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A man can avoid UK Death Duties and a woman can piss in a policeman’s helmet

I told someone an untruth yesterday.

In the UK, if you die, your estate has to pay Death Duties (Inheritance Tax) on what you leave behind over £325,000… unless you leave it to your spouse, civil partner, a charity or (rather oddly) a community amateur sports club.

So, basically, your sons, daughters and other heirs have to pay tax on what they inherit in your will.

If you are Lord Bloggs and own some flash country house, hundreds of acres and an estate worth several million pounds, the Inheritance Tax can be crippling. Tax is assessed at 40% of the net value of the estate. The ‘estate’ is property, land, cash, investments, anything of real value you leave behind.

But there is a way round this tax. Not just for Lord Bloggs but for any man who leaves an estate worth over £325,000 (and, with current house prices, that is not uncommon).

If you are a man and your wife is dead, you can marry your son.

A mother cannot marry her son. It is illegal.

A father cannot marry his daughter. It is illegal.

Incest is illegal.

But there is no law against a father marrying his son.

It is one of those quirks in UK law. Much like the quirk that used to mean male homosexuality was illegal but lesbianism was not illegal.

It was never illegal for a father to marry his son because the thought of it was inconceivable and male homosexuality was illegal.

So, now male-male marriages are legal, there is a quirky loophole in the law – that a father can marry his son provided the marriage is never consummated (because incest is still illegal).

That means that if, after the death of his wife, a man marries his son then… when the man dies, the son is his spouse and is not liable for death duties/inheritance tax.

Unfortunately, I found out today that is all a load of utter bollocks.

I told an untruth. Mea culpa.

Apparently a 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act 1949 specifically prohibits a father marrying his son – acccording to the Daily Telegraph, who should know about such things.

Pity.

A great pity.

I rather enjoyed the British quirkiness of it all.

Perhaps we should repeal the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act.

I was always comforted by the thought that there is still an Oliver Cromwell law on the statute books which made it illegal for anyone in England to celebrate Christmas or to eat mince pies on Christmas Day.

But apparently it is an urban myth – Charles II repealed almost all Cromwell’s new laws.

London Metropolitan Police helmet

There is another urban myth that it is legal for a man to urinate on the rear wheel of his vehicle if his right hand is on the vehicle. And that pregnant women can legally urinate in any public place, including into a policeman’s helmet.

Alas, the BBC – who know about such things – say these are just that… urban myths.

Except – and this is true – the Law Commission does say that a police officer may make an exception for an expectant mother.

 

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An extract from an unpublished novel…

That night, she went to bed very early – 8.00pm – and couldn’t get to sleep until about midnight and then the nightmares started.

In her mind, she saw the quiet living room she knew so well on a quiet Sunday afternoon in a white-painted house sitting alone among trees. His idyllic home; their future idyllic home together. She had been away at a meeting in Manchester.

At a desk in the room, by French windows leading out to the large garden, the man in his thirties sat writing. Or maybe he was reading. Yes, he was reading. He liked reading at the desk, not in a comfortable sofa, because he said it did his back in. He slouched if he sat too long on sofas. So he would have been sitting at the desk, reading. Sitting in the wicker chair he felt most comfortable in. He would not have heard the man stalk up behind him on the thick white carpet. She saw the man dressed from head-to-toe in black, wearing a balaclava. Like he was storming the Iranian Embassy or delivering Black Magic chocolate to his beloved in a Cadbury’s chocolate ad on TV. The police had told her the framed photograph of her had been on the floor next to him when they found his dead body; it would have been one of the last things he saw, they said.

She hoped so, anyway. She hoped he hadn’t heard the man stalk up behind him, hadn’t turned round and known what was going to happen, hadn’t felt the fear rise within him. No, he hadn’t known until the last moment. Her picture was sitting on the desk. It would have been sudden. A black-gloved hand pulling his head back. Another black-gloved hand bringing the knife suddenly round in front of the throat, slicing from one side to the other while the blade pushed in as it cut. The sudden inability to breathe. The loss of consciousness. No, he wouldn’t have known what was happening. Then she realised he would have felt his own warm blood spurt up from his cut throat onto the underside of his chin and we would have been unable to breathe; it would have been like suffocating and she woke up screaming and drenched in sweat.

