Category Archives: Eccentrics

Twonkey’s Greatest Twitch, Princess Margaret and the Pub Quiz Mafia…

Paul Vickers with clock sans cuckoo spoke on FaceTime

Twonkey aka Paul Vickers is back at London’s Soho Theatre on Tuesday with a new show. 

Well, sort of.

I talked to him on FaceTime. He lives in Edinburgh.


JOHN: You didn’t play the much-cut-back  Edinburgh Fringe this year.

PAUL: No, because it kept wavering. I was due be doing it at Dragonfly again, but then that got closed for two weeks because of a Covid outbreak.

JOHN: You’re coming down south for your Soho Theatre show: Twonkey’s Greatest Twitch. Didn’t you have a Twitch show before?

PAUL: Yes, there was Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch. This one is more like a ‘Best of Twonkey’ show.

The difficulty is selecting what the best is. I’ve just chosen what I think the best bits are and hope people will agree with me. I mean, really, Twonkey started as a joke and just got out of hand. 

It was something I did off the cuff. I didn’t think: Oh, I’ll be doing this for over ten years. I just thought: I’ll do one Edinburgh Fringe and see what happens. But then you get addicted; you get on the treadmill of doing it.

I am feeling a bit like James Bond, in the sense that I’ve created a franchise and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’d like to pass it on to someone else.

JOHN: Who else could do a Twonkey show though?

PAUL: Princess Anne was on the list.

JOHN: Have you asked her? It’s worth asking because you’re likely to get a reply from some official which you could quote… Who else?

PAUL: Peter Crouch, the footballer. John Craven was mentioned.

Twonkey’s greatest latest seen soon in Soho

JOHN: Why would Princess Anne be ideal to do a Twonkey show?

PAUL: It was thought she might give it a bit of dignity. But Princess Margaret was the fun one. She used to get stoned with the Incredible String Band, apparently.

JOHN: And now it’s too late…

PAUL: Yes. But I feel like Roger Moore gearing up for Octopussy. It won’t feel like that once I get going again. At the moment I’m in that nervous period.

It will be like Diamonds Are Forever when I get going.

JOHN: You haven’t performed as Twonkey for a while, because of the lockdowns…

PAUL: Yeah. I’ve been more into band stuff. (More on his band Paul Vickers and The Leg in my blog of February this year)

JOHN: Are you going to do less Twonkey and more music?

PAUL: I think it might be a bit like that, yeah. We were gonna try and incorporate a band thing in the new show, but we’re not really ready: it’s such a long process with the band.

JOHN: Your shows tend to have music in them, but you mean the band could actually be part of a Twonkey show?

PAUL: That could happen. I’ve always wanted to do that. The main thing that stops me is expense and all the Edinburgh Fringe venues are basically just like a plug in the wall. It would have to be a big enough venue to fit six people with equipment on the stage.

JOHN: Anything planned after the Soho Theatre and before next year’s Edinburgh Fringe?

A cultural dessert – the Custard Club

PAUL: Well, I did write another show that I had been going to do in 2020: Twonkey’s Custard Club. I had an elaborate idea involving custard as currency and where desserts had become the main meal.

JOHN: That works for me.

PAUL: I was all geared-up to do it at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2020, but then all the lockdowns happened and I couldn’t do anything for almost two years.

JOHN: So why are you not doing Twonkey’s Custard Club as your Soho Theatre show?

PAUL: Well, I kept opening the Word document and I thought: I don’t know how I feel about that now… There had been enough time for doubts to creep in. Previously, there had never been enough time for doubts to creep in because, every year, I barely had enough time to get a coherent show together for the Fringe.

I think everyone’s gone through this thing where you had a structured life and, during the pandemic, it wasn’t there any more. And then you start thinking: Do I really need to do that any more? Is that important? Do I LIKE doing that? It’s quite stressful.

Paul Vickers and The Leg – all six members of the band…

All those things came into the equation, so I became a bit more serious. The new band album is quite serious. I got quite into that during the pandemic – crafting a really good album.

JOHN: What was Twonkey’s Custard Club like?

PAUL: There was a book that had 100 pages with the same picture on every page. It was a tankard and a sleepy/romantic Alpine scene. There was a whole bit about if that book did exist, how would you interpret it? You would probably automatically think there might be a slight difference between the pictures and start looking for it. But there was no difference.

JOHN: Was any custard involved?

PAUL: In that bit, no. It was not custardy that bit. It wasn’t ALL custardy.

There will be a couple of custard songs in the Soho Theatre show – the ‘Best of’ show – despite the fact they’ve never been heard by anyone before.

JOHN: Seems reasonable.

PAUL: If the gig at the Soho Theatre goes well, that’ll help me make my decision on what to do.

If everyone’s like You can’t stop doing that! That’s great, Paul! that’s one thing. But, if it ends with people booing and asking for refunds, then… (LAUGHS)

Twitch bound… the Wobbly Waiter from Twonkey’s Custard Club…

There are some amazing puppets that Grant’s made for the show. The Wobbly Waiter of the Custard Club has got leg braces and everything. It was going to have custard and wobbly things on the plate. You bomb about and create absolute chaos with him because it’s very heavy and impossible to control. So it’s the perfect foil for comedy activity. 

JOHN: You haven’t done Twonkey at all during the pandemic?

PAUL: Well I did a pub quiz as Twonkey in a little pub called The Hoppy in Edinburgh and that went really well. That was the first time I’d done Twonkey in ages.

