Vancouver: sex workers, policemen and memories of a comedy show with a boa

Anna Smith with two cops in Vancouver

Anna Smith sandwiched by two cops in Vancouver

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from Anna Smith in Vancouver. She is this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. It said:

“For some reason I have been surrounded by police for the last few weeks.”

She attached a photograph of herself flanked by two policemen.

“It was a couple of weeks ago,” she told me. “They reprimanded me for wearing socks with sandals and being seen in public with terrible hair. Other than that I get along fine with the local cops. It’s the Swedish ones that annoy me. It’s strange. Lately it seems that I’ve been more interested in the police than they have ever  been with me.”

She added:

“I’ve been battling Swedish policemen and The University Women’s Club.”

Sure enough, there was a link to an article in the Georgia Straight, the local equivalent of our Time Out what’s on magazine.

The article carried a picture of Anna with a lady called Poison Pompadour and reported:

“They wanted to hear a visiting Swedish cop who has busted more than a thousand guys for going out on dates with prostitutes.

“Detective Simon Haggstrom was in Vancouver to deliver a lecture, and so Anna Smith and Poison Pompadour were eager to attend.

Anna (right) with placard - Straight article

Anna (right) with placard

“Smith is a director with the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of British Columbia, a group that seeks to legalize prostitution, while Pompadour is a French sex worker.

“As Smith recalled, the two of them came with placards, one of which was critical of the so-called Nordic model of prostitution, which criminalizes the purchase of sexual services.”

Two years ago, a law was passed which made the buying of sexual services illegal in Canada. Apparently because of their placard which read MAKE COOKIES NOT ARRESTS, Anna and Poison Pompadour were barred from entering the Orpheum Annex. That was where the niftily named ‘International Approaches to Prostitution: Sweden, Germany and Canada’ was being held.

Anna also sent me a copy of a letter she wrote to her mother in 1999.

“It includes,” she told me, “two interesting photos of my last comedy performance, seventeen years ago. I seem to do a comedy show about once decade, unless you count the sex education lectures I do twice a year.

“These are hour-long autobiographical streams of consciousness that are pure comedy. The students pay hundreds of dollars for a weekend workshop with me and a variable dozen other sex specialists. At the end of the hour the students are allowed to ask questions, but only for a few minutes. I get sad at the ending because there are always a few students left disappointed with their hands held up. At the end, the students all clap warmly, their faces beaming. The lady in charge then whisks me and the other speaker out of the room as if we are stars… then the whole room sighs sadly… knowing they will be lucky if they ever see us again.”

And the photos from 1999?

“It was a benefit show at the University of Victoria, to send a Russian prostitute and her cat home to St Petersburg. She was trapped in northern British Columbia.

“I was supposed to be doing the show as half of a double bill, with a punk band. But, at the last minute, the punk band cancelled because their mothers wouldn’t let them do a show with/for sex workers. So I had to do the show alone, and I was thinking, Those little chickenshits… Some punk band you are…

Her letter to her mother reads:

Anna Smith’s 1999 letter to her mother

Anna Smith wearing onion bag belted on a veil

“Here I am making a triumphant return to comedy after an eleven year interlude! I’m doing the character of the 10,000 year old hooker who has crawled out of a dumpster in Vancouver. I used the name Simone de Boudoir.

“The top picture shows the start of my show. I was very full of stage fright before I went on and then the students put my music in backwards, so it’s lucky I’m an experienced performer and got through the rough start.

“I’m wearing an onion bag belted on a veil (white blob) under my hat and a green suede fringed skirt under my dress and a boa made of fishing line and fruits.

“(In the bottom picture) Here I am waving goodbye to 200 cheering people at the end of my show. The lady beside me is called Danya – she organised the event. With the money raised, they sent home a woman from Russia called Irina, who was brought here on false hopes by a man she thought was her ‘pen-pal’. (She thought it was a romance but afterwards she found out she’d been advertised in the Buy & Sell.)

“Anyway, the GAATW (Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women) raised the money for her to go home.”

So that rounds things off nicely.

Though I would like to know more about Anna’s line: “Lately it seems that I’ve been more interested in the police.”

annasmith1999comedycut

 

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Filed under Canada, Comedy, Culture, Humor, Humour, Sex

Chris Dangerfield, political correctness in comedy and recurring fishnet tights

Fishnet stockings (not tights)

Fishnet stockings – not tights. (Photograph by RJFerret)

Chris Dangerfield in Dean Street, Soho

Chris with shopping bag in Soho

When I met performer Chris Dangerfield in London’s Soho last week, he wanted to talk about how political correctness has gone mad and I wanted to talk about fishnet tights.

“I thought you were leaving the country,” I said.

“I did plan to go travelling for a couple of years,” he told me, “maybe forever. But my problem, John, is connection and going travelling is almost giving up connecting with people and having nothing permanent. I would just be a wanderer and get old and end up one of those blokes on a beach in Thailand with no hair.”

“That seems to be what I’ve done,” I said, “except for the beach.”

