What UK comedy ‘Godfather’ Malcolm Hardee thought of Jerry Sadowitz…

Jerry Sadowitz’s Edinburgh Fringe show and his upcoming, now fast-selling-out UK tour…

As the Jerry Sadowitz row at the Edinburgh Fringe is still rumbling on (see my previous three blogs), below is an extract from the late Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

Jerry in Malcolm Hardee: 25 Years in Showbiz, a 1990 variety show I produced for Noel Gay TV/BSB

Note: This book was published in 1996 and, despite several heads-ups and complaints over the years, amazon.co.uk still has the book listed with a totally irrelevant description from someone else’s academic book page.

I imagine Malcolm would have approved.

Note also that, at the time the book was written, Jerry had a tendency to randomly bill his name as both Jerry Sadowitz and Gerry Sadowitz.

You can’t keep a good anarchic comedian down.

So, what Malcolm said in his 1996 autobiography…


Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography

The most talented performer who never made it is probably Gerry Sadowitz, because he is a genuinely gifted magician-comedian. I recently read Alexei Sayle quoted as saying he thought Gerry was the only current comic genius.

*** *** ***

The first time I delved into management was with Gerry Sadowitz and, like most managers, I was also his agent, although he did get some bookings from other agents.

I first saw him when he came down to The Tunnel Palladium. His act was brilliant. A breath of fresh air. He just launched into a tirade of abuse.

This was at a time when, to be considered funny,  all an alternative comedian had to do was to say that Mrs Thatcher was horrible and Barry Manilow had a big nose – which is itself a Gerry Sadowitz line. 

Gerry came on stage at the Albany Empire in Deptford, which had an extremely ‘politically correct’ Arts Centre audience. And he started his act with: 

“Nelson Mandela. What a cunt!” 

But you had to realise he was deliberately doing it to upset that particular type of audience. And they WERE upset. He was on for two nights and, on the second night, they picketed the place. It was all water off a duck’s back to Gerry. I never knew if he really meant half of it or not. He is a very complex character, to say the least.

When he’s good he’s very, very good, but he gets black moods. A year ago, I saw him for the first time in ages in a curry house in the East End, which I’d introduced him to years ago. He came in with this woman and just didn’t speak. He looked at me and went: 

“Ugh!”

He just grunted and sat down. Another time he might go: 

“Oh! Malcolm! Hello – How are you?” 

Very strange chap. 

He doesn’t drink.

Sometimes, he’d do a really good show and come off stage in a really horrible black mood. Another time he’d have one of the worst reactions ever and he’d come off and be as happy as anything. I think he hated success, really. I had to almost pull him out of cars onto the stage sometimes. He refused to go on loads of times and his later agents Avalon had the same problem with him. 

Once, in Edinburgh, he was asked to perform five minutes on the Pick of The Fringe programme on BBC TV Scotland. Michael Leggo was directing it. I hadn’t met him since we were childhood neighbours in Lewisham. When I turned up, Arnold Brown was remonstrating with Gerry, who was refusing to go on. We cajoled him and threatened him and, in the end, he agreed to do it only if he could do what he wanted because he was obviously going to be heavily censored. They filmed his act with the Cunts and Fucks and everything in, then edited it with beeps. The result was like watching Gerry Sadowitz but listening to jokes in Morse Code.

The first year I took Gerry up to Edinburgh, his advert in the Fringe Programme was something like: 

GERRY SADOWITZ – GLASWEGIAN COMIC MAGICIAN.

A MAN WHO’S HAD HIS ACT 

COMPLETELY RIPPED-OFF BY BING HITLER.

Bing Hitler was the stage name of Craig Ferguson

Gerry had told everyone about Bing Hitler ripping-off his act and I quite sincerely believed it. 

Craig Ferguson was up there in Edinburgh, being represented by Vivienne Clore, a big high-powered agent who later became my agent. Craig wanted to sue the Fringe Society and Gerry for libel, which meant I was going to be sued because it was me who’d put the advert in. As I dug deeper into it, I couldn’t find one example where Craig Ferguson had actually nicked any line. 

They’d started off at around the same time at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and, at the time, Craig Ferguson was doing witty songs on the guitar. Possibly Craig was influenced by Gerry’s style and started doing things where he said: I hate this… and I hate that…. but that was as near as it got. 

Craig Ferguson had a record out as Bing Hitler and there wasn’t one line of Gerry’s on it. He would have won his case but what was decided in the end was that the Fringe Society fined Gerry and he didn’t get his Fringe Club ticket money, which upset him greatly. I think it would have been about £1,500. 

I arranged a meeting between the two of them at which Craig said he didn’t do it for the money and he agreed to give the money to a charity of Gerry’s choice.

I took Gerry up to the Edinburgh Fringe twice. He’s a Glaswegian, so he hates Edinburgh because of that. Or, at least, he feels and sounds Glaswegian. 

He was actually born in America and has an American passport. His dad was an American who split up from Gerry’s Glaswegian mother. Gerry came over to Glasgow when he was very young and later said he had hardly any schooling because he had a serious medical condition which he insisted was coprophilia. He spent a lot of time in hospital, which is where he started to learn magic. He spends hours and hours perfecting magic tricks. He’s written books on it and writes for a monthly magic magazine about new tricks he’s invented. He’s a very clever bloke. 

