Saving Schembri

Sometimes problems just solve themselves. Put another way, who knew that two of our recent posts  – one on the demise of Jim Schembri, disliked film critic but avid comedy watcher, the other on the slightly surprising news that the Melbourne Herald-Sun would again be sponsoring the Melbourne International Comedy Festival despite the general disapproval of many of the comedians involved – would combine to cancel each other out? Or put a third, actually coherent way: It seems Jim Schembri, having left Fairfax media a few weeks ago, is now working away reviewing MICF shows for the Herald-Sun.

It’s hard to know at this early stage if Schembri will be unleashing his trademark vitriol, borderline sleaze, quasi-homophobia and general condescension in his comedy reviews. In fact, to date his reviews have largely been very positive. Which is a refreshing change both for Schembri and for the Herald-Sun‘s MICF reviews.

[Meanwhile, back at  Schembri’s former home The Age, where of course they’d never have any sour grapes over losing the MICF sponsorship, it seems the very existence of the MICF  – nay, laughter itself – is threatening the foundations of our society. Or at least, “the saturation of the comedy festival is working against Melbourne being a home of original ideas”:

When humour becomes the default field for social discussion, serious proponents of controversial material are less attractive in the media and less influential in the community itself… Comedians have begun to disproportionally inhabit the places where we meet to talk.

Considering that for this argument to make sense the author must be referring to people like Dave Hughes and Libby Gore, let’s just say his definition of “comedian” is disturbingly broad. And going by the number of times the headline IT’S NO LAUGHING MATTER pops up whenever a “comedian” cracks a joke about a topic the tabloids deem to be of import, it’s safe to say his concerns about laughs crippling serious discourse – at least on celebrity pregnancies, Logies outfits and Anzac Day – seem unfounded.]

While we’re on the subject of the media settling scores, far be it for us to point out the fairly typical way in which a much-derided foe  – in this case, one Jim Schembri – becomes a font of wisdom simply by changing employers… ah, why not. From News Ltd’s Australian, less than a year ago:

Losing the plot

AGE movie critic Jim Schembri did the unthinkable last week — he posted an online review of Scream 4 that gave away the ending. The response on The Age’s website, and on Twitter, was immediate: “Why would you post that spoiler in your opening sentence?” said one reader. “You’re a real A-hole for ruining the film,” said another. In what looked like an effort to contain the damage, the online review was changed within hours, after which Schembri went on Twitter to say: “I didn’t give away the ending!” Nobody believed him, mainly because the Google cache version of his story was still available. Diary called Schembri, expecting to find him chastened, but mostly he sounded defensive. “I can’t talk to you,” he said. “I must direct all calls to the personal assistant of the editor-in-chief, Paul Ramadge. And I have a review of Thor that my editor is screaming for, so I’m hanging up.” If that weren’t strange enough — since when can’t reporters talk to the press? — Schembri has now posted a long piece saying he always intended to trick “the internet” into thinking he’d run a spoiler (which he had). “I decided to create an online event . . . I wanted to become the scourge of the Twitterverse . . . I ignited the firestorm by writing two Scream 4 reviews, one with a genuine spoiler, one without,” Schembri wrote. “The latter ran in print . . . the one containing the spoiler went online, but only for a limited time . . . once outrage had been stirred, the online version was altered.” And so on, and so forth. Now, this is merely Diary’s honestly held, personal opinion, but that sounds like utter bollocks.

From News Ltd’s Australian, less than a month ago:

AFTER a number of Twitter indiscretions, The Age’s long-serving entertainment writer Jim Schembri negotiates an exit.

In a memo sent to staff last night, editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge wrote: “After 28 years of dedicated service and hard work bringing a distinctive voice to The Age’s entertainment coverage as a film and TV critic and feature writer, Jim has decided to embrace other challenges.”

Last week, website Crikey erroneously reported Schembri had been “sacked from his position following revelations he had reportedly dobbed on the employers of his Twitter critics and hinted at taking legal action under the auspices of Fairfax Media”.

In fact, management only asked Schembri to take early leave after Crikey broke news of his Twitter transgressions. It is understood Schembri had a substantial amount of time owing and Fairfax Media did not comment on Schembri’s misdemeanours.

Schembri has since negotiated his departure. It is believed he will continue writing  on pop cultural matters elsewhere.

From News Ltd’s Herald-Sun, less than 72 hours ago:

Review: Dom Romeo in Stand-Up Sit-Down: Comics in Conversation

Jim Schembri

From: Herald Sun

March 30, 2012 2:54PM

Guess the days of “utter bollocks” are far behind him. At least the Australian‘s hair-splitting defense of Schembri regarding his “negotiated” departure – what, does anyone think he would have left The Age if the Crikey story hadn’t blown up? – makes a little sense now.  And if they have no problem with someone they recently claimed to be speaking “utter bollocks” now being the official voice of their best-selling Australian publication when it comes to comedy… well, considering the respect comedy usually gets from our major media outlets, is anyone really surprised?


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1 Comment

  • Billy C says:

    While many people were furious at the Herald-Sun sponsorship there have been some upsides. The Herald-Sun reviews far more show than the Age ever did so smaller acts who would not have been reviewed will get some attention. The Age is not as bitter as the Herald-Sun and even though they don’t sponsor the festival they don’t pretend it’s not on like the Herald-Sun did. So they are still reviewing quite a bit. Of course comedy audiences don’t really read the Herald-Sun so getting reviewed by them doesn’t help anyone sell tickets.
    Schembri has so far been a surprisingly relaxed critic but we’ll see what he’s like when they let him review someone who is popular and generally critically well liked.