If you cut someone’s throat, it takes about ten or twelve seconds for them to die; it’s faster if you stab them through the groin – then it takes about four seconds – but that’s seldom an option. Anything over four seconds is a long time to know you’re dying. And twelve seconds is a long time to know it. You obviously can’t talk after your throat has been cut, but you hear your own gurgling and gasping and gargling sounds. You realise what’s happened; you know that, in a few brief seconds, you’re going to be dead. All your plans were pointless.

I saw a man’s throat cut in 1979 and I timed it. He ran to the bathroom, squirting blood everywhere, and managed to get a towel round his neck and then died. Took a little while. Twelve and a half seconds. I timed it when I played the footage back. Watch and learn was always my motto.

In the border town of Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland in the 1970s, in embroidery and sewing classes, little schoolgirls used to knit black woollen balaclavas; they were never told why, but it helped them learn domestic skills which were useful to them later in life.

I was brought up in a local Conservative Party Club in North West London because my parents ran the bar. My father used to tell everybody that he was a trooper in the Life Guards but that all he ever did during the Second World War was to hand out bullets and blankets. That was his War. Bullets and blankets. Nothing special. Sometimes, when he was pissed, which was most of the time, he’d get my air rifle and start drilling with it – strutting up and down in the Conservative Club bar and ‘presenting arms’ and all that. He’d put it up on his shoulder… “Who goes there?… Whose keys?… The Queen’s keys… Pass friend!”… all that bollocks. He didn’t do it to amuse me; he’d do it in the bar at the Conservative Club for the members and they’d all laugh because they were all ex-warriors and loved it. I reckoned my dad was an idiot. He hadn’t fought; he had done fuck all during the War and here he was strutting up and down pretending to be a real soldier.

Because he worked in the trade, running the bar, in those days the licensing laws said he had to close the bar at three in the afternoon and he’d have a proper sleep in the afternoons; then, later, get up and have a wash, then go down and serve drinks all evening. My mum used to tell me late in the afternoon:

“Go wake your dad”

and I used to be mortified. She wasn’t stupid; she sent me for a reason. You could shout at him – really shout – when he was asleep and he wouldn’t hear you. So you had to keep shouting louder and louder and then maybe shake his shoulder gently. But, if you touched him even a little – fuck me – did he wake up! And he woke up violent. He’d automatically swing his fist at you. Then he’d be angry that you’d made him upset and he’d taken a swing at you and he’d storm around for an hour or so. He had a terrible temper. Why I thought he’d never hurt anyone in his life I don’t know, because he’d hurt me. Physically.  A very, very dangerous man. He’d knock my mum about and then bang me and he had a hard job dealing with his own violence. Swung from aggression to remorse to aggression.

He drank 50 bottles – 25 pints – of Whitbread light ale every day. Easy. My mum counted sometimes, just to check. It was only a pale ale; not strong stuff. But he’d start at 8 o’clock in the morning when he was ‘bottling up’. Then he’d have a couple just before breakfast. He was an alcoholic, but wasn’t really visibly pissed after his 25 pints. He could function perfectly well after drinking 50 bottles but, then, he only had to stand behind the bar and serve drinks. On the other hand, if you gave him just one small Scotch after all that, then he became a lot more than a bit of a handful.

When he died, his name was put in the Life Guard magazine and one of his old mates contacted them, got my phone number, rang me up and told me what a wonderful father I’d had.

I told him, “Yeah, he would’ve been a wonderful father if he hadn’t been drunk all the time!”

And he said, “Your father never drank when I knew him.”