JOHN: How does Twonkey do a pub quiz? Surreal questions?

PAUL: Well, there’s a lot of things I do that make it not work.

JOHN: Is that the basis of Twonkey? Making it not work.

PAUL: Essentially. For example, at the pub quiz, I was forgetting to read out all the answers and no-one had any idea who was winning, not even me because I had forgotten to count it up.

JOHN: What happened at the end?

PAUL: My brother tried to make sense of it all and we did crown a winner.

Woodland Creatures bar, home of an unconventional pub quiz

JOHN: You had hosted pub quizzes before?

PAUL: When I did it on Leith Walk, I used to do it at a place called Woodland Creatures. But the trouble with pub quizzes is that people take them very seriously and the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia came round. I was like the new kid on the block.

JOHN: Who are the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia?

PAUL: Well, there’s a few of them that do the pub quiz circuit. Some of them do five or six pubs. I used to think the host for a pub quiz was probably a local schoolteacher with a bit of knowledge and time on his hands but – nah – it’s much more cynical than that.

The Pub Quiz Mafia were like: What’s this guy up to? Because I was going against the conventions of pub quizzes…

JOHN: … like giving the answers…

PAUL: …erm… yes. It was controversial at first. I had one round where I showed a clip from a film and people watched it really carefully, thinking the questions were going to be about that clip… but then I’d ask questions about a completely different film.

Paul Vickers aka Twonkey – unconventional is now standard

At the start, it was quite popular. I had a dominatrix doing the score cards. She was in latex and stuff.

She was like Carol Vorderman from Countdown. She was the brain and the discipline of the quiz and I was like Richard Whiteley, sitting there not having a clue what was going on, but being charming in a way I suppose. If I messed up, the dominatrix would keep me in line.

JOHN: She would whip you into shape?

PAUL: (LAUGHS) There was no whipping involved, but she made it known she was displeased. And she got angry with people who weren’t behaving in the crowd. After she stopped helping out, I was just sort of floating because I forgot I was doing a pub quiz. And it turned out that really frustrates people.

JOHN: What were you thinking if you forgot it was a pub quiz?

PAUL: Well, I start off thinking: Oh, this will be fun. And then I lose interest because it’s a pub quiz. I suppose I’ve made it my own. You could say it’s just a bad pub quiz.

JOHN: You should do a bad pub quiz at the Edinburgh Fringe. People would flock to it.

PAUL: Maybe… I will send you a link to my new video: Everyone Loves Custard. It will be in the Soho show.


And he did…
 

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Surreal

A word with a Ward, Award-maker, leaves worried BBC journo wordless

Dapper designer John Ward, earlier this week, wearing one of his many professional hats…

A couple of days ago, I posted a blog about this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe. The trophy itself – as with all Malcolm Hardee Awards – was designed and made by mad inventor John Ward.

Dr David Weeks’ academic analysis…

Among John Ward’s many other accomplishments are writing a weekly column – Ward’s World – for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and ‘starring’ in psychiatrist Dr David Weeks’ 1995 academic book Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness.

Yesterday, I got an email from John Ward:

“A BBC Three Counties Radio bod rung me up just now – asked me about the Malcolm Hardee Award and asked was I willing to do an over-the-phone interview later today.

“Then he asked me if I had any connections with Edinburgh other than the Awards side. 

“I said: My psychiatrist lives there (as in David Weeks) and then things seemed to get sort of quiet and he said he would ‘get back to me later’.

“I have heard no more.”

Obviously the BBC has to ‘up’ its reporters’ inquisitiveness.

They should have been even more interested by the mention of a psychiatrist and should also have asked the obvious question: “If you live in the middle of England, why do you have a psychiatrist in Scotland?”

John Ward is also featured (among many other appearances) in the 2015 documentary film A Different Drummer: Celebrating Eccentrics by Academy Award winning director, John Zaritsky.

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A DIY guide to getting and making an Edinburgh Fringe comedy award…

This morning, a month after this year’s cut-down-by-Covid Edinburgh Fringe finished, the 2021 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner was announced. Yes, a month after it finished. 

The late Malcolm Hardee outside his childhood home

Alas no attempt was made to link the fact that the Award and the dead-but-impossible-to-forget comic Malcolm Hardee himself are both late.

Normally, there are three Malcolm Hardee Awards but, with no Fringe last year, with Covid still stalking the land and with staggeringly fewer shows at the Fringe this year, it’s a miracle there was any award at all.

As for the lesser Fringe awards… There were no Edinburgh Comedy (aka Perrier) Awards at all this year. And the eponymous TV channel did not attempt to award any prize for ‘DAVE’s Best Joke of the Fringe 2021’.

Fittingly, then, the winner of the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award this year was Will Mars, who announced his own ‘(Some Guy Called) DAVE Joke of the Fringe 2021’.

A cunning stunt indeed.

The TV channel’s annual prize is awarded after multiple allegedly top comedy industry professionals assiduously scout for jokes to nominate a shortlist and the final winner is decided by an allegedly carefully supervised public vote. 

This year, Will Mars just got together a few gags from people’s shows and then wandered up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh trying to find anyone called Dave who would pick a winner from the bunch.

Surprisingly, finding someone called Dave turned out to be almost as difficult as picking a winner.

The chosen winning joke was Masai Graham’s:

“I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but, when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.”

The shortlist of other jokes – inexplicably Caesar-centric – which Will had got together included:

Adele Cliff: “The Roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.” 

