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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 13: The Elvis Dead, compost and comedy in a shed

I ended today soaked through with Irn Bru and rain.

The day started off like a normal Fringe day.

“Michael Brunström wants to borrow some of my compost,” performer Narin Oz told me, as I walked into Fringe Central. This made perfect sense at the time – a sign of how your brain soon gets affected by the Fringe.

I was on my way to the first Grouchy Club of the Fringe, supposedly chaired by Kate Copstick and me – but she had been dragged off by The Scotsman to review former First Minister Alex Salmond’s chat show at the Assembly Rooms on other side of town.

Becky Fury stood in for Copstick. Same hair; no white streak. The front row of our overwhelming audience (it’s all comparative) included two women who had seen Lewis Schaffer’s show last night and had not liked it.

Martha McBrier – castigated by some for playing a didgeridoo – arrived with a small brown box.

Copstick arrived when the show was almost over, telling chilling tales of Alex Salmond singing.

Cultural appropriation for Martha McBrier to play the box?

Martha McBrier played the small brown box by blowing into it. She claimed it was a ‘box didgeridoo’.

It was unclear to both her and us if women were banned from playing it, as they are with linear didgeridoos.

We started discussing Lewis Schaffer again.

At this point, Lewis Schaffer phoned asking me to send him a picture of himself.

Then I was off to see Michael Brunström, Phil Jarvis and  Alwin Solanky perform the legendary 20-minute routine Dinner For One in a small garden shed beside Bob Slayer’s Blundabus.

Dinner For One, recorded in English for German audiences in 1963 is extraordinarily famous in Germany, Austria, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Faroe Islands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, South Africa and Australia. In fact, loads of places except the UK.

(Left-Right) Alwin Solanky, Phil Jarvis and Michael Brunström

Phil Jarvis introduced this shed-based production in German, then Dinner For One was performed in English with Phil as the butler, Michael Brunström in drag as the lady and Alwin Solanky as the tiger skin rug. The shed miraculously contained an audience of (I think) eight people, with more peering in through the open door.

Dinner For One: a cast over the top; an audience under threat

The spilling, throwing and spewing of Irn Bru – standing in for the original show’s alcoholic drinks – was extensive.

The result was that I was (with some pride) the only audience member left in the shed by the end.

I had taken the precaution of wearing a coat which I bought in Nuremberg and which, fortunately, has a liquid-proof hood.

This production of Dinner For One epitomised the spirit of the Fringe – people performing something for no logical reason whatsoever, ignoring financial recompense, audience numbers and any common sense.

You did, indeed, have to be there.

As did I at Nathan Cassidy’s one-off event The World’s Best MC Award Grand Final because I was booked to be one of the judges – well, THE judge, as it turned out.

I did not know what to expect from this.

I blogged about its clear Cunning Stunt Award intentions in a blog almost three weeks ago.

At the Awards (L-R) Nick Helm, Rich Wilson, Nathan Cassidy and Sarah Callaghan (Photograph by Rat Pack Productions)

As it turned out, it was pretty much what it said on the label – six good comics doing 5-minute MC-style intros – each introducing the next – in an attempt to win an alleged £5,000 prize.

The comedians/MCs were Sarah Callaghan, Nick Helm, Joey Page, Mark Silcox, Chris Turner and Rich Wilson.

Unsurprisingly, in a shock twist, Nathan Cassidy won his own £5,000.

Very enjoyable, a real audience-pleaser, but I’m not convinced it’s a Cunning Stunt. The door money DID go to charity, though.

That is not up to me, though.

Fellow Malcolm Hardee judges Marissa Burgess, Bruce Dessau, Kate Copstick, Jay Richardson and Claire Smith all have equal says to me.

Talking of Malcolm Hardee – and who isn’t at the Fringe? – the wonderful 2011 Award winner Johnny Sorrow and Bob Blackman’s Tray have arrived in Edinburgh. I saw them tonight at The Newsroom, the small venue at the top of Leith Walk. From their energy, he/they could have been playing Radio City Music Hall.

THAT is how to play to an audience of one.

No audience problem for The Elvis Dead, though.

The Elvis Dead – Cultural event or niche pastiche?

It is probably the hottest and most talked-about show in Edinburgh.

In fact, the buzz around it started at the Leicester Comedy Festival back in February and has built to dizzying heights since. It is superbly well put together together and performed.

But I am not the target audience.

