There was a man called Anthony Irvine, who did an act where he just crawled across the stage wearing a yellow souwester cape and Wellington boots, got up a ladder, then put a chain with a hook on it between the two parts of the stepladder and picked up a bag. He took a toothbrush out of the bag, cleaned his teeth, got down the steps and crawled off stage again. This took between ten and twenty minutes depending on audience response. Today he calls himself The Iceman and melts a block of ice on stage – that’s his act.
It is, indeed, an act in which he tries to melt blocks of ice in various increasingly desperate ways. You have to see it to believe, if not understand, it. I first saw The Iceman when I auditioned him in 1987 for TV show The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross. The audition is on YouTube.
A couple of days ago, I talked to The Iceman via Skype.
“You can facilitate my comeback,” he told me.
“You’ve never been away,” I replied.
“My last booking was from Stewart Lee,” he said, “at the Royal Festival Hall for At Last The 1981 Show in 2011 – his Austerity show. You didn’t come.”
“No,” I admitted.
“I was one of the main acts, but they put me in the foyer,” he said. “I did a block of ice on both nights.”
“Did you get a good audience in the foyer?” I asked.
“The first night was quite arty,” he told me, “but there was a very small audience. The second night Stewart – I should say Stew – told the audience to go and see me and suddenly, in the interval, I was overwhelmed by people. So I hid in the audience. I infiltrated them and no-one really knew who I was. Then some guy took it on himself to plug me. He stood up and said The Iceman! The Iceman! and, of course, a lot of people thought HE was The Iceman.”
“Now you’re now a cult,” I said. “A living semi-mythical legend.”
“Yes,” he replied. “That’s why I don’t want to be over-exposed and why I’m in deepest Dorset. They’ll never find me here.”
“So why am I talking to you for my increasingly prestigious blog?” I asked.
“I want someone to visit my website,” said The Iceman. “I just want some visitors. I think because it’s called Iceblocked.co.uk it’s not a name that people recognise quickly.”
“You should call it TheIceman.com,” I suggested. “Like The Iceman cometh.”
“There’s millions of ice men,” said The Iceman. “But they’re mainly Mafia hit men.”
“Yes,” I sympathised, “best not to annoy them.”
“There are pictures of ice blocks for sale on the website,” said The Iceman.
Then he put a tap on his shoulder.
“Ah! The Tap Water Award!” I said.
For several years, it was given at the Edinburgh Fringe as an alternative to the Perrier Award.
“Did you win it?” I asked.
“I won it in Edinburgh with Malcolm Hardee as a nominee,” said The Iceman, “but, in his autobiography, Malcolm claimed he won it. It’s very controversial.”
“Still,” I said. “You have it. Possession is nine tenths of the law.”
“But more valuable than the tap,” said The Iceman, “are the Polaroids of every block of ice I have melted…” Then he added: “At least, some of them… I am giving people an opportunity to buy photocopies of the Polaroids of the blocks I have melted over the years. You have never availed yourself of this opportunity.”
“I am but a poor struggling scribe,” I said, “and they are about £99 each aren’t they?”
“At the Royal Festival Hall,” said The Iceman, “I sold my picture of 42 selected blocks to a bloke for £11. The frame had cost me about £20. His name was Tobias…”
The Iceman waited for me to react.
“Should I gasp?” I asked eventually.
“Tobias…” said The Iceman. “To-buy-us… That’s extraordinary, isn’t it?”
“Extraordinary,” I agreed.
“On YouTube,” The Iceman told me, “there is a video where you can see me dropping that night’s block into the River Thames after the Royal Festival Hall show.”
“Why did you drop the block into the Thames?” I asked.
“It had to go somewhere,” explained The Iceman. “Are you recording this?”
“How are you? Can I interview you? I think I am going to film you.”
He held up a camera and started taking pictures of the Skyped image on his computer screen of me looking at him looking at me on my computer screen.
“What do you see your role as?” he asked me.
“A sadly free publicist to interesting people,” I replied.
“Every comedy person and bizarre person seems to have a link with you,” he said.
“Which are you?” I asked.
“You’re a conduit,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of con going on,” I said, “and precious little duit.”
“What do you really think of the Iceman?” he asked.
“I think it’s a wonderful, surreal act,” I said. “But I’m shocked that this man bought Polaroids of ice blocks for only £21. I thought photocopies of Polaroids were £99 each.”
“I was feeling generous,” said The Iceman, who thought a little, then added: “Gener-ice… Do you think there’s any possibility that The Iceman… I call myself The Iceman, but I’m also called Melt It 69 by Mike Myers… Do you think there’s any possibility that somebody might ask me back?”
“Anywhere. To do a live performance.”
“One hopes so,” I replied. “What did you say about Mike Myers?”
“He refers to me as Melt It 69,” replied The Iceman, “because he came to see me melt Block 69.”
“This is Mike Myers,” I checked, “as in the now-Hollywood-film-star Mike Myers?”
“Yes,” confirmed The Iceman. “He did the early days of alternative comedy in Britain.”
“I know,” I said, “Mullarkey & Myers.”
“He saw me at one event,” said the Iceman, “and thought I was a genius. He is a fan.”
“This would,” I double-checked, “be Mike Myers the now-Austin-Powers-Hollywood-millionaire?… Have you approached him to buy a photocopy of a Polaroid of an ice block for £99?”
“I don’t know how to contact him,” said the Iceman. “I was hoping he would buy my entire works.”
“It is very hot, California,” I said. “They like ice there.”
“The only other fan I have, I think,” The Iceman said, “is Stewart Lee, who books me occasionally. Do you talk to Stew much?”
“Whenever I bump into him.” I said. “It would be churlish not to. He’s very nice.”
“N-ice,” said The Iceman thoughtfully. “I saw his show on TV on Saturday.”
“Did you enjoy it/“
“I did. He is funny.”
“He should have you on it,” I said. “You are the ultimate alternative comic.”
“He could have me in the foyer,” mused The Iceman.
… CONTINUED HERE…