He was very difficult to handle but I stayed with him because he was so good and everyone wanted him. There was a point where the phone didn’t stop ringing but a lot of the time he wouldn’t do the work. One day it would be because he wasn’t offered enough money; another day he’d travel the length of the country for next-to-nothing.

It didn’t make any sense. 

Once, before he’d become high-profile, I had a phone call from Sheffield University and they were offering him £300 for a show, which was good in those days. Most comics were going out for £100. He asked if it included travel or accommodation but it was an ‘all-in’ fee and he said: 

“No! I’m not doing it!” 

About two hours later, Sheffield Polytechnic rang up and offered him £200 plus travel and accommodation. In those days, travel and accommodation came to £40-£50. I phoned him and he said: 

“I’ll do it!” 

So he accepted the £240-£250 and turned down the £300. 

The amount of money wasn’t the most important thing. They could have offered him £3,000, I reckon, and he’d have turned it down if it meant he had to get on that train and fork-out money for his own ticket and sort out some accommodation. He had a syndrome where small amounts of money seemed an enormous amount, but enormous amounts didn’t mean anything. 

There was a point in his career where he was earning a lot. He earned £6,000 for one Avalon gig at the Clapham Grand, got paid in cash, was in the car with the bloke from Avalon, driving back and the car broke down. The bloke from Avalon asked Gerry if he’d lend him the £12 cab money to get home and Gerry wouldn’t lend it to him. He had £6,000 in his pocket that the bloke had just given him. But the £12 seemed like a lot of money to Gerry.

One of the unsettling things about him was he didn’t seem to know the difference between night and day and he’d ring me up at 4.00am to say someone had nicked one of his lines. 

He was also a very male-orientated comedian with much of his material being deliberately misogynistic. He once told me he wanted to play to an audience full of men and I said he probably would do if he ended up in Nick. He wanted to fill Wembley Stadium with men. It was just one of his ideas. He also wanted to do a show where the audience didn’t pay to get in: they just all brought him presents. I thought that was quite a good idea.

He was never unbookable in live venues. There were always people willing to book him. But on TV he was said to be unbookable. Eventually, he did get his own TV series, but it didn’t work. The whole thing about Gerry was the shock and the outrage, which you can’t do on TV – not to the level he did on stage.

(…IN TOMORROW’s BLOG: What happened when I produced Jerry Sadowitz: The Last Laugh, a one-off  comedy special for British TV…)

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President Obonjo on the Pleasance’s dangerous Edinburgh Fringe decision

Benjamin Bankole Bello, who performs comedy as President Obonjo, is rather concerned by the Pleasance venue’s banning of comedian Jerry Sadowitz’s show at the Edinburgh Fringe…


For well over 11 years I have performed as self-exiled dictator, President Obonjo, living in the UK – bombastic, loud and terrorising the audience – a great conduit for jokes.

The press statement from the Pleasance included this:

“In a  changing world, stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged”. 

This has more implications for Character Comedy than Straight Stand Up. There is a difference and I have always believed that, when performing Character Comedy, you can get away with anything you say on stage… and I mean absolutely anything.

Displaying the characteristics of a dictator on stage has been warmly received over the years, The audience automatically assume he is a tribute act of the late Field Marshall Idi Amin. 

They know what to expect once they attend the show. They could end up with their heads in a fridge. They are expecting to be shot for comedy effect

The audience “could end up with their heads in a fridge…”

President Obonjo will never get his knob out to the audience, do racist, sexist or homophobic material. But audiences who come to see him know what to expect.

Dictators use intimidation, terror and the suppression of fundamental civil liberties.

He is likely to bring a gun out and threaten to use it, grab a woman and ‘marry’ her in front of an audience. He may threaten to waterboard an audience if they don’t laugh.  

Audiences have continued to accept this brand of comedy.

This statement from the Pleasance opens a can of worms for character comedy.

Saying something in character that is not in alignment with the organisation’s views could get your show cancelled.

Would President Obonjo survive performing at the Pleasance, if given the opportunity to do so, using the above characteristics? 

In fact, he did perform at the Pleasance as part of a compilation show AAA produced by Bound and Gagged in August 2019.  

The act has taken a new direction since 2019. What he says now is different from what he said in 2019. 

One of the President’s confidants recently said: “I think you need to go darker with your audience. They are  expecting it. You should do it and go darker.”  

I think the West is now so confused about Freedom of Speech, it is clearly exhausted with democracy.

President Obonjo (ironically) is the man to defend freedom of speech.

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“I was at the Jerry Sadowitz show… The Pleasance are just making **** up…”

As an addendum to the blog I posted earlier today about the Jerry Sadowiz/Pleasance venue contretemps at the Edinburgh Fringe…

My eagle-eyed, eternally-un-named friend has spotted a Tweet posted yesterday.

I cannot guarantee it is genuine, but I have no reason to suppose it is not…

I have put asterisks in the title in case anyone feels scared by words…


So, I was at the Jerry Sadowitz show last night at #edfringe and it was fucking hilarous. There was not a single walk out I saw, people laughed, and honestly what the fuck did you expect booking him @ThePleasance? He did what he does. If you are cancelling this you are fucked.