It reminded me of my experience over a week ago when I saw Mother’s Ruin – about gin – with an audience fully into the subject. The Elvis Dead is a musical re-telling of the movie Evil Dead II through pastiches of Elvis Presley songs.

My problem is that I have not seen Evil Dead II; I am not a particular fan of Elvis Presley; and singalong, clapalong-stompalong-whoopalong, crowd-bonding events are not my thing. Mea culpa.

The audience LOVED it. The only-begetter of this crowd-pleasing triumph, Rob Kemp, is getting full houses every night. But for me, the elevator pitch is that it is Jollyboat rabble-rousing (I like Jollyboat) meets Harriet Braine niche pastiche (I admire Harriet Braine).

Braine and brawn vie for niche pastiche attention

Harriet Braine performs superb pastiche songs about fine art and artists – very very clever songs about Magritte, Cezanne, Van Gogh, whatever whoever. But I don’t know the subject well enough to fully appreciate them. So the full effect floats or zooms over my head, as with The Elvis Dead.

Rob Kemp says he is returning to Edinburgh next year with a Beetlejuice show.

I HAVE seen Beetlejuice.

But I am not a massive fan.

On the other hand… if we were talking about a musical version of The Wild Bunch… I would be queuing-up like the Dead Elvis fans are.

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Edinburgh Fringe Day 7: Three naked bottoms, tears and a cunning stunt

Today, I watched three performers talking out of their arses. Hardly a new thing at the Edinburgh Fringe, you might think.

I couldn’t possibly be cheap enough to use a pun

Except this was the much-touted Wild Bore comic theatrical piece at The Traverse in which Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott perform with their naked bottoms (and occasionally with the rest of their bodies).

It is a knowingly self-referential post-modernist labyrinth of analysing and criticising critics and the performance itself with some wonderful surreal images – the sight of them running around naked and erect with their heads inside their own bottoms made me glad I never remember my own dreams and nightmares.

The self-referencing reminded me inevitably of that 1969 movie I am always banging on about in this blog – Anthony Newley’s Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? – You sit there thinking the movie is a self-indulgent mess and then, at one point, three ‘movie critics’ walk on the screen and start criticising it in detail for all the many faults you have just been thinking about. I sat through it twice when I first saw it, because I had no idea whether I liked it or not. I was still not sure after seeing it twice, but it was and is certainly addictive.

Nathan Willcock’s State of The Nathan at Moriarty’s also kept referring to itself and had a strangely straight, middle-of-the-road, middle-aged, non-Fringe audience happily sitting through and enjoying an hour of his (as he admitted to them) liberal Londoner comedy.

Daddy Kamali – indefatigably charismatic

The indefatigably charismatic Jody Kamali was pretending to run a hotel – Hotel Yes Please – in a room in the actual Apex Hotel/Sweet venue in Grassmarket where he played multiple characters, integrated the audience into the show and unusually-for-him added some genuine personal stuff into a character playing another character. Apparently last year’s Fringe show was such a happy experience that, on the final night, he celebrated with his wife and the result is that he now has a daughter.

I think he will make a good dad.

Which was something Lewis Schaffer’s dead mother told him (Lewis) in one of the 23 letters he is opening nightly in Unopened Letters From My Mother at the Counting House. As he said in this blog two days ago: “To me, the letters are full-on scary and sad. But funny for the audience.”

Lewis Schaffer reads his mother’s letter for the first time

He says he does not know why he did not open the 23 letters she sent him between 2000 and her death in 2011, some from a mental hospital.

But I do remember the late Malcolm Hardee, going through a bout of depression the like of which people would not imagine Malcolm Hardee had, telling me that he was only opening one in three of the letters he received through the post. The other two he threw away without even checking who they were from.

After tonight’s performance – well, performance is the wrong word – experience – someone said to me: “I have never seen Lewis show that sort of real emotion on stage before”.

Lewis’ shows are always one-offs. These ones almost go beyond unique, if such a thing were possible.

Which could also be said of Becky Fury’s show tonight at the Black Market. Well, she did not actually perform her prepared show but improvised 55 minutes around the audience which included a Polish social worker who came to Edinburgh for the Fringe last year and just stayed. He said he was attracted to her show title Molotov Cocktail Party because of what happened at Polish football matches.

Becky Fury – not hosting a Christian show at all

Then there was the young Spanish couple who were there despite, it seemed, not actually being able to understand any English. Becky at first persuaded them it was a Christian show in which everyone had to bare themselves and managed to get the male half of the couple to strip off.

And then there was the American girl who arrived late. She said she played the violin and sewed.

