Tag Archives: Arthur Smith

One of comic Malcolm Hardee’s famous stunts. The legend… And the real truth

Malcolm Hardee: a shadow of his former self

In a blog in January this year, I mentioned that Darryl, one of the squatters on the late comedian Malcolm Hardee’s Wibbley Wobbley boat, was thinking of producing a one-night-only Edinburgh Fringe play about Malcolm.

This now seems to be happening at The Hive venue on Wednesday 23rd August under the title Malcolm Hardee: Back From The Drink – two days before the last ever annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

Malcolm was famous for his stunts at the Fringe. One of the most famous was writing a review of his own show which he conned The Scotsman newspaper into publishing in 1989.

In his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, he described this jolly prank:


One year, we were playing at The Pleasance venue and, as normal, when you open the first week, there’s no-one there. All the other shows at The Pleasance had been reviewed by The Scotsman newspaper. Again, we were ‘wrong side of the tracks’. They hadn’t come to review our show. I was feeling bitter. So I thought I’d write my own review for them. 

Malcolm’s stunt-laden autobiography

I got a copy of The Scotsman and picked out a reviewer’s name at random – William Cook. I talked to someone I knew who used to write reviews for The Scotsman and found out how to do it. All you do is type it out in double-spacing. That’s the trick. 

Then, with Arthur Smith, I wrote a review of my own show, put William Cook’s name at the bottom, folded it up, put it in an envelope and went to the Scotsman’s offices at about 9.00pm when all the staff had gone home and gave it to the porter. Sure enough, next day, they printed it. After that, the show was full up. 

Then The Scotsman went mad because someone told them I’d done it and William Cook didn’t speak to me for years. I don’t know why. I presume he got paid for it.


This week, I asked William Cook what he remembered of all this.

“Since it was all so long ago – I make it 28 years – tempus fugit! – I’m not sure there’s much (if anything) I can add. I’d been writing reviews for The Scotsman for a grand total of about a fortnight and I had never even heard of Arthur Smith or Malcolm Hardee – although I naturally saw them perform and interviewed them quite a bit thereafter.”

Arthur Smith this week remembered the glamour of it all

Earlier this week, I asked comic Arthur Smith what he remembered.

“The story as it is usually told,” I began, “is that Malcolm wrote his own review. Did he write it? Or was it both of you?”

Arthur laughed. “I wrote every word. My memory is that his show had been going a week or so and it wasn’t getting big houses. So he shambled into the bar one day and said to me: Oy! Oy! Do you wanna write a review of my show?… So I said: If you like… And he told me: I’ve found a way of getting it into The Scotsman. I guess he must have been buttering-up some critic and –  typical Malcolm – he had a bit of deviousness in mind.”

“Surely not,” I said.

“It only,” Arthur told me, “took me half an hour or something like that. Obviously, Malcolm wanted me to write it very favourably, but not so they would read it and say: Fuck off! That’s not a real review! It was a fairly straightforward kind of review in a way.”

This is what Arthur Smith wrote and what The Scotsman printed:


Malcolm Hardee shambles on-stage in an ill-fitting suit looking like a debauched Eric Morecambe and initiates the funniest show I have seen in Edinburgh this year.

The infamous fake Edinburgh Fringe review

Hardee delivers some gross but hilarious one-liners before giving way to John Moloney, “angry young accordionist”; his sharp and aggressive observations had the audience hooting with laughter.

Then Hardee, who looks like he lives in a bus station, introduced the open spot. On the night I went a 13-year-old called Alex Langdon did a standup routine which put many of his professional elders to shame.

But the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Terri Rodgers, who walked on looking the epitome of a sweet old lady but then introduced her puppet friend Shorty Harris, who proceeded to tell a string of jokes that made Gerry Sadowitz’s material sound like Jimmy Cricket’s. This is alternative ventriloquising of the highest order.


Note: Terri Rogers is mis-spelled as Rodgers. Jerry Sadowitz, at that time, would occasionally and, I think, fairly randomly sometimes spell his forename as Gerry.

Brian Mulligan, who was, at that time, half of comic duo Skint Video, said last week: “It wasn’t completely gushing which I thought was very amusing.”

“That’s right,” Arthur told me. “Maybe, in a way, I should have gone: This is the greatest show ever. But maybe I thought that would alert the sub-editor or something. It was quite a good review. They didn’t have stars then but I would have given him 5-stars.

