When Comedians Attack!

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A friend of mine shared a blog post from a stand-up comedy site called “Cook’d and Bomb’d” on Facebook yesterday. I was intrigued by the title of the article: “Comedians using their fans for co-ordinated safety-in-numbers bullying” – so I read the post.

If you’re not familiar with Twitter – it’s a ‘social networking’ site that lets you post statements of 160 characters. It’s become a phenomenon in the past few years, mainly due to celebrity endorsers, like Stephen Fry. Unlike Facebook, which has you send a friend request to celebrities, leaving them to decide whether they want you to be able to see their profile page or not — Twitter lets you “follow” them, without any restrictions.

As such, ‘slebs’ get large numbers of followers..Fry has more than a million. That in itself is no problem – though some get very desperate to curry favour with their fave actor, or musician, or comedian, in this case. The blog post is about what happens when a ‘regular person’ has a disagreement with a celebrity on Twitter – or the celebrity spots a bad review online and ‘tweets’ about it. Sometimes, the celebrity will mobilise their Twitter followers into an internet mob, to excoriate the ‘offender’. They followers either attack the person, if they are on Twitter – or go to the online review and deluge the comments section with positive comments about the sleb and negative ones about the review and reviewer.

Ricky Gervais, according to the blog post, seems to be the biggest culprit for this type of Twitter behaviour. This doesn’t shock me that much – as Gervais has always seemed to have a bit of the “dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it” persona. I love “The Office” and I even like some of his stand-up stuff, even though, to me, his schtick wears a bit thin over repeated viewings. The reviewer in question, wrote a disparaging comment about the second series of “An Idiot Abroad”, which Gervais took exception to. A link was added to Twitter was added to his page and away it went.

More surprising was Noel Fielding, of The Mighty Boosh, using the tactic against an art critic who objected to Fielding being chosen to interview Damien Hirst. Just recently, his followers attacked a woman on Twitter because she took offense at Fielding using the word ‘retard’. Now, there’s two sides to the story and perhaps the woman was being unjustly harsh with him – but that’s no reason for his followers to jump in and castigate her for daring to speak to him like that. After a long confrontation with Fielding’s followers, she left Twitter and reportedly tried to kill herself. I love The Boosh, though t.b.h., I’m not so hot on Fielding’s solo efforts–his “Luxury Comedy” seemed to be just weird for the sake of being weird. Still, I didn’t think he would behave in such a way – given his image as a lovable, spacey fashionista. He’s since left Twitter himself.

There was also an incident with Simon Pegg, who became incensed with a follower’s comment and asked the rest of his followers to ‘flame’ the person. After the post was pointed out to him – he did apologise and reminded everyone not to attack someone on his whim. So, all in all, Pegg comes out of it as a gentleman and thoughtful.

I remember an incident with a guy called Jon Spira, who got into an argument with “Twitter-sleb” Emma Kennedy over whether up-and-coming writers should sometimes work for free, to get their name known. The argument escalated a bit and suddenly, Kennedy was claiming that Spira was ‘stalking’ her and she was calling him a misogynist, etc. Her followers got whipped into a frenzy and the same sort of thing happened. You can read about it here. I fell foul of her temper as well – when disagreeing with her about the Diane Abbott tweet shit-storm. I’ve since un-followed Kennedy – I may have blocked her as well. I can’t recall.

I suppose it’s just one more symptom of celebrity culture – people who are so desperate to be noticed by their idols will become mindless thugs if they perceive their idol “is” being attacked and instead of letting the person handle criticism themselves. At the very least, if they feel the need to jump into a conversation – they could at least try to discuss it in a rational manner.

You can read the “Cook’d and Bomb’d” post here. Warning: for a post about comedy, it’s not particularly funny – but then, it’s not meant to be.

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6 responses »

  1. This why (a) I hate 99% of ‘celebrities’ and (b) why I have a pretty low opinion of Twitter as well. The two phenomena are made for one another. Have you noticed how nearly all the ‘well-known’ ‘tweeters’ are, at best, third-rate celebrities? No ‘star’ with any class would bother with this nonsense. Fry? Self inflated tosspot. Gervais? Odious ego maniac. I’m sure I could go on but I really don’t need to. As for getting their ‘followers’ (they’ll be calling them ‘disciples’ soon) to attack anyone who dares to criticize them – it’s behaviour way beneath contempt. With these knobs being so admired, is it any wonder the world appears to be going to hell in a handcart? Good post, sir.

  2. Cheers, Bear – I do like the immediacy of Twitter, but yes, in some ways – it’s just the famous flaunting their fame and collecting armies of sycophants. Having said that, I’ve met some pretty cool people there…and a few genuinely nice ‘slebs’.

  3. Is twitter only for celebs? No. But I truly believe that Twitter would only benefit celebs and bring them more into the media while promoting the Twitter website. Of course since its on the web it is available to everyone, but seriously, who has gotten famous just for using twitter? There are people who have gotten famous for using facebook, but I have no seen anyone go from 0 to hero on Twitter. All I am saying is Twitter is like a rich person’ facebook. If you are not already famous, then only cops might want to see what you are doing on Twitter.

  4. Perhaps you should learn more about twitter. First it`s not 160 characters, it`s 140. There are top celebrities on twitter & they don`t encourage followers to bully people who give them bad reviews, they ignore such reviews. Their fans may feel like commenting but not on the instructions of the said celebs. Most people on Twitter can`t be bother with Facebook, it`s out of date & will go the way of other failed social media sites.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tara – I have a Twitter account. So, I goofed on the amount of characters. Sue me.

      The post isn’t about *all* celebrities on Twitter, it’s about certain ones who allow their followers to bully those who disagree with their tweets, and support it, tacitly or not.

      As far as your charge about FB, maybe, maybe not. I know that strictly Twitter-users hate FB and the other way around. Me, I can’t be bothered getting involved in that debate. I use both and will continue to do so until I decide not to.

  5. @Heather: You may be correct – though some folks have got a *lot* more exposure through Twitter. I never heard of Caitlin Moran or Emma Kennedy before I had a Twitter account – now I know who they both are, for better or worse (mostly worse). It certainly can magnify someone’s exposure, so in that way – people do become “famous” from using it.

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