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 This year, she seems to have been replaced by Joz Norris and Scott Agnew.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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Edinburgh’s Fringe and Montreal’s Just For Laughs: the same but very different

Luca Cupani yesterday in Edinburgh

Luca Cupani was back in Edinburgh yesterday

Yesterday I chatted to Italian comedian Luca Cupani. He had just come back from representing the UK at Canada’s Just For Laughs festival in Montreal.

He – Italian comedian Luca Cupani – had been officially representing the UK along with Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani. Although he had not actually encountered Yuriko over there but had seen Danish comedian Sofie Hagen.

“Perhaps Danish comedian Sofie Hagen,” I suggested, “was representing the UK instead of Japanese comedian Yuriko Kotani.”

“That could be,” said Luca.

“How was Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“I feel like a nun who goes to an erotic fair who comes back to the nunnery with a bag full of dildoes and she doesn’t even know if they are dildoes. I realised only at the end how big it was.”

“Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Luca.

“Just checking,” I said.

“I met this person,” continued Luca, “and these people and that person and they were approachable. I found out that the more important they are, the more easy they are to talk with because they are resolved: they are happy.”

“It was different from the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

Luca’s current show at the Fringe

Luca’s current Confessions show at the Fringe

“Well,” said Luca, “the Fringe is all on the shoulders of the performers. You do your show and, among the punters, there might be some industry people. But the industry it is hidden; you don’t see them. In Montreal it is more visible – the industry. The companies, they promote the shows, they invite people and then the punters come. It is on the same level as Edinburgh but different.

“And they are Americans and Canadians, so the least experienced comedians there have maybe had sold-out tours across the USA. If you have a sold-out tour in the UK, you have maybe been to 10 or 12 cities. There, they have filled arenas across 40 or 50 cities. It gave me a sneak-peek into the real world and the fact there is a chance to make a living out of comedy.”

Luca’s current Fringe show is The Admin of Death and Other Confessions in the 40-seat BlundaBus.

Yesterday was a normal day for me in Edinburgh. It spat with rain occasionally and, in the streets, I bumped into perhaps 10-15 people I knew. Plus 3 people with whom I had longish conversations and whom I have clearly met in the past but I had no idea who they were. Not even after longish conversations. It is difficult to probe too deeply without asking outright: “Just who the hell exactly are you?”

I blame a combination of a lack of sleep and too much Red Bull.

Many Godden as Moses

Marny Godden, as Moses, met Japanese John

All I know clearly is that I saw Marny Godden’s multi-character-based show Where’s John’s Porridge Bowl? in which she starts dressed as Moses with beard, staff etc and riskily but successfully kept picking on three Japanese punters in the front row as audience participants despite the fact two had limited English. One of them went into such extended giggles at one point that Marny rightly just looked at her for around ten seconds. The main picked-upon Japanese was a triumph of unlikely audience-choice who joined-in enthusiastically while one of his chums videoed it on a smartphone.

Charlie Dinkin

Charlie Dinkin – with tales of headless snails and swastikas

Good punters also helped Charlie Dinkin’s show Can’t when one member of the audience volunteered that her mother enjoys killing snails by drowning them in beer then cutting their heads off. Charlie fought back with the real-life surreality of a night she spent with a member of the Bullingdon Club involving swastikas.

Who said 1960s-style events were dead?

Highlight of the day, though, was seeing Candy Gigi’s show If I Had a Rich Man.

Candy Gigi (with carrots) and a meaty comedy show

Candy Gigi with carrots and a meaty comedy show

Last week, I booked her to sing on the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe – on the basis that, from previous shows I had seen, I knew she could sing and it would be unexpected.

When I first saw her perform a few years ago doing 10-minute spots involving hysteria and desperate vegetable-eating, I thought she was wonderfully original.

Once seen, forever remembered. But I did wonder how on earth she could develop the act beyond 10 minutes.

She proved me wrong when she did a half hour Fringe show two years ago, still based heavily around hysteria and vegetables but which was held together by force of personality. For that, she won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award for Comic Originality.

She is now back at the Fringe with an extraordinarily original full-length show which holds together and, indeed, has a climax. I can only describe it as a surprisingly dark and surreal autobiographical Jewish musical. Because, unknown in advance to me, this show turned out to be a part-belted-out-with-full-force comedy with blow-your-head-off songs. Whether her voice will last to the end of the Fringe, I don’t know.

