Gentle Reader, I have left twitter.  If you want to know why Stephen Fry touches on the subject here http://www.stephenfry.com/2016/02/peedinthepool/ .  My problems with the service are mild compared to Mr Fry’s but suffice to say…  If you’re an ordinary person with no profile then the internet can to be fun.  It can allow you to debate issues and self promote in a minor way and chat with mates.  Or so it used to be.  But once you become anything approaching someone it stops being fun and becomes a drag.  And I’m finding it a bigger and bigger drag these days…  and I’m no one.  Twitter was fun when I had 200 followers … but having built my “following” up to 995 it’s become more and more of a drag since people started to actually read it.  For a long time I wasn’t on any social media at all but then people complained (quite rightly) that we weren’t promoting the club properly by attempting to be completely invisible.  So I thought “Oh alright then…”. 

So I got myself a twitter feed and even (shudder) put some posts on Facebook.  I have now deleted all these after I was “friended” by B**** M**** Senior Management at D********** UK and Writer, Creative Director, Executive Producer at M*******) with whose organisation I had recently applied for a job.  Now to be fair this person had Studied Acting and Directing at Central School of Speech and Drama so they might be interested in Pear Shaped for artistic reasons.  Their sudden “friending” of me might be a completely innocent coincidence but there’s clearly a power imbalance in the relationship because he is a professional and I’m trying not to be too professional on that page.  For me it is a semi-private space… or is it? … although all my posts are public if I can be bothered to say anything this is mainly because I have better things to do with my time than mess about with privacy settings.  I just relied on the millions of other people with the same name on Faceboook to make me impossible to find.  I’ve blanked my FB page too after reading this article by Mark Zuckerberg in the Guardian.  Don't get me wrong ... I haven't been bullied off Twitter or Facebook - I'm just shy ... and as a promoter I'm well aware of the commercial dangers of these services.  Everything your post is analysed by Big Data people.  I doubt as many people analyse this site because it is too dull.

Pear Shaped was an escape from the office but ultimately there is no escape from the office.  Also I don’t use FB because if I have been to Lincoln one evening and been back to the office early in the morning I don’t want people to know so they can put it about that I’m not interested or professional in my day job.  Not that they do say this but it might be something my boss would worry about.  I would worry about it if I was the boss of a comedian.  Anyway the point, dear reader, is that the problem with Social Media and the Internet is that it has been polluted by professionals at everything. 

Now there’s nothing wrong with being a Professional.  The problem is the Pear Shaped is NOT professional ... just semi-pro.  To emphasise this point I put “Managing Director of London’s 2nd Worst Comedy Club” on my Twitter profile.  This made it according to Pete Graham of Downstairs at the King’s Head the funniest Twitter profile on the internet. 

However, it clearly wasn’t that funny because hundreds of others of my followers simply did not get the joke.  Instead I was regularly connected by ambitious humourless idiots who can’t read the word “Worst” to long lists of important potentates in Industry and Commerce who might be useful contacts one day.  I got followed by Business Leaders and Human Resources Professionals in droves ...to the point where they wanted to meet up on Linkedin too.  Now I have nothing against human resources except John R. Commons statement "Other races of immigrants, by contact with our institutions, have been civilized—the negro has only been domesticated" (and that was some time ago so maybe we should let it go now) but I don’t want them analysing my private life for commercial gain.  As a comedian that’s my job. 

As Wemmick tells Pip in Great Expectations, "the office is one thing, and private life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle behind me."

After all the entire function of HR is social control (some of which is needed and some …) and the point of the private life is not to be controlled.  Like most Twitter users I’d like to say or think that my content was read by the great thinkers of the 21st century but in fact it was probably just read by a load of HR professionals who use it to put me on lists of “people we probably shouldn’t employ because they’re mental”.