Ben Clover: “Getting a caesarian is dangerous in Russia. If they open you up and find a little girl, they open her up to see if there’s another.”

Ivor Dembina: “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.”

Sameer Katz: “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.”

Leo Kearse: “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.”

Will Mars’ own: “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.”

Tom Mayhew: “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.”

Rich Pulsford: “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.”

The trophy for the one-off 2021 Award itself was designed and crafted by mad inventor John Ward, who has designed and made all the previous trophies.

But you can’t just knock-off a Malcolm Hardee Award in a minute or two. Oh no. Oh my dear me, no. Quality counts.

You need raw materials and then you have to decide what the fuck to do with them…

Once you have ’em, you have to shape ’em and craft ’em…

Then, if you’re talented like John Ward, you have to tart ’em up into a final trophy…

John Ward (he’s the one on the right) with the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award 2021

John Ward told me: “It’s basically Malcolm’s bonce, with real imitation hair, plus the specs mounted on an ‘H’ shaped base for Hardee.

“I used a BAFTA type theme but tried to take the piss out of it with the silver (on the right) symbolising the bland year and half it’s been with Covid and the golden ray of laughter (on the left) is pure (if that’s a suitable word) Malcolm with a hearty grin.”

“With real imitation hair?” I asked. “From where?”

“From a fabric shop I patronise for such things…”

“Such things?” I asked.

“I use it to make wigs and I buy it by the yard as you never know when you might run out of the hairy stuff…” replied John.

Here is a reminder of John Ward.

Here is Will Mars’ typically non-promotional speech accepting the 2021 Cunning Stunt Award…

 
And here is the base of John Ward’s trophy…

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Edinburgh

The Iceman offers himself to the Taliban and remembers Charlie Watts

Entrepreneurial Iceman – a self portrait

Yesterday, I got an email from the uniquely entrepreneurial Anthony Irvine aka performance artist The Iceman aka fine artist AIM.

He told me about GIANT – “a new prestigious art gallery in the ex-Debenham’s department store in central Bournemouth” on England’s south coast.

At 15,000 square feet, it is claimed to be the UK’s largest artist-run gallery space outside London. The Iceman told me:”There’s a giant  polar bear in there which I thought was a good omen for me.”

“He has heard back from neither them nor the polar bear”

So he left his business card but, so far, has heard back from neither the organisers nor the polar bear.

Forever entrepreneurial, he has also written an open letter to the Taliban, who surged back into power in Afghanistan this week… in the hope of getting a performance booking from them.

In 1975 he travelled overland via Turkey, Iran (where the Shah was still in power), Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and Nepal, with appropriately long hair, pretending to be a hippy. 

The giant Buddhas of Bamiyan (Photograph from Wikipedia)

In Afghanistan, he stopped in the Bamiyan Valley and, he says, “climbed the rough steps up one of the tall Buddhas carved out of the sandstone rock. At the top, one could actually get into the head. I’m not sure if I experienced immediate enlightenment; more a slow burn…”

The Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

His open letter to the Taliban this week is worth a read in its original form on his website.

But, for the lazy, I translate it here:


Dear Taliban Team,

I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to send Congratulations, but I hope you do better than the last time. 

In 1975, I was in Afghanistan. I went up to the beautiful lakes in Band-e-Amir on horseback. I went to see and enter the incredibly still Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley. 

Why did you blow them up? You thought them idolatrous? Or is it because you understand the concept of emptiness? Probably not.

The Iceman’s image of Block 223 as submitted to the Taliban

Anyway, if it would help, I am happy to come and melt an ice-block somewhere in your rugged country. But, if I make a mistake, please don’t amputate any of my limbs – I need them for my art work. Give me a Community Care Order instead?

I attach a Polaroid of a previous Block [223] to give you a sense of my performance art work.

Do you think it would be popular in Afghanistan?

I also attach a photo of myself for ID purposes.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Irvine [aim]


Because Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died this week, The Iceman also shared with me these two memories:

“I remember seeing him getting a taxi in Hammersmith… also at Knebworth in 1976 when I was meant to be on stage with him but was overwhelmed by other factors…”

“WHAT?” I asked. “Knebworth? Other factors? Tell me more…”

And he sort-of did. 

The Stones at Knebworth, as portrayed by the Iceman/AIM

“The Stones,” The Iceman told me, “had insisted that the promoter should attempt to try to instill a carnival atmosphere at the show by hiring a large number of clowns, buskers and other circus acts, who were supposed to entertain the crowd between sets. I guess I was part of this. 

Chris Lynam booked us. I was in a street theatre group from Penge called Shoestring. I played a character called Private Parts. But I think on this occasion we were less performers and more atmosphere creators, interacting with festival goers. I had designed my own clown costume. I think I also wore a chef’s hat.

“I remember Chris Lynam shouting at me to get on stage but I had challenged myself with an alternative form of stimulus and couldn’t get off the ground. I think my colleagues all assembled on the main stage, but I missed my biggest audience.”

On his website, partly as his 1976 self, partly as The Iceman, partly as AIM, his artist persona, he remembers:


I didn’t make it onto stage, man, but I was booked, man – I let the Stones down, man. Not good to let the Stones down, man, but, like, man, they understood, man. Icespecaimlly Mice Jaimgger, man. Things happen at open air concerts, man, and there’s a lot of stuff going on, man. Things happenin’, man, all the taim, man – all kinds of stuff, man, around everywhere, man. It’s craimzy, man – raimlly cricy, man…


We can but wait with bated breath to see if the Taliban reply and sensibly give him a booking in their new (or do I mean old?) Afghanistan…

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Filed under Afghanistan, Art, Eccentrics, Performance

Comic Malcolm Hardee remembered by Australian performer Matthew Hardy…

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (Photo by Steve Taylor)

In yesterday’s blog, Australian performer Matthew Hardy remembered British comedian Sean Lock, who died earlier this week. 

