Alarm in the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe

John Fleming bearded in his den (Photograph by Nick Awde)

John Fleming bearded with plastic bag (Photograph by Nick Awde)

Yesterday’s penultimate live Grouchy Club involved a discussion not about comedy but about the difficulties of scripting and shooting pornographic movies – one of the comedians present had enquired about entering the profession.

My afternoon was then taken up by getting the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies engraved and boiling eggs for the annual Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships which were to take place at the increasingly prestigious two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show that night.

At the show itself, the awards were announced as:

Comic Originality – Michael Brunström
Cunning Stunt – Matt Roper
Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid – Laurence Owen

Mr Twonkey at the point of triumph (Photograph by Blanche Cameron)

Mr Twonkey at the point of his egg triumph (Photograph by Blanche Cameron)

The Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships appropriately included performer George Egg and ‘Mr Spunky’ – an anonymous member of Mensa, which allowed one member of the audience to yell out: “He’s an egg head.” Fortunately the puns ended there and the worthy, if somewhat surprised, new Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Champion is Mr Twonkey.

Comedy critic and Malcolm Hardee Awards judge Kate Copstick presented most of last night’s show, as co-host Janey Godley had to go off and be Spanked. (It’s a show… It’s a show.)

Miss Behave, who turned up halfway through from another show had been going to co-host on her arrival, but somehow it turned into an act where she unexpectedly swallowed a giant pair of scissors and two flaming torches. As the torches produced a fair amount of upwards-drifting smoke, I was rather relieved no smoke alarm went off in the room, because I knew what was going to happen at the end of the show.

Chris Lynam with a banger-up-the-bum last night (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Chris Lynam with his banger last night (Photograph by Garry Platt)

This was Chris Lynam, former member of The Greatest Show on Legs, who performed his famous or possibly infamous banger-up-the-bum routine. This involves him putting a firework between his buttocks and having it lit (on this occasion by Malcolm Hardee’s sister Clare) to the strains of Ethel Merman singing There’s No Business Like Show Business.

As this is not an act which is easy to follow, it ended the show and, sure enough, just as it ended, the room’s smoke alarm did go off. It seemed a fitting end.

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An award last night, awards tonight and a very offensive act at Edinburgh Fringe

Copstick’s dream did NOT involve Peter Michael Marino

Innocent young Peter with Kate Copstick

At yesterday’s Grouchy Club the star of the previous show in the room, gentlemanly Peter Michael Marino, gallantly went to kiss our Jewish comedy princess Arlene Greenhouse’s hand. Unfortunately, her hand twitched and hit him in the face. Late last night, he was still nursing a bruised lip.

This seemed an unfortunate accident until, at the end of yesterday’s Grouchy Club, Arlene also managed to accidentally hit amiable comic Denis Krasnov in the face.

Because of the Rule of Three, I will be keeping well away from Arlene at tonight’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

Peter will be performing and Denis might be dragged onstage for the official Scottish Russian Egg Roulette Championship. If we decide to add a boxing match, my money is on Arlene.

Luca Cupani (bottom left) at the Awards last night

Luca Cupani (bottom left) at the SYTYF Awards last night

Also appearing at and in the increasingly prestigious show tonight will be Luca Cupani who, last night, won the actually prestigious So You Think You’re Funny? competition at the Gilded Balloon. Previous winners have included Peter Kay, Phil Kay, Lee Mack and Dylan Moran.

Luca, Italian, started performing comedy in the UK only last year and has been a daily attendee at The Grouchy Club this year.

This afternoon, I may have to leave The Grouchy Club early, as we decide the winners of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at noon and, before 5.00pm, I have to go collect the engraved trophies from the marvellous Engravers’ Workshop in Edinburgh, who have engraved the plaques for us since 2007.

The bare image promoting the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

Malcolm Hardee, a skilled shadow puppeteer

The winners of the Awards are announced at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show tonight, 11.00pm-1.00am in the ballroom of The Counting House. Given past experience of the queue, arriving for the show half an hour early may be too late.

