Tag Archives: Adam Taffler

Nathan Lang lost 2 Edinburgh Fringe venues but stayed a sketchy stuntman

Nathan Lang has lived in the UK for ten years now. He made his career debut as Pinhead in the Australian soap Neighbours.

“I have forgotten,” I told Nathan,” why we are chatting. Am I meeting you to plug your Edinburgh Fringe show?”

Performing One Man, Two Ghosts at the Edinburgh Fringe last year were (L-R) Nelly Scott, Annie Bashford, Nathan Lang)

“I thought you were more interested,” said Nathan, “in my juicy gossip about losing my Edinburgh Fringe venue twice… You saw One Man, Two Ghosts last year.”

“Oh yes,” I said. “And you were going to bring it back again this year. Three of you. Different cast.”

“We were promised a good time-slot at a venue in the New Town,” explained Nathan. “The management had seen the show last year and loved it. But then, around the time of early bird Fringe registration, the management changed; and the programming changed; and we lost the venue; and it lost us £100 because we missed the cheap deadline.

“Then we got in touch with someone who had also seen the show last year, loved it and was starting up a new venue. She asked us immediately before the final Fringe Programme deadline and the venue just fell through. Everyone has a different story why. I’m not blaming anyone. Just bad luck. A few shows in that venue got re-homed; some collapsed; we got a very good offer from Bob Slayer but couldn’t do it because it clashed with my other two shows. So the three of us decided not to do the show. There seemed no point compromising on a less good venue at bad times on scattered dates.”

“You still have two other shows at the Fringe?” I asked.

“Yes, there’s the sketch comedy show Jon & Nath Like To Party which you saw an early incarnation of. We’ve been previewing it for a year and had a very good Brighton Fringe.”

Playful Jon Levene (right) and Nathan Lang Like To Party

“What’s different from the version I saw?”

“The crap sketches have gone and been replaced by good ones. It’s really good now.”

“Sketch comedy is dead,” I suggested.

“No!” said Nathan. “There’s lots of exciting sketch comedy on the scene at the moment. It’s evolving beyond that episodic kind of style. It’s blurring into alternative stuff and character stuff. What has changed in our show since you saw it is we now have an underlying kind of…”

“Arc?”

“No. An underlying thread where we can communicate our selves and our relationship – the way we constantly try to thwart each other.”

“What’s the stage relationship?”

“We’re like brothers but we antagonise the hell out of each other and disagree about everything.”

“And your other show is?”

“My first solo show. The Stuntman. Surely, with that title alone, I should be eligible for a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award?”

“But is it cunning?” I asked. “Do you do your own stunts? Is there an imminent risk of death? Death is always good for promoting a show.”

“Yeah,” said Nathan. “I do my own stunts. I am the Tom Cruise of clowning character physical comedy.”

“Hanging on the side of a plane?” I asked.

“Hanging drunkenly on the side of the bar while my own wind blows my feet up. It’s slapstick. It’s What if the stuntman were always a stuntman, even at home? But family friendly. Well, it is now. Except for the bit where I pretend to be nude for ten minutes.”

“But is there a potential death factor?” I asked.

“One stunt went too far the other night,” said Nathan. “The toothpick stunt.”

“The toothpick stunt?” I asked.

“The toothpick stunt. I impaled my head on a toothpick and, when I pulled it out, the red red krovvy started to flow. Half the audience were delighted; the other half were horrified.”

“Krovvy?” I asked.

Bicyclist Nathan often wears a crash helmet in everyday life

“Haven’t you read A Clockwork Orange?”

“Print is dead,” I said. “I’ve only seen the film.”

“You don’t know Nadsat?”

“Let’s get back to The Stuntman,” I said. “What’s the elevator pitch?”

Evel Kneivel meets Wile E Coyote in Technicolor.”

“With deep canyons to fall down?”

“Not on this budget.”

“Why The Stuntman?”

“Because I really wanted to do a one-man show and it came about through Dr Brown’s clown workshops.”

“Tell me you’ve not been to Gaulier,” I pleaded.

“I’ve not been to Gaulier,” repeated Nathan. “And that makes me feel insecure.”

“But you have done clowning workshops?”

Nathan is not averse to potty training

“Yes. In a Spymonkey workshop, Aitor Basauri told me: Nathan. A clown costume for you, you need three things. Hair slicked back. Outfit very tight to your body. And heavy boots. Aitor is so amazing. He’s such a brilliant clown. Spymonkey are my idols – my clown idols.”

“Is he Hungarian?” I asked.

“Spanish.”

“Why does not having gone to Gaulier make you feel insecure?”

“Because he and his style are exalted and to be Gaulier-trained seems to me to be the pinnacle of clowning tuition. And also I can’t afford it.”

“It seems to me,” I suggested, “like people go to France, get insulted by Gaulier every day, then come back to Britain, sit on a stage a stare at people until something happens. I could do that.”

“I did Dr Brown’s Clowning in Nature in Wales,” said Nathan. “That was great.”

“Arranged by Adam Taffler?”I asked.

“Yes.”

