The documentary about “godfather of British alternative comedy” Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There (nothing to do with me) still ambles along in its production. I understand they will be looking for crowd funding soon.
One of the interesting clips from the work-in-progress is an interview with comedian Brendon Burns, who remembers Malcolm at the Screaming Blue Murder comedy club in 1995.
Malcolm asked Brendon if he had £20 he could lend him and, when he didn’t, Malcolm decided to do a 5-minute spot on stage.
He told the audience: “Oy! Oy! I’m gonna make £20 disappear.”
He got a member of the audience to give him a £20 note, said “Watch this! Oy! Oy!” palmed it and then just walked off stage and out of the club.
Like many of the stories surrounding Malcolm, this one sounds like an urban myth but the more unlikely Malcolm stories sound, the more likely they are to be true. The details can vary, but the stories are true.
Pete Harris started the Screaming Blue Murder comedy club. Yesterday, his brother Phil Harris confirmed the story told by Brendon actually happened though, he says, it was actually £10 not £20. Phil carefully added “…if that’s the night Brendon’s talking about here,” because it is entirely possible Malcolm pulled the same gag/theft on more than one occasion.
“He only got away with it,” said Phil yesterday, “because my girlfriend didn’t know him at all and was helping me out on the door. She didn’t realise he would just fuck off and not come back, so she just laughed as he left. I was sat stuck by the side of the stage doing the sound so I couldn’t stop him.
“After that, every time he saw my brother Pete, Malcolm would say: ‘ere, I owe you ten quid, sorry about that… Though, of course, he never actually paid him back…
“It happened down at a gig we used to have at the Mitre Hotel at the foot of Hampton Court Bridge. I seem to remember Malcolm brought Brendon down on his boat so, by the time they were gone, there really was no way I was going to catch up with him.”
Malcolm drowned in 2005. The way he remembered the incident in I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, his autobiography, written in 1995, was like this:
I am happy when I’m out on my boat. The River is part of my family tradition and I love a bit of tradition.
Recently, I was taking my boat from Greenwich to Runnymede for repair. It was going to take two days because the engine was only firing on two instead of three cylinders.
At Hampton Court bridge, I was passing a pub which fronts onto the River Thames. As I passed, I heard the voice of comedian ‘Nobby Shanks’.
It turned out to be a comedy club called Screaming Blue Murder. So I stopped, moored-up for the night and went in. The bloke running the club seemed to know who I was, so I said:
“Can I do five minutes at the end?”
He said I could.
Unfortunately, during the course of the evening I got a bit drunk. I went on stage at the end, did about 4 or 5 minutes of my normal stuff and it went very well. Then I decided to do a magic trick and said,
“I need two volunteers from the audience”.
One of them had a £5 note and the other a £10 note, so I got them to sign the notes and put them in an envelope.
“Thankyou very much.” I said, “Goodnight”.
I walked out of the pub, got in my boat and fucked off.
The bloke who runs the club, Pete Harris, later demanded the £15 back when I saw him at the Edinburgh Fringe, because he had to give the money back to the punters. I didn’t give it to him. The incident was reported in Time Out magazine and got him more publicity for his club.