The difficulties of making prop genitalia for stage shows explained, by an expert

Poster for this month’s Pull The Other One

Poster for this month’s Pull The Other One

It will become obvious as this blog progresses why there are maybe fewer illustrations than normal.

Yesterday I was talking to Martin Soan of the Greatest Show on Legs, who also runs London’s monthly Pull The Other One comedy club.

The Greatest Show on Legs are performing two shows at London’s Comedy Cafe Theatre this month and also doing a special performance during the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the last Friday of the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

But Martin also makes props for other acts.

“Have you had any orders for anything at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?” I asked him.

Martin Soan, master maker of stage genitalia

Martin Soan, master maker of stage genitalia

“It’s a bit early,” he told me. “They usually start coming in panicking about a month before the Fringe starts. Then I get a flurry of requests. And I do a lot of consultation. People ring me up and want things and I tell them: This is the way you can do it cheaper. Have you thought about buying this or that? I talk people through how to make their own props. So I get a lot of consultation for which I get paid absolutely nothing.”

‘You’ll have to start charging this year,” I suggested.

“The thing is people approach me so late,” said Martin. “It’s usually so late I only have time to do things for a couple of people. This year, I can only do a couple cos I’ve got a lot of work on myself.”

“Last weekend,” I prompted, “you were in Omid Djalili’s two shows over two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo.”

“Yes, and the Watford Colosseum on the Thursday night. I got a couple of messages from Omid a couple of weeks before the shows, asking me if I could make some spinning testicles for him.”

“What size were they?”

“Slightly larger than normal. Malcolm Hardee sized bollocks.’

“Oh,” I said, “so they were not like 3ft wide bollocks? How did people see them in a vast theatre?”

“I made the colour of the trousers contrast with the colour of the testicles,” explained Martin. “It went down a storm, so presumably everyone could see it.

“In the show, Omid was sitting with his dad in front of the television and they have this ridiculous pastime – they stick their hands down their trousers and sort of wind each other up by seeing how many times they can twist their bollocks round. So they’ve got it up to five and Omid wanted someone to go on stage at the end of the show, get hold of their own bollocks, twist them round six times then let go and they go whirrr-whirrr-whirrr spinning round like that.

“It was a really difficult prop to make because, obviously, the testicles had to be right close to your own testicles and, obviously, he wanted not just testicles but an appendage to feature as well.

“So I had to research penises and stuff like that in the dark world of sexual applications and I eventually got a silicon penis. It was just really difficult to make it work. The testicles had to look fairly realistic immediately although presumably – once they started spinning round – everyone would realise they were not real.

“The silicon penis made it so difficult, because I had the spinning shaft and only had about 4 centimetres to play with – to motorise it or bungee-rubber-band it up. It was a really difficult prop to make. In the end, the only way to do it was with my own real penis.

“So I showed Omid a little video of it and he was really happy with the prop.

“First of all, he had a member of his family lined-up to do it and they thought it was fantastic up until the point when he described what happens. Then his father got really angry with him and refused to do it. Then he had two really famous people lined-up to do it. They thought it was very, very funny until he explained the actual end of the routine and they both refused to do it. So then he told me I had to do it.”

“And,” I asked, “did it work sensibly?”

“It worked,” laughed Martin. “Not sensibly!”

“How many genitalia props have you made?” I asked.

“Over the years for Edinburgh Fringe shows,” mused Martin. “I would say about ten. Some of them I might have forgotten. It might be a dozen. Over the last maybe five years, I’ve had two or three requests.

“The worst thing is having to do the research. To get the silicon penis for Omid, I had to go on all these sexual paraphernalia sites and you just get fed up with it and then you get loads of spam mail afterwards asking if you want all these weird dildos and things. It’s a pain in the arse.”

“Not what I would have thought,” I said,

“The worst one,” Martin told me, “was for Pete Jonas, who wanted a human-sized female genitalia.”

“How big?”

“About six or eight-feet tall.”

“That,” I said, “is bigger than the human ones I’ve seen.”

“I said human-sized,” explained Martin, “not life-sized.

“I had to do a bit of research – I wanted to get it anatomically correct – and, when I started looking, it was amazing. It really opened my eyes up about the wonderful array of female genitalia that is out there. Not any two are the same. I think most men’s penises are basically the same… or maybe two types – circumcised and non-circumcised – and then the other variation is the size, of course. But female genitalia? It’s a myriad of different styles.

‘Then, after doing the in-depth research, I had to build this giant vagina and it had to talk – the lips had to move – and it had to have eyes that blinked as well.

“Pete Jonas didn’t pick it up for about three weeks. So I had it in my front room with my two daughters in the house and, every time I came in, it was a huge shock. In the end, it got rather wearing.”

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Filed under Comedy, Sex

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