Tag Archives: Barbara Nice

Jewish comic Sol Bernstein soars while Lewis Schaffer frets about good news

“Ah! You’re John Fleming. You don’t like character comedy,” said character comic Sol Bernstein when he saw me leaving Vivienne and Martin Soan’s Pull The Other One comedy club in SE London last night.

“I generally don’t,” I replied. “But you were brilliant tonight. Utterly brilliant.”

And he was.

In fact, there was not an even remotely duff act on the show.

PTOO's Silver Peevil last night

PTOO’s Silver Peevil last night

Character act Barbara Nice had the entire audience on its feet singing and dancing along. Oram & Meeten were as crowd-pleasing as always (that’s a compliment); Danish comedian Sofie Hagen, in only a three-minute spot, appeared to successfully go way off script in highly-confident and highly-successful audience interaction; and there was what was claimed to be the world premiere of extraordinary character act The Silver Peevil – very funny – a scantily-clad retro visitor from Venus circa 1935.

All this plus the Greatest Show on Legs in a pre-show-start act which involved Martin Soan  with a Campbell’s soup can round his neck a la The Producers and a post-show event in which he literally carried his wife Vivienne off stage.

I think the word “variety” springs to mind.

That has been the word of the week.

The previous night I saw the penultimate Mat Ricardo’s London Varieties at the Leicester Square Theatre (last show this year and possibly forever is next month). That managed to smoothly blend admirably foul-mouthed Jenny Eclair, an extraordinary ping-pong act by Rod Laver (not the tennis champion), a So and So Circus dance acrobat duo and veteran comic Jimmy Cricket.

Susan Harrison’s  Cabarera audience

Susan Harrison’s Cabarera audience might be new alternative

The previous day, I had chatted to Susan Harrison about her Cabarera Club (more on that in a future blog) and been interviewed by Si Hawkins for an upcoming piece in Fest magazine about what may or may not follow ‘alternative comedy’.

It feels as if Variety/Cabaret may be the answer, though who knows? Not me.

‘Alternative Comedy’ at the late Malcolm Hardee’s clubs – and many others in the days when it really was alternative – meant shows where you saw some stand-up comedians and perhaps a music act, a juggler, a possibly psychotic indescribable act and perhaps a man torturing teddy bears (bring back that act!)

Possibly the most bizarre two things in a very odd evening last night, though, happened outside the venue after Pull The Other One had finished.

Vivienne Soan told me she had stumbled on what was, to both of us, an unknown sub-culture of Laughter Clubs scattered around the country.

“I’ve never heard of them,” I said.

“Neither had I,” said Vivienne. “They’re all over the country.”

“Maybe they are like Fight Clubs,” I suggested. “You must never talk about them.”

“They have £175 lessons,” Vivienne told me, “where they teach you how to laugh. And they give you a certificate afterwards. I think they really ARE having a laugh.”

Shortly afterwards, I had a chat with comedian Lewis Schaffer, who does not normally go to other people’s shows but had been bullied into going to Pull The Other One by his tenant. (He has tenants; he’s Jewish; what can I say?)

“I’m depressed,” he told me.

“Great,” I said. “You’re at your best when you’re depressed. What has happened?”

“My Leicester Square show has been extended again,” he said, glumly.

Lewis Schaffer, shoeless man

Lewis Schaffer, with no shoes

His weekly show Lewis Schaffer’s American Guide To England started in March this year, for an 8-week run. It was then extended for a few weeks. Then extended to the end of July. And now it has been extended again until next March (with a break for the Edinburgh Fringe in August).

“It’s a disaster,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“You mean it sounds too successful and Lewis Schaffer does not ‘do’ success?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Lewis Schaffer. “It will all end in tears.”

“You could always start torturing teddy bears on stage,” I said.

Lewis Schaffer looked at me. There was a pause.

“You’re just trying to make me feel better,” he said. “It’s going to be a disaster.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I’m Lewis Schaffer,” he said.

“You have a point there,” I agreed. “But don’t worry. Look on the bright side. Maybe it will never happen. Success.”

Despite my attempt at reassurance, Lewis Schaffer walked into the night, his brow furrowed, fretting about the unwelcome possibility of success.

