Last weekend, actor Will Smith (a former comic) slapped Chris Rock (a current comic) in the face at the Oscars ceremony for allegedly slighting his wife with an ad-libbed joke obliquely-referring to her alopecia-caused baldness/shaved head.
I can’t help but feel that Americans’ sensibilities are a little too touchy and their attempts at edgy comedy could do with a bit more edge-sharpening.
Still… it was the slap that echoed round the world, making front-page news and generating much comment.
On Twitter, British comedian and writer David Baddiel observed: “As a comedy moment it’s still not up there with a member of the audience at Montreal’s Just For Laughs 1991 punching Jerry Sadowitz out cold for opening with Hello moose-fuckers!
The full line was: “Hello moose-fuckers! I tell you why I hate Canada: half of you speak French, and the other half let them.“
As David Baddiel pointed out, there is no footage of that particular punch, but there is a video of Clive Anderson interviewing comedians Denis Leary and Bill Hicks about it after the event…
In a comment on David Baddiel’s Tweet this week, Mr AR Felix (who describes himself as a “Ferrari supporter, casual artist and culture vulture”) wrote:
“The rarely-quoted follow up line, which Sadowitz claims is what actually led to him being attacked was: Why don’t you speak Indian? You might as well speak the language of the people you stole the country off of in the first place.”
When I mentioned the Sadowitz attack on my own Facebook page, former Time Out editor Dominic Wells commented:
“Loved Jerry/Gerry Sadowitz — the reason for my G/J being that when I was still chief sub on Time Out, and editor Don Atyeo showed his new columnist round the office, I asked him (pre-internet): How do you spell G/Jerry?
“Spell it how ye fucking want, son, ah don’t give a shite, quoth the comic.
Jerry or Gerry Sadowitz takes Time Out with Ben Elton
“So I (unlike Wikipedia, now that it exists) spelt it with a G in all his Time Out columns and the cover he was on, throttling the Spitting Image puppet of Ben Elton, for which Ben apparently never forgave us.
“G/Jerry was by a long chalk the funniest columnist I have EVER read, let alone subbed. I would hoot with laughter at his copy. Sadly G/Jerry proved too close to the edge even for Time Out. The editor couldn’t handle the letters of complaint and sacked him after just four or five, despite my entreaties.
“I guess the tone was set by his very first column, replacing Muriel Gray, who had departed for the Guardian or similar. It opened with a poem:
“See that Muriel Gray/ In a’ the Fleet Street papers/ You can read her if you want/ But I’d rather fuck the Proclaimers.“
After this Facebook comment, comic and cultural icon John Dowie reminisced:
“What’s the worst opening remark a comedian could ever say? asked Nick Revell, backstage prior to a 1980s comedy gig. Nelson Mandela – What a cunt! was the winning answer… Jerry opened with it… Of course.”
Then, returning to the subject of outrage caused at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, Rob Williams (who describes himself as a “writer of stuff” added:
“Malcolm Hardee at Montreal got told before going on that they love observational humour. Do observational stuff and you’ll be fine, they told him… So he opened with: Have you ever noticed that if you stick a carrot up your arse and lick it it tastes like shit?”
I can’t help but feel that Will Smith – especially as an ex-comic – was being more than a tad over-sensitive and Chris Rock could have been more offensive.
PC Oliver Banfield leaves court (Photo by Sally Homer)
I have posted a couple of blogs (HERE and HERE) about police officer Oliver Banfield’s unprovoked night time attack and violent assault on a woman and how he escaped a prison sentence. Instead of prison, he was given a 14-week night curfew – in effect, less than a slap on the wrist in the current national COVID lockdown.
Yesterday morning, I was talking to my eternally un-named friend.
“He was lucky,” she said, “that he could wear a mask leaving court”. She was shocked that he got away with it. “Crazy lack of action,” she said. “Surely he will be sacked?”
“He will,” I suggested, “presumably resign before being sacked. And I guess keep any pension contributions etc etc. Normally they resign before they get investigated for misconduct then they don’t get prosecuted so have an unblemished record while they were serving, before they resigned. They were not sacked. He was unlucky the police were pressurised into taking him to court first – although they tried their very best not to prosecute him.”
Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)
After the court sentencing, a police spokesman said PC Oliver Banfield would still face “a misconduct hearing in due course”.
Last night, uber-Fringegoer Sandra Smith told me she had sent my first (not my second) blog to the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police force ‘Dave’ Thompson (for whom PC Oliver Banfield worked) to see the reaction. She got this reply:
“I have read the piece thank you… There are a number of tweets that I have been copied in concerning this. For reason relating to police conduct procedures I cannot comment.”
Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine: “had to wait”
“The misconduct process had had to wait until after criminal and court processes concluded, because of police regulations.”
The police are telling direct porky pies.
Chief Constable Dave Thompson: “I cannot comment”
As I mentioned in my second blog – the one Chief Constable ‘Dave’ Thompson did not read… on 17th February, in a phone call and follow-up email to Sally Homer, the victim’s aunt, the police’s Professional Standards Dept confirmed that, because PC Banfield had (eventually) admitted that he was guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately.