“Simultaneously?” asked Becky.

Alas no, but she then took out her sewing and continued throughout the rest of the show while listening and participating. She said she was not a performer but did busk naked in Seattle, playing the violin.

I do believe this was and is true. But who knows?

In this blog four days ago, Martha McBrier mentioned that she had received a complaint about the fact that she plays a didgeridoo during her Balamory Doubtfire show – something that women are not allowed to do in Aboriginal culture. A white sociology professor in New York had accused her of racism, sexism and subjugating an entire culture.

The story was followed up, with more details, in Bruce Dessau’s Beyond The Joke site, on the Chortle comedy site and  in The Scotsman.

Chortle carried quotes from Janet McLeod, producer of the Melbourne Comedy Festival show Aborigi-LOL, and Dane Simpson, a comedian from the Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay culture.

Martha McBrier – cunning player of religious instruments

Tonight, I got a message from Martin Walker, who told me that, during the recording of his On The Mic podcast, Martha had admitted that the whole thing was a cunning stunt.

The didgeridoo appears on her flyer/poster and makes an admittedly brief appearance in her show so I do wonder if this is a stunt planned so far in advance that it is almost a work of art in its own right.

On the other hand, allegedly offending Aboriginal didgeridoo players might not have been a stunt at all but, on seeing the reaction, Martha decided to say it was a stunt to fan the flames of publicity and edge ever closer to a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt nomination.

Only time will tell.

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Edinburgh Fringe Day 6: A terrifying smile and a lack of terrorism security

Yesterday’s blog ended with a mention of believable and unbelievable anecdotes.

Alexander Bennett’s bloody battle to perform

This morning, I had a long conversation with comedian Alexander Bennett – to whom all hail – in which we discussed the idea of simply making up some bizarre – completely false – event which allegedly happened during his Terrifying Smile show today… simply to promote the fact that he is performing at 2.00pm in the Dragonfly venue.

He, like Becky Fury, has been hit by the Curse of Cowgatehead, having previously been booked into the Opium venue, then Cowgatehead (re-named Bar Bados this year presumably to mask the Curse of Cowgatehead) and finally having to leave the Free Fringe venues altogether with no Fringe Programme listing and eventually, happily, ending up in the Heroes of Fringe Dragonfly venue.

We discussed making up a completely false event – well, OK, I tried to foist the idea on him – in order to publicise where he was actually now appearing… But how could we tell an untruth to this blog’s readers?

Alexander Bennett freshens his mouth today

Clearly we couldn’t.

A pity, as I was rather looking forward to writing about two members of his audience: one dressed as a dragon; the other dressed as a fly. Such a thing would not necessarily be unbelievable in Edinburgh during the Fringe. I remember years ago seeing the then-unknown Piff The Magic Dragon waiting at a pedestrian crossing on Nicholson Street. No-one gave any attention to a man dressed as a green dragon.

Truth and reality can vary depending on your viewpoint.

For example, in a Scotsman piece I read today, Kate Copstick describes me as “aged but still sentient”.

I would disagree with this very strongly indeed.

I certainly do not feel sentient.

Mike’s Frank Carson: If I Didn’t Laugh, I’d Cry

‘Aged’… fair enough, because I am so old I remember life before the iPhone 6S and things like a Blackpool lunch in the 1980s with stars of Granada’s TV series The Comedians where Frank Carson just never switched off and Bernard Manning (with some justification) seemed to think he was a bit ‘above’ the others. And I remember Saturday mornings on Tiswas with Frank Carson at ATV Birmingham where, again, he was constantly being Frank Carson.

Spike Milligan famously said that the difference between Frank Carson and the M25 was that you could turn off the M25.

In this blog a couple of weeks ago, fellow comic Mike McCabe said: “For someone to go on and on and on like that, there had to be some problem deep down.”

Mike’s current show about Frank Carson If I Didn’t Laugh, I’d Cry, tries to figure out Frank’s mindset and benefits from the fact Mike actually worked with him.

Steve Best amid his photos at the Stills centre this afternoon

I also felt slightly old going to the current exhibition of Steve Best’s photos of comedians at the Stills Centre For Photography in Edinburgh, designed to promote Joker Face, his second book of photos, quotes and quirky facts – featuring over 450 comedians.

And then I bumped into Gill Smith, the inspiraton for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

She is in Edinburgh for a week, reviewing shows for one4review. She was with her daughter Pippa, now aged seven. I think the last time Pippa and I were in the same room together was when she was a bump in her mother’s tummy.