In case anyone thinks I’m bullshitting here is my booking. 

I have honestly never seen the left and right of Twitter united like this. Fuck you @ThePleasance. What he did was his act. That’s it. I understand he’s a thoroughly nice bloke away from his stage persona too.

Can confirm he did get his willy out, for anyone wondering. How many other festival shows have penises in them? Loads.

He’s also, by the way, one of the best magicians I have seen.

The comments by @ThePleasance about the walkouts are just completely fabricated btw. Neither my partner or I saw a single walk out, indeed we both commented on it after the show. 

The Pleasance are just making shit up to justify what they did.

I’m on the left btw, Jerry Sadowitz does not want to become a poster boy for the right, he’s said so publicly in the past. Anyone who thinks he’s a right winger is in for a shock – expect to face tirades aimed at you and your views/beliefs if you go see him live.

Everyone is a target. That’s the point.

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Jerry Sadowitz, “freedom of speech” and The Pleasance paving the Road to Hell…

(WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS AT LEAST ONE OFFENSIVE WORD; DON’T READ FURTHER IF IT IS GOING TO SCARE YOU)

Jerry Sadowitz’s 1987 album Gobshite

The aftershock of The Pleasance venue cancelling the second of Jerry Sadowitz’s two comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe rumbles on.

Yesterday’s blog was a transcript of what I said in an interview with LBC Radio yesterday morning.

As a reminder, the venue’s jaw-dropping Doublethink ‘explanation’ for cancelling Sadowitz’s show was:

“The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material… the material presented at his (Jerry Sadowitz’s) first show is not acceptable… This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.”

After criticism, the venue has now issued a second carefully-worded (I emphasise carefully-worded) statement including the frankly chilling: 

“In a changing world, stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged.”

I have italicised “whether performed in character or not”.

As people who have actually seen Jerry Sadowitz shows over the last 30 years know (as opposed to those who have not seen the act) his confrontational delivery sets out to affront. It is clear he is being offensive as an act, for an effect.

He used to open his shows with: “Nelson Mandela – What a cunt!” presumably just to set the tone while the esteemed Mr Mandela was alive.

The Pleasance knew that Jerry Sadowitz’s act was – and would be – confrontational and intentionally offensive. Always has been. Indeed, it was advertised by Jerry and by The Pleasance as such. And they have staged his shows before. 

The Pleasance stages theatrical performances as well as comedy.

To repeat with additional italicisation:

“In a changing world, stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged.”

This means – and, yes, it can only logically mean – that character comedy such as Al Murray’s comic creation The Pub Landlord and Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge character should not be allowed to express their ‘unacceptable’ stories and views.

Both on-stage/screen characters often express views which are not the performer’s. Jerry Sadowitz’s on-stage performances – though more extreme – also include views which are equally and clearly not his own. 

First they came for the words and I said nothing; then they came for the stories and I said nothing; then they came for the thoughts and I could say nothing. 

“…stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged…” 

Vast swathes of British drama would presumably be deemed unacceptable because to express offensiveness would itself be unacceptable, even if the offensiveness expressed was by a character. That’s the end of parody, satire and irony, then. Context becomes irrelevant.

A drama – or indeed a comedy – about Hitler would not and should not be allowed to include the character of Hitler expressing any racist views. So Hitler’s thoughts and beliefs could not be shown to be vile because the thoughts and the expression of those thoughts would be in themselves too offensive to utter.

Last night on GBNews, Andrew Doyle’s Free Speech Nation, with comics Leo Kearse and Josh Howie, discussed The Pleasance’s first steps on the Road to Hell.

Andrew Doyle is a former writer for the comedic Jonathan Pie character.

Someone I know tells me they won’t watch this clip because they won’t watch (their words) “right wing” GBNews.

For those who won’t watch the nationally-transmitted GBNews, at one point Andrew Doyle, who is gay, says: 

“There’s always something in a Jerry Sadowitz show that makes you think: That’s too far! He couldn’t possibly have just said that!

“And that’s the point. That’s the context.

“I remember sitting there watching him do this TEN MINUTE rant about the evils of homosexuals and the disgusting things that they get up to behind closed doors and it was hilarious and (in theory) so offensive to people like me.

“He’s also incredibly anti-Semitic. He’s Jewish!

“That should give you a clue about what he’s doing there…”

Later, Doyle says:

“I heard, by the way, that the complaints mostly came from members of staff at the venue.”

I have no way of knowing if that’s true but, according to the BBC, The Pleasance said that “unacceptable abuse” was later directed towards some staff on Saturday from people phoning to criticise the cancellation.

Some members of the public complained about the show, so it was cancelled…

Some members of the public complained about the show being cancelled, so did The Pleasance bow to their individual views? No.

Presumably The Pleasance places more importance on the opinions of their temporary staff on the night and after the night than on the reportedly 600 punters who chose to pay to attend and see the show, which had up-front warnings from both The Pleasance and Sadowitz about it being offensive.

Incidentally, the show was titled: Not For Anyone

Yesterday, Jerry Sadowitz put a video online promoting his upcoming comedy tour…

…and he also Tweeted, via @RealJSadowitz, a comment on The Pleasance’s actions.

