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Jeff Cottrill

Updated: Wed, 6 May 2015 03:27 am

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Hailing all the way from Toronto, Canada, Jeff Cottrill is a journalist by day, performance poet and classic-film nerd by night, who likes to make audiences laugh, cringe or (preferably) both. His performance style is influenced by slam conventions, but subverts them with wit, ironic humour and a satirical tone. For more than a decade, Jeff has featured in many, many literary and performance series throughout Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. He has also written film and theatre reviews and other articles for several Canadian alternative magazines. In June 2010, his one-man show, "Grouch on a Couch", debuted at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Jeff has authored four chapbooks of fiction and satirical monologues, including "Guilt Pasta" (2007) and "Grouch on a Couch" (2011), published through Burning Effigy Press. He has also recorded three spoken-word CDs through Moody Loner Records; his latest is titled "This Album is NIT FENNY!". once called him "One of the funniest spoken-word artists in Canada." (Audio sample: "Pitches")


"Review of This Piece" “Review of This Piece”, by Jeff Cottrill, begins rather unimaginatively, with a straightforward literalism that desperately wants to emulate the tone of an educated critic, using terms such as “literalism” and “emulate” for effect. By the second sentence, you realize you’re in for some kind of post-modern, self-reflexive parody, but Cottrill quickly undermines the formal tone by switching you to the second-person for no reason. The piece carries on quite aimlessly, dragging on with the same theme, with an overly complex sentence that runs on and on and on and on, with no apparent sign of its ever having been edited right down to its most tight and clear and efficient form of verbal expression, but rather choosing to be redundant through repetition, more repetition, and saying the same thing over and over in different ways. Then, finally, there’s a shorter sentence. But the damage has been done, and Cottrill finds himself flailing at the end of his first paragraph, yearning for a clever closing remark to make a transition, but unable to come up with even a modestly catchy turn of phrase. At this point, Cottrill seems to be aware that he has shot his whole load in the first paragraph, and thus for a cheap laugh resorts to such crass, vulgar imagery as “shooting one’s load”. Then the attempts at clever self-reference continue, but without any real accomplishment. Like a starving man reaching for one solitary breadcrumb he knows won’t help him, Cottrill throws in a poor simile. On top of that, his attempt at a metaphor is a pathetic wounded animal, and his penchant for cliches leaves something to be desired. Cottrill cops out with the smug trick of pointing out various literary techniques by using those very techniques, but even supposing that were funny, he ruins the stunt by explaining it openly. The worst part is, there’s no payoff. Where is this leading to? Does he really think changing the tone with rhetorical questions can save this mess? So on to the second page the piece continues, and Cottrill is once again just looking for filler. You almost get the impression that he’s trying to stretch the whole composition out to a full four- or five-minute length, in order for it to fit in with many of his other stories and monologues. But he can’t do it, because there just isn’t enough substance behind the theme to sustain a piece of that size. And even if there were, Cottrill would be better off simply ending it right there and leaving his audience wanting more. But does he have that kind of restraint and self-awareness? Of course not. He just keeps on writing, and writing, and writing, wasting everybody’s time with the same thing over and over and over and over, even though he’s clearly running out of fresh ideas. Even when he does finally come up with something new, the grammar he uses is real bad. In conclusion, “Review of This Piece” is a formulaic and forgettable flop, complete with gratuitous alliteration. It’s just another one of Cottrill’s contrived, indulgent, overlong, one-joke monologues without any real soul behind it. If only Cottrill had the courage to challenge himself and write something from the heart, without being satirical or relying on a bag of clever but cold, shallow gimmicks, perhaps he could make some significant progress as a writer, beyond the realm of British poetry websites. But alas, if this is the best he can come up with now, he is doomed to a lifetime of literary obscurity. And even if Cottrill is satisfied with that, the least he could learn to do is come up with better endings.

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sian howell

Sat 21st Feb 2009 16:40

Border Crossing...had me from the first line, I thought it was great, made me laugh out loud. Very funny. I wish there was more of your pieces to read. Sian

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