Gill Smith and her 7-year-old daughter Pippa

In 2008 Gill, as a stand-up comic, sent me an email telling me she was nominating herself for the Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis that, by nominating herself, she could legitimately put on her posters MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD NOMINEE. She added that she thought Malcolm would have approved of this.

I had to agree with her and created a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award before she could give herself one. Ooh missus. Since then, of course, all the Malcolm Hardee Awards have become increasingly prestigious.

Today it was confirmed that Malcolm’s sister Clare Hardee is coming up to Edinburgh to sing on the final Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on 25th August.

Becky Fury’s Molotov Cocktail Party curse

Which brings us to terrorism and last year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner Becky Fury (her suitably real name).

In the High Street and elsewhere in Edinburgh, giant obstacles have sprouted to deter and prevent  random lorry attacks on the Fringe crowds, but none of the venues seem to make even cursory checks on bags going into shows.

Becky is another victim of the Curse of Cowgatehead and has been thinking of ways to promote the fact she is now in a different venue at a different time (10.00pm in the Black Market) to her billing in the Fringe Programme.

There was her appearance in a London riot the other night.

And she decided today that fire-blowing in the streets or wherever might attract attention. So she bought some paraffin.

..so she bought some paraffin…

It is relevant to point out here that her show is titled Molotov Cocktail Party.

Tonight, she and I went to see the always brilliant Milton Jones perform in the giant main Assembly Hall on The Mound.

In her back pack she had paraffin in a bottle – in essence, a Molotov cocktail. And, low on battery, I had a fairly large re-charger in my inside jacket pocket with a wire to the iPhone in my shirt pocket.

Just as well we were not given any cursory search. Or was it?

I look old and far from sentient with Becky Fury at tonight’s Milton Jones show in the Assembly Hall

 

 

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Cunning comic Becky Fury, banned by Facebook, is to go into sexy wrestling

Becky Fury was at Mama Biashara last night

Yesterday’s blog was partly about the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award given at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Last night, I saw last year’s award-winner, Becky Fury, preview her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show at Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara emporium in London.

Becky has been having a run of bad luck.

About a week ago, in the course of one day, she lost both her Edinburgh Fringe venue and her Edinburgh accommodation. And, when I saw her last night, she had just finished a 24-hour ban by Facebook. She remains unbowed, though, and has plans for making money in wrestling.

Everything was settled for her Edinburgh Fringe show Molotov Cocktail Party – including her paying the exorbitant fee to be listed in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme. She was due to perform at the exotically-named Bar Bados Complex which, apparently, is the new name for the Cowgatehead building, a legendarily cursed comedy venue at the Fringe.

Becky’s expensive but now incorrect Edinburgh Fringe listing

But, around a week ago, well after the Fringe Programme was published, the Fire Brigade refused to allow two rooms in the venue to be used for performance and Becky was moved to another new venue in a different location though mercifully at the same time – 10.45pm – 6th-26th August. (EDIT! This changed two days later: See HERE.) The new venue, the Black Market, beside Waverley Station, was still being built when last heard-of.

Simultaneous with her venue loss, she lost her free accommodation in Edinburgh but was able to get some temporary accommodation for the first few days of the Fringe.

It never rains but it pours.

Particularly in Edinburgh.

“And,” I said to her last night, you have just been banned from Facebook for 24 hours. How did you manage that?”

Becky’s temporarily-banned non-cummunity standard Facebook

“Two jokes I wrote,” she explained, “included the word ‘Paki’. So I am on my third warning from Facebook. If I say anything else that ‘does not adhere to Facebook community standards’, the Facebook Thought Police will come, detain me, detonate my profile and ‘disappear’ me.”

“What were the objectionable jokes on your Facebook page?” I asked.

“The first joke was about genuinely meeting a racist at a train station who was talking about the three ‘P’s – Poles, Pakis and Paddies.”

“So,” I checked, “what got you into trouble was the reported speech of another person which happened in a real situation?”

“Yes. The joke was that I said I agreed with ‘no platforming’ so I pushed him off the platform under a train. That was the joke.”

“So,” I checked again, “Facebook had no objection to you saying you pushed a man under a train but they did object to the fact that, in objecting to his racism, you quoted him using the word ‘Paki’?”

“Yes,” said Becky. “That got me a ‘First Warning’. This second time, I got banned for 24 hours because there was a discussion around Daniel Kitson’s use of the word ‘Paki’ in his show and I don’t like the other politically correct words like POC or BAME so I suggested we might compromise and use the word Poci instead. I was agreeing with the idea of political correctness but I got banned because, again, the word ‘Paki’ was in there.”