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Jimmy Savile death threat linked to Beatrix Potter’s historic child abuse via UK comics Bob Slayer & Mr Merthane


Mr Methane, farter of alternative comedy

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that Mr Methane, the farter of British alternative comedy, had e-mailed me:

“I met Bob Slayer at the weekend. The tank broke down due to fuel starvation, so he wasn’t able to arrive from out of the sea on an amphibious craft but is hoping to try again next year.”

… and I had absolutely no idea what that meant.

So I asked Bob Slayer.

He replied:

“I farted on Mr Methane’s elbow at the weekend and he said that was the closest to his face anyone had ever farted! And Jimmy Saville: The Punch & Judy Show has received it’s first death threat.”

This did not clarify the amphibious tank. So I doggedly pursued the story for my own peace of mind.

Eventually, I crowbarred this out of Bob Slayer’s deranged memory:

“At the weekend,” he told me, “I was doing a gig at the Freerange Festival run by lovely people in the Brewery Arts Centre at Kendal in the Lake District.”

It came as no surprise to me that, somehow, the word “brewery” was involved.

“They had me performing outdoors on Morecambe Bay,” Bob told me, “at a place called Humphrey Head, where the last wolf in England was killed. We did some rock climbing and a tiny bit of caving and found some quicksand.

“I was supposed to arrive on an amphibious tank belonging to Mr Methane’s friend Ben but it broke down before it got to me. So I had to arrive late on foot instead.”

I then asked Mr Methane: “Tank? Your friend Ben has a tank?”

The Superduck non-tank (photo courtesy of Bob Slayer)

Mr Methane on the Superduck non-tank (photo Ben Barker)

“Well,” said Mr Methane, “not a tank exactly. It’s a BRDM2 Superduck Amphibian. It had been in a barn all winter and, about dinner time last Friday, we decided at the very last minute to get it out, take it to Humphrey Head and let Bob use it as a prop to make his grand entrance… Unfortunately, the diesel had got contaminated.

“We think the lining of the fuel tank had started to degrade and pieces of debris clogged the injectors up. Hence it never made it to Humphrey Head and consequently we were late getting there but Bob seemed very happy that we had brought what he described as a Dolly Bird with us.”

Bob then continued his story:

“I apologised for my late and undramatic entrance and explained that the previous year’s gig was supposed to have ended with me flying off Gummers Howe in a paraglider but that also didn’t happen because it was too windy… but we did have a lovely time then and I found an alternative ending by eating a cow pat.

“I figured a cow pat was only part-digested grass and would be OK but I probably wouldn’t eat a cow pat again as (a) it was not very tasty and (b) someone has since pointed out to me the parasites that I could have picked up.

Beatrix Potter, aged 15, with her springer spaniel, Spot

Beatrix Potter, 15, with spaniel, Spot

“I stayed up for the Saturday in Kendal and also went on Barbara Nice’s tour of the lakes. The captain of the boat told us that Beatrix Potter was not very nice to kids. So Barbara Nice set up an impromptu court to get to the bottom of the child beating allegations and it turned out that it was Beatrix’s mother who was the abuser of the young and we have now all vowed to clear the good name of the writer of children’s books. BEATRIX POTTER DID NOT BEAT CHILDREN. Perhaps you can link from that into the Jimmy Savile death threats…?”

“Perhaps not,” I replied. “What about the farting on Mr Methane’s elbow?”

“I have already been booked back for the Freerange Festival next year,” replied Bob, apparently changing the subject. “They are lovely people. I will do some other outdoor gig nonsense – and, as nothing ever goes to plan, I might as well make the plan as ridiculous as possible.”

“But what about the farting on Mr Methane’s elbow?” I repeated.

“I could do helicopter rides around the Lake District,” enthused Bob. “Diving out into a lake of custard… that sort of thing.”

So I asked Mr Methane.

“What about the farting on your elbow?” I asked.

“I was sat down in the bar at the Priory Hotel in Cartmel,” Mr Methane told me, “where Bob was staying. He lent against my arm and farted on my elbow. As I am 6′ 7″ when stood up, it was the nearest a man – but not a woman –  had ever farted to my face. Bob’s delivery was disturbingly HomoErotic but the stink soon killed off any innuendo in that direction. I think he needs to see a doctor. Perhaps colonics.”

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