He ran his Bob’s Bookshop venue for the first time and Adrienne Truscott’s show there won both the main Malcolm Hardee Award and what I think we have to call the Perrier/Edinburgh/IF/Fosters Comedy Panel Award in the smallest venue ever to win that award.
This year, there was no Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, because we did not think anyone was suitable. Instead, we called the pre-made trophy the ‘Pound of Flesh’ Award.
Yesterday, on what turned into a 9-hour drive down from Edinburgh to London, comedian Bob Slayer told me: “I’ve never seen the point of you giving that Million Quid Award anyway. It’s basically the same as the Fosters Comedy Award. So you’re just trying to cover the mainstream and I don’t think that’s what your awards are about.”
“So what sort of award could we have instead of the Million Quid Award?” I asked,
“Just something more interesting,” Bob suggested. “Everyone knows who’s going to make a million quid. That prick Xxxxxx Yyyyyy probably already has.”
“Perhaps the Bob Slayer Award for best impression of Bob Slayer?” I suggested.
“Maybe you should have The Increasingly Prestigious Award,” Bob suggested.
“Don’t forget,” I said, “that the Million Quid awards have been pre-made until 2017 with a giant pound sign on them. That’s why we called it the Pound Of Flesh Award this year.”
Bob, surprisingly, thought that this year’s winners of the Malcolm Hardee Pound Of Flesh Award did not do anything particularly exceptional. Comedy performer Gareth Ellis got repeatedly punched in the face by his comedy partner Richard Rose and they then pretended Gareth has been attacked in the street just on the off-chance they could get a few lines of publicity for their show.
“That’s commendably excessive,” I suggested to Bob.
“Punching yourself in the face,” said Bob, “is just a very obvious idea. We’ve all done that. Once I was late for work and was facing the sack when I was 21 and working at Racal Mobical. I was putting electrical component parts into bags. I was late for work, so I took a cheese-grater to my face because I’d run out of all the normal excuses that my grandmother had died – you can only do that three or four times before they start getting suspicious. So I took a cheese-grater to my face and said I’d been run over by a…”
“Giant mouse?” I suggested.
“A truck,” said Bob.
“How long did your face take to mend from the cheese-grater?” I asked.
“The normal time after you cheese-grate your face,” said Bob. “I did my cheeks, nose, forehead and then I thought I must do my arms and hands, because I remembered when I was a kid I fell off my bike and I’d damaged the back of my hands, so I knew that was realistic. I told them I had been run over by a truck, but they asked me Was this a brewery delivery lorry? Because you stink of booze. And I got fired anyway.
“Then, a few days later, I got thrown out of the flat I was living in, because I hadn’t told anybody that I’d used the cheese-grater and, when they found out, they decided that was the last straw. They found blood on the cheese-grater whilst grating cheese and the vegetarian girl got annoyed and I got ejected.”
“You should use that in a show sometime,” I suggested. “The stories in your Edinburgh Fringe show this year seemed to have more structure.”
“Last year,” Bob told me, “I was so busy running the Hive venue that I struggled with my own show. Well, I thought that was the reason, but I think I was just going through a pupation and my inability to turn into a storytelling comedian. But, this year, it accidentally became a real show on Day Three.”
“Why do you want to be a storytelling comedian?” I asked.
“Because I’ve got lots of stories,” replied Bob, not unreasonably.
“Your image so far has maybe been you behaving OTT,” I said.
“One day,” said Bob, “I will have an audience cheer and be happy that I’ve done a turd on stage. But I can also spin the audience into beautiful stories in all sorts of directions. I think I’ve developed a range of skills and sensitivity this year.”
“Beautiful stories,” I mused, “like the Bloodhound Gang one.”
“It is a beautiful story,” insisted Bob. “OK, it ends up with shit and puke and piss everywhere, but it is a beautiful story about friendship and freedom and life and vitality and happiness and a bunch of idiots.”
“How long have you been doing comedy now?” I asked.
“Well,” said Bob, “I first did it on stage with the Bloodhound Gang whenever the public smoking ban came in (2007). They went for a cigarette halfway through the gig and pushed me on stage, saying Our tour manager will entertain you, after blaming me for the fact that nobody could leave the venue to have a cigarette – there were no pass outs.
“They built up this hatred towards me, then they went for a cigarette and the whole room hated me for 8 or 10 minutes and showed their hate by throwing pints of beer at me.”
“Pint glasses?” I asked.
“Plastics,” replied Bob. “The Bloodhound Gang did it again the next night and I tried to speak to the audience and tried to make them laugh and, if anything, it made it worse and they hated me more by throwing pints in glasses but, this time, the rain was salty because they were pissing in them.
“Then on Day Three I hid, because I didn’t want to be pushed out on stage, but the band found me and gaffer-taped me to a chair and put me on stage and said: Our tour manager will entertain you.
“They had been getting the audience to hate me, but the sight of a man gaffer-taped to a chair, weeping gently and muttering I hate the Bloodhound Gang… Well, the sympathy was, all-of-a-sudden with me and they laughed and I just said: Do you want to hear what wankers the Bloodhound Gand are?
“So, while the Bloodhound Gang was having a cigarette, I was telling the audience stories of what they’d got up to and there was laughter and it was fun and the band came back and we all sang a chorus of The Bloodhound Gang Are Wankers.
“Though, in fact, they’re not wankers. They’re beautiful people. We carried on the tour and we carried on doing that every night. Other bands might have thought Oh, he’s upstaged us or He’s slagged us off. But not them. I really learned a lot from them. They were beautiful clowns, for all their nonsense.
“I did tell a story in my show this year of them shitting and puking and pissing on each other on stage – that’s just where they took it. But they could have taken it anywhere, because they had a real clown sensibility. They were great performers.”
“So you told stories about them this year because…” I said.
“It just happened,” replied Bob. “Obviously, they got into trouble recently after wiping their bum on a Russian flag in Ukraine.
“My show had been going to be about all sorts of bands I toured with – Snoop Dogg, Iggy Pop – but the Bloodhound Gang were the most topical because they were arrested in Russia.
“On Day Three of my show, there was a Russian girl in the audience and I was trying to persuade her that they weren’t political activists; they were just idiots. So I told lots of stories to demonstrate they were idiots, culminating in the aforementioned shit and piss and puke story. And I stumbled on that as being my show.”
“So next year,” I asked, “you will have to be even more…”
“I’m thinking,” said Bob, “that next year I will be a musical act. I did whatever it was I did before… And I’ve bullied a Welshman on stage… I’ve done a game show… Done storytelling… Next year I have to do a musical show, don’t I?… Then the year after I will be an escapologist.”