“This is the concern,” Chris said, “ending up like you. But business is going so well that, if I commit to work for the next couple of years, I’ll probably be able to retire well.

“This,” I asked, “is your lock-picking business?”

“Yeah. I just got a warehouse in America and we’re thinking of maybe doing something in Hong Kong. But what I wanna talk to you about is Gazza and his joke.”

We then talked about various subjects.

“I can’t post that,” I said. “It is not going to read well in print. It will make you look bad.”

“What?” asked Chris. “As in ‘bad’ not interesting or ‘bad’ meaning I look like a cunt?

“Yes,” I said. “I…”

Glasgow Police being uncharacteristically sensitive on Twitter

Glasgow Police being uncharacteristically sensitive on Twitter

“I don’t care,” he told me. “Put it all in. I’m done with caring about all that bullshit. The Glasgow police have got a Twitter account and they Tweeted – This is 100% true – They Tweeted We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything illegal – that’s fair enough – unnecessary and unkind. The police Tweeted this! We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything unnecessary and unkind. This is actually happening! It’s absurd!

“The Canadian comedian Mike Ward made a joke about some spastic kid and was fined $42,000. It’s bullshit. What is happening not just to comedy but to the world?… How was the Edinburgh Fringe this year? You’ve watched it go downhill for the last 16 years. Be honest now. It’s shit, isn’t it?”

“I don’t really see that much difference,” I replied. “You were supposed to be coming up for a few days this year. I was looking forward to that.”

“I thought about visiting for a few days,” Chris explained, “but I’ve just got too much work on. Hardeep sorted out a room for me with another friend, but her Facebook had fishnets and I thought: Oh shit!

“Fishnets?” I asked.

“Not Hardeep. His friend. I thought: I’ll be sitting in a room working and then only going out for a couple of hours. So I didn’t get up there. I’m thinking of doing a show next year.”

“Fishnet tights?” I asked.

“No, stockings,” Chris replied. “Stockings. No-one wears tights any more in my bedroom. I can’t be doing with them. They remind me of my mother. I would find my mum’s tights with her knickers rolled up in them at the bottom of the stairs. Eugh! Dark tan. Not black, not white, not pink, nothing sexy. But, nonetheless, if a woman arrives in my bed with tights on, they have to be removed. That’s a game changer as much as no hair on a woman.

“Where were we? My Edinburgh show maybe next year. I’ve been quite outspoken about the political correctness movement that is gaining so much power at the moment and I’ve lost a lot of friends through that. And some of them were my media contacts that I’d spent eight years building up. And they’ve become arsehole virtue social justice warriors. Really. A lot of them have gone. All just disappeared from my Contacts list.”

“So will you do a show next year?” I asked.

Rare sight - shy Copstick - at Mama Biashara

Kate Copstick might be involved with Chris

Copstick said to me: For fuck’s sake do a show up here – which was very nice of her. I said: If I do, I’ll need your help and she said something along the lines of Alright. You interrupted her on the Grouchy Club Podcast. She was about to market me as part of the… But you interrupted, mumbling something about biscuits…”

“Well,” I said, “that’s my role.””

“Let’s get back,” Chris insisted, “to political correctness being poison.”

“Net stockings?” I tried.

“I think this is going to snowball,” Chris persisted. “People are taken to court for really shitty jokes that are not racist, that are not harassment. It’s happening. There are lots of examples. There’s Guy Earle in Canada. A load of people heckled him. They introduced themselves into his show. They were the vampires at his door. He welcomed them in. He shouted back at them and they took him to court and won. This is madness.

“When I read the Top Ten Jokes in Edinburgh, they are lollystick jokes aren’t they? They are good for families. But that’s nothing to do with me. And that’s alright. I don’t expect it to all be about me. Far from it. But that’s what gets the Awards. Lollystick acts. The awards have the odd inoculation – a small amount of acknowledged evil that will make them feel better. It works like an inoculation. They take on a few people who are a bit risky to protect themselves against the generalised evil and generalised subversion.”

“You realise,” I asked, “that this blog is going to have nothing in it about political correctness – just fishnet tights?”

“Stockings!” said Chris. “The other thing, of course, is I’ve just finished writing a novel. The story is there. But it’s not long enough and it needs a lot of work on it.”

“That’” I told him, “is what women constantly say to me.”

“It needs as much editing as you do,” said Chris, “which is a helluva lot. At the moment it’s 58,000 words; I’m aiming for around 75,000. The book is the story of a man who goes to Thailand to get clean (of drugs) and gets a lot less than he bargained for.”

Chris Dangerfield in Thailand yesterday morning

Chris Dangerfield had some laughs  in Thailand

“Does he,” I asked, “try to kick his heroin addiction in a brothel?”

“Yes.”

“That always seemed a very bad idea,” I told Chris. “Doing it for real.”

Chris told me: “I set out to write it thinking it was about a man getting clean in a brothel. But it isn’t. It’s about childhood, nostalgia and connection. When you set out… When you define your enclosure and say It’s about this and contrive something, it doesn’t work. It’s not creative.”

