Steve Bennett

Mr B the Gentleman reviewer from Chortle .

How do you choose which shows to review?

It’s a mix of things. We need to see the bigger names, then it’s people I know from the circuit that I’ve liked. Or shows that sound like they’ve an interesting premise. Then some completely random stuff. The biggest factor is when a show starts, to be honest. If I’ve a show at 6, then I’ll be looking for one about 7:15 to pack them in tightly

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

Not as such. I tend to know the circuit better than them, so they can’t really tell me anything. But, say there’s a choice between two sketch shows I’ve not heard of, and one is PRed and the other isn’t, I might be tempted to go with the first as it shows a certain belief in their own show that they’ve employed one.

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

Not sure there’s an answer to that. I ignore all ‘come and see my show’ calls and emails at the fringe cos there are just so many. Having a preview in July (preferably in London or the SE) I can review early helps, we can always get a few under our belt before the Fringe starts.

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

See the shows of the decade thing I wrote last year! Usual suspects, though. Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson

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

Again, look at the reviews! Lack of work before the fringe is the worst thing to witness, half-arsed stuff with no real effort put in.

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

I’m sure you know about the Poon saga from this year! And yes, I’ve seen people quote punter’s reviews as ‘Chortle’s, too

Do you think free shows are good for the fringe?

Yes

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

Take it seriously yourself, basically. There’s a lot of people who arse about and think because it’s free, there’s nothing to lose. But an hour in Edinburgh is still valuable for punters to invest… and you never know who might be there. If you’re doing something experimental fine, – but make sure you make that clear in the programme.
A lot of it is down to the free organisers, too. There’s lots of open-mic line-up shows, and just dreadful things that generally damage the reputation of the whole free show idea, as well as a few unsuitable venues.  A bit of quality control in the booking rather than expanding endlessly would be a huge boon.

Is there any magic formula for a good show or is it simply a case of you know one when you see it?

There’s no magic formula. But there needs to be a good reason to be listening to that show for an hour. People sometimes assume that means there needs to be a big concept or a strong moral to the show, which are ways of doing it,but it doesn’t need to be that. But why, say, would I want to hear your observations about Facebook unless they are hugely insightful or brilliantly original.

Chortle was set up by journalist Steve Bennett in February 2000 with the aim of being the most comprehensive, critical and up-to-date guide to the all aspects of comedy in Britain. Today, the site is the premier source of comedy news, reviews and listings and attracts around 120,000 unique visitors every month.

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