I never announce all the acts and items in advance of the show because who knows what may happen but, suffice it to say that Malcolm Hardee’s sister Clare will be performing on this, the tenth anniversary of his death.

Comedy critic Kate Copstick has been complaining throughout this year’s Fringe that, try as she may, she has not been able to find a truly offensive show. I like to help people out.

As of yesterday, she has said she wants nothing to do with – and may actually leave the room on principle during – one item on tonight’s show which she finds particularly and appallingly offensive.

At the moment, unless things change, this year’s award winners will be announced at the end of the show and will be followed by a final act in Malcolm Hardee’s memory.

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Critic Kate Copstick’s nightmare last night/today at the Edinburgh Fringe

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

The Malcolm Hardee Awards await their new 2015 owners

Tomorrow night, the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are announced at the annual two hour variety show in his memory. He drowned ten years ago, in 2005.

Yesterday was an appropriately random day at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I got back the Malcolm Hardee Awards being held hostage by Juliette Burton.

Miss Behave – nominated by us for a Cunning Stunt Award on the basis that she has been plugging Miss Behave’s Game Show by putting up random bits of cardboard around town with nothing on them except odd sayings and #MBGS – continued to claim, even more loudly, that it was not her doing it… and a video was uploaded onto YouTube of a small elephant doing the stunt and being taken away by two men in grey suits.

Then I saw The Half Naked Chef on and off the BlundaBus – he kept getting off and accosting members of the passing public with a cucumber and much else, climaxing with an abseil down an underpass wall with audio commentary to the audience on the top deck of the Blundabus via a radio mic. It’s on YouTube.

Then there was Shaun Buswell’s Random Orchestra.

Shaun has made it his career to go round the streets of various cities asking random people carrying musical instruments to join in a one-off performance of a tune or tunes they have never heard before because he wrote them. There is a video on YouTube about it.

At about 11.00pm, on the way back to my flat for an early night, I bumped into Matt Roper and Blanche Cameron (Lewis Schaffer’s official stalker) who both berated me for eating an ice cream because it was unhealthy. They were both standing outside the Zoo venue smoking cigarettes.

I was told that Stephen Carlin, whom I blogged about three days ago after he was excommunicated by PBH’s Free Fringe but who found a new home at The Hive, had turned up at The Hive for his first gig only to find out it had been booked for a show by a DJ. But it has now sorted itself out.

Then critic Kate Copstick appeared back at our rented flat, also having an early night. She sleeps in the bedroom; I sleep in the living room.

I suggested she should see Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl because, apart from everything else (and there is a lot of everything) co-performer Norman Gosney lived in the penthouse at New York’s Chelsea Hotel for 25 years.

This sent Copstick into a tantrum of reminiscence about staying in the Chelsea Hotel around 1998.

The Chelsea Hotel, New York City, in 2010

The Chelsea Hotel, New York, in 2010

“It was like a hostel,” she said.

“But surely,” I said, “the whole reason people want to stay there is they expect it to be a shit-hole.”

“I thought,” explained Copstick, “glamorous rock star, Sid Vicious and Nancy…”

“Well, heroin and stabbing,” I said.

“Yeah, but I didn’t think they were living in squalor. It looked like a hostel, the lift smelled of sick and barely worked there was no phone in the room, no television. It was absolutely fucking freezing, bare floorboards, nothing.”

“Maybe they redecorated it so it felt like that,” I suggested. “I would be disappointed if it wasn’t like that.”

This morning, I had to wake Copstick up because she had an early meeting with Gyles Brandreth.

Copstick’s dream did NOT involve Peter Michael Marino

Dream did NOT involve Peter Michael Marino

“I’m so tired,” she said. “I think it’s the dream I had. I was trapped.”

“This,” I said, “is not a dream. This is the Fringe.”

“I was trapped in this horrific totalitarian state,” she explained.

“The Free Fringe?” I suggested.

Copstick ignored me.

“I was trying to escape. I was with someone. the punishments were horrendous.”

“It is the Free Fringe,” I said.

