Comedian and self-promoter Bob Slayer – Talking Cock and Sex With Children at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe

A ‘selfie’ taken by Bob Slayer at the Soho Theatre

A ‘selfie’ by Bob Slayer at the Soho Theatre

Comedian/manager/promoter/former rock band manager Bob Slayer has his fingers in many artistic pies. I was going to say he has his fingers in many artists, but Bob thought this might be mis-read in 20 years time and he might get a knock on the door from the police.

At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, he is going to be running two venues: The Hive and his Bookshop (co-hosting it with Miss Behave in a different location from last year).

So, we were sitting in the bar of the Soho Theatre in London…

“In Scotland,” he told me, “this year is all about 2014: The Year of Independence. Last year, it was all about women at the Fringe. This year the Fringe is going to be all about the independent promoter, the independent artist – The Year of Independents at the Fringe.”

There was much more in this vein and about 10 minutes of ranting about the big Fringe venues from which I will save you, dear reader. I kept trying to get him to tell me eccentric anecdotes about his interesting travels. He kept trying to get me to print a long list of the shows on at his Edinburgh venues.

Eventually, I got him round to his recent visit to Japan for a friend’s wedding. He used to manage the Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock.

Bob Slayer managed Electric Eel Shock

Electric Eel Shock managed by Bob Slayer

“I’d been to Japan a bunch of times with Electric Eel Shock,” he told me, “but this was the first time I could go just for fun. And I met up with all the members of Electric Eel Shock and I’ve booked a tour for them, which is the first time I’ve done anything with them for a while. They start in Holland at the end of this month. Then London on 2nd May.

“I pretty much worked on Electric Eel Shock 24/7 for about six years. We were doing 250-300 shows a year round the world.”

“Hellfire,” I said. “That’s a lot.”

“Yeah,” said Bob. “When newspapers interviewed them, the Number One question was How do you cope with all the touring? and their answer was: That’s what we do. We cope by being absolutely ecstatic that we’re doing what we want to do. “

“300 shows a year is still going it some,” I said.

“But,” Bob pointed out, “if you look at the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s British Music Hall scene, some acts might do 500 or 600 shows a year, because they would have matinée and evening performances… You know, don’t you, that I was the first Westerner to be Karaoke Champion of Japan?”

“Is this true?” I asked.

“Of course it is,” said Bob. “Google it. It’s on a lot of websites.”

“Yes,” I said. “But I know the Wigan Evening Post and the Chortle comedy news website printed that you’re the great-nephew of George Formby.”

“Yes. It’s all true. The thing about the Big Four at the Fringe…” he started to say.

“Have you got Chris Dangerfield at the Hive during the Fringe?” I asked, trying to veer him away from The Big Four.

“Yes,” said Bob. “And the Big Four venues would never…”

Chris Dangerfield photographed in Thailand last month

Chris Dangerfield in Thailand last month

“Are you certain you have Chris Dangerfield?” I asked.

“Well,” said Bob, “you know what his show’s about…”

“His show is OK,” I said, “It’s just a case of will he be physically capable of doing it?”

“Did you say his show’s OK??” Bob almost spluttered. “What? Sex With Children is OK?”

“He might still be in a brothel in Thailand come August,” I said. “That might be a logistical problem.”

“Oh yeah yeah yeah,” agreed Bob. “But some people might think it’s a plus he might not make it to Edinburgh with a show title like that.”

“As far as I’m aware,” I said, “it’s about his own abuse as a child.”

“Yes, you asked him the question I never actually asked him,” said Bob. “He told me Right, the title is Sex With Children and I just went Erm…Right… OK and I thought Right, I’m not going to do him the dis-service of asking him if this is the right direction…”

“…for his career?” I asked.

“No, not for his career,” explained Bob. “I didn’t want to ask Are you the perpetrator or the victim? … I didn’t exactly want to HOPE he was the victim, but then I really really didn’t want to hope he was the perpetrator.”

“I almost fear what he’s going to say on stage on the first night of the show,” I said.

“There is an element of…” said Bob. “He came to me with that title… and I thought…”

“As a venue owner,” I suggested, “you can’t really say No to a title like that.”

“Well,” Bob replied, “you could if you thought it was going to be horrible bit of hate speech or… I would not not book it on the grounds that I wouldn’t like it myself; and I wouldn’t not book it on the grounds I don’t think that should be a title. Though people WILL say: That shouldn’t be a title! But he has got a responsibility in what he does with the creative freedom. And I trust him to use that responsibility well.”

Chris Dangerfield’s 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show

Chris Dangerfield’s threatened 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show

“You are a foolish person,” I said.

“I am possibly very foolish,” said Bob.

“The Fringe have not batted an eyelid about printing the title?” I asked.

“No,” said Bob. “I think it’s a very valid subject.”

“There’s nothing objectionable as such in the title,” I said. “It could be a show about the history of sex education in schools.”

“Also the Fringe,” said Bob, “in the last couple of years has been a bit battered by being stupid. I mean, insisting on putting an exclamation mark in PR!CK instead of an ‘I’ or putting an asterisk in Richard Herring’s TALKING C*CK.”

“Especially as they had printed TALKING COCK in a previous year,” I said, “and the actual phrase itself doesn’t have a sexual origin.”

“At the end of the day,” said Bob, “the Fringe are a conservative body. They like to think they’re all liberal thinkers, but there’s a clash between doing artistic things and getting sponsors. They’re not creatively free. It’s like the Big Four, who…”

At this point, we were mercifully interrupted by a man who is going to walk to the Edinburgh Fringe from London but who has not yet planned his route.

There is a 13 second video of Chris Dangerfield on YouTube.

… and also on YouTube there is a 4’18” video of Electric Eel Shock singing My Favourite No 9.

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Filed under Comedy, Music

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