“So what’s next after Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Wrestling,” she replied.

“Wrestling what?” I asked.

“Probably existential questions.”

Wrestling with existential questions?

“Fury is a good name for a wrestler,” I said.

“I’m not sure,” she replied, “if it’s a good idea for my actual, real name to go up on the internet and be immortalised as a sexy wrestler. So I am going to be Minerva, the goddess of war.”

“What sort of wrestling?” I asked.

“I’m going to be a sexy wrestler…a bikini wrestler.”

“In front of crowds in stadia?”

“No. Mostly one-on-one.”

“Wrestling men or women?” I asked.

“I don’t mind. It’s obviously mainly men, because they are…”

“Stupid?” I suggested.

“Stupid perverts,” Becky laughed. “Yeah.”

“Define one-to-one wrestling,” I said.

“It’s wrestling with a guy – usually a guy – for money. That makes it sound like marriage, I suppose. But you basically play-fight with them for an hour and they pay you for it and you wear a bikini.”

“What do they wear?” I asked.

“Usually a teeshirt and a pair of shorts. Them wearing clothes is a pre-requisite. You are alone in the room with them. They could just attack you in that situation and fuck you. But there is always someone else in the building.”

Becky wants to get a head in wrestling

“How much?” I asked.

“£150 a session. There’s about three different centres in London do it.”

“If it’s wrestling,” I said, “it’s a competition. Someone must win.”

“Usually the woman wins,” said Becky. “As always in Life.”

“This is not really wrestling,” I suggested. “It’s hugging and stroking.”

“There’s no fondling going on,” replied Becky. “It’s sensual, semi-competitive wrestling.”

“Where does the ‘semi’ come into it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to think about that.”

“Why do they pay to do it?” I asked.

“I think part of what’s going on is that these guys are submissive, so they normally have a control issue in their life. They are normally guys who are in control, maybe OCD, very obsessive-compulsive. What they like is that, in the ring, they have to maintain control over their own lustful desires while you are asserting yourself over them. So it’s like very, very light BDSM.”

“It’s in a wrestling ring?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Why have a proper ring?”

Becky with her 2016 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

“It’s the theatricality of it. Makes it more fun.”

“With most theatrical experiences, there’s a build-up, development and a climax,” I prompted.

“There’s no happy endings,” said Becky. “It’s about maintaining a level of eroticism.”

“You seem to know a lot about it.”

“I did it for a couple of months a few years ago, but I’m a lot stronger now. I’ve been doing loads of yoga and going to the gym. If you’re not strong enough, they don’t want to wrestle you. They don’t put up a great deal of resistance, but you do need to give them a proper fight. The women fighting women are really going for it, though. You really have to fight, until you get your arm ripped off by some psychotic Ukrainian.”

“Women fighting women?” I asked.

“If you just want to go and watch girls wrestle each other competitively,” said Becky, “that goes on for a few hours, so that might cost £70 for a ticket.”

“Are you going to do that as well?”

“Yeah. But they tend to be really hardcore Eastern European women, much more interested in beating-up other women for money than I am. It’s the women that I’m scared-of, not the men. I may get my arse kicked by some big fuck-off scary Russian female shot-putter. The men are little, weedy, runt-boy men.”

“When you were involved in it before, how old were the men?”

“Generally in their 40s.”

“Is it a fetish?”

“It’s just something people want to pay for. People pay for all sorts of nonsense. One time, I did a filming session. The guy was wearing a Santa Claus hat with a little white ball dangling on it and the woman was riding around on his back half the time. At the end, she got the hat and shoved it into his mouth and, when he took it out, he told us: I’ll be wearing this for Christmas dinner when I go and visit my family. People have got all sorts of really bizarre fantasies and, if they want to spend money realising them, they can.”

“What was Father Christmas wearing apart from his hat?”

“Shorts and a teeshirt.”

Becky Fury’s Molotov Cocktail Party show

“What is the attraction to you?”

“Money.”

“So, basically,  these people are like the Medicis to your struggling artist? Supporting the Arts with their cash.”

“Exactly. Because I can’t be bothered to fill-out Arts Council grant forms…” She paused. “I don’t know how this blog will come out. I don’t want to sound like a whore.”

“Would I do that to you?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“No,” I tried to reassure her. “You will come out as a lover of eccentricity. A worthy Malcolm Hardee Award winner.”