Copstick ignored me.

“Absolutely horrendous. You couldn’t do anything.”

“What were the punishments?” I asked.

“They put you to sleep and cut bits out of you. I eventually escaped because I was being taken off for punishment and dived off this ridiculously high cliff onto what looked like rocks but I just missed them and dived into the sea. Then, when I came back to land, they were still there.”

“The baddies?” I asked.

“Yes, the baddies. So I swallowed this pill – it was all about swallowing pills – so I swallowed this pill and I shrank down and dived into somebody’s mouth and escaped – get this – I escaped out of…”

“Out of their anus?” I suggested.

“Yes,” said Copstick, “…and came up into the sewers of the same place, except now I was tiny.”

“And,” I asked, “they didn’t notice you because you were tiny?”

“Yeah. And there was definitely an element of Edinburgh there, because there was this city where nobody knew where anything was and it was so full. But they found me again. And there was somebody I had some sort of relationship with and it was horrendous.”

“It sounds like Lewis Schaffer,” I suggested.

“It was just horrendous,” said Copstick.

“Definitely Lewis Schaffer,” I said.

“When you woke me up,” Copstick continued, “I went back to sleep and I was still in this dystopian city but I was hiding in some kind of factory. It was massive, enormous, and there were piles of shit everywhere.”

“Sounds like the Fringe,” I suggested.

Kate Copstick during the recording of the first Grouchy Club podcast

Kate Copstick relaxing in her London shop

“I was found again and I was being tortured,” continued Copstick. “I just couldn’t escape. And the person I was living with – I got back and he had been shagging some girl and, because I was still trying to hide from the baddies, he popped in and asked if it was OK if he took this girl out for a date. So I said: Yes, sure.

“And then I noticed they were packing something in this factory and I was keeping tiny puppies in a box and I had to keep giving them water and that was the last thing I remember before I woke up again. I found the little box was empty. No puppies. But there were some metal things in it.”

So there you have it.

An everyday story of a comedy critic’s dreams and nightmares at the Edinburgh Fringe.

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At the Edinburgh Fringe: a financial bribe to win a Malcolm Hardee Award

Joz Norris

Shameless Norris tries to sway my principles

Yesterday, with the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominations announced, I bumped into performer Joz Norris in the street, who tried to persuade me it was not too late for him to win for a Cunning Stunt Award.

“What’s your cunning stunt?” I asked.

“Although the nominations have been announced and I’m not in them, you could give me the Award on Friday anyway. That would be a cunning stunt.”

“Why should I?” I asked.

“Because I can give you £10 right now.”

“Times are tough,” I said. “It is a tempting offer. Let me think about it.”

Keep your eyes out for the Awards announcement on Friday and see what my conclusion was.

This morning, I got a Facebook message about the Awards from performer Ashley Frieze. He wrote:

Is there room in the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards for the “luckiest Fringe venue company”? – It has to go to the Freestival for losing one venue, then another, then all their acts, then having their poorly-attended venue broken into and set on fire… surely… I just wanted to nominate them for something, but “biggest clusterfuck of 50 years of the Fringe” seemed unkind.

I almost regretted the Award shortlist had already been announced on Monday because of some of the shows I saw yesterday.

Not quite… If any of the judges DID see a worthy show, it COULD in theory win because, as a fitting tribute to Malcolm Hardee, the rules are whatever rules we make up along the way.

(R-L) Johnny Sorrow, Richard Drake and possibly deaf sound man

(Right-to-left) Johnny Sorrow, Richard Drake and their possibly deaf sound man yesterday

The shows I saw yesterday started with former main Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Johnny Sorrow, performing with a man in a balaclava who used to be known as Sir Richard Swann and who is now known as Richard Drake. the last couple of days, he has been coming in to The Grouchy Club and sitting in the corner of the room in his red knitted balaclava saying nothing. He could grow to be an elephant in the room.

He and Johnny Sorrow are performing this year as Bob Blackman’s Tray. they previously performed as The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society.

