As tightening budgets continue to put pressure on satirical newspaper The Advertiser’s shrinking newsroom, the annual festival season has once again produced some creative job distribution of Fringe show reviews.
Most notably, The ‘Tiser’s finance editor Malma Knobstein has been charged with the bulk of stand-up reviews for the paper, largely with a view to maintaining the stream of free tickets that come across her receptionist’s desk.
‘There’s not that much to it, really is there?’ asks Knobstein. ‘I mean, it’s stand up comedy, you can’t exactly call it an art, just a bloke faffing around on stage for an hour or so. I would say that I’m best-placed to do this job, though. You know, I haven’t seen a lot of stand-up in my life, but I know what I like’.
‘I’m looking for innovation, great works, moving pieces. To me, something like Rude Rides Again by Rodney Rude is the gold standard for Australian comedy, especially if you can get past all that unnecessary swearing. That’s what I’ll be judging all the comedians against’.
While Knobstein’s qualifications for judging comedians’ works and reducing them to a helpful star rating have been questioned by some, the journalist says we only need look at the amount of work she puts into each review to see how seriously she takes it.
‘What really irks me is when people say that I’m not capable of doing this job because I’m just some straight-laced finance journo or because I haven’t seen any live stand-up comedy before or because I tend to arrive twenty minutes late to every show. What they don’t see is all the work that goes into my 125 word reviews’.
‘I have to pay attention to all the words that come out of the comedian’s mouth. I have to remember their names. I have to find out if I’m spelling the names correctly, that one’s not a must, but it’s a nice bonus if you get it right. I have to look up different ways of writing the phrase “the Faulty Towers Dining Experience was sidesplittingly funny, try the beef”. It’s not just free tickets and belly laughs. Some of these reviews take me upwards of fifteen minutes. And that’s on top of going to the show itself’.
With a tight schedule of one to two Fringe shows per night, we asked Knobstein how she stays on top of all of the work. She points to her ‘go-to’ phrases and cliches that help pad out the daily reviews.
‘There’s a few phrases that you’ll see pop up in every review if you have a keen eye. “Sharp, witty and a talented performer” is one. “My son didn’t need to hear quite that much swearing, one star” is another good one’.
‘If all else fails and you’ve got nothing constructive to write about the show, just pick apart the venue itself. Complaints about the air conditioning are the best place to start’.
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