“The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material… the material presented at his first show is not acceptable…”

“In a changing world, stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged.”

First they came for the words and I said nothing; then they came for the thoughts and I could say nothing.

The road to Hell is paved with right-on thoughts…

Next step: the book burnings.

(…THERE IS AN ADDENDUM TO THIS BLOG HERE…)

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What I told LBC Radio about Jerry Sadowitz’s Fringe show being cancelled

Andrew Castle on LBC

I was interviewed by Andrew Castle on his LBC radio show this morning.

It followed the Pleasance venue at the Edinburgh Fringe cancelling Jerry Sadowitz’s comedy show.

On the same day that Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the US for writing something which some people found offensive, Anthony Alderson of the Pleasance (normally a logical man) issued a statement saying surreally:

“The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material… the material presented at his (Jerry Sadowitz’s) first show is not acceptable… This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.”

The Pleasance had no inkling that Jerry Sadowitz might be offensive…

My reaction on air was:


Well, I think he should do a comedy show based on that. shouldn’t he?

The story is that Jerry was offensive. I mean, Jerry has been doing offensive material for 30 years – 40 years? – and the Pleasance have been going for about 30 years. The Pleasance and Jerry have been going for about the same amount of time.

He is famous for being offensive. That’s why you book him in. That’s why the Pleasance booked him in, presumably – that he would be offensive. That’s his schtick. 

So, if he’s NOT offensive, people will complain. But now, because some people complained about him being offensive – despite the fact he was clearly flagged as being offensive – the Pleasance appears to be committing professional suicide.

Interestingly, they say it’s the material. Apparently he showed his willy to the front row. But they didn’t find that offensive; they found the MATERIAL offensive. 

The whole point about Jerry Sadowitz is “He’s offensive!” That’s it.

It’s a sort of doublethink from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“We support comedy”… Well, clearly not.

Most comedy really has to be offensive in some way – or it has to be surprising. The whole point is a ‘punchline’ at the end. And a punchline is something you don’t expect, coming out of nowhere.

One of the best ways to come out of nowhere with a punchline is to do something that’s ‘offensive’. Frankie Boyle does it all the time. Bernard Manning used to do it to mainstream audiences. Bernard Manning is a great example.

I saw Bernard Manning at his own club twice and he had four-letter words all over the first half and then he stopped. They weren’t in the second half. 

I thought: This is strange. Then I realised, in fact, he was being offensive to his very mainstream, middle-of-the-road audience in the first half but, having established that he was offensive, he didn’t have to do it any more. (They came to be offended.)

If you go to a Sadowitz show, you want to be offended.

There are no rules in comedy, really. People say you can’t make rape jokes. You can’t make jokes about rape. Generally, that’s true. But I have seen very funny rape jokes – But they’re not really about rape, they’re about…

I mean, Janey Godley, the Glaswegian comedian, had problems recently: being Cancelled. She put on Jerry Sadowitz’s first stand-up show in her pub. She did a show in Edinburgh – and wrote her autobiography about – being raped when she was a child, I think from about 5 to about 12.

And people laughed in the Edinburgh show. They didn’t laugh AT it. (They laughed WITH it.) She made the jokes against the rapist and she made the audience laugh despite the fact it was an ‘unacceptable’ subject.

You can make a joke about an unacceptable subject if you do it in the right way.

You have to be a very good comedian, as Sadowitz – and Janey – are.


MORE HERE

…and, coincidentally, Jerry Sadowitz also cropped up in a blog of mine in March this year

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Phil Jarvis of Consignia’s alternative review of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe

“If you like fat blokes sweating, futuristic, nihilistic storylines, confusion… and a LOT…”

I blogged about the commendably eccentric Consignia comedy group at the beginning of last week.

They are currently at the Edinburgh Fringe

Their penultimate show is tonight; their run finishes tomorrow.

Yesterday morning,The Scotsman gave their show The Flatterers a 4-star review.

Critic Kate Copstick’s piece included: “I won’t understand Consignia. I never understand Consignia. I suspect that they, themselves, don’t understand Consignia. But some things are just not meant to be understood… 

Phil, an otherwise amiable and admirable chap

Consignia fans will be surprised at the use of an unexpected joke at one point, but, as usual, if you like fat blokes sweating, futuristic, nihilistic storylines, confusion, repetition and a LOT of poo, then this is undoubtedly the show for you.”

I thought it would be interesting for Consignia’s main begetter Phil Jarvis to write a review of his time at the Fringe this year. 

The result is below. 

The neglected brutalism of Glasgow’s Savoy Shopping Mall…

I should warn you in advance that Phil – an otherwise amiable and admirable chap – has an unfathomable adoration of brutalist architecture…


Edinburgh in the sunshine makes the city exceedingly beautiful, if that was even possible. However, I started off in Glasgow, enjoying the neglected brutalism of the Savoy Shopping Mall, which I give 10/10

At-swim comics Caitriona Dowden and Nate Kitch

Eventually, I make my way to Edinburgh, where I watch three afternoons in a row of Nate Kitch and Caitriona Dowden’s double bill, At-Swim-Two-Birds but it’s Two Comics called Nate Kitch and Caitriona Dowden at BrewDog (The Garage)… enjoying the masterful storytelling and deadpan delivery of Caitriona’s set and Nate’s commitment to pushing his ideas to unexpected outcomes. 10/10

Some of what surreal Alwin Solanky left behind in Uganda…

Alwin Solanky’s monologue at the Omni Centre – about his personal experiences as a refugee from Idi Amin’s Uganda – What You Leave Behind makes me cry each time I’ve seen it.

