Blog lady in dog horror while doctors encourage casual sex with women

Anna Smith in her Vancouver hospital

Anna Smith found herself in a Vancouver hospital last year

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith has been telling me about some of the things happening in Vancouver.

“I mentioned to my nephew,” she told me, “that I had heard on the news some dogs had got married. He said: I think it was an arranged marriage.”

“I am beginning to think,” I told her, “that Vancouver is the new Swinging London.”

“This town will start swinging when the buildings start falling,” she replied. “I just discovered a couple of hours ago that ‘the dole’ here is now called ‘The Ministry of Social Innovation’. It is really only a matter of time before they start sending out mushrooms with the cheques. I guess the next major issue here will be how to deposit mushrooms into a cheque account.”

Anna had also recently read that Canadian research shows sleeping with numerous women protects a man from prostate cancer. But the same is not true for gay encounters – Having more than 20 gay male partners doubled the risk of prostate cancer.

“I will sleep well,” she told me, “knowing that Canadian scientists are working hard.”

Last year, Canadian scientists felt muzzled

Last year, Canadian scientists felt muzzled (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“Last year, scientists in Vancouver were protesting against being muzzled by the Federal Government. The government has been sending its ‘minders’ to scientific conferences to tell the scientists which information they are allowed or are not allowed to tell the public.

“And this morning,” she told me, “I was injured in a freak accident. A large Doberman dog was running wildly through a downtown intersection wearing a long pink leash tied to an iron patio chair. It ran towards me and the leash wrapped around my legs.

“I fell to the pavement to avoid being dragged. I sat on the leash and the dog became calm. A crowd gathered. Someone helped me to my feet. The owner  arrived and apologised. Luckily know how to fall.

“One time, I was making breakfast for a 90-year-old exotic dancer named Margaret Severn. She had been a star in the Greenwich Village Follies of 1921. She suddenly lurched from her bed and I rushed to her side.

“What are you doing? she asked me.

“I told her: I’m worried you might fall.

I KNOW HOW TO FALL DOWN! she told me angrily.

“I don’t know why that Doberman dog was acting so crazy. He didn’t have rabies or appear to be on drugs. Maybe he was recently divorced.

“Now I am resting on my boat. I am glad there is a pair of crutches on the roof. I left them there because people are always getting injured out here. I am on my old boat. Frustrating having a smashed knee as there is so much work to do here. The boat is like a cradle. I like how it feels.  I like sturgeons below me instead of interior decorators.”

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Filed under Canada, Gay, Medical, Sex

Guy Combes: surrealist with luxuriant moustache who drank some shampoo

Last week at Vout-O-Reenee’s  (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Guy Combes last week at Vout-O-Reenee’s (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

In a blog last week, I mentioned going to Vout-O-Reenee’s – Sophie Parkin’s club “for the surrealistically distinguished” – to see Guy Combes fascinatingly surreal show Auntie Rene’s Memory Box Is The Smallest Museum in The World. Guy Combes is a man with a luxuriant moustache.

In yesterday’s blog, the untold (by me, but not by her) story of writer/editor/artist/bohemian Molly Parkin kissing jazz legend Louis Armstrong was mentioned by comedy performer Matt Roper.

Molly Parkin at Vout-O-Reenee’s gallery opening last night

Molly Parkin at Vout-O-Reenee’s gallery opening last night

Last night, Matt and I went to see the opening of the Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s – The first exhibition is a retrospective of  Molly Parkin’s paintings 1954-2014.

While there, I had a chat with Guy Combes, who claimed to have read my blogs.

“I think research is much over-rated,” I said. “I don’t know anything about you at all, except that you have a luxuriant moustache and used to be in a comedy duo called Moonfish Rhumba.”

“Usual story,” said Guy. “Failed actor. Robin Williams said comedy was his therapy, not that I’d compare myself with Robin Williams, of course.”

“Well for one thing,” I said, “you’re not dead.”

