An open letter to the creators of the 2012 UNSW Law Revue
August 29, 2012 15 Comments
[UPDATE] Several updates have been made in red text.
Oh wow, so it’s been quite some time since I’ve put out a blog post. Over 6 months in fact. I think that when it comes to saying something along the lines of “could I possibly get any worse” the answer to that question is clearly a resounding “yes”. But this post isn’t about that, I’ll detail the reasons why it took me so darn long to put out another post in…you guessed it…a future post (2013 anyone? :P)
This post is actually about a revue. Specifically, the 2012 UNSW Law Revue OPENING NIGHT SCREENING. I have been informed that the opening night experience is drastically different to subsequent showings. Thus, comments made in this post may not necessarily reflect on the later showings.
So a friend told me I should have posted this critique after the revue had actually finished showing on all nights. This being for the reason that in case performers stumble on this post they might get psyched out in a bad way. I had not realised that this could potentially happen. Apologies if you have already read it, if not – DO NOT READ UNTIL THE REVUE IS DONE. You have been duly warned to the best of my ability.
First, a definition:
Revue (n): A light theatrical entertainment consisting of short sketches, songs, and dances.
Before I get on with it, I should probably oh…provide a few disclaimers I suppose.
Disclaimer #1: I do this purely out of concern for the quality of law revues in recent years. If you’re personally involved in the law revue in any way, shape or form, please don’t take offence at the content of this post. It is meant to be constructive criticism. However, if there is the occasional vitriolic statement, try not to take it personally – it’s not intentional. But yes, this post is meant to highlight what I personally find…(very) wrong about your revue.
Disclaimer #2: I’m no stranger to revues. In first year of uni I watched UNSW Med, UNSW Law, Usyd Med, Usyd Law, Usyd Science and Usyd Arts revues. In second year, I watched UNSW Med, Law, CSE, Usyd Med, Law, Science, Arts, Commerce and Education revues. This year, I have so far watched UNSW Med & Law revues (CSE to come) and Usyd Education, Arts, & Law revues (Science and Commerce to come). Thus it is apropos to consider myself a revue veteran, and I have very realistic expectations of how good (and bad) revues can [be expected to] be.
Disclaimer #3: All opinions are mine, yours will likely be different. If so, no need to take this to heart right? :P
Disclaimer #4: You’re probably thinking “this guy cares way too much/has way too much time on his hands to be bothering with this.” The latter is definitely not true, but the former is.
Last year’s Law Revue was widely considered to be a failure. You don’t call a successful revue one that caused a not-insignificant number of audience members to storm out during the show. The worst points from last year’s Law Revue can be summed up in the following:
- Highly offensive skits which delivered no comedic value
- Of the skits which were decent, lack of follow-through, especially with the punchlines, killed them
- The voice overs were too frequent and did not add much in the way of entertainment value. They only got more annoying over time.
- Too much reliance on skits that bagged out other universities
- Poor taste in humor for most skits.
Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s describe the experience.
I was assured by a friend who’s in the cast for this year’s revue that it won’t be anything like the last one. So how different was it then?
Not much at all unfortunately.
This year’s law revue is best described as a ‘repeat offender’. Let’s discuss.
1) “What’s a good revue without some bad humor?” – check the definition of what a revue is. In the end, it’s meant to provide ‘light, theatrical entertainment.’ Humor is an excellent source of entertainment. While some bad humor is easily tolerated (because yes – you’re law students, not drama students), the level of tastelessness in this year’s was at an all time high. Well, perhaps not to that extent (last year’s still takes a good slice of that pie) - but the fact that I didn’t walk out feeling it was improved on last year’s revue in almost any way spoke volumes to me. I think there might have been literally a hundred skits (or close to it – it was a long revue), but I can only remember genuinely laughing at perhaps five of them.
And see that’s the problem, 5 really good skits, maybe – maybe 10-15 ones that force a smirk out of me but the majority eliciting any combination of the following “‘WTF (not the good kind)’, ‘Oh God get me out of here now’, ‘That’s too soon’, ‘dafuq did I just watch’, ‘that made no sense at all’. If it was 10-15 bad skits and the majority good that would be fine. But sadly, it was the other way around.
2) The voice overs. This may actually have been the single most annoying thing about this year’s revue. I think (correct me if I’m wrong) one of the voice overs is meant to be a spoof of Richard Mercer’s Love Song Dedications voice. Fair enough I thought, but the level at which he quickly became immensely offensive and tiresome was not a great act, to say the least. I’m (not) sorry, but I cannot find someone who describes intimately his private parts without any kind of punchline or even context funny. And heck that wasn’t even the worst of it. The voice overs gave me the highest number of ‘why is this even being aired…kill me now’ feeling. Sure, there may be a funny context to have the rapist-voice over to talk about how he shoved his cock into a garden gnome, but I’ll be damned if it could be found last night. Or maybe when they just go on and on and stop making sense and you can’t even really pay attention anymore. The list goes on.
And see here’s the thing – two big things done wrong: offensive jokes and jokes that just don’t have any meaning, tact or subtlety.
The voice overs are outright BAD.
3) Offensive jokes. Now, we all know some of the best comedy out there is black/satirical humour. Chaser’s War on Everything? Fuck Yes. But in order for an offensive skit to be successful there are two ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL components – comedic value and it absolutely has to be done tactfully. What do I mean by these two things? Easy – it has to be funny AND it has to be fitting the situation, as well as treating the subject matter with care.
