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Censorship chaos @ Edinburgh Fringe: stupid asterisks but pubic acceptability

The Greatest Show on Legs – the pubic face of silly censorship

Comedy critic Kate Copstick made me four chocolate cupcakes in the early hours of this morning. It was not until my bladder got over-full and I had to go with the cupcakes and her to the toilet – where Copstick took off her orange wig – that I realised it was all a dream. Margaret Thatcher then started handling the four chocolate cupcakes on my behalf. Mrs Thatcher wore Meryl Streep’s hair.

Fringe Programme cover may scare kids

The rather-frightening-looking Edinburgh Fringe Programme was published today. My copy arrived in the post this morning before I woke up, but it was not part of my dream. Some writer less subtle than me might say it was my nightmare. But no, not me. Ooh no. I would not write that. Ooh no. It would be far too tabloidy and tacky.

I have blogged before about the draconian new ‘rules’ that have been unleashed by the Fringe this year. The most ludicrous is that entries now have to be completely “grammatically correct” – despite the fact that performers pay just under £400 to put a strict maximum of 40 words into the Programme – so it is the wording of the performer’s own paid ad which is being censored by the Fringe.

But there is also the ludicrous randomness of the new censorship, epitomised by the fact that the excellent Kunt and The Gang can print their name in full but Stuart Goldsmith’s show Prick has to be printed as Pr!ck (with an exclamation mark replacing the “i” despite the fact it looks the same and a ! is just an i upside down). And then there is the, by now infamous, way Richard Herring’s show Talking Cock was censored (without Richard’s knowledge) as Talking C*ck because, the Fringe claims, the ‘family audience’ reading the Fringe Programme’s comedy listings may be offended by a title which is going to be plastered in full on posters and flyers all over Edinburgh in August.

Interestingly, in his Metro newspaper column last week, Richard Herring wrote about this ludicrous censorship (of a title which has no sexual origin – the origin is ‘cock and bull story’). In Richard’s piece, the words “cock” and “penis” and “Jack the Dripper” and “Spurt Reynolds” and others were printed in full by the Metro – a newspaper freely available to men, women, children and born-again Christians at railway stations and street corners across England’s capital and elsewhere. As far as I am aware, no-one complained.

On the same page as Richard’s column in the London edition of Metro was their Pet of the Day picture, featuring ‘Stripey The Moggy’, the seven best Twitter tweets about food by Middle England’s Nigella Lawson and a quarter-page ad from Westminster Council headed: Could You Foster a Child Like Me?

See the point? Family newspaper. No worry about causing offence.

Clear cock-up

The Fringe Programme asterisked another show’s title – Jon Bennett‘s Pretending Things Are C*ck despite the fact the accompanying picture (printed in the Programme – see right) clearly shows the offending word C*CK rising like a penis from a man’s groin.

They also rejected a tiny picture supplied by me to accompany The Greatest Show On Legs’ Fringe Programme entry because – if you magnified it 300% – it was possible to see a vague outline under a balloon which may or may have been the bottom of one of the late Malcolm Hardee’s testicles.

Original picture

That is the photo to the left at approximately the size it would have appeared in the Fringe Programme. If you can Spot The Ball, you are a better man or woman than I am.

Without anyone’s permission, the Fringe then Photoshopped in a third balloon to obscure the potentially offending vague shape. This (a) was ludicrous and (b) would be impossible-to-replicate in the stage act. When I objected, the Fringe wanted a replacement photo.

One of the few colour photos available of the naked balloon dance – which is a main selling point of the Greatest Show On Legs – is the one you can see at the top of this blog.

I sent an e-mail to comedian/promoter Bob Slayer – in whose Hive venue the Greatest Show on Legs will be performing:

“I think the Martin Clarke photo (attached) would be much better than the Fringe wankers’ ludicrous one with the Photoshopped extra balloon. But the Martin Clarke photo has some of Malcolm’s pubic hair showing.

“If the Fringe refuse to run this one too, it can be whipped up into more publicity now. I would make a point of grudgingly letting them run their Photoshopped version – milking it for publicity – and then, at the point at which they publish it in the Programme, there is more publicity to be had.

“If, on the other hand, they accept the new photo then, at the point of publication, the angle is that they refused to print a pretty-much-invisible hint of one of Malcolm’s bollocks, but they did accept a photo with more visible pubic hair. Either way, the fact the Fringe Programme people this year are idiotic wankers will give The Greatest Show On Legs more publicity.”

There is a lesson for all here, I think.

If people are wankers at the Fringe – particularly if they try to censor anything – it will not be effective and it should be viewed by performers less as an annoyance, more as a publicity opportunity.

It’s in the shadows

What a pity they have never objected to the ‘shadow puppet’ image I have used to publicise the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards for several years now, showing Malcolm with what some with a particular – obviously deranged – attitude of mind might consider to be an erect penis.

It’s a funny old world.

The Greatest Show on Legs will be performing at The Hive venue for five days, 22nd-26th August. They will also be appearing in my own two-hour Malcolm Hardee Awards Show compered by Miss Behave in the ballroom of the Counting House on 24th August, 2300-0100.

The two shows are listed in the Fringe Programmes as:
Aaaaaaaaaaaaarghh! It’s the Greatest Show on Legs
Aaaaaaaaaaaaarghh! It’s the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show with Miss Behave – and It’s Free!
in a this-year-unsuccessful attempt to get them listed first in the Comedy section of the Programme. A show called Aaaaaaaaargh! It’s the Monster Stand-Up Show has cheekily added more ‘A’s in its printed listing so it becomes Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! It’s the Monster Stand-Up Show – Free and has shamefully beaten us to the Number One slot.


Meanwhile, I think it is the Satanic cover of the new Fringe Programme which will scare small children sh*tless.

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