“…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault… That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too”
That was on 17th February.
PC Oliver Banfield (Photo from C4 report)
One of these statements has to be a lie.
Either Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine is a liar and the misconduct hearing could have started on or before 17th February – over a month ago.
Or the police Professional Standards Department lied in a conversation and in writing in an email on 17th February.
Both cannot be true.
The Channel 4 report on PC Oliver Banfield’s attack (caught on CCTV) is online HERE.
MET POLICE’S SEXIST CULTURE OF PORN, BULLYING AND SEX JOKES EXPOSED with the sub-heading: EXCLUSIVE: Former female police officers have lifted the lid on the shocking misogyny in the police including male colleagues passing around porn and making jokes about having sex with a missing woman
It quoted former Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy saying: “I have three grown-up daughters. If a member of my family was attacked, I would probably say no they shouldn’t report it. (The criminal justice system is) built on Victorian principles. It needs an overhaul.”
Susannah Fish, a former Nottinghamshire chief constable, the Mirror reported, believes that “misogyny in our police forces feed into the UK’s shockingly low rape and sexual harassment conviction rates… Misogyny is so ingrained in the decision-making… I would worry about reporting a crime against myself because I am not sure that it would be taken seriously.”
REVEALED: THE GRIM LIST OF SEX ABUSE CLAIMS AGAINST METROPOLITAN POLICE with a sub-heading: The force upheld 119 cases among 600 complaints; they included an officer who was sacked after having sex with a rape victim
It included this:
“Figures from the Royal College of Policing’s current ‘barred list’ – officers who have been dismissed from a force and are banned from joining another – show that nearly a fifth of offences include abuse of position for sexual purposes, domestic violence or harassment against the public and colleagues.
“Of the 555 officers barred since the list was introduced in December 2017, more than 1,100 reasons for dismissal are listed of which more than 200 involve sexual, harassment or domestic abuse offences. Nearly a quarter of the barred officers served in the Metropolitan Police.”
Today, I read a piece in my local paper, the Borehamwood and Elstree Times, about a woman who had been sentenced to prison for assault – spitting at a Hertfordshire police officer. Admittedly spitting in someone’s face during the COVID pandemic is serious.
But a week ago, I posted a piece written by promoter Sally Homer about her niece, who had been brutally attacked and violently assaulted in the street at night in Warwickshire by a serving, off-duty West Midlands police officer.
It detailed the delay and obstruction which was encountered in trying to prosecute the police officer, despite a CCTV video (with clear sound) of the incident showing the unprovoked attack.
PC Oliver Banfield at the court (Photo by Sally Homer)
The policeman – PC Oliver Banfield – was last week found guilty of ‘assault by beating’ and sentenced at Leicester Magistrates’ Court for his attack. He was given no prison sentence. He was prosecuted in Leicester despite the fact the crime did not happen in Leicester, he does not live in Leicester and does not serve in Leicester. One can only presume this was done so as not to embarrass him in his home area.
Instead of a prison sentence, he was given a 14-week night-time curfew and faces disciplinary action; he is still a serving police officer and avoided a community service order because it was said it would be difficult for him to work with criminals.
A propos the 14-week night-time curfew – PC Oliver Banfield’s ‘sentence’ for a violent ‘assault by beating’ – it is worth remembering that the current COVID Lockdown restrictions mean no-one is supposed to leave home unless it is absolutely necessary; all pubs, restaurants, cafes are closed except for take-aways; and all entertainment venues are closed.
I cannot see his life being affected.
Sally Homer has written this follow-up piece which discusses the PR spin (some might call it continued dishonesty) used by the police in this case.…
Sally – an expert in issuing PR statements – suggests that this piece should be a must-read for Police Communications Officers. I agree.
On Friday afternoon both police forces – Warwickshire (investigating) and West Midlands (PC Banfield’s employer) – issued statements after C4 News invited them to respond within 24 hours.
West Midlands’ statement begins: “To protect the criminal case we’ve not been able to carry out our own misconduct investigation until its conclusion. Now sentencing has taken place, our investigation will be carried out and PC Banfield faces allegations of gross misconduct and is currently suspended.”
We were pleased to learn he had been suspended but the word ‘currently’ is deeply misleading.
We received a phone call and follow-up email from their professional standards dept on 17th February (this year) explaining that, because PC Banfield pleaded guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately:
“To clarify our conversation today I have explained that this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault and he is due to be sentenced on 5thMarch 2020. That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too.”
Did they give us false information a full month ago whilst PC Banfield remained in post (albeit on restrictive duties)?
Were they lying to the victim or misleading the public?
Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)
Warwickshire’s statement ended:
“We acknowledge that, due to internal process errors, the initial response to the report of the assault was not as swift as it should have been and an apology has been issued with regards to this. A proportionate investigation was then conducted, which ultimately led to the charge and prosecution of the perpetrator.”