When the internet started no one read it and it was great.  It was like going down the pub.  We chatted.  We shared thoughts.  We swore.  We argued issues.  We were rude to each other.  We were disrespectful and we had fun or got bullied and didn’t have fun.  Although some people probably had more fun than others… er …okay it wasn’t that great… but it was better than the world before the internet where the only emails I got were a long list of things to do from my boss who was the only other person on email I knew.

However, with boom in readership of social media it has become less like going down the pub and more and more and more like simply another extension of the office.  Having a backroom job this wasn’t as much of a problem for me in the past as it may be in the present as I was able to effectively separate my private and public selves (up to the point where everyone I vaguely knew worked out what I do with my spare time) and never needed to change jobs … but times change.  Of course I could use a stage name but I feel that if I didn’t use my real name I’d take no responsibility for what I say at all and probably go completely mental.  Also these days you need a publicity photo and that is what really did for my anonymity – not my name …which is as boring as you can get.  When the Evening Standard decides to use your photo that's 10 million people you can't hide from.

So why use social media?  Well, the answer’s simple.  Cheap advertising.  It costs nothing.  Except of course that …nothing in life is actually free at all.  Everything in life has a price (with the possible exception of the NHS).  It’s just a question of whether or not you’re willing to pay it.  If no one gives “of themselves” social media services don’t work because there’s no interesting content.  The problem is that everybody who’s a half decent promoter spends all their time figuring out how to put as little meaningful content on there as possible in return for as much advertising space as possible.  I did.

I’m as guilty as everyone else of reducing social media to one big advertising board.  For example I was an early adopter of the futuretweets service which allowed the right kind of tweets and links to WeGotTickets to go out at the right time of day.  If there was a way to bleed more advertising out of Twitter I’d squeeze the stone for all the blood that would come out.  I was very good at this but I have no tickets to sell at the moment as the venue is closed (Pear Shaped will be at the Fringe though) so why take the risks of being on social media if you’re no longer bothered about the benefits? 

This is why people with any sense come and go and come and go … there’s no benefit to being there if you’re not selling anything.  It also wipes all your old content so you can start again … Yes, there’s an automated service for that too http://www.tweetdelete.net/ Everything on Twitter is now so automated by another machine that there’s no point in going on there to meet humans anymore.  You may think you were reading my tweets as I wrote them but you weren’t.  If I wanted to test a joke or plug a gig I’d automate that tweet to go out at a particular time of day … and sometimes I’d go on as myself too and chat to people just to “keep it real” and keep people interested but a good 70 per cent of my tweets were robotic.  Sorry to break it to you but it is just business … or it became just business.  If I was using the service this cynically one shudders to think what the Head of Content at idio is doing with it.

Once years ago Mr Stephen Fry had a PHP board.  It was great fun.  A group of misfits used to hang out there to exchange thoughts and ideas and naughtiness.  But, of course, eventually the board died because it was deluged with spam.  The result is that I have a very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very distant connection to Mr Stephen Fry.  Here’s a tip for communicating on Twitter.  Never have something retweeted by Stephen Fry - your feed will be clogged up with vacuous replies for weeks on end afterwards.  The idea that you could sustain anything approaching a conversation in such circumstances is just laughable.  It’s like trying to talk to a room full of people all talking at once.  All I can hear for weeks after is other people trying to make a connection with Stephen which they imagine I must have but don’t really… I just have a vague connection because I used to fill his board with nonsense and advertising spam and as a kindly man he never threw me off.  So it goes …a world of everyone trying to leech status off each other.  I imagine that every time Mr Fry leaves twitter it must be like the scene in the African Queen where Humphrey Bogart extricates himself from the river only to find he’s dragged the boat no further forward and is covered in leeches.  Hopefully he has Katharine Hepburn and some matches to remove them.  It is like a virtual Fringe.  Mr Fry’s forum did have some interesting content for a while but eventually it died – he pulled the plug when the volume of completely random and automated spam became overwhelming even with a crew of volunteers to cull it.  Using twitter if you “are somebody” must be pure hell.  As Oscar Wilde once said : We’re all of us in the gutter …and everyone is following the stars.

