Tag Archives: Bob Slayer

Doubt cast on the legality of PBH Free Fringe contracts at Edinburgh Fringe

An Edinburgh street during the Fringe

An Edinburgh Fringe street scene: this could be a comedian…

Yesterday’s blog about the unnecessary chaos surrounding PBH Free Fringe and Freestival shows at the Edinburgh Fringe estimated the financial damage to around 150-170 acts at around £77,000 in total.

As I wrote yesterday: It does not matter who is right and who is wrong here. There was a compromise on the table which would have meant no act lost money, no act lost their advertised venue space and no act lost shows.

As an example of the effect of the intransigence on one individual act, 2015 UK Pun champion Leo Kearse has told me this:


Short answer – I’m currently down about £1,200

I had two shows booked in to Cowgatehead and St John’s – Pun Man’s Pun Party and Hate ‘n’ Live (a show where comedians improvise rants about audience topics pulled out of a bucket).

They are both great shows. They will be replaced by some shit from the PBH z-list. I shudder to think how shit that’ll be.

I have paid Freestival fees, Fringe registration, train tickets, accommodation deposit.

I’m baffled as to how the current situation is beneficial to the venue owners, the Fringe Society, the audiences, or the acts.

I think PBH and his evil cohorts have behaved despicably to cause maximum disruption to the acts.

I doubt I’ll do the Edinburgh Fringe again. Other festivals offer better gigs and better exposure.

There is a clip on YouTube of Leo performing:


Promoter Bob Slayer has also issued a press release about surrealist act Michael Brunström:


MICHAEL BRUNSTRÖM: THE GOLDEN AGE OF STEAM

Michael Brunström, nominated last year for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality, has moved his Edinburgh Fringe 2015 show to Heroes @ The Hive, following the dispute between PBH Free Fringe and Freestival over programming rights to the Cowgatehead venue.

More money wasted: the poster Michael Brumstrom had designed for his Freestival show

More money wasted: the poster Michael had designed for his once-a-Freestival-show

Heroes promoter Bob Slayer offered Brunström a slot at the Big Cave in The Hive in exchange for a large (400g) bar of Toblerone. This agreement was made orally.

“Both PBH Free Fringe and Freestival could learn a thing or two from Bob Slayer about professionalism, efficiency and mature behaviour,” said Brunström.

Heroes will also be hosting Phil Kay and Russell Hicks – whose show Psychedelicious had also been scheduled at Cowgatehead – in Bob Slayer’s Blundabus.

In 2014 Michael Brunström was nominated for the Malcolm Hardee Award for his show The Human Loire, in which he impersonated the longest river in France, nailed grapes to Ted Cruz’s face and chewed the legs off a heron. Brunström’s 2015 show, The Golden Age of Steam, includes further surreal stunts involving his body, voice, legs, some ping-pong balls and a tiny fern.


Interestingly, Pear Shaped Comedy’s Anthony Miller had this comment to make on my blog of yesterday, in which I mentioned the PBH Free Fringe’s contract which (uniquely among Fringe operators) bans acts appearing or wanting to appear at a PBH Free Fringe venue from appearing or negotiating to appear at any other free venue. I called this a restriction of trade. Anthony Miller wrote:


Anthony Miller

Anthony Miller asks Why? Why? Why?

I still maintain that by applying exclusivity terms to people over who else they can work for BEFORE employing people (and he is an employer even if he pays people by venue barter) he is attempting to run a de facto pre-entry closed shop system. This is illegal.

Someone said it doesn’t matter if it’s illegal or not just that it’s stupid, but the law – when it works – exists to protect us from destructive patterns and practices in society.

So why is it illegal? Why is it more than just an old man with eccentric rules on which of his competitors his acts and people who want to gig for him can also gig for?

It is illegal because the effective purpose of all pre-entry closed shop systems is effective control over entry into the labour market by one body with the effective result of decreasing the overall number of people in the labour market. And that is exactly what is happening here.

It is not an accident that a load of people are now going to the Fringe NOT to work. It is by design.

PBH wants to be a monopoly controller.

Why?

He wants to control the number of people entering the labour market.

Why?

Then he can decrease competition.

Why?

He has become a victim of his own success…. Monopoly of £0 entry gigs gives him control of who does and doesn’t enter the labour market. And that is what he wants.

This situation is not an accident. It is the inevitable long term consequence of any closed shop system. A system which always puts one-person coterie in charge of who can work and who can enter the workforce.

I am sure PBH has an incredibly long waiting list… but would it be so long if people who were not on it did not fear blacklisting?


Robin Ince (Photo: Vera de Kok)

Robin Ince (Photo by Vera de Kok)

I also this morning received some reaction from Robin Ince to a reference in yesterday’s blog to an upcoming benefit gig for the Free Fringe which includes performers Stewart Lee, Nick Helm and Robin Ince. Robin writes:


Stewart. Nick and I agreed to do benefit to support acts doing Free Fringe; we have no gain from it. Maybe it is time we stopped doing benefits and let the lazy comedy fucks who can’t be bothered to do any to start doing ten minutes here and there.

Do I support the acts who have been fucked over. Yes. Would I do a benefit for them? Yes.

Do I think Freestival are innocent victims and PBH is the big villain?  No.


Meanwhile, the saga continues.

A general perception I think (including by me) was that the fact there were three members of the same family – all called Kenny Waugh – somehow involved in the saga meant there was chaos between Kennies. In fact, I understand, there was only the one Kenny – the middle one – involved in talking to both the PBH Free Fringe and to the Freestival.

The Waugh family – one or more of them – rent the Cowgatehead building from the Crolla family. 

A Crolla family is involved in ownership of the La Favorita pizza company which sponsors the Freestival. But, as I understand it, they are different Crolla families.

Elio Crolla, who was involved in the Cowgatehead building last year, died on 26th January this year, which will not have helped the tangled web of ownership, rentals and rights within the building.

I think my head may soon explode.

 

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Edinburgh Fringe Cowgatehead chaos continues: Free Fringe rejections start

The Cowgatehead venue last year

Previous Free Fringe Cowgatehead venue (right) in Edinburgh

Continuing on from yesterday’s blog about the still unresolved chaos surrounding the Cowgatehead venue at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe

First, some brief context…

Peter Buckley Hill (PBH) of the Free Fringe claims that his organisation and not the breakaway Freestival organisation has the rights to stage shows at Cowgatehead.

He told acts who had already booked with Freestival, paid the Edinburgh Fringe for a listing in the Programme (it’s out next week) and possibly paid to have flyers and posters designed:

“The Free Fringe will entertain applications from you. You will have to accept the Free Fringe Ethos and Conditions. These conditions stipulate that you should not be an applicant to any other provider of free-admission shows. This means that you should dissociate from Freestival forthwith.”