A ‘proportionate investigation’ – nothing to do with the case against Banfield – was conducted into their OWN investigation because we made a formal complaint in August 2020 – that ultimately lead to the apology offered to my niece. The charge was made because we made a ‘victim’s right to appeal’ to the Crown Prosecution Service and the prosecution resulted because he pleaded guilty.
In fact, Warwickshire Police did less than nothing to bring this case to court and this statement is deeply inaccurate and misleading.
So Police Communications Officers take note:
THIS IS HOW TO WRITE A PR STATEMENT:
DON’T TELL LIES
DON’T TAKE CREDIT FOR SOMETHING YOU HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH
Personally, I think it is a faint hope that the police will change their ways.
Found guilty – but PC Oliver Banfield walks free (Photograph from C4 video)
Harriet Wistrich, Director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, issued the following statement:
“No wonder women are angry and protesting against male violence, misogyny in the police and across the criminal justice system.
“They are being failed by the police, failed by the CPS (the Crown Prosecution Service) and now failed by the judiciary.
“A mere curfew for a misogynist and violent crime such as this is laughable.
“We hope the police will now take uncompromising action against the officer and signal that there is no place for this conduct under any circumstances from their officers.”
Also, if you read the email received from the Police ‘Professional Standards Department’ on 17th February this year and quoted by Sally Homer, you may have noticed they said in writing: “…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault and he is due to be sentenced on 5thMarch 2020″.
The sentencing was later delayed to 19th March. But police accuracy is somewhat called into question when they think this is 2020 not 2021…. If you want to know the time (or the facts) do not ask a policeman.
Last week, the UK news was full of the shocking case of Sarah Everard’s killing. A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested and charged with her abduction and murder. The abduction is thought to have happened on Clapham Common in London.
Below is a piece written by Sally Homer about a separate case and posted on her Facebook page.
This week, a police officer will be sentenced for an ‘assault by beating’.
The assault happened in July 2020 as my niece (let’s call her Gemma) walked home in the dark at 1am. The officer (let’s call him PC Danfell) pleaded guilty at Leamington Magistrates Court in January 2021 and his sentencing hearing will take place in Leicester Magistrates’ Court this week.
So that is the news.
Except it probably won’t be the news because – for PC Danfell’s convenience – the hearing will take place in the East Midlands, outside local media scrutiny of where he lives and was charged (Warwickshire) and where he works (West Midlands).
Since the assault – an unprovoked, verbal, and brutal physical attack by a stranger (who turned out to be an off duty-policeman) – Gemma has experienced many instances where the criminal justice system is stacked in favour of the police rather than the victim.
The details of the assault and the subsequent effect on her life are not mine to share. That is Gemma’s story. But I can share the circumstances that have taught me this: if you are a woman who has been assaulted by a serving police officer, then be prepared to battle extremely hard to get justice.
I am a theatre/comedy publicist, so I have had plenty of time due to the pandemic to navigate complicated complaint procedures, to liaise with two police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. I spent hours researching divergent police procedures when a suspect is a serving police officer. I have been a passionate advocate for Gemma. By focusing on the admin, I was able to better handle the sense of shock at the injustice of it all.
I used a brilliant service provided by the Rights of Women organisation whereby I was able to talk to a criminal barrister for free for an hour.
Such an odd situation: the victim requiring sophisticated legal advice.
But, without their guidance, I don’t believe we would have secured a conviction.
The attack happened at 1am and Gemma reported it 7 hours later, at 8am.
Without ever explicitly referring to this as her ‘mistake’ the investigating police force have implied that their poor response was in part because Gemma did not report the attack immediately.
Under covid restrictions, minimal face-to-face contact was the narrative from the police… Still, it took over 30 hours for an officer to take Gemma’s statement over the phone; it took a week until she was given a name of an officer who would be in charge of the investigation; and it took nine days for an officer to come and see her to sign her statement – despite several attempts by Gemma, myself, and her brother to get a proportionate response to the report of a serious crime.
Gemma supplied the police with two witnesses and, within a week of the assault, with the name, address and photograph of her assailant.
The police had been independently sent 90 seconds of CCTV from a witness who reported the assault without any knowledge that the victim and the assailant were her near neighbours.
Police reassured Gemma that, because the suspect was a serving police officer employed by another force, the investigation would be carried out with extra care and vigilance.
In practice, the opposite was true.
They failed to secure crucial evidence and, even though the assault happened 10 metres from her front door and her assailant lives less than 30 metres away, it took a further 8 weeks for officers to conduct thorough house-to-house enquiries and interview PC Danfell.
When interviewed and allowed to watch the CCTV evidence, PC Danfell (6ft 2in) did not dispute the incident took place but created a back-story about how he was defending himself, as Gemma (5ft 2in and 8 stone) had, he said, assaulted him just before the CCTV caught the incident.
A sergeant came to see us and explained that, since it was Gemma’s word against his, then PC Danfell would be ‘served with a caution’.