Because of the singing and the occasionally quite dark mostly autobiographical narrative it is a different act, though vegetables do make a late and always-welcome appearance.

If I were a hack and desperate writer, I would say there is now comedy meat among her vegetables.

But I am, of course, not.

So I won’t.

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The Edinburgh Fringe: How to win a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

Well, the best way to win an Award and to honour Malcolm’s memory would be to lend me £500 and not expect to get it back but, if you are more vanilla in your Award approaches, the first thing is to know is what the fuck the awards actually are.

There are three and they are given in memory of the late Malcolm Hardee who was, according to The Guardian, the “patron sinner of alternative comedy, renowned for his outrageous stunts”. The Daily Telegraph called him “godfather to a generation of comic talent” and, in their 2005 obituary, the Independent said he was “the greatest influence on British comedy over the last 25 years”.

I know the last quote must be totally true because I wrote the obituary myself and included that phrase on the basis that future lazy journalists would simply blindly copy it.

The current three annual, increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are:

THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality

Basically, we have no idea what we are looking for. If we did know what we were looking for, we would be able to define it and it would not be original. But the award is for a performer not for a show and one producer who approached me this year touting a “family friendly” children’s show was wide-of-the-mark on almost all counts. Malcolm was known for having the biggest bollocks in show business and for showing them to everyone at the drop of a testicle. On stage, he was not family friendly.

Past winners of the award have been Reggie Watts, Doktor Cocacolamcdonalds, Edward Aczel, Otto Kuhnle, Robert White, Johnny Sorrow, The Rubberbandits, Adrienne Truscott, Candy Gigi and Michael Brunström.

THE ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID AWARD

The Act Most Likely Award awaits its fate in Edinburgh this morning

For Act Most Likely To Make A Million Quid

Well, the title says it all, really.

The judges have to take a wild punt on who may survive the vagaries of – and triumph over the good and bad luck inherent in – a comedy career to attain seldom-attained financial success.

There is no point anyone approaching us to suggest themselves. If we think you are likely to fulfil the future requirement and win it, that’s our call, not yours.

Past winners have been Bo Burnham, Benet Brandreth, Trevor Noah, Luisa Omielan and Laurence Owen.

THE CUNNING STUNT AWARD

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

I pose with the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

This is the one the press like. It is for the best CUNNING stunt promoting a Fringe performer or act or show.

But pay close attention to the inclusion of the word ‘cunning’.

Riding an elephant painted pink down Princes Street and inviting the press is a stunt but it is not a cunning stunt.

This award was started when comic Gill Smith sent me an email saying she was nominating herself for the Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis that her email to me allowed her to legitimately put on her posters and flyers “Malcolm Hardee Award Nominee”. She said she thought Malcolm would have approved. I thought he would too and started the award.

The winners have been:

GILL SMITH – for that initial piece of chutzpah.

LEWIS SCHAFFER – for convincing several publications that he was the new sponsor of the (formerly Perrier) Edinburgh Comedy Awards for £99 and that his mother and agent would be on the judging panel.

STEWART LEE – for successfully encouraging people to vote for little-known Japanese act Frank Chickens in a poll for Best Fringe Performer despite the fact they were not performing at the Fringe. (As a result of the publicity, ironically, they did perform at that year’s Fringe.)

KUNT & THE GANG/BOB SLAYER – for getting fans to put stickers depicting penises on the posters of rival acts to promote Kunt & The Gang’s show. Personally, I never liked the original stunt but Bob Slayer, Kunt’s promoter, kept the publicity stoked-up and refreshed for so long in so many ways it became a work of PR art.

STUART GOLDSMITH – for a series of YouTube videos about Fringe censorship of the title of his show Prick.

BARRY FERNS – for printing and distributing around Edinburgh fake copies of Broadway Baby which gave his show 6-out-of-5 star reviews and reported that his show had been nominated for the Fosters Comedy Awards, in both the main category and the newcomer category.

CHRISTIAN TALBOT – for using his 12-year-old daughter Kate to go up to strangers, looking sad, ask them “Have you seen my daddy?” and, if they said “No”, handing out flyers to them.

