Comedian Chris Luby died in London on Saturday. He fell down a staircase at home when (it is said) he was drunk.
In January 2005, his friend, mentor and occasional manager/agent Malcolm Hardee drowned when he fell into Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe. Malcolm, too, was drunk at the time.
It is a very British thing.
Chris and Malcolm ran the Wibbley Wobbley floating pub and comedy venue in Greenland Dock.
Chris’ comic stage act was to use his mouth and considerable lung power to perform audio recreations of Trooping The Colour, Formula 1 races and bombing raids/aerial combat in World War II. The act usually went well though, on Malcolm’s Christmas Eve show in 1998, Chris’ act was not much appreciated by some sections of the audience and, in the middle of his Battle of Britain impression, a heckler yelled out: “Do a glider!”
In its 2005 report of Malcolm Hardee’s death by drowning, the London Evening Standard wrote:
His business partner Chris Luby said friends were shocked. “His death will leave a huge hole,” said Mr Luby, a friend for over 30 years. “He ran the best club in the world called Sunday Night At The Tunnel Palladium, which was the most extraordinary club ever.
“It set people like Jo Brand, Jack Dee and Harry Enfield up. Malcolm was incredibly good at spotting new talent. There are thousands of comedians that were given open spots by Malcolm and have gone on to carve their niche in comedy.”
Now both Malcolm and Chris are dead. So it goes.
In a possibly frightening illustration that nothing is private nor forgotten by Google in this Cyber Age, I can tell you that, on 24th September 2010, comedian Alan Davies Tweeted:
Chris Luby did the Spitfire, the Lancaster and various marching bands. Did many gigs with that fella. Bonkers…
Yesterday, Alan Tweeted about Chris: He could name 6 of anything.
Malcolm Hardee is still remembered in the comedy industry and by media people, though not yet by the Great British public.
ROBIN INCE: If comedians don’t make it to TV or radio then, once they’re gone, that’s it (true of all I suppose).
OMID DJALILI: Chris Luby has done no TV but lives in my mind more vividly than most. But that’s not comedy, it’s heroic lunacy.
ROBIN INCE: I never had a lift with him because I had been warned of those long air shows all the way up the M1.
This refers to Chris’ habit of doing his aeroplane impersonation act on long journeys (as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog).
Comedian Charmian Hughes said yesterday:
I will never forget the time I had Chris and Malcolm in the back of my car on the way back from a gig in Birmingham. They were so distracting that, at the roundabout at Hammersmith flyover, I pranged another car. Luckily Malcolm was a brilliant witness and pointed out that it was the other car’s fault, which it was. But I would have anticipated him if they hadn’t been so noisy! Farewell Chris, a kind, sweet, generous, often annoying, and noisome man.
Malcolm and Chris’ friend Steven Taylor aka ‘Steve From Up North’ says:
One of my favourite memories was on the way back from a gig in, I think, Blackburn. There was Chris, myself, Malcolm Hardee and Jo Brand. Chris was annoying us all – doing the noises of the gear changes and the engine. Suddenly, Jo said to him: “Chris, if you don’t shut the fuck up, I’ll open that door and push you out and you can do the sound effect of your body bouncing down a motorway!” He was a great guy and true eccentric.
Brian Damage remembers:
We had a three hour car journey with Chris a few years ago. To keep us entertained he did a quiz… all the way to the gig. We were exhausted by the time we got there. On the way home, he did another quiz – with exactly the same questions. Apart from his quizzes, he was one of my favourite people.
Promoter Kev Wright says:
I was proud to get Chris Luby on at our Cracking Night Out at The Hackney Empire. I must have told him it started at 7 and he turned up on time… But he told me it was the second time he had been there that day as he had already been knocking on the stage door at 7 in the morning, as that’s the time he thought we meant! The cleaner had told him to go away and he came back across London twelve hours later for 7 in the evening.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, he also performed on a comedy bus.
Brian Crane remembers: Ah, the comedy bus with Malcolm as the naked conductor and Chris Luby on the mic as announcer… a classic night, never to be forgotten.
I booked Chris on TV shows with ‘mad inventor’ John Ward at least a couple of times. Yesterday, John told me:
Oddly, I was bringing Chris to mind only the other day as we live in a flight path for the RAF Memorial Flight and they often fly their Spitfire over our place on the way to gigs and I thought how smashing it would be to get him to come up to see us this summer – I thought I would take him up to the base at RAF Coningsby and introduce him.
I met Chris twice when he was doing his act on Prove It (presented by Chris Tarrant) for TVS light years ago – once for the pilot and once for the actual show. The first time, I recall being in the canteen in the TVS studios with my lunch and, as I was sorting myself out, I thought I heard an army battalion in the distance or at least in the building but – No – I suddenly found myself in the World of Chris Luby. He had moved towards me sideways so that I did not see him speaking or, for that matter, doing his act of impersonating sounds that you don’t normally associate with a single person on his own.
His Spitfire impression was a masterpiece as he talked through the process involved in getting the plane into the air – starting the engine from cold, the warming-up before take-off, then climbing up to 5,000 feet or so, levelling off and then spotting the ‘Hun’, going into battle and, after shooting one down in flames, his descent and landing.
The second time we met on Prove It, once again, the TVS canteen was his stage as that week’s guests were sitting down having a bite to eat at lunchtime and, having not seen him perform in the rehearsals, they were baffled as they sat there training their ears to fathom out where the noise was coming from. It was just Chris creating the sound of a WW2 Spitfire all on his own. But to see four full-grown adults standing against a window and opening it to look for a plane that seemed to be rather close – in fact even overhead – It was a classic moment.
When he appeared on the show that second time, he had broken his leg. He lurched on to the studio floor dressed in a Coldstream Guardsman’s uniform plus busby with his leg all done up – but he was still brilliant despite this minor upset. He was a real trouper or should that be trooper?… R.I.P. and I hope he keeps ‘em laughing in the ‘hanger in the sky’.
Yesterday, comedians were Twittering.
Ian Stone suggested: There should be a marching band at his funeral.
Andy Smart thought: It’ll be a lot noisier where ever he’s gone!
Even the trade union Equity Tweeted:
We’re sorry to hear of the death of Chris Luby. His one man Battle of Britain was a thing to behold.
Arthur Smith told me last night:
He was, as you know, incorrigible – I used to pay him a tenner to shut up for ten minutes and then torture him by saying: “I wish I knew what a Sopwith Camel sounded like….” but he always managed the ten minutes, at which point he would explode into an aerial bombardment… He was not entirely of this world. I hope he is enjoying the molecules in the stars.
Jenny Eclair Tweeted:
Oh please can all the mad, bad, bonkers and wonderful old timers from the old days of alternative comedy stop dying?
and, when I asked her about Chris Luby last night, she told me:
I just remember when Malcolm offered me out-of-town gigs asking if Chris would be in the same car and taking the train rather than be trapped with him doing Spitfires in my ear!