“What is Adam doing now?” I asked. “Last time I met him, he seemed to be organising a sex orgy with philosophical undertones on top of a skyscraper in Docklands.”

“I think there was an Intimacy Convention,” said Nathan.

“That’ll be it,” I said. “I’m still not clear why you decided on a stuntman character.”

“I thought being a stuntman would be playing against type.”

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Adam is not organising a sex orgy…

Adam: healthy eating but alas no planned sex orgy

“So,” I said to Adam Taffler aka Adam Wilder aka etc etc, “you’re arranging some kind of sex orgy on top of some skyscraper near Canary Wharf?”

There was a pause with two big sighs. “No,” he said. “It’s a festival of human connection and intimacy and togetherness.”

And, indeed, the two-day event in London is called: TOGETHERNESS: AN INTIMATE FESTIVAL OF HUMAN CONNECTION.

We met at a Pret a Manger in Soho.

“I want,” Adam told me, “to make intimacy and human connection more central to our culture; I want to make it more accessible. Studies show our happiness comes from the quality of our relationships and not our bank balance. But our society isn’t very good at teaching us how to have good relationships.

“So the festival is about doing that. It has a whole load of workshops – everything from Listening Partnerships all the way through to Digital Dating Detox and Expanding Your Sexuality… all with some of the best teachers in the world.

“I’m really excited about it and, because I don’t think this stuff is visible enough in our culture, I want to do it somewhere that it’s symbolically really visible. So I’m doing it on 20th and 21st May on top of a skyscraper in Canary Wharf.”

“What if it rains?” I asked.

“It’s inside, on the top floor. … I’m glad you are eating some fruit there and blueberries and pomegranates. Pomegranate seeds are very good for you.”

“Oh dear,” I said. “Am I going to start farting or something?”

“Maybe,” said Adam. “Just maybe.”

Adam is the entrepreneur of the alternative

“The other day,” I told him, “my friend Mary from Manchester told me the budgie seed Trill used to have cannabis seeds in it.”

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Adam told me. “It’s very healthy.”

“I had this vision,” I said, “of spaced-out budgies.”

“You can’t get high on cannabis seeds,” he explained. “Believe me, I tried when I was younger.”

“Will there be lots of meat-eating at your festival?” I asked. “Or will it be right-on vegetarianism? Pigs are supposed to be very intelligent but their downfall is they taste so good. Slaughtering happy bouncy lambs IS slightly bizarre.”

“Well,” Adam replied, “I think it’s bizarre the way we do it in our culture and the mass farming side of it. My festival is going to be completely plant-based. All the food is going to be plant-based. That’s a way of saying ‘vegan’  which doesn’t sound so oppressive.

“I think intellect holds us back from having experiences which are really good for us. In my training as a Fool, I learned to trick people into doing things that stretches their comfort zone just a little bit and then you can stretch it more and more and more until, before they know it, they’re in a field with their nipples painted gold.”

“Any nudity at your festival?” I asked hopefully.

“No,” said Adam. “Fully clothed. Two days. Saturday and Sunday. I’ve got some of the best teachers from around the world. And there will be a Saturday night Cacao Dance Party, drug and alcohol free.”

“Cacao?” I asked.

“Some kids are using it as a stimulant but, basically, it’s a euphoric old strain of cocoa bean and, when you make it into a drink, it’s a mild stimulant. It is very gentle.”

“Why are you crowdfunding the festival?” I asked.

“I wanted to try it as a marketing exercise. Tickets have been selling really well but, basically, I want to put all my energy into the curation and execution of the festival instead of putting so much into the marketing like I have in the past and I’m hoping this will make it a bit easier. If we get the crowdfunding, it means we can do amazing stuff like get really good quality fixtures and fittings in there.

The Togetherness Festival – over 35 sessions over 2 days

“Tickets are £99 but, at the moment, through the crowdfunding, you can get a weekend pass for £79 – with access to over 35 sessions over two days with some of the best teachers in the world.”

“What happens,” I asked, “if you don’t reach the £10,000 crowdfunding target?”

“It’s all going ahead, it will just be a bit harder.”

”You’re an entrepreneur at heart,” I suggested.

“I don’t know about that, man,” Adam replied. “What I loved about the (music and open air) festival scene was the freedom. Helping people to get more emotionally naked.”

“You said ‘the festival scene’ as if you have given it up.”

“I don’t really like performing very much any more, John.”

“You prefer the organisational side?”

“I don’t even enjoy organising that much. I’d rather just be running sessions: teaching. I am moving forward as a practitioner and as a teacher. Whatever works to help people surrender to the moment. I’m training more as a practitioner in this field.”

“What field?”

“Human connection. Sexuality. What I find interesting is that sexuality is just the gateway to knowing ourselves better.”

“Are your Shhh Dating events still carrying on?”

I first met Adam at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe when I asked him to juggle spaghetti

“Yes, but I’ve sold my other businesses. I sold my hot tub business and I’m just about to sell my shares in the Burns Night company as well. I felt, last year, I was doing too many things. I want to focus. I’m now really into the intimacy and connection work. I like working with people. When I was doing performance, it was all about working with people too.”