MATT ROPER – for hacking into the Facebook account of Malcolm Hardee judge & Scotsman reviewer Kate Copstick and posting fake messages – purportedly from her – “bigging himself up”.


Jay Handley’s Cunning Stunt contender

Jay Handley’s Cunning Stunt

This year, there have already been two arguably worthy contenders for the Cunning Stunt Award – though that is no guarantee they will get nominated – There may be better as-yet unpulled cunning stunts.

Jay Handley has launched an online change.org petition to get the Oxford English Dictionary to change the spelling of ‘Religion’ to ‘Relgion’.

His basic argument is that “For too long people across the country have been spelling ‘religion’ in a manner that is unacceptable to people who have ordered 5000 flyers for their Edinburgh Fringe show with it spelled ‘relgion’ in the main copy of their blurb.”

John Robertson’s stunt

John Robertson’s Cunning Stunt

Meanwhile, there is an online Huffington Post piece by John Robertson lauding the “Ten Best New Comedians” at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Number One is John Robertson and the other nine also contain references to John Robertson and his Fringe comedy show.

It is, in a way, a combination of Barry Ferns’ stunt of publishing a fake edition of Broadway Baby and one of Malcolm Hardee’s most infamous stunts where (with Arthur Smith) he wrote a review of his own Fringe show and conned The Scotsman into publishing it under the byline of their own comedy critic.


The judges for this year’s Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (that is the way it is billed in the official Fringe Programme) are:

MARISA BURGESS
Freelance comedy critic, lover of all things weird and an inveterate streaker. This Fringe she will be criticising comedians for The List and Fest.

KATE COPSTICK
Chief Comedy Critic of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. Loudest member of various judgely huddles from the Perrier Award to Home Made Pickle of the Year at The Parrot in Forest Green and author of The Illustrated Guide to Sapphic Sex.

BRUCE DESSAU
Comedy Critic of the London Evening Standard, editor of website beyondthejoke.co.uk and author of biographies of Rowan Atkinson and Reeves and Mortimer.

JOHN FLEMING
Handsome, debonair fashion icon. “The Boswell of the alternative comedy scene” (Chortle) Co-host (with Kate Copstick) of the Grouchy Club’s weekly podcast and its live shows at the Fringe.

JAY RICHARDSON
Freelance journalist for The Scotsman, Chortle, The Guardian, Independent, Sunday Times, Metro, BBC, Channel 4 etc.

CLAIRE SMITH
Freelance journalist, reviewer and feature writer for The Scotsman. Fringe lover, cabaret freak, arthouse baby, catastrophe thinker, water rabbit.


The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show takes place at the Ghillie Dhu in Edinburgh on Friday 26th August and MC Janey Godley should be introducing music by (but one can never be sure at the Fringe):

Bob Blackman’s Tray
Ursula Burns
Kate Copstick
Elvis Corpsley: The Zombie Elvis
Brian Damage & Krysstal
Candy Gigi
Kunt & The Gang
Lynn Ruth Miller
Laurence Owen
Ariane Sherine

The show will also include the announcement and presentation of this year’s awards, the annual Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette contest and the presentation by Edward Hobson of Ed at Last’s new FirstMinute Awards for the best first 60 seconds in a Fringe comedy show. The fact that the long-running, formerly Perrier Edinburgh comedy awards are now sponsored by lastminute.com is, I am sure, entirely coincidental.

John Ward with some Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy

John Ward, designer and manufacturer of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards

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The Edinburgh Fringe venue that doesn’t know where its own entrance is

Julie-Ann Laidlaw yesterday

Julie-Ann Laidlaw preparing yesterday

Yesterday, still zonked from my trip up to Edinburgh and not enlivened by six Red Bull drinks, I met Julie-Ann Laidlaw of Blond Ambition, who wanted me to plug her Vive La Variété show for the Cabaret vs Cancer charity this coming Sunday.

On the way to meet her, I bumped into the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge Claire Smith who told me The Scotsman is going to run a piece on me which quotes fellow Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Kate Copstick likening me to a “minah”.

I took this to mean a mynah bird, which tends to be rather noisy and annoying but, apparently she meant something else. I now presume possibly “minor”, but we shall wait to see what it says with anticipation.