Yesterday, when I came into the Three Sisters venue, I bumped into performer Ian Fox who, last year, was helping out the Bob Blackman duo as their sound technician.

“You’re not doing it this year?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “This year, they have a deaf sound technician.”

I think this was literally true. It would be par for the brilliantly surreal course.

While waiting to go into the Bob Blackman show, I just had time for a half hour chat with Irish-born writer Ian Smith, whom I blogged about last month. He lives in Sri Lanka, has just been working in Algeria and is over in Scotland for a week. But we were interrupted. He only had time to tell me that he once opened a Cuban bar in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and that, in 2012, the current Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad had his iTunes account hacked into and it turned out he was a massive fan of camp novelty group Right Said Fred. Ian wrote about it in his own blog Blood and Porridge.

“I am a big Heavy Metal fan,” Ian told me, “and you never get murderous dictators who are into Heavy Metal.”

Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl in Auld Reekie

Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl in Auld Reekie

At this point, we got interrupted by an American girl dressed as a showgirl. She was flyering for her show Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl which, annoyingly, I don’t think I can fit-in in Edinburgh (though I will see it in London).

The show sounds fascinating because it is the story of how she – Amelia Kallman –  went to Shanghai and opened China’s first burlesque nightclub. The Chinese authorities and the Triads were not amused.

Since relocating to the UK, she has lectured at Cambridge University, written a graphic novel, scripts for television and a book also called Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl.

Equally interesting was her husband Norman Gosney who was born in Bristol but lived, for 25 years, in the penthouse of the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York (where he and Amelia ran an illegal speakeasy The Blushing Diamond). It was a conversation we had no time to have, but Norman, Ian Smith and I have all been to North Korea at various points and, when you have, you always want to talk to fellow travellers about it.

There is a promo video for Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl on YouTube.

Other stand-out shows I saw yesterday included Patrick Monahan’s extraordinarily entertaining and energetic audience-thrilling romp The Disco Years. It is his first show where autobiography creeps in but, yet to come, there is still what I suspect will be a humdinger of a future autobiographical Edinburgh show.

Then I was able to catch the end of Spencer Jones’ show as The Herbert in Proper Job – wildly inventive prop-based comedy.

And, when I got back to my Edinburgh flat, there was a message from this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith, currently roaming the streets of Edinburgh.

David Mills with a misunderstood flag behind him (Photograph by Sandra Smith)|

David Mills with a misunderstood flag behind him (Photograph by Sandra Smith)|

We are both enormous fans of gay (it becomes relevant in the next paragraph) American comic David Mills.

“During his show, “Sandra told me, “I said: Oooh look. The ISIS flag is behind you. It really did look like it.”

Actually, on closer inspection, it turned out to be a black flag with a PBH Free Fringe logo.

Equally confusing is a video that has appeared today on YouTube.

On Monday, we nominated Miss Behave for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for putting brown cardboard signs up around town with the hashtag MBGS (tangentially promoting Miss Behave’s Game Show). She claims that it is not her putting up these signs and now this bizarre semi-hidden-camera video has appeared on YouTube.

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Edinburgh: critic Copstick ejected from Gilded Balloon; Freestival venue burned

Papa CJ with two passing strangers in Cowgate

Papa CJ with two passing strangers in Edinburgh’s Cowgate

On Sunday, I thought Papa CJ was going back to India on Monday.

Then he announced an extra show in Edinburgh tonight (Tuesday). I had no idea how or why.

I didn’t ask him until last night.

“I had 18 back-to-back full-houses,” he told me. “Then, during a coffee chat with (comedy critic) Kate Copstick, she mentioned it would be great to be able to say ‘extra shows added’. Also a few people who wanted to see me weren’t able to. So I found out what rooms might be available, changed my return flight to India and added one show. The only catch is that there is no publicity about it out there. So I’m hoping people come in on the back of flyering and social media. Also, in all honesty, I’m really enjoying the response the show is getting from audiences… so subconsciously I probably just got greedy for one more gig.”

So do I know what is happening in Edinburgh?