“Or depressed,” said Guy, “though I have my moments. Anyway, Robin Williams said that, between his acting jobs, he got really ‘down’ so, as a way of therapy, he started doing stand-up. There was no mental illness, just boredom. Obviously, I have a level of mental illness: you’ve got to have.”

“So you HAVE read my blogs!” I said.

The new Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee's

The new Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s

“Yes,” he said. “The suicide one. I’ve got a story, though nothing quite as exotic as that. I was sent to boarding school and I hated it and, in the process, I drank a bottle of shampoo. The boys in the dormitory found it very entertaining. They were giving me shoe polish and all sorts to see if I could imbibe as much as possible until a snotty prefect decided to pack me off to hospital.”

“Thus,” I suggested, “you are here in this private club for surrealists.”

“Probably,” laughed Guy.

“Boot polish is an interesting one,” I said. “It’s solid.”

“Yeah,” agreed Guy. “It took a bit of chewing. It was probably the best performance I’ve done, because all these boys were giving me all these different things to imbibe and I would find different ways to look like I was but not. With the shampoo, I put my tongue in the bottle, so I wasn’t actually drinking much at all.”

“University?” I asked.

Guy Combes at Vout-O-Reenee’s last night minus shampoo

Guy Combes at Vout-O-Reenee’s last night minus shampoo

“No,” said Guy. “I was taking lots of drugs at the time and was very interested in Alice in Wonderland and there was this place in Bournemouth… a theme park about Alice in Wonderland… There was a girl who is now a member of Vout-O-Reenee’s as well – Julia Pittam – and she got the job as Alice and I got the job as the White Rabbit because I needed to get my Equity card somehow. So I was running around the theme park trying not to get beaten up by children and then I got promoted to being the Mad Hatter.”

“Is that promotion?” I asked. “I don’t know the hierarchical structure of Alice in Wonderland theme parks.”

“Well,” explained Guy, “the owner was originally the Mat Hatter. Rich toff. Land-owner sort. It was a good learning process, a great way to develop a skill of working an audience because the airport was opposite the theme park. Or maybe that was the drugs.”

“So,” I said, “you wanted to be an actor, you became a rabbit and now you are making, I imagine, a good living appearing in TV commercials for Eat.”

“As Mr Mozzarella,” said Guy. “Yes. Well, that’s running until Christmas and then they’re stopping it.”

There is footage on YouTube of Mr Mozzarella at the Corby Parliamentary By-Election in 2012.

“You’re very memorable Mr Mozzarella,” I said. “Have you done other commercials?”

“There was one,” said Guy, “which kind of segued into the Mat Hatter – I got a job as Barbara Windsor’s bitch in a gambling ad and they dressed me as the Mad Hatter.”

“What were you doing?” I asked. “Throwing gambling chips around?”

“Barbara Windsor was the Queen and I was Jackpot Joy… No, no… I was Jack. She was the Queen of Hearts and the girl who played Joy went on to get a part in Game of Thrones as the prostitute.”

“You’d be good in Game of Thrones,” I said. “You have a medieval face.”

Game of Guy - Is this a good medieval face?

Game of Guys – Is this a good medieval face?

“Yes,” said Guy. “One of my favourite comedy gig heckles was Look out! Here comes a medieval terrorist!

“But you’ve never done stand-up?” I asked. “You’re an actor.”

“I’ve attempted it,” said Guy, “but it never really works. I realised, with me, everything has to have a character attached to it. I struggle with myself.”

“Which one of you wins?” I asked.

“Don’t know.”

“You’re married,” I said.

“Yes.”

“So you are a sensible, level-headed married chap.”

“My dad was a bank manager,” said Guy, “and I think I’ve inherited some of that. Today I was at home doing the car insurance and organising all the bills and sorting out our mortgage.”

“So,” I said, “sort-of level headed with odd things thrown in.”

“I got a good job in the middle of the Edinburgh Fringe this year. My agent phoned me up and said: They want a moustache in Germany.”

“Do you get a lot of moustache-related work?” I asked.

