Comedy Promoter Criticized for Hosting Open Mic Where the Audience Pelts Poor Performers With Projectiles
Remember that SpongeBob episode in which Mr. Krabs charged a dollar apiece for the audience at the Krusty Krab talent show to huck tomatoes at Squidward while he did his dance routine? Well, a comedy promoter in the U.K. kind of did that, but in real life.
Sam Rhodes, a London-based British comic and show organizer, is under fire for starting an upcoming weekly comedy night wherein audience members are given bean bags and encouraged to bombard bombing comics. Inspired by the “Tomato Throw Show” at the Comedy Bar in Chicago, which utilizes the same formula with plastic tomatoes in lieu of bean bags, Rhodes’ “Beanbag Throw Show” is also a competition wherein the comic who is hit with the fewest bean bags will win 30 pounds. The competitor who takes the most shots gets a bottle of champagne.
Critically, the “Beanbag Throw Show” is a “bringer” event, which means that amateur comedians must attract a certain number of audience members from their friends and family to find a place on the bill. No one ever asked Rhodes to find a way to make open-mics even more humiliating, but goddamnit, he did it anyway.
“I’m just a working-class guy trying to make it in a business that’s hard for us, trying to put on fun alternative nights people will enjoy,” Rhodes explained to Chortle. “The idea is a simple one, not too different from a gong show. People who know me and know my formats — usually leaning toward the silly and alternative — will know there’s no malice involved.”
Rhodes claimed that the bean bags he will provide as projectiles are “no bigger than a teabag” and the atmosphere will be more playful than punishing, though that’s really for the audience to decide when the show opens on June 15th.
The show announcement quickly gained the attention of the wider London comedy scene as many notable names voiced their disapproval for what they see as an exercise in degradation. Edinburgh Fringe Festival star Wil Hodgson said that the idea of allowing audiences to physically punish amateurs for poor performance needs “nipping in the bud right now because if (these shows) become even remotely normalized it’s going to take the new act scene and possibly even the circuit in general down a very bad path indeed. … This needs to end before it’s even started.”
Comedian Mark Nelson had a different reaction, advising Rhodes, “Ignore all this Sam. Double down mate. Twelve acts. One minute each. Audience each get a snooker ball in a sock. Anyone who doesn’t last one minute gets beaten to death. Worst act then gets their corpse sodomized by the cheering crowd.”