The Greatest Show on Legs return and Malcolm Hardee flashes to girls in pubs

Martin Soan without otters last night at Pull The Other One

If you are of a nervous verbal disposition, dear reader, progress no further in today’s blog, as it contains urinary details and uses a lot of Anglo Saxon language which may upset the delicate amongst us.

Last night, I went to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s always-extraordinary monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in Peckham, South London. The bill included (in alphabetical order) Holly Burn, Stephen Frost & Steve SteenCharmian Hughes, Darren Maskell and Arthur Smith plus juggler Mat Ricardo with (among other things) his still-jaw-dropping and unique pulling-the-tablecloth-ONTO-the-table-under-the-crockery routine. Oh – and Frost & Ireland and Martin Soan himself. Quite a night.

One of several great things about Martin is that you never know what he will appear as.

Last month, he appeared briefly as an armchair. This month, he had a group of performing otters.

Martin and Vivienne Soan also run a monthly Pull The Other One club at the Half Moon in Herne Hill where they are going to host a series of Edinburgh Fringe try-out shows – Monday to Saturday for one week – 9th-14th July. One show is likely to be Mark Kelly’s Stuart Leigh – The Stewart Lee Tribute Act, which I blogged about a few days ago.

Another will be a reunion of the Greatest Show On Legs. They were (and, for special occasions, occasionally still are) a merry troupe originated by Martin which used to include the late Malcolm Hardee and a variable line-up of other performers including Steve Bowditch, Martin Clarke (aka ’Sir Ralph’), Chris Lynam and even  Dave ‘Bagpipes’ Brooks. One, some or all of those may appear at Herne Hill, except Malcolm –  as death by drowning tends to preclude live performance.

“I thought we could do a bit of the old madness and a bit of the new madness,” Martin told me last night.

“So are you actually taking a Greatest Show on Legs show up to Edinburgh this year?” I innocently asked.

“Of course not,” Martin replied, “because none of us can afford it. But if someone paid us to go up there then we would go up there and do it. We have new ideas and there are the great old ideas.”

Mindful of what has happened in the streets and bars of Edinburgh with previous incarnations of the Greatest Show on Legs, I suggested: “Wouldn’t it be easier to get people to pay you not to go up?… Edinburgh Council, for example.”

“That’s a very good idea” Martin said.

“So what are you going to do at Herne Hill?”

“I’ll stage manage a bit of madness,” he replied.

“How do you stage manage Greatest Show on Legs routines?”

“Very very easy,” he said. “You just have to negotiate the egos involved. In the end, they enjoy it.”

“You were telling me the other night after Mark Kelly’s play,” I reminded him, “about people pissing in the wardrobe. What happened again?”

“At one Edinburgh Fringe,” Martin reminded me, “Malcolm and I shared this room and he came in really pissed in the middle of the night and I was barely awake and he opened the wardrobe door and pissed into the wardrobe… and that was supposed to be funny… Oh yeah… I had a big laugh about that… after I came back from the fucking laundrette.”

“Your clothes were in the wardrobe?”

“Of course they fucking were, John – it was a wardrobe!”

“And then?” I asked.

“And then a succession of young men came into my bedroom every night after that and pissed into my wardrobe.”

“And onto your clothes?”

“I never put anything into the wardrobe after the second night. There were three blokes who did it and they all thought it was hilarious. I thought it was fucking stupid. Why emulate someone who has done it already? But Malcolm thought it was hilarious. Ha ha ha. Of course he fucking did.”

“Was Malcolm’s friend Wizo one of the blokes?” I asked.

“Of course he was,” replied Malcolm. “Wizo was a great one for emulating Malcolm. The flashing bow-tie is the classic.”

“The flashing bow tie?” I asked.

“You don’t know the flashing bow tie?” Martin said incredulously.

“I don’t know the flashing bow tie,” I explained honestly.

“For fuck’s sake, John!” said Martin.

“I know nothing,” I told him.

“Fucking hell,” said Martin. “I must have told you this, surely?”

“I have a terrible memory,” I suggested.

“OK,” said Martin. “So this is in the early days. It’s a Saturday so we are obviously going on a pub crawl that night. In the afternoon, Malcolm goes down to a joke shop. This is a long time ago when things worked with batteries and bulbs that screw-in like torch bulbs – nowadays they’d have LEDs, but then it was batteries and screw-in bulbs.

“So Malcolm buys this bow tie which has two bulbs that screw into it, connected to a wire that goes under your shirt and down to a battery and a little switch in your pocket. You click the switch and the bow tie lights up. In those days, this was quite something.

“So we’re about to go into the Rosemary Branch pub in New Cross and Malcolm mumbles Look what I got today! then clicks the switch, the bow tie flashes and we all go Wow! Fuckin’ hell – that’s brilliant, Malcolm! Brilliant!

“So we go into the pub and he’s going round to all the girls who see him flashing the bow tie and go Ah! Hahahahahaha!!!! Wow! and Wizo is getting really really jealous and really wants the bow tie.

“We’re on this pub crawl so, every time we get in the parked car and go off – you could drink and drive in those days – Wizo’s saying Gimme the bow tie! Gimme the bow tie! and Malcolm’s saying At the next pub! At the next pub!

“We go round all the pubs, the Duke and blah blah blah and a succession of pubs and Malcolm’s going around being the centre of attention, everyone’s loving him, everyone’s laughing.

“We come to the last pub and Malcolm says Here you are, Wizo, you can have the bow tie. He puts the bow tie on Wizo and he turns round and winks to me because he has disconnected one of the terminals.

“Wizo clicks the button and can’t see under his chin and asks Is it alright? Is it alright? and we say, Yeah, Wizo, it’s fantastic!

“So Wizo goes into the last pub and goes around, stands in front of girls and goes Hah!, clicks the switch, opens his mouth wide and there’s no reaction and no-one’s laughing except me and Malcolm.

“You’ve never heard that story?”

“No,” I told Martin. “I’ve never heard it before.”

“It was fucking genius,” said Martin. “I fucking roared, roared, roared with laughter. Cruel but, God, so funny. It’s almost like an urban myth.”

“Maybe it will be now,” I told him.

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Filed under Comedy, Drink, Surreal, Theatre

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