In a Chortle comedy website opinion piece, editor Steve Bennett clarified the catch in this offer:

“Performers who want to be part of the PBH Free Fringe have to sign up to a 3,600-word ‘conditions and ethos’ statement – a key part of which is that if you apply to the Free Fringe you cannot apply to any rival. This is the only operator – including the supposedly evil paid venues – to impose this draconian condition on applicants.

“PBH stressed this clause in his Facebook post, putting comedians in an impossible situation. They cannot hedge their bets and apply to PBH in case he’s right, while keeping their Freestival slots open. He’s forcing them to quit Freestival and go with him in a situation, frankly, where no one knows for sure what’s happening.”

That seems – in the context of this labyrinthine mess – fairly simple.

If an act believes the Free Fringe may have rights to the Cowgatehead venue and the Freestival may not, then that act can unlink itself from the Freestival. But the Free Fringe insists it is an either/or situation.

Of course, inevitably, it is more complicated than that.

Yesterday promoter Bob Slayer, who runs the Heroes organisation, pointed out to me something which he says has been overlooked.

“The main dilemma,” he told me, “is not about acts denouncing Freestival – who won’t take that personally.

“There are acts that are involved in a second show with one of the other free promoters or us that cannot transfer their Cowgatehead show to PBH unless they cancel their other show.”

So, for example, an act may have had one free show booked into Cowgatehead with Freestival AND a separate free show booked in at a Laughing Horse Free Festival venue or at one of Bob’s Heroes venues.

In those circumstances, the act could not simply cancel their Cowgatehead booking with Freestival and transfer to a Cowgatehead booking via the Free Fringe. They would also have to cancel their entirely separate show with the other promoter.

Bob tells me: “I am not sure how many this acts this effects but I know for sure Phil Kay is one act that PBH has rejected transferring because of this! Crazy!”

I have to agree with him and to lament that PBH – a man with originally good intentions – has paved the road leading to this Hellish situation. If you apply to the Free Fringe you cannot apply to any other venue operator whom PBH perceives as a rival. Like Chortle, I am aware of no other venue operator at the Edinburgh Fringe who imposes this draconian condition on applicants.

This blatant restriction of trade and limitation on acts’ freedom to perform has always been more than a little surprising coming from an organisation originally set up with the genuine intention of helping acts: an intention now apparently superseded by personal vendettas in which acts’ welfare is of secondary or no consideration.

At the end of yesterday’s blog, I drew attention to the fact that, under Scottish Law, an oral agreement constitutes a legally-binding contract and that, if the Cowgatehead people made any oral agreement with the Freestival, it would invalidate any subsequent agreement with PBH.

In a comment on my Facebook page yesterday, comedy critic Kate Copstick (who trained as a Scottish lawyer) added: “And it would seem that, legally speaking, the intervening actions and bookings etc will constitiute a homologation of the Freestival contract”

For those of us who did not train in Scottish Law, the Collins English Dictionary currently defines ‘homologate’ as:

  1. (mainly Scots law) to approve or ratify (a deed or contract)
  2. (law) to confirm (a proceeding, etc)

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Comedian Christian Talbot is sh*te at being Irish + news of an ISIS fundraiser

Christian Talbot at Soho Theatre yesterday

Christian Talbot was drinking Coke at Soho Theatre yesterday

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Christian Talbot was in London yesterday so, before his flight home to Belfast, I had a chat with him.

I thought: There will be a blog in there somewhere.

Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe I was right.

Christian won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award last year with his 12-year-old daughter Kate because of her excellently cunning flyering for his show. I can’t be bothered to repeat the story. This year, Kate is appearing on stage herself.

“She’s been plaguing me,” said Christian, “for the last few weeks saying: I want to do stand-up. If we go to the Edinburgh Fringe, can I do a spot?

“So she’s going to be in a one-off children’s gig at the Freestival. I was also in touch with Comedy 4 Kids, who are running a gig at Assembly and Kate’s been offered a spot on one of their shows. And Bob Slayer has offered her a gig on his double-decker bus.”

“Has he got a name for the double-decker bus yet?” I asked.

“I don’t think so. I told him to call it The Folly.”

“I suggested Desmond,” I said. “How’s your wife?”

Kate Talbot (right) with mum Gayle: future comedians both?

Kate Talbot (right) with mum Gayle: future comedians both?

“Oh, Gayle’s doing a comedy course at the moment,” said Christian. “So she might be doing a gig in Edinburgh too.

“She says I’m hellbent on embarrassing myself by getting better comedians from the family on stage.”

“Didn’t she used to be a boxer?” I asked.

“She did used to work in a box factory,” conceded Christian.

“Does she not,” I asked, “realise there’s no money in comedy?”

“She just wanted to do it for a bit of fun, because she likes the writing. I don’t know that she will ever do a gig. She’s telling me she won’t. But then there’s Edinburgh in August.”

“Why,” I asked, “is she doing a comedy course but then says she’s not going to perform a gig?”

“She’s just awkward. Stubborn. That’s my wife. She’s contrary.”

“From County Contrary?” I asked.

“I’d like her to do a gig,” said Christian, ignoring me. “I think she’d be very good.”

“What is your show called?” I asked.

Christian Talbot ponders the title of his Ediburgh Fringe show

Christian Talbot ponders his Edinburgh Fringe show title

Christian Talbot is Shite at Being Irish. I’m really bad at being Irish. I can’t speak Irish and all Irish traditional music sounds the same to me It’s all Diddly-diddly-aye. I also don’t ‘get’ Gaelic Football and hurling.”

“Oh,” I said, “hurling is great. It’s beautiful! I used to make TV trailers for it when I worked in Dublin. Hurling in slow motion is like ballet – but interesting. I’m amazed people don’t get their heads sliced off. Gaelic Football’s graceful too. They were made for television slomos”

“A bit violent: all of them,” said Christian.

“Wildly dangerous,” I agreed. “But, in slow motion, graceful…”

“Like one of those martial arts films,” said Christian.

“Hurling and Gaelic Football,” I said enthusiastically, “are much more exciting than soccer and don’t let’s even mention cricket, the world’s most boring game.”

“I just never got into them,” said Christian, who was born and brought up in Dublin. “My dad wasn’t particularly Irish; he always watched the BBC, so I always liked Monty Python and I’ve never been a mad drinker.”

“Heard of any stunts for Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Well,” said Christian, “I see Bec Hill is renting out space on her body. If you give her clothes – like a teeshirt with an ad for your show on – she’ll wear them. She’ll wear a different set of clothes every day during her show: clothes that other people have given her to publicise their show during her show.