“Well,” said Guy. “It’s amazingly useful. You get all these actors out of work and, if only they just grew something…”

“I was,” I said, “watching the TV news the other day and there was this research scientist saying that, in 25 years time, people who have lost their legs will be able to re-grow their legs but, for some reason, not their feet. They would still need artificial feet.”

“So I was in Edinburgh,” continued Guy, “and they flew me to Berlin. Lovely. They shot me first thing in the morning with the Berlin skyline, just as the sun was coming up, and all I had to do was smoulder, look into the camera and say What are you looking at? in German.”

“You can speak fluent German?” I asked.

“No.”

“Surely,” I said, “they have people in Germany with moustaches?”

The Kaiser: a man, a myth, a moustache

The Kaiser: a man, a myth, a moustache

“Apparently not of this size,” replied Guy.

“Did the Kaiser live for nothing?” I asked. “What do you want to be ultimately? A respected actor not a comedy person?”

“It’s just a magical journey,” said Guy. “I don’t know where it’s gonna lead next. I suppose I’m just compelled to do certain things. At the moment, I’m working on various comedy characters that I’m going to be taking around comedy clubs.”

“Stand-up comedy?” I asked.

“Character stand-up,” said Guy. “When I did my show here last week, people seemed to enjoy the song and the puppets. So I think more songs, more puppets. I think I will pop down to Pear Shaped and try out some things. I wanted to work some more with the Aunt Rene thing, but I think I’ve sorted exhausted that. It all started going quite dark last week.”

“Dark is good,” I said. “It will get you reviews.”

Guy Combes eating his Aunt Rene’s brain in show last week (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Guy Combes eating his Aunt Rene’s brain in show last week (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

“Ye-e-e-e-s,” said Guy. “But what happened the other night was un-planned. The eating of my aunt’s brain. That took me by surprise. I wasn’t sure how to end the show. I thought: I’m either going to have to throw her brain into the audience like some clown would do… or get someone up to eat it… or I’m going to have to eat it. I don’t know if it was fitting for the memory of my auntie to eat her brain in front of loads of strangers. But maybe that’s the way to go. Maybe that’s where my future lies.”

“Eating people’s brains?” I asked.

“Maybe,” said Guy.

Guy at the Stash Gallery with a woman who had been gored by a bull

Guy at the gallery with a woman who had been gored by a bull

And then we went off to look at the Molly Parkin exhibition.

Guy got talking to an interesting artist who told him she had been gored by a bull.

Foolishly, I did not record her story and did not get her name or contact details.

Life is full of missed blogs.

On Vimeo, there are excerpts from some of Guy’s TV ads.

GuyCombesShowreel

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“No, I was not bounced on Bernard Manning’s knee,” says UK performer

Matt Roper with his dad George Roper

Matt Roper (left) with his dad George Roper

You have no idea how I and other people suffer for this blog.

At the moment, I have comedy performer Matt Roper staying in my spare bedroom for the next four weeks. Well, he may emerge occasionally. Matt performs as comedy singing character Wilfredo. His father was stand-up comedian George Roper, who rose to fame on Granada TV’s stand-up series The Comedians in the 1960s, along with Bernard Manning, Frank Carson and others.

“I don’t have a blog today,” I told Matt this afternoon. “You’ll have to give me one. I always tell people that, as a boy, you were bounced on Bernard Manning’s knee and you say you weren’t. There must be a blog in that.”

“I was bounced on Cilla Black’s knee,” said Matt.

“In blog terms,” I said, “Cilla Black is not as sexy as Bernard Manning.”

“We are not talking about Bernard Manning,” said Matt.

“Why,” I asked, “don’t you want to be associated with Manning?”

“It’s just that I didn’t know him that well. I might as well be associated with Hermann Goering.”

“Well, you are,” I said.

Matt introduced me to Hermann Goering’s great-niece for a blog last year.

Les Dawson: not to be confused with Bernard Manning

Les Dawson shared knee-bouncing with Cilla Black?

“Bernard Manning,” I persisted, “kept coming round for Sunday lunch, didn’t he?”

“No,” said Matt. “Les Dawson used to come round for Sunday lunch sometimes.”