This bloke was putting together a scrapbook of people he had known to give to the Life Guard Association after he died, so he wanted photos of my dad. And this guy told me he had been on five ‘X’ missions behind German lines in Occupied Europe with my father, ‘doing little tasks’ – blowing something up, assassinating someone, things like that. He was, obviously, a rather military man, this friend of my father’s and he told me:

“I can tell you for sure that, with my own eyes, I have seen your father ‘cut’ eleven men. He used to kill the sentries.”

He told me my father had only got upset once.

“There was this young German looking at his pay book,” he told me, “when your dad came up behind him and slit his throat. The German dropped his paybook and it fell to the ground and your dad picked it up and inside the paybook was a picture of the German’s wife and three children which he’d been looking at when his throat was slit. And your dad handed the bloke his paybook back as he lay there dying – propped it up and, in his last split second, the last thing the young German would have seen was the picture of his wife and three children. Your dad just stood there looking down at the dead German and eventually I had to tell him, “Come on, we gotta get on!” and your dad had tears in his eyes but wiped them away… and, two minutes later, he killed another sentry. Cut his throat… He did what he had to do.”

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Malcolm Hardee Awards designer confesses 1980s transvestite activities

While in the introverted Edinburgh Fringe bubble, I missed last week’s BBC News report that Ludlow Hospital had “turned down a £2,500 donation from a group of men dressed up as nurses after bosses said the outfits were demeaning”.

The BBC report explained:


BBC News report

The group, which was supporting Ludlow Hospital in Shropshire, raised the money by pushing a bed around the town.

Jan Ditheridge, chief executive of Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust, said the behaviour was “insulting”.

A letter to Peter Corfield, chair of Ludlow Hospital League of Friends, from Ms Ditheridge and chair of the trust Mike Ridley, said: “The presentation of men dressed as female nurses in a highly-sexualised and demeaning way is wrong, very outdated and insulting to the profession”.

Mr Corfield said the bed-push fundraiser had taken place every summer for decades involving men from the local community and was “light-hearted”.

He said proceeds from this year’s event had been earmarked to provide ECG machines for the outpatients and minor injuries departments at Ludlow.

“We have therefore now had to withdraw the funding for those items,” he added.

Alison Hiles, whose husband took part in the event, said: “Nobody’s complained, everybody seems to enter into the spirit of it, locals know that it’s going on, those that aren’t local really enjoy the event and always have a chat with the lads and willingly give money, nobody forces them. I really don’t know why all of a sudden that it’s a problem.”


In a new, shocking twist to this story today, Malcolm Hardee Awards designer John Ward confessed in a personal e-mail to me:


Revealed: Ward’s shocking 1980s activities

In the mid 1980s myself and a group of like minded friends covered the best part, if not all, of Northamptonshire’s town carnivals plus St Ives and Newport Pagnell dressed as nurses and we too gathered a lot of money in each town that went to the respective carnival funds.

Nobody ever complained, quite the reverse as we were invited to other events along the way.

Here is a photo from the jolly ole snap-shot album of me in my regalia – I had borrowed the outfit from a nurse friend of ours who worked at Kettering General Hospital – on a dinky bike I made from scrap that folded up into a ‘medical bag’ I carried along the assorted parade routes that was pulled out and rode after ‘pursued patients’.


John Ward with some of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards which he designed and made

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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 17, Part 2: Star reviews subverted and Didgeridoogate

Mark Dean Quinn with a pile of stolen stars

Every year, as the Fringe starts, I fear there will be no stunt worthy of a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. But, every year, they come rolling in.

This morning, I bumped into Mark Dean Quinn at Fringe Central where he had noticed a box where people disposed of un-needed sheets of paper on which were printed review quotes and star ratings for their shows.

“I have just decided,” he told me, holding a pile of discarded photocopies, “that, if people are going to throw away their stars and quotes, I am going to staple them to my own flyers.”

“Isn’t that dishonest?” I asked.

Narin Oz wantonly flaunts her cunning stunt.

“No,” he told me. “These ARE real reviews of real shows, though admittedly not of my show. And these are clearly not real flyers.”