This is a show that deserves to be snapped up by arts theatres across the land, detailing the social relations of living in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s as a refugee, told through well-crafted vignettes and the approachable surrealism I have come to expect from Alwin. 10/10

Sisyphean Mark Dean Quinn really did have a stroke

Mark Dean Quinn’s show Mark Dean Quinn: Has a Stroke but at Least He Got a Show Out of It at the Revolution Bar is different each evening. The first set I see ends with a visibly distressed Mark. I overhear some audience members asking afterwards if that was real. Oh yes, all too real.

The next time I see the show, Mark puts himself and the audience through even more of an endurance test with a flip chart. I count only one walk out: a real feat considering Mark is possibly the most experimental comedian in the UK devoted to a Sisyphean struggle. 10/10

Bleeding Baby Train psychedelia with Rob Duncan

The Omni Centre venue has wonderfully put together performance spaces with stages, with an unfortunate consequence of sound bleeding from one show into another. This makes for an interesting experience. 

Within this sound collage, I watch Rob Duncan’s Baby Trains which delivers the goods on a segue, a functioning train set prop in his hands, taking the audience on a journey of being a CEO and a teacher. Perfect psychedelia for my sunburnt scalp. 10/10

Ceci n’est pas un cheval… C’est un spectacle.

Also at the Omni Centre, I zoned out a bit to Soliloquy of a Horse, but my headspace was probably on the right planet for this tale of misadventure and redemption, performed in a stripped-back, low-fi aesthetic with no props, apart from a chair in the middle.

Perfect ground to just let your imagination run wild conjuring up the visions the storytelling leads you on. 10/10

I show my pal from Consignia, Nathan “Wilco” Willcock, the Basil Spence designed Canongate building (10/10), with the concrete fire exit taking our senses to a state of transcendence. 

4-star Jarvis (L) plays it cool with Willcock…

On this high, we find out Kate Copstick has given our show a 4-star review in The Scotsman. Wilco is desperate to find a copy of The Scotsman. I just play it cool but, secretly, I’m happy.

As it turns out, the gig we do that evening is the worst it’s been the whole run. The costumes Nathan and I wear are now drenched in the fat man sweat we have unleashed over the run so far and humming hard. Nathan performs with minimal energy and I flounder not knowing how to riff off it. 0/10

I bury my sorrows by paying an overpriced £7.50 for chips, cheese and curry sauce, lathered in brown sauce (10/10) on the walk back to the digs. 

St Andrew’s House: creates ecstasy for two (Photo by Daboss)

The next day, to rejuvenate ourselves, a trip up to Carlton Hill has Nathan and me ecstatic at the sight of the Art Deco St Andrew’s House (10/10).

We climb up the steps to Carlton Hill and Nathan is disgusted at the sight, in the distance, of a shopping mall that now looks like a Mr Whippy style turd (1/10)

Still, Edinburgh is pretty beautiful in the sun.


Consignia’s latest and possibly last ever show The Flatterers 

Consignia’s latest and possibly last ever show The Flatterers ends tomorrow.

Sometime during that theatrical experience at the Banshee Labyrinth, they will also be giving out their Gareth Morinan Alternative New Act Of The Year Award.

I  realise none of this venue information is of any practical use to my long-suffering reader in far-off Guatemala nor for anyone reading this three years hence, but I feel obliged to share it for completism’s sake.

 

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A little bit of North Korea in London and glowing balloons in my garage…

Eager eaters await the opening of an ‘all-you-can-eat’ Korean BBQ restaurant in New Malden…

I am interested in North Korea and in the content of dreams.

Last night, I went to New Malden, Surrey, on the outskirts of London, with comedy afficionado and occasional Leicester Comedy Festival judge Louisette Stodel. Each of us was buying the other a belated birthday meal. So, appropriately, given her family background, we went Dutch.

We went to New Malden (her suggestion) to eat because I have been to North Korea twice, it interests me and New Malden has the largest population of North Korean ex-pats in Europe. In April this year, reportedly, around 700 of the 25,000 Koreans living in New Malden were from North Korea. New Malden’s total population was said to be around 90,000.

Statistics seem a little vague. A 2015 report in the Independent newspaper claimed New Malden had a population of just under 29,000 and 10,000 were Korean, 700 being North Korean.

Whatever… I was hoping for a little bit of suburban exoticism in an outer London borough. Sadly, New Malden was a bit bland, although it did have a fair number of Korean restaurants, a fish shop selling Vietnamese ‘swimming blue crap’,

one restaurant with a printed and priced menu which also had a pink post-it note under plastic saying “PLEASE NOTE: PRICES MAY VARY” 

and what appeared to be permanent Christmas lights on the lamp posts in the main street.

The local Methodist Church also appeared to be having a Korean Festival but, as the banner was in Korean script, I was a bit vague on the details.. 

