(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)
At lunchtime on Friday, we decided who was going to win the Malcolm Hardee Awards. We decided with the easiest first.
It was fairly obvious that Stewart Lee should win the Cunning Stunt Award for best Fringe publicity stunt of the year as his e-mail of complaint about the Foster’s poll to find the ‘Best Ever’ Perrier winner in the last 30 years had the side effect of publicising the Japanese group the Frank Chickens who weren’t appearing at the Fringe and had not appeared there for 25 years. That would have been good enough to win on its own, but the fact the Frank Chickens actually then did appear at the Fringe as a result of the publicity was the cream on the cake.
Twenty-year-old American stand-up Bo Burnham was a shoo-in for the ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award after his British PR made it clear earlier in the week that Bo did not want to be considered for the award because “making money is not what he’s driven by at all and (we) don’t think he’d be at all comfortable with receiving this award”. This encouraged us to further nominate Bo for the main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality on the basis that any modern day stand-up comic not interested in money would indeed be entirely original. Again there was a secondary level factor at work here, when it then transpired that Bo had never been told by his own PR that he was not interested in money and, Bo claimed, not only was he perfectly happy to be nominated for the award but he was actually aware of and, he claimed, a fan of the late, great Malcolm Hardee. This appeared to have come about because Bo had read a lot about Andy Kaufman and anti-establishment “anti-comedy”. Good to know Malcolm’s infamy has spread to another generation on another continent.
Deciding who would win the main Malcolm Hardee Award for comic originality was a big problem because of the two front-runners; a discussion then ensued about the risk of appearing to only give the Award to seriously weird or perceived-as-weird acts. But, then, as the award IS for comic originality and it IS in Malcolm’s name, “unusual” is perhaps not something to be avoided. The award went to Robert White.
Next year… hold onto your hats…