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Part 4: In 2005, comics (and his mum) respond to the death of Malcolm Hardee

Continuing these daily re-posts of how British comics and other comedy industry people reacted when Malcolm Hardee drowned…


REX BOYD, juggler – 21st February 2005

I’m pretty sure the juggler that Alan Davies mentions playing at the Tunnel is me. It was just a month or so after some comic had been injured by a flying pint glass on stage at the Tunnel and a few months after Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie. 

Malcolm introduced me as “some American bloke. Might be shit,” and so I walked on stage to what I think to this day is the most intelligent heckle I’ve ever had: “Why didn’t you fly Pan Am?” (of course said with a gleeful hatred)

I thought I was doing an open spot and asked Malcolm how long I should do. He said: “Do as long as you can.” So I did about 20 minutes and, when I came off, much to my surprise, Malcolm paid me £80 for my open spot. 

His generosity and honesty only continued when 5 years later I came back to London to re-establish myself and Malcolm was the only promoter who was willing to book me without the hoop jumping open-spots.

Oh, and he tried to get my 4 month old daughter to take up cigarettes at Glastonbury.


LEE MACK, comedian – 22nd February

Instead of paying me for a gig, he once convinced me I owned half of a greyhound. I was actually quite excited until another comic told me that there were about five other comedians who owned the same half of the same greyhound. I didn’t know Malcolm particularly well, but somehow really miss him. X


BEN NORRIS, comedian – 22nd February

I remember one of my Malcolm Hardee adventures was when I was booked on the same bill as The Greatest Show on Legs at The Glee in Birmingham. Malcolm called me and asked if I wanted a lift with him Martin Soan and Steve Bowditch. I accepted and Malcolm picked me up in an old black cab… I knew I was in for a memorable weekend. 

I’m pretty sure I paid for the first tank of petrol as no one “had any cash on them”. On checking into the hotel, Malcolm gave a false name and told them that my credit card would cover him as well… DANGER!! 

After one of the gigs, we were sitting in the hotel bar when Malcolm popped off for a wee, but was back within a minute. I knew the gents was down 2 flights of stairs and along a corridor so I literally smelt trouble. Sure enough, he took delight in explaining that he’d only made it as far as the door to the hotel gym.

That night he insisted on buying the drinks and putting them on his room number. Very generous, I thought.

Needless to say when I received my credit card bill a few weeks later I discovered £200 had been taken to cover the room bill of my colleague a Mr Hardee Malcolm (surely his least imaginative alias) who had left the hotel without paying.

It seemed to be almost a right of passage in the comedy world to have Malcolm financially manipulate you.

Another time, Malcolm called me up out of the blue and asked me to go to a pub quiz with him. I couldn’t resist and had another mad odyssey with him… We didn’t do very well and Malcolm seemed slightly disappointed… It was only later I realised that he must have thought I was clever. After the credit card incident, you’d have thought not.

I managed to get my money back from the hotel, but what a shame I didn’t get to spend more time with MH; he will be genuinely missed.


JOAN HARDEE, Malcolm’s mum – 22nd February

Around the time he separated from his wife Jane, I was talking to Malcolm.

“You’re my son and I love you very much,” I told him, “but to live with you must be very disconcerting. After all, you’ve got all the vices: you smoke, you drink, you gamble and you’re a womaniser.”

“Good job I’m not into donkeys,” he replied.

There was no answer to that.


KAREN KOREN, Edinburgh Fringe venue owner – 24th February

Malcolm was always in and around the Gilded Balloon in the 1980s and 1990s performing at Late’n’Live or just hanging around. When Chris Lynam did his show in the early 1990s, his big finale was to stick a firework up his bum and light it, while playing There’s No Business Like Showbusiness. 

One night, Chris had to be rushed to hospital during the show, for some emergency or other, before his Grand Finale. Malcolm was in the dressing room and said, “I’ll do it”. 

So he went on stage, naked, and put his penis and bollocks between his legs, just like Chris would do. However, Malcolm had much longer and larger bollocks than Chris, and they stuck out the back. 

He had to stick the firework up his arse but his butt cheeks, not being quite as firm as Chris’, couldn’t quite hold it in place and, after lighting it, it dropped down and set his balls alight. 

He danced round that stage to There’s No Business Like Show Busniness with flames up his back, screaming his head off. 

He came off and said, in his usual downbeat manner, “That was alright”.


JANEY GODLEY, comedian – 25th February

It was the mid eighties and Jerry Sadowitz was doing a ‘big show’ at a Glasgow theatre. Having known Jerry for a few years previous I went along to see his gig.

I sat in the auditorium and watched as this shambolic looking man in crumply suit and big glasses wandered on. I and loads of other Glaswegians were very confused. Jerry’s brand of humour was just about enough of what we could handle, but this strange ‘English’ dude chatting was mental.

The ‘crumpled’ man then just pulled down his zip and got out his penis and stood there. I laughed till I hurt but was shocked!

A bit later there was some sort of fracas happening at the front box office and I rushed out to see what it was.

There stood Malcolm, the theatre manager and a disgruntled wee Glaswegian couple. The wife was shouting: “I have never seen anything like that in my life! I came here to see comedy! I have never seen anything like that before!”

The manager looked at Malcolm, who turned to the woman and said: ”What? Are you kidding? You have been married for years and you have never seen a man’s penis?” He then pulled out his penis again and showed her it. ”There you go missus, just in case you forget what it looks like.”

