Today would have been comedian Malcolm Hardee’s 69th birthday. Who knows how he might have commented on that number?
He was born on 5th January 1950. He drowned in a dock in Rotherhithe, by the River Thames, on 31st January 2005. He was drunk and fell in.
In their coverage of his death, the Daily Telegraph called him the “Godfather to a generation of comic talent”.
The Guardian’s extensive coverage called him the “patron sinner of alternative comedy, renowned for his outrageous stunts”
The Independent’s obituary said he was “the greatest influence on British comedy over the last 25 years”.
The Times’ obituary said: “Throughout his life he maintained a fearlessness and an indifference to consequences”.
A few days after his death, I set up an online page where people could post memories of him.
These are a few of those memories, starting with my own…
JOHN FLEMING – 3rd February 2005
Malcolm successfully turned himself into a South London Jack The Lad but the real Malcolm was and remained entirely different – a highly intelligent, rather shy, gentle and – despite his borrowing habits and forgetfulness – an enormously generous man.
People ask why women were so astonishingly attracted to him. I think it was because they discovered that, underneath the “Fuck it! Don’t give a shit!” exterior, he was a gentle schoolboy who just had a love of pranks, wheezes and escapades.
He was much loved by everyone who knew him well.
I remember being in his living room one afternoon.
For no reason, he suddenly pulled a real goldfish from its bowl and put it in his mouth so its little orange tail was flip-flopping between his lips. He looked at me for approval through his spectacles with wide-open, innocent eyes.
At this point, coincidentally, his wife Jane came into the room, looked at his mouth and said casually, “Oh no,” then, more reprovingly, “Not AGAIN, Malcolm.”
He looked rather embarrassed, as if caught with his trousers down.
The irony, of course, is that, with his trousers down, he was never embarrassed.
BRIAN DAMAGE, comedian – 4th February
I’ve met some great people on the comedy circuit but Malcolm was without a doubt one of the best… and the funniest.
When I heard the terrible news, after the initial shock, I hoped that this might just be another of his scams to wind people up. I wouldn’t put it past him – but sadly I now know it isn’t.
I’ll never forget the Sunday night at Up The Creek when two girls died a terrible death. As they left the stage with the hair standing up on the back of their necks, Malcolm said: “Well, they were shit but… I’d fuck the fat one!”
Thanks Malcolm for all the laughs and encouragement and South Africa and Glastonbury and The Wibbley Wobbley and the odd bit of trouble you got me into. I’m proud to have known you. I’ll miss you a hell of a lot.
The comedy circuit won’t be the same without you
Oy Oy mate. Knob out.
IAN COGNITO, comedian – 5th February
My abiding and most recent memories involve an early morning swim (I know) after a bit of a night ahht.
He’d managed to find some security code for one of the big officey blocks round the dock with its own, and subsequently Malc’s, private pool overlooking the Thames. It was an hour earlier than I expected ‘cos he’d never put his clock back and this was December.
So it’s into one of his dodgy cars to visit an 80 year old lady called Moth for morning coffee, then off to try and blag some horse riding. Upon reaching these stables, after a spot of lunch, we were told someone had moved in nearby who claimed to know Malcolm.
Without ascertaining friend or foe, we went to a house in the middle of nowhere.
“Who am I?” asked Malcolm.
We were invited in for champagne and Christmas dinner. Then to the Lord Hood pub in Greenwich where we seemed to blag some free buffet, (I can just see him wiping his hands halfway up his suit, the way he did after cleaning his plate with his finger, and why not.)
Finally back to the Wibbley Wobbley to find more playmates.
Up until the evening, Malcolm had drunk just half a pint of bitter and blagged a fiver off me for petrol.
No fucking drama, just a lovely day out with a lovely man.
All that for a fiver.
JERRY SADOWITZ, comedian – 6th February
Irresponsible, conscience free, worry free, fun seeking, knew how to have a laugh, a woman in every port, highly intelligent… all the things I wish I could be… So I resented him a lot of the time!
But the measure of this man is that he could wind you up, rip you off, embarrass and exasperate you… and you’d still love him despite all that. What a rare quality!!
I will miss him, despite the load of shit he spouted about me and the world is definitely a poorer place for his passing. Why could this not have happened to any other comic or promoter????!!!!!
MAURICE GIBB, Edinburgh fireman – 6th February
I first met Malcolm back in 1981 when he appeared with The Greatest Show on Legs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival following on from their successful TV appearance on OTT performing the Balloon Dance.
I was the Fire Brigade officer that year tasked with ensuring the public were safe in respect of fire hazards during a performance – no mean feat considering Malcolm’s love of all things incendiary!
Like many others who knew Malcolm I was taken by his personality, intelligence and love of fun but in particular it was his “Fuck it” attitude to life that I truly admired and envied the most.
Malcolm and I remained friends and in contact right up to his untimely death and I will always be grateful for the fun and laughter that we shared over the last 23 years.