“So,” I asked, “it has ended up being about the man and how he got to be who he is?”

“Yeah. To an extent. Or how he didn’t become what he should be. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done. It would be really nice if I got it published before next August and I would do a reading (at the Edinburgh Fringe). Then I can present it as fiction and avoid a lot of trouble.”

“How can you present it as fiction?” I asked.

“Well,” said Chris, “I mean, some of it’s fictional; it just has to be.”

“The more unbelievable something seems,” I suggested, “very often the more true it is. You have to tone down reality to make it believable.”

Coming soon – the last ever performance of his 2012 show

Chris had to downplay the actual reality to make it believable

“Absolutely,” said Chris. “That’s what happened with (Edinburgh Fringe show) Sex Tourist. I had to play it down. That was totally insane. I bought a gun. They’re plastic.

“When I finally came out of that methamphetamine binge, I took the gun back to the shop and said: Mate, I’m done with the gun. I really don’t need it.

“And he was all No, no, no. You can take it back to England and he took it all to pieces and said I’ll send it back to you in parts. I asked What do I do for bullets? and he said I can send you them as well.”

“Not plastic bullets?” I asked.

“No. Do you know blank keys are made out of spent bullet shells? They use a lot of bullets in practising and they collect them all, melt them all down and make keys in America.”

“Have you written a novel before?” I asked.

“I had one vanity publishing thing in my early 20s – Tired etc. It done quite well, got some good reviews, was in i-D, Loaded.”

“What’s the new one called?”

“A friend suggested Last Exit To Patong… You know, John, I don’t think you’re going to have a coherent blog here.”

“It’s never worried me before.”

“What? When I was smoking crack in Brown’s? Do you remember? I had to run to the chemist. I read that blog back and thought: Who is this? I was reading it, really excited, wondering: Oh shit! What happens next? And it was me.

“Tights,” I said.

“They’re horrible things,” Chris replied.

“Fishnet tights?” I asked.

“There’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with anything. Nothing’s good; nothing’s bad. But I have a relationship with them that I don’t want to re-live with a sexual partner… Look, when I’m coming down my stairs as a toddler on my hands and knees, at the bottom, I end up with my face in my mum’s gusset. That’s a phrase I never wanted to say. I can’t stand them. They’re a proper party-killer. Tight round the waist, gonna leave a mark and there’s a thread and a seam that goes round the fanny.”

“You know,” I said, “when you realise you shouldn’t have said something?”

“No,” said Chris. “No, I haven’t got to that stage yet.”

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Filed under Bad taste, Comedy, Drugs, political correctness, Sex

The Kunt (and The Gang) Monologues

When Kunt and The Gang announced earlier this year that he was retiring, I immediately booked him to climax the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe last month with his song Paper Boy. That version is not on YouTube, but this one is…

I thought it would also be interesting to chat to him for a blog, but he told me: “I stopped doing face to face stuff as it never comes across in print quite as well as the email interviews.”

I told him: “I’m never very keen on written Q&A ‘interviews’ because they never sound like a lively conversation. Writing in grammatical perfection is always a killer.”

So, inevitably, we did do a Q&A email interview. This is it.

Q – Why are you giving up? Have you run out of original ideas? Have you gone mentally dull? Do you now want to smoke a pipe, suck Werther’s Original sweets and hug people rather than offend them?

Kunt and Jimmy Savile

Kunt had new inspiration suddenly pumped into him in 2011

A – I ran out of ideas in 2011 but, luckily for me, Operation Yewtree came along and helped me drag it out for another five years. I’ve been thinking of packing it in for a few years, but my mind was made up because of how many maverick celebrities have croaked this year – Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne etc. etc. If they keep dropping at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before my minor internet celebrity status gets bumped up and then I’m on the ‘at risk’ register.

Q – Are you so stinking rich now that you don’t need to work and just want to watch Countdown on TV?

A – Yes, because playing 50 gigs a year for 6 quid a ticket can make you a millionaire. Are you having a fucking laugh? Don’t worry. I’m still driving round in a Ford Fiesta and looking for the yellow ‘whoops’ stickers in Asda.

Q – Did you get to keep your 2011 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award or did Bob Slayer nick it?

A – I gave it away in a competition. A bloke from Colchester won it. They’re not worth loads of money, are they?

Q – They’re increasingly prestigious. Is your retirement just a scam? Everyone thinks it might be. Are you going to keep doing ‘return’ gigs like Frank Sinatra?

A – I’m not quite sure why everyone thinks it’s a big scam. I think people are just in the denial stage of grief. I had four people at my gig in Bristol last week tell me that I should call my comeback tour ‘The Cum-back Tour’. With my current Christ complex, I’m favouring ‘The Res-erection’.

Kunt’ll Fix It

Now then, now then, boys and girls. What will he do next?

Q – Are you likely to reappear as a different character? Like Avid Merrion in Bo’ Selecta became Keith Lemon?