Matthew also mentioned the late comedian Malcolm Hardee – oft called ‘the godfather of British alternative comedy’ – as “the most outrageous individual I’ve ever known”. 

Eight days after Malcolm’s death by drowning in 2005, Matthew Hardy shared this memory. 

Stories about Malcolm Hardee are plentiful but, to my mind, this one from Matthew may be the definitive one…


Malcolm took my visiting elderly parents out in his boat. Goes up the Thames and on the right was some kind of rusted ship, pumping a powerful arc of bilgewater out of its hull, through a kind of high porthole, which saw the water arc across the river over fifty foot.

I’m on the front of the boat as Malcolm veers toward the arc and I assume he’s gonna go under it, between the ship and where the arc curves downward toward the river itself. For a laugh.

Just as I turn back to say “Lookout, we’re gonna get hit by the filthy fucking water” – the filthy fucking water almost knocked my head off my shoulders and me off the boat. I looked back to see it hit Malcolm as he steered, then my Mum and then Dad.

I wanted to hit him and my Dad said afterwards that he did too, but we were both unable to comprehend or calculate what had actually happened. 

Malcolm’s decision was beyond any previously known social conduct. 

He must have simply had the idea and acted upon it. 

Anarchy.

We laugh… NOW!”.

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics

The mysterious Iceman’s birth, baptism, Westminster connections and dribbles.

The Iceman crops up in this blog erractically and eccentrically.

He used to be a humorous performance artist, destroying blocks of ice – sometimes by just letting them melt, sometimes using a blowtorch, sometimes blowing them up with explosives. Nowadays, though, he is a painter.

He paints pictures of blocks of ice.

Recently, he did a Zoom call with pupils at the highly prestigious Westminster School in London. I Skyped him to ask why…


JOHN: Why?

ICEMAN: A young sixth former became aware of my work and approached me on behalf of the Westminster Literary Society, which sounded very prestigious.

JOHN: But you’re not a literary creator; you’re an artistic performer and performance artist and now artist.

ICEMAN: Yes but, as you know, I use words, often with “aim” or “ice” in them.

JOHN: Errr… “aim”?

Portrait of the Artist as a mystery man

ICEMAN: That’s the n-ice name I have adopted as a painter. AIM = Anthony, Ice Man. But it always has a deeper meaning…

JOHN: Ooooooh!

ICEMAN: That is the correct response. Ooooooh! Deep. Deep. What are we AIMing for? I’m aiming for something very particular.

JOHN: What?

ICEMAN: Nirvanaima.

JOHN: Yer wot?

ICEMAN: Some people call it Nirvana. I call it NirvanAIMa… The Westminster Literary Society liked the wordplay… I am now a cult figure in the sixth form at Westminster School… I was baptised in Westminster Hall.

Westminster Hall is the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster – ie the UK Parliament building (Photograph by Jwslubbock via Wikipedia)

JOHN: Westminster HALL???

That’s in the Houses of Parliament!

ICEMAN: Yes. The old hall where Charles I was tried. 

JOHN: You were baptised there???

ICEMAN: I had good contacts in those days.

JOHN: Bloody good contacts. Tell all!… 

ICEMAN: Anyway…

JOHN: Forget the Anyway. Why did you get baptised in Westminster Hall and where did you get the water from? There’s no font. You must have brought your own water. What was the font? Times Roman? What connections did you have? Political or Lordly?

ICEMAN: I’m a commoner.

JOHN: So you had a relation who was in the House of Commons?

ICEMAN: As a baby, I was good at networking. I have a little block of ice here…

JOHN: I don’t want to know about your little block of ice. I want to know about the water in your font and how and why you got baptised in Westminster Hall. Does this mean, bizarrely, you have a connection with Westminster School?

ICEMAN: One wonders, with all this synchronicity going around… You have an unhealthy interest in this… I think the person who invited me – at Westminster School – unbeknown to me, took my work very seriously, thought it was deep and funny and the initial subject I was talking to them about was Can Stand-Up Comedy Be an Art Form?… but I turned it, really, into a promotion of my paintings.

JOHN: Your paintings not your ice-melting performance art?

ICEMAN: I am a man of two parts.

JOHN: You’re a man of three parts. One is in Westminster Hall as a baby.

ICEMAN: There was ice in the font. It was February… No, it was April, actually.

JOHN: You remember ice in the font?

ICEMAN: I sensed it… Anyway… One of my audience at Westminster School was called Cecilia. She said she laughed so much at my Zoom meeting that her eyeliner ran.

JOHN: Where did it run to?

Iceman and duck talk to Westminster scholars

ICEMAN: My duck was there. You remember my duck? You blogged about it.

JOHN: How could I not?

ICEMAN: But the thing that I appreciated was that my art – seemingly genuinely – was being appreciated by a new generation. Now they can’t stop sending me emails. And even their English teacher said how deeply moving and funny it was at the same time. They had a block of their own. They called it Alice.

JOHN: Alice?

ICEMAN: – Al-ice.

JOHN: Aah! So you’ve inspired new ice artists?