“No sex orgy, then,” I said.

“No!” Adam laughed. “The most sexy this festival gets is a session by Froukje van der Velde, who is going to teach ladies – and gents – how to tickle a yoni.”

“I’ve read the Kama Sutra,” I said. “A yoni is a vagina. You can’t fool me with posh words,”

“It’s a Sanskrit word,” said Adam. “Everything is fully-clothed. Froukje takes clay and shows people how to make a model of a yoni and, by the time they’ve made it, it goes a little bit hard and she shows people how they can stroke it.

“We are not taught this stuff at school, John. The sex education in school is terrible. I have a friend who teaches deaf children 11-17 and, in one class, she told them: You can ask me anything you want. And this boy asked: Why do women like it when men come on their faces? Nowadays, children learn sex through porn. It’s terrible.

“This festival is partly about sexuality; it’s partly about relationships. What I’m interested in is the quality of relationships, the quality of contact. That was what I was interested in in performing as well.”

“You want to be a guru,” I suggested.

“Not a guru,” Adam laughed. “Just someone who wants to share what he knows with other people. I went to India to see the hugging lady.”

“The hugging lady?” I asked.

Amma. She comes to the UK every year and hugs loads of people.”

“I’m Scottish,” I pointed out. “We don’t do hugging.”

“You should come to Alexandra Palace and have a hug,” Adam told me. “She is pretty remarkable. For the first three nights in India, I was down by the sea  every night, shouting into the sea: What the fuck is going on here? Why is everybody worshipping this lady? This is bullshit!”

“In India?” I asked.

Amma, the hugging saint of Kerala, was a young Cinderella

“In Kerala, in south India. After three days, a friend of mine told me: No. Go and sit as close to her as you can. I did and my experience changed. I started experiencing this… ‘Grace’ is the only thing I can call it. She is maybe 60-something.

“Her skin was darker than all her siblings. Her parents turned her into the Cinderella of the family and beat her and scolded her but locals kept coming to hear her sing and now she travels round the world and raises all this money. She’s really incredible. This sense of grace. It’s nice to sit next to a master who gives you a taste of something that expands your map of the world. That’s what I find interesting. Stretching maps.”

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Promoter Adam Taffler: a man with some seriously alternative ambitions

Adam Taffler in London last week

Adam Taffler: man of many bright ideas

So, last week, I met up with admirably creative promoter and entrepreneur Adam Taffler. His company Adamotions has, in the past, been involved in creating Comedy in Cemeteries, Red Bastard masterclasses and Shhh Dating (speed dating without speaking).

“I went on an Enlightenment Intensive,” he told me.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You sit opposite someone for three days and they say Tell me who you are? and you speak for five minutes, then they ring a bell and you switch over.”

“How does that last three days?” I asked.

“You do eight sessions of 5 minutes, then you have a little break, then another eight 5-minute sessions and then maybe have a little walk. You don’t talk outside of this thing. Some people pop and have an enlightenment experience, where they experience themselves and the world as unity. But, even if you don’t get that, you travel somewhere quite interesting because you are asking this question: What is the truest thing I can say about myself right now? 

“By the end, after three days, even if you don’t have an enlightenment experience, things feel really weird. I walked into the kitchen and felt like I was coming down off acid. The bench was wobbling. It was a good thing they weren’t serving pizza.”

“Where was this happening?” I asked.

“At a Retreat Centre in Devon.”

“Strange things happen in Devon,” I observed.

“It’s great out there,” said Adam.

“Are you going to start promoting these things yourself?” I asked.

“I don’t think so. But I am doing some dinosaur bone-making workshops next week.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because I met a guy in Amsterdam.”

“Why does Amsterdam not surprise me as a location?” I asked.

“I went there to look at property with him,” Adam continued. “I was looking for somewhere to open a hot tub venture, because I did a hot tub venture in London last year. It was fantastic. Just a pop-up. It needs a home.”

“What was the point of the hot tub venture?” I asked.

Hot tubs held their attraction for Adam Taffler

Adam’s hot tubs last year were a hot ticket near the swans

“To give people an experience of… Well… actually, I started it as a restaurant and called it The Supper Tub. The idea was you sit in a hot tub and get delicious food. But the thing is people don’t really want to eat in a hot tub.

“What they want want to do is drink. So I set up this deck in Hackney Wick, by the canal. You sit there, music playing, swans and ducks swimming by and the waiter is bringing you cocktails. It was really lovely. I did it for six months. But it needed more of a home. So I went over to Amsterdam. It’s a really happening city. The whole north of Amsterdam is opening up like Hackney opened up ten years ago.”

“I wouldn’t,” I said, “think Amsterdam could open up any more. When I lived there briefly in the mid-1990s, everything was going on. There was hardcore sex, gun-running, hard drugs, drug-smuggling, diamond smuggling, everything you can imagine but it was basically a dull city. It was bankers and businessmen living in suburbia. And I was living off Haarlemmerstraat, near the middle of town.”

“That’s the thing,” said Adam. “You legalise everything and people just relax with it.”

“But you couldn’t find a hot tub location there?” I asked.