A – Highly unlikely.

Q – How did you think up the Kunt character and, indeed, why?

A – I’m still a bit baffled that you refer to me as a character! Is Sting a character? Is Bono a character? No!

They’re really just a couple of cunts so why can’t I just be a kunt?

Q – What were you before you were a Kunt?

A – I worked part-time for the local council doing odd jobs for the Youth Service. Whenever I tell anyone that I suddenly see them thinking: Historical sex crimes.

Q – Odd jobs? Such as?

A – It was a few years ago but, as I remember, I was just sent to the youth centres in the daytime when there were no teenagers around to do minor maintenance tasks like collecting the money out of pool tables and sniffing the toilet seats.

Q – Describe your best shit.

A – A one-and-half turd visit on the 15th December 2013, which I tweeted a picture of to Simon Cowell as part of the world’s first ever virtual dirty protest.

Q – Describe your worst sex act.

A – Drunkenly trying to get big Karen to finish me off in a toilet cubicle in the multi story car park next to Club Art in Southend while my mates jumped up pulling faces over the door.

Q – When you were 17, what did you think you would be when you were 34?

A – I couldn’t imagine being 21 when I was 17, let alone 34. I’ve always thought if you think about things too hard you’ll talk yourself out of it.

Q – So, in the past, this philosophy of life has resulted in you doing what?

A – All this. And kicking the odd pensioner’s wall in.

Q – Has writing wall-to-wall filth worn your spirit down? Are you going to write non-filth now?

A – I don’t think of it as wall-to-wall filth. I think I’m just dealing with the difficult subjects that no one else wants to sing about. Because of that, I think I‘ve been lucky to have a whole new raft of rhyming couplets that no other fucker wanted – like ‘come uppance’ and ‘lady’s tuppence’. That said, I always had a secret ambition to do Eurovision but I’m worried I might be overqualified.

Q – So will you write ‘clean’ song lyrics in future? Your songs are so technically good, you could make it in the ‘straight’ music biz. You could do The Voice or a Simon Cowell TV show or, yes indeed, Eurovision.

A – There’s millions of kunts out there writing clean songs. It’s very hard to stand out. Why do you think I was forced to forge a career out of singing about masturbation and paedofiddlia?! Furthermore, in case you hadn’t noticed, the TV talent shows are not for people like me that write catchy original songs and sing them in our own voices – more for perma-tanned twats warbling around the main melody of existing songs.

Q – Have you made useful contacts in the ‘straight’ music biz?

A – No

Q – Your final show is in London on November 5th. Seven days later, what will you be doing where, why and with whom?

A – Sitting on the sofa on my own, in my pants, watching Police Academy 7 on DVD.

Q – Describe your house. Where is it? – In a city? In the countryside? In suburbia? What is it like inside?

A – Is this fucking Hello magazine? I’ve got a square-ish house with a pointy roof on the upskirts of a town. It is the town where Depeche Mode are from and also Brian Belo from Big Brother. Inside there’s some rooms containing the usual furniture and in one room a bed along with piles of old posters and boxes of unsold CDs and T-shirts. (Note: Depeche Mode and Brian Belo came from Basildon.)

Q – Any unfulfilled ambitions?

Kunt’s Shannon Matthews The Musical

Shannon Matthews The Musical: a great loss to the West End

A – I’m gutted my Shannon Matthews musical didn’t make it onto the big stage. I always secretly believed Lloyd Webber would discover it and make us an offer. But he didn’t, the rubber-faced old posho.

Q – Who was she again?

A – Shannon Matthews was the 9-year-old daughter of ginger munter Karen Matthews, who unsuccessfully masterminded her fake kidnapping to try and cash in on the back of the Madeleine McCann bandwagon.

Shannon Matthews: The Musical is a full-length audio musical I wrote based on the case and then recorded with some mates from Huddersfield. It is my proudest moment, but sadly never got produced on the big stage. Fucksticks.

Q – What is going to happen now when you have all these great creative ideas and you have nowhere to use them? You will get creatively constipated, won’t you?

A – I haven’t really thought about what I’ll do for an outlet but, put it this way, I wouldn’t want to be my paperboy. I have been regularly frustrated on this tour stuck in fucking traffic. Currently it’s averaging out 8 hours in the car for every hour on stage. It’s doing my biscuit in.

Q – Was there ever a Gang?

A – When you’re in it, you know!

Q – Are there Kunt groupies when you are on tour?

A – Sadly, they are mostly sweaty mental balding men in their mid to late 40s. I meet loads of really smashing people but, in the last few years, I seem to have become like a flypaper for nutjobs.

Kunt on tour with Mike Gibbons - "my former manager, minor internet hit wannabe and dangerous loner"

Kunt on tour with Mike Gibbons, whom he calls “my former manager, minor internet hit wannabe and dangerous loner”

Q – Why do you think that has suddenly happened?

A – I think it’s just the law of averages. You meet thousands of people, so odds on there’s going to be a few fruit loops. They always seem to be more persistent and intense, though, giving the impression that there’s more of them than there actually are.