So don’t pull off jokes about the holocaust – some people (VERY few mind you) are able to successfully satirise such a horrific event. Law Revue (or any revue really) is not. Also, don’t pull off skits that are clearly ‘too soon’. You know what I’m talking about.
And I’ll be the first to admit – it’s not easy, I mean just look at the Chaser – sometimes (well, often) they step past the line as well. But many still love them because they still produce so much more good content over the bad stuff. The fact that the Law Revue this year, like the last, did the opposite is unfortunately quite shameful.
tl;dr – you need a certain skillset in order to pull off offensive skits. That didn’t happen this year.
When you have an offensive joke that doesn’t end up being funny – you’re going to get more than tumbleweeds. Yes, people walked out on this year’s law revue as well.
4) Bagging out other universities – really? Now that stuff is real old. Well actually, let me go along a completely different approach: as with offensive stuff – if it’s still funny then by all means go for it. Most of the time, it wasn’t. The problem was it just isn’t fresh anymore. It’s pretty much been all done. The bouncer requiring IQ card skit was alright, but pretty much everything else was quite ‘meh’. Either step up your game of bagging out other unis, or don’t do them at all. Honestly – telling everything to give ovation at “how shit Usyd is” (not verbatim) – do you even call that a skit? Poor taste.
5) Oh and finally, with your skits themselves. Here’s the thing – when you hear a good joke the punchline is absolutely critical. It just isn’t a great joke otherwise. So why would you not do the same to your skits? Some of them were actually quite let down by their last moments! Especially the Julia/Kevin/Abbot skits. I laughed during them, but then the way the ended was just ‘huh?’ Execution is difficult, but not impossible. A section where your game can be stepped up.
One last thing – don’t do obvious skits that we’ve all seen on the internet. Make it original please. Obvious culprits that come to mind
-Movies/fairy tales in reverse skit (though thanks to good acting was still enjoyable)
-Apology to the audience pun skit (you’re excused if you don’t have a Facebook account and don’t use Youtube)
Okay, I’ve pretty much covered everything I feel is wrong about this year’s Law Revue. It was far too similar to last year’s.
Please realise I’m not undermining the level of effort you put into this revue. Heck, I probably can’t produce a better one. I know you all put in countless hours of your time into producing this show (at the expense of studies…birthdays…etc). It’s the end result I’m criticising.
And here’s the rub – I can personally see how many of you are able to defend the merits of this year’s revue, with arguments ranging from “well then it’s just not your style of humour” and “it was a good result for what it is” and “you’re just too stuck up to enjoy this kind of thing”. Well remember these things and face some facts:
- By the time the last skit was approaching, more than 40% of the audience had left already. There were empty rows upon rows of seats to be seen everywhere. This could even be worse than last year. And on an opening night too! To add insult to injury, apart from one group of 15-20 supporters (or hecklers depending on how you see it) who were cheering and applauding loudly at almost every skit (including the voice overs) there was almost no other audience feedback. Yes, tumbleweed otherwise. I’d shudder to think what the reaction would have felt like (dead silence/people whispering ‘wtf’) if that group was not there. These facts do not speak of a particular satisfied wider audience.
- Usyd, without resorting to anywhere near as much inter-uni bagging and offensive skits manages to produce revues with far higher quality. To date, no revue comes close to touching Usyd Arts in first year. It was almost perfect. The fact that it’s been done means that it can be done by you too Law. And before you go “ah but they’re arts students, they have more time and they’re artsy etc etc” well let me also say that Usyd Law revue is leagues ahead of ours. It’s an observation to live with. Next year, attend Usyd’s revues and see how they’re done. Why not learn a thing or two? Don’t worry, unlike Apple you’re not likely to get sued ;)
- [UPDATE] I watched the Usyd Law Revue the day after I watched the UNSW one i.e. on Wednesday 29th of August. You probably already know I’m going to say it’s better. Well there’s no bias – it simply is. They had a few missed skits as well, but it was the inverse of UNSW’s – most of the skits hit the spot, and only around 5 or so were miss. Oh and guess what – the successfully pulled off a satire about the holocaust. That’s talent (some might still have found it offensive – but in the greater context of the skit it easily passed over). There really is something to be learned from the way most Usyd Revues are conducted (don’t watch the Engineering revue though…*cough*)
With all this negativity, there are two areas of praise – the acting itself, and the videos. And this is why I’m not actually criticising the cast but rather the people who come up with the skits. The acting is brilliant and top notch. Actors who had to be a certain character were well into their character. Much props to that. In fact, the acting was good enough that some skits which I would have found offensive were executed so well in acting that they became funny again. The Lebanese Bouncer skit comes to mind immediately.
I should also mention (for the sake of completeness) that the singing and dancing were all fine by me. But the Science Theatre really needs to work on its acoustics…voices are often carried across too loudly and with too high a pitch. Fix that somebody, please.
As for the videos, they were well executed with the exception of some clips which suffered from the same failings as many of the skits, in that they just made the viewer go ‘huh? What was that all about’. But overall, a better effort than the skits.
Bottom line – UNSW law students are a group of the brightest minds we have to offer. Sure you might not be artsy, but I’ll be damned if you cannot produce a passable revue. Step up your game – I look forward to seeing what improvements the 2013 version brings.
[UPDATE] Addendum post added. See it here: https://nclfrk799.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/an-open-letter-to-the-creators-of-the-2012-unsw-law-revue-addendum/