“No. So I asked the guy I was with: What else do you do? And he said: I make dinosaur bones.”

The skeleton of an idea: dinosaur bone making workshops

The skeleton of an idea: dinosaur bone making workshops

“Is there much demand,” I asked, “for artificial dinosaur bones?”

“More than you would think,” replied Adam. “He builds them for museums and stuff.”

“Are you telling me museums have fake dinosaur bones in them?”

“Some of them. But really he does workshops where kids can come along and build a whole velociraptor skeleton. That was the thing I was most inspired by.”

“What,” I asked, “do you do with a velociraptor skeleton once you’ve built it?”

“You can leave it there. Or the kids can take their bones home. Kids like to make stuff like that. Together, it looks pretty cool.”

“I imagine so,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Adam. “We are going to do some dino-skulls with adults. I’m just going to try it out. We’re going to have music with it.”

“You surely,” I asked, “have to take acid for this to work at its best?”

“Probably,” laughed Adam. “And then become one with the dinosaur. Have the Unity Experience and start stalking the bars of North London.”

“What have you really got me here to plug?” I asked.

Clowning in Nature with Dr Brown.”

“Where is it this year?”

“We’re going to Wales and doing nine days with him just outside Cardiff. He always wants to do longer and deeper. Ooh-err. That’s your type of sentence, isn’t it? We’ve got some pretty cool guest teachers lined up as well, but I can’t mention them yet. We’re doing a puppetry one as well with Iestyn Evans. He’s done stuff for CBeebies and Star Wars.

A previous Clowning In Nature group

Out of Clowning in Nature cometh Puppetry in Nature

Puppetry in Nature?”

“Yeah. Within Arts, you get an established orthodoxy about how you do things and the inspiration which took people to arrive at that orthodoxy is really good. That’s a really interesting place. But the place of orthodoxy can be quite staid.

“So the idea of Clowning in Nature and Puppetry in Nature is that we wanna take people into that space and discover something new. We want to see where the inspiration is coming from. We are not just teaching people This is how you do A, B, and C – We are opening up to new inspiration.”

“How long is Puppetry in Nature?” I asked.

“It’s a 7-day thing.”

“Does Puppetry in Nature not face a problem of wetness?” I asked. “Isn’t puppetry outside in the Welsh weather doomed to sogginess?”

Puppetry in The Lake is the really wet bit,” Adam replied. “We do a lot of stuff inside; we just do a few things outside. We have amazing farmhouses and yurts and saunas and food.”

“We love a good yurt,” I said.

“Would you like to live in a yurt?” Adam asked me. “How big is your garden?”

“Definitely yurt-sized,” I told him.

A yurt in Mongolia, not my back garden

I do love a yurt: this one is in Mongolia, not my back garden

“John,” Adam told me, “I am taking my hot tubs to some festivals this summer. You can come and we will put you up in a yurt. We will revere you as a god and you can have a whole hot tub to yourself. You can be yourself: just tell people some bad jokes every now and then.”

“When is this happening?” I asked.

“June. July. There is a great one called Wildfire. It’s an analogue festival – you have to give your phone in at the door.”

“I can’t do that,” I said. “I would need therapy. But yurts are always good news.”

“When I sold my first business,” said Adam, “a health food business called Of The Earth – I took a break and I joined the Nomadic Academy for Fools with Jonathan Kay and, after a year of that, I decided what I wanted to do was, with a couple of friends, buy a barge in the middle of the Thames, moored opposite the Houses of Parliament – a big lighter barge about 60 feet long, maybe 16 feet wide.

“We wanted to convert it into a home and venue and maybe, to be honest, a super-cool shag-pad. We did plans and the peak of it was probably in November 2010 or 2011 – we called it The November Project.

“I managed to get a yurt and loaded it on a dinghy and stuck it on the barge. I had twelve people from around the country – thinkers and improvisers – and we did foolish improvisations to work out what the boat was going to look like and how we were going to fund it and it was one of the most brilliant and wild things I’ve done – just having a yurt in the water so close to Parliament was just wonderful.”

“Did they not,” I asked, “object to alternative-thinking people being that close to Parliament in a floating yurt?”

“I think they were fine with it,” Adam told me. “But there were some dynamic issues between people which meant it didn’t really work. There is one guy who is still trying to do it.”

Adam juggling spaghetti in Edinburgh in 2011

Adam Taffler, juggling spaghetti for me at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh, in 2011

“Have you performed yourself recently?” I asked.

“There was a character called Colonel Shirley Bickerstaff – a trans-gender geriatric colonel. I was really inspired by Nina Conti – the ventriloquism. I decided he would have a vagina in a box and would come out and sing this very beautiful song about falling in love with the vagina in the box. It was a love song. I did a few shows. It was pretty good. That’s it, really.”

And it was.

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A comedy performer, an entrepreneur and a desperate blogger talk about sex

Adam shows off his lady lifting skills in Soho

Adam Taffler is good at picking up women

Yesterday’s blog was a chat I had with comedy performer Lindsay Sharman at the Soho Theatre Bar. By coincidence, also sitting at the table, was showman/promoter Adam Taffler. After I had finished chatting with Lindsay, Adam joined in.