“Well,” she said, “it’s just more fun than working in McDonalds, isn’t it?… And also you get to kick men in the testicles and not get sacked… again.”

“Will you be wrestling up in Edinburgh?” I asked.

“If anyone wants to wrestle me in Edinburgh,” she said, “it will be £200 – or mates’ rates, which will be £250.”

Becky also appeared in this 2016 music video

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From Tiswas custard pies to cunning comedy awards, my petard is hoisted

ITV’s Tiswas – Good clean family fun

I can’t remember what a petard is and can’t be bothered to look it up, but it’s easy to be hoisted with your own one.

I used to work as a researcher on the slapstick-ish children’s TV show Tiswas, where people had custard pies shoved in their faces. So, sometimes, when I met people who wanted to be on the show, they felt obliged to demonstrate how ‘wacky’ and ‘zany’ they were by shoving a custard pie in my face.

Except they used a real custard pie. The Tiswas ones were actually made from highly-whipped and coloured shaving foam (it clung to you, did not stain and wiped off easily).

Now I organise the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe, so I have to beware of people pulling cunning stunts on me.

Last year’s Cunning Stunt Award was won by Becky Fury who not only put her flyer on the dating site Tinder to attract single men to her Fringe show but who, on that flyer, claimed she was a ‘Last Minute Comedy finalist’.

Becky Fury – burgering around yet again

Last year, the second most prestigious comedy awards at the Fringe – formerly known as the Perrier Awards – were sponsored by lastminute.com so were called the Last Minute Comedy Awards.

Becky correctly called herself a ‘Last Minute Comedy finalist’ to lure in punters thinking she was up for the ‘Big’ prize whereas, in reality, she had been a finalist in a competition run by a small comedy club operation called Last Minute in Hertfordshire. The day I saw her show, four people had, indeed, come with (and still retained when they left) that false belief. A cunning success.

But who would have thought that the lovely Becky was a grass?

Or possibly a nominator. It depends on your viewpoint.

This week, she drew my attention to a couple of comedy blurbs.

Loose Brie – never-knowingly under-promoted comedy duo

In one, comedy duo Loose Brie blurbed themselves as MALCOLM HARDEE FIRST MINUTE AWARD NOMINEES 2016 –

Like The Dangerous Brothers, Vic and Bob and We Are Klang before them, Loose Brie deal in the glorious art of high-concept, low brow, organised chaos. They’ll use their bodies in ways you didn’t think were possible. You’ll see things you can’t un-see.

All jolly and appealing except there was and is no such thing as the Malcolm Hardee First Minute Award. At least, I don’t think there is. Reality, like grassing-up/nominating someone, is often a case of personal perception.

Cally Beaton – a cunning award winner

Cally Beaton is publicising her debut solo show Super Cally Fragile Lipstick by saying her previous show Cat Call (with Catherine Bohart) “received a Malcolm Hardee Award” at the Fringe last year.

What happened last year was that the excellent Edward Hobson (a former producer on BBC TV’s The One Show) had the cunning idea that he would give an award for the Fringe show with the best first minute. On the basis that, if a show doesn’t grab you in the first minute, it is no good. He would go into shows, see the first minute and then leave. Which he did.

So I gave him one minute at the start of the increasingly prestigious two-hour-long Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show last year to announce the winners of his First Minute Awards. Which he did.

Cally Beaton was the winner; Loose Brie were nominees.

Cunning and genuinely award-winning Cally Beaton

They were, to tell 100% of the truth, neither nominees nor winners of a Malcolm Hardee Award but they deserve brownie points for exploiting every opportunity. In fact, I am of a mind to possibly nominate Cally Beaton for a Cunning Stunt Award this year on the basis of her not-quite-100%- truthful plug for her excellently-named Super Cally Fragile Lipstick show at next month’s Fringe.

I did ask both her and Loose Brie if they had any quotable comments and the Brie duo sent me a frankly unnecessarily-long statement, which read:

We believe it is very much in the spirit of our show about confidence (Loose Brie Are Great, Camden Fringe, July 31st – Aug 6th) and the Malcolm Hardee Awards, to have linked our nomination for the jokey, one-off ‘First Minute Awards’ to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardees, due to them both being given out at the same venue.

Loose Brie: never knowingly under-promoted comedy duo

By claiming almost-but-not-quite falsely to have been nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Award we have provided a fitting send off to, at the very least, the Cunning Stunt Award.

No need to thank us, as the nomination is thanks enough. 