“Did he bounce you on his knee?” I asked hopefully.

Matt did not answer.

“There’s a picture of me sitting on Cilla’s knee,” said Matt, “but she might not like me letting you put it online. She’s in a swimming costume. This is not interesting, John.”

“It is,” I insisted. “I WAS NOT BOUNCED ON BERNARD MANNING’S KNEE is the headline, then we talk about something completely different.”

“OK,” said Matt. “But I think Louis Armstrong kissing Molly Parkin is far more interesting.”

“Where did he kiss her?” I asked.

“Do you mean…” Matt started to ask.

“I mean whatever you think I mean,” I said.

“You’ve always got Johnnie Hamp as a blog,” suggested Matt about the legendary Granada TV producer.

“He’s very interesting,” I said, “but he’s up in Cheshire.”

TV producer Johnnie Hamp with The Beatles at their height

TV producer Johnnie Hamp with The Beatles at their height

“Next year,” persisted Matt, “it’s the 50th anniversary of a TV show he produced called The Music of Lennon & McCartney. Brian Epstein (The Beatles’ manager) was very loyal. Not the best businessman, but a very loyal man to people who had given him a helping hand.

“By 1965, The Beatles didn’t really need to do a Granada TV show but Johnnie had been one of the first people to put The Beatles on TV in a regional Granada show Scene at 6.30. It’s on YouTube.

“In 1965, Johnnie had this idea The Music of Lennon & McCartney and there was this huge spectacular in Studio One at Granada TV and he flew people in – Henry Mancini played If I Fell on the piano; Ella Fitzgerald;  Cilla was on it; Peter Sellers reciting A Hard Day’s Night as Richard III. That’s on YouTube.”

“What were Cilla’s knees like?” I asked.

Matt ignored me.

“Johnnie Hamp,” he continued, “brought Woody Allen over to do a TV special – it’s the 50th anniversary of that next year, too. It’s the only television special Woody Allen ever did. Just for Johnnie Hamp at Granada. There’s a clip on YouTube.

“Johnnie told me recently: Back in those days, we didn’t care about ratings; creativity was more important. I mean, The Comedians was interesting because, today, no-one would take a chance on giving twelve unknown comics a primetime TV series.”

“That,” I said, “was why Sidney Bernstein (who owned Granada) was a great man.”

“Was it him or his brother who had a wooden leg?” asked Matt.

“That was Denis Forman,” I said. “It might have been metal.”

“I’ve got a Beatles-related story you could end your blog with,” said Matt.

“Just tell me what Cilla Black’s knees were like,” I told him.

“My dad,” said Matt, ignoring me, “told a story of when all the Beatles’ brothers and uncles in Liverpool – all the men of the family – heard that The Beatles were smoking drugs. What’s all this? they went. They took the train down from Lime Street to Euston to sort the fookin’ whatever’s going on owt. We’ll sort this fookin’ droogs thing owt.

“And the story goes that, three days later, they all got off the train back in Liverpool Lime Street saying: Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it… Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

“I’d better take a photo of you,” I said, “for the blog.”

“Not if you’re going to go on and on about Bernard Manning,” said Matt.

Matt Roper refused to be photographed for this piece

Matt Roper refused to be photographed for this piece

 

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Filed under 1960s, Comedy, Humor, Humour, Music

Advice to people who think they are – or want to be – famous. Who was Skirrow?

Me and Eric Morecambe on the seafront in happier days (Photo by M-E-U-F)

Me and Eric Who on Morecambe seafront.(Photograph by M-E-U-F)

This is a blog about someone who is long dead and about whom I know almost nothing.

A few years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe, performer/promoter Bob Slayer was speaking to a young comedy reviewer. The reviewer had never seen a Morecambe & Wise TV show… and had never even heard of Morecambe & Wise. This is true.

In the early 1960s, Arthur Haynes was the most famous and most successful comedy performer in Britain.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Morecambe & Wise TV shows were the biggest ongoing successes on British TV.

If you are British, NOT in the comedy industry and under a certain age,  you have probably never heard of Arthur Haynes. Or Arthur Askey. Or Tommy Handley. Or Dan Leno.