But I digress.

Surely not.

“It was just after Bowie died,” Julie-Ann Laidlaw told me, Dusty Limits, Rose Thorne and Benjamin Louche set up a show in London – Ashes To Ashes – and donated all the ticket sales – over £5,000 – to Cabaret vs Cancer. Then they got in touch with me and asked if I would be their ambassador up here.

“Vive La Variété is on for the whole Fringe month and we have been collecting contributions in a bucket after each show but, on Sunday, we’re dedicating the whole show – all ticket sales – everything – to the charity.”

I asked: “Where does the Cabaret vs Cancer money go to?”

Vive La Variety also sells an all-nude charity calendar

Cabaret vs Cancer also sells a nude charity cabaret calendar

MacmillanCancer ResearchSt Joseph’s Hospice and St Joseph’s Bereavement Team for kids who have lost parents to cancer.

“I’ve got a few cabaret shows on throughout the Fringe, so I’ll take the bucket round them as well.”

“Shows such as?” I asked.

Cabaret Whore with Sarah-Louise Young, Doug Segal’s I Can Make You Feel Good, Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Four: Zis Time It’s War and Oh My Dad: Christ on a Bike with Jesus and his followers.”

“Does Christ still live in Glasgow?” I asked.

“Yes,” Julie-Ann confirmed. “I’ve got all those and The Illicit Thrill as well and over in Le Monde I have the Le Monde Cabaret hosted by Bruce Devlin and Fest on Forth at Harvey Nichols.”

“What does Christ do when he’s not being Christ?” I asked.

“He’s a dancer, a choreographer. He choreographs a lot of pantos.”

“Oh no he doesn’t,” I said.

No-one ever laughs when I say that, as I often do. I don’t know why. One of those things.

My personalised flyer from Thom Tuck

My personally illustrated flyer from Thom Tuck

It’s like very few people actually ever flyer me in the street. I think they glance at me and see some bloke well past his comedy-appreciating prime who will clearly never go to a Fringe show and is probably a former bank manager down on his luck and now shopping at Poundland.

Yesterday evening, as is often the case, I think I may have been the oldest person in the George Square Spiegeltent for the Edinburgh Festivals magazine launch. Even there, no-one flyered me except the ever-original and newly svelte Thom Tuck who was drawing individually-personalised flyers for his thom: foolery show.

There are some certainties amid the anarchy of the Fringe.

One is that it will rain.

A second is that people in the comedy industry will talk about Lewis Schaffer but not go to see his show.

Another is that I will rarely be flyered.

Mervyn Stutter in the street this morning

Mervyn Stutter was out the street this morning

And a third is that I will randomly bump into Mervyn Stutter in the street on the first day he arrives in Edinburgh. It happened again this morning. I took a photo of him. I think I have done this for the last three years and never used one.

Mervyn thinks that he rarely gets written about in my blog because – he believes – I am Lewis Schaffer’s personal blogger. “My show starts on Saturday,” Mervyn told me. “It’s my 25th year here.”

One day I may write about him. Both he and his Pick of The Fringe show are an Edinburgh institution.

Unlike the Gilded Balloon at The Counting House.

The Gilded Balloon’s Counting House The signposted entrance on the left on the left is not the entrance

The large entrance on the left is not the entrance to the venue. It’s actually the door on the right. I knew this; the staff didn’t.

This afternoon, I went to see my first show at The Counting House – dubiously and damagingly (for their reputation) taken over by the Gilded Balloon venue apparently after the owner approached them but against the wishes of the management. And comedians.

They have re-designed the outside of the building and it was interesting that the Gilded Balloon staff in the street did not know where the actual entrance to the venue was – they mis-directed me next door.

The upside once I was in and avoided the deadly step in the pitch dark venue room was that Katia Kvinge’s Squirrel show was… well… extraordinary… a proper smorgasbord of energy, intermingling a character comedy show and a ‘confessional’ autobiographical show. If she can keep this level of adrenaline-fuelled anarchy going, people will be going back day after day to see it.

If they could bottle this energy, it would become a drug of choice and be made illegal.

