The first Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award was given the year he drowned, 2005.
Just to recap, he fell into Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe, London, in January 2005. When his body was found and recovered about three days later, he was still clutching a bottle of beer. Malcolm, despite everything, did have a sense of priorities.
At the inquest into his death, Police sergeant Roy Dawson, in charge of overseeing the recovery of the body, told the court: “The bottle was held in his right hand. It fell from his hand on the ascent.”
Perhaps ironically for someone whom the BBC mostly saw as too ‘downmarket’ for TV – one Head of Television Comedy was heard to say at a party: “He’s not going to get on television because he keeps taking his willy out” – the tabloid press, for the most part, ignored his passing, but he got extravagant obituaries in the ‘quality’ press: the Guardian, Times and Daily Telegraph.
Malcolm has, quite rightly, been called the godfather of British alternative comedy. In his 2005 obituary in the Independent newspaper, he was also called “the greatest influence on British comedy over the last 25 years”. I know it said that because I wrote it, with an eye to the fact that, if it was published in a national newspaper, it would be picked up and repeated over the years ahead by other journalists… a cunning stunt of which I think Malcolm would have been appreciative.
The first award in 2005 was intended as a one-off to mark his passing and was called the Oy Oy Award because we couldn’t think of anything better but, in 2007, it became the annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award. And there are now three annual Malcolm Hardee Awards, due to run until 2017 because that’s the number of awards I got made, on the basis I might not be able to afford to have any more made after 2017. Amazing foresight on my part.
In 2008 we started the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe. And, in 2010, the ‘Act Most Likely To Make a Million Quid’ Award. The original, main award, is now called the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.
I started the ‘Million Quid’ Award because the main award tends to go to acts so original that they may not necessarily break through to mainstream attention and success and the Million Quid Award might actually have future famous names on the list of winners.
Breakthrough seems to have started, though oddly in the US rather than the UK.
This year, Reggie Watts (winner of the original 2005 award) has become leader of the house band on The Late Late Show with James Corden… and it has just been announced that Trevor Noah (a 2012 Malcolm Hardee Award winner) is taking over from Jon Stewart as host of the highly visible Daily Show.
This year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards will be announced on Friday 28th August during the now traditional 2-hour charity variety show in the ballroom of The Counting House in Edinburgh.
To mark the tenth anniversary of Malcolm’s death, the show should be including The Greatest Show on Legs, whose naked balloon dance on OTT in 1981 was perhaps Malcolm’s most seen performance… and his sister Claire should be doing the Can-Can with her troupe The Can’t Can’t Girls.
At least, that’s the plan. Who knows?
As Malcolm would have said: Could be good. Could be shit. But it don’t matter. People are starving in Africa. Not all over. Round the edge… fish.