However, over our sundry kimchee courses at the excellent Treestone BBQ restaurant, adjoining the ‘swimming blue crap’ fish shop, the subject of dreams came up…

An unusually reticent Louisette at the Korean

JOHN: So the other night, you had a dream about my garage?

LOUISETTE: I dreamt it was going to become an underground theatre.

JOHN: … and I was running it?

LOUISETTE: You were going to show me what you had turned your garage into, because you had had this brainwave and you had said: “Louisette, I am going to turn this into a performance space.”

JOHN: And did I?

LOUISETTE: I didn’t get any further. I think I woke up.

JOHN: …in a cold sweat of fear?

LOUISETTE: No, I just thought: Oh! I think it’s quite nice, the inside of that garage!

JOHN: You’ve never seen it, though.

LOUISETTE: No, I’ve never seen it in reality but, in my dream, it was very bright and there were glowing balloons and bulb lights and…

JOHN: Glowing balloons? Not just ordinary balloons.

LOUISETTE: Glowing balloons.I don’t know why I dreamt about the inside of your garage.

JOHN: Was the garage going to be for arty performance stuff or comedy?

LOUISETTE: I didn’t get that far enough in my dream.

JOHN: I think you’re going to have to go back into your dream and check.

LOUISETTE: I know what the outside of it looked like. It had a pair of rotten old wooden doors, not an up/down….

JOHN: But I have an up/down and over metal door…

LOUISETTE: I’m sure you do, but this was a dream. It was a dream!

JOHN: And did this come out of another dream that preceded it?

LOUISETTE: No. And I woke up in the morning and I thought: Oh, yes, John HAS got a garage.

JOHN: …but sadly lacking in glowing balloons…


(This dream seems as inconclusive as the population of New Malden. ANY OPINIONS GRATEFULLY RECEIVED on what the dream was about – especially the “glowing balloons” and the “pair of rotten old wooden doors”…)

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My advice for first-time visitors to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe…

My advice to people going to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time to see shows:

Don’t assume that, because a show is tucked away at 0930 or midday or 1600 that it is any less good than one at 2000 or 2300… and see lots of shows by people you have never heard of – take a punt. If you have already heard of them, you can probably see them in London (other cities are available), so ignore them in Edinburgh…

…and, in the Old Town, beware of swooping seagulls after dark…

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Is comedy dead or dying?… What I gibbered about on GBNews last night

A couple of days ago, I was asked to appear on GBNews’ today to give my opinion on the future of comedy. 

And, sure enough, last night I appeared briefly on the Mark Dolan Tonight show. That will teach them never to invite me on a TV show again!  I can be quite fluent verbally – in writing – but I am in no way vocally fluent. I’m not a fluent speaker. I gibber.

Anyway, I was one of three comedy ‘experts’ on Mark Dolan’s show, the others being US podcaster and author Drew Allen and the wonderful British showbiz legend that is Christopher Biggins.

I think GBNews may have mistaken me for someone else, as I was called a “highly-respected comedy journalist”.

Anyway… because this is MY blog, it’s all about Me, Me Me… so here are the excerpted bits with me. Spot the inconsistencies…

Mark Dolan Tonight with (L-R) Mark Dolan, me, Drew Allen and Christopher Biggins


MARK: You’ve written extensively for many years on the subject of comedy. Do you think it’s dying?

JOHN: I don’t think it’s dying. I think it’ll probably change. I mean, it goes through periods, doesn’t it. Hello Biggins! I used to work with him on Surprise! Surprise!

I think television has changed now. In the days of Surprise! Surprise!, what producers did was they made programmes that they themselves liked which appealed to viewers. 

Alan Boyd at London Weekend TV produced Surprise! Surprise! because he liked the sort of programmes that people wanted to watch. Nowadays, I think people are producing the sort of programmes they THINK the ‘lower classes’ want to watch.

So all these Oxbridge people are making programmes for people in Essex they don’t really know.

MARK: John, do you think Brexit has been a problem for British comedy? That sort of dividing live between Remainers and Brexiteers has been a really divisive aspect in comedy. Because I do know of comedians, John, who have been cancelled for being pro-Brexit.

JOHN: Well, I think it’s a problem in Society, isn’t it? I think by-and-large – a gross exaggeration but – by-and-large comedians tend to be Left Wing because they possibly rail against authority and that’s a good thing for comedy. So most comedians are Left Wing and, if you’re Left Wing, you take certain views. And, by-and-large – by-and-large – Brexit was a Left/Right divide.

MARK: What about shows like The Mash Report which seem to be one long attack on the Conservative Party and Brexit.

JOHN: I think again, that’s because television producers nowadays make programmes for themselves and their mates who have lunch in Soho wineries. They don’t make programmes for the punters.

In my glorious days when I was young in the late 17th Century, comedy television programmes were on in peaktime. They were on at 7.30/8 o’clock at night. Nowadays comedy tends to be either on minority channels like BBC Three or very late night or at 9 or at10.30.

In my day, comedies were populist. Nowadays, in a strange way, it’s elitist, because it’s made by people for their chums not for the people who are actually watching the programme.