“Says who?” I asked. “They say Mark Dean Quinn on them.”

“In my opinion,” insisted Mark, “If it is under 90 GSM, it is not a flyer.”

“What is GSM?” I asked.

“Grams per square metre,” he replied.

When I left Fringe Central, he had ensnared fellow performer Narin Oz into his dastardly plan.


Later, I received an email from performer Martha McBrier, allegedly explaining what has not yet been generally called Didgeridoogate.

She plays the didgeridoo in her Edinburgh Fringe show.

I read her email, then went and had a long, relaxing lie-down.

This is her email in its entirety:


Martha McBrier – not blowing her own trumpet.

I am writing with a view to nomination for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. I would like to nominate the following quartet of mischief; Martha McBrier, Matt Price, Bruce Dessau and Martin Walker.

The timeline to this stunt is as follows:

FRIDAY 4th August

Martha McBrier messages John Fleming, seemingly, awful, awful upset, telling him that she has received an unpleasant message telling her that playing the didgeridoo and even being photographed with same, is tantamount to hugely insulting the culture of First Nation Australians.

Fleming believed this to be an ‘exclusive’, but McBrier had cunningly messaged Bruce Dessau (of Beyond The Joke & a Malcolm Hardee Award judge), Kate Copstick (of The Scotsman newspaper & a Malcolm Hardee Award judge) and Steve Bennett (of Chortle).

Fleming mentions to Matt Price (my partner and loveable giant, Cornish comedian) that he suspects this may be a cunning stunt.

SATURDAY 5th August

Although he usually writes about much younger women, Fleming writes a blog, with the ‘Carry on Indigenous Australia’-style title Female Comic Accused of Blowing a Male Instrument.

SUNDAY 6th August

Bruce Dessau writes about the incident in Beyond the Joke.

Mr Dessau asks me for an update. I tell him that Mr Fleming believes it to be a Cunning Stunt.

MONDAY 7th August

Steve Bennett writes on Chortle about the incident, tragically stealing Dessau’s ‘Didgeri-don’t’ headline.

TUESDAY 8th August

McBrier records Martin Walker’s On The Mic podcast. Talk turns to ‘Didgeridoo-gate’.

Mr Walker, his eyes all twinkly, says: “Wouldn’t it be dead funny for us to cunning stunt Fleming, stating it’s a cunning stunt when it really isn’t? This would be totally different from other stunts as it’s a true thing, kidding-on it’s a false thing. We let Fleming think it’s a cunning stunt and, like a right wally, he blogs that it is. Then we will announce that it’s true and not a stunt. It is double dunt cunning stunt. I will also get my pal Dessau in on it.”

We all laughed.

But Martin was true to his word and Fleming was fished right in.

Matt Price was the liaison between Dessau and Walker and they plotted and giggled like schoolgirls.

Walker played Fleming, ensuring his eyes were twinkle-free, so as not to arouse suspicion.

WEDNESDAY 9th August

Fleming, like a right daftie, blogs that ‘Didgeridoo-gate’ is a cunning stunt.

You must surely see the opportunistic brilliance of this double-dunt stunt. Especially considering that McBrier and Price have no PR and have not, hitherto, been on the radar of Bruce Dessau. He pure knows them now.

How fitting it would be that a Malcolm Hardee Awards judge (Fleming) has been stunted by a group which includes a fellow judge (Dessau).

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Comic Frank Carson was never himself

Frank Carson in Granada’s top-rating series The Comedians

At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, comic Mike McCabe is performing a show about old school comedy legend Frank Carson. They were both regulars on Granada TV’s series The Comedians, though at different times.

“Is this your first Edinburgh Fringe show?” I asked Mike.

“I’ve done some before with my son Milo McCabe. One show he based on all the old acts I worked with. It was called This Is Your Life and it was set in a home with them trying to jog my memory and get me (the character) out of the Alzheimer’s. They were going through all the acts I had worked with to get my memory back.”

“So you were acting?” I asked.