ICEMAN: Well, they say I have inspired them. They are painting lots of pictures and they are going to send me a booklet of all their pictures. It has been a stimulus for their writing and art.

JOHN: But will they cough-up to buy a painting from you? How much would it cost?

ICEMAN: I dunno. If they gave a fiver each, how big is the Sixth Form?… £500?

JOHN: That’s quite cheap for your ice blocks.

ICEMAN: They haven’t replied to that e-mail.

JOHN: This would be you selling them not a block of ice but a…

ICEMAN: …a painting of a block. Yes. I know you met me when I was a performance artist, but my main creative activity now is painting, though still using the motif of blocks of ice. Every painting has a block of ice. I told the Literary Society that, when I look back, I see the blocks as stepping stones to my later career as a painter.

JOHN: But if the past blocks are stepping stones, they will melt, so your future career is uncertain.

ICEMAN: Yes, but I’ve got there now. A painter called Alfred Wallis reminds me of myself. He was part of the St Ives Group in Cornwall, but he was really a Cornish fisherman and he painted on cardboard, using ship’s paint. Very simple and child-like, which reminds me of me because I tend to paint on mounting board. He was taken up by Ben Nicholson. He was a genuinely naïve painter.

I’m not saying I’m emulating him. I came across him later and realised he’s like me in some ways. He only started painting in his Sixties.

The Iceman in full flow… His art is not easily accomplished… It is a combination of art and art-if-ice

JOHN: Back to your birth. Where was your father born?

ICEMAN: In Aberdeen. But I was born off the King’s Road in Chelsea. I think there might be a plaque there. It was a bit more bohemian in those days. I broke free and became The Iceman.

JOHN: Did you go to university?

ICEMAN: I can’t give too much information about myself without demystifying myself.

JOHN: When you were 19, what did you want to be?

ICEMAN: I think I wanted to join the Royal Navy.

JOHN: Why?

ICEMAN: To do ice patrols…

JOHN: Of course you did. But, at 19, did you decide you wanted to be a creative person of some kind?

ICEMAN: I think I had an idea of being some kind of actor. But then I recognised the limitations of that field.

JOHN: What are the limitations?

ICEMAN: Spouting forth other people’s words. I guess I became a performance artist but not one of your heavy Marina Abramović types. More of a slightly humorous performance artist. When I played comedy clubs, they said I should do art galleries; and art galleries said I should go and do comedy clubs. That’s the story of my life.

I ran into Arthur Smith. I said to him: “I never had success.” He said: “You had your moments”.

JOHN: Well, you’ve done better than Van Gogh did in his lifetime.

ICEMAN: That was one of your greatest blogs – The Iceman out-sells Van Gogh… You don’t remember! You don’t know your own blogs!

JOHN: I send the recordings off to some bloke in China and he transcribes them and puts them online. I seldom read them. But I remember the duck.

ICEMAN: You have a sort-of tabloid journalist’s eye for a good headline.

JOHN: Yeah: The Iceman was Lord So-and-So’s Son

ICEMAN: No.

“a bit of blue tarpaulin attached to it that looked like a fish.”

JOHN: You sent me an image of a new painting of a block yesterday.

ICEMAN: Yes, it is called The Tombstone Block. It has a lateral flow test thing block and The Iceman was in PPE outfit and it had a bit of blue tarpaulin attached to it that looked like a fish.

JOHN: Anything seems reasonable. Has the pandemic lockdown inspired you to create more things than you would otherwise have done?

ICEMAN: At one stage I created  a regular routine of painting more or less every day. Recently it’s more like one a fortnight.

JOHN: They take about a week to complete?

The Iceman amid his recent art, holding an old Polaroid

ICEMAN: About five minutes. (LAUGHS) But the build-up… I do think about it prior to the event.

I used to take Polaroids and, when I started painting, I was painting my interpretation of those photographs. But, when I ran out of photographs, I started painting more from memory.

And, more recently, I’ve painted more from a concept.

The block I did with Stewart Lee at the Royal Festival Hall – I imagined it going to Gravesend, Richmond Bridge, the North Sea, lift-off into space, then to a neighbouring universe. I’m getting more away from the basic literal block portrayal.

JOHN: How are sales of your paintings going?

Shrewd buyer (left) of a second Iceman painting – thaims 16

ICEMAN: I’ve just had an order from a previous buyer. He’s the Head of Music at Monkton Combe School. Many years after buying the original one – LidO –  based on Tooting Lido where I did a block, he became interested in a painting called thaims 16, which is basically a boat with an ice block on it… and the other one he likes is more abstract. I tried to get him into three figures, but he’s whittled me down to £50.

I like the fact I’m now painting. That has given me a completely different experience from performing. When you perform, you’re interacting in rough and ready ways. But when you’re painting you’ve usually alone. They are both intense, but completely different experiences.

When I paint, I think it’s the one time I forget about… well… For all my limitations as a painter – because I’ve had no training – I think what I bring to it is a spontaneous feeling. In one way, that relates back to the performance art work, which was always rough and ready.

I like using oils because, on canvas, they can emulate the ice block effects… I like dribbles.


The Iceman’s Zoom chat with the boys and girls of the Westminster Literary Society is on YouTube… The video lasts 29 minutes…

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A fond memory of eccentric – and very noisy – comedy performer Chis Luby

John Ward made the Malcolm Hardee Awards

Mad inventor John Ward is a man of many parts, many of them going spare. He designed and built the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies and I have occasionally booked him on TV shows. 