“And, it’s not for Edinburgh, but did you hear about Sean Hegarty over in Northern Ireland? He had a competition on his Facebook page for people to name his show in Belfast and he said whatever got the most likes would be the title… They picked ISIS Fundraiser, so now he has to go through with it under that title. Someone told me there were threats made against the venue.”

Sean Hegarty faces up to his publicity stunt

Sean Hegarty faces up to reaction

Christian told me that yesterday so, obviously, this morning I got in touch with Sean Hegarty.

“Yeah,” he told me. “The show’s going ahead on April 13th with that title, unfortunately. All press is good press, though, and I’m using it to my advantage. I’ve got in contact with the isis charity in England who support young people against sexual exploitation. So I’m hoping to do a collection for them at the end of my show. I’ve also been in contact with the police who are completely behind me and understand the predicament I’m in.”

I feel we may hear more of this.

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Show celebrated 10th anniversary of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s death

A massed Balloon Dance last night

A massed Balloon Dance climaxed the UTC show last night

Malcolm Hardee, the godfather of British alternative comedy, drowned ten years ago – on 31st January – and I think his body was found three days later. I have a shit memory, I can’t remember exactly and I think it would be lacking in respect to him to check the actual facts.

Claire Hardee (extreme right) with her Can’t Can’t Girls

Clare Hardee (extreme right) danced with Can’t Can’t Girls

Anyway, let us assume it was three days later. That would have been 2nd February. So yesterday – 2nd February – was an appropriate night to have a tribute show in his honour at his old club Up The Creek in Greenwich.

All the usual suspects were there, including Malcolm’s sister Clare who reprised her always rousing version of the can-can with her Can’t-Can’t Girls… and Malcolm’s daughter Poppy, who has just returned from Sierra Leone without (she claimed) contracting ebola.

Unfortunately, last night’s show started with a failure.

Martin Soan attempts to piss on a member of the audience with help from Dan Lees

Martin Soan last night attempted to piss on a member of the audience with auditory water-based help from Dan Lees

Malcolm’s comedy mate Martin Soan (entirely naked, of course), attempted to urinate on a random member of the audience sitting in the front row. This had the effect of emptying the front row of everyone other than that lucky, plucky punter.

Alas, Martin was unable to summon up the piss, even when fellow performer Dan Lees attempted to help by pouring water from one pint glass into another next to Martin’s ear.

Hattie Hayridge and Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Hattie Hayridge & Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Fortunately, the rest of the show was successfully staged with bizarre acts too numerous to list and a final naked balloon dance by massed naked performers.

Oh, all right – Jayde Adams, Annie Bashford, Cheekykita, Candy Gigi, the Greatest Show on Legs, Liberty Hodes, Spencer Jones, Dan Lees, Darren Maskell, Joz Norris, Owen O’Neill, Nick Revell, John Robertson and Bob Slayer.

The show was hosted by the dead Malcolm himself – well, Terry Alderton in a wig and suit.

Terry Aldertin had a ball (well two) last night

Terry Alderton had a ball (well two) last night

It is quite easy to do a cartoon imitation of Malcolm – you just mumble and shamble a bit. But Terry succeeded in doing a masterly, spot-on impression. He managed to get in all of Malcolm’s gags (well, to be truthful, Malcolm didn’t have many), his asides, habits and physical tics. You could almost say it was an admirably subtle and successful impersonation. But ‘subtle’ is not a word to use in relation to anything Hardee-esque.

I congratulated Terry in the second interval.

“I’m trying to remember all the Malcolmisms,” he told me, “but the great thing is, if I repeat anything, it doesn’t matter, cos that’s what Malcolm did anyway.”

During the first interval in the show, performer Joz Norris – a man desperate to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe – accosted me upstairs, by Malcolm’s giant painted pastiche mural of Leonardo’s Last Supper (with Malcolm as Jesus and various other comics as his disciples).

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee whiile Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks sensible

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee while Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks unusually sensible backstage.

“You remember that idea I told you about at Christmas?” Joz started. “For winning a Cunning Stunt Award?”

“Of course I don’t remember,” I told him. “I have a shit memory.”

“I suggested,” said Joz, “that I just bribe you and give you some money in a briefcase.”

“It’s a good thought,” I told him.

“Maybe £50?” said Joz.

“You said a briefcase,” I carped.

“Well, just for the stunt,” said Joz, “but maybe only like £20.”

“I am going off the idea,” I told him.

“I could get a tiny, novelty, palm-sized briefcase and put a £5 note in it,” suggested Joz. “If we filmed me giving you a tiny briefcase with a £5 note in it, it would be funny. A worthy cunning stunt.”

2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Candy Gigi was quite restrained last night

2014 Malcolm Hardee main Award winner Candy Gigi performed a restrained act at Up The Creek last night

“Funny, but not a winner,” I said.

“The specifics of how much,” he suggested, “can be sorted out later. It’s the quality of the stunt itself that’s important, isn’t it?”

“Of course not,” I said. “It’s the quantity of the money and we decide after you give it to me if you’re going to win the award.”

“That’s a gamble,” said Joz. “But, then, I suppose a cunning stunt WOULD be a gamble.”

“It would be,” I said encouragingly. “We should try this out.”

Darren Maskell

Darren Maskell – instantly recognisable

“But imagine,” said Joz, “if I bribed you and then I didn’t win.”

“I am imagining that,” I told him.

“There’s a risk factor,” said Joz.

“Not for me,” I said.

“No,” agreed Joz. “You can’t lose.”

“Which is fair enough,” I said.

“You’re not obliged to give me anything,” said Joz.

“I like the way you think,” I told him.

“So,” said Joz, “I either come up with a way round that or accept the situation.”

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

“Acceptance is the way to go,” I told him. “Positive thinking is always a good attitude.”

“Accepting,” mused Joz, “ that you might end up with the money and I might end up poorer with no award.”

“There are always winners and losers in award shows,” I said.

“What sort of sum might make it work for me?” asked Joz.

“I think we are talking five figures,” I said. “That’s one more than The Beatles.”

“That’s £10,000,” said Joz. “Or more.”

“Or more,” I agreed. “Think positive. Or more.”

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

“I don’t have that kind of money,” said Joz, sadly.

“You can get it,” I told him.

“I certainly can’t get £10,000 together between now and Edinburgh.”

“You work with children,” I reminded him.

“It’s not as well-paid as you think,” said Joz.

“You can get a good price for children nowadays,” I told him.

“I’m not going to sell them!” said Joz.

Adam Taffler (right) with Joz Norris under the Last Supper mural

Adam Taffler (right) & Joz Norris under Last Supper mural

“Why not?” I asked. “You have to think outside the box to get a Cunning Stunt Award. Think of the publicity. The tabloids would love it.”

