James Hamilton of comedy sketch group Casual Violence has been nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award in two consecutive years for his bizarre writing. This year, Casual Violence are performing not one but two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.
When I first saw one of Casual Violence’s shows, I wrote of James: “I think he might need psychiatric help. Though not creative help. There’s something very original in there – I just don’t know what the fuck it is”
My opinion has not changed.
Yesterday afternoon, I was heading to see the new Casual Violence show House of Nostril at the Pleasance Courtyard when a tall young man handed me a flyer for Alexander Bennett’s Afraid of the Dark with Jorik Mol.
For some reason, I asked: “Are you Jorik Mol?”
“Yes, John,” he replied.
“People keep telling me I should meet you,” I said.
“We met a couple of years ago,” Jorik said.
“I have a shit memory,” I told him, “Where have you been?”
“I was in Amsterdam for a year,” said Jorik.
“I’m not surprised,” I said, “You’re Dutch.”
“I was convalescing from clinical depression,” continued Jorik, “I basically spent a year in a haulage container doing voices to myself.”
“Because?” I asked.
“Because what else is there to do in a haulage container? I also read Tolstoy’s War & Peace.”
“You mean the big metal containers they transport on ships?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
“You need money to afford a haulage container,” I suggested.
“You don’t,” said Jorik. “I was given one. I was a student at the University of Amsterdam and they give them out to people who either live very far away from Amsterdam or who are strange. The containers have all been turned into flats. There’s a window at the front and a window at the back.”
“When did you stop living in a container?” I asked.
“I’m still officially living in a container in Amsterdam,” Jorik told me. “But I’m moving to London next month, going back on the comedy circuit and starting to study a Masters in Comparative Literature at University College, London.”
“Is that where Jeremy Bentham sits stuffed?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Jorik.
“And you’ll be gigging on the side?” I asked. “Comedy is difficult.”
“No,” said Jorik. “People say comedy is easy but, when you’ve been through severe clinical depression and hospitalisation, maybe everything is easy.”
“Ah…” I said. “Stand-up comedians and mental hospitals…”
“Mental hospitals are great,” said Jorik. “I was punched in a mental hospital. People in the mental hospital really fucking hated me.”
“Because?” I asked.
“Because,” said Jorik, “I’m young, I can speak and I can read novels. There was a guy in the mental hospital who was like the alpha male – he was like a white van man. He thought I was threatening his position in the ward. There were seven completely inert people there, three of whom had regular ECT treatment. So there wasn’t a lot of pride to rule over as the Lion King he thought himself to be.
“One day I woke up late, because I was on a lot of medication, and I was about five minutes late for finger painting or whatever I was supposed to do and the guy just came up to me and just knocked me out.
“I am pretty proud that I am so viscerally annoying that I annoyed someone out of severe inert depression.”
“It sounds like good training for playing comedy to British audiences,” I said.
“Absolutely,” said Jorik.
It turned out he and I were both at the Pleasance to see Casual Violence’s House of Nostril, as was uber-mindreader Doug Segal (he, of course, already knew in advance that we were going to bump into each other).
It was a full house as, indeed was Casual Violence’s other show – Om Nom Nominous at the Voodoo Rooms. It is their ‘greatest hits’ show which I also saw yesterday and, inevitably, it was very weird, very funny, strangely dark, strangely melancholic and the full house pissed themselves laughing.
I also saw Pekka & Strangebone’s Comedy Showpiece at the Voodoo Rooms – another odd sketch show with a dash of darkness added to basic (this is a good thing) silliness. There were three cast members. One had twisted his ankle – the bone had popped out then popped back in again. He had had to go to A&E earlier in the day. Another of the trio had fallen onto a piece of broken glass in the Meadows and gouged a great bloody hole in his hand. He had had to go to A&E earlier in the day.
When I came out of their show, I told them they should try to get publicity on the basis of being the most accident-prone show in town – or the show with most accidents soonest. Then (this is true) I checked my iPhone for e-mails and there was one from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. It was headed:
PLEASE, NO MORE INJURED AND BLOODIED COMEDIANS…
I thought I started to hear the theme music from The Twilight Zone.
Then I opened another message. It told me that Miss Behave – who broke her heel in Dublin a few weeks ago and is compere of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday 23rd August… is NOT.
The message read:
“Not possible for me to stay without cutting my foot off and clubbing myself to death with it.”
Miss Behave, rightly, is going back to London to recuperate rather than continuing to damage herself by leaping around Fringe shows in Edinburgh.
I asked Janey Godley – the comedienne who can handle any situation – if she could compere the Malcolm Hardee show instead. She said Yes. Yippee!
Then I opened another e-mail…
It was from Andy Dunlop, the President of the World Egg Throwing Federation. He will be supervising the Scottish national Russian Egg Roulette Championships at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday 23rd August. Except that he will not be…
The e-mail said:
I am meant to be in Australia right now but I am not…..
My wife is unwell and starts Iodine 131 radiotherapy on Friday. Currently she is exhausted, can’t sleep, faints a lot, is over heated and very very grumpy.
As from this Friday she will also be radioactive for some considerable time and in quarantine at home for at least 14 days. This prevents her from being left alone, cuddling cats or sleeping with husband. She is upset about item 2.
My suggestion that I bugger off to Edinburgh for a few days may lead to suffering from a beating and probably divorce although it would reduce my risk of cross contamination by gamma and beta emitters.
I am unable to predict her recovery and thus am unlikely to make it for the 23rd but John Deptford, our World Vice President, is available due to his Russian Visa not coming through. He is better than I at compering. Can he crash at yours?
I said Yes.
But it is going to be a crowded night in my Edinburgh flat on Friday 23rd August.
There will be me, John Deptford, Martin Soan, Mr Methane.
Four men and one bed.
It could be a Richard Curtis comedy.
If Mr Methane farts, he may die.
Perhaps all of us will.
So it goes.