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The first part of this blog covers so-called critics on the arts. I don't believe in them generally. Art is incredibly personal. Critics are only narrowing the audience to one person and this isn't the best way to judge art. Critics also have biases that may not reflect your audience's views. It is possible that these biases may be limiting to what is popularised: if media mainly pays attention to critics, only the art they like will get out there.

Of course, critics have their place. Any decent critic would be well-educated on the subject and would review art that is in the same area of what they are comfortable with. Artists should pay attention to them but ultimately understand art is personal, so do you! I say that what matters more is the audience's reaction. Not all advice that you will get will work for you, so don't be afraid to depart from conventions now and again. Nobody owns the concept of art. Thinking otherwise is narcissistic.

Comedy and conservatism

I have noticed comedians can be incredibly conservative. I don't mean politically conservative: most comedians are probably liberals. By conservative, I mean that they expect things done a certain way. For example, I was told to not take breaks in my shows. I will do what I like and some venues would even prefer this. I generally don't take breaks but don't believe that something should be ruled out because of conventional wisdom.

People like to tell you how to practise comedy. Someone strongly told me that I needed to tell the same joke over and over in different ways. This information would have been helpful three years ago. As stated before, I prefer creating new comedy more than anything and really don't see anything wrong with this as audiences already think I am hilarious. However, I do see value in offering the audience the best show possible so now that I am aware, I'll tweak.

Unimaginative thinking

I recently learned that I am excluded from MC gigs because I can't communicate with the audience. At best, this is conservative thinking and unimaginative. I just think that they're defining the MC role too narrowly and because of this I am denied revenue and stage opportunities more than the average comedian. This definitely affects the viability of being a comedian.

Luckily, I have other career options: otherwise I would be seriously annoyed. I am still seriously annoyed but I am the Grumpy Cripple. Complaining is kind of what I do. A solution could be creating my own series of comedy nights. This is something I am considering. Perhaps I could use it to build up to international trips or just do it for fun.

For something with a reputation of being liberal, I find some parts of the arts rather conservative.

Thane Pullan is an Arts Access Advocate, and an accessibility software developer, author and stand-up comedian. He is working on a range of accessibility and arts software. You can buy his book, The Teachings of a Grumpy Cripple, online.


Arts critics and conservatism in comedy


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