Fitting & confused: pursued by a naked man at the end of the Edinburgh Fringe

A comedian, a bird and a fish in Perth this afternoon

Martin Soan, creator of the Greatest Show on Legs has been staying in the spare bedroom of my rented Edinburgh flat for a few days.

“I tell you what,” he said this morning, “let’s have a really nice breakfast. What do you fancy?”

“Black caviar,” I replied.

So he went out and got some from a local Turkish shop.

Yes, it surprised me too.

Then we went up the Blackford Hill to see my favourite view of Edinburgh.

“What shall we do next?” I asked.

“Let’s go to Poundland,” he suggested.

“Let’s go to Poundland in Perth,” I said.

And that’s what we did. Not much was happening in Perth on a Sunday. But there was a statue of a bizarrely cartoony bird standing on a fish. Martin posed by it and then we drove back to Edinburgh for the Greatest Show on Legs’ final performance at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

There were two reviews of last Friday’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show waiting,

One was a 4-star review from Broadway Baby which, gratifyingly, called the Awards “increasingly influential” and said that “the weirdest and strangest acts of the festival came together for a bizarre evening… The two-hour variety show shocked as much as it entertained… it was undoubtedly an evening to remember… This deserves to be a staple of the Fringe.”

The other was a 5-star review from The Skinny which said:

The Spirit Of The Fringe’ is such an overused term that most people don’t even think it ever really existed, but it’s here tonight. The Malcolm Hardee Awards are the only gig of its type not to be polluted by lanyard-sporting industry people, air-kissing each other and looking for someone famous to talk to. Instead, these awards are a bunch of genuinely funny and creative people mucking about and having a laugh. What’s more, it’s open to the public who all seem to be passionate comedy fans, plus it’s free – which is probably the only element that Hardee wouldn’t have loved. Fun, passion, anarchy and a refusal to take oneself too seriously. This is what people come to Edinburgh for.

That review set things up for the Greatest Show on Legs’ final performance at The Hive venue. I arrived ten minutes before the show started and new Legs member Bob Slayer was still on stage performing his own show, looking a bit the worse for wear. His one-hour show had already run 1 hour 50 minutes. Eventually, he was persuaded off the stage by Martin Soan and the Greatest Show on Legs’ performance began.

Martin Soan rushes an audience member up to the stage

The Olympics Opening Ceremony re-created on-stage, Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands distorting faces, Afghan’s favourite Islamic ventriloquist, a polecat doing a sexy dance, the Naked Balloon Dance featuring Prince Harry and much more. The show was spectacularly anarchic.

The problem came in trying to get Bob Slayer off stage at the end. Eventually the other Legs – Martin Soan and Martin Clarke – simply dismantled the set around Bob while he sat and talked to the audience, naked apart from a Prince Harry mask held across his genitals.

“The show has ended,” Bob told the audience, “But you are now all officially in the after-show. I started comedy in 2008, and I was shit at it, but then I went to Martin Soan’s club in London and he said, Hey, Bob! I’ve got this idea. Why don’t you come out of a tent? So he put a pop-up tent on stage, I climbed in the back of it and came out the front. It was a stupid, ridiculous gag. The first three rows actually shit themselves and I thought This man is a comedy genius.

“Why did you start in comedy?” I shouted out.

“I started in comedy,” Bob answered, “because I’d been fired from every other job I’d ever had. Hands up who’s shit at their job!”

No hands went up.

“You’re all liars!” Bob shouted, then picked on a woman in the audience: “What do you do?”

“I’m a child minder,” she said.

“Don’t try to make me bloody believe,” Bob said, “that you’ve not battered one while the parents were out! You can’t like everyone’s children!…. And what do you do?” he asked a young man.

“I’m currently unemployed,” came back the reply.

“Yes,” Bob shouted at him, “and some days you’re even shit at that!… Look, what I’m teaching you here is the show is brilliant, but the after show is sometimes disappointing…. Big guy over there, what’s your question?”

“Mmmmm….” mused the big guy.

“Mmmmm….” mimicked Bob, “Do you want to eat me?”

There was a long pause.

Bob looked round the audience.

Bob Slayer talks as show is dismantled around him

“Why are you all still here?” he asked them gently, as Martin Soan and Martin Clarke, now clothed, started to dismantle the set and pack up the props around him. “Look,” he continued, “the good people are taking the stuff away. I was the shit one. I’m just sat here naked…”

“Not properly naked!” someone shouted out.

“…basically being sucked off by Prince Harry,” Bob added as an afterthought. He turned to Martin Soan, who was picking up the soft puppet of a pole cat. “You were wonderful,” Bob told Martin. “I’m sorry for me.”

“Encore!” someone shouted from the audience.

“Don’t you dare speak French to me,” Bob said.”If there’s one thing I hate more than people I hate, it’s French people. I love French people.” He paused. “I’m having an incoherent conversation with myself,” he continued.

“I’m off! Thanks!” someone yelled from the back of the audience.

“Once he’s left,” Bob said, “it’ll all make sense.”

The lights in the room flashed.

“Don’t you dare! Fuck off, Jamie!” Bob yelled at the booth at the back of the room. “I know they want to turn this into a nightclub at 10 o’clock! Look, I…”

The sound man started playing a throbbing disco tune as the stage lights darkened and the coloured disco lights flashed throughout the room.

“I started on the stage at 7 o’clock tonight!” Bob shouted over the music. “I shouldn’t be on this show! I just refused to get off. I shouldn’t be in the Greatest Show on Legs! I’m just an idiot! I’m sorry I ruined everything. You came here to see masters of comedy. We could have had an ending. It was brilliant. All I’ve done is crack on and on and on. Why are you still here? You can’t see me anyway!” he yelled above the rising music.

The music stopped and the stage lights went on.

“OK, you can see me,” Bob corrected himself as the audience roared. “I’m confused with the dark and the light.”

The throbbing disco music started up again, louder.

“I’m confused!” Bob shouted. “My life is over-done. But, I tell you what, I fucking love her,” he yelled, pointing at a random member of the audience. “And him!” pointing at a random man. “Why are you still here? Why are you all still here? Give it up! Give it up!”

The audience began to whoop and cheer.

“No!” Bob yelled. “Tell me to give it up!… I love you!… All!…”

The white house lights went fully up and the audience started to get up and leave.

Naked Bob leapt off the stage.

“Carry me! Carry me!” he yelled. “Carry me home!”

Martin Soan reads the 5-star show reviews

The throbbing disco music rose in volume. Bob started shouting incoherently. Two new members of the public came in and started shouting. The audience was leaving. Bob was pursuing them, staggering and still naked. He pushed through, naked, and got ahead of the audience and met them at the door as they left, shaking each person’s hand.

A naked man chasing members of a smiling, satisfied audience out of a venue that looks like the Cavern in Liverpool did in the early days of the Beatles.

A fitting end to an unsettled Edinburgh Fringe where everyone was confused by audience figures, income and the future. It will be the same next year, of course.  I hope.

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