The organiser of last night’s extravaganza, showman Adam Taffler, told me (and I think he was being serious) that he may organise an annual 10th Anniversary of Malcolm’s Death show.

Obviously, each year, it would continue to be the 10th anniversary. Malcolm would have wanted it that way.

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Why Bob Slayer did not see the famed Norwegian sex act in 2004. Honest.

The 2004 Norwegian coupling that started it off

The 2004 Norwegian Cumshots gig coupling that started it off

Yesterday afternoon, my eagle-eyed Facebook friend and anonymous Edinburgh Fringe Scarlet Pimpernel figure Garry Platt sent me the link to a 2004 article headlined:

COUPLE HAS SEX ON STAGE AT NORWEGIAN MUSIC FESTIVAL: PHOTOS AVAILABLE

The story was that, at the Quart Festival, during a performance by Norwegian ‘death’n’roll’ band The Cumshots, a couple of activists from the suitably-named conservation group Fuck For Forest had got on stage and done what you would expect two activists from a group with that name would do.

This had happened back in 2004, but the names The Cumshots and Fuck For Forest – as well as the incident itself – rang familiar bells at the back of my mind.

Bob Slayer!” the bells chimed at the back of my mind.

This 2004 sex-on-stage incident was actually mentioned obliquely in a blog of mine in 2013.

Bob Slayer on his mobile phone last night

Peace-loving chap Bob Slayer on his mobile phone last night

So I Skyped Bob last night on his mobile phone and of course, almost inevitably, he had just come back from Norway.

Before leaping full-time into comedy performing and promoting, he used to be in the music business. One of his many enterprises was managing Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock.

“In 2004,” he told me, “I was at that Quart Festival and The Cumshots came to see Electric Eel Shock the night before it happened. They kept telling me: You must come and see our show tomorrow! But we had to leave early the next morning to play a festival in Denmark. The Cumshots wouldn’t tell me what, but I knew they were up to something and, a week later, sure enough, I read in Kerrang! magazine: NORWEGIAN BAND FINED FOR LETTING A COUPLE HAVE SEX ON STAGE.”

The Quart festival organisation was reportedly fined 50,000 NOK (look, that’s the currency; it is nothing to do with me) and the band members were fined 10,000 NOK each.

You can see The Cumshots’ toe-tapping Praying For Cancer on YouTube.

Kristopher Schau, the lead singer of The Cumshots,” Bob told me yesterday, “is a really interesting guy. As well as being in The Cumshots, he’s been on TV shows. He even had his own TV show based on the Seven Deadly Sins. In one of the episodes, he lived in a shop window for a month without washing – though I’m not sure what exact sin that is. And, in another episode, he was circumcised and ate his foreskin.

“He is a thinking man’s Jackass. It’s nonsense and weird but there’s thought and statements and I’ve watch some of his stuff with sub-titles and it’s fascinating.”

“What,” I asked, “is the philosophical depth of eating your own foreskin?”

“There is one,” Bob told me definitively. “And the Cumshots are part of a really interesting collective of Norwegian bands – Duplex Records – which is very influential. It includes bands like Hurra Torpedo, Black Debbath and Thulsa Doom.

“Kristopher Schau, the singer of The Cumshots is the drummer for Hurra Torpedo and the Cumshots’ guitarist Ole Petter Andreassen is the drummer for Black Debbath. There are five or six bands and they swap around and they’re all really interesting.”

“Not traditional rock bands?” I asked.

“Hurra Torpedo do have a guitar but, apart from that, all their other instruments are appliances like washing machines. In your blog, you MUST link to their cover of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of The Heart. It is fantastic.”

Who am I to say nay Bob Slayer? Here it is on YouTube

“So,” I asked Bob yesterday. “The couple who actually had sex on stage… Tommy Hol Ellingsen and Leona Johansson…?”

“They made porn,” explained Bob, “and wanted to sell that porn to make money to save the rainforests. But, when they tried to donate the money, charities told them: We don’t want your dirty porn money.

“So they moved to Brazil, to the rainforests, to set up their own projects, which had the knock-on effect that the value of their porn went up. They now fuck IN the forest to SAVE the forest. I haven’t Googled them recently to see if they are still going.

“I find these people really inspiring, because they are… That is a truly alternative thing to do…”

“I get the impression,” I said, “that you’ve been to Norway quite a lot. Why were you over there this weekend just past?”

Bob (left) at the Slottsfjell Festival in Norway, 2014

Bob being Bob (left) at the Slottsfjell Festival in Norway, 2014

“For the Crap åppå Park Comedy Festival.”

“Ah,” I said.

“It’s their fifth year,” said Bob, “and it’s grown and grown. Now it’s a week long.

“I’ve gigged all round Norway on the back of getting banned by the Latter Theatre in Oslo, which is basically the Jongleurs of Norway.”

“Remind me?” I said.

“Two years ago, I was performing three nights in Latter.  After the first two nights, they asked me to calm down and the third night I WAS going to calm down but they made two mistakes.

“One was that, in the afternoon, the local newspaper had us sampling Christmas beers. They gave us a bucket and said: You can spit into that.

“I said: I’m not spitting beer into a bucket. I want to drink from that bucket. So I got drunk.”

“And the second mistake?” I asked.

“In the audience that night, were The Cumshots and a guy who makes the stage props for the black metal band Mayhem – they’re the ones who killed each other and ate each others brains and now they put pigs’ heads on stage.

“My friend Spacebrain was in the audience and I thought: (a) I’m a bit drunk and (b) I can’t do a Jongleurs or Latter type gig to The Cumshots.

“So I didn’t do the calmed-down set I had been thinking of. Instead, I came off the balcony on a rope, threw fruit at the audience as I came down the rope, went on stage, pulled out a bottle of Jägermeister, drank most of that, talked about The Cumshots and… well, it was the Jägermeister was ultimately why I got banned.

Bob Slayer (left), naked atop a Norwegian caravan

Bob (left), naked atop Norwegian caravan… Things happen…

“How illegal is that in Norway? – Having a bottle on stage and pouring it? It’s very illegal. And then, when a guy said: That can’t be real Jägermeister, I poured some for this guy in the front row. Handing out free drinks to the audience is… not allowed either.

“Then, as I handed the guy in the front row the Jägermeister, I saw he was in a wheelchair. He drank it and said: Oh yeah. That’s real Jägermeister! and I said: Yes, mate. And you’ve got more chance of walking out of this gig than I have.

“When they banned me for going mental and illegal drinking, they also told me: What you said to that man in the wheelchair was not acceptable. 

“I asked: Why? Did he complain? and they said: No, but he could have done.

“I asked: What was the guy in the wheelchair’s name? and they said: It’s irrelevant.

