ED2012 Comedy ED2012 News

Better shows divide opinion less, says comedy’s data expert

By | Published on Wednesday 20 June 2012


Comedian and actor Gareth Morinan, who in a former life was an analyst in central government, and who continues to employ his love of data analysis in his shows, has been ploughing through the Edinburgh Fringe reviews logged by comedy.co.uk during last year’s festival, and has deduced that ‘The Two Wrongies’ divided opinion the most in 2011, while Imran Yusuf’s show was reviewed most consistently across different publications.

In an article for The Guardian, he identified a “clear and significant inverse relationship between quality and controversy”, controversy meaning shows that split opinion across the reviewing community. So basically, less controversial shows were generally better. Says Mornian: “This does make sense, when you think how subjective comedy is. If a reviewer goes to see an unknown act and doesn’t enjoy the show, they will probably give it a bad review. But if instead it was an established act with a reputation, then the reviewer will probably think twice. They may end up writing a good review, having concluded that it was in fact their own taste in comedy, and not the show, that was at fault”.

Other stats revealed by Morinan, based on the data provided by comedy.co.uk, was that The Pajama Men rated most highly overall in terms of star ratings, and Mabbs & Justice had the lowest rated shows, Josie Long was the most reviewed comedian, and only three shows got the, erm, dream combination of both one and five star reviews. In terms of numbers of shows seen, ThreeWeeks was by far the biggest reviewer of comedy – obviously! – seeing well over twice as many shows as The Scotsman, and nearly double its closest competitor in terms of number of comedy shows seen, leading comedy website Chortle.

But what about the gender divide? Morinan found that male comedians generally scored higher star ratings than female comics, and that female performers divided opinion more, though only slightly in both cases. But of the 226 comedy shows that had more than four reviews by the end of the festival, 73% were male.

Finally, there was a slight trend to suggest that the later in the day a show is staged the higher star rating it will receive (though that probably is because more established comedians generally perform in the more expensive evening slots). With that last stat in mind, Morinan notes: “This year in Edinburgh my solo show is on at 1.30pm, so you’re probably better off giving it a miss”.

You can read Morinan’s full analysis here, and see his main Fringe show during August at Underbelly Bristo Square at 1.30pm. He’s also got a number of other shows to check out in the Free Fringe.