“I’d written reviews before for people. I had a column in the Guardian where I could write anything I liked provided it was vaguely arts-based and I reviewed a friend’s show – I don’t think I’d even seen it – and I just gave it 5-stars as a favour.

The former Scotsman building – now The Scotsman Hotel

“Anyway, I wrote the Scotsman review for Malcolm and, maybe two days later, there it was. I recall it really caused quite a kerfuffle. They got very upset about it.”

This week, writer/performer John Dowie told me: “I recall the editor of The Scotsman releasing one of the greatest ever closing-the-stable-door-after-the-horse-has-bolted remarks: We have taken steps to ensure that this can never happen again.

Arthur Smith’s opinion today is: “I thought they took it a bit more seriously than they really needed to. They went on about the freedom of the press. It was just a great stunt, really, though I suppose it made them look a bit like cunts… but not really.”

“Did Malcolm tweak the review at all?” I asked.

“No,” Arthur told me. “It was printed exactly as I wrote it. I would have written it by hand back in those days and he must have typed it up and handed it in.”

In fact, exactly how it was delivered to The Scotsman has got hazy in the mists of time.

Last night I talked via Skype to Woodstock Taylor in Edinburgh. She was the then-journalist who actually told Malcolm how to submit the fake review.

“How did you know Malcolm?” I asked.

Woodstock Taylor, taken  sometime back in the mid-1990s

“We had a dalliance,” she told me. “I had been dallying with (another now high-profile comedian). He dumped me, then Malcolm seized the opportunity and it seemed like a good idea at the time. We dallied for a while, then stayed friends after we stopped dallying.”

“And so…?” I asked.

“Basically,” she told me, “I used to review for The Scotsman. I was the comedy critic for several years, before William Cook got there. He took over my patch.”

“William Cook said,” I told her, “that he had only been in the job about two weeks when this fake review came out.”

“That’s right,” said Woodstock, “because I had been going to do it and then I didn’t.”

“So that,” I said, “was how Malcolm knew how to submit a review to The Scotsman. But do we now own up to the fact you told him how to con The Scotsman?”

“I think so,” said Woodstock. “It’s been 28 years. I’m not likely to write for them again. They’re not very likely to come and review my Fringe show this year. And, in any case, I have a different name now.”

Founded in 1817 – survived Hardee in 1989

“So how,” I asked, “did the fake review come about?”

“Malcolm kept coming up to me and pestering me to do a review of his show and I was trying to explain to him that I didn’t have any control over what was reviewed. I would have done him a review if it had been allowed and possible.”

“This was after you dallied?” I asked.

“Ooh, ten years after. He kept saying – about a review – Oh, come on. You can make it happen. And eventually, he got this idea and I told him how it was done.”

“He just,” I said, “put it in a tray one night, didn’t he?”

“No,” said Woodstock, “in those days, all you had to do was phone up the paper, reverse charges, and ask for the Copy Desk and then just read them the review.”

“So,” I asked, “he just phoned up and said: Ello! This is William Cook!?”

“Yeah. That’s exactly how it was done.”

“Poor old William Cook,” I said.

William Cook: now a successful author on the comedy industry

“I think it probably made him,” suggested Woodstock. “Nobody knew who he was before and everybody did afterwards.”

This made me wonder, when the editor of The Scotsman said We have taken steps to ensure that this can never happen again, what those steps actually were.

John Dowie told me: “When I mentioned it to Malcolm, he said: It’s a code number which you have to attach to the copy. But I know what it is. I gave a journalist ten quid and he told me. I could use it. But it’s somebody else’s turn now.

The last ever Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards take place at the Edinburgh Fringe next month, billed as Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! It’s the Last Ever Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – and It’s Free!

One of the three awards is the Cunning Stunt Award for the best publicity stunt publicising a Fringe performer or show. There is a piece on how to win a Cunning Stunt Award HERE.

As for William Cook, he did not bear a grudge. When Malcolm drowned in London in 2005, he wrote a generous obituary for the Guardian which was headed:

MALCOLM HARDEE

PATRON SINNER OF ALTERNATIVE COMEDY,
HE WAS RENOWNED FOR HIS OUTRAGEOUS STUNTS

It concluded:

On the day his death was announced, Hardee’s friends and family converged on the Wibbley Wobbley to pour a measure of his favourite tipple, rum and Coke, into the river where he felt so at home. For alternative comedy’s patron sinner, who has been called a millennial Falstaff and a south London Rabelais, it was a suitably irreverent farewell.

