A comic desperate for laughs in London – and how to lose a theatre arts grant

Piratical comedian Malcolm Hardee (photograph by Vincent Lewis)

Malcolm Hardee: the comic who got caught short on stage (Photograph by Vincent Lewis)

I was talking to someone – let’s call her Beryl – about how things change. My eternally un-named friend was there. The subject of the late comedian Malcolm Hardee came up.

“My mum refused to laugh at Malcolm,” Beryl told me. “He would try lots and lots of things to make her laugh. She’d say to me: Don’t laugh at him. He’s as silly as a goat! And Malcolm was attention-seeking, so he’d try his hardest to make my mum laugh. He would dance silly dances.

“I had this funny old radio that I’d bought from a charity shop and Malcolm would come in and say Oh, I like the radio. Let’s put it on and then maybe Saturday Night Fever would come on and he’d dance the John Travolta dance and my mum would snore. She did laugh when he wasn’t there. He was banned from the Albany Empire, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said. “I was there the night he pissed on the stage during his act and the people who gave out the grants to keep the Albany going were in the audience that night. I think he said, Oy Oy Hold on, I’ve got caught short! and went to the back of the stage – I think he may have turned his back on the audience, which was unusual, and pissed. You could see this arc of water.”

“He didn’t like it there,” said Beryl. “He said you had to be a one-legged lesbian to be accepted there. It was all politically correct. And he wasn’t terribly politically correct, was he? It’s such a good venue but they don’t really do comedy there now, do they?

“I don’t think they do anything much there,” my eternally-un-named friend said. “There’s the odd stabbing I think I’ve heard of. At a boys’ club. Usually of someone who’s organised a boys’ club. Some poor do-gooder. Big mistake.”

3 Comments

Filed under Comedy, London

3 responses to “A comic desperate for laughs in London – and how to lose a theatre arts grant

  1. Anna Smith

    I wonder how Signor Donato would have gone over at the Albany Empire or if he ever played there. He was a diminutive, athletic one legged character dancer who got rave reviews when he toured Australia in the 1870’s, I think….I have no idea whether or not he was a lesbian though. He gets a small mention in a book about early Australian dance history called “Enter the Colonies, Dancing”.

  2. Paul

    I remember that night. Half the audience where annoyed about how appalling the acts had been and the other half were annoyed with Malcolm pissing on the stage. I think Malcolm knew how bad the acts had been and decided to finish the evening with something for people to remember! He said afterwards that it was their own fault for having what looked like a urinal on the stage – there was a stage play set just visible at the back of the stage.

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