Well, to be honest, I have never claimed to.

Arthur Smith, alien, in the Royal Mile last night

Arthur Smith on Royal Mile tour

This was proved yet again yesterday when this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith (who is not in the comedy business but seems to know everybody at the Fringe) told me that, this year, Arthur Smith is probably not doing his famous – some might say infamous – last-weekend-of-the-Fringe tour of the Royal Mile.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because he’s not here at the weekends.”

“Ah,” I said.

“He will be doing it next year,” Sandra told me.

“Ah,” I said, as if this was no surprise to me.

Last night, critic Kate Copstick was ejected from the Gilded Balloon venue for falling asleep in the Wine Bar. Thankfully not during a show.

The Edinburgh Fringe can be tiring even for people who are not performing.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been seeing around seven shows each day (each show = one hour) and, last night, I went to bed at 04.30am and got up at 08.30am.

But that’s my choice.

My highlights yesterday were Mathilda Gregory’s hour-long show on How To Be Fat – just the right balance of comedy and serious fascination. I could say comedy is often better with some meat to get your teeth into but, of course, would never dream of being so shallow.

An even more quirky show was Accident Avoidance Training For Cutlery Users in which Jimmy Frinton (performing as character Ian Crawford) … erm … well, he does what it says in the title. He gives a lecture on how to avoid getting injured by your own cutlery.

Safety can be comic or not.

Earlier today, I blogged about the eccentricities of the PBH Free Fringe.

There has been drama too at the Freestival, who were ejected from their presumed Cowgatehead venue by PBH and belatedly found homes in the New Waverley Arches.

The Freestival Arches

The Freestival Arches: site of a weekend break-in and burning

In the early hours of Saturday morning – around 4.00am to 5.30am – a person or persons unknown broke into one of their arches and their chairs got burned.

“Somebody broke in,” Dan Adams of Freestival told me today,”and appears to have known enough about how we work to get the generator going and plugged in the bar power to the generator. But the lights are on a different power ring which they appear to have been too pissed to realise. So they went into the venue proper and plugged our lights into the bar circuits with an extension causing overload to build.

“They stole one of our PA units and about three cases of booze and left stuff running which caused a fire because it wasn’t set up correctly. The venue’s 40 chairs are covered in burned particulate. Part of the bar burned where the fire started melted cables etc and pump beer coolers. On Sunday it was all hands to the pump and yesterday and we got it all turned around and ready by about 12.30pm. No damage to the other arches at all.”

In Edinburgh, that counts as a happy ending.

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PBH Free Fringe act sacrificed on a road paved with good Edinburgh intentions

TheGospelAccordingToStephenSit back with a good supply of tea for this blog. Extensive, exhaustive and possibly exhausting quotes are included. People not living inside the bubble of the Edinburgh Fringe might be advised to look elsewhere.

The whole Cowgatehead saga at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe is too complicated to go into yet again. Read past blogs for clarification but beware your head may explode with details.

Suffice it to say that the Freestival organisation believed they had rights to programme acts in the Cowgatehead venue at the Edinburgh Fringe and Peter Buckley Hill’s PBH Free Fringe ended up with those rights resulting in, by one estimate, an overall financial loss to performers of £77,000.

This could have been avoided if the various parties had met to sort it out and (in my personal opinion) PBH himself was a bit slippery though not telling any direct porkies with careful use of the present tense and an implication but not a statement that a meeting had never at any point been agreed with the Kenny Waugh involved in the fiasco. This being the Fringe, there were three people in one family all called Kenny Waugh.

Anyway…

On 18th August, I posted a blog headlined BAD SIGNS AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE criticising the awful signposting at the PBH venue Cowgatehead as well as at C Venues and Just The Tonic’s Mash House and Caves.

I wrote:

The What’s On Where posters and signage in The Counting House is fairly good, which is not standard at the Fringe.