“I said, No, his name is Lars. And I pulled out my camera and showed them photos of me and Lars drinking after the show, me and Lars and The Cumshots drinking, Lars rolling around in the road and me doing laps of honour round him in his own wheelchair and him laughing like a drain.”

“And now,” I asked Bob, “you get gigs in Norway BECAUSE you got banned?”

“I didn’t get banned this weekend, despite nearly killing someone.”

“You didn’t?” I asked.

“I did feed someone a banana and he did turn out to be allergic to bananas,” explained Bob.

“I read,” I said, “that you are running comedy at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.”

“Yes,” said Bob.“It’s their first festival in Melbourne, Derbyshire, but already they can proudly boast it’s the second biggest  Melbourne Comedy Festival in the world.”

“Have you been banned in the other Melbourne?” I asked, “or was that only in Perth?”

“I’ve never been to the other Melbourne,” said Bob.

“And you’re putting on shows in The Hive at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?” I asked.

“… and I’m working on building a mobile venue,” replied Bob.

“Poor Edinburgh,” I said. “Just when they thought they were safe.”

There is a ‘trailer’ on YouTube which gives a fair idea of the Fuck For Forest philosophy.

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Comedy critic Kate Copstick on what she likes and giving 1 & 2-star reviews

Copstickeither yawning or orgasming on a tow horse. It is difficult to be conclusive

Copstick in her Mama Biashara charity shop in London, either yawning or orgasming on a toy horse.

Comedy critic Kate Copstick and I are reviving our Grouchy Club chat show at the Edinburgh Fringe this August and also doing it as a one-off in London on 22nd February during a Jewish Comedy Day. (Neither of us is Jewish, but we are both Scottish and they are paying a fee).

“Initially, I wanted to be an actress,” Copstick told me this week, “because then I would never need to be myself. But I have never wanted to be a stand-up comic.

“Why?”

“Because a good stand-up comic is about being yourself. In the very short time that I did try stand-up, the primary thing that was wrong with me was there was nobody there.”

“Well,” I told her: “You say you didn’t want to be yourself, but you are the most opinionated, apparently-self-confident big-mouth in town. Your reviews are full of your own character. You would admit your reviews can be acerbic?”

“Yes.”

“So isn’t that cowardly? You don’t want to be yourself as a stand-up comedian to say what you think to people’s faces; but you can acerbic behind a pen”

“Maybe it is cowardly,” replied Copstick, “but, if someone gave me the chance to do a live review show I would happily do that. I happily sit in The Grouchy Club and rip into shows and criticise people. But that’s not stand-up. Stand-up is self-motivating and, the older I get, the more I realise not everyone is remotely interested in what I want to chunter on about.”

“Why are they interested?” I asked. “You clearly are the most influential and feared critic at the Edinburgh Fringe. Is it because you’ve been around so long? – You started in 1999.”

“No,” said Copstick, “I’m a good critic because I’m honest – sometimes brutally. I know what I’m talking about. I can communicate my thoughts well.”

“You say you know what you’re talking about,” I argued, “but you’ve not done stand-up properly. “

“I know enough about stand-up as the audience and about comedy in general. I think it’s a good thing to be able to criticise with inside knowledge but, on the other hand, there is absolutely no point saying: This guy was absolutely dreadful, but I feel his pain and I know what it’s like and, frankly, the audience was dreadful. That is not a valid critique.”

“Are you open-minded?” I asked.

“Very open-minded. Much more than I used to be. I’m happy to give anything a chance.”

“What did you used to be closed-minded about?”

“I used to be much more likely to go folded-armed and pursed-lipped at some free-form craziness. I used to require ‘form’. I used to think: I want to see this is a show. I want to see you’ve thought about this. I want to see you have not just wandered on-stage and are burbling to me.”

“And now you like Lewis Schaffer,” I said.

“Yes. Quite possibly Lewis Schaffer in 1999 might have driven me absolutely crazy.”

“At last year’s Edinburgh Fringe,” I said, “I know you saw Njambi McGrath’s show Bongolicious, but decided not to review it. Why?”

Njambi McGrath - Bongolicious

Njambi McGrath -“Brilliant” Fringe show

“It was listed in the Comedy section of the Fringe Programme and it wasn’t a comedy show. I thought it was a brilliant show, but not a comedy show. In the criminal areas of auto-theft, they call it a cut-and-shunt: you take the front half of one car and the back end of another car and slam them together. She had a strange little 10-minute warm-up at the start and then this EXTRAORDINARILY powerful piece of theatre about the atrocities perpetrated by white colonists in Kenya. I wrote little bits about it elsewhere, where I was not required to put a star-count on it… It was a brilliant show, but was not a 5-star comedy show. It was in the wrong section of the Fringe Programme and it would have been unfair to review it as Comedy.”

“You were telling me at the Fringe,” I said, “what you sometimes do when you write a 1-star or 2-star review of a comedy show.”

“I am hired as a critic,” said Copstick. “I have to say what I think and feel, otherwise I would just be a PR. But I think all performers deserve a fighting chance and I am, after all, only one person. If I really loathe the show, I try to make my review as entertaining as possible and as polemical as possible because I know a 1-star review will sell almost as many tickets as a 5-star review and, if you make your 1-star review polemical enough, people will go Oh my God! I have to see that! because everyone wants to see a car crash.”

“So,” I said, “in a way, a 2-star review could be worse than a 1-star review.”

“What I try to do in a 2-star review,” explained Copstick, “is seed it with combinations of words or even just one word which, if the performer is smart, they can ‘pull’ a quote from that I am happy for them to mis-use.

“The late, usually-great, Jason Wood did a show once which I thought was just appalling. It was lazy, using old stuff – ten years after people had died, he was doing half-baked impressions of them – I was really angry because Jason was a funny, funny, clever, talented guy. I ripped into the show and gave him a 1-star review but, by midnight that night, the Assembly Rooms where he was performing (under its previous owners) had big banners all over the place saying:

“A STAR!” (KATE COPSTICK, THE SCOTSMAN)

Copstick does not mind taking the piss - in this case to her doctor

Copstick likes taking the piss – in this case to her own doctor

“It was brilliant! Brilliant! Just wonderful. I am devastated to say that The Scotsman made him take the quote down. But I thought it was brilliant. If performers can be creative with their show and I can be creative with my review, then why can’t they be creative with my review of their show?

“The FringePig website – which popped up last year and which reviewed the Fringe reviewers – they did a review of me and it was surprisingly accurate. One of the things they picked up on was that now I absolutely love a maverick – Johnny Sorrow, Bob Slayer, for godsake.