Q – Have you any baby Kunts at home or are you planning any?

A – I’m in my early 30s now so I guess at some point soon I might have to start thinking about that.

Q – Is there a Mrs Kunt?

A – Not a Mrs Kunt, but a long-suffering Miss Kunt. It’s been hard over the years to keep a relationship going whilst doing as many gigs as I have but these days you can just have a wank into FaceTime.

Q – So how are you going to financially support yourself, Miss Kunt and your potential mini-Kunts?

A – I don’t live a lavish celebrity lifestyle. I don’t dine at the Ivy. I dine at Harvester where you get unlimited salad with your main meal. At the end of this tour, I’ll have a dwindling pot of cash that gives me 9 months to work out what the fuck I’m doing next and make a go of it. Having failed at everything I’ve ever done apart from this it’s very likely there’s going to be a much anticipated ‘Cum-back’ tour…

Q  Any regret yet that you have announced your retirement?

A – Of course. I fucking love doing this. I love the gigs, meeting people and hearing about the time they soiled themselves and where they stashed their underwear after. But the time still feels right to knock it on the head, while I’m still enjoying it rather than waiting for it to all turn to shite.

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Do some Edinburgh Fringe acts screw themselves by advertising their shows?

Street art at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012

Street art at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 probably told a home truth beyond the prevailing weather

Yesterday, I took part in a recording by Simon Caine, he of the Ask The Industry podcast. It is online HERE.

It was nominally about comedy awards at the Edinburgh Fringe and the participants were Steve Bennett (Chortle Student Awards), Kate Copstick (Malcolm Hardees and formerly Perriers), Bruce Dessau (Malcolm Hardees and formerly Perriers), Barry Ferns (the Barrys), Hils Jago (the Amused Mooses) and me (the Malcolm Hardees).

It turned into a discussion of the Edinburgh Fringe in general and I did not contribute much, but one thing I did mention was the giant show posters which appear all over Edinburgh during August. My point was this…

Sometimes in London you see massive posters in prime roadside sites and on the tube promoting TV programmes.

These are NOT paid for from the budget of the TV station’s Promotion Dept which publicises programmes. They are paid for by the TV station’s Marketing Dept which is responsible for selling the station itself to advertisers.

The primary object of these ads is NOT to increase the audience of the TV show being advertised. The object of these posters is to let advertisers know that the TV station is a successful, confident, currently buzzing one and that they are prepared to spend big money on promoting their programmes in prime sites and that, therefore, the station itself is a good place for an advertising agency to pay for positioning ads for their clients.

The target audience is not the punters. It is the advertising industry itself.

In the same way, massive street ads at the Edinburgh Fringe promoting shows are pretty certainly not a financially sensible way to get extra bums-on-seats.

Balancing the cost of the advertising against the number of extra punters likely to buy tickets, these massive ads probably each lose the act a lot of money.

These big ads have two main purposes. One is to say to the media – press, TV and radio – that some promoter, manager or agency has sufficient confidence in this particular act that they are prepared to splash out on this big publicity. And, more important, these posters show which promoters, managers or agencies are the alpha males in the Fringe jungle.

In effect, the promoters, managers or agencies tell their acts that these giant ads will ‘big up’ both them and their show. But, in fact, the acts (because the performers are the ones actually paying) are forking out to publicise and ‘big up’ their own promoters, managers and agents.

There may be collateral publicity for the acts, but it makes no financial sense in terms of getting bums-on-seats for their shows.

A lesson in life at the Edinburgh Fringe.

You get screwed from all angles.

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Five random UKIP members talk

The UKIP logo

Ages ago, my eternally un-named friend objected to the fact that, in my blog, I have often quoted people saying things I don’t myself believe. “People will think they are your views,” she told me.

Well, I reckon, that’s their problem. If they can’t read reported speech without getting confused, they ain’t worth bothering about.

I think it’s interesting to listen to other people’s views if you don’t agree with them – perhaps especially if you don’t believe in or agree with them. There is very little point listening to people whose opinions are exactly the same as yours.

I went to Albania in 1979 and North Korea in 1986 and 2012 but I really don’t think you could call me a hardline Marxist-Leninist or a Kim Il-sungist or an Enver Hoxhaist.

Thus this blog…

I was in a local coffee shop today and, at the next table, were five people of a certain age – well, five fairly old people. They were members of UKIP (the UK Independence Party), discussing who to vote for in the UKIP leadership election.  

This is what they said…

As context, some demonstrators recently stopped flights at London City Airport by sitting in the runway.


UK results of the 2014 European Parliament election. Districts where UKIP received the largest number of votes are shown in purple. (Map by MrPenguin20 on Wikipedia)

UK results of the 2014 European Parliamentary election. Districts where UKIP received the largest number of votes are in purple. (Wikipedia map by MrPenguin20)

MAN 1
I do believe, if we sat across the motorway, like some other people have… If we do that, if we get the publicity and we then have somebody clever with words to stand there, being arrested, standing there saying: This is why I am doing it. Give us our country back! Give us our democracy! That is a power above politics.

