In my last post, with my usual hubris , I made up some mean and sarcastic reactions the critics would have to my new book, Tigers on the Beach. And hubris being what it is, it seems I’ve attracted some of the very quotes that were in the post.
I’ve been in a bad mood all week,
Back in the days when I was making TV shows I had to steel myself against the reviewers, because some of them, like Robert Fidgeon and Bruce Elder, could turn seriously poisonous if your comedy show did not make them laugh. Bruce Elder said that I should have been sacked, after my cable quiz show about advertising, hosted by Mikey Robbins, failed to entice him. It was called Campaign and it was pretty much the seed that might have germinated into The Gruen Transfer. It had low production values, because cable in Australia doesn’t pay so well. It was hard for me to recover from that review, especially as Mikey took it so much to heart and believed the dung that Elder had flung, which was especially mean about Mikey. We got good reviews everywhere else, but of course the one in the Sydney Morning Herald was the one that all our family and friends read. I still shudder when I think about it, but I was under contract to continue making the show, so I had to wander round Fox studios all week looking brave and saying ‘I’ve had worse,’ which, in all honesty, I hadn’t. Mikey didn’t hide his contempt for me (I ws the producer). In a camera rehearsal before the taping I played the part of one of the contestants, so they could get the lighting and audio right. It was the day the review had appeared. Mikey was there as compere, tipping as much shit on me as he possibly could. It wasn’t a good experience, though I can still watch Mikey and find him funny. And guess what? The show really wasn’t that bad. It was really pretty good, all things considered. Elder had well and truly exaggerated its failings, but that nasty little shitspray was apparently ‘the talk of the advertising industry for a whole day’ (I’m quoting one of our judges, the remarkably funny and articulate Esther Clerehan, professional advertising headhunter). This was a problem, as I relied on the advertising industry heavily to allow us to use their expensive, often witty and sometimes breathtaking TV ads.
So far, none of the thumbs down for Tigers on the Beach have been anywhere near as savage as Bruce Elder’s drubbing, but they’ve still been pretty ordinary. I suppose you have to be alarmed when members of your own family, who have read the book, comment on how pretty the cover is but don’t mention anything about the book’s content. I think they might be annoyed because I used a few old family adventures, but I didn’t ask their permission to do so. Dredging up the past is something that most fiction authors do, and I thought that I used the stories in a way that was more disarming than dismissive. But I should have asked ...
I know we shouldn’t let the bad reviews hurt us, but we do. And yes, I also hate authors who moan about it on their blogs.
Even blogger Braden, of Book Probe, who was so nice about The Shiny Guys, said he found Tigers on the Beach disappointing. But then, if you’re looking forward to another book in the style of The Shiny Guys, I guess it would be disappointing.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that if we are interested in a topic, then everyone else will be too. Comedy, which is really the book’s theme (dressed up as a romcom) has fascinated me since I was a young adult and first laughed at Monty Python’s Flying Circus, then wondered what made it so incredibly funny.
I started to analyse comedy, and even developed strange theories, such as it helps to have blye eyes if you’re going to be a comedian. This disturbingly Aryan view (not held for long) might have been borne from the fact that the funniest members of the Python troupe are the ones with blue eyes. Really, my theories of comedy go on and on. Not all are as inane as this.
But when you try to analyse comedy, it often falls to bits. Just see if the well-meaning American presenter of thiscollection of Python sketches does anything to improve the humour of these Python moments, by somehow trying to explain them. And just for the record, I loathe and detest the Mr Creosote sketch. (See, there are those absolutes: ‘Loathe’ and ‘detest’. The far too strong and emotivewords we use when comedy disappoints us.)
Anyway, do please read Tigers on the Beach and see what you think. It took an awful lot of work, I think I like it, and I’d hate to think that all I’ve achieved is a book that irritates people. I want to charm you and start conversations. I want to reach out to you. Oh God, fetch the bucket. I want to be loved.