“It would be great,” said Adam, “to have a pop-up venue to encourage new artists and to have a place where people like Lindsay can do her shows.”

“Not a money-making venue, then,” mused Lindsay.

“You could have one floor,” suggested Adam, “where you just have people coming in to freelance and type. Hot desk spaces. And, for some shows, people could come in and wear blue overalls and they get in there and throw grunge at each other. And you could have Bob Slayer in one room, Martin Soan in another room and John Robertson down in the basement doing some crazy shit. Great fun.”

Lindsay asked: “Can you find anything like that place Bob Slayer found for his Christmas Grotto in the City of London?”

“Well, I’ve got something up my sleeve,” said Adam. “But we’ll see. I’ve got some ideas. I want to start a little hot tub cinema in my basement in Fitzrovia.”

An irrelevant film poster for Fifty Shades of Grey

An irrelevant movie poster for a sex film in a desperate bid to get blog hits

“So,” I asked Adam, “you would have Hot Tub Cinema presents Fifty Shades of Grey?

“No,” said Adam. “Something like Ghostbusters and we would have marshmallows and stuff.”

“How many people can you fit into a hot tub?” I asked.

“Depends how big it is. Six to eight?”

“And I suppose,” I said, “it depends how friendly you want to be.”

“Yes it does,” agreed Adam.

“You should,” suggested Lindsay, “do what you did with Doctor Brown – take people off to the Welsh countryside but do it in whatever weird format you want to try-out.”

“It’s going that way,” Adam told her. “I’m doing one next weekend called The Winter House Party.”

“A bit like the Summer House Party?” I asked.

“Except in the winter,” explained Adam. “And I’ll be doing some interesting things there.”

“Wasn’t there an orgy involved in the Summer House Party?” I asked. “Everything you do involves orgies.”

“It wasn’t an orgy,” Adam corrected me. “It was about sexual liberation.”

“I’m a child of the 1960s,” I said. “I said it was Free Love and you said: Oh no, it’s not Free Love. It’s something else. I think you said it was about £55 a throw.”

“It’s Sex Positive,” said Adam. “The 1960s probably weren’t the best time for women’s liberation.”

“Sex positive,” Lindsay pointed out, “sounds a bit too much like HIV Positive.”

John Knox, a Scots Presbyterian

John Knox, revered Scots Presbyterian with beard

“I was brought up as a Scots Presbyterian,” I said. “That’s all about sex negative.”

“I think it’s the next big thing in London,” Adam said.

“Scots Presbyterianism?” I asked.

“Sex Positive. Sexual liberation.”

“Well,” I said, “the cultural impact of Fifty Shades of Grey…”

“That is not a cause,” said Adam. “It’s a symptom of the thing that’s…”

“I actually wonder,” said Lindsay, “if people are becoming more prudish. Apparently teenage pregnancies are down.”

“That’s good,” said Adam.

“I was reading something,” continued Lindsay, “saying that the amount of really quite alarming porn that’s out there is actually turning youngsters off sex. And, if you look at history, it’s prudish – backlash against prudery – prudish – backlash against prudery.”

Fifty Shades of Grey,” I suggested. “There’s a backlash there.”

“It’s a wheel, a circle,” said Lindsay.”

Adam Taffler appears to attempt a bad demonstration of Fleming’s Left-Hand Rule while chatting this week

Adam Taffler appears to attempt a bad demonstration of Fleming’s Left-Hand Rule while chatting last week

“It was worth having Oliver Cromwell,” said Adam, “just to have the Restoration afterwards, where things were filthy.”

“But then,” said Lindsay, “the Victorians were very prudish.”

“But I do think,” said Adam, “that every time you come to a new level of understanding. The great thing about the Sex Positive scene is about embracing sexuality in a healthy way and exploring it and you can’t limit your sexuality to the bedroom.”

“The pavements,” I suggested, “are going to get slippy. There will be accidents.”

“It sounds unhygienic,” said Lindsay. “You’d have to carry wet-wipes everywhere. It’s because whatever the previous generation did you don’t want to do, so you do the exact opposite. So, actually, we might be due a prudish period.”

“There’s loads I want to say,” mused Adam, “but I don’t want to open my mouth.”

“Well,” I said, “you grew up living the hippie life in the fields of the West Country.”

Lindsay Sharman makes her point this week

Lindsay Sharman makes her point last week

“You don’t like being called a hippie, do you?” Lindsay asked Adam.

“His parents were hippies,” I told her.

“No they weren’t,” said Adam sharply.

“They certainly were when they got mentioned in my blog,” I told him.

“My mum started a community in Wales…” Adam started to explain.

“Hippies,” I said.

“…and we lived in canvas structures,” Adam continued.

“Hippies, I said.

“It’s not a bad thing,” Lindsay suggested to Adam, “labelling someone a hippie.”

“But,” he argued, “a label sometimes defines something in a way that isn’t useful, because then you can’t understand all the nuances of it. But an audience can understand a generalisation, so…”

“Do you think,” asked Lindsay, “the word ‘hippie’ has negative connotations?”

