The Graduate Times writes about AIOTM
After just three weeks at City, I for one already feel satisfied my huge outlay on fees and London living expenses has reaped its rewards. While working on a story on an urban beekeeper today, I was given one small pot of honey. (I was so excited by this I texted my dad the joyous news and his response: â€œAre you sure it isnâ€™t a stingâ€ is, depressingly, funnier then anything I have, or will ever, write here.) While such happiness at this offering might seem like setting my sights incredibly low after shelling out thousands, (a) the journalism business is in disarray at the moment and I have to be grateful for any kind of reimbursement and (b) it really is a particularly nice pot of honey.
But (as â€˜Drâ€™ Gillian Mckeith would no doubt say), man can not live by honey alone. As such, one question which always seems to crop up during conversations about the future of journalism is, in the online age, how can you make people pay for something they can get for nothing on the internet? Well, (oh dear this feels suspiciously like another convenient segway into a comedy discussion to me, why must I be such a slave to format?) one comedian who knows a bit about tackling this particular issue is Richard Herring, whose internet stand-up and sketch show As It Occurs To Me (available on iTunes or from the British Comedy Guide website) returned to the web for a third series this week. (Thatâ€™s right, itâ€™s another column about obscure internet comedy, I can almost hear the sounds of you all sighing and stopping reading at this point. I promise that next week Iâ€™ll go back to being rude about Peter Kay or something).
Herring is used to giving away stuff for nothing on the internet. He has written a blog every day for nearly eight years, and recorded hundreds of hours of free podcasts (both in AIOTM and the Collings and Herring podcast, recorded with the writer, film editor of the Radio Times and well known fan of 1983, Andrew Collins). The fact that Herring funds and distributes these himself without going through a mainstream media organisation means he is accountable to no-one, and frequently descends into the kind of humour that makes the Sachsâ€™ furore (I refuse to use the suffix -gate to signify scandal for ideological reasons) seem like a particularly tame episode of Albert the Fifth Musketeer (without the blatant sexual tension between Albert and the Kingâ€™s wife).
The offensiveness, however, is done in a post- (or should that be post-post-post?) modern way, knowingly pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable to gauge the reactions of the audience and to see just how far he can go. As a result, if you are going to check out Herringâ€™s outputs (particularly AIOTM), start off with early episodes and make your way through, allowing you to chart their development, rather then jumping in at the deep end and entering a bewildering world of what Iâ€™m sure the Mail would call â€˜smutâ€™.
What makes AIOTM particularly interesting for us is that it sees Herring, accompanied by stalwarts of the British comedy scene; Emma Kennedy, Dan Tetsell and musician Christian Reilly, perform a script, hastily written in the past days or day (depending on how busy and/or organised Herring has been) in front of a paying live audience. The show is then distributed free on the internet. See the similarity?
Despite the fact that you can listen to the show for nothing, when I ventured down to the Bloomsbury Theatre to watch a recording last Monday, some 200 odd people (read that how you want) were there too. Herring does offer an extra 30 minutes or so of stand up to paying punters, but, in effect, the audience were paying £15 each to see a show they could hear the very next day without charge. While Herring frequently refers to the small size of his audience (along with the showâ€™s low production values) the fact the show is in its third series, and has just passed its 20th episode, suggests he and the cast must at least be making enough to scrape by, and even turn a small profit (which he jokingly claims allows him to pay everyone £85.12 a week).
The reason AIOTM is still profitable for its creators is that some people feel about live comedy the way others feel about newspapers. Yes, the show can be heard, just as news can be read, online without charge, but for a certain percentage of the population nothing can substitute the feeling of watching live comedy; just as no amount of gizmos and features on the web can replace the attachment some people feel to reading a physical newspaper.
Whether enough of these people exist for Herring and co. to continue to make his weekly £85.12 will ultimately decide the future of both of our ventures. Maybe I should resign myself to only receiving honey for my hard work. Or, if Iâ€™ve worked really hard, lemon curd.