“Again, we’re back to honesty and passion. I would rather see Bob Slayer – honesty, passion and drink – than some pointless, say-nothing, manufactured wannabe. Now that comedy has become an industry, one of the things that is wrong is a load of people coming in thinking Oh! I can be the next Jack Whitehall! and they stand up and are a kind of manufactured persona. There’s no real person there.

“Someone like Simon Munnery ought to get a bloody knighthood. He’s been nurturing his crazy since most of the people on stage now were foetuses.”

“You should get back on stage,” I suggested.

“I am peripherally involved in a comedy show at the Fringe this year… as well as The Grouchy Club and The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show.”

“Are you?” I asked, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

“It’s about assisted suicide.”

“Ah! The Exit guy!” I said.

“Yes. Philip Nitschke.”

Philip Nitschke

Philip Nitschke – ‘Dr Death’ does stand-up comedy

“Are you going to be killed every day?” I asked.

“No, I’m sort-of directing it. Philip is the most wonderful guy, though it’s very difficult to get him into the country because they ask: Have you come in to kill people? – No, I’m coming in to do a comedy show in Edinburgh.

“The show is Philip and female stand-up Mel Moon, who suffers from a horrible endocrine disorder. She joined Exit with a view to topping herself before she turned into a puddle.

“I love the idea, because it’s a way of using comedy to get across an incredibly powerful message. I think you can ‘kick a lot of ass’ comedically or satirically that you can’t do when presenting it straight. So we’re doing satirical sketches. Hopefully I’m also filming a documentary, looking at previews, people’s reactions, the creative process. It’s part of a bigger idea.”

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The Grotto of Comedy, blood in Bahrain and a British comic who might not exist

Bob at the bar of his Grotto last night

Bob Slayer at the bar of his merry Christmas Grotto last night

Last night I went to the media launch for promoter Bob Slayer’s December pop-up venue Heroes Grotto of Comedy in the City of London, just round the corner from the Bank of England.

It is in a building which apparently used to be one of the flagships of J.Lyons restaurants. In the course of the evening, I discovered I am the only person in Britain who did not know late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to work for J.Lyons as a research chemist and came up with a new process for storing Lyons Maid ice cream. “And she invented the Mr Whippy ice cream,” added comic Lindsay Sharman.

The pop-up venue came about because Bob Slayer and Weirdos Comedy chap Adam Larter were trying to find somewhere to stage the annual Weirdos’ panto.

A busy list of comedy acts at the nightly Grotto

A busy list of comedy acts at the nightly Grotto

Having found a temporary venue, they then decided to add more shows. So now there are nightly shows 3rd-18th December, including charity shows in aid of Shelter and the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

“In the first week,” said Bob Slayer, “we will be having Stompy, The Half-Naked Chef cooking up a festive show out in the street. You’ve seen the police out there. I think a man running around in his pants accosting City workers from 5.00pm is going to be…”

The assembled throng for the media evening included comedian Joz Norris pretending to be a reporter for the Horse & Hound magazine. No, I have no idea either.

Bob Slayer asked the assembled throng: “What did Adam Larter say to get you all here?”

“I told different people different things,” said Adam. “Some people were told it’s a party.”

John Robertson tied his wife Joe Marsh into her corset at theGrotto of Comedy last night

John Robertson tied his wife Jo Marsh into a corset before the Grotto of Comedy last night

I got talking to various people who will be performing at the Heroes Grotto, including performer John Robertson, recently returned from Australia, who told me he had met a man in the Middle East who asked him: “How are things in Brighton?”

“But I don’t live in Brighton,” John told the man.

“Yes you do,” the other man replied. “I read it in John Fleming’s blog.”

“Oh lord,” I said. “I should have recorded you saying that. It will sound good in my blog tomorrow. International readers.”

So I tried to get John repeat the story. But he got sidetracked.

Firstly by magician David Don’t (who will be appearing on the fringe of the Grotto shows most nights). He told me he had submitted a video to Objective Productions which may possibly be appearing on a TV show in January. It involves a trick that went wrong and burst into flames when he performed it at Pull The Other One comedy club. There is a clip of it online:

“And my house just caught fire last night,” he added.

“What?” I asked.

David Don’t checking nothing else has caught fire

David checking nothing else has caught fire

“We went away for the weekend and left the children in charge of the house,” he told me. “Florence, our daughter, phoned us and said: Don’t worry, dad, everything’s OK, but there’s been a fire in the house. The dishwasher burst into flames, but I put it out by pouring water all over it. The fire engines have come and taken it away and Clifford (the family dog) bit the firemen because he saw people rushing into the house with axes and big helmets and got frightened. But they had protective clothing on, so he didn’t manage to damage them too much.

“I was in Bahrain recently,” said John Robertson. “The promoters who booked me quite desperately tried to play down the fact it is a war zone.”

“A war zone?” I asked.

“Well,” admitted John, “Civil unrest… But ‘civil unrest’ is where only one side has an army and the other side is made up entirely of civilians who are being murdered routinely.”

Placid John Robertson at the launch last night

Placid John Robertson at the launch last night

“Are you sure you want to be quoted saying that?” I asked.

“I do. Well, they’re having me back in May.”

Inshallah,” said David Don’t.

“Yeah, Inshallah,” said John Robertson. “God willing. We were in a 5-star hotel. We were completely insulated from the entire world and then me and comic Liam Malone were walking down the street just trying to get anywhere that wasn’t a car park, because no-one walks in Bahrain, mostly because they’re being murdered…”

“Are you sure about saying this?” I asked.

“Yes. All we were told was: Don’t insult the King. Don’t insult the government. And we didn’t on stage. But I found their internet filter doesn’t filter out articles about dissidents being kidnapped and beaten. So I just hung out in the 5-star hotel room. I do want to go back to Bahrain.”

Brighton in England is probably safer than Bahrain

Brighton is safer than Bahrain but has considerably less sand

“Someone thought you lived in Brighton,” I prompted him. “You did used to.”

“Yeah,” said John. “And I also got in trouble last year because of your blog.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Last year,” said John, “I was on at Spank! at the Edinburgh Fringe and I was getting ready to completely die because my motormouth screaming was not quite endearing me to this audience of pissed-up scumbags and I found a little person actor – a dwarf – who wanted to crowd surf and we crowd surfed him around the room and he was told that, when he landed, his girlfriend would then remove one item of clothing to her comfort level. So she took off a sock. And, as they surfed him round the crowd, they chanted: Positive body image! Positive body image! and then I mentioned this to you in passing and you put it in your blog:

The blog that caused the aggro

A very offensive blog

“So then I got a text at 3.00am from a really gung-ho, socially-aware guy from Sydney saying: John! You can’t use the word dwarf! And I thought: But we’ve already thrown him! He really wanted to do it! Why are you so upset?

