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Day Three of Malcolm Hardee Week – pasta chaos and a finger up the bottom

Malcolm Hardee Week continues apace.

After Monday’s Malcolm Hardee Debate finished a whole hour late (it merged into the next show), Scots comic Nob Stewart grabbed Kate Copstick when she came off stage and chatted to her on camera for 45 minutes.

I guess the adrenaline (and possibly the two pints she had had on-stage) pumped away. In the first two minutes, she named a comedy company whose flyerers had physically threatened her and she was laying into the big promoters at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you think she is sharp-tongued on ITV1’s Show Me The Funny, you have only heard the half of it…

Later today, Copstick is travelling down to the O2 arena in London as a judge for the live final of Show Me The Funny (although the winner is decided by viewer voting). Then tomorrow she is on a train back up to Edinburgh when we decide the Malcolm Hardee Award winners at noon and she will take an active part through the wonders of 21st century technology. As I said in my blog yesterday, what’s this thing with the Prime Minister having to be dragged back from holiday every time something happens?

If we had Copstick as Prime Minister, things would be easier.

Me? I have to be at the Blue Moon cafe-restaurant-bar in Barony Street just off Broughton Street in the New Town at noon today to collect more spaghetti for the second day of the Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest. The Blue Moon is generously sponsoring us with free spaghetti.

The spaghetti-juggling happens outside the Beehive Inn in the Grassmarket.

Yesterday the first spaghetti-juggling contest, partially in the rain, became less of a solo juggling event, more a three-a-side sideways-throwing contest with the participants constantly changing. This came about when Scots comedian Bruce Fummey valiantly tried to bring some order into the proceedings; it must be his background as a teacher.

In its latter stages, to be honest, with spaghetti stocks dwindling, the thing degenerated more into a custard-pie type spaghetti fight than juggling. The arrival of Malcolm Award nominated Johnny Sorrow on the scene in a macintosh and flat cap did little to quell the degeneration of this fine potential Olympic sport – and he seemed to encourage the rain.

At the end, Laughing Horse Free Festival supremo Alex Petty mucked-in with a stiff broom, helping to clear up the scattered spaghetti in the cobbles outside the Beehive Inn. If his flirtation with big-time comedy promoting ever falls through, he has a future as a street sweeper.

Today’s spaghetti-juggling will include on-the-spot advice on the aerodynamics of pasta from Dr Sophia Khan, formerly of NASA , Harvard, the Japanese Space Agency and Shanghai University. She will be joined by Dr Andrew Bunker, former Head of Astronomy at the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Oz and now Reader in Astrophysics at Oxford University.

Who said spaghetti-juggling was trivial?

Brainiac eat your heart out.

While waiting for the spaghetti-juggling to start yesterday, I got dragged into Lancelot Adams’ show outside the Beehive Inn – The Magic Drawabout – an enticingly odd concept in which he gets passing members of the public to take part in a one hour show which involves drawing each other in various parts of the Grassmarket while he chats to the ‘sitter’.

He told me he had thought I looked like a weirdo when he first saw me in the street, but soon realised I was not. I was genuinely offended this.

Have the last several decades of my life, cultivating weirdness, all been in vain?

The Magic Drawabout and Lancelot Adams’ other show at the Beehive Inn – Ze Hoff Und Friends – about David Hasselhoff – are decidedly quirky, but the ‘sleeper’ of the Fringe has arguably been Paul Provenza’s Set List: Standup Without a Net which started in Just The Tonic at the Tron, then moved to one of Just The Tonic’s bigger venues at The Caves and now has moved to a bigger Cave, such has been its increasing popularity. It has gathered even more word-of-mouth with Paul Provenza flying in from LA last week.

Set List: Standup Without a Net has also been getting a lot of word-of-mouth buzz among comedians, because its format of the stand-up comic being shown a list of six words or phrases as subjects – the set list – one-at-a-time without pre-warning only when they are on stage is an utter nightmare. The best comics can weave a thread through the disparate subjects rather than just perform six unconnected routines. The risk of getting lost is high. The likelihood of a comedian eventually shitting on stage must be equally high.