We are not up in Edinburgh this year (because we are at Camden Fringe, July 31st – Aug 6th, show title: Loose Brie Are Great). But, if we were there, we can all agree Loose Brie definitely would have been nominated for several more Malcolm Hardees. Our 2018 poster quotes are likely to reflect this.

Edward Hobson at the Grouchy Club during last year’s  Edinburgh Fringe

Ed Hobson told me today:

“Cally did win and Loose Brie were nominated, but I never told them it was a Malcolm Hardee Award so I think they’re just being ‘cunning’.

“The First Minute Award is not making it to Edinburgh this year because I spent one minute planning my trip, looking at trains and accommodation and then stopped. If it can’t be decided in one minute it’s not worth doing.

“Also, with my wedding in October and getting my fiancée over from the USA, I decided it might be out of my budget.”

“Wedding?” I asked.

Ed Hobson with his possibly sedated betrothed Nikki Kvarnes

“Yes,” he said, “I’m getting married to Nikki Kvarnes, an American musician and artist.

“She was in a band called Those Darlins.

“We find out today if her visa to marry me has been granted or not. Very exciting day. She is far too talented and beautiful for me but thankfully my sense of humour paid off.”

Or perhaps hers.

Everyone thinks they’re a comedian.

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Dick pic etiquette, virtual flashing, the Scottish comedian and sausage & eggs

The Record‘s front page. I have obscured the face.

At the Grouchy Club both three months ago and two months ago, there was gossip about a Scottish male comedian who had allegedly sent offensive unsolicited text messages and photos – ‘dick pics’ – to various younger female comedians. The story was not discussed at this month’s Grouchy Club, but resurfaced as a front-page story in the Scottish Daily Record and was then picked up by the English Daily Mirror and the English Sun last Saturday.

Unconnected to the above, I know other female comedians who have received ‘dick pics’ from male comics.

It gives new meaning to the phrase ‘stand-up comedians’.

So I thought: Who do I know who is likely to talk about this subject ON the record?

Well, obviously, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winning Becky Fury.

We met at a Pret a Manger branch in London’s Soho. The glamour never stops.

Her right shoulder was hurting. It was a boxing injury. She is left-handed.

Quite why she had been boxing may well be the subject for a future blog, but she does not want to talk about it now and… I am just saying… Don’t mess with Becky Fury.

“Have you ever heard of women sending men unsolicited pictures of their nether regions?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied.

“With dick pics,” I prompted, “some women have said to me – well, one woman in particular has said to me: Oh, it’s a just a bloke being a bloke. It’s not rape; it’s not mass murder. I think men may actually, bizarrely, treat it more seriously than women. Well, not more seriously than rape or murder. But I certainly do treat it seriously. It might be my Presbyterian upbringing. I see it as outrageous. But women – some women – do see it as just One of these things you have to suffer.

Becky Fury seen via a Pret a Manger tea stirrer

“Well,” said Becky. “it’s virtual flashing. So it’s a mild sexual assault.”

“Why is it mild?” I asked.

“Because flashing is quite quaint… Well, no-one does it any more, do they? It’s a quaint sex crime now. You don’t get old men hiding in the bushes wearing dirty old macs showing their willy to old ladies.”

“Or, more seriously, to 10-year-old girls,” I said.

“Or to 10-year old girls,”agreed Becky. “But it doesn’t happen any more. Things have moved on. If you have sex crimes on a scale, then flashing is a mild one – compared to rape, for example. I am used to dealing with smutty boys.“

“This has happened to you?”

“Yes. I’ve been asked if I wanted to be sent a dick pic.”

“As a sampler?” I asked. “As a precursor to…”

“A precursor to more dick pics,” replied Becky. “It never really goes anywhere. Men just like to send pictures of their penises.”

“I don’t,” I said. “But you have, in the past, encouraged dick pic sending?”

“Well, I have agreed. There is dick pic etiquette. It’s like anything. If someone really wants to send a picture of their penis, just ask first – May I send you a dick pic? Then you will get a Yes or No and, if No, then you say: OK. That’s absolutely fine. Have a lovely day.”

“So,” I asked, “if I send you a dick pic request in half an hour, what will make you decide one way or the other?”

“Well, that’s the question,” said Becky. “Am I interested in seeing a picture of your erect penis? If Yes, then I tell you and you can send me the picture. If No, then that’s a No.”

“Could negotiations take place?” I asked. “Like You don’t want to see an erect penis but could we compromise on flaccid?