WOMAN 1
I just read in the Daily Mail that they’re trying to bring in a rule that they (immigrants into the UK) can only come in if they’ve got a job, first of all. and they’re not going to get free benefits.

MAN 1
That was then. What Theresa May is saying now is: I’m not telling you. Her own party is saying: Mind your own business. The reason being is I think that she has to wait for the people jerking her strings to decide. What she’s done so far is everything you would do if you were going to cheat us. It’s no good saying: They promised this and they promised that. Actions are louder than words and the actions of the Tory Party are: Up yours! You’re not getting it! and we’re going to delay, delay and obfuscate and we’re going to compromise. I’m sorry. I don’t believe a word any of those Tories say.

WOMAN 2
I don’t believe a word any politicians say.

MAN 1
Exactly. At least Labour is honest enough to say: We’re against this and we’re going to have a new Referendum, which I suppose they are not. They are anti-democratic.

WOMAN 1
Look at all the U-turns they’ve had.

MAN 1
Owen Smith has said that’s what he’s going to do if he gets in. You know where you stand with Labour. They’re anti-democratic, hard Left and don’t give a damn for the working man. They haven’t done for a generation.

WOMAN 2
None of the Labour lot care.

MAN 1
The Tories – They don’t come out and say: This is what we want. That little spin man from advertising (David Cameron), he did a grand job of re-marketing what was and still is The Nasty Party. And then he put shedloads – billions and billions – into the laps of African dictators and gangsters, just to show that We care… We care to waste your money. We never did anything for the ordinary people in those African countries. They didn’t get it.

MAN 2
They never do. They never, ever get it. It’s all siphoned off.

MAN 1
He knew that and he didn’t care. A load of black peasants – they’re even worse than our oiks. They say: We’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do that. We’re not gonna have immigrants. We’re gonna stop them if they don’t have a job. That’s a heck of a lot harder than saying: Here’s the points system. Make your application. We will process it. Yes you can come. No you can’t. That is EASY! That’s the way the Aussies do it.

MAN 2
It’s fair.

MAN 1
When they say We cannot do it while Australia can do, it is a lie. A nasty little lie.

MAN 2
If it meets that criteria, it doesn’t matter what they’re like. If they haven’t got a criminal record, if they’re not this, if they’re not that – the basic criteria – then they’ve got a basic job coming. They’re welcome. No problem.

MAN 1
Part of that points system IS that you’ve got to have a job.

WOMAN 3
And all the riffraff from…

MAN 1
Anyway, let’s get back to who is going to be the least obnoxious or the best person. I’ve been making some notes on this and, frankly, I’m confused. Patrick O’Flynn is a man I respect. Diane James? She’s got some background. One of the things that’s funny about her is that picture. She’s quite a good-looking young woman there, but she’s a bit older now.

WOMAN 1
Why can’t we get Farage? He was the only one. They will be a pale imitation…

MAN 2
They’ll be a shadow.

MAN 1
Apparently she came a very close second in the Eastleigh by-election. She’s the Justice & Home Affairs Spokesperson. She’s on the NEC… There’s Elizabeth Jones… Oh no, I’m getting them mixed up. It’s Elizabeth Jones who had that really nice picture. Airbrushed or whatever they do nowadays.

MAN 2
Airbrushed?

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Yesterday at the Edinburgh Fringe I saw and heard the strangest things

Cassie Atkinson - Supernumerary Rainbow

Ex-stalker Cassie Atkinson has a Supernumerary Rainbow

At last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, performer Cassie Atkinson and I seemed to be stalking each other. Almost every day, we seemed to bump into each other at least once. This year, she seems to have been replaced by Joz Norris and Scott Agnew. I keep meeting Joz in other people’s shows and Scott on street corners.

Surprisingly, neither were there when I saw Cassie Atkinson’s own new show Supernumerary Rainbow yesterday – in which she interestingly alternates between her on-stage fictional American showbiz character and her real-life Bolton-accented self, explaining why she hides behind characters.

Fringe comedy shows have moved on from gag-telling to storytelling and genuine autobiography over the years and I think it’s interesting when character comedy cracks slightly to reveal (or appear to reveal) the real performer while continuing with the character. Whatever Cassie is doing, it certainly attracted a full audience.

Frizz Frizzle - Ditty Fiddler

Frizz Frizzle – highly popular Ditty Fiddler

Which Friz Frizzle did too.

Attract a full house audience.

Apparently he writes jokes for other comedians. I have no idea what his own act is because, when I arrived at the Globe venue it was so overflowing with punters I could not squeeze in in any way. Ye Gods – that is some underground following he has there. I gave up any attempt to get in and went and had a bun.

On the way to my next show, Joe Davies’ Who’s The Daddy? I bumped into trombonist Faye Treacy who told me she had possibly booked herself into a performance room that was too small – at Cabaret Voltaire.