MARK: We’ve seen, haven’t we, some comedies being given a trigger warning at the start of the show… We saw an episode of Fawlty Towers which was actually removed from its platform for a while, even though the episode contained a message of anti-racism which the Woke Warriors didn’t seem to get the memo on. That one. 

And then you’ve got shows like Little Britain which have been Cancelled by the organisation that made them – the BBC. I mean, Little Britain – OK, it was hit and miss – but at times it was wildly offensive and wildly hilarious, John.

JOHN: Yes, I think you have to be offensive to be… I think the key thing is the word ‘PUNCHline’.

At the end of a joke there’s a punchline and you laugh at the punchline. The reason you laugh, you lose control of your body, is because you’re getting a release because there’s a surprise – something you don’t expect. It’s a release. I gibbered there, but a punchline triggers a release.

MARK: John, last word goes to you. You’ve been writing about comedy for a long, long time, who are the greatest British comedians of all time in your view?

JOHN: Oh, you and Leo Kerse, obviously. (THEY HAD TAKEN PART IN THE PRECEDING SHOW ON GBNews)

MARK: (LAUGHS) God bless you. Have you been drinking again, John?

JOHN: (LAUGHS) I don’t drink. 

It depends what you mean by ‘greatest British comedians’. Michael McIntyre is a great comedian, but I wouldn’t go and see his show because it’s gonna be the same every night. It’s a very slick show, I prefer to see very uneven shows – rollercoasters – so… I wrote Malcolm Hardee – a great comedian – ’s autobiography. So I’d like to put in a plug for Malcolm Hardee as being an anarchic comedian who should be better known.

MARK: A wonderful comedian. I was doing a show at Up The Creek, his legendary comedy club in Greenwich, and towards the end of the set I said to the audience: “I’ll be back.”

And he shouted from the side of the stage: “No you won’t!”

There you go. Comedy’s always got a victim and on that occasion it was me…

(THE ENTIRE EDITION OF THIS MARK DOLAN TONIGHT SHOW IS CURRENTLY ON YOUTUBE)

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Consignia: The Flatterers – The end of their anarchy at the Edinburgh Fringe?

Admirably anarchic comedy group Consignia are performing their show The Flatterers at the Edinburgh Fringe starting this Saturday (6th-14th August).

It is a free show – you can pay what you like at the end – and it is not listed in the Edinburgh Fringe brochure.

Last year, they got two reviews at the Fringe, both 4-stars:

“They actively want you to walk out” ★★★★ (Chortle)

“They eschew likeability” ★★★★ (The Scotsman)

I chatted to Consignia’s Phil Jarvis and (late-on) Nathan Willcox via Skype…


Phil Jarvis (left) at home with a non-Vietnamese doll with a beard (right)…

JOHN: What is that doll?

PHIL: I bought it in Poland the other day. It looks like Ho Chi Minh a bit.

JOHN: ho ho Ho Chi Minh… No it doesn’t. In my bedroom, I have a painting of Uncle Ho writing in a forest. That doll doesn’t look like him.

An inexplicable painting of Ho Chi Minh in a forest in my bedroom…

PHIL: It has his beard.

JOHN: Is the doll relevant to your show?

PHIL: No.

JOHN: Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: There was a 16th century painting called The Flatterers, so we just borrowed the title. It was about brown-nosing, so we thought we’d use that. By Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Potentially relevant – The Flatterers by Pieter Brueghel the Younger…

JOHN: That doesn’t really answer the question Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: OK. The reason it’s called The Flatterers is because it’s about the billionaires leaving Earth in the near future and me and Nathan play people who are on a sort-of a waste ship that takes away the rubbish from the billionaires’ spaceship. Basically, our spaceship is full of shit and detritus from the billionaires and Nathan thinks that, by eating the billionaires’ ship, he will himself become a billionaire.

JOHN: That still doesn’t really answer the question Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: It’s an A-Level style metaphor about the billionaires just shitting on everyone else. So it’s just really hammering home a (LAUGHS) quite obvious idea. Originally it was going to be a show called The Urn – a person who is having the launch for his art show dies and… But we’re not going to do that because I saw the error of my ways.

JOHN: The Flatterers is only on at the Fringe from the 6th to the 14th August because…

PHIL: Money. I’m paying to go to one of those student dorms and it’s £700 for a week.

An unrelated Consignia show was Lemonade

JOHN: The Flatterers starts at 11.00pm and is billed as being one hour long. I find this difficult to believe. I saw that hour-long show you did which lasted about 3 hours. You are the Ken Dodd of anarchic comedy. You got to the end of the show, then just did the whole thing again. How performing a 1-hour show twice even lasted 3 hours I don’t know. Has any poor sod got a midnight show supposedly following your 11.00pm show in the Banshee Labyrinth?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Last year’s show was 50 minutes and we ran to time.

JOHN: Is The Flatterers really going to be the last ever Consignia show?

PHIL: I would genuinely like it to be the last one. It feels like… Why not? Why not just end it? Once you get good reviews, why not just end it and do something different. I think that’s a better tactic than…

JOHN: A better tactic than being successful?

PHIL: (LAUGHS)

JOHN: Define “do something different”. Doing mother-in-law gags?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Maybe not THAT different! Nathan and I already do a podcast: Modernist Cat Wee Wee.