(Video produced by Karen Koren of the Gilded Balloon venue in Edinburgh)

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At the Edinburgh Fringe: Arthur Smith and his socks and a duck jockstrap gift

Arthur Smith opens his Museum of Socks

Arthur Smith opens his Museum of Socks at Edinburgh Fringe

“Are you doing your traditional late-night tour of the Royal Mile?” I asked comedian and national treasure Arthur Smith yesterday, beside his new exhibition of socks.

“Yes,” Arthur told me. “And I will be introducing the13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga.”

“She’s the one with only one sock?” I asked.

“Yes,” confirmed Arthur.

“Which Saturday night?” I asked.

“The 20th,” he said. “Well, strictly speaking, it’s the Sunday, because it’s after midnight.”

“What time?” I asked.

“I dunno,” said Arthur. “One o’clock? Two? I don’t care. You decide. If you put it in your blog, that’ll be the time I do it.”

So, dear reader, Arthur Smith’s legendary annual late-night tour of the Royal Mile this year will start at 01.00am on Saturday night 20th August – or Sunday morning 21st August if you are being pedantic. The starting point, as always, is the top of the Royal Mile outside the entrance to the Castle.

“But what about Arthur Smith’s socks?” I hear you cry with some justification.

Well, tough shit. You will have to read on for a bit.

A few days ago, I got a Facebook message from one Broome Spiro asking if I fancied having breakfast with a stranger.

Broome Spiro and his levitating breakfast

Broome Spiro and his levitating breakfast

So, of course, I let him buy me breakfast yesterday morning. He turned out to be a retired immigration attorney living in upstate New York who had chucked in his job and gone to work in a pizza parlour. His son had worked in Zoo venues at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. Broome is fan of my blog and of the weekly Grouchy Club podcast I do with Scotsman critic Kate Copstick.

“How did you stumble on us?” I asked.

“When my son was working at Zoo,” explained Broome, “my wife Penny was following the Fringe on the computer – online, you can almost be here – and we became interested in the politics behind the Fringe and the different business models – PBH and Bob Slayer – and we ran into your blog, which was ‘real’. It’s nice to have it done with historical perspective so you can understand if you are new to it all.

“Over the years, I have collected a tremendous amount of things. My first job was with an antiques dealer, holding up stuff, and my mother made me quit after a month because I had not had a pay cheque yet, but I kept on coming home with antiques. I have this 3,000 square foot house with four 38ft tractor trailers and two barns filled with things and how I finance coming to Edinburgh is by selling things.”

Broome tests the straps of his jockstrap

Broome tests the straps of his gift jockstrap

He took out and showed me a jockstrap made from a plastic duck.

“You created it yourself?” I asked.

“Well,” said Broome, “I found the duck and designed the jock strap, but a guy called Dara Albro is the one who made it a reality.”

“Was it tested for size and comfort?” I asked.

“I was the fitting model,” admitted Broome. “I am going to present it to Paul Currie.

“Why?” I asked.

“I like his show.”

Later in the day, Broome also turned up at the Pleasance Dome for the official opening of the exhibition of Arthur Smith’s socks.

Which is where we came in.

The exhibition includes one sock belonging to (or, more correctly, formerly belonging to) the aforementioned 13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga.

Scotsman critic and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Kate Copstick is of a mind to nominate Arthur’s sock exhibition for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award on the basis that it is “very Saatchi”.

“Have you,” I asked Arthur, “ever been prosecuted in a Scottish court for your legendary annual late-night tour of the Royal Mile?”

“Not quite,” he said. “There was a balustrade on a corner once – well, it’s still there – and I paid a guy to stand on it and take his top off and sing Scotland The Brave and then a woman said Oh! That’s sexist! so she took her top off as well. They were a couple and had a big row. Anyway, the next day I looked, I realised there was a 40ft drop behind it and they had both been arseholed. They could have died. Maybe I would have been up for manslaughter if they had fallen. I dunno.”

Claire Smith, Broome Spiro and piano creator Iain Gordon at Arthur Smith’s opening

Claire Smith, Broome Spiro and piano builder Iain Gordon

Also there at the grand opening of Arthur’s sock exhibition – rather grandly titled Arturart’s Museum of Socks – was Scotsman journalist and increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Claire Smith.

“I am staying in a tent in Worbey and Farrell’s garden,” she told me.

“What if it rains?” I asked.

“It makes a lovely splashing sound.”

“Why are you staying in a tent in their garden?” I asked.

“Because I love them. They are sweet.”

“Why a tent in their garden?” I asked.