The Cowgatehead venue – fought over and proudly won by the PBH Free Fringe – is a disaster. The tiny doorway onto the street is barely visible and not even clearly identified as the Cowgatehead. Once inside, there is a vast bar and music area unrelated to the Free Fringe rooms and you have to spot that you have to double back, go down steps and then turn corners and go up stairs to get to the upper storeys which have venue spaces called things like UP2L. Even if you get vaguely near the rooms, the pieces of paper with their identification numbers/letters tend to be on the outside of the doors of the rooms so that, near performance times when doors are left open, they are hidden from sight.

This policy of putting names on the outside of doors which, when open, are completely invisible seems also to have been followed by C Venues at their Nova building – and probably in their other buildings, as C Venues have always been notable for appallingly bad or non-existent signage within their buildings. There are giant bleedin’ signs outside proclaiming what the venue is. Good. But, once inside, you have to guess, explore and try to find someone who knows which floor or room a show is in. There ARE some small notices, but hidden on walls amid an overwhelming visual patchwork of brightly-coloured show posters.

There should be a prize (perhaps there will be) for worst signage at the Fringe. Just the Tonic might win. As of last night, there appear to be no signs of any kind to any performance rooms in their Mash House venue. And the interior of their Caves venues – particularly for the shows they admirably ‘saved’ from the Cowgatehead debacle – are utterly incomprehensible. I half expect to find a Minotaur in there.

There was no reaction from C Venues or Just the Tonic.

But yesterday, Frank Galbraith of the PBH Free Fringe commented on one of my Facebook pages:

You need to go to specsavers you blind tnuc

and posted the photo below.

the venues on the Cowgate in Edinburgh (Photo by Frank Galbraith)

The venues on the Cowgate in Edinburgh (Photograph posted on Facebook by Frank Galbraith)

I replied:

“The narrow doorway on the left was not clearly signposted a the time I wrote the piece. It is now signed clearly with the door usually closed, giving no access to Cowgatehead. The entrance to Cowgatehead is the larger one on the right, clearly identified as St James’ Gate Brewery. To access Cowgatehead from this entrance, you have to go into the St James’ music space, turn sharp left, go down into a narrow stone gap with a piece of paper identifying it, do a 360 degree turn up stairs and then find the Cowgatehead rooms on the floors above the St James’ Gate space below which you initially went under.”

The full Facebook interchange

Full Facebook interchange

Frank replied: 

“I do have to admit that the external signage could have been more visible during the first few days. However, this hasn’t deterred on average 2000 people per day attending shows on the lower 2 levels and entering the venue via Cowgate. We also have a further 900 per day entering via George IV Bridge doors for the shows on the top level. Not quite the disaster you are attempting to portray.

I was a little bemused by this because I had said the signage not the number of punters was a disaster – and also very surprised by these very concrete audience figures in a venue with no visible close supervision. So I replied:

My admiration on the use of hidden security cameras filming and counting people entering the venues and on the stairway to Cowgatehead from the outer entrance. Must be a Fringe first. Genuine admiration for the use of the technology to gauge punter numbers.

Frank replied:

Haha.. you must know big brother is everywhere. Actually we take average performers audience numbers, we trust implicitly the reports our performers give us, then deduct 10%!!!

I have to say this to-and-fro did not change my opinion of the factual slipperiness of the PBH Free Fringe.

The PBH Free Fringe also has a highly dubious contract of untried legal validity which says acts performing in their venues cannot perform at free venues run by other organisations on the Fringe. This appears to be to be a clear restriction of the right to trade. Others may disagree.

I encountered the illiberal nature of this a few years ago when staging the annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Counting House venue. This venue is run not by the PBH Free Fringe but by the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

I wanted to end the 2-hour free show (in which all donations are given to charity with no deductions of any kind) by having The Greatest Show on Legs perform their signature Naked Balloon Dance. This act lasts 3 minutes. One of the long-time Greatest Show on Legs performers was that year performing his own show at a PBH venue and was told by PBH that, if he performed in the three minute act during the 2-hour Counting House charity show, then he would have his own show on the PBH Free Fringe terminated.