“Well, even without the Brighton story, there’s a blog there,” I said.

“You write a blog?” asked John. “I always thought that was not a phone in your hand. I thought it was a taser you liked to hold while people assaulted you with information.”

“All I wanted,” I told John, “was a little story about someone thinking you lived in Brighton. It wasn’t much to ask.”

“Well, you’ve got that,” said John, “and the future and, if we come over to this bar and order a drink, I will eventually de-materialise and we will never know if I was here or not.”

“I have saved so much money,” I said, “by not taking drugs and just hanging around comedians.”

Joz Norris having a reality check last night

Joz, with a cinnamon stick, having a reality check last night

A little later, I was talking with 25-year-old comic Joz Norris who said:

“I went to Cambodia and I had an epiphany that, if it turned out I was imaginary and everybody I knew had collectively imagined me 25 years ago, I think a lot of them would accept that. Which is not to say that I think they wouldn’t be sad. I do think they would be sad that I was not real. But I do think they would very quickly go: Yeah. It figures. The signs were there. That’s an interesting thing to think and to try to deal with in your head. Ooh! What if I AM imaginary?

“Maybe,” I suggested, “you just imagined you thought that.”

“What?” asked Joz. “The holiday in Cambodia?”

“Everything,” I said.

“Exactly,” said Joz. “It is difficult to prove any of this. The only place you really exist is in your own mind. Except possibly not.”

“Where else could you be?” I asked.

“Well,” said Joz, “if you are imaginary, then you don’t have a mind, so you can’t exist there. Maybe I only exist in your mind. Maybe people only exist in the pages of your blog.”

I imagine Bob’s Grotto will be ready in time for the first show

I imagine Bob’s Grotto will be ready in time for the first show

“But,” I said, “if you are imaginary, some person must be imagining you.”

“And that does imply it is you,” said Joz, “seeing that you are the person recording this.”

“But what if my blog does not exist?” I asked.

And perhaps it does not. It could be all in your fevered imagination, dear reader. Try to remember if you woke up this morning. Did you really awaken? Can you remember that exact moment when you regained consciousness?

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Malcolm Hardee – live on stage – in his first UK comedy show since 2005

Malcolm Hardee died in 2005... Headlined a show in 2014

Malcolm Hardee died in 2005… back headlining in 2014

When I talked to Chris Dangerfield for yesterday’s blog, he gave me a photo of an interesting comedy poster.

It was interesting because it was for a gig billed two weeks ago in London –

ZIP ZIP COMEDY
WITH MALCOLM HARDEE

I would have paid a large amount to see this gig because Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005.

Also on the bill were Ellis and Rose (billed as Ellie and Rose), Lee Kern, Rob Pybus and Tom Webb. As far as I am aware, they are all still alive.

When I asked Ellis (aka Ellie) this morning, he told me: “Ha! That gig was cancelled!”

Rob Pybus told me: “Ha! Yes – this was a bit of mistake by the publicity people at The Proud Archivist (the venue). Not only did they have the date wrong, but a line up that was a tad impossible. I wonder if anyone went? The proper night happened the following Friday and was great.”

So I asked Poppy Hillstead, who organised the gig.

Poppy Hillstead in a selfie taken this morning

Poppy Hillstead in a selfie taken this morning

“I’m unsure if anyone turned up for the gig,” she told me, “as I had the poster down quite quick! We didn’t even have a gig on that night: we actually had Trevor Lock headlining the week after. The Proud Archivist does its own posters for my show, I have no idea how they managed to get not only the wrong date but the wrong lineup – with Malcolm Hardee headlining!

“When I went in to speak to them, the staff said: We’re really excited about tonight’s show! I said: That’s great, but it’s not on and the headliner has been dead since 2005…

“They said: Aaaaw. Yeah, we should change that. And also I also pointed out that ‘Ellie’ and Rose don’t exist haha. We were meant to have a gig on that date with (Malcolm Hardee Award winners) Ellis and Rose and two other acts but it was moved to the next week because Ellis got ill and had to drop out. I don’t know how The Proud Archivist got it so wrong haha. I think they had a new poster maker in.”

“I see they also used a photograph of Malcolm,” I said, “which I took myself in about 1995.”

“They must have Googled it,” said Poppy.

Bob Slayer (left) with act Paul Currie (Photograph by Poppy Hillstead)

Bob (left) and act Paul Currie ‘finger piping’ from Paul’s show (Photograph by Poppy Hillstead)

If she had not told me the whole thing was a mistake, I might have thought it was a publicity stunt because, at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Poppy helped run (Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner) Bob Slayer’s two venues The Hive and Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop.

I asked Poppy about her experience of working with Bob this year – It is always an experience.

Poppy told me:

“The Hive smells but Bob Slayer wore the same Electric Eel Shock T-shirt every day of the Fringe and not once did it smell. By far the best smelling act was Chris Dangerfield. Nobody smells better than Chris Dangerfield, whose show Sex With Children did incredibly well. But it also meant I had to announce at the bar each night: Anyone for Sex With Children? Come on through for sex with children! This was met with disgust by people just out for a regular drink.

Bob Slayer (left) presented Wilfredo at the recent Edinburgh Fringe

Bob Slayer (left) presented Wilfredo at last month’s Fringe (Photograph by Poppy Hillstead)

“Other highlights included, every night, fetching Wilfredo‘s specially-purchased step, which prevented his bollocks getting crushed in his ridiculously tight trousers as he stepped up on stage.

“A major highlight, though, was watching Bob Slayer get his prostate checked by a lady with a very dirty industrial rubber builder’s glove.

“Now I’m back to running my own Zip Zip Comedy Night at the Proud Archivist. We want the night to be a mix of animation and live stand up from more alternative acts on the circuit. The first gig was mental: we tried to create this 3D compere which motion tracked comedian Rob Pybus‘ face in real time, projecting him as a Max Headroom type character onto the stage. But it was very complicated and deeply terrifying. We will probably bring him back at some point.

“Now we showcase a new episode of Rob’s Living Cartoon series each month. Using his skills as an animator, he projects cartoon environments and characters around him. You have to come down and see it. I will try and get Malcolm Hardee to headline it.

Trevor Lock (left) & Chris Dangerfield, by Poppy Hillstead

Trevor Lock (left) and Chris Dangerfield… by Poppy Hillstead

“Another night that I’m doing, which I’m proper excited about is Tell Us a Secret hosted by Trevor Lock with Chris Dangerfield and a showbiz pal on the panel. Comedians and the audience are asked to tell a single secret before the panel. This is going to be a good one. It is on the 17th of October!”

Maybe the whole thing with the Malcolm Hardee poster WAS a cunning stunt.