“For me it does,” explained Adam. “I fucking hate hippies. I used to do all these festivals with them. All these people wafting around…”

“You grew up in a community living in wigwams,” I asked, “but you weren’t hippies?

Adam Taffler, underground entrepreneur (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

Adam prefers Bohemians to hippies (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

“Not in my understanding of it,” replied Adam. “The word ‘Bohemian’ is one thing. But ‘hippie’ to me has connotations of someone who doesn’t really do anything and complains about everything and thinks they’re really kind-of right-on. The people I hang around with now do loads of stuff. They’re intelligent, creative, they’ve got an open mind…”

“So they’re not drop-outs from Society,” said Lindsay.

“That’s right,” agreed Adam. “And, for me, ‘hippie’ does have that connotation.”

“I think of hippie,” explained Lindsay, “as someone who integrates a bit of Eastern mysticism with a Western way of life but in alternative lifestyles.”

“I think Sex Positive,” said Adam, “is interesting people who are trying to do something, looking at ways of re-inventing culture, having new ways of relating to each other which are not always sexual.”

“But,” asked Lindsay, “is polyamorousness quite prevalent in your…”

“Well,” Adam told her, “when I first came across that at hippie festivals, everyone who said I am polyamorous sounded to me like a complete arsehole who just wanted to have sex with lots of people. Whereas, in the Sex Positive scene in London, I’ve met some pretty cool couples who I really respect who do have multiple relationships and it comes from a very strong core of love for each other and I think it works well for them… Though so much can go wrong in those situations.”

“How long have those wonderful relationships lasted, though?” I asked. “Five years?”

The "love outside the box" symbol, sometimes used to represent non-monogamy, polyamory, and LGBT relationships,

Love Outside The Box symbol, sometimes used to represent non-monogamous, polyamorous and LGBT relationships.

“Yeah, four, five years at most.”

“Yes,” said Lindsay, “I don’t know that it’s a long-term strategy.

“The thing is,” argued Adam, “we’re all different and all have different boundaries. What’s good is just to be adult and to communicate with each other what those boundaries are and to explore them. So for some people it might be right; for other people it might never be right.”

“Well, some people,” I said, “think buggering badgers is wrong, but we’ve all been there, haven’t we?”

There was a slight pause.

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Show celebrated 10th anniversary of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s death

A massed Balloon Dance last night

A massed Balloon Dance climaxed the UTC show last night

Malcolm Hardee, the godfather of British alternative comedy, drowned ten years ago – on 31st January – and I think his body was found three days later. I have a shit memory, I can’t remember exactly and I think it would be lacking in respect to him to check the actual facts.

Claire Hardee (extreme right) with her Can’t Can’t Girls

Clare Hardee (extreme right) danced with Can’t Can’t Girls

Anyway, let us assume it was three days later. That would have been 2nd February. So yesterday – 2nd February – was an appropriate night to have a tribute show in his honour at his old club Up The Creek in Greenwich.

All the usual suspects were there, including Malcolm’s sister Clare who reprised her always rousing version of the can-can with her Can’t-Can’t Girls… and Malcolm’s daughter Poppy, who has just returned from Sierra Leone without (she claimed) contracting ebola.

Unfortunately, last night’s show started with a failure.

Martin Soan attempts to piss on a member of the audience with help from Dan Lees

Martin Soan last night attempted to piss on a member of the audience with auditory water-based help from Dan Lees

Malcolm’s comedy mate Martin Soan (entirely naked, of course), attempted to urinate on a random member of the audience sitting in the front row. This had the effect of emptying the front row of everyone other than that lucky, plucky punter.

Alas, Martin was unable to summon up the piss, even when fellow performer Dan Lees attempted to help by pouring water from one pint glass into another next to Martin’s ear.

Hattie Hayridge and Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Hattie Hayridge & Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Fortunately, the rest of the show was successfully staged with bizarre acts too numerous to list and a final naked balloon dance by massed naked performers.

Oh, all right – Jayde Adams, Annie Bashford, Cheekykita, Candy Gigi, the Greatest Show on Legs, Liberty Hodes, Spencer Jones, Dan Lees, Darren Maskell, Joz Norris, Owen O’Neill, Nick Revell, John Robertson and Bob Slayer.

The show was hosted by the dead Malcolm himself – well, Terry Alderton in a wig and suit.

Terry Aldertin had a ball (well two) last night

Terry Alderton had a ball (well two) last night

It is quite easy to do a cartoon imitation of Malcolm – you just mumble and shamble a bit. But Terry succeeded in doing a masterly, spot-on impression. He managed to get in all of Malcolm’s gags (well, to be truthful, Malcolm didn’t have many), his asides, habits and physical tics. You could almost say it was an admirably subtle and successful impersonation. But ‘subtle’ is not a word to use in relation to anything Hardee-esque.

I congratulated Terry in the second interval.

“I’m trying to remember all the Malcolmisms,” he told me, “but the great thing is, if I repeat anything, it doesn’t matter, cos that’s what Malcolm did anyway.”

