Okay, so over the weekend this happened:
COMEDIAN Lawrence Mooney has launched an extraordinary tirade against a journalist after an unfavourable review for his show in the Adelaide Fringe.
In a foul-mouthed rant that went on for several hours on Twitter last night, Mooney attacked The Advertiser’s Isabella Fowler, calling her a “deads**t”, “amateur,” and an “idiot” and accusing her of having “a tiny mind” after she reviewed his stand-up show, Moonman, at the Rhino Room.
Cue the media going nuts.
This kind of story is nothing new. Sadly, it’s become an accepted part of the fabric of the Australian comedy scene. You don’t have to spend much time at all talking with those who work in the industry before you’ll hear example after example of the same kind of behavior. Nobody likes it, but no-one working at the coal face seems to be willing to stand up and say that this kind of thing is unacceptable and that the media needs to pull its head in and…
Wait, you thought we were talking about Mooney’s public foul-mouthed tirades? Oh sure, Mooney has prior form in this field: anyone on twitter when Dirty Laundry Live launched will remember Mooney taking repeated swings at his critics. Heck, even his defenders say this kind of thing is par for the course:
Mooney was not being a sexist, FFS. He was simply being Lawrence Mooney. You call Norman Mailer a vacuous liberal, and you’ll find yourself pinned on the ground. You call Lawrence Mooney “not a comedian”, and you’d better expect he’ll Google you, find out you’re on loan from the lifestyle and property sections and tell you to “enjoy your next cup cake and your open inspection you knob”.
Good to know.
But our eyebrow-raising isn’t at his rant, as that kind of thing is nothing new: no, we’re more surprised that he’s surprised at what has been a pretty bog-standard state of affairs review-wise for the last few years now. Heck, we wrote about it four years ago and it was old news then:
for a bunch of people who are professional funny buggers and want to spend their lives telling edgy gags – gags which out of context can sound like personal attacks and which are liable to be controversialised by newspapers like the Herald-Sun – comedians have a remarkably thin skin and a staggering lack of insight.
Whoops, wrong quote again. We meant to say this:
It could equally be the result of inexperienced reviewers. The Herald-Sun is not exactly noted for its arts coverage, nor is there any major publication in this country which has a dedicated live comedy reviewer.
After all, remember this:
MELBOURNE comedians yesterday launched a defiant defence of female comics after a reviewer said “very few female comedians can pull off funny”.
Twitter went into meltdown as incensed comedians and fans vented over the sexist wording in a Herald Sun review of British comedian Jen Brister.
So it’s no secret that many of Australia’s newspapers – especially the Murdoch press – figure that the local comedy festival is little more than a chance for all the in-house journos to score some free tickets so long as they’re willing to write up what they saw. Yet despite what he repeatedly informs his twitter followers is 22 years experience in being a comedian, this state of affairs doesn’t seem to have sunk in yet for Mooney.
(it’s also interesting to read the comments here, which suggest that the review, while badly put, may have been close to the mark as far as the show’s quality was concerned)
To be fair (let’s not make a habit of this – ed), what seems to have set Mooney off is the suggestion that he’s not a comedian – just a funny guy. Even to us, that seems a bit harsh. But on the other hand, the body of the review makes it clear that what the reviewer is trying to say is that Mooney is a performer whose material might not always be the strongest but that he makes up for it with his on-stage persona, which certainly seems to us to be a valid criticism of any number of popular Australian comedians.
It’s hardly an insult to point out that one of the more reliable paths to popularity when it comes to Australian comedy is to be an amicable fellow who “tells it like it is” in a manner not unlike a likable bloke having a yarn around the barbie. It’s made Hughsie a millionaire; Carl Barron doesn’t seem short of a quid either.
And if much of your current success comes from your work in the media – if, for example, you’ve spent the last few years being the high-profile host of a weekly panel show – then it’s not exactly an insult to suggest that your persona (which is clearly something you’ve worked on just as much as your scripted material) is what people have warmed to rather than your material.
Then again, if your persona involves publicly heaping shit on a woman half your age because you didn’t like one line in a newspaper review that was seen (before you drew attention to it) by less people than would attend your show on a good night…
Well, some people warm to that kind of behaviour too.
I wonder if this kind of behaviour works to Mooney’s advantage in the longer run – a critic who fears an online sledging from him due to a bad review might think twice about releasing one.
Still, it just makes Mooney look exceptionally thin-skinned.
It’s difficult to call it outright bullying, though in just about every other context imaginable that’s exactly what it would be called: he’s harassing someone doing their job in an attempt to get them to do what he wants. But because her job involved passing judgment on his work, he feels justified in returning the favour. And if it results in future critics thinking twice before pointing out obvious flaws in his work, that’s clearly to his benefit… in stand-up circles, at least; how insulting young female critics is going to boost his standing at the ABC remains a mystery.