We were incredulous. There was no scrutiny of his story and anyway, the CCTV clearly showed excessive force.
Emboldened by reading the Centre for Women’s Justice ‘super complaint’ about how police officers are allowed to abuse women with impunity, we insisted that they take the case to the Crown Prosecution Service and offered-up Gemma’s medical records as evidence. Gemma had sustained no cuts or broken bones but the effect on her mental well-being was severe.
The CPS’s response was not to charge due to lack of evidence. We got savvier. And appealed.
The CPS were finally committed to do some investigative work.
Danfell’s narrative fell apart and he was finally charged at the end of last year, JUST within the 6-month statue for this offence.
We have faced barriers that are common to thousands of cases throughout the UK, most commonly associated with domestic abuse by police officers against their partners.
Namely: difficulties in initial reporting, failures in investigation, improper responses to complaints/concerns, manipulation of police processes, accused using their police knowledge, status and powers and improper decisions on criminal charges.
If you are a victim, you are fighting on two fronts – the actual IN YA FACE violent misogyny of the assault itself and the systemic, drudging, hidden misogyny of the police and the criminal justice system.
I began writing this blog before Sarah Everard’s murder. I was going to wind it up with a neat quip about looking forward to the new series of the BBC TV series Line of Duty.
But last night I watched the news hoping it wasn’t real, that Kate Fleming from Line of Duty would walk into shot on Clapham Common and we’d know justice would be done.
The extract I posted a couple of days ago from my Edinburgh Fringe chat show – about attitudes to rape – provoked quite a few comments. Three in particular struck me as particularly illuminating, The first was a Facebook comment from Adrienne Truscott who won the 2013 Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality and the 2013 Fosters Comedy Awards panel award for performing her show Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! She wrote:
Adrienne Truscott’s show was Edinburgh sell-out
Even statistics about rape focus on women or the victims of the rape, when it would be much more productive to lessening rape by accruing statistics on rapists, and addressing that behavior, as that could actually be preventative.
There is rarely any other area of society, its ills or its triumphs, wherein men are not given full responsibility and credit for their behavior and its effects – the tradition of making women responsible for men’s sexuality is deeply historical.
I’m not saying only men rape. But, on the other hand, male victims are rarely accused of ‘asking for it’. The emphasis on this ‘asking for it’ discussion of how and why rape occurs belies a predisposition, as far as I can tell.
If women change their behavior accordingly – you know, started wearing ill-cut suits or figure-obscuring caftans, dowdy hairdos, no make up and tee-totalling – should we expect and rejoice in the sudden, brilliant absence of rape?
You know, like in India….
Another reaction to my blog, which had quoted three women taking part in my Edinburgh chat show, was this Facebook response:
Having had a daughter attacked by a moron when she was doing nothing more than walking home on a late December afternoon dressed appropriately (because apparently, according to my sisters above, a woman is responsible for being attacked if she wears anything less than full body armour) I am totally dismayed by both the garbage that has come out of their mouths and the fact that they are holding women accountable for the bad things that happen to them – I really hope that they never experience that stomach churning, leg collapsing, brain disintegrating moment when you are told your child has been seriously assaulted by some man!
I don’t think it is something that you ever ‘get over’ as it hits your inner core of belief in other human beings and in particular that we are innately good to each other. Worse things happen on a daily basis all over the world to women and children and of course men. But that doesn’t actually help, in the sense that this violence is an everyday occurrence everywhere.
The third response which interested me was this from comedian Leo Kearse:
Role model for financier
I used to be a criminal intelligence analyst and we generally approached crimes looking at the victim, offender and location to see what could be done to each to reduce crime. Fine for most crimes but rape doesn’t work like that; you can’t analogise it to a laptop being left next to an open window.
In my opinion, it’s mainly caused by men’s attitudes.
I shared a car with two ‘lads’ a fortnight ago.
One of them was a total fanny: a city financier who kept banging on about all the deals he’d done and who gave me all this unsolicited advice about ‘branding’ myself as a comedian.
He then bragged about his sexual exploits and told us that, up until his early 20s, he and his mates would go to care homes (kids who are taken off their parents by the state end up in these homes) because “14 year old girls in these places are total sluts mate”.
What shocked me wasn’t just that he did all this; it’s that he felt that this was ‘cheeky lad’ behaviour and he could brag about it to a stranger even though he was bragging about being a member of a predatory nomadic paedophile gang.
I’m pretty sure this used to be something men would not brag about.
I told him he was a predatory paedophile like Jimmy Savile and then we didn’t speak to each other much.
I think it does reflect a common attitude otherwise he wouldn’t have felt like he could brag about it in front of me.
John Ward, designer of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards
The shortlist has been announced at the Edinburgh Fringe for the increasingly prestigious annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in memory of the late ‘godfather of British alternative comedy’ who drowned in London in 2005. As normal, there are three awards, but the third is more than a bit of a surprise.