When she plays her trombone, the front row is in physical peril from her extended slide.

Faye Treacy

Faye Treacy – musical bag lady of Edinburgh

She told me she used to perform with a piano but the trombone was easier to carry. I suggested she look into the possibilities of a piccolo.

“In my room,” Faye told me, “my trombone is in people’s faces and I then loop up my trombone so it’s twelve times the volume.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I do a spoken word piece at that point and, obviously, I can’t speak and play at the same time. I hand out ear plugs at the start of the show. I had the trombonist from Madness turn up and watch my show yesterday. And, last year, I had the entire double bass section from the Philharmonia Orchestra.”

“How many people are in the entire double bass section from the Philharmonia Orchestra?” I asked.

“Twelve,” Faye told me. “I have a ukulele in my show this year as well, so Kate Copstick may hate it. Next year, I was thinking of putting a bass drum on my back and being a one-man band.”

Joe Davies prepares for his show Where’s The Daddy?

Joe prepares for his show Where’s The Daddy?

Joe Davies’ Who’s The Daddy? is about how he discovered, in his 20s, that his father was musical performer Hank Wangford, a man whom most of the audience had never heard of, but whom I almost met when I was working on children’s TV show Tiswas back when the world was young. I travelled all the way from Birmingham to London just to see him perform at a club where he had ‘left my name on the door’ to get in. Except he had not and the club was (like Friz Frizzle’s) so full it was impossible to get in. More about Joe Davies in a future blog.

Hank Wangford was/is a comic Country & Western singer by night – I recommend his  Jogging With Jesus – and a practising gynaecologist by day. He also apparently (Joe has a photo) went on holiday to Morocco with Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and Roger Waters. Now THERE is a story I would like to hear.

The Raunch

The Raunch – aerial acts, nipple tassels and a thematic misfire

In the evening, I saw The Raunch, a would-be risqué Wild West themed variety night in the circus area on The Meadows. Think aerial acts, naked breasts with nipple tassels, a carnival feel and an attempted Western narrative. Nothing wrong with nipple tassels and sword swallowing nor with any of the acts, but the attempt to theme the whole thing misfired and it needed a visible ringmaster-type person throughout instead of mostly voice-over commentaries.

Then it was Jo Coffey, highly professional and mystifyingly under-used on TV, who bills herself as “the comedy circuit’s fourth shortest comic” – and who seems to have worked on the production teams of more TV shows than I ever did.

Then I saw Femmetamorphosis – a play (in the Theatre section of the Fringe Programme) based round a lingerie party. I went to see it because I accidentally travelled up from London to Edinburgh sitting next to its author and star Sharron Spice. More in a future blog.

Late night at the Fringe is where you often get the really bizarre shows.

Bob Slayer tells tales in his double decker BlunaBus

Bob Slayer tells ad lib tales in his big double decker BlundaBus

Bob Slayer is doing 24 Hour Shows, a great title which means he is doing not day-long shows but a different hour-long show for 24 nights on the top floor of his double decker BlundaBus

And Hate ’n’ Live is always unexpected and interesting with Darius Davies, Leo Kearse and three or four guest comics improvising around why they ‘hate’ various things suggested by the usually-packed-to-gasping audience. Last night one of the comics was the inescapable Lewis Schaffer strangely yet successfully out of his comfort zone.

He had to talk about something other than himself.

You see and hear the strangest things at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The courtyard of the Free Sisters on a Saturday night - one of the seven gateways to hell

The courtyard of the Free Sisters on a Saturday night resembles one of the seven gateways to hell

 

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At the Edinburgh Fringe: Arthur Smith and his socks and a duck jockstrap gift

Arthur Smith opens his Museum of Socks

Arthur Smith opens his Museum of Socks at Edinburgh Fringe

“Are you doing your traditional late-night tour of the Royal Mile?” I asked comedian and national treasure Arthur Smith yesterday, beside his new exhibition of socks.

“Yes,” Arthur told me. “And I will be introducing the13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga.”

“She’s the one with only one sock?” I asked.

“Yes,” confirmed Arthur.

“Which Saturday night?” I asked.

“The 20th,” he said. “Well, strictly speaking, it’s the Sunday, because it’s after midnight.”

“What time?” I asked.

“I dunno,” said Arthur. “One o’clock? Two? I don’t care. You decide. If you put it in your blog, that’ll be the time I do it.”

So, dear reader, Arthur Smith’s legendary annual late-night tour of the Royal Mile this year will start at 01.00am on Saturday night 20th August – or Sunday morning 21st August if you are being pedantic. The starting point, as always, is the top of the Royal Mile outside the entrance to the Castle.

“But what about Arthur Smith’s socks?” I hear you cry with some justification.

Well, tough shit. You will have to read on for a bit.

A few days ago, I got a Facebook message from one Broome Spiro asking if I fancied having breakfast with a stranger.