If you are not from Britain and living outside Britain, you have almost certainly heard of none of them.

Unless you are famous in China and in India, you are statistically an unknown. And people famous in China and India are usually unknown in the rest of the world.

So…

I stumbled on two separate synopses of the same 1967 novel titled I Was Following This Girl by someone called Desmond Skirrow.

Desmond Skirrow’s book

One cover selling Skirrow’s book

SYNOPSIS ONE
John Brock spends one sunny September day following the richest and most beautiful girl in the world. This simple job becomes less simple as the days go by and he meets such unsavoury characters as a hairy-headed mystic, a sinister yokel with a ferret up his jumper, and a whispering super from the Special Branch.

SYNOPSIS TWO
Tough British adman Brook, who does occasional jobs for our Intelligence, is assigned to protect exquisite young American billionairess from rich variety of enemies including phoney psychedelic prophet, mad lesbian karate expert and giant one-legged Cotswold rustic who prefers a ferret to a pistol.

Apparently Desmond Skirrow was a painter, book jacket illustrator, journalist, and a creative director for ad agencies including McCann Erickson and Masius Wynne-Williams. He was born in either 1923 or 1924 and died in 1976.

He wrote five novels in three years.

Desmond Skirrow - maybe

A photo of Desmond Skirrow – maybe. Or not

I Was Following This Girl is the second of three tongue-in-cheek spy novels he wrote in the late 1960s about a fictional British agent named John Brock.

The other Brock novels were It Won’t Get You Anywhere (1966) and I’m Trying to Give It Up (1968)

Before the Brook novels, he wrote a children’s book The Case of the Silver Egg (which was televised in 1966 as The Queen Street Gang). He wrote another novel, Poor Quail (1969), about an advertising executive’s move to the countryside,

In I Was Following This Girl, the girl John Brock is following is called Kiki Kondor. The blurbs failed to point out that the giant one-legged Cotswold rustic walks with a crutch and is called Satan Smith.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

Another cover for the Desmond Skirrow book

Differing book cover view of Skirrow’s I Was Following This Girl

“Desmond Skirrow has such a lively way with words that nobody is apt to complain that I Was Following This Girl is in essence a fairly ordinary conventional thriller about exposing a sinister politico-financial cult. There’s plenty of action and the plotting is ingenious and inventive; but the real delight of the book is the quirky narrative.”

Desmond Skirrow wrote of advertising agencies: “They are great carpeted palaces of little problems and big solutions, filled with loose minds in tight dresses.”

He was, as I said, “a painter, book jacket illustrator, journalist, and a creative director for ad agencies”. He sounds like an interesting man.

Some people are remembered. Some are forgotten. He is forgotten.

Arthur Haynes, Tommy Handley, Morecambe & Wise, the biggest entertainment names of their time are not just forgotten but were never known in China.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

So it goes.

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The surreal show at the Scala last night

The Scala at King’s Cross in London

Purveyor of oddities – the Scala at King’s Cross

Sometimes it is better to see shows blind.

A few months ago, I was invited to go see a show which happened last week.

By the time the day came round, I had completely forgotten who had invited me or what the show was. So I went along not knowing what to expect.

It was very good.

Much the same thing happened last night.

I went along to the Scala in London to see the Greatest Show on Legs perform during a show which I thought was probably a music event of some kind. I had not really bothered to ask.

In fact, it turned out to be a mega-variety show staged by promoters White Mischief. It was called The Haunted Halloween Ball.

Stage crew watch as The Greatest Show on Legs perform their naked balloon dance to startled Halloween-themed audience

Stage crew watch as The Greatest Show on Legs perform their naked balloon dance to a startled Halloween-themed audience

The audience dressed in Halloween costumes and the performers were of a top-notch quality which I can only compare to the level of the old Paul Daniels Show on BBC TV or ITV’s old Sunday Night at The London Palladium in its heyday (not to be confused with ITV’s misbegotten recent dog’s dinner called Sunday Night at The Palladium).