I will miss him a lot.
PAUL ‘WIZO’ WISEMAN, accomplice – 6th February
I first meet Malcolm when I was five.
I was dressed in a full cowboy outfit (it was the fashion then) and it was my first day at primary school. He looked at me and started giggling.
We then spent the next 48 years giggling with occasional bouts of prison, setting fire to cinemas, blowing up stolen buses with fireworks and driving cars through supermarket windows as well as showbiz bollocks.
He was the most fearless man I have ever meet as well as painfully shy, which he overcame with bluster and sheer persistence and a large pair of bollocks.
When we were both sentenced to Borstal for various naughty boy things at Exeter Assizes in 1971, we both got our dicks out to the judge when he sent us down.
Knob out, thousand pounds, nightmare.
GEORGE EGG, comedian – 7th February
I was 19 when I did my first paid spot on the comedy circuit. It was at Up The Creek and for many years after it was the only club I played, because Malcolm was the only person who’d book me.
Some years ago I’d expressed interest in the fairground mirrors that were in the since closed Comedy Empire in Willesden and Malcolm had assured me I’d be able to get them for only a few quid so I took a trip up to London especially.
I was directed to some bloke in Greenwich market who said they’d cost me a grand, so I called Malcolm who apologised for the mistake but asked me to pop round.
We visited his boat and ‘Concrete Ken’, where we had a beer, and then we drove to some place in Whitechapel for a fantastic curry, all courtesy of Malcolm of course.
Next we visited a bookie’s where he proceeded to bet shockingly high stakes on two races, both of which he won and we finally drove back to his place where his son’s friends were hanging around outside the house, sitting on steps and car bonnets.
“Look, it’s like New York,” he said, and then, “Right, I’m going back to bed. Knob out!”
It’s a small but fond memory.
A genuinely lovely man. The comedy circuit will not be the same without him. Malcolm was to British comedy what John Peel was to British music.
DOMINIC HOLLAND, comedian – 7th February
Is there anyone in comedy who was more liked than Malcolm?
It is sad but, in an industry where success is covertly resented by too many, I suppose Malcolm fitted the bill for being liked perfectly. He was notorious but crucially not so successful either.
What he had that set him apart was his great generosity of spirit.
A rogue and a shyster, of course, but he was also a genuinely kind man and, aside from all his knob out antics, he was actually a shy and sensitive man who needed just as much approval as the next comic.
I expect most people that knew him weren’t altogether surprised to hear the sad news about his death, but their sadness would have been brief and countered by their own memories and warmth of this lovely man.
I’ll remember him most for the way he brought me on stage at the Creek on a dire Sunday night. I’d avoided Sundays for years. All the comics said that they were shit, so I thought What’s the point? But Malcolm kept on at me and finally I stuck it in the diary.
So, after about 8 acts, most of which hadn’t gone very well, Malcolm was about to bring me on:
“Last bloke on now. It’s his first Sunday night down here, because he just does Fridays and Saturdays and storms it… so he’s well overdue for a shit one. Oy, oy.”
And he was right.
I had a shit gig and smiled all the way home because only Malcolm would have said that and only Malcolm Hardee could have got away with it.
In comedy, people try desperately hard to appear different.
Malcolm was different, and as said by so many other people, he will be very very missed.
Mr METHANE, farteur – 7th February
I always thought that, underneath all that East End stuff he had going on, Malcolm was genuinely a really nice bloke and a real character. There’s not enough characters around these days and consequently its a sad loss.
OWEN O’NEILL, comedian – 7th February
You were suspicious of poetry
saw clear through most of it
even with those glasses.
Dickens would have loved you Malcolm
would have immortalised you, given you
a name like Swindle Rotherhind, or Tucker Lawless.
But you didn’t need Dickens, you wrote
the chapters of your own life.
Your name fitted you like your food-stained ill fitting baggy suits. You were wide open, a big bad innocent book with no new leaves to turn.
All your pages stuck together, bound by your first rule of comedy: “Fall over! Get your knob out!”
You once caused me to cry with laughter until
I thought I would die. You took me for a ride in The Tartan Taxi. It had tartan seats and tartan carpets and tartan fairy-lights and a tape playing awful tartan bagpipe music and the driver changed hats and smiled like a lunatic as he drove us round and round and round the same roundabout for half an hour.
You encouraged him Malcolm. You encouraged the child in all of us, blew raspberries and pissed down the back of pomposity. We will miss you Malcolm. No one is brave enough to take your place. So when you fell over for the last time on Monday the thirty first of January two thousand and five, I really hope you had your knob out.
This last bit of the poem is a bit tasteless Malcolm. Some people might be offended by it.
They might think it’s not very nice to speak of the dead in this way… What’s that you say?
Fuck ‘em Oy Oy!
Yes, that’s what I thought you said.
… CONTINUED HERE …