“It’s really lovely,” explained Claire. “I’ve got a little office in there. And WiFi, a vase with lilies and a carpet. And a cherry tree. Have you heard about Lewis Schaffer?”

“Constantly,” I said.

Lewis Schaffer: sexist or vulnerable?

Lewis Schaffer in days before he went grey

“He forgot his suit,” continued Claire. ”He left it in London. He had to do his show in civies yesterday. In his jeans. But he needs his suit. He usually buys his suits from ASDA because he says they are very Armani-ish. Well, a bit. But cheaper. So he left his suit in London and had to do his show in his jeans yesterday and he is wondering if it is a subconscious desire to give up comedy forever.”

“Has he started performing comedy now?” I asked, surprised.

“I have heard,” confided Claire, “that his suit is on its way up from London.”

“Via one of his entourage?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“What other news?” I asked.

Claire Smith consoled last night by Topping (of Topping & Butch)

Loitering within tent? Claire Smith and Michael Topping

“Topping (of Topping & Butch) has given up alcohol and wants to do people’s feet in Edinburgh. He does reflexology in London. He’s really good at it. He lives in a little castle in London. He thought he would come up here and offer people reflexology.”

“People at random in the street?” I asked.

“Well, he was wanting to do it from my tent, but we haven’t really been able to organise it. We thought, if it was sunny, we could have a garden party. Get a load of people round to my tent and get their feet done.”

“Sunny?” I asked. “In Edinburgh in August? Where is your tent?”

“Near Meadowbank Stadium.”

“Oh,” I said. “I’m moving to a flat between Meadowbank and Easter Road for the last four days of the Fringe. It could be noisy at the weekend.”

Meadowbank is a 16,000 seat sports stadium and Easter Road is the 20,000 seater home of Hibernian football club.

“There’s a circus tent down there now,” said Claire.

“Let us hope,” I said, “that they don’t have elephants.”

Arthur Smith and sock of 13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga

Arthur Smith in Edinburgh with the newly exhibited sock of the 13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga

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Tis the season to be jolly – now comic Lewis Schaffer converts to Christianity?

Steve Frost caught in flagrante delicto with capitalist caviar

Frost caught in flagrante delicious with capitalist caviar

Yesterday, I went to the annual Christmas party thrown by comic Charmian Hughes and husband David Don’t. On reflection, ‘annual Christmas party’ might be tautology. Anyway, a good time was, as always, had by all the tight-packed throng including writer and troublemaker Mark Kelly who insisted I take a photo of esteemed thespian Stephen Frost eating caviar and thus demonstrating he had given up his youthful ambitions to change the world and abolish elitism.

I should point out that the caviar was from Lidl, apparently retails for less than the cost of a Big Mac and comes not from sturgeon but from capelin, a small forage fish found in the Arctic.

I have no idea what a forage fish is, but its slimy bits can apparently legitimately be classed as caviar.

Charmian Hughes offers me her bras

Charmian Hughes shows me her bras last night

As I left the party, Charmian Hughes gave me a plastic bag filled with bras which, I was told, I had to give to comedy critic Kate Copstick for her Mama Biashara charity. I asked no questions, but I can only assume they are destined for some bemused and heavily bosomed Kenyan women.

Tomorrow, with Kate Copstick chairing, the last live Grouchy Club meeting of this year (all welcome) involves comedy industry chat + some OTTness from Ada Campe + mulled cider + nibbles provided by the aforementioned Copstick. Usually, she bites.

There is an oft-used but admittedly here irrelevant Scots saying: “Many a mickle maks a muckle”.

“Many people make mulled wine,” Copstick tells me, “but I’m Scottish, therefore I’m cheap, therefore I make mulled cider, but it’s lovely and it’s still alcoholic and it is absolutely delicious. There will be nibbles and chocolate in almost every conceivable form, plus crispy things, possibly dippy things and cakey things.”

Lewis Schaffer’s flyer image for his Leicester Square shows

Lewis Schaffer in erstwhile  youth. Once seen, never forgotten

Tonight, I am off to see Lewis Schaffer’s final 2015 performance of a show at the Museum of Comedy – a show that was billed as Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, £10… until about five hours before the first performance when, with cavalier disregard for any rules of publicity – like what name is actually on the posters, flyers and listings – he changed it to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful… a title which could arguably see him in court charged with breach of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

Lewis Schaffer says there will be an after-show party and, as he does not care what is written about him provided the words ‘Lewis Schaffer’ are inserted at regular intervals, I can exclusively reveal that Lewis Schaffer will be at the party naked, draped in nothing but a Stars & Stripes flag and he will be singing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, having last week converted to Christianity.