It is still relatively rare to see a wildly energetic exotic dancer with a flaming hula hoop (I mean the hoop was in flames) followed by a near-naked werewolf trapeze act.

I was talking to one of the acts in the backstage corridor later.

They told me that the buzz of performing had been amazing – like the first and only time he or she had ever taken heroin.

Showman Adam Taffler last night, as the Greatest Show on Legs prepare to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands

Showman Adam Taffler last night, as the Greatest Show on Legs prepared to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands

I am not sure this kind of simile should be encouraged, but there was certainly a buzz in the auditorium from a very good audience who wanted to see new things.

Showman Adam Taffler – one of the more extravagantly-dressed people backstage despite the fact he was not performing – told me he thought London audiences had now developed a taste for large-scale one-off events with strong formats. He recently staged Soirée in a Cemetery with Stewart Lee, the British Humanist Association Choir and much more.

Last night, The Haunted Halloween Ball show started at 9,30pm. It finished at 4.00am. I left at 12.30am when the show was still going strong. In the train home to Elstree, three middle-aged women were dressed as nuns. I think they were in fancy dress costume. But they might have been real.

By that time, reality and surreality had started to blur.

One of the UK’s more sensible political parties - The Monster Raving Loony Party

One of Great Britain’s more sensible political parties.

This morning, I woke up to an e-mail from mad inventor John Ward. It simply said:

“I have just had an e-mail from the Monster Raving Loony Party with a request to build something for one of their candidates in the forthcoming General Election next May.”

Like I said, reality and surreality have started to blur.

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Filed under Cabaret, Performance, Surreal

The surrealism of real life, comedy shows, football and 888,246 poppies

Why does no-one tell you that getting old is painful? When you are younger, you kind of get the idea that old people move as if they are in some type of special slow motion CGI effect because their muscles are seizing up or something. But often it is because they are in pain and the anticipation of the pain of movement slows them down.

More about my right heel later.

Reality is very surreal

Blood-red poppies pour out of the Tower of London

Blood-red poppies pour out into the Tower of London’s moat

A couple of days ago, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to the Tower of London where the moat is being filled with ceramic poppies – one for every British serviceman and servicewoman killed in World War One.

By 11.00am on the 11th day of the 11th month this year – that is 11 on 11/11, if you are an American – there will be over 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat. I thought more died but, then, the population of the UK in 1914-1918 was that much smaller.

The ceramic poppy heads arrive in boxes and volunteers unpack them, attach them to metal stems and use mallets to bash them into the grass and earth in the moat.

I know. Ceramic poppy heads being hit by mallets. Who would have thought.

You can buy the ceramic poppies from the moat for £25 each. At least you could. Apparently they have now all been sold.

Last night, around 7.00pm, as I travelled in a tube between Oxford Circus and Bank, a woman dressed as rabbit got into the train. She had long white ears and a full-body rabbit costume. This is true. And no-one treated this as odd. It is London. It is a Friday night. It was not odd.

I was in the tube train because I had just been to a meeting in Soho about, in January, marking the 10th anniversary of the death of comedian Malcolm Hardee.

Showman Adam Taffler – a man with a luxuriant moustache – is organising an event. I suggested that we should announce a couple of famous people were going to have sex live on stage.

In (I think it must have been) the 1960s, Oz magazine editor Richard Neville and his girlfriend allegedly hired the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road and had sex live in front of an audience of their friends. Apparently it was strangely un-erotic and slightly awkward.

Yesterday morning, journalist and writer of songs Ariane Sherine, about whom I blogged four days ago, asked me if I wanted to appear as the Pope in her next music video. I once appeared (mute) as Julius Caesar, being stabbed in some educational programme on Sky TV.

I know. An educational programme on Sky TV. Who would have thought.

Performance at a club for the surreally distinguished

At a private members club for the surreally distinguished…

I was on my way – last night in the tube train – to Sophie Parkin’s members-only club Vout-O-Reenee’s which calls itself a club “for the surrealistically distinguished”.