KatiaKvinge_Squirrel

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The Edinburgh Fringe: where shows with no audience can get 4-star reviews

Red Bull - Not to be encouraged in Edinburgh

Multiple Red Bull usage – Not to be encouraged in Edinburgh

I arrived in Edinburgh for the Fringe on Monday morning at 7.55am and got into my rented flat at 3.15pm. Don’t ask. Just don’t ask.

I got very little sleep on the journey up, was mentally dead by the time I got into the flat and failed to rectify the matter with three Red Bulls. All they did was make me even sleepier. And the mental torpor did not abate yesterday, not even with – or possibly because of – three more Red Bulls.

I was already behind on six interesting blog chats which I had had last week and which I had been going to post in the days leading up to my arrival in Edinburgh.

For example…

Ivor Dembina feels a right tit

Ivor feels a right tit; I have no caption shame.

I had a chat with long-time club organiser and comic Ivor Dembina about one of his three upcoming Edinburgh Fringe shows. (Yes, three this month.)

“On the last day before registration,” he told me, “an Edinburgh venue got in touch with me and said an act had pulled out so there was half a run free if I wanted it. So I said Yes I’ll fill it. I didn’t have a show, but they didn’t seem to mind.

“For the last two or three years, I’ve been running something I call a Comedy Drop-In – a fortnightly meeting point for anyone in comedy who just wants to get together and talk about what they’re doing and show some stuff. From complete newcomers who’ve never done a gig to seasoned club comics.”

“So it’s not like a six-week course?” I asked.

“That’s the thing,” said Ivor. “I don’t really set myself up as a teacher, more just a fund of information, as someone who’s been performing and running comedy on the circuit – fairly near the bottom of the food chain – for the best part of 30 years.”

“So that’s your show this year?” I asked.

IshouldHaveListenedToIvorDembina“Sort of. I also noticed that, having done other courses and having been interviewed by the press, there is a fascination out there with the job of being a comedian. And, over the years, I’ve found myself being asked the same questions over and over again. So what I thought might be an idea for this year’s show would be me answering these questions in as interesting and entertaining and funny way as possible. When I started off, all I had was a title – I Should Have Listened to Ivor Dembina.

“One of the beauties of the idea was I could go on stage knowing I knew what I was talking about but not having to write a word. I’m also taking my show Old Jewish Jokes up to Edinburgh – the fourth year I’ve taken it up.”

“With new jokes?” I asked.

“No,” said Ivor. “The clue’s in the title. And I’m doing a third show this year – City Cafe: Late Nite & Free – a compilation show I’m compering.”

So Ivor Dembina is taking one of his shows – I Should Have Listened To Ivor Dembina – up to the Fringe by accident. And comedian Philip Simon is up here by accident too.

I accidentally met him on a train out of Elstree last week (we both live in Borehamwood).

Philip Simon on a Thameslink train with no bull

Philip Simon with invisible Andy Zapp – on a Thameslink train

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To an Equity Comedians’ Network meeting. We’re strengthening the industry through support of the union.”

“Oh yes?” I asked. “And what else have you been up to?”

“I got married last week.”

“To the woman you’ve been living with for two years?”

“It seemed easier.”

“You going up to the Fringe this year?”

“I’m doing a show with Aaron Levene: The GILF and The BuJew. But, in my case, The Guest and The BuJew. Aaron is really supposed to be performing it with Andy Zapp but, for the first ten days, Andy can’t be there.”

“What is on the flyers and posters?” I asked.

“My head on Andy Zapp’s body,” said Philip.

“With you Photoshopped in?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Philip. “With Andy Zapp’s everything, except his head. It’s even his wrist.”

Andy Zapp (left) and Philip Simon (right) with Aaron Levine

Andy Zapp (left) and Philip Simon (right) with Aaron Levene thanks to the magic of Photoshop

“And, after that?” I asked.

“I’ll be in an Enterprise Car Rental commercial. I’m being a tourist. I get chased by a bull. They flew director Dawson Marshall Thurber over from America. He wrote and directed the movies Dodgeball and Central Intelligence.”

“Is the bull going to be added in on CGI?” I asked.

“No. It was real. We have already shot it.”

“You didn’t die?” I asked.

“I don’t think so.,” said Philip.