LewisSchaffer_PinkHair

A Goy or a Doll? – Which is worse?

To consolidate this, in the New Year, Lewis Schaffer will be appearing in a stage production at the National Theatre of Goys and Dolls. He may be playing one of the female leads, judging by a photo of him in publicity for Martin Besserman’s Jewish Xmas Eve Matzo Ball Special in which he (Lewis Schaffer) sports pink hair.

We live in a time of flux and this morning I got a Christmas e-card from Arthur Smith comprising a giant picture of himself either as Scrooge or a mullah. If the latter, he – like Lewis Schaffer with his conversion to Christianity – may be hedging his New Year bets.

ArthurSmithChristmasCard

Arthur Smith – the ghost of Christmas Bahs?

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Arthur Smith says Jimmy Carr is “working on a comedy algorithm”

Arthur Smith in a Soho alleyway

Arthur Smith at the Grouchy Club in a Soho alleyway

As Kate Copstick is still in Kenya, I was joined for this week’s Grouchy Club Podcast – in a Soho alleyway – by comedian Arthur Smith.

This short exchange cropped up:


ARTHUR
More and more, there are people creeping into the world who aren’t real. they’ve been fabricated by programmers.

JOHN
For example?

ARTHUR
Well, Jimmy Carr. I don’t think he’s a human being. He’s…

JOHN
Poor Jimmy Carr!

ARTHUR
No, he’s a synthesised creature working on a comedy algorithm that just creates jokes. But, obviously, there’s no feeling or soul or anything. And this is happening more and more. everyone’s job, soon, will be done by a synthesised creature and we’ll just be sort-of vegetables sat at home watching afternoon TV.

JOHN
But surely Jimmy Carr is a traditional old-style comedian, in fact. He tells jokes, which people don’t do now. There’s Jimmy Carr, there’s Tim Vine, there’s about three other people doing jokes and everyone else is telling stories.

ARTHUR
Yes. Because that’s all synthesised creatures can do, because they’re working on a series of algorithms, like I say. So they regurgitate the form of a joke.

JOHN
You’re not a joke man yourself?

ARTHUR
A man goes to a doctor. The doctor says: “I’m afraid you’re going to have to stop masturbating.”

“Oh no!” says the man. “Why?”

“Well,” says the doctor, “I’m trying to im…examine you.”

I nearly fluffed the punchline… I’ll do another one.

A man goes to the doctor with a bit of lettuce sticking out of his bottom.

The doctor says: “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Oh, no, I like an ancient joke.

JOHN
But does this mean you’re an algorithm?

ARTHUR
Yeah, but I’m a Barry Cryer algorithm and that’s a different kind of creature altogether.

JOHN
Well, Barry Cryer is a sort of a gag merchant and Jimmy Carr’s a gag merchant. I have to say I quite like the gypsy moth joke myself.

ARTHUR
Hang on, whose gypsy moth joke is this one?

JOHN
Jimmy Carr.

ARTHUR
Oh, yeah, that one! Well he’s got in trouble again, I noticed. He’s quite clever. It was a classic; he wanted to do a very short joke and the joke was a dwarf shortage. But, of course, he was on The One Show and got in trouble for that.

JOHN
And, when people complained, he said: “Oh, grow up!” which, I thought, was a double funny.

ARTHUR
Yeah, I agree. I agree they’re good gags. I just wish he’d… Yeah, but he’s not a human, is he? There’s no heart; there’s no soul, is there?

JOHN
David Mills, who you probably don’t know, was saying that he…

ARTHUR
Yeah, I know David Mills – the American – he’s brilliant.

JOHN
He was saying he’s going to try and incorporate himself more into his act, because he’s never really done ‘himself’ before.

ARTHUR
The thing is, he was constructed, that’s why. He’s a synthesised comedian; I told you.

JOHN
David Mills??

ARTHUR
No, not David MIlls. Oh! I see! David Mills is going to incorporate…

JOHN
Yeah, David Mills is going to incorporate personal stuff whereas, before, he’s just been a man sitting on a stool.

ARTHUR
Yeah, well I think, in the end, that is a good thing to do.

JOHN
Sit on a stool? At our age?

ARTHUR
Well, you’re better off with a back to it. But I think having something of yourself is what makes you unique as a comedian whereas, if you haven’t, then you’re just a synthesiser.