The shortlisted nominees are:
THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY
– Red Bastard
– Ursula Burns (unbilled in the main Fringe Programme)
– Adrienne Truscott
THE MALCOLM HARDEE CUNNING STUNT AWARD
(for best publicity stunt promoting a Fringe performer or show)
– Barry Ferns – for printing 2,000 fake Broadway Baby and Three Weeks review sheets and distributing them round Edinburgh. They gave his own show a 6-star review.
– Richard Herring – for deciding that expensive Fringe posters are pointless and, instead, giving members of his current show’s audience free DVDs of his past performances.
– Lewis Schaffer – for (having heard about Richard’s stunt) also giving away allegedly free DVDs at his shows – but free Richard Herring DVDs because Richard is more famous than Lewis (and you have to donate £5 to Lewis).
– Gareth Morinan – for listing his show 11 times in the Fringe Programme because this gave him more space (and was cheaper) than buying a quarter page ad in the Programme.
THE MALCOLM HARDEE ‘ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID’ AWARD
This will not be awarded this year because, frankly, we do not think anyone is worth it.
The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle
However, the £-sign trophy has already been made and (in the spirit of Malcolm Hardee) we are not about to waste it.
So we are awarding it as a special one-off MALCOLM HARDEE ‘POUND OF FLESH’ AWARD to Ellis of the Ellis & Rose comedy duo for “the kind of publicity money can’t buy”.
Ellis displays his vividly genuine black eye (photograph by Lewis Schaffer)
On August 14th, Ellis was attacked in the street by an unknown, irate member of the public who was annoyed by Ellis & Rose’s appearance in Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show. Ellis received a very bad black eye. This followed a Chortle comedy website review which revealed Ellis & Rose’s names as the show’s performers – They had asked not to be named. I blogged about the incident at the time.
EXCEPT – it was revealed to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee judges late last night that the attack never happened. It was a publicity stunt.
In their Edinburgh flat, Ellis repeatedly hit himself in the face with the blunt end of a milk whisk. When this did not have the required effect, his comedy partner Rose punched him four times in the face to give him a black eye.
They videoed the creation of the black eye.
The video (only now uploaded to YouTube) shows Ellis being punched in the face. If you watch it, be sure to have the sound turned up high.
Late last night (from left) Mills, Ellis, Rose, Levites, Copstick
Ellis showed the full video to me (including the preliminary milk whisk hits) – and to fellow increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Kate Copstick – in the cafe of the Gilded Balloon venue late last night. Also there in the cafe were his comedy partner Rose, their cohort in the stunt Paul Preston Mills and American comedian Laura Levites.
“When did you first decide to do this?” I asked Ellis.
“After Steve Bennett’s 1-star review of the Jimmy Savile show came out in Chortle,” Ellis told me. “We thought How can we turn this around?”
“And did the reported attack increase the size of audiences for your Jimmy Savile and Ellis & Rose shows?” I asked.
“Probably by about 50% on average,” said Ellis. “It went up and down, but it was more consistently full. People love to see and read about people getting hurt.”
“It could,” said Kate Copstick, “become a new marketing tool for comedy shows: grievous bodily harm.”
“Why did you start out by hitting yourself in the face with a milk whisk?” I asked.
“I looked on the internet to find out how to get a black eye – how to give yourself a black eye – and it said Get yourself a blunt object like a broom handle, so you can control the amount of force yourself. We looked in the kitchen and a milk whisk was the best thing we could find. It had a blunt, plastic end.”
“But that didn’t do enough harm to your face?” I asked.
“Well, it did pretty well,” admitted Ellis.
“But you’re a perfectionist?” I asked.
“Well, Rose said That’s not enough,” explained Ellis. “ he said You’ve got to let me punch you.”
Ellis last night, his left eye recovering from Rose’s punch
“How many times did he punch you in the face?”
“Four times,” replied Ellis. “He punched me twice, but we forgot to record it, because we were quite drunk – So he had to do it twice again for the video.”
“What did you have to do with all this?” I asked Paul Preston Mills.
“Well,” he said, “I arrived on the Tuesday – all this happened on the Tuesday night – and we were talking about it. But we decided they weren’t quite drunk enough before I left them and went to bed and, at that point, they were still deciding whether Rose was going to hit him or they were going to prod him in the eye with a broom handle. I thought hitting him had to be the correct thing to do.”
“Did your venue manager Bob Slayer have anything to do with the stunt?” I asked.
“Well,” said Ellis. “before the Fringe started, we had ideas of getting publicity and, when Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show first came out in the Programme, the media jumped on it and it was in the national press and we were going to ramp it up by saying we had death threats and performers had dropped out and Nick Awde, who wrote the original script, had been getting death threats and things like that. So it kind of stemmed from that idea. We found that being named in the Chortle review allowed us to play off that.”
“Any other result from the stunt?” I asked.
“The black eye has made me more appealing to the opposite sex,” replied Ellis.
“Is he,” I asked Laura Levites, “more appealing with or without his black eye?”
