A bit too raw?

Yesterday we got an e-mail from one of our readers, Patrick. Amongst other things, Patrick wrote:

Tom and Alex interviewed the 2012 Raw Comedy winner on Monday on their triple j breakfast show. The winner is a trio called Lessons with Luis and they interviewed Luis.

Aside from winning Raw, Luis also currently has a Golden Gibbo nominated show at MICF and got a 4 star review from Schembri. I’ve seen the show and one of his Raw heats and it’s quite a different act (a bit Tim and Eric maybe) but very funny. It killed at the Raw heat and the show at MICF was very good.

Basically Luis is a character based act (check out vids on YouTube), sort of awkward anti-comedy, which admittedly didn’t translate very well on radio in the interview on JJJ. The interview is quite awkward and stilted but it sort of spirals downwards when Luis sings a song about cats. Tom and Alex don’t really handle this character very well.

At this point (at the end of the interview) Tom Ballard calls the act shit, questions whether JJJ should be supporting Raw and brings up how he himself didn’t win but “shit like this gets through”.

It was pretty condescending and unsupportive of comedy in my opinion. Interesting also given that JJJ are supposed to be supporting/fostering young comic talent (Luis I’m guessing is about 20). Interesting also as this is pretty out there, alternative comedy, hence the Golden Gibbo nom, yet Ballard, a very well known and influential comedian, wrote it off as shit. Surprising. There was a subsequent Twitter backlash towards Lessons with Luis.

Anyway, I’m not sure what to make of it, but it’s on the Monday 16th Tom and Alex podcast about 14 mins in if you’re interested. Seems to fit in the topic area of the site.

As regular readers of this blog know we don’t really cover live comedy – largely because we don’t often get a chance to see it – but when there’s a media shitstorm about live comedy, we’re right in there. So here we go…

First up, we haven’t seen the live show Lessons with Luis. But we have watched the YouTube videos, listened to the Tom and Alex interview, and heard from several other sources – including this online review – that the show was really good. Here’s what we’ve concluded:

  1. Lessons with Luis is an act which probably works best in a long-form, live format. Viewed in isolation (i.e. in 1 minute YouTube videos, or as part of a short radio appearance) Luis’ knowingly poor gags and deliberately lame songs seem, well, poor and lame. But in the context of an hour-long show Luis would have lots of time to set the scene and establish his character. Lessons with Luis is probably one of those shows that becomes more and more enjoyable as it goes along and you start to get it.
  2. Ballard wasn’t entirely wrong to describe Luis as “shit”. Like we said above, in isolation the cats song is shit. And Luis’ banter on Tom and Alex wasn’t exactly side-splitting.
  3. Calling Luis “shit” on live radio was wrong. It’s not that we care too much about the fact that Ballard, one of the most high-profile personalities on the radio station which sponsored Raw Comedy, slagged off the winner of Raw Comedy on that radio station – he’s got a perfect right to hold and express whatever opinions he likes, and indeed it’s quite refreshing that he’s diverted from what we imagine is the company line – it’s more that as a professional comedian Ballard should have known better than anyone that Luis is an inexperienced, surreal character act who was struggling a bit on what was probably his most high-profile radio appearance to date. Whatever happened to showbiz people helping each other out for the good of the show? Or is it everyone for themselves these days, and bugger the show?
  4. Ballard is being contradictory. To us (and others we’ve spoken to) Luis’ act seems a bit like Sam Simmons’, and Tom and Alex have Sam Simmons on their show all the time. We don’t find Sam Simmons funny, but Tom and Alex seem to, so why didn’t they get Luis?

Have you seen the live show Lessons with Luis? Did you like it or hate it? Is Tom Ballard a thundering dickhead for what he said? Let us know, leave your comments.

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6 Comments

  • Baudolino says:

    Having listened to the podcast, I think somewhere between half and all of the problem came from Luis’ voice. I agree with your point that it probably doesn’t work as well out of context (although I haven’t seen the act live, so it may be just as poor), but for me what I found most objectionable about the song and the Luis character in general was the irritating voice.

    Perhaps I’m oversimplifying, but anti-humour like that cat song can and does often work on radio, so I attribute most of the blame to Luis for constructing his character with a squeaky, grating, childish voice that is broadly incompatible with his material.

    And Patrick, you regular reader you, I see where you’re coming from on Ballard failing to support up-and-coming comedy, but just because an act is alternative or “out there”, doesn’t mean it’s any good.

    Ballard’s “I can’t believe Triple J is supporting this” (I’m paraphrasing here) comment was asinine – supporting local comedy talent can only ever be a good thing – but I found his explicit attack on the quality of Luis’ act refreshing, even if it was something of an impropriety, as the current comedy milieu of affected loyalty and bonhomie between industry insiders is so rarely violated that any exception is welcome. It would be great to hear more comedians being critical of the work of shows or acts they don’t consider any good. I don’t mean criticism in the vindictive sense, that would be ridiculous, just insightful analysis of the shortcomings of certain shows or whatever.

    For instance I would love to hear some comedians talk openly about their disregard for Channel Ten’s The Project, which is an unspeakably boring, cheap, superficial program, which still claims to be a comedy despite offering no evidence of being anything more than a poorly scheduled, glorified breakfast TV show. The Project gets more are time per week than any comedy I can think of on free to air TV right now. Even repeats of mediocre sitcoms like Two and a Half Men are shown less, let alone scripted comedies written by local comedians. Surely there must be some anger about this out there somewhere? I know this has been the state of Australian comedy for a long time, but surely some people remain frustrated? If they are they seem afraid to articulate it.

  • Baudolino says:

    *criticism in the sense of being vindictive

    Just reread my post and I realise I didn’t write very well…my bad.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    To add the opposite of insult to injury, Lessons with Luis won the Golden Gibbo at the MICF Awards last night: http://www.australianstage.com.au/201204215362/news/melbourne/melbourne-comedy-festival-award-winners-announced.html

  • crushtor says:

    It just smacks of sour grapes on Tom Ballard’s part…I am no fan of his bumbling Gen Y meme-regurgitation comedy yet he has a gig on the J’s while far funnier people never get a guernsey. “This is shit because I did not win” reflects poorly on anyone, not just Ballard.

    You’re very right about the eventual getting into the show; it’s not immediate comedy. Unless you’re winking back at Luis’ deliberate ineptitude, you won’t get it nor will you find it amusing.

  • Neilnono says:

    I caught a few of Luis’s videos on channel 31 a while back, and in the context of being on a TV station like that, I thought they worked pretty well.
    I missed the comedy festival show so I cant comment on that, but for the most part I find this kind of comedy much more interesting than your standard standup fair. I hope they do more.

  • Leon says:

    It was very obvious Tom Ballard was doing a bit, probably organized before the interview. I feel like Luis is a toothless Any Kaufman knock-off.