You can hear the full 25-minute Grouchy Club Podcast HERE, in which Arthur talks about his theory of mindlessness, writing for Frankie Howard, being in a Danish pantomime, why he may go trans-gender, Shakespeare, being pedantic, semi-colons, creative writing courses, Daphne Fairfax and his several half-written novels… plus he performs the opening lines of Dante’s Inferno in the original medieval Italian. Oh yes he does.

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Edinburgh: critic Copstick ejected from Gilded Balloon; Freestival venue burned

Papa CJ with two passing strangers in Cowgate

Papa CJ with two passing strangers in Edinburgh’s Cowgate

On Sunday, I thought Papa CJ was going back to India on Monday.

Then he announced an extra show in Edinburgh tonight (Tuesday). I had no idea how or why.

I didn’t ask him until last night.

“I had 18 back-to-back full-houses,” he told me. “Then, during a coffee chat with (comedy critic) Kate Copstick, she mentioned it would be great to be able to say ‘extra shows added’. Also a few people who wanted to see me weren’t able to. So I found out what rooms might be available, changed my return flight to India and added one show. The only catch is that there is no publicity about it out there. So I’m hoping people come in on the back of flyering and social media. Also, in all honesty, I’m really enjoying the response the show is getting from audiences… so subconsciously I probably just got greedy for one more gig.”

So do I know what is happening in Edinburgh?

Well, to be honest, I have never claimed to.

Arthur Smith, alien, in the Royal Mile last night

Arthur Smith on Royal Mile tour

This was proved yet again yesterday when this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith (who is not in the comedy business but seems to know everybody at the Fringe) told me that, this year, Arthur Smith is probably not doing his famous – some might say infamous – last-weekend-of-the-Fringe tour of the Royal Mile.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because he’s not here at the weekends.”

“Ah,” I said.

“He will be doing it next year,” Sandra told me.

“Ah,” I said, as if this was no surprise to me.

Last night, critic Kate Copstick was ejected from the Gilded Balloon venue for falling asleep in the Wine Bar. Thankfully not during a show.

The Edinburgh Fringe can be tiring even for people who are not performing.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been seeing around seven shows each day (each show = one hour) and, last night, I went to bed at 04.30am and got up at 08.30am.

But that’s my choice.

My highlights yesterday were Mathilda Gregory’s hour-long show on How To Be Fat – just the right balance of comedy and serious fascination. I could say comedy is often better with some meat to get your teeth into but, of course, would never dream of being so shallow.

An even more quirky show was Accident Avoidance Training For Cutlery Users in which Jimmy Frinton (performing as character Ian Crawford) … erm … well, he does what it says in the title. He gives a lecture on how to avoid getting injured by your own cutlery.

Safety can be comic or not.

Earlier today, I blogged about the eccentricities of the PBH Free Fringe.

There has been drama too at the Freestival, who were ejected from their presumed Cowgatehead venue by PBH and belatedly found homes in the New Waverley Arches.

The Freestival Arches

The Freestival Arches: site of a weekend break-in and burning

In the early hours of Saturday morning – around 4.00am to 5.30am – a person or persons unknown broke into one of their arches and their chairs got burned.

“Somebody broke in,” Dan Adams of Freestival told me today,”and appears to have known enough about how we work to get the generator going and plugged in the bar power to the generator. But the lights are on a different power ring which they appear to have been too pissed to realise. So they went into the venue proper and plugged our lights into the bar circuits with an extension causing overload to build.

“They stole one of our PA units and about three cases of booze and left stuff running which caused a fire because it wasn’t set up correctly. The venue’s 40 chairs are covered in burned particulate. Part of the bar burned where the fire started melted cables etc and pump beer coolers. On Sunday it was all hands to the pump and yesterday and we got it all turned around and ready by about 12.30pm. No damage to the other arches at all.”

In Edinburgh, that counts as a happy ending.

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Performers to see at the Edinburgh Fringe plus the abduction of echidnas

Kate Copstick during the recording of the first Grouchy Club podcast

Kate Copstick – just not a comedy critic to mess with

Well, the energetic typhoon and bundle of occasional volcanic anger that is The Scotsman’s comedy critic – Kate Copstick – arrived yesterday and has been arranging tickets to see shows. Sometimes acts say they will not let critics in for the first two or three performances as their show will not be ready for appraisal. This can lose them a review either because critics’ schedules are so tight the show can’t be fitted in elsewhere or – as with Copstick – on principle.

I paraphrase, but her attitude is: “if the show is not ready to be seen by a critic, then they shouldn’t fucking be performing it and charging the fucking public money to see it”.