No good deed going unpunished

Social media gives ordinary people a platform and that’s fun for them but when your platform goes above a certain level it stops being fun.  You have to start thinking about absolutely everything you say and that isn’t fun.  Suddenly you become responsible and there’s no “escape from responsibility” which is the pot of gold at the end of the social media rainbow.  The bohemian publication that is the Daily Telegraph tells us that 93 per cent of recruiters will inspect candidates’ social media profiles before making a job offer, so it “pays to stay smart online”.

“What you won’t find on Will’s Facebook are drunken rants or dodgy photos – not because he’s never done this – but, following his mum’s advice, he’s spring-cleaned his social media feeds and avoids reckless posts.”

This is the real problem with social media.  It's read by people's mums and the recruitment industry.  Why are there so many cat videos?

Grumpy cat used to enjoy killing birds and mice
but now he spends all day worrying about how
using social media will affect his career

Because no one with any sanity writes what they actually think on their social media page anymore.  Don’t write what you wouldn’t want your mum to read is really good advice … unless of course you are an actual writer when it is in fact the reverse of what you should be doing.

The Wills of the world are very sensible … but they are so sensible they are stuck in an eternal professional arms race to make their profiles as professional as possible and to say as little as possible about what it’s really like to live.  Their Facebook pages are like those awful round robin Christmas cards people send.  Beyond saying “I’m thinking of you but also of myself” they say …

Those who do seem to keep it real on FB like **** ******** have become in my view almost parodies of themselves …pushing their narrow political agendas to an ever shrinking audience.  I could write a macro that would create more interesting content.  Of course it is in the interests of broadsheets and newspapers to castigate and satirise social media because it is, of course, their competitor … but still we all of us must “stop being naïve” and creating content.  No one hates social media more than the media.  Having failed to stop the public competing with them using intellectual debate they are now reduced to fearmongering tactics - don't express any controversial opinion or you'll get blacklisted by HR.  Still one has to weigh that up against the Conservatives attempting to remove the safety net for when HR lays one off.

“If I want to hear what ordinary people think then I will talk to them in a pub. Twitter is utterly pointless” said John Humphrys. 

Well not utterly – for everything I hate about it …it sold tickets …which ultimately paid some acts… but fairly pointless.

“Stuff hangs around online,” says a humourless consultant at London-based recruitment company, “and what may seem like funny comments at the time can damage a job seeker if taken out of context. With so many people chasing work, employers look for the smallest differentiators,” she warns.  But really who wants to work for the kind of employer who spies on their private lives…?  These cannot be exactly creative environments to work in?  Isn’t that a bit like an abusive relationship?  Why does everyone need to be vetted like this?  Actually unemployment is at a 10 year low… yet the recruitment industry goes on like we’re all being vetted for Her Majesty’s Secret Service… But I should stop there before I repeat another heresy like work is work and not actually meant to be fun all the time.  One problem is, of course, that when you do jokes live the bad jokes bomb and you think “I’m not doing that again” whereas twitter makes them semi-immortal unless you’re prepared to keep re-editing your own timeline forever.  If people are going to store up the failed jokes as weapons to use against you the risks outweigh the benefits.  Twitter has tried to fix this by supplying analytics functions for each tweet but it’s a sticking plaster.  I can see which tweets get the most readers but not why … and these days no one seems to respond to say they like it or don’t like it either.  And I’m paranoid.

So why, dear reader, would any of us comedians put anything like humour on our websites or facebook pages at all?  We are told constantly that it will damage our prospects of getting a day job /of employment /of something else even though the entire internet is wall-to-wall-opinions-no-one-is-interested-in. 