It is hidden under a church near the Tower of London. I went there to see a fascinatingly surreal show by Guy Combes – another man with a luxuriant moustache.

The show was called Auntie Rene’s Memory Box Is The Smallest Museum in The World. After the show, I told Guy I had seen him perform as Moonfish Rhumba at Pear Shaped comedy club. He seemed surprised I was that old. I think he may have been drinking.

Before the show, my eternally-un-named friend and I had talked to comedy performer Jody Kamali who was in the audience. Neither I nor Jody could actually describe to her what “type of act” he did on stage. This is arguably a good thing. If it is impossible to describe, it must be original – if a tad difficult to promote.

Jody Kamali’s extremely likeable wife is Russian. She has a strong Bristol/West of England accent, but has only been in the UK (London) for two years. She told me she picks up accents if she is with people and once spoke in an Irish accent for several weeks.

On the train back home to Elstree, I sat next to an interesting man who was a fan of Chelsea football club and who proceeded to tell me all the great players they had had since 1994 and (admittedly after I asked) the cost of normal and season tickets at Chelsea and other football clubs. I think he too may have been drinking.

Apparently Arsenal are the villains in football ticket prices.

I was interested to listen to what he said in much the same way I used to listen to the Stock Market Prices (sadly no longer done) on BBC Radio 4 and the Coastal Shipping Forecast (which I think Radio 4 may still do).

Listening to the Stock Market prices and the list of coastal areas with staccato abbreviated forthcoming weather details used to allow me to enjoy the abstract pleasure of words without the distraction of meanings. It was like hearing a good actor or actress saying: “Bat random daytime origami lukewarm” – comforting words not encumbered by any distracting meaning.

The man on the train who told me about the price of football seats also told me that today he and his girlfriend are going to see the ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. I told him there were big crowds. Which there were.

When I got home, I switched on the BBC TV News and there was an item about the possibility of people who had lost legs and arms growing new limbs. For some unexplained reason, an expert said he believed that, in 25 years time, it would be possible for a person to re-grow a missing leg but he or she would still have to be given an artificial foot.

My right heel has been distracting me recently

My right heel has been distracting me recently

The heel and sometimes sole of my right foot has been causing me extreme pain for about a fortnight. If I press on it with my fingers, there is no pain. If I walk, there is usually but not always pain. Last night, after sitting on a chair watching Guy Combes’ show and putting no pressure on my foot, the heel was extremely painful when I stood up.

In the mornings, after lying horizontal for eight hours and putting no pressure at all on my feet, when I stand up there is extreme pressure pain on the sole of my right heel. But, as I say, if I press my fingers or any object against the heel, there is no pain. It is very strange. Occasionally, when I walk, I have to stop myself from hobbling.

This morning, around 4.00am, I was woken up by severe cramp in my right leg. There was a big knot inside my leg. Agony and, in the agony of the cramp, too far down to reach and rub it. I just had to try to keep still through the shooting pain until it went. It happens every few months.

The muscles inside my left shoulder are still occasionally painful from when I tripped over and fell on the night-time cobbles of Edinburgh during the Fringe in August.

You may have correctly deduced I had no specific subject for my blog this morning.

I still think announcing that a famous couple will have sex live on stage during a Malcolm Hardee commemorative 10th anniversary show in January would get people in and he would have liked it.

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Filed under Surreal

Punchlines: comics getting beaten up

Comedy critics face fragile egos and non-comedic reaction

Yesterday, someone drew my attention to a copy of The Stage dated 26th April 1990. One article was headlined:

ARTISTS FEAR HECKLERS’ REVENGE

and started:

“Alarmed entertainers fear violence from rowdy club audiences may be on the increase after a series of ugly scenes which have put artists at risk on stage.”

Apparently comedian Paul Ramone had got a black eye and swollen nose after being head-butted by a member of his audience during a gig in Twickenham.

Manchester hypnotist Paul Nyles claimed he had had to abandon his act after 15 minutes when an audience member bit through his microphone cable. There were no details of what happened to the heckler when he did this.