I do not paraphrase the swearing.

As of yesterday afternoon, one show will certainly not get her review because it was “not ready to be seen”.

George’s Fringe poster for Anarchist Cook

George’s Fringe poster for Anarchist Cook

Having rescheduled my yesterday to do other things by cancelling three shows (to be seen later), the only one I did see was George Egg’s Anarchist Cook – a cracking show a bizarre combination of comedy and cookery using items you can find in hotel rooms, including Bibles, irons and trouser presses.

Mixing cookery and comedy live on stage has been done before, but this version was so filled with comic originality that it took the audience around ten minutes to accept they really were seeing what they were seeing. After that, they were with him all the way. The word-of-mouth will be great.

Meanwhile, on the streets, flyerers have a tendency to look at me, think I am far too old to be interested in comedy and ignore me. Yesterday, among the flyerers doing this were ones touting a couple of shows I am actually going to go and see.

Al Porter strikes camp in Edinburgh

Irishman Al Porter strikes camp in Edinburgh

One who did grab me – because he recognised me – was Irish comic Al Porter, flyering for his own show Al Porter Is Yours. I don’t think he is likely yet to get the Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely To Make a Million Quid’ Award, but he has the chutzpah it takes to get success on TV.

You could not call it subtle schmoozing, but it is the sort of full-throttle PR assault mixing OTT flattery with Irish charm which will go down well in the corridors of the BBC and ITV. He also has a good memory –

  1. my face
  2. that we met two years ago
  3. that I write a blog which is “wonderful” and which he “reads all the time”

Al Porter Is Yours was already on my list of shows to see, so the flattery and full-throttle schmoozing was unnecessary, but full marks for the in-yer-face promo assault.

In the evening, there was another assault on the senses of a different kind.

My chum Janey Godley performed at the Laughing Horse Free Festival launch show. It looked to me like most of the audience had not actually seen her perform before, so it was like watching a collection of cuddly toys facing the full force of an Apache attack helicopter with all weapons systems blazing. I would be amazed if less than half the audience did not leave last night with her at the top of their list of Shows To See.

Janey Godley live on Periscope last night

Janey Godley was live on Periscope last night

Janey has single-handedly made me think I should switch off my Periscope alerts as, every ten minutes, I get a mobile phone fanfare and the news that Janey is “live on the streets” or can be seen “in bed”. Just getting the alerts exhausts me. But it is effective publicity. She tells me there has been a surge in sales of her jaw-dropping autobiography Handstands in the Dark from people who have seen her on Periscope – despite the fact she has never mentioned the book on Periscope.

She also told me someone had suggested she put on an exhibition of her paintings and drawings in London – an excellent and overdue idea which I tried to encourage her to do though, I suspect, to no avail.

Janey Godley at the Fringe in 2007

Janey with her clown painting at Edinburgh Fringe in 2007

In 2007, her painting of a clown was sold for charity at an an Arthur Smith Arturart exhibition of comics’ paintings. If I had known it was for sale, I would have bought it myself, because I had seen her paint it – It started out as a planned portrait of comedian Malcolm Hardee then changed into a scary clown.

She recently painted a watercolour landscape for me as a gift. I was going to collect it when I got to Edinburgh, but she has now lost it. I am beginning to get paranoid.

Last night, I understand Malcolm Hardee Awards-stealer Juliette Burton (see yesterday’s blog) arrived in town but could not be found. I suspect she is in hiding in her dubious and by no means certain pursuit of a Cunning Stunt Award nomination.

All this and a tooth

All this and a bit of tooth falls out…

On a more personal note, a tiny slither of tooth seems to have come out of one of my molars, though there is no pain yet. And I have the Edinburgh sniffles – I think I may have the beginnings of a cold caught standing in the rain at last night’s Free Festival launch.

This morning I awoke to an email from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. She sent me a CBC news report about a man who had been charged with “fornicating the National War Memorial” in Ottawa.

She added: “At least we don’t have the echidna abductions that are racking Australia.”

No, I have no idea what she is talking about either.

But it is good, in a way, to know anarchy reigns worldwide, not just in Edinburgh during the Fringe.

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I was tricked on my birthday by a comic’s Cunning Stunt on Facebook

So I currently have comedy performer Matt Roper staying with me. Last night, he went off to see some Edinburgh Fringe previews at comedy critic Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara emporium in Shepherd’s Bush.

There is a video on YouTube of Copstick plugging the Mama Biashara emporium in 2010. Things have only changed for the better.