Perhaps this is why when I try to find a new act with a website or try to find a new act’s biog on comedycv so that I can promote them I cannot?  They are ALL invisible.  Why?  They are hiding from their employers as I used to be when I started comedy until it became impractical because the Evening Standard used my publicity photo and I had to have a publicity photo because I could no longer get booked without one because paper listings publications like Time Out were slowly going bust.  Be careful what you wish for. One reason I was on there – I simply couldn’t find people anywhere else.  Hardly anyone has a website or a phone number or emails anymore.  If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter then it’s like not having a telephone.  But today I look at it and very few people I might wish to contact are on there and I don’t have the same need to contact so …why bother?

Of course deleting all the content on my feed means I’ve wiped the good as well as the bad.  The witty with the ill advised.  The funny with the unfunny.  The intelligent with the stupid.  The nice with the cruel.  It is all a blank now.  But then again …why give away any content in the first place?  To be plagiarised by Keith Chegwin?

Another problem is swearing.  I like to swear … well, let’s be honest most comedians just swear – that’s why we’re in adult entertainment.  It’s not an accident the first Comedy Store was above a strip joint.  It’s not an accident one of Tony Hancock’s first gigs was between the strippers at the Windmill Theatre… we’ve only ever really been one up from strippers.  The other day someone said to me “why isn’t Pear Shaped running” and I replied “because I don’t want to run it and it be ****” …it costs time and money” and is a bit long term commitment between us and the venue when its on.  Now in real life this is how comedians talk to each other.  If you don’t believe me join Facebook group the Comedy C**********… but you can’t say it on twitter because it’s too much real life…

…as Gary Lineker discovered when he indulged in some mild swearing.  How much swearing is there on twitter?  Well, luckily someone’s done a survey… I actually started making an effort to swear less on twitter than in the real world…
…but it’s actually really really hard (perhaps it would be an idea to swear less in the real world too)

In this article from 2014 Gregor Smith says "I don't really care whether it's professional or not. This is social media, not professional media. I'm on social media because I want to be sociable, and sometimes, as it does in real life, that involves swearing. People who have "professional" accounts on Twitter are at best dull and at worst inhuman. They retweet standard news articles that I've already seen, post pictures of themselves being mundanely efficient, and go silent for hours at a time when you know they're getting totally plastered."  That's how I used to feel when like Gregor I had only 494 followers ...but as I've started to move towards 1000 I've started to feel more exposed because if I go above that then it isn't a chat down the pub anymore...

Even simple turns of phrase that comedians use everyday like “died on his ****” have to be filtered out… and eventually you think …well I don’t think the Ambassador’s parties are exactly my demographic even if there is Ferrero Rocher on offer.  I've begun to feel less like a comedian and more like George Mainwaring before he regenerated into Toby Jones.

The problem becomes worse the more and more followers you get until you feel you are subsumed by responsibility.  Even this website I’ve been going gradually back through to remove any rude words or jokes or content that aren’t acceptable today.  Jokes age too.  For instance an innocent joke comparing someone to Jimmy Savile because they looked the same that I made several years ago had to be removed because …well… now then … now then …  now then… then isn't now.  As the volume of material increases so does the volume of time maintaining it.  I really pity people who have to edit newspapers.  One of the reasons the subjects this site covers are mostly abstract or dry or to do with foreign policy is these are the subjects least likely to offend anybody.  At the end of the line sometimes I think there is no point in putting material online unless you’re monetising it… …as these people have yet to work out.

Yes, there are indeed books now on Twitter Etiquette.  Dear me.  Instead of being the back of the pub it has become the drawing room.  To be fair one of the problems is the controls on adult content. 


There are none …and sadly these days I’m old enough to be a “role model” … Ava Alexis’s nephews are on there somewhere … although I doubt they would be interested enough to search for me … they’re too busy talking about taking their friends to Nandos … However, with all these demographics mixed into each other …well, its inevitable that everyone will eventually offend each other.

