A pat on the back, a slap in the face
So, there I was, feeling the love of the Times Online, which picked out The Art Of Noise as its blog of the week (the A-Z Of Music feature coming in for particular praise - "a simple idea, but compulsive reading"), when referral stats revealed a rather less favourable opinion of Silent Words Speak Loudest, and in particular of the Dan Antopolski / Ben Schofield stand-up review I posted last month. Turns out the latter had discovered it and was none too chuffed:
"I suppose that it was only a matter of time before my predilection for googling my own name would turn around and bite me on my egotistical arse, but this nearly made me spit my tea out.
Ah well, I should show the dog the rabbit I suppose. Be sure to check out the comments at the bottom of the review
What is especially interesting is that I had a perfectly good gig on the night in question (which, unsurprisingly, is not mentioned) which brings a wonderfully twisted image to mind of him screwing his face up in distaste and scribbling disapprovingly into his notepad as the crowd around him fell about laughing.
This post initiated a thread on the Manchester Comedy Forum about bad reviews, and so I thought I'd respond there, diplomatically (I think):
"Hi Ben (and other posters)
The c*nt writes.
I decided it would be childish just to post a response to this thread on my site (or blog, if you prefer), so thought I'd venture into the lion's den, so to speak...
I guess what follows is self-defence and justification - I stand (predominantly) by my comments.
Let me begin by saying, though, that I have a lot of time and respect for stand-ups for the simple fact that they have the balls to put themselves in the firing line. Having to make a roomful of strangers laugh for a living (or even a hobby) must be a pretty daunting task.
That said, as a performer you ARE putting yourself in the firing line. Not all reviews are going to be positive - getting shot at occasionally is part and parcel of the business. And of course it's no different to me writing reviews and publishing them online - I've stood on a virtual stage / soapbox and made my opinions public, and so I'm there to be shot at too. You're perfectly entitled to disagree with my review, just as I'm perfectly entitled to write the review in the first place.
As for it being your worst review ever - well, you say you haven't had many (if any) bad reviews and I can well believe it. I've read (and written) much harsher reviews. I made sure I focused on your act and avoided saying anything personal - which is why being called a c*nt rankles a bit.
I imagine, though, that - as you say - it's easy to take even criticism of this kind personally. All I can say is that it wasn't meant as such, and that being thick-skinned surely has to be some kind of prerequisite.
One thing I hoped I had made clear in the review was that you were very unlucky that I'd seen Stewart Lee performing stand-up the previous Friday. I don't want to cause further offence, but hope you might agree your act is more conventional than his. The comparison I was making between you and Lee (and between Antopolski and Lee) was unfavourable to you - and perhaps unfair because I took your act as representative of a type of stand-up I don't much care for. Put simply, if I hadn't seen Lee so recently, you (and Antopolski) would probably have fared a little better. In this respect I apologise - you were in the wrong place at the wrong time - but that's just the way I saw it.
It was also arguably wrong not to give some indication of the audience response you got. For every person like me, there were probably at least two who were laughing. But, even then, I didn't think it was an extraordinarily enthusiastic reaction (it wasn't for Antopolski either) and in any case it was a record of personal feelings on a personal site. It doesn't pretend to be anything else.
And on that note I agree with the commenter who describes blogs as 'just a load of noise in the wilderness'. Most (if not quite all) certainly are, my own included (my tag line drawing attention to the fact: 'Sound and fury signifying nothing'). But if I'm a lone voice shouting in the wilderness, then feel free just to ignore me. After all, it's not like the review appeared in the Guardian or on Chortle.
Anyway, thanks for reading and linking.
Ben (we might not share a sense of humour, but we do at least share a name)"
This follows hard on the heels of February's little contretemps with the chap from Delta Red, of course - my first experience of someone upset at a review I'd written. I'd ask if other reviewees want to have a pop, but then that would just be to encourage this line-in-the-sand "us and them" mentality which is all a load of nonsense - I want to be on YOUR side, I really do. Just give me something to work with.
And, lest we forget, thus speaks a lone voice in the wilderness. Let's get things into perspective, eh?
I didn't intend for this post to be a transparent attempt to fish for support, but I guess that's what it was - thanks for all your kind comments.
As you'll see from the comments box, and from recent posts on the original forum thread that the two of us have discussed it all maturely and, in agreeing to disagree, made our peace.
Incidentally, Ben is himself a blogger - his site Welcome To My Electronic Lair can be found here.