Becky with her 2016 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

“Well, you have to ask. It’s all about consent. Like anything else that has a sexual element, consent is vital.”

“But is there a negotiation process?” I persisted. “Could you start with erect and work your way down?”

“That could be involved,” said Becky. “Everything is open to negotiation.”

“If you were a tough negotiator,” I asked, “could it come down to me sending you a photo of a vague bump shape in the trousers?”

“Yes,” said Becky. “If you wanted to send that, you could. But you should still ask first. Because, once you step across that consent barrier, then it starts becoming virtual flashing.”

“You are going to hate the reaction you get to this blog,” I suggested. “Hundreds of solicitations. How many pictures does consent cover anyway? One picture? Twelve?”

“It’s a grey area – internet exchanges with people. Apparently it’s very common on Tinder. I have a way of dealing with it. When I received an unsolicited dick pic, I said: Do you want to see mine? They presumed they were going to see a picture of my private parts, but I found a picture of the thickest, fattest dick on the internet and sent that back to them.”

“How do you find the thickest, fattest dick on the internet?” I asked.

“You Google the phrase ‘Boris Johnson’,” Becky explained.

Becky Fury, comic stirrer with a negotiator’s eye

“So,” I said, “you have received unsolicited dick pics from people you knew and people you didn’t know?”

“I have never received an unsolicited dick pic from someone that I knew. When a dick pic is sent unsolicited, it’s not going to be from someone you know particularly well. Normally, sending dick pics involves not having very much respect for the other person. Like I said, it has this element of being an assault.

“If you’re involved in a smutty exchange, a sexualised conversation, with somebody on the internet – somebody you haven’t fucked – and they want to send you a dick pic, then they should ask permission. It’s not necessarily something you want to receive unexpectedly first thing in the morning over breakfast.”

“When you are having your sausage and eggs,” I suggested.

“Precisely,” agreed Becky.

“Why do men send dick pics anyway?” I asked. “Is it a form of advertising? Forthcoming attraction! Coming soon!

“I dunno what the psychology is,” said Becky. “But I really don’t want to receive any more.”

Personally, if you send a dick pic, I think it is a true selfie – You really are a dick.

Becky’s 2016 Edinburgh Fringe comedy show image. She returns this year with an updated version.

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Comic Becky Fury on what ISIS/ISIL’s beheader Jihadi John was really like

Becky was talking just off Brick Lane last night

After yesterday’s blog with Chris Dangerfield was posted, Becky Fury – winner of at least one genuine Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award – asked if she could give a response.

So I met her last night in London’s East End, just off Brick Lane.

“What made you want to respond to the blog?” I asked her.

“I basically,” she told me, “wanted to do some self promotion…”

“Oh God,” I said.

“…and I had some ideas about politics,” Becky continued.

“Good grief,” I said. “You didn’t want to have a go at Chris Dangerfield for perceived Islamophobia?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s no use at all,” I told her. “You just wanted a chat.”

“Yes,” she laughed. “I just wanted to be validated. Do you want me to talk about Islamic Fundamentalism?”

“It’d be something,” I told her.

“My friend actually taught Jihadi John,” Becky said. “He was basically a kid in remedial maths at school.”

“And he went to my college,” I told her. “The University of Westminster… Well, it was The Polytechnic in my day.”

“When he was at school,” said Becky, “he was a kid that nobody liked. He had B.O. and bad breath. He was basically a disenfranchised kid and this idea of running off to become an Islamic Fundamentalist was obviously quite attractive. Then he got turned into this character in tabloid newspaper mythology. But he was basically just a kid from remedial maths who didn’t get on with anyone.”

“This character in tabloid newspaper mythology”

“Well,” I said, “beheading people certainly works as a bid for attention.”

“He was basically pissed-off,” said Becky. “Maybe if they had had better pastoral care in his local London borough he wouldn’t have done that. And then there were all those girls running off to find this hunky Jihadi John in Syria and, when they get there, they just find that it’s Muhammad, the smelly kid from remedial maths and they think: Well, we might as well have just stayed in Tower Hamlets and met him and our mums wouldn’t have been quite so pissed-off.

“Obviously, you don’t want to encourage any type of religious fundamentalism. You can pick on one as being worse but, if you do pick on one as being worse, you make it worse and it turns it into something that becomes more dangerous because you have given people something to join in with. After they started trying to ban the burkha, lots more Moslem women started wearing burkhas because they were told they should not be allowed to do it. That’s what happens when you try to put a lid on things.”

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Filed under Politics, Terrorism