“We want to inspire young people – and help them draw on their achievements – and we want to make sure they present themselves in the best way possible, socially,” says some head of LifeSkills at some bank. Which means that if you are a good communicator …or an effective artist …or a something …what they want is to see how they can turn that to the advantage of their institution.  Which is fair enough but … What they don’t want is you going independent all over the place… which is fair enough I suppose.  Suffice to say there are …dangers … to advertising independence being what you want.  Advertising your desire or independence is not a good career idea if you ask me which no one did (despite the fact very few employers can guarantee your long term employment) …so is it actually a good idea to have no profile?  This is why when I started work I concealed my existence as a stand up from my employer for years.  Indeed, I used to be just a writer and still am …I only started doing stand up because the industry I’m in is notoriously unstable.  Ludicrously busy or scratching round for something to do … if you went down the dangerous road of not having other dimensions to your life you’re probably end up being one of those people who throws themselves off Coq d'Argent.

Of course the ultimate solution for a comedian who isn’t an actor used to be to have a dead end day job … but, of course, dead end jobs don’t exist anymore.  With the possible exception of the much sought after position of baggage handler at Heathrow …and who really wants to do boring labour and get RSI anyway?  “You need to be shouting about positive experiences to boost your employability,” they shout.  As to having opinions that might conflict with your employer’s image I’ve never actually found that a practical problem and I’ve worked for very powerful potentates but …let’s say there a subjects I subconsciously “stay off” to be on the safe side… when you as a product become confused with them as a service it can cause confusion … but then who wouldn’t have another career?  I’ve been at risk of redundancy more times than I can remember …even when things are going well.  I sometimes think that in the final analysis no one is actually in charge of anything anymore outside their imagination any more…?  I’m not.  Okay perhaps the PoPo …

When I was doing twitter I did make an effort to do put on some original content regularly… even if the audience didn’t want to read it or didn’t like it but....  it isn’t as simple as that either for … Then there’s the retweet.  If you have any kind of platform at all people send you things to retweet, petitions to sign and other content to promote for them. 

Sorry we wont be retweeting your content any longer

I have my career to think of

I may only have had 995 followers but....  some of them send me content.  I’d often retweet it without much thought but ...  If you endorse too many causes it looks like “virtual signalling” or that you are a political troublemaker ... if you endorse too few you look as though you don’t care about anything at all and even if it’s not in your own personal interests it just seems mad to have a platform of any kind and not to endorse anything else.  Decisions.  Decisions.  Decisions.  Decisions.  Then there’s who to follow and who to follow back.  Even with automated tools it’s a chore just to remove all the advertising businesses from your feed so you can follow back real people.  It’s just endless decisions.  Take for example this blog …it could have a “below the line” section which would massively increase the number of hits but honestly I couldn’t be bothered to spend the man hours to moderate it … that must be a hell to do job too… 

And don’t get me wrong – I’m quite a political person but even I find many of the political tweeters I follow from all sides of the spectrum to be dull.  If you’re live tweeting Question Time you probably need a DVD player or Netflix.  Anyway we are advised that having too many political opinions makes one unattractive to employers – after all no one wants to employ someone who might win an intellectual argument with them… I certainly don’t.

Then there are the hoards of people out to be offended by anything… to whom there are two responses.  Get angry or Ignore them.  So I’d find myself simultaneously writing things that are too dull to offend anybody or obviously offensive for the sake of it.  Even if you “kick up” at say the Royal Family it just sounds awful and offends someone else … often I just read it all (my posts and other peoples) and thought….  It’s the mental equivalent of watching paint dry and don’t feel either that I’m actually reaching out to a larger demographic – perhaps because there isn’t one for what I do -  or that demographic I do have … or … or… or…

Now there is some sense in behaving yourself online and polishing your profile … but it took me back to a memory of a girl I knew at University who fancied me and asked me out (very rare) but I didn’t really fancy her.  I never knew why at the time but now I do.  She was running some society and told me how fantastic it would look on her CV and this was an instant turn off. 