He walked away laughing.

That was how I first met Mr Hardee.

Years later I got to know him a wee bit more.

He will be very sadly missed.


ALAN DAVIES – 25th February

I remember the predictions he would do on stage at the end of the year about who might die the following year. He’d keep a list of people who he and the audience reckoned might go in the year ahead and then pull it out again at the end of December to see how many were right.

The list always began with “The Queen Mum, hot favourite”.

He would then go through the people who’d gone unexpectedly before compiling a new list for the coming year, which would begin with “Queen Mum,obviously”.

There was so much laughter guessing who might die.

He’d weigh up the chances of a suggestion as if thinking what the odds were.

The juggler at The Tunnel who had his clubs hurled at him and caught them was Rex Boyd. Malcolm was worried as there was a comics’ boycott going on after Clarence and Joy Pickles had had an injury from a plastic glass. Malcolm was upset and wanted to make sure the comics would come back again.

They all did of course because they were so fond of him.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Alarm in the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe

John Fleming bearded in his den (Photograph by Nick Awde)

John Fleming bearded with plastic bag (Photograph by Nick Awde)

Yesterday’s penultimate live Grouchy Club involved a discussion not about comedy but about the difficulties of scripting and shooting pornographic movies – one of the comedians present had enquired about entering the profession.

My afternoon was then taken up by getting the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies engraved and boiling eggs for the annual Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships which were to take place at the increasingly prestigious two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show that night.

At the show itself, the awards were announced as:

Comic Originality – Michael Brunström
Cunning Stunt – Matt Roper
Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid – Laurence Owen

Mr Twonkey at the point of triumph (Photograph by Blanche Cameron)

Mr Twonkey at the point of his egg triumph (Photograph by Blanche Cameron)

The Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships appropriately included performer George Egg and ‘Mr Spunky’ – an anonymous member of Mensa, which allowed one member of the audience to yell out: “He’s an egg head.” Fortunately the puns ended there and the worthy, if somewhat surprised, new Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Champion is Mr Twonkey.

Comedy critic and Malcolm Hardee Awards judge Kate Copstick presented most of last night’s show, as co-host Janey Godley had to go off and be Spanked. (It’s a show… It’s a show.)

Miss Behave, who turned up halfway through from another show had been going to co-host on her arrival, but somehow it turned into an act where she unexpectedly swallowed a giant pair of scissors and two flaming torches. As the torches produced a fair amount of upwards-drifting smoke, I was rather relieved no smoke alarm went off in the room, because I knew what was going to happen at the end of the show.

Chris Lynam with a banger-up-the-bum last night (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Chris Lynam with his banger last night (Photograph by Garry Platt)

This was Chris Lynam, former member of The Greatest Show on Legs, who performed his famous or possibly infamous banger-up-the-bum routine. This involves him putting a firework between his buttocks and having it lit (on this occasion by Malcolm Hardee’s sister Clare) to the strains of Ethel Merman singing There’s No Business Like Show Business.

As this is not an act which is easy to follow, it ended the show and, sure enough, just as it ended, the room’s smoke alarm did go off. It seemed a fitting end.

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Bandages and zumba at the surrealist comedian’s ping-pong birthday party

Yesterday afternoon, I went to surrealist comedian Martin Soan’s birthday party, one of those rare occasions when people playing ping-pong outside in the rain seems perfectly normal. As did Martin’s unique method of extinguishing the single large candle on his birthday cake; something I can only describe as a reverse banger-up-the-bum routine but done in the best possible taste.

Note my careful use of the word ‘possible’.

Martin was still aglow at being the new honorary Malcolm Hardee Memorial Mime champion having seen off a cheeky challenge from a French mime artist during the recent Royal Festival Hall At Last The 1981 Show shindig. That performance did involve all his clothing being blown off by a giant wind machine and Martin seems never happier than ending up on stage naked. Yesterday, though, he remained disappointingly clothed.

It was an interesting party in other unexpected ways, with larger-than-life Bob Slayer (one-time jockey and manager of Japanese rock group Electric Eel Shock one of whom got killed by a fish in the infamous Killer Bitch movie), in co-charge of the barbecue. Bob told me that he was considering putting on rock bands at future Edinburgh Fringes. Not any old run-of-the-mill rock bands, but visually unusual rock bands. I am surprised no-one has done this before, as it does seem in the spirit of the Fringe and would appeal to the same audiences.

Bouncing ball of jollity Charmian Hughes had to leave the party early to go to a Zumba class – she intends to develop the already odd sand dance in her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show The Ten Charmandments in unexpected ways by incorporating Zumba and traditional Indian dance moves into the traditional Wilson, Keppel and Betty style routine.

“It will probably look much the same as it was before,” she told me with a raised eyebrow and then showed me some of her ballet moves.

Charmian’s ever-dapper magician husband David Don’t was dressed in something not dissimilar to Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor Who costume. His magic sometimes doesn’t work, which makes it all the more entertaining. Yesterday, both of his hands and one leg/knee were swathed in heavy bandages. The last time I saw him perform, his act included a sharp spike under one of several up-ended polystyrene cups and David slamming his hand down onto the cups. There was also a legendary occasion, at which I was not present, when a spectacular act of his accidentally caught fire. And let’s not ever again mention the human dartboard with real darts and blindfolded dart-throwers.

I did not ask David for details about his bandages yesterday. I felt it might intrude on private, if comedic, grief.

I feel I have failed you in factual blogging, dear reader.

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