Broome Spiro and his levitating breakfast

Broome Spiro and his levitating breakfast

So, of course, I let him buy me breakfast yesterday morning. He turned out to be a retired immigration attorney living in upstate New York who had chucked in his job and gone to work in a pizza parlour. His son had worked in Zoo venues at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. Broome is fan of my blog and of the weekly Grouchy Club podcast I do with Scotsman critic Kate Copstick.

“How did you stumble on us?” I asked.

“When my son was working at Zoo,” explained Broome, “my wife Penny was following the Fringe on the computer – online, you can almost be here – and we became interested in the politics behind the Fringe and the different business models – PBH and Bob Slayer – and we ran into your blog, which was ‘real’. It’s nice to have it done with historical perspective so you can understand if you are new to it all.

“Over the years, I have collected a tremendous amount of things. My first job was with an antiques dealer, holding up stuff, and my mother made me quit after a month because I had not had a pay cheque yet, but I kept on coming home with antiques. I have this 3,000 square foot house with four 38ft tractor trailers and two barns filled with things and how I finance coming to Edinburgh is by selling things.”

Broome tests the straps of his jockstrap

Broome tests the straps of his gift jockstrap

He took out and showed me a jockstrap made from a plastic duck.

“You created it yourself?” I asked.

“Well,” said Broome, “I found the duck and designed the jock strap, but a guy called Dara Albro is the one who made it a reality.”

“Was it tested for size and comfort?” I asked.

“I was the fitting model,” admitted Broome. “I am going to present it to Paul Currie.

“Why?” I asked.

“I like his show.”

Later in the day, Broome also turned up at the Pleasance Dome for the official opening of the exhibition of Arthur Smith’s socks.

Which is where we came in.

The exhibition includes one sock belonging to (or, more correctly, formerly belonging to) the aforementioned 13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga.

Scotsman critic and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Kate Copstick is of a mind to nominate Arthur’s sock exhibition for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award on the basis that it is “very Saatchi”.

“Have you,” I asked Arthur, “ever been prosecuted in a Scottish court for your legendary annual late-night tour of the Royal Mile?”

“Not quite,” he said. “There was a balustrade on a corner once – well, it’s still there – and I paid a guy to stand on it and take his top off and sing Scotland The Brave and then a woman said Oh! That’s sexist! so she took her top off as well. They were a couple and had a big row. Anyway, the next day I looked, I realised there was a 40ft drop behind it and they had both been arseholed. They could have died. Maybe I would have been up for manslaughter if they had fallen. I dunno.”

Claire Smith, Broome Spiro and piano creator Iain Gordon at Arthur Smith’s opening

Claire Smith, Broome Spiro and piano builder Iain Gordon

Also there at the grand opening of Arthur’s sock exhibition – rather grandly titled Arturart’s Museum of Socks – was Scotsman journalist and increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Claire Smith.

“I am staying in a tent in Worbey and Farrell’s garden,” she told me.

“What if it rains?” I asked.

“It makes a lovely splashing sound.”

“Why are you staying in a tent in their garden?” I asked.

“Because I love them. They are sweet.”

“Why a tent in their garden?” I asked.

“It’s really lovely,” explained Claire. “I’ve got a little office in there. And WiFi, a vase with lilies and a carpet. And a cherry tree. Have you heard about Lewis Schaffer?”

“Constantly,” I said.

Lewis Schaffer: sexist or vulnerable?

Lewis Schaffer in days before he went grey

“He forgot his suit,” continued Claire. ”He left it in London. He had to do his show in civies yesterday. In his jeans. But he needs his suit. He usually buys his suits from ASDA because he says they are very Armani-ish. Well, a bit. But cheaper. So he left his suit in London and had to do his show in his jeans yesterday and he is wondering if it is a subconscious desire to give up comedy forever.”

“Has he started performing comedy now?” I asked, surprised.

“I have heard,” confided Claire, “that his suit is on its way up from London.”

“Via one of his entourage?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“What other news?” I asked.

Claire Smith consoled last night by Topping (of Topping & Butch)

Loitering within tent? Claire Smith and Michael Topping

“Topping (of Topping & Butch) has given up alcohol and wants to do people’s feet in Edinburgh. He does reflexology in London. He’s really good at it. He lives in a little castle in London. He thought he would come up here and offer people reflexology.”

“People at random in the street?” I asked.

“Well, he was wanting to do it from my tent, but we haven’t really been able to organise it. We thought, if it was sunny, we could have a garden party. Get a load of people round to my tent and get their feet done.”

“Sunny?” I asked. “In Edinburgh in August? Where is your tent?”

“Near Meadowbank Stadium.”

“Oh,” I said. “I’m moving to a flat between Meadowbank and Easter Road for the last four days of the Fringe. It could be noisy at the weekend.”

Meadowbank is a 16,000 seat sports stadium and Easter Road is the 20,000 seater home of Hibernian football club.

“There’s a circus tent down there now,” said Claire.

“Let us hope,” I said, “that they don’t have elephants.”

Arthur Smith and sock of 13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga

Arthur Smith in Edinburgh with the newly exhibited sock of the 13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga

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