“Oh, I like him with,” said Laura. “It means he can take a punch. You want a man who can take a punch.”
“So,” I said, “when his skin recovers and the black eye disappears, he should do it again to be more appealing to the opposite sex?”
“Oh,” said Laura, “he should do the other eye. You’ve got to let one heal and then hit the other one.”
“You were hit by Rose,” I said to Ellis, “your comedy partner. Do you think there might be a homo-erotic element in this?”
“No,” said Ellis.
“Yeah,” laughed Rose. “It’s been a long Fringe and I’ve been quite frustrated a lot of the time.”
“He’s got a girlfriend who isn’t here,” said Ellis.
“So I had to release some tension,” enthused Rose, “and Ellis’ face is small and squishy, much like a breast.”
“We thought,” Kate Copstick interrupted, “that the milk whisk was doing rather a good job of damaging Ellis’ face. Why punch him?”
“Well,” said Paul Preston Mills, “FIST or MILK FROTHER? Which would you choose if you were putting a headline out for publicity?”
“I wanted to keep my ring on my finger,” said Rose, but Ellis wouldn’t let me. I got him really, really drunk. The only reason we decided it would be him not me was because he owed me quite a lot of money.”
“Only 40 quid for groceries!” said Ellis.
“What would have happened if he’d owed £90?” I asked.
“Anal rape,” said Copstick.
“At one point,” said Rose, “I was concerned he was bleeding and I almost felt bad… My hand was sore.”
“Do you expect to get more stars for revealing all this?” I asked.
“Well, we just want more bloody reviews,” said Ellis.
“Bloody is the word,” I said.
“You could say,” suggested Ellis, “that Ellis & Rose are not into punchlines, but we will take a hit for comedy.”
Richard Rose (left) with Ellis and his eye yesterday
“We went out for a few drinks last night,” told me. “We were walking down to Cowgate, near Bob’s Bookshop, at about two or three in the morning, a little bit drunk, and this guy walked past and asked us: Are you Ellis and Rose?”
“We were quite chuffed that someone had recognised us,” said Richard.
“He told us,” continued Ellis. “You’re sick! You’re sick in the head! and we reacted like What?? and he said You do that Jimmy Savile show, don’t you? We said Yeah and he said You’re fucking sick!”
Rose explained: “Ellis tried to engage in dialogue.”
Ellis continued: “I was saying to him But you haven’t seen it, have you? You haven’t seen the show. He was quite a big guy, Scottish accent, in his late-twenties.
“And then he just punched me in the face. I stumbled back a bit and then just ran.”
“To look on the bright side,” I said, “the good thing is that you were recognised in the street. That’s all most Fringe performers want.”
“This stuff wasn’t happening before we were named in the review,” said Ellis.
Ellis – how he he suffered for his art (photograph by Lewis Schaffer)
As I mentioned in my blog three days ago, Ellis and Rose (who did not write the Jimmy Savile show) had specifically asked reviewers not to name them but the Chortle review did.
“We initially didn’t want to be named,” explained Rose, “because we just didn’t want it to be confused with our own show.”
“I imagine if he’d see the actual Jimmy Savile show,” continued Ellis, “he would not have punched me.”
“Maybe we should sue Steve Bennett of Chortle,” mused Rose.
“Yeah,” said Ellis, “maybe Steve Bennett (editor of Chortle who personally reviewed the Jimmy Savile show) actually is culpable.”
“This wasn’t happening before that Chortle review came out,” said Rose.
“Though it may increase our audiences,” said Ellis. “We are doing the Fringe properly… One star reviews; audiences love it; and I got punched in the street.”
“A couple of days ago, at the end of the Jimmy Savile show,” said Richard, “it had gone really well so we asked the audience: Would you like to hear a review of the show? And we read out Steve Bennett’s review to rapturous applause. They particularly liked the opening line This show is an insult…”
“Did you see stars when you were punched?” I asked Ellis.
in which he said that he would donate £1,000 of his own money to the Waverley Care HIV charity…
“…unless I see a single instance of the title of my show being used in a pun… If any puns at all based on the title of my show being Prick are used in any piece of comedy review or criticism, either in a magazine, in a paper or online then for every instance I will remove £100 from my charitable donation.”
Now that the Fringe is over, he told me today…
“I’m not parting with any cash until I get the final info back, as reviews occasionally come out after the Festival has finished, so I’m clinging on but… at the moment, it’s looking like I’m going to lose £700 in total, thanks to the words ‘spunky’, ‘wider and deeper’ and ‘tackles the issues’. I am very happy however that my loss will be Waverley Care’s gain!
“I thought it was too funny an idea not to try, even if quite expensive in the long run!”
Police say Ian Fox suffered “a small cut to his nose”
Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Evening Newshas reported the street attack on comedian Ian Fox last week. According to the police, the suspect is “male, white, in his 30s, between 5ft 9in and 6ft tall with a medium build and short blond hair. He was wearing a black T-shirt with green stripes on the sleeves and blue jeans.”
