(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)
The shortlist has been announced at the Edinburgh Fringe for the increasingly prestigious annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in memory of the late ‘godfather of British alternative comedy’ who drowned in London in 2005. As normal, there are three awards, but the third is more than a bit of a surprise.
The shortlisted nominees are:
THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY
- Red Bastard
- Ursula Burns (unbilled in the main Fringe Programme)
- Adrienne Truscott
THE MALCOLM HARDEE CUNNING STUNT AWARD
(for best publicity stunt promoting a Fringe performer or show)
- Barry Ferns – for printing 2,000 fake Broadway Baby and Three Weeks review sheets and distributing them round Edinburgh. They gave his own show a 6-star review.
- Richard Herring – for deciding that expensive Fringe posters are pointless and, instead, giving members of his current show’s audience free DVDs of his past performances.
- Lewis Schaffer – for (having heard about Richard’s stunt) also giving away allegedly free DVDs at his shows - but free Richard Herring DVDs because Richard is more famous than Lewis (and you have to donate £5 to Lewis).
- Gareth Morinan – for listing his show 11 times in the Fringe Programme because this gave him more space (and was cheaper) than buying a quarter page ad in the Programme.
THE MALCOLM HARDEE ‘ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID’ AWARD
This will not be awarded this year because, frankly, we do not think anyone is worth it.
However, the £-sign trophy has already been made and (in the spirit of Malcolm Hardee) we are not about to waste it.
So we are awarding it as a special one-off MALCOLM HARDEE ‘POUND OF FLESH’ AWARD to Gareth Ellis of the Ellis & Rose comedy duo for “the kind of publicity money can’t buy”.
On August 14th, Gareth was attacked in the street by an unknown, irate member of the public who was annoyed by Ellis & Rose’s appearance in Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show. Gareth received a very bad black eye. This followed a Chortle comedy website review which revealed Ellis & Rose’s names as the show’s performers – They had asked not to be named. I blogged about the incident at the time.
EXCEPT – it was revealed to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee judges late last night that the attack never happened. It was a publicity stunt.
In their Edinburgh flat, Gareth Ellis repeatedly hit himself in the face with the blunt end of a milk whisk. When this did not have the required effect, his comedy partner Richard ‘Rich’ Rose punched him four times in the face to give him a black eye.
They videoed the creation of the black eye.
The video (only now uploaded to YouTube) shows Gareth being punched in the face. If you watch it, be sure to have the sound turned up high.
Gareth showed the full video to me (including the preliminary milk whisk hits) – and to fellow increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Kate Copstick – in the cafe of the Gilded Balloon venue late last night. Also there in the cafe were his comedy partner Richard Rose, their cohort in the stunt Paul Preston Mills and American comedian Laura Levites.
“When did you first decide to do this?” I asked Gareth.
“After Steve Bennett’s 1-star review of the Jimmy Savile show came out in Chortle,” Gareth told me. “We thought How can we turn this around?”
“And did the reported attack increase the size of audiences for your Jimmy Savile and Ellis & Rose shows?” I asked.
“Probably by about 50% on average,” said Gareth. “It went up and down, but it was more consistently full. People love to see and read about people getting hurt.”
“It could,” said Kate Copstick, “become a new marketing tool for comedy shows: grievous bodily harm.”
“Why did you start out by hitting yourself in the face with a milk whisk?” I asked.
“I looked on the internet to find out how to get a black eye – how to give yourself a black eye – and it said Get yourself a blunt object like a broom handle, so you can control the amount of force yourself. We looked in the kitchen and a milk whisk was the best thing we could find. It had a blunt, plastic end.”
“But that didn’t do enough harm to your face?” I asked.
“Well, it did pretty well,” admitted Gareth.
“But you’re a perfectionist?” I asked.
“Well, Rich said That’s not enough,” explained Gareth. “ he said You’ve got to let me punch you.”
“How many times did he punch you in the face?”
“Four times,” replied Gareth. “He punched me twice, but we forgot to record it, because we were quite drunk – So he had to do it twice again for the video.”
“What did you have to do with all this?” I asked Paul Preston Mills.
“Well,” he said, “I arrived on the Tuesday – all this happened on the Tuesday night – and we were talking about it. But we decided they weren’t quite drunk enough before I left them and went to bed and, at that point, they were still deciding whether Richard was going to hit him or they were going to prod him in the eye with a broom handle. I thought hitting him had to be the correct thing to do.”
“Did your venue manager Bob Slayer have anything to do with the stunt?” I asked.
“Well,” said Gareth. “before the Fringe started, we had ideas of getting publicity and, when Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show first came out in the Programme, the media jumped on it and it was in the national press and we were going to ramp it up by saying we had death threats and performers had dropped out and Nick Awde, who wrote the original script, had been getting death threats and things like that. So it kind of stemmed from that idea. We found that being named in the Chortle review allowed us to play off that.”
“Any other result from the stunt?” I asked.
“The black eye has made me more appealing to the opposite sex,” replied Gareth.
“Is he,” I asked Laura Levites, “more appealing with or without his black eye?”
“Oh, I like him with,” said Laura. “It means he can take a punch. You want a man who can take a punch.”
“So,” I said, “when his skin recovers and the black eye disappears, he should do it again to be more appealing to the opposite sex?”
“Oh,” said Laura, “he should do the other eye. You’ve got to let one heal and then hit the other one.”
“You were hit by Richard,” I said to Gareth, “your comedy partner. Do you think there might be a homo-erotic element in this?”
“No,” said Gareth.
“Yeah,” laughed Richard. “It’s been a long Fringe and I’ve been quite frustrated a lot of the time.”
“He’s got a girlfriend who isn’t here,” said Gareth.
“So I had to release some tension,” enthused Richard, “and Gareth’s face is small and squishy, much like a breast.”
“We thought,” Kate Copstick interrupted, “that the milk whisk was doing rather a good job of damaging Gareth’s face. Why punch him?”
“Well,” said Paul Preston Mills, “FIST or MILK FROTHER? Which would you choose if you were putting a headline out for publicity?”
“I wanted to keep my ring on my finger,” said Richard, but Gareth wouldn’t let me. I got him really, really drunk. The only reason we decided it would be him not me was because he owed me quite a lot of money.”
“Only 40 quid for groceries!” said Gareth.
“What would have happened if he’d owed £90?” I asked.
“Anal rape,” said Copstick.
“At one point,” said Richard, “I was concerned he was bleeding and I almost felt bad… My hand was sore.”
“Do you expect to get more stars for revealing all this?” I asked.
“Well, we just want more bloody reviews,” said Gareth.
“Bloody is the word,” I said.
“You could say,” suggested Gareth, “that Ellis & Rose are not into punchlines, but we will take a hit for comedy.”
“I could,” I agreed.
THE OTHER WINNERS OF THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARDS…
will be announced around midnight this Friday night (23rd August), during the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.
For more details of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, see:
(and read that web address again carefully).