During the first interval in the show, performer Joz Norris – a man desperate to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe – accosted me upstairs, by Malcolm’s giant painted pastiche mural of Leonardo’s Last Supper (with Malcolm as Jesus and various other comics as his disciples).

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee whiile Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks sensible

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee while Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks unusually sensible backstage.

“You remember that idea I told you about at Christmas?” Joz started. “For winning a Cunning Stunt Award?”

“Of course I don’t remember,” I told him. “I have a shit memory.”

“I suggested,” said Joz, “that I just bribe you and give you some money in a briefcase.”

“It’s a good thought,” I told him.

“Maybe £50?” said Joz.

“You said a briefcase,” I carped.

“Well, just for the stunt,” said Joz, “but maybe only like £20.”

“I am going off the idea,” I told him.

“I could get a tiny, novelty, palm-sized briefcase and put a £5 note in it,” suggested Joz. “If we filmed me giving you a tiny briefcase with a £5 note in it, it would be funny. A worthy cunning stunt.”

2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Candy Gigi was quite restrained last night

2014 Malcolm Hardee main Award winner Candy Gigi performed a restrained act at Up The Creek last night

“Funny, but not a winner,” I said.

“The specifics of how much,” he suggested, “can be sorted out later. It’s the quality of the stunt itself that’s important, isn’t it?”

“Of course not,” I said. “It’s the quantity of the money and we decide after you give it to me if you’re going to win the award.”

“That’s a gamble,” said Joz. “But, then, I suppose a cunning stunt WOULD be a gamble.”

“It would be,” I said encouragingly. “We should try this out.”

Darren Maskell

Darren Maskell – instantly recognisable

“But imagine,” said Joz, “if I bribed you and then I didn’t win.”

“I am imagining that,” I told him.

“There’s a risk factor,” said Joz.

“Not for me,” I said.

“No,” agreed Joz. “You can’t lose.”

“Which is fair enough,” I said.

“You’re not obliged to give me anything,” said Joz.

“I like the way you think,” I told him.

“So,” said Joz, “I either come up with a way round that or accept the situation.”

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

“Acceptance is the way to go,” I told him. “Positive thinking is always a good attitude.”

“Accepting,” mused Joz, “ that you might end up with the money and I might end up poorer with no award.”

“There are always winners and losers in award shows,” I said.

“What sort of sum might make it work for me?” asked Joz.

“I think we are talking five figures,” I said. “That’s one more than The Beatles.”

“That’s £10,000,” said Joz. “Or more.”

“Or more,” I agreed. “Think positive. Or more.”

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

“I don’t have that kind of money,” said Joz, sadly.

“You can get it,” I told him.

“I certainly can’t get £10,000 together between now and Edinburgh.”

“You work with children,” I reminded him.

“It’s not as well-paid as you think,” said Joz.

“You can get a good price for children nowadays,” I told him.

“I’m not going to sell them!” said Joz.

Adam Taffler (right) with Joz Norris under the Last Supper mural

Adam Taffler (right) & Joz Norris under Last Supper mural

“Why not?” I asked. “You have to think outside the box to get a Cunning Stunt Award. Think of the publicity. The tabloids would love it.”

The organiser of last night’s extravaganza, showman Adam Taffler, told me (and I think he was being serious) that he may organise an annual 10th Anniversary of Malcolm’s Death show.

Obviously, each year, it would continue to be the 10th anniversary. Malcolm would have wanted it that way.

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William Shatner becomes matchmaker for Janey Godley’s daughter + goat foam

Sometimes, some questions are better left un-asked.

Yesterday, I saw a Tweet from William Shatner (yes, he of Star Trek fame) to his 2.04 million Twitter Followers about my chum Janey Godley’s daughter Ashley. It read: Wanted: One decent boyfriend for @ashleystorrie. Aristocrats preferred. Enquiries and credentials to: @JaneyGodley

WilliamShatner_JaneyGodley_Tweet_CUT

The thought of Janey Godley’s bloodline entering the British aristocracy has its good points and its bad points.

Yesterday evening, I had to take my eternally-un-named friend to the Accident & Emergency Unit at Lewisham Hospital. Nothing life-threatening: just a bad fall and possible rib fracture. This was bad news and good news.

No X-ray. They don’t do anything for rib fractures. Just muscle damage presumed and it takes maybe six weeks of pain before it mends itself.

There have been stories of the breakdown of the British A&E system and waiting “only” four hours to be seen if you are lucky. In fact, it only took 50 minutes to see the first medical person and 70 minutes to see the main doctor. So around two hours in all. Either we were lucky or my standards are falling. Presumably if my eternally-un-named friend’s arm had been hanging off and pouring blood, it might have been faster.

But the late A&E visit and an early-ish start today means a quick blog.