Italian Luca Cupani represents the UK in

Italian Luca Cupani represents UK in Canada

I also had a chat with Italian comedian Luca Cupani who – in a double whammy of surreality – was about to go off to Canada to represent the UK at the Just For Laughs festival along with Japanese comedian Yuriko Kotani.

Unfortunately, I have taken so long not writing this blog that Luca is now back in the UK and his show – Luca Cupani: The Admin of Death and Other Confessions – starts tomorrow.

At the same comedy dementia show (yes it was) last week where I met Luca, I also had a chat with Steve Jameson aka excellent character act Sol Bernstein (who keeps reminding me I claim I don’t like character acts although I like his).

He remembered an Edinburgh Fringe gig which had been reviewed by Kate Copstick.

Steve Jameson as Sol Bernstein

Steve Jameson as his character Sol Bernstein

“We knew Kate Copstick was coming,” he told me, “so we thought Ticket the place out! We gave away 30-40 tickets and nobody came on the night except Copstick and a guy from Mervyn Stutter’s show. So I did the show because I knew she wouldn’t come back. I called her a hooker, a lesbian; everything I say on stage to people in the audience. I called the poor guy from Mervyn Stutter a faggot – everything I could think of to insult him.”

At the end of the show, I got a standing ovation.

Copstick wrote in her review: He got a well-deserved standing ovation. She gave me 4 stars.

That epitomises the Edinburgh Fringe. Shows with no audience can get 4-star reviews if they are good. And some full-to-the-brim shows are shit.

In my opinion.

But what do I know?

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Three ways to publicise an Edinburgh Fringe show without using a PR person

No 1: THE LEWIS SCHAFFER PRESS RELEASE

LewisSchaffer_poster2016

Jewish comic recommended by a Palestinian

A fortnight ago, Lewis Schaffer sent out a press release:

“New York Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer has landed a Palestinian sponsor for his five star Edinburgh Fringe show Lewis Schaffer: You are Beautiful.”

Yesterday, he followed this up with a press release headed: Lewis Schaffer to crowdfund for his hit Edinburgh Show.

It began:


New York Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer is crowdfunding for his Five Star Edinburgh Fringe show Lewis Schaffer: You are Beautiful.

In yet another attempt to come up with new revenue streams, Lewis Schaffer has entered the world of crowdfunding.

Already this year Lewis Schaffer has accepted sponsorship from a Palestinian-owned freight company that serves the Middle East, now he has set up a crowd funding site.

Benefactors of Lewis Schaffer’s campaign will get the following rewards:

Purchasing one £10 ticket gets you one ticket to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing two £10 tickets gets you two tickets to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing four £10 tickets gets you four tickets to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing ten £10 tickets gets you ten tickets  to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing 100 £10 tickets gets you 100 tickets to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.


No 2: ELLIS & ROSE’S BEGGING LETTER

EllisAndRoseLetter2016

Ellis & Rose gave Copstick a red letter day

This week, I was shown a red letter – literally a red letter – by Kate Copstick, the most influential comedy critic at the Edinburgh Fringe. It read:


Dear Copstick,

We’re writing this letter to try to convince you to review our Edinburgh show this year, because we can’t afford a PR person and our hard-working producer is doing our PR (and everything else) for free – but she obviously has no clout because we’ve had no press stuff in the run up to the Fringe – not that anyone really reads that bollocks anyway.

We have worked really hard on making our show this year and we think we have a chance of impressing you enough to beat the three star review you gave us in 2013.

Love x
and sexy kisses
Ellis & Rose


They added a cartoon drawing of Copstick’s head saying A FLATTERING PORTRAIT OF YOU


No 3: THE LOUISE REAY FORTUNE COOKIE

LouiseReay_QueSera

Whatever will be performed wholly in Chinese

Yesterday was my birthday.

An anonymous letter arrived with my name and address scrawled on the envelope.

Inside the envelope was a sealed red sachet.

Inside the sealed red sachet was a Chinese fortune cookie.

I broke it open.

Inside the fortune cookie was a very small piece of paper with the printed message:

Do not clip your toe nails at night,
in case you are visited by a ghost.
You must enter The Caves,
Just Up The Road at 3.20pm.
It is your destiny. Que Sera 些拉 ?

That was the message in its entirety.

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