Comedians getting beaten-up seems to be a non-uncommon phenomenon although biting through the microphone cable to stop an act is uncommon.

Off the top of my head, I remember three Edinburgh Fringe stories. One is told in Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake:


Ian Cognito - nothing is unexpected

Cognito maybe forgot Ricky Grover is an ex-boxer

An excellent performer called Ian Cognito was there and he was very drunk, as is his wont. When he’s drunk, he gets aggressive. Part of his Italian upbringing, I think. 

Ricky Grover had worked with him before, so said hello to him and Cognito grabbed him by his collar and said: 

“You’re a fat cunt!” 

Ricky doesn’t mind that sort of thing at all. He’s used to it.

So, not getting a reaction, Cognito continued: 

“You’re a fat cunt and you’re not funny!” 

Ricky still didn’t react, so Cognito added: 

“And your wife’s a fat cunt as well!”

This upset Ricky, because he’s one of those traditional people.

“Did you mean that?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ian Cognito said.

“Can you repeat it?” Ricky asked.

Cognito said: “Your wife’s a fat cunt”. 

And, with one blow, Ricky just knocked him out. Unconscious. Displaced his jaw a bit. The lot. Ricky’s a professional, so he knows exactly where to hit someone.

Standing three or four yards away was Jon Thoday, who runs the Avalon agency. I looked over at Jon and said: 

“Oh, have you go that £500 you owe me?”

Funnily enough, the cheque arrived in the post about two days later.


Police said Ian Fox suffered “a small cut to his nose”

In 2012, comedian Ian Fox was randomly attacked in the street during the Edinburgh Fringe. The local police, who allegedly knew quite a lot about beating people up, told the Edinburgh Evening News: “The victim suffered a small cut to his nose during the incident,” but Ian’s face looked more like he had had an argument with a rhinoceros.

And, of course, most infamously, in 2013, comedy performer Gareth Ellis got beaten up in an Edinburgh street by an irate member of the public who was annoyed by Ellis & Rose’s appearance in Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

Gareth Ellis suffers for his art (photo by Lewis Schaffer)

Gareth Ellis claimed he suffered for his art (Photograph by Lewis Schaffer)

Except it never happened. In fact, Gareth had repeatedly hit himself in the face with the blunt end of a milk whisk so he could tell the being-beaten-up story to get publicity for Ellis & Rose’s Fringe show. When the blunt end of a milk whisk did not have the required effect, his comedy partner Richard ‘Rich’ Rose punched him four times in the face to give him the required black eye. For this, they won a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

To me, the most bizarre part of the 1990 Stage article, though, was a paragraph towards the end which said:

“Alternative comedian Malcolm Hardee, who was knocked unconscious by a heckler at a Glasgow club, claims attacks are on the increase because comedy has become more aggressive.”

That this had happened to Malcolm seemed very unlikely – although admittedly Malcolm’s Tunnel Club had to become membership only after beer glasses were thrown at Clarence & Joy Pickles (Adam Wide & Babs Sutton) during their act.

Throwing beer glasses at acts was not uncommon at the Tunnel but, on this occasion (when Malcolm was NOT the compere) a glass hit Babs Sutton in the face and drew blood, after which several acts refused to play the Tunnel unless Malcolm reined-in his audience a bit.

MalcolmHardee_Diners

Malcolm Hardee – a comedian not unacquainted with alcohol

Anyway… Malcolm Hardee being knocked unconscious by a heckler at a Glasgow club sounded unlikely, so, yesterday, I asked Malcolm’s chum Martin Soan.

“This sounds unlikely,” I said. “Have you heard this story? Did he make it up?”

Malcolm making-up stories was not unheard-of, but Martin said surprisingly:

“Yes I do remember this. It is true after a fashion. The heckler sort-of pushed Malcolm in a friendly sort of way. Malcolm had drunk 13 pints of beer and some buckets of rum-and-coke and sort-of fell asleep for a bit… Talking of which, I had a knife pulled on me… twice. Once at the Old Tiger’s Head in Lee and once on the Glastonbury stage.”

Comedy can be a dangerous business.

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