The weird daily life of comedian Malcolm Hardee – and after

On Sunday, I went to the Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich. The club was started and run by comedian Malcolm Hardee until he died (drowned) in 2005.

I went with a friend. We both knew Malcolm.

She had known him for about 20 years and had worked with him at Up The Creek. I knew him for about 20 years and, in 1996, wrote his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. He could have written it himself but he – correctly, as it turned out – reckoned he’d never get round to actually doing it.

“Avalon have got me a deal with Fourth Estate to write my autobiography,” he told me. “Fuck it, I won’t do it. You’ll have to do it. I’ll split the advance with you 50/50.”

“Nah!” I told him. “You can do it. I’ll just be prodding you to write it. You’ll do it all. We can split it 90/10 in your favour.”

Eventually he persuaded me to increase my percentage to an 80/20 split in his favour.

This isn’t the way negotiations are supposed to go: me trying to take less, him trying to give me more.

Weird. That was everything connected with Malcolm’s daily life.

Last Sunday was the first time either of us – my friend and I – had been to a show at Up The Creek since Malcolm drowned almost exactly six years ago. Sunday had been Malcolm’s own unique nights.

So it was slightly strange. Like being in a parallel universe.

Everything inside Up The Creek was vaguely the same but slightly different.

Weird.

That was everything connected with Malcolm’s daily life.

Weird.

At home, he occasionally put a live goldfish in his mouth to get attention – I saw him do it twice. It was often said of Malcolm, with a lot of justification, that he never had a stage act – his life was his act.

We are talking here about a man who, when we were writing his autobiography, almost forgot to mention until the very last moment – after the first proofs had been printed – that he had once been detained and questioned by Special Branch officers when he was found in the middle of the night on a hotel balcony outside the then prominent government minister Michael Heseltine‘s room, wearing nothing but a pair of socks and a leather coat containing £5,200 in cash and a pack of very pornographic playing cards. (He thought it was a friend’s room.) I have spoken to people who were present at the hotel; they told me the Special Branch officers looked slightly stunned.

I felt much the same watching a Sunday comedy show without Malcolm at Up The Creek on Sunday.

Weird. Stunned.

Malcolm almost forgot to tell me the Special Branch story because it was not that unusual an incident in a very unusual life.

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Filed under Books, Comedy

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