This seemed to be a bizarre combination of paranoia and staggering… erm, well… the opposite of laissez-faire liberalism.

That was then. This is now.

Well, what follows actually happened yesterday.

Since the start of the Fringe – over two weeks ago – comedian Stephen Carlin has been appearing as one of four performers in the play Routines at the Laughing Horse Free Festival venue Three Sisters at 3.45pm and in his own solo comedy show The Gospel According to Stephen at the PBH Free Fringe venue Canons’ Gait at 7.15pm.

This is the conversation I had with Stephen last night…

Stephen Carlin talks to me last night on neutral territory

Stephen Carlin talked to me last night on neutral territory

“So what happened?” I asked.

“One of the flyering team for Routines flyered PBH,” he told me. “Then, when I was on stage performing Routines and my phone was off, PBH sent me a text message (at 3.50pm):

“Hello Stephen. I have in my hand a flier for a Laughing Horse show with your name and face on it, for a full run. Can you please explain? Thank you. PBH.

“There there was a second text message sent at 5.20pm saying:

“Hello Stephen. I have had no reply to my previous text message. It is clear from the evidence that you have broken the Free Fringe Ethos and Conditions by being a permanent and billed part of a Laughing Horse show. Your Free Fringe show is therefore terminated with immediate effect. Regards PBH.

“I did go down to the venue tonight,” said Stephen, “just to thank the staff and there were a few people who turned up who couldn’t get in last night because it was sold out. Last night, we had BBC 4 Extra recording it for a feature – They got probably my last ever PBH performance because I think you get excommunicated by PBH. It’s a religious-titled show – The Gospel According to Stephen – so, in a way, it seems only right I should get excommunicated.”

“What is the show about?” I asked.

“It’s a stand-up show basically inside my head. I get to be right for one hour. I am wrong for 23 hours of the day but for this one hour in the day I can give my thoughts on various aspects of life and be correct.”

“Have you any idea,” I asked, “how much it has cost you? – It’s complicated by the fact you were doing two shows.”

“I think it cost maybe about £1,500 or so overall.”

“And you’ve made some money back…”  I said.

“I haven’t broken even yet, so I was kinda hoping in the last week to break even.”

“What,” I asked, “have you been doing since you were excommunicated from the true path of light?”

“Since then,” said Stephen, “I’ve had offers from Laughing Horse, Freestival and Bob Slayer. So, from tomorrow, I’m going to move the show to Bob Slayer’s Heroes of the Fringe at The Hive. But I can’t perform it on Friday and Saturday, because the room’s already booked then.”

“Same time of day?” I asked.

“No. the show at the Hive is at 10.10pm; the Canons’ Gait one was at 7.15pm.”

“Can you,” I asked, “put stickers on your flyers with the new place and time?”

“I think the good old stapler is going to have to come out.”

“Are you a member of Equity?” I asked.

“No.”

“The PBH contract,” I suggested, “surely has to be illegal because it’s a restriction of trade. Any opinions about PBH? I think it’s a case of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. A good man who wanted to help the acts who ends up financially screwing them.”

“I think,” said Stephen, “in many ways it’s indicative of a lot of revolutions. It starts off idealistic but then you get to a point where people start getting cut out for breaching parts of dogma and then the people it has set out to help are actually being badly affected. The System starts coming before the people. I think it’s a well-trodden historical path.”

“Well,” I said, “given the Animal Farm analogy, is it the case that PBH is standing on two feet now?”

“I don’t think anybody can sue us for that,” said Stephen. “He is standing on two feet. The question is, if I speak to other blogs, would you denounce me?”

“I haven’t yet started a religion,” I said.

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The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards shortlist etc etc at the Edinburgh Fringe

Papa CJ with publicity for his extra show

Papa CJ with publicity for his extra Edinburgh Fringe show

At the Edinburgh Fringe, time moves simultaneously fast and slow. It seems interminably long but we are already a week away from it ending. They say a week is a long time in politics. At the Fringe, in a few brief hours things can change dramatically.

