focus on performing my show. But the ‘review’ was so outrageous that after a few days, I felt I had to respond. I wrote an open letter back to the reviewer which was widely read and deepened the controversy. She pleaded with people not to go and see the show but that definitely backfired.
You received criticism for printing out the no star review to look like it was a 5 star review. Would you say that criticism was fair?
Not at all. The stars were clearly empty. In any case, that interpretation of what I printed is no less accurate than Judas Chambermaid’s review of my show.
What would you say you learnt from the experience?
That people will write whatever they want, regardless of how audiences react to the show. I invited another Chortle reviewer to see the show and they could not understand how someone gave it a zero-star rating. Clearly, Chamberlain was trying to make a name for herself. I’ll refrain from stating what that name is.
What would you do differently if you go back to the fringe again?
Next time, I will put a sniper above the door of my show. If a particular humourless, ‘reviewer’ approaches, I’ll give the order to fire.
Best piece of advice anyone gave you about the fringe?
That it’s no longer a fringe festival. It’s an expensive showcase and you need to go up there with a clear objective.
What do you think the most common mistake acts make at the fringe?
Thinking that a show will sell itself. Even if your show is brilliant, there’s a good chance the press and industry will not notice it. You need to promote your show full-time whilst up there, any way possible.
Most effective way of selling a show?
A 6’4” wrathful, vagina.
What’s your favourite memory of the fringe?
I had to pick one show that was on at the same time as mine to see on my day off. I saw Neil Hamburger’s show at the Assembly. He opened with a song about being paid in three-piece chicken dinners. Genius.