While Matt Roper was at Mama Biashara last night, I was off elsewhere. It was my birthday.

During the evening, Kate Copstick posted this on her Facebook page:

We’ve got wonderful character comic Matt Roper visiting the emporium to see a show tonight. For those who don’t know him, he’s the man behind the vile but utterly loveable powerhouse creation of Wilfredo, of whom I had the good fortune to witness last year at the Fringe. Due to an error at The Scotsman, my review of his show only gave three stars when in fact it ought to have been a full five. He’s up at the Fringe once again this year in Routines, a new immersive comedy experience which I predict will smash the Festival this year (3.45pm at the Three Sisters). Those who haven’t seen Matt at work are highly recommended to do so. A huge comic talent.

Facebook posting that set it all off, sent from Mama Biashara

Facebook posting that set it all off, sent from Mama Biashara

I re-posted it on my Facebook accounts and thought no more about it until I got a Facebook message a little later from Matt. It said simply:

Just fraped Copstick.

I had to look this up. The online Wiktionary’s first definition of ‘frape’ was:

A crowd, a rabble.

This seemed unlikely.

The Wiktionary’s second definition was:

(Internet slang) To hijack, and meddle with, someone’s Facebook account while it is unattended.

Uh-oh, I thought.

And, sure enough, Matt had written the glowing review of himself (with the fake Scotsman stars) on Copstick’s computer while she had been off dealing with the Fringe preview in the Mama Biashara performance space.

I was not the only one who was taken in; there was widespread re-posting and Tweeting.

This morning, the real Copstick posted on her Facebook page:

So here’s a thing: Matt Roper popped by the Mama Biashara Emporium last night to pick up his typewriter. I leave him alone with my desktop for FIVE MINUTES and I wake up this morning to find FB wet with excitement over something I had apparently posted on the subject of how fabulous and talented he is and how the Scotsman stars were a misprint and should have been five. Yes I think he is pretty good and yes, to be fair, he did give me two slices of his pizza… but even John Bloody Fleming reposted the thing! Are my posts usually so fulsome in their praise? Well, I will be going along to see Routines (see place and times on ‘my’ previous posting) and it had better be FUCKING BRILLIANT, Roper!

A few hours later, Copstick posted:

They are still sharing Matt Roper’s fucking fake fucking fabulous fucking posting on my page about him and fucking WilfuckingFredo and RouFuckingTines. WTF.

Copstick is mellowing with age.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wilfredo-Unchained-Live-California-Explicit/dp/B0100E56JA

Matt strangely forgot to plug that his alter ego has a new album out – Wilfredo Unchained: Live in California

Matt just did this publicity stunt on a whim; there was no advance planning. But it is a thing of beauty. A contender (I would think) for this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

It did not just publicise Matt and his show but did so by making people not only fall for a con (as I did) but setting it up so that other people did the real work – all the people who were taken in and re-posted and re-Tweeted the initial frape.

It also, in this year – the tenth anniversary of Malcolm Hardee’s death – managed to doff a hat to one of Malcolm’s own legendary Edinburgh stunts. The one in which he and Arthur Smith wrote a glowing review of Malcolm’s Fringe show and submitted it to The Scotsman under the name of William Cook, the newspaper’s own highly-esteemed comedy reviewer – and it was, indeed published.

Matt’s stunt was almost better than this, in that he did not even have to write a fake review of his own show – he merely referred to an existing review and twisted perception of reality.

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

A desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Only a few days ago, I had been lamenting to myself that no cunning stunts had, as yet, appeared publicising a Fringe show or performer this year.

Ellis & Rose (as I mentioned in an April blog) had pretended they had appeared at Soho Theatre by hanging their own carefully-designed photo on the wall of the theatre’s bar. But they have no show in Edinburgh this year.

And, a few days ago, there was a brilliant publicity stunt by magicians Young & Strange who, while a Sky TV reporter talked to camera about government NHS reforms, staged a variation of the sawing-a-man-in-half trick behind him, on the green in front of Parliament.

This stunt got even better when it transpired that the whole thing was fake – it was not a real Sky reporter, nor a real Sky transmission, just a beautifully-crafted fake and one of a series of Young & Strange self publicity stunts aimed at getting broadcasters’ attention.

I would think this wonderful stunt would have been a sure cert for a Cunning Stunt nomination – if it were not for the fact Young and Strange are not plugging any Edinburgh Fringe show.

Still…

At least Matt Roper has now set a high benchmark to which others can aspire.

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