At about 6.30pm last night, I had a chat for a future blog with Indian comedian Papa  CJ. He was flying home today. Then, this morning, I got a message that he was going to do an extra show tomorrow night at 5.15pm.

No idea what happened there and haven’t had time to ask.

Among other shows yesterday, I saw Jordan Brookes’ Adventures in Limited Space. Before the show actually started, he mentioned to his techie (in front of the audience) that he had had six Fosters Comedy judges in and had had a Daily Mirror 5-star review that morning. True or false, it’s a terrible way to start a show. Also, mentioning me being in the audience three times is counter-productive. Jordan – an actor – has a show in there somewhere, but in another three years perhaps.

The always excellent Alexander Bennett is only annoying because of his youth and the amount of hair he has. His show which promised I Can Make You a Moron largely failed to because he attracts and retains non-moronic audiences (myself excluded).

Chris Lynam has changed his entire act and is now Eric The Fred

Chris Lynam. New act. New face. Eric The Fred

Then there was Chris Lynam’s Eric the Fred. Chris was, legendarily, one of the Greatest Show on Legs troupe with Martin Soan and Malcolm Hardee. He gained some fame/infamy by sticking a firework (ideally a three-stage Roman Candle) between his buttocks and having it lit to the strains of Ethel Merman singing There’s No Business Like Show Business. Malcolm Hardee had tried this first but, with less buttock control than Chris, had let the incendiary droop and set fire to his own pubic hair. Chris was and is made of sterner stuff.

Chris’ Eric The Fred show is far from this and brings to mind Monte Carlo style mime and clown shows of the 1950s and 1960s and very up-market performance art shows. It would not go amiss in Las Vegas and is astonishingly sophisticated, complex and professional. It demonstrates where a bit of pyrotechnic nudity can take you if you have immense talent.

Which brings us to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. We drew up a shortlist this afternoon. There are three categories:

  • The Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality
  • The Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt plugging an act or show at the Fringe
  • The Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award
The bare image promoting the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

The man it commemorates – Malcolm Hardee

The judges this year are: Marissa Burgess, Kate Copstick, John Fleming, Jay Richardson and Claire Smith.

I reckon there should probably ideally be three nominees in each category.

We started with 13 possibilities for the Comic Originality award and cut them down to 4.

There were 3 for the Cunning Stunt Award.

And 3 (which became 4) for the Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award.

The reason we had 4 not 3 nominees for the Comic Originality and Million Quid Awards was that we could not agree on whom to knock out. So it should be an interesting discussion we have at Friday lunchtime when we decide the winners.

The acts we finally agreed on for the shortlist were, in the nearest I can manage to alphabetical order:

COMIC ORIGINALITY

  • Michael Brunström
  • Richard Gadd
  • The Story Beast
  • Mr Twonkey

CUNNING STUNT

  • Miss Behave – for spreading around town large bits of brown cardboard with odd sayings on them and no show title but the hashtag MBGS (promoting Miss Behave’s Game Show)
  • Matt Roper – for getting access to critic Kate Copstick’s Facebook account and posting a message apparently from her praising himself)
  • Abigoliah Schamaun – for adding review stars from non-existent publications to her posters

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID

  • Sarah Callaghan
  • Phil Ellis
  • Laurence Owen
  • Al Porter
Lewis Schaffer: creating a cult

Irrelevant but surely not unexpected picture of mentioned Lewis Schaffer

During our lively discussion, the name of Lewis Schaffer – almost inevitably – cropped up.

After Lewis Schaffer’s shocked reaction to his recent 5-star review in The Scotsman, Kate Copstick suggested: “If we really want to devastate Lewis Schaffer and possibly his chances for a future career, we should give him the award for the Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid.”

We decided against this as it might have made him tumble into an even steeper spiral of depressed hopelessness at the possibility of imminent success.

On a more tragic level, my toothache pops up occasionally, though still at a low level, and today, when I phoned up my dentist to make an appointment next week, I found out he was on holiday in India until 14th September.

I can only pray his plans are as fluid as Papa CJ’s.

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