Julian Hall

This week Julian Hall freelance journalist and reviewer from the Independant newspaper answer’s the questionaire.

How do you choose which shows to review?

From prior knowledge of form, from previews and from recommendations of trusted sources.  If there is already a news buzz around someone then I am expected to cover that act, last year Sara Pascoe and Doc Brown were two examples of this.  Meanwhile, there were previous award nominees and winners, such as Jonny Sweet, who were interesting to follow up.

Have PR people ever persuaded you go and see a show?

They act as a useful reminder, highlighting a performer often already widely acknowledged to have come to the fore.

What’s the best way to get you into a show?

Other than book me a seat, explain to me why the act is significant, newsworthy or a ‘must see.’

What are the best shows you’ve seen at the fringe?

Last year Bo Burnham, Greg Davies and Sarah Millican and in past years, Andrew Maxwell, Alan Carr, Mark Watson, Daniel Kitson, Doug Stanhope, Robert Newman, Michael McIntyre and Rhod Gilbert.

Can’t really ask about the best without mentioning the worst. What are the all time stinkers?

I’d prefer not to do this bit!  It’s a bit like when Dave TV ask you to pick the “worst jokes of the Fringe” – these things are best forgotten!

Have you ever caught anyone altering one of your reviews for their shows on posters?

Someone once used the word ‘amazing’ (or some such superlative) from a review of mine out of context.  I used it to describe some mimicry used in one routine but they used it to endorse the whole show and this totally misrepresented the review.  I complained to the Pleasance Press Office at the time and someone had a word with the relevant promoter.  The ‘mutilation’ of review copy goes on all the time and I am sure there are more instances where this has happened to me and I know it has happened to others.  I believe that West End shows have complained about this practice in the past and there is now some kind of ‘law’ against selective quoting but it has to be a real open and shut case.

Do you think free shows are good for the fringe?

Definitely.  Both free Fringes had good acts on last year and the more the merrier on that score.

How do you think free shows can improve and be taken more seriously?

As well as accessibility PR is important, of course.  I certainly felt like it was taken seriously as far as the industry goes, communicating that to the public, who sometimes perceive they should pay for quality or a safe bet, is different.  That said, plenty of people can’t resist a freebie either and feel ‘quids in’ if they enjoy it or ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ if they don’t, so this cuts both ways

I’m not sure about this question but it’s one that I think they’ll expect to see. What do you think makes a good show? Except I’m not going to word it like that. I think I’ll go with is there any magic formula for a good show or is it simply a case of you know one when you see it?

The X factor?  It’s impossible to totally nail this but a show that has some structure without looking too built, a show that has heart without being mawkish, and a show that is truthful without being psychotherapy.  Oh and jokes of course, ones that you’ll quote back to people for years to come. Yes, it’s a big ask and that’s why people still love to come and ‘crack’ Edinburgh.

Julian Hall is a freelance journalist and comedy critic for The Independent newspaper. He also compiled the book The Rough Guide to British Cult Comedy

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