“Don’t look so surprised, John.”

“Why write and perform a show about Frank Carson?” I asked

Mike worked with Frank “and always admired him”

“Because I worked with him and always admired him. He had his place among the Bob Monkhouses and Charles Hawtreys.”

“I can see the headline now,” I said. “Frank Carson – The Charles Hawtrey of Comedy. You didn’t meet him on The Comedians?”

“No. Sky Star Search together.”

“Frank Carson was from Belfast and you are from…?”

“Monahan, which is about an hour away from Belfast.”

“And all the jokes in the Fringe show are his?”

“No. Some are his. Some are mine.”

“So did you desperately want to specifically do a show about Frank Carson or did you just want to do a show and then looked round for a subject?”

Mike McCabe as himself in London this month

“To be truthful,” Mike told me, “I use it as a vehicle for meself – a bit of Frank, a bit of The Comedians – but also to tell the story because he had a fantastic life – meeting the Pope, getting shot, losing his brother and little sister, being on the Royal Variety Show. He was a helluva man.”

“And you are the best person to do this show because…?”

“I did an impression of him to him and he thought it was fantastic. He allowed me to use his glasses and now I wish I’d kept them.”

“Did you ever get through to the real person?” I asked. “I think I met him and had chats with him three times at Granada and at ATV/Central TV and all I got was the Frank Carson character. I never got through to the real person.”

Mike around the time he was working on TV with Frank Carson

“Well,” said Mike, “when somebody left him and you asked Frank Do you know anything about that man? he’d say No

“Do you know his surname? – No.

“What else? Nothing.

“That was Frank’s life. He never bothered finding out about other people. It’s just one of those things. He fascinated me. His life fascinated me. For someone to go on and on and on like that, there had to be some problem deep down.

“I saw him on a TV programme once. He was in a car and he said: I remember I had a sister and she died… I don’t know if she was older or younger than me at the time… And I thought this was quite extraordinary. If I had had a little brother or sister who had died, I would know. I think maybe he was hiding stuff.”

“He shot someone when he was in the army?” I asked.

During a break in a Tiswas show, 1981: Frank Carson (centre) with Den Hegarty (left) and associate producer David McKellar

“Yes. It’s in the show.”

“And he was shot himself?”

“Yes. And it’s in the show.”

“Your Gilded Balloon show,” I said, “is titled Frank Carson: If I Didn’t Laugh, I’d Cry… Because…?”

“One time,” Mike said, “he was having a late-night drink with a singer called Rose-Marie – She told me about it. Frank didn’t stop. She said: Stop, stop, Frank. Why do you never stop? Please, stop. I would like to talk to you. Why do you never stop? And he said to her: Rose, if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry.

“And did he expand on that?” I asked.

Mike: Now that is a really hard question”

“Oh God no. That was quite a lot for a feller like Frank, who never divulged anything. He was always busy telling gags and never leaving any silences.”

“Did you like him?” I asked.

“Now… that…” said Mike, “is a really hard question.”

“Because?”

“Because he never talked to me or anybody else. He promised me a lot. There was nothing he wasn’t going to do for me and that’s what happened. He did nothing.

“It’s very difficult to like or dislike someone if you don’t get through to them.”

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Arthur Smith: the singing comedian is obsessed with an amateur boxer-poet

Arthur Smith is singing as the dead Leonard Cohen – again

Comic Arthur Smith, an Edinburgh Fringe regular spanning two centuries, is only going up for three days this year, to perform his legendary Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen show – re-titled Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen – The Final Tribute.

“Why did you originally decide to sing Leonard Cohen anyway?” I asked him.

“Because,” he explained, “my play An Evening With Gary Lineker was running in the West End so it didn’t really matter what the fuck I did. So I did a show called Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams. You know what it’s like. You have to pick a title in March for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. I had no intention of singing Andy Williams songs. It was a title I picked because it just seemed stupid.