Luckily, when I got home at 2.00am last night, an unprovoked e-mail from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, was waiting for me. Here it is:


Hi John,

The Penthouse, Vancouver

Penthouse strip club,  Vancouver

This isn’t really a story, but the marquee in this picture – SOMEONE HAS GOT TO DIE – caught my attention yesterday. (Today it has gone back to normal.) The Penthouse was the best strip club in Vancouver for many years. It is now one of the only ones left. I enjoyed working at The Penthouse in the late-1970s and mid-1980s. The owner, Joe Filippone, was shot to death. There is a good book about the place by Aaron Chapman called Liquor, Lust and The Law. They sell the book at the club. I liked working there – good food, good dressing room, good stage, good money… and Italians are good to work for in that capacity. They have plenty of women around, so they don’t act like there’s a shortage.

Adam Taffler, underground entrepreneur (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

Adam, the object of Anna’s admiration… (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

I have never met Adam Taffler (whose grandfather was a strongman and who has occasionally appeared in this blog) but I can relate to him. Especially the lady lifting. I used to lift up ladies all the time when I was 17. I don’t know why. I enjoyed grabbing women around the hips or waist and lifting them a few feet off the ground. Of course I asked them first. Most of them said Yes, and they thought it was fun,. Nobody had ever done it to them before. But, until I read about Adam”s grandfather, I had no idea that I could have made a career out of it.

And the fact that Adam’s granddad was in those sea spectacles… My first job in a club involved sitting on a swing that came down from the ceiling on chains. A bouncer would lower the swing, I would get on and then he would push a button and the swing wound up, up, up. I would pretend to be tipsy and everyone would wonder if I would fall off. I like those basic things like lighting and machines and costumes. I have always had an enjoyment of that kind of stuff… fake waves, hoisting machinery, mermaid tails lying around in dressing room closets…

Anna Smith - Does Adam Taffler have any helpful hints on how to keep my mouth shut ?

Photo of a previous incarnation of our Canadian correspondent  Anna Smith Her suggested caption is: Does Adam Taffler have any helpful hints on how to keep my mouth shut? (Adam runs silent dating events)

I found a mermaid tail on the floor of  the closet of the dressing room at the Gargoyle Club in London. Nobody used the closet because the centre of the room had long rails made of plumbing pipe to hang our costumes on. There were hundreds of empty hangers dangling on the plumbing pipe rails with shreds of 1960s and 1970s costumes trailing off them. This was in the 1980s. Our costumes were more minimal of course.

Also, didn’t Adam Taffler do things with goats?

Goats are very clean and intelligent. I thought a pygmy goat would be good for sailing – so I could make foam for the espresso. It’s just a fantasy of mine. I spent my entire adult life avoiding that white powder people put into coffee because I thought it was poisonous and made out of petroleum. But, a couple of years ago, I tried it and it’s delicious. It’s like ketchup. I didn’t know what it was and it looked so bloody. I had no idea what it tasted like.

Goats are like actors. They delight in the sound of their own feet, so they would like running around the deck of a wooden boat.


I have little-to-no understanding of how Anna would extract foam from pygmy goats but, as I said at the start of this blog, sometimes, especially with Anna, some questions are better left un-asked.

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Comics Malcolm Hardee & Martin Soan adrift in an era before the iPhone

MartinSoan_11jan2015

Martin Soan yesterday, with keys to comedy

Martin Soan owns an iPhone and has just replaced his old iMac computer with a new one….

So I was sitting in Martin Soan’s living room yesterday afternoon and he was talking to showman Adam Taffler about the line-up for their 2nd February show at Up The Creek in memory of the 10th anniversary of the death of Malcolm Hardee. Tempus fuckit.

Malcolm was never a great fan of technology. But he used to, in effect, manage Martin’s comedy act The Greatest Show on Legs. In those long-gone days, acts could lose bookings if someone phoned and there was no-one there to answer the phone.

We are talking, here, of an era when everyone had land lines and mobile phones had not yet been invented. This is the story Martin Soan told yesterday:


I told Malcolm: “There’s things I’ve heard about like answer machines.”

He said: “What’s that?”

I said: “They answer your phone for you.”.

“Fuck off!” he says in disbelief.

“I said: “No, no, no. It’s true. Let’s just buy you one, Malcolm, then we’ll know when people have called up.”

So we got this answering machine that cost us something like £120 – something ridiculously expensive. It had a tape cassette which Malcolm kept fucking-up.

Years later, Malcolm gets one of the first mobile phones and we go down to the West Country.

I ask him: “What did you get one of them for?”

“Well,” he said, “you got that answering machine. I’m just trying to get more bookings, so I got a mobile phone, didn’t I? Is there a signal yet?”

We are travelling to the West Country in a car.

I tell him: “No there’s no signal.”

And we travel and travel and it’s No signal. No signal. No signal. And I tell him: “These mobile phone things are ridiculous.”

And he says: “Mart, you’ll have one of these one day.”

And I tell him: “Fuck off! It’s useless!”

So we go on and on in the car and it’s No signal… No signal… No signal… and we’re going through all these little villages on the A303 or whatever.

Eventually, we come into this little village and I tell him: “There’s a bit of a signal here, Malcolm, bit of a signal.” And he pulls up the car:

“Give us the phone!” he says. “Give us the phone!”

And he grabs this mobile phone with its huge aerial and he stands in the middle of this little village trying to get a signal on it…

… and he’s standing next to a telephone box.

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