JOHN: Nathan got married. Has that affected the dynamics of the group?

PHIL: Maybe. Well, it was quite a struggle to get Nathan to come up to the Fringe this year.

JOHN: You get an audience, though…

PHIL: You came to the early shows before we were even called Consignia – when the shows were billed as Malcolm Julian Swan Presents – and they had a funny energy to them. And then it kind of found its audience without any flyering, which I feel a bit smug about while being bemused about it too. It doesn’t make any sense.

JOHN: Sounds like a good show review.

(There is a recording of the 2015 pre-Consignia show Malcolm Julian Swan Presents: Hokum on Soundcloud),

Galaxy, scrambled egg or vomit? You decide.

JOHN: When I look at the poster image for The Flatterers, am I wrong in thinking that’s a picture of a bit of vomit on some tarmac?

PHIL: It is, yes. That is our anti-poster. You’re meant to have your picture on a Fringe poster, probably taken by that photographer Steve Best…

JOHN: …or Steve Ullathorne. The Fringe is over-endowed with people called Steve.

PHIL: You’re supposed to look like you’re in a Top Shop kind of thing, but we’re all past 30 now, so we can’t even look smart. We put on a nice 4-star review from Kate Copstick (in The Scotsman) and a good 4-star review from Steve Bennett (on chortle.co.uk).

JOHN: Like I said – over-endowed …

PHIL: We put the review stars on there and our two nominations from the Leicester Comedy Festival, but then we thought Fuck Off! We’re not going to put our faces on it!

JOHN: You reckon, once you are over 30, you are past performing anarchy at the Fringe?

PHIL: Definitely! Once you get into your 30s, you are… well, the advertisers don’t aim at that group. If you go to Berlin, as we did recently – all these hip and happening places – they’re all aimed at people in their 20s, really. 

JOHN: Consignia played Berlin?

PHIL: Yes, we did a show called Maastricht Reloaded, which was actually made in 2019. We built a ClingFilm wall, which we stood behind.

Maastricht Reloaded by Consignia in Berlin…

It was just an improvised show about three hours long about the Maastricht Treaty. We weaved-in a story about Guy Fawkes travelling through time, trying to torpedo John Major’s government.

JOHN: Social realism, then?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Pretty much, yeah.

JOHN: Pseudo-realism?

PHIL: That’s a great name.

JOHN: You can have it… You played the Fringe last year.

2021: “50 minutes of Migraine…” at the Fringe

PHIL: Yes, It was called Migraine. That was the one we got the 4-star reviews for.

The show’s blurb said it was “50 minutes of migraine”.

We were being quite honest.

JOHN: This year’s show is not listed in the Fringe brochure.

PHIL: Why give money to the Fringe Society when you’ve seen what kind of shit-weasels they are with that duplicity about the app?

(The Fringe Society charged performers in advance but never told them there was no Fringe app for finding shows this year, as there had been last year,)

JOHN: Shit-weasels?…

PHIL: It’s disgusting. What kind of people do that? The Fringe Society is just a toff club.

JOHN: If this really is the last Consignia show, how are you going to unleash your inner anarchy in future?

PHIL: I dunno. Who knows? I think maybe that’s why Consignia was there in the first place: to fulfil that inner need and to get a release. Though I think it became a bit more than that.

JOHN: So that’s enough for the blog…

PHIL: … and here’s the fucking prick!

(NATHAN WILLCOX ARRIVES ON THE SKYPE SCREEN)

PHIL: Where have you been? We’ve been talking for 24 minutes.

NATHAN: You didn’t invite me.

PHIL: That’s no excuse…

On Skype, Phil Jarvis (left) and Nathan Willcox focus on explaining their show title…

JOHN: Why is your show called The Flatterers?

NATHAN: It’s a gross-out, state-of-the-nation piece. It’s set in the not-too distant future when Earth has become uninhabitable due to…

JOHN: …the French?

NATHAN: Probably. Your words. Or climate change. Could be something else. Never specified.

We are in space on Waste Ship 6668…

JOHN: I get 666. Why 8?

PHIL: It’s a Dante reference.

JOHN: Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins?

NATHAN: No. Dante. The Divine Comedy. The 8th level was where The Flatterers were – in the 8th circle of Hell.

JOHN: I thought it was something to do with Pieter Brueghel the Younger…

NATHAN: The show was originally conceived by Phil because of Navara Media’s Left Wing reporter Ash Sarkar. There was a Tweet I sent Phil where there was an article about the Elon Musks and Jeff Bezoses… Their ships, when they go up in space… their waste gets thrown out and burns up in the atmosphere and is often mistaken for shooting stars. The Tweet said something like: Oh what a perfect metaphor for capitalism or something.

I sent that to Phil and he said: “Oh, we should do a show about that!”

JOHN: Close encounters of the turd kind?

PHIL: That’s gotta be the pull-quote from your blog.

JOHN: I can die happy.

(THERE IS AN 18-MINUTE, 46 SECOND CONSIGNIA “WELCOME TO DUNGENESS” VIDEO ON VIMEO WHICH HAS NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH THEIR NEW SHOW “THE FLATTERERS”… AS FAR AS I KNOW…)

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