“I am old school, I don’t actually write my shows until… Well, it got to about a month before Edinburgh and I thought: What the fuck am I actually going to do in this show?… Well, I’ve got Tony Hawks on the piano, so I might as well actually try to do a couple of Andy Williams songs. But then I got very interested in this bloke… I think of him as a bit like Malcolm Hardee in a way. He was a footnote in history. A character called Arthur Cravan. He was the nephew of Oscar Wilde, though he never met him.”

Arthur Cravan. “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about… not being talked about,” said his uncle.

“Was he Irish?” I asked.

“It’s hard to tell,” Arthur shrugged. “He was brought up in Switzerland. Then he lived in Berlin, then he moved to Paris, where he started selling his art magazine Maintenant! and became notorious for slagging everyone off. Then he was a boxer and won the French Amateur Boxing Championship and used to parade around the ring – long before Muhammed Ali – saying: This guy’s a wanker!

“He was also a thief. There were so many stories about him. Then the First World War started and he fled to America. He met Trotsky on the boat over to America. Once over there, he was invited to give a lecture at the Museum of Modern Art or somewhere about this new weird thing Dadaism. But he came on and he was drunk and he took his trousers down and had a piss on the table and got arrested. This was deemed by the Dadaists to have been a great success. He really was like an early Malcolm Hardee. He then supposedly went hitch-hiking round Canada dressed as a woman.”

“I presume,” I said, “he did this for no reason at all?”

“Never stood a fucking chance”

“Well, I think he was escaping. He was usually escaping from something. He then married a woman, a poet called Mina Loy and went to Mexico. Mina Loy, who was pregnant by then, was going to join him, but then he disappeared. It was thought that he got on a boat and it sank, but it was never really known – which, of course, is a great way to go – people not really knowing if you have gone. He was spotted here-and-there ever after. Oh! – And in 1916 in Barcelona he fought the then just finished World Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, the first black champion who had been pretty-much exiled from America for going out with white women. There’s little bit of film of him boxing on the internet.”

“How did he fare?” I asked.

“He never stood a fucking chance against Jack Johnson. But they were both just trying to make some money. He famously had huge bollocks.”

“Like Malcolm,” I said.

“There were just loads of stories about him,” Arthur continued. “Like Malcolm. He really is this sort of mythical footnote in history.”

“And they both died by drowning,” I said.

“Yeah. Possibly. He was only in his 30s when he died. If he died. He was a ludicrous figure. I did a thing about him on BBC Radio 3 a while back.”

“What has this to do with Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams?” I asked.

“Ludicrous… We only charged something like 20p to get in”

“Ah yes!” laughed Arthur. “I got obsessed with Arthur Cravan and I went to an exhibition about him in Paris, at which point I decided to make the Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams show about Arthur Cravan, punctuated by Andy Williams songs. I had this whole thing about Was Andy Williams really Arthur Cravan? It was the most ludicrous show. We only charged something like 20p to get in. You were offered your money back on the way out. We had a gala performance that cost something like £50 – for TV executives on expenses. I started the show talking about Arthur Cravan. People wondered what was going on. Then I suddenly started singing Moon River. I had Andy Smart as a plant in the audience and we had a fight during the show.”

“Did you impersonate Andy Williams’ voice?” I asked.

“As far as I can,” said Arthur. “And I had a bear that came on. Do you remember Andy Williams used to have a bear come on in his TV shows?”

“It seems to have slipped my mind,” I said.

“I conceived…” said Arthur, “I was going to do three Arthur Smith Sings… shows. I picked Leonard Cohen as a follow-up to Andy Williams because it just sounded so boring: Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen.

“So what has happened to the third Arthur Smith Sings… show?”

“I have a few in mind. Maybe Arthur Smith Sings The Supremes or Arthur Smith Sings Serge Gainsbourg or Arthur Smith Sings Little Mix. You pick the title for being funny before you worry about what’s in it.”

Arthur Smith Sings Harry Styles?” I suggested.

“Or Arthur Smith Sings Alan Bennett,” mused Arthur. “I dunno. I don’t thing he’s done a lot of singing.”