Of course it probably would look good on her CV but what seemed wrong is that she wasn’t doing the thing for herself or for its own sake or as a life experience that she might learn indirectly from or because (heaven forbid) she just enjoyed it but because she was already thinking strategically about being forty at twenty - and that just makes you sad and deeply uncool.  Her private life was not really private at all – it was just another extension of her career.  She had privatised it.  She was commercialising it.  How dull.  But then doesn’t everyone to some extent or other?  That’s what makes Facebook so awful

Perhaps this emphasis on not being yourself on Facebook outside of work is why everyone is encouraged to dress down at work these days.  Often when I turn up at an office these days I feel completely over-dressed in my suit while the IT guys are all in tee-shirts.  Cubicals seem to be cluttered with exactly the kind of photographs and screensavers of family and holidays that people would be too shy to put on Facebook in case someone was jealous.  Down Tech City the entrepreneurs of today dress in tee shirts and smart casual while the money men crowd round in suits… eventually I’m sure these “bohemians” will all move into plus offices and put on suits and then they’ll employ the HR executives of tomorrow because (and I say this from experience) listening to people who work for you can be pretty awful...  Which somehow reminds me of this

Meanwhile stand up comics on the telly (in that endless search for the respectability that the vocation doesn’t have and never will) dress more and more like the kind of businessmen that don’t exist anymore outside the City of London.  Truly the world is topsy turvey.  In the US the commercial potential of Facebook to the Recruitment industry has already caused problems with the advent of SNOPA Bill (Social Networking Online Protection Act). 

And Mark Zuckerberg has been throwing a wobbly all over the place and threatening legal action against people bullying Facebook passwords out of job applicants.  This is because of course the reduction of Facebook to a job interview candidate board like LinkedIn will kill his business stone dead. 

Why go on Facebook if it’s Linkedin?  Personally as a booker of all the kind of people that would be rejected by any sensible Human Resources department I thought Facebook was a very positive thing as it gave people a forum to let off steam about bad gigs without putting it somewhere that the whole world would read it.  Take that away and they’ll probably all start writing what they actually think about me online again but under pseudonyms.  Despite the only-one-account rule I know several people with multiple identities on there … But remember everyone who writes under a pseudonym is a troll even if people tell you outright that your writing will damage your chances of employment.  In the end… the truth has to go somewhere or you end up with people on Graduate Fog and the Humourless Student Room discussing whether or not they should sign on if they’re unemployed or not.  For goodness sake …the government gives you so little for free these days you should make sure you get every penny you’re owed because it’s very few pennies.  Then again if I had to continually submit to the kind of testing they seem to have to do……fortunately I seem to fail every psychometric test ever undertaken on me… It’s hilarious …we have all these tests to see if people will be loyal to their organisation and they’re created by a man who fell out with his own organisation …?  Sometimes I wonder what it’s all about…? 

Oh well at least I’m vaguely aware of the potential risks of writing online unlike some people who when I asked them if being a comedian damaged their job prospects looked at me blankly for a while and then said … “er … yes, …I found that” as though they’d never really thought about it.  Then again perhaps that’s why they’re full time and I’m not.  Even if I could I don’t think I’d want to do it ALL the time… but try telling that to anybody.

So how are we going to promote comedy in the future? Except to groups within groups within groups within groups on Facebook…?

Reader, if we bother … I think we may have to flier.

I must not rant on the internet
I must not rant on the internet
I must not rant on the internet
I must not rant on the internet

In short I haven't left because I was bullied off ...I've just left because ... no one listens to anyone else there anymore.  It's so dull.  In the beginning we used to have debates ... but almost everyone I disagree with even mildly blocks me ...so that now I am talking to no one at all - and I can do that here... In short ...After I stopped saying anything that might upset anyone I just found I said nothing.

"We have created an abusive society. We have normalized, regularized, and routinized abuse. We are abused at work, by the very rules, norms, and expectations of our jobs, at which we are merely “human resources”, to be utilized, allocated, depleted. We are abused at play, by industries that seek to prey on our innocence and literally “target” our human weaknessses. And now we are abused at arm’s length, through the lightwaves, by people we will never meet, for things we have barely even said."

This is what happens when you don't listen to Ava Alexis