Last night, among those trying their luck were Frank Skinner, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Richard Herring and Phill Jupitus. Big names for a concept that seems likely to get bigger.

One tiny aside…

While waiting to get into Set List last night, a comic came up to me and said she had just been to Malcolm Hardee Award nominee Bob Slayer’s show at The Hive where, on stage, she had stuck her finger up his bottom. A rubber glove had been provided by the ever-amenable Bob.

As far as I know, it is the second time this has happened in Bob’s show.

Call me old-fashioned but I think, as a format, Set List: Standup Without a Net has more likelihood of being commissioned as a TV series.

I would be happy to be proved wrong, though I am not sure I would be watching on a regular basis.

Bob Slayer was nominated for this year’s Malcolm Hardee Award “for going beyond OTT into uncharted areas of comedy excess”.

I think it would be difficult to fault our nomination.

When I mentioned this story to Bob Slayer, he said, “Well, I do want to point out that it did not happen a second time – The lady who did it the first time was in the audience last night and so another lady tried to emulate her (who wouldn’t?) – She tried to do a fist but failed .

“I obviously don’t want people to think that any Tom, Dick or Harry can finger my entrails.”

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Of 5-star reviews and sticking spring vegetables up the nose

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

Saturday was a day of the good, the bad and the lovely. It started with my comedy chum Janey Godley getting a 5-star review for her stage show The Godley Hour from the Daily Mirror. It ended with me getting my car stuck in a 45-degree-sloped unevenly-cobbled alleyway with rough, uneven stone walls. It took me an hour and a half to get out.

In between was my science chum (Doctor of Astrophysics) Sophia Khan arriving with her mum for her (that’s Sophia’s) three free science-based shows Keen & Khan: Starstruck! with comedian Helen Keen (complementing Helen’s 4-star show It Is Rocket Science! V2).

Sophia claims she’s an ordinary person doing a nerdy job but “ordinary” might be a slight linguistic error. She has worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center, at Harvard University and for the Japanese Space Agency and is currently Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at Shanghai University; she is only 31. Ever enterprising, she decided to go to the ‘Meet The Media’ event at Fringe Central which, depending on your view, is either a speed-dating event for desperate students with bemused media people sitting at tables facing long queues like some movie about penniless immigrants being processed when they landed in New York in 1903. Or Britain’s Got Talent crossed with a Serbian concentration camp before the barbed wire arrives.

We can but hope the photo The Times took of Sophia looking through a circular window in a doorway to represent a spaceship porthole looks more Alpha Centaurian.

Later, Sophia, her mum, elfin stand-up Laura Lexx and I went off to see Lewis Schaffer’s show Free Until Famous. Lewis has been trying-out and tweaking this show since November last year – usually performing two shows per week, sometimes four… in a Soho basement… to an extraordinary mix of locals, international passers-by and students.

But, on Saturday night, he explained that, earlier in the day, another comic had suggested he shouldn’t bother to even try to keep to a scripted show and should just go with the flow. Lewis obviously took this very much to heart, as he pretty-much made the whole hour-long show up as be went along. I know his show in it’s various configurations quite well. As far as I could see, he made up 90% of Saturday night’s show, mostly built round three Australian, German and American punters and his near-encyclopaedic knowledge of trivia. Lewis is a walking Wikipedia and ‘unpredictable’ is an understatement in describing his shows.

The London Is Funny website, re-naming itself Edinburgh Is Funny for the month, listed him as one of the Fringe’s 50 Must-See Shows… their description “Outspoken and vulnerable New York comic Lewis Schaffer offends as many as he tickles” is pretty spot-on.

Then came the unfortunate car-stuck-down-the-alleyway-for-90-minutes scenario which I can’t bear to think of again.

And, even later that night, I found myself driving round the busy streets of Edinburgh at 2.00m, looking for medicine – Vicks and headache tablets – for a friend of my comedy chum Janey Godley’s who appears to have taken to stuffing spring vegetables up her nose for medicinal reasons. Don’t ask. I have no explanation of this.

But then, to really round off the day, Janey Godley suddenly discovered she had got ANOTHER 5-star review.

That’s the Fringe for you: people getting 5-star reviews while others stick spring vegetables up their nose.

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