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Feeling slightly happier with attractive comic, actor, conman Nathan Cassidy.

Nathan Cassidy: a man hungry for publicity

I organise the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Awards – for the most cunning publicity stunt to publicise a performer or show at the annual Edinburgh Fringe.

My last blog was about cunning stunts and people being origami-like with the truth in publicity for their shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. You can make up your own mind whether what follows is along the same lines or not.

When I talked to comedian Nathan Cassidy in a Haggerston cafe, he told me he had just been asked to audition for Puppetry of the Penis, the globe-trotting performance group who specialise in penile origami.

“I suppose it’s a different type of stand-up,” I mused. “Why are we meeting?”

“I want to ask you to be a judge,” Nathan told me. “The Rat Pack are producing this show in Edinburgh: The World’s Best MC Award Grand Final.”

Is this just leading me towards an empty room?

He put a poster for it on the table. It said: Cassidy is an attractive man (Fringe Guru 2012).

“Did you make that up?” I asked.

“Of course I didn’t make it up!”

At the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, Nathan was nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

“And is this bit true?” I asked. “Thousands entered. 6 MCs survived. £5,000 cash prize. Plus an amazing headline act.

“We have scoured the world,” Nathan told me. “As all comedy competitions do. The world. The whole world.”

“Qatar?” I asked.

“Yes, the Rat Pack have been there.”

“Syria?” I asked.

“Yes, everywhere. We have a spare slot on the judging panel. Are you free? Steve Bennett of Chortle has pencilled himself in. £5,000 cash prize. Thousands of auditions and this is the Grand Final. We can’t reveal the line-up at this stage.”

“How,” I asked, “do you prove you’re a good MC in a final? Will there be a physical line-up? Will they stand there and say: And now… some fake act who isn’t there?”

Comic Jo Burke, slightly happier with Nathan Cassidy in 2015

“There are no fake acts,” said Nathan. “It’s just the MCs. The MCs will introduce each other. They have 5-7 minutes each. I will introduce the first MC and then they introduce each other.”

“Who,” I asked, “does the last MC introduce?”

“There is not a last MC,” explained Nathan. “Read the poster. There is an amazing headline act.”

“So you are the headline act?” I asked, sceptically.

“No, I’m the MC. And we have one gap on the judging panel on 14th August. Are you free?”

(After consulting my Fringe Diary) “I can move things around a bit and do it,” I said. “So Steve Bennett is pencilled in? I think he is having building work done on his house. Turning it into a replica of Citizen Kane’s Xanadu.”

“Where does he live?” Nathan asked.

“I’m not grassing him up,” I said.

“There is,” said Nathan, “a quote from Steve Bennett on my other show’s poster: Nathan Cassidy: The Man in The Arena.

Nathan Cassidy’s sold-out O2 gigs on right

He put it on the table.

I read: The entire second row is pissed… and there are only two rows (Steve Bennett, Chortle)

“What do you think of this other quote?” Nathan asked me. “Having seen Bill Hicks, I can honestly say he’s as good as him. It’s an official quote from the Buxton Fringe.

“Did you write it yourself?” I asked.

“No! That’s what everyone thinks. It’s buxtonfringe.org.uk – The Buxton Fringe sends out about ten reviewers to review all the shows. It’s a real quote. But I want a better quote I can use. AS GOOD AS Bill Hicks doesn’t really do it for me.”

“This poster,” I said, “says the show is sold out on 14th August, but you’re not doing it on the 14th – You’re doing the MC Awards.”

“No, it’s sold out,” said Nathan. “There are other dates still available.”

“You appear to have sold out the O2 Arena in October and November,” I observed.

“Well, I’m doing the O2 Arena on 4th November, as you know.”

“Do I? Which bit of it? The main auditorium?”

“Yes. Yes.”

“Are you going to fill it? I got free tickets to see Rod Stewart because he couldn’t fill it. How much are you paying for it?”

“I can’t divulge that.”