I might be dubious about police descriptions, though, as the same police source says of Ian Fox: “The victim suffered a small cut to his nose during the incident.”
Looking at the above photo of Ian, taken three days after the attack, that seems more than a little under-stated.
Ian Fox yesterday, at the Pleasance Dome in Edinburgh
Last night, after I posted my blog chat with Ian Fox about how he got attacked in the streets of Edinburgh, I got a Tweet from Ian Hawkins saying: “I’ve felt very unsafe flyering in Grassmarket sometimes.”
It’s good to know someone reads my blog.
I drove down from Edinburgh to London overnight last night with a couple of sleeps in service station car parks and, when I was somewhere around Milton Keynes, I got a phone call from Alan McEwen at the Edinburgh Evening News.
He had just read my blog about the attack on Ian.
The Edinburgh Evening News should be running an article about the assault tomorrow, in an attempt to find the attackers.
And, indeed, the Huffington Post this afternoon carried my blog piece about the attack.
So, with luck, the psycho yobbo duo of Edinburgh may get their comeuppance.
She has been a judge for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards since they started.
Although she does much more than that.
I ran a blog back in February this year headlined Top comedy critic Kate Copstick spends $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya.
All the money donated by audience members after the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards goes to Copstick’s charity Mama Biashara. No money is deducted for any show costs nor for any expenses of any kind; 100% is passed on to the charity.
The Mama Biashara charity works in the slums of Kenya, setting mainly women up in small businesses to help them pull themselves out of the absolute poverty in which they are living. Copstick spends four months of every year in Kenya, mostly in the slums of Nairobi. Below is a diary extract from one of her visits this year. It may give an insight into Copstick beyond her being the feared doyenne of British comedy critics:
Kate Copstick spends four months of every year in Kenya
I meet up with Doris in Kawangware and we head for the next workshop. This time out in a place called Wangiki, about an hour from Nairobi.
Doris is looking uncharacteristically nervous and asks the women who meet us at the matatu stage if we should get piki pikis to the meeting place. The women say “No, no, we are meeting ‘hapa tu’ (just here)”. They point at a building just down the hill.
Turns out it wasn’t really that one they were pointing at. It was one about half a mile further on. Kenyan distances are very much like Kenyan time – having the elasticity of a bungee rope over the Grand Canyon.
As we walk down the muddy lanes, I am increasingly fascinated by Doris’ bottom. It is an extraordinary thing which moves entirely independently of her skeleton. With each step forward it sways from side to side with a very attractive fluidity. But I digress.
The room is packed with women and the occasional spluttering child. We kick off with the ground rules of Mama Biashara:
– The money is only for business
– Know your status
– Respect for all
It is this last that causes consternation.
I explain that Mama Biashara has respect for all races, colours, religions and sexuality. I do not believe in God but I am fine if you do. You simply cannot refuse to help someone on the grounds that their beliefs/colour/sexuality etc are not yours.
There is much chatter. I start the workshop.
There is the usual litany of disaster, illness, abandonment etc but a lot of these women have good business heads. And good ideas. We are getting along well up to about number 12, when the increasing din outside reaches a crescendo. I get up and look out.
There is a… let us call it a group… outside the house. Animated to say the least. They are not happy that I do not believe in God. They say my money is corrupt and they have been off to the church opposite to pray to God to strike me down.
Doris wades in and emphasises that no-one needs to take my money, I am here only to help and just because I do not believe in God, I do not care if they do. She asks if I want to stop the workshop and leave. I say, “No”. We continue. With some terrific women. Good business plans.
At around number 28, there is another commotion at the gate.
This time, the women have brought the heads of the local Mungiki.
They are (to be fair) the most feared gang/sect in Kenya.
They are (or were originally) very strict Christians. And many Kenyans wish they were running the country now. They are real… errrr… disciplinarians.
We go out and Doris explains again what we are about. I shake hands and nod along with what she says. The Mungiki ask if we are forcing the money on the women. I laugh. We explain. The Mungiki say that is absolutely fine with them and shoo the women away. The remaining women relax visibly.
The rest of the afternoon passes in financing, medication, back rubs, demonstrations of stretching exercises, nutritional advice and the usual whole nine yards.
I get an escort of about fifteen women back to the matatu stage. Doris suggests we leave ASAP. It turns out that Wangiki is not really the safest of areas. Doris says she was shocked by what happened today. She has been working with this group for three months and had not imagined they would pull a stunt like that.
I end the day munching delicious mutura (a sort of barbecued sausage made from goat intestine) washed down with a can of Tusker. With jelly babies for pudding.
Before I left Edinburgh this evening, I had a drink with comedian-writer-photographer Ian Fox who was attacked in the street on Wednesday night.
When I was with him today, he got a phone call from the police.
“It was around 11.30 at night and I was coming up that curved street Candlemakers Row, just before you get to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby,” he told me. “There were loads of people walking about, because the Tattoo had just finished.”
Throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, Ian has been taking nighttime photos of Edinburgh between around 10.00pm and midnight.
“I’d taken a photo in the Cowgate,” he told me, “ but put my camera away because there isn’t anything else to take photos of until you get to Bristo Square. The camera was round my neck, but underneath my top, so they didn’t see it. But it wasn’t a mugging.
“Some students were arsing about on the left hand side of the road, kicking a traffic cone about, so I crossed over the road to avoid them. I was in the road and only vaguely aware there were people walking down the other footpath then, as soon as the guy got level with me, he just hit me. He was wearing a ring, which is what cut me.
“I hit the ground, mainly out of surprise, then I heard another guy say: He’s gone down. I think the first guy had passed me, the second guy then hit me and I think the first guy had turned to watch, because he knew what was about to happen and then he was celebrating the fact I’d gone down.
“When I heard him say He’s gone down! I thought to myself This probably isn’t the best place to be because I’ll get a kicking when I’m down on the ground. I’d quite like it if this was over now. So I stood up and turned around and walked to Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar.
“There was a chef outside. I thought he must have seen the whole thing, but he later told the police he hadn’t seen anything. I asked him if he could help me. He took about three seconds to make a decision on that. He obviously just thought it was drunks fighting but then I think he could tell from the way I was dressed and the way I was speaking that I wasn’t drunk.
“So I went into Bobby’s Bar and the waitress in there took over; she started handing me all the blue papery stuff to soak up the blood. They phoned the police and the paramedics, because they were worried about how much blood was coming out of me. My cheek was bleeding; my nose was bleeding; so there was a lot of blood.
“The woman in there told me they’d just refused service to two blokes because they were very loud and very aggressive so the chances are it was these two blokes who had just got refused who walked outside and clocked the first person they saw.
“From the way they had been moving, I think they were on speed or something. They were on something, they’d had a skinful and the adrenaline buzz of hitting someone was the next thing they were after.
“The police said they hoped the cameras inside Bobby’s Bar had got a clear shot of them coming through the door, but that phone call I just got was the police saying it turned out the CCTV inside Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar has not been working since the 12th of August. The police said they’re now going to look at the Council’s CCTV in the street. But I’ve had a look three times and I can’t see a camera around there. I’m guessing somebody who behaves like that has probably done it before so would not do it near cameras.”
“You had another check-up today, didn’t you?” I asked.
Ian Fox with his mending eye in Edinburgh earlier today
“Yes, at the specialist Facial Injury unit in Livingston at 9 o’clock this morning,” said Ian. “It turned out everyone was given a 9 o’clock appointment, so it was first come, first served.”
“Livingston?” I said. “That’s miles away! That’s about 15 miles away!”
“It still counts as Edinburgh,” Ian said, “because it’s got an EH postcode.”
“Good job you brought your car up here,” I said. “You might easily not have done.”
“They told me I don’t need any further treatment,” said Ian, “but I may have a permanent scar beside my nose and the nurse advised me to avoid being punched in the face for a few months.”
“She didn’t,” I said.
“She did,” said Ian. “and I’m sure that’s very good advice.”
“I imagine the police won’t do anything about it,” I told him. “Did you read that blog of mine a couple of days ago, where a comedian had his computer stolen and he told the police where it was from the Apple GPS positioning and they wouldn’t do anything about it?”
“Well,” Ian said, “a deli I go into every day here… The guy there told me he had an incident a while back where one of his fridges wasn’t working and he called a repair man from an advert in the paper. The guy came and gave him a ridiculously high quote, so he said No.
“A couple of hours later, the cafe owner goes to the bank. Whilst he’s away, the repair man comes back, tells the girls behind the counter he’s there to fix the fridge, moves the fridges, hacks all the wiring at the back, tells the girls the griddle’s broken and says he needs to take it away for repair and leaves with the griddle.
“The cafe owner comes back, finds all the fridges are knackered and the griddle’s missing. So it’s criminal damage and theft. He rings the police, gives them the phone number of the advert and tells them this is the bloke who has done it – the girls have given a description of the guy… That was five months ago and he hasn’t heard anything since.
“He says he opens at 7.00am in the morning and has trouble with drunks coming in and, in the past, he’s tried to get the police to come and shift them and they won’t do it.”
“I love Edinburgh,” I said, “and it’s physically beautiful, but it’s a tough town under the surface. I’m surprised more comedians don’t have problems.”
“Seymour Mace got head-butted outside the ScotMid in Nicolson Street in 2009,” Ian told me.
“Was that unmotivated as well?” I asked.
“Exactly the same thing as me,” Ian said. “Except he got headbutted instead of punched. Never even saw them. Though headbutting seems a lot more personal, somehow.”
“More Glaswegian,” I suggested.
“Seymour had a black eye for a week,” Ian said, “and he was doing a children’s show, so he had to explain to the children that he’d hit his head on a door. You can’t tell children there are random nutters out there in Edinburgh who will just headbutt you for no reason.”