One was in 1988 on the weekly ITV series Prove It! Participants had to ‘prove’ they could do something bizarre.

John now writes a weekly column for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and today he remembered fellow eccentric Chris Luby. Here are some of his memories:


The late Chris Luby was absolutely brilliant at ‘noise impressions’ such as a WW2 spitfire starting up, going down a runway and into battle, trains on the underground that to the untrained ear sounded very real plus many more.

I first met him some years ago when we both appeared on an ITV telly show called Prove It! presented by Chris Tarrant

We both recorded the pilot show plus both appeared in the first episode while I appeared in the whole series on a thirteen week basis presenting assorted inventions and gadgets.

Chrises Tarrant and Luby

Day one was rehearsal day with everybody involved getting to know each other, then going through our paces plus a studio run-through, then – all those still breathing – off to our designated hotels for a clean-up before dinner.

I was on the same table as Chris (Luby) for dinner/supper and it was an experience sitting there, looking at the menu while hearing about The train now leaving platform whatever… and going through to Kings Cross station, with all the assorted sounds and voices.

He sat there, menu covering his face, making these noises and, apart from the fact they were ‘spot on’ and very realistic, my thoughts were: “Does he ever stop!?”

He was doing his impression of whatever plane it was as the waiter came over to us to ask if we were ready to order. I said we would, just as soon as my companion came in to land.

The look on the poor waiter’s face was a classic as he didn’t know what was going on but then nor did I… but I was learning – I hoped.

The first night we spent in the lounge bar area of the hotel and, yes, he carried on going like a good ‘un with his assorted impressions of objects and people.

Eventually it was off to bedtime and I did sleep very well all things considered as it had been a really long day.

So imagine being woken up the next morning by what sounded like a detachment of the Grenadier Guards at the bedroom door, ‘marching on the spot’ outside.

I know I had asked for an alarm call but this was pushing it a bit.

I then heard what could be called a sergeant major’s ‘rallying call’ or “Git ‘art of bed, you ‘orribel little man!!!” as it dawned on me (well, it was by then daylight) it could be only Chris Luby. 

Does he ever stop? I asked myself.

Chris Luby – N0-one ever slept in HIS shows

His initial appearance had him in a Coldstream Guard’s uniform, coming through the middle of the stage curtains, making the sounds of a marching regiment… hobbling on crutches as he had broken his leg a week or so beforehand.

Culture didn’t come any better than this.

He used to perform about a twenty minute act consisting of assorted ‘sounds’ or noises, many military based and he made a decent living from it on the comedy circuit.

Sadly there is not much on the internet about him apart from the fact he passed away in January 2014 following an accident at his home when he tumbled downstairs.

That ended the life and sounds of ‘The Man of Many Noises’.

He wasn’t what you might call a ‘mainstream’ entertainer but anybody you mentioned his name to in ‘the show business’ always broke into a smile as they all seem to have a Chris anecdote.

He was one of those unique but talented people that, once met or seen, never forgotten.


SoundCloud has an audio clip of Chris Luby impersonating an RAF fly-past at the legendarily raucous church funeral of Malcolm Hardee in 2005…

…and YouTube has a clip of John Ward (though sadly not Chris Luby) on Prove It!

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An Italian archaeologist, a Soviet agent and the weird perils of auto-translate

In March 2017, I posted a blog headed: The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets.

This morning, a Comment was left on that blog. I reprint it here without comment by me and without anything cut out, though with some additional paragraphing to make it easier to read…


Much has been said about Maurizio Tosi. Little that Maurizio Tosi as well as a cultured archaeologist among the five best known in the world was a technician rich in intuition. Furthermore, he was extremely astute and had a network of distributed intelligence informants who only did the story good. Marlene Dietrich and prof. Franco Malosso von Rosenfranz, had been equally educated in history as in music by dr. Bechstein Giuseppe Becce.The Vicentine composer of German Cinema had been a pupil of Ferdinand von Richthofen, thus quickly maturing on the story of Monika, the daughter of Hans Ertl, inventor and fellow cameraman of Becce, as well as avenger of the murder of Che Guevara, who later fell very young in an ambush of the spies of Klaus Barbie. In the GDR first, in South America and RFT later, both Prof. Franco von Rosenfranz who is prof. Maurizio Tosi, came from very similar experiences even though they were aware that one and the other could be mutually respectful rivals. Also very different in specialness.

Later, however, they discover themselves linked by the same affinities. Tosi had survived unscathed more than a few traps. Equally Franco Malosso. Between 1992 and 2002 Tosi began to secretly take an interest in the events of his land (Verona). More precisely to the true story of Romeo and Juliet by Luigi Da Porto originated in the district of Arcugnano. In 1307 Tosi ascertained that the thirteen-year-old girl had then migrated to Verona from the Emilei. The story was brought forward and magically made famous all over the world thanks to an Englishman of Sicilian origin who had previously escaped from prison, John Florio (Shakespeare) from Messina because he was a heretic. A legacy told of 2 lovers who tell of a swim they started from the basin of the amphitheater to the beach of “Monticello delle Capra”, the hill on which, 200 years later, the architect Palladio built the villa “La Rotonda” in the style of a Pagan temple dedicated to the God Janus. Its terraces had recently been cleaned up after a reclamation.

