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The strangest creature on the planet: the audience.

By Charlie Brooker/London Last year, I attended a glamorous TV award ceremony in order to not win an award. Inside the auditorium, the audience was segregated into glittering stars in the seats down below and members of the public up top. Every so often a celebrity would take to the stage to collect their prize, and after thanking the director and their co-stars and dribbling on about their disgusting family for a bit, they'd gaze up at the "regular" folk in the cheap seats and offer a profound thank you to them, because after all, dear public,youare the ones who ultimately blah blah blah let me pat you on the head blah blah blah God bless your plebby little faces blah blah blah. But instead of vomiting in protest, the audience applauded and cheered, as if they'd each been singled out for individual praise, rather than being congratulated from a distance for being part of an anonymous blobby mass. It was like watching someone scatter a handful of sawdust before some geese, only for the geese to enthusiastically peck it all up while rubbing their bellies and smiling, like geese generally don't. You deserve each other, I thought -- then immediately wondered whether thinking arrogant bullshit like that was part of the reason I wasn't going to be accepting any awards that evening. It's not misanthropy. I like the individual people in an audience. It's when they get together that they're a problem. A live audience is the weirdest creature on the planet, as anyone who's ever appeared in front of one can tell you. A live audience isn't cold and judgmental, but if anything the opposite: too warm and caring. If you're on a panel show, and you keep your mouth shut for a bit too long, the audience senses your nerves and feels anxious for you -- so when you finallydoopen your mouth to speak, you'll generate a polite laugh at best, because too much weight has been cast on whatever you're saying. Similarly if you babble, interrupt other people's jokes and splutter your sentences, the audience will pity you. Either way, it won't trust you, which is death. A live audience will merely withstand you until it learns to trust you, and the quickest way to get it to trust you is to treat it as though it's one person; to trick yourself into believing all those eyeballs and nostrils and tufts of hair and shoes and backsides and elbows all belong to one person -- one person who already likes you, so youdon't have to worry too much about impressing them. In other words, the most effective way to appeal to a roomful of humans is to mentally deny 99% of those humans exist. This explains why everyone in showbiz is fundamentally insane. A TV audience is subtly different. On the upside, it's far easier to pretend it isn't there, because you can't smell its sickly flesh or make a snap judgment about its haircut. On the downside, without the in-the-room dynamic of a shared live experience, the TV audience is infinitely more dismissive and expectant. It doesn't see you as a human being, but a shape on an appliance. Furthermore, the TV audience expects unending delight. Anything less than 100% fulfilment and it'll resent you for a moment before switching over. When I try to envisage the TV audience, I picture a huge, gaping, dispassionate, eyeless maw quietly moaning for food. Hence my cheery onscreen persona. And now the TV audience has an offshoot: the extended online TV audience, which is quicker to judge and infinitely more vocal. The Twitter audience for every TV show consists of people actively willing themselves to be comically unimpressed. Which is absolutely disgraceful, because that used to be my job. Actually, on reflection, even at my most try-hard I doubt I could be as unforgiving as the Twitter audience, which ultimately doesn't give a shit about anything except its own constant thirst for satisfying distraction. If 9/11 happened again they'd criticise the outfits. I'm generalising. But there's definitely a higher base level of expectation exhibited online. I experienced an interesting first the other day when a viewer from Dubai tweeted me to complain that he'd downloaded the sixth episode of a series I'd done only to discover it was a "best of" compilation edition which, he explained, was precisely the sort of laziness I should be criticising rather than engaging in. Now if a licence payer complains about something they've coughed up for, that's fair enough. And if someone living overseas has to torrent my show in order to watch it, I don't mind. But torrenting it, then telling me off directly because you didn't like it? Come on. That's like getting a text from a burglar complaining that your fridge is empty. Awful. But I'm talking about someone else there, of course. Not you, precious readers, not you -- after allyouare the ones who ultimately blah blah blah let me pat you on the head blah blah blah. Bless you, bless you, bless you -- whoever the hell you are.- Guardian News and Media

Gulf Times Newspaper 2013

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Date:Mar 25, 2013
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