“So this is another Cunning Stunt?”

“Of course not.”

Nathan’s 2017 was even more sold out in 2016

At the Edinburgh Fringe in August last year, Nathan put up a poster for a fake tour – Nathan Cassidy: The Man in The Arena – with all the dates sold out throughout October/November 2017, except for a performance at the O2 Arena on 4th November 2017.

“People thought it was a fake show,” he told me, “but it was just pre-advertising for this year’s Fringe show… Bruce Dessau (comedy critic and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge) covered it a couple of times but, when I asked if he wanted to come to the O2 show, he didn’t reply.”

“His loss, I’m sure,” I said. “So, basically, I am going to turn up at the Three Sisters to judge this MC Awards show and there will be an empty room as you attempt to win a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award…”

“No,” said Nathan. “It’s legitimate. The Rat Pack are spending £250 on a massive poster. We are not going to do that for nothing. It’s totally real. Genuinely, I swear on my… I swear on your life and Steve Bennett’s life that a £5,000 cash prize will be given to the winner on the day. I am totally gimmick-free this year.”

“Is there more?” I asked.

“Is that not enough for you?”

“I would prefer £250 in a brown envelope,” I said.

“I am doing a third show in Edinburgh,” said Nathan, “but it’s a theatre show.”

Love & the winner of Sir Michael Caine’s Award

He put the flyer on the table. The title of the show is Nathan Cassidy: Watch This. Love Me. It’s Deep.

The headline pitch read: FOR THE PERFECT LOVE STORY YOU HAVE TO GO TO RIDICULOUS LENGTHS.

I turned over the flyer and read out loud:

“ONE-MAN THEATRE SHOW FROM THE WINNER OF THE SIR MICHAEL CAINE NEW WRITING AWARD.”

“Who won that?” I asked.

“Me,” said Nathan. “You are very sceptical, John. You think everything is a ruse to get you along to an empty room.”

“When did you win the Michael Caine Award?” I asked.

“About ten years ago now. I did theatre before I did stand-up. I won it for a play called A Cure For The Common Cold at the Leatherhead Theatre.”

“It says here,” I said, “that you have a distinctive stand-up style. What’s that?”

“Well,” replied Nathan, “last year Steve Bennet said: Nathan Cassidy will make you slightly happier for an hour or so… So I am ‘an attractive man’ who will ‘make you slightly happier’…”

“What’s the theatre show about?”

“Something happened in the last year which reminded me of a story that happened to me starting when I was 15 and it’s a perfect love story and it would not fit within stand-up but it would fit within theatre. People think that perfect love is impossible but I am telling you a true story from my life to show it is possible. There may be a happy or a sad ending; you will have to come to the show to see which.”

“You are very persistent,” I said.

Chubby had a female agent…

“In 2010,” said Nathan, “when I first did the Edinburgh Fringe, I performed to two ladies and Roy Chubby Brown’s agent. She never got back to me.”

“His agent was a she?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes. I first met Chubby Brown when I was 12 years-old. For a 12-year-old kid, it was fun. Do you remember his song He’s a Cunt?”

“Sadly not.”

“But those two ladies have come back every year to see me and, the last couple of years, they have even given out flyers for me.”

“Is that the smallest audience you have played to?”

“No. Once at Buxton Fringe, I performed to two people in a fridge. It had a capacity of three, so it was only two-thirds full. I was gutted I had not filled it.”

“What reaction did you get?”

“A standing ovation. They loved it. Admittedly there were no seats.”

The fridge story I believed. The Roy Chubby Brown story I believed. The Puppetry of the Penis story I believed. But I was unsure about the Michael Caine story.

I Googled it afterwards. There were pieces about it online. And a photo of a young Nathan Cassidy with Michael Caine.

Who knows what truth is at the Edinburgh Fringe or anywhere? I look forward to a tranquil night alone at the Three Sisters/Free Sisters venue at 7.45pm on 14th August.

The award-winning young Nathan with Sir Michael Caine

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