The research started by the Vicenza academic prof. Renato Cevese continued to be studied in depth by Prof. Tosi. However, they remained interrupted under threat and a staff member was reprimanded after a brief kidnapping of him. The cause of everything were illegal constructions built near the top of the Amphitheater. It was here that the money paid for the institutional massacre of the Italian judge Paolo Borsellino was invested. Between 1997 and 2002 when the bulldozers destroyed the remains of a centuries-old underground canalization. these works became a beast for the amphitheater. However, in order not to jeopardize operations of undercover agents, the protests for those works were abruptly stopped. Later they were definitively accepted so that the situation normalized. In 2014, with greater impetus, new works resumed thanks also to the funding of local sponsors. The terraces of the theater were repaired and new blocks were replaced with those looted in 2002 (they had been used to form a retaining wall to hold back the washout of the hill excavated to house the foundations of the illegal villas).

The professor was murdered for refusing to ask the sponsors of the amphitheater for the sum of 5 million euros demanded by the hidden Italian institutional mafia. The elimination of him had become a priority for the leaders of the Mafia Dome since the Tosi in retaliation to the request of the 5 million euros, had begun to investigate the realization of the Borgo Berga Court. On the court together with the DESPAR Logistics area owned by the massacre Matteo Messina Denaro, the journalist Marco Milioni argued that there was a Mafia investigation (Ndrangheda). National Liberation Front of the Veneto and then recklessly asked for the demolition of the new illegal court that invaded the view of the “Rotonda”. Tosi also feared the exit of Vicenza from UNESCO.

This concept was best expressed by him through public conferences. At that point, an ecologist informing the staff warned that Tosi would soon be murdered by a member of the criminal gang of kidnappers of the Magliana (a criminal structure used by the Italian government for kidnapping for the purpose of etortion and murder). Shortly afterwards, to avoid inconvenient witnesses, the ecologist who had informed the professor was also shot and killed. A Mossad agent who had mediated for a settlement solution in this institutional extortion also disappeared. Tosi’s death was an immense loss for the international community. In depth and execution, it is comparable to that of the Italian political statesman Aldo Moro, killed by his party comrades. This type of executions are part of those among the most ferocious and shameless extreme criminal operations organized by politics within the Italian government passed under control with the USA after 10 July 1943. Operations in reality never advocated by the massacre of the entire American community.

Before and after these events there were at least 9 murders linked to the attempt by mafias to take over the amphitheater. The Conservator of the English landscape in the Amphitheater was also the victim of as many attacks: Franco von Rosenfranz who, however, although seriously injured, escaped death. The most serious intimidation attack occurred during a show trial against him to cover up the extortion. During the battle spent in defense of the surrounding Amphitheater, his 3-year-old son disappeared. Inside the amphitheater, on the anniversary of the death of prof. Maurizio Tosi, without fuss as for his desire, a bust dedicated to him was inaugurated in memory of his tireless work that the eminent scholar courageously brought forward to the extreme sacrifice. Maurizio Tosi was a victim of the Mafia. . On social media, young Italians who were functional supporters of the mafia extortion defamed him, mocking him. Also in the media cavea of ​​the Amphitheater, near the sculpture carved in the rock depicting the ancient winged canine deity (Winged Lion of the ancient Veneti) Veneti friends have dedicated a stele to him.

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ECCENTRIVIA: Mad inventor John Ward builds a tunnel and goes potty

Mad inventor John Ward has an ever-fertile mind. He designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards and is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail’s letters column.

A few weeks ago, he mentioned to them that he had invented a tunnel.

The Daily Mail has always had a keen eye for the bizarre…

“I was getting fed up,” he told them, “with constantly hearing the hackneyed expression: ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel’. So I made my own tunnel with a switch to put the light on and off as required.

“It could be an executive stress device for those who want total control or like to think they have.

“I have updated it because, due to Brexit, the light is now central. Before it was adjustable from right to left, depending on what country it might be used in and what side of the road they drove on. 

“Never let it be said we are kept in the dark. Being British, we are streets ahead of the game. Work is progressing on a solar-powered model.”

John tells me: “Some hours later, after the Daily Mail hit the newsstands, a researcher for BBC Three Counties Radio got in touch to see if I could do an interview over the phone and describe how my tunnel works.

“I told him: ’It’s purely visual. It’s something to be seen. The light is very quiet.”

And the line went very quiet.

The next day, a lady contacted John about the cost of making one for her husband’s birthday.

“I quoted,” John told me, “depending on size, between £150 and £250 as being I hadn’t made it and it would be individual to them but would come with a certificate of authenticity. She said she would be getting back to me as she and her daughter were going to buy it if her daughter agreed…”

That was ten days ago. Now John has had another brainstorm.

No stranger to the media, he has his own weekly column in the increasingly prestigious Spalding Guardian newspaper – and he has come up with a new cracker of an idea which has now been featured in a lengthy piece on their esteemed sister website Spalding Today.

He has created a board game based on the number of potholes in the roads of South Holland in Lincolnshire.

The game has been designed for two players – who throw dice from an upside-down miniature traffic cone. 

How did he get the inspiration for this?

Players throw dice from an upside-down miniature traffic cone

“I was driving down the A17 road last Easter time,” he explains, “when I ‘hit’ two such holes, both within a few yards of each other, then felt the car really jar but the more I thought about it this is a right old game – three such jarrings and your left front wheel falls off crossed my mind.

“From a personal viewpoint,” continues John W, never short of words, “Lincolnshire is blighted with potholes from major roads to side streets and they are a constant talking point, with forever debate about when or if they will be repaired. Although once repaired there is a very good chance the situation will return almost as soon as it’s been ‘repaired’ as the repair possibly was not as it should have been or rather it appears that way to the common layman.”

Players have the option of picking a sports car, pick-up truck or a tractor as a marker.

Realistic detail: “a fly-tipped pile of rubbish left on the grass”

“Realism,” explains John, “comes in the form of a fly-tipped pile of rubbish left on the grass.

“Each player starts with a set of ‘hole fillers’ or plugs, each colour-coded, to use to fill a pot hole when landing on one. Although it is not that straightforward – much like reporting a pothole and expecting it to be attended to.

“If you land on a square with a coloured star on it, you then pick a card from a pile with that co-ordinating star to find out if you can progress through to the next square or miss a go, forfeit a go to your opponent and so on.

“I am in the process of registering the design and copyrighting it at the moment. However, as these real life pot holes affect many millions of motorists, the possible potential for this game could – I stress ‘could’ – be very interesting.”

Last year, the Lincolnshire Free Press reported: A woman from Lincolnshire is spray-painting potholes around the county in a protest surrounding the state of the roads. Karen Holland, 55, is decorating the roads with different bugs – and even the occasional cheeky genitalia – to warn other motorists about the potholes and show just how many there are around Lincolnshire.”

This story, I think, has more mileage in it.

The art of Lincolnshire potholes in 2020 – as decorated and photographed by Karen Holland

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ECCENTRIVIA – Clinton death, biscuits and criminal copper PC Oliver Banfield

Hillary Clinton – What was all that about?

Last night – as I have since May last year, I woke up every hour during the night with a parched dry mouth.

Twice when I woke up I was in the middle of a dream – different narrative dreams – where someone suddenly said: “Hillary Clinton’s dead!”

What was that all about?

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At the moment, I also have occasional vertigo problems.

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, wrote to say:

Two balls – “He had them indoors, en route to his loo…”

“Sorry to hear about your health problems with the balance. I think you should make sure there is nothing too weighty or sharp that you might fall upon en route to the loo.

“A friend of mine with a similar balance problem had a couple of large stone spheres on pedestals which used to be garden ornaments. He had them indoors, en route to his loo. 

“I insisted on taking them away, saying: Larry, I’m sorry but I’m removing your balls. I don’t want you getting hurt.

Anna, alas, does not say what Larry’s reaction was.

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Keith suggests it is mucous causing my balance problem…

Ex ITV (et al) announcer Keith Martin, suggests I have a mucous disorder causing my balance problem. 

While he was at it, he also explained to me, in a non-segue, that the origin of the word ‘biscuit’ is French and it originally meant ‘baked twice’.

Who knew? Keith did.

And now the Americans have confused it all for no discernible reason.

If anything, they should be called bi-cookies

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Criminal coppers’ cuffs (Photo by Bill Oxford via UnSplash)

Keith had read my latest blogs about the case in which criminally-inclined PC Oliver Banfield wantonly attacked and beat a woman walking home alone. 

He (Keith) suggested that the reason for the recent spate of crime committed by serving policemen (there was also Sarah Everard’s recent murder by a serving policeman) is that the police were told they had to be closer to the people they serve.

And, of course, they deal mostly with criminals.

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This reminds me of the Stoke Newington police who were planting drugs on drug dealers not because they were frustrated by their inability to get genuine convictions but because they were getting rid of the competition – several of the officers at the local police station had a nice little – highly profitable – business going dealing drugs in the area.

Brian Sedgemore (Photo: Wikipedia)

In 1992, there was an Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons in unusually forthright language. I presume one of the sponsors – Brian Sedgemore, MP – had a lot to do with that. I encountered him, between his two stints as an MP, when we were both working at Granada TV in Manchester. 

The Early Day Motion on 31st January 1992 stated:

“That this House condemns those nasty, vile and corrupt police officers at Stoke Newington police station who have been engaged in drug trafficking and perverting the course of justice; is appalled that these officers should have betrayed the trust of people in Hackney in general as well as the trust of those who live in and around Sandringham Road, particularly those represented by the Montague Residents Association; notes that these officers have made a mockery of the way in which Hackney Council has co-operated with the police to get rid of drug dealing in Sandringham Road; notes that it now seems certain that at meetings and by letter Chief Superintendent Roy Clarke from Stoke Newington police station has misled the honourable Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch about the true nature of the problems because he himself has been duped by his own police officers… and calls on the Home Secretary to set up an independent judicial enquiry.”

As far as I am aware, no independent judicial enquiry was set up.

********

PC Oliver Banfield (Photo: Channel 4 video)

Which brings us back to the appalling case of 6ft 2in tall copper/criminal PC Oliver Banfield attacking a random 5ft 2in woman in the street.

Banfield has now resigned from the police before he had to face a ‘misconduct investigation’ by his employers, West Midlands Police.

Sandra Smith, comedy fan par excellence who seems to have developed an interest in the PC Olver Banfield case, drew my attention to the latest media coverage of this – a Sky News report – which includes an interview with the victim – a mother-of-two – who, understandably, says:

“It’s kind of cowardly in a way, if you ask me, because I think he’s obviously hoping to make it go away… It’s affected the way I live my life; it’s affected the way I walk round the village that I’ve lived in all of my life… He’s been put on curfew (instead of a prison sentence) in a lockdown and that doesn’t make sense. We’re all on curfew so what’s he gonna learn or what’s he gonna gain from that?”

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