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My cheap life and how PBH changed the very costly face of the Edinburgh Fringe

Malcolm Hardee Show 2014

Tonight, I stage the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show – starting slightly late in The Counting House, one of the venues provided by the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I am old enough to remember Swinging London and the Summer of Love. I helped out briefly at The Free Bookshop – it was a garage in Earl’s Court – where people donated the books they had read and other people could come along, take them away, read them and, if they wanted to, bring them back.

I even went barefoot for a brief time, but grit and dog turds on suburban London pavements proved to be a deterrent to long-term foot liberation.

The International Times ‘it’ girl

The iconic ‘it’ girl on the hippie International Times logo

Later, I was Film Section Editor – I wrote reviews and gossip about movies – for a re-incarnation of iconic hippie newspaper International Times (latterly called simply it after The Times threatened legal action on the basis people might confuse the two).

So I am no stranger to the concept of “Let’s make it free, man” which has now changed the face of the Edinburgh Fringe.

There are currently four free organisations at the Fringe: the original PBH Free Fringe… the breakaway Free Festival… Bob Slayer’s Pay What You Want model which is separate from but happily co-exists with the Free Festival… and the Freestival, this year’s new breakaway from PBH. I understand that, next year, there may even be a fifth free organisation.

My first involvement with the free organisations at the Edinburgh Fringe was in 2008, when I helped stage a comedy show for a performer.

This year’s PBH Fringe logo

This year’s PBH Fringe logo

The performer wanted to go with the PBH Free Fringe, so I staged my other show with the Free Festival to keep a foot in both camps. If the performer had wanted to go with the Free Festival, I would have staged the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards shows with PBH.

In 2011, I staged some chat shows with the Free Festival.

In 2013, I staged some chat shows with Bob Slayer’s Pay What You Want operation.

And this year’s Grouchy Club chat-with-the-audience shows are with the Free Festival.

The ‘free’ show model is that the audience pays nothing in advance. They can pay whatever they want (or nothing) on leaving. It is like indoor busking.

With the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award Shows, I take no profit and cover none of my costs. 100% of any and all money donated goes to Kate Copstick’s admirable Mama Biashara charity in Kenya.

On my Grouchy Club shows, no money is collected. The shows are totally free. This is because I am old enough to know how to stage 23 hour-long shows for a total cost of £60.

I love Edinburgh.

My favourite places in the world are Edinburgh, Prague and Luang Prabang in Laos. I feel more at home in Edinburgh than anywhere else. Which is strange, as I have never had a home here.

My other childhood destination in August

Isle of Whithorn: Another childhood destination in August

When I was a kid, after my parents moved to London, my family used to go to Scotland every August for our summer holidays – we stayed (for free, obviously) with relations in Wigtownshire where both my parents grew up, and in Edinburgh, where my father had an aunt. After I left college, I started going to the Edinburgh Film Festival (then in August; now in June). And, around 1985, I started going to the Edinburgh Fringe. So I have been going to Edinburgh in August for most of my life, possibly since I was an embryo.

And, perhaps excepting two years, for free.

When I was accredited at the Film Festival, I happily sat in press screenings in darkened rooms from 10.00am to 10.00pm.

When I came to the Fringe, it was usually scouting talent for TV companies, publishers or whatever.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

The three Malcolm Hardee Awards, awaiting their collection

I started the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in 2007 partly because I thought Malcolm (who drowned in 2005) deserved to be remembered, definitely because I wanted to see new comedy talent and partly because it was a good way to get free tickets to every comedy show in Edinburgh for ten years. (I had trophies made in advance for 2007-2017.)

In 2007, shows were mostly pay-to-see at a rapidly escalating rate. If a show costs £10 and you see 6-8 shows per day for perhaps 28 days, that adds up. Well, at that rate, 6 shows per day actually adds up to £1,680.

It is said that the Free Fringe was started by PBH (Peter Buckley Hill) with one show in 1996. But it took a few years to get momentum going and it was probably just before I started the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards that the Free Fringe started having a serious impact.

In 2008, PBH himself was nominated for the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality for starting the Free Fringe (the award eventually went to comic Ed Aczel) and, in 2009, PBH won the panel prize from the Perrier Award (which, that year, was calling itself the Edinburgh Comedy Awards).

This year, PBH has again been nominated for one of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards – as the Act Least Likely to Make a Million Quid because (the nomination says) “unlike most acts, Peter has heroically never aspired to make any money from the Fringe and has staunchly defended his free model.”

Peter has said he declines to be nominated: “I did not seek it and do not want it.”

Well, you can’t really turn down a nomination. You can turn down an award, if it were to be offered (which it has not been yet, at the time of writing) or send a Native American Indian along, like Marlon Brando did at the Oscars. There is, luckily, a community of Native American Indians in nearby Glasgow, left behind from when Buffalo Bill performed his Wild West show there in the early 20th century…

The Act Most Likely Award awaits its fate in Edinburgh this morning

The Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely’ Award awaits its fate in Edinburgh this morning

I have no idea if Peter will win this, one of the three increasing prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards. We decide this afternoon and announce the full awards at midnight tonight, during the Counting House show.

But he deserves an Award. He has changed the face of the Fringe.

Most of the shows I saw at the Fringe this year were free shows.

All three of the nominees for the main Comic Originality Award were performing free shows.

For the Cunning Stunt Award, two of the nominees were flyerers and the other one was performing a free show.

In the Act Most Likely To category, both the nominees were linked to free shows.

That reflects a major change in the Fringe.

Janey Godley podcasts with daughter Ashley Storrie

Janey Godley (left) podcasts with daughter Ashley Storrie

In her podcast last week, my comedy chum Janey Godley, who has always very successfully performed in pay venues at the Fringe, revealed that, next year, she will be performing in a free venue. I know that she and her husband go through Fringe revenues with a fine tooth comb. This is not a minor change. If someone with Janey’s profile in Edinburgh is prepared to move from the pay model to the free model, others will move.

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Critic Kate Copstick talks about S&M at the Edinburgh Fringe’s Grouchy Club

Copstick with Simon after the Grouchy Club

Copstick and Simon after yesterday’s Grouchy Club, her broken arm recovering in a sling

The Grouchy Club has been running at the Edinburgh Fringe for sixteen days now and we are getting regular members of the audience – both comedians and ordinary members of the public – coming back day after day. Yesterday, notable newcomers included a CNN reporter and a large man in a leather jacket.

“The gent in the back row looks vaguely ‘industry’ to me,” I said. “An ageing roadie, perhaps.”

“Well,” said my co-host, Kate Copstick, her arm in a sling after a fall the previous day. “I first worked with Simon in…”

“What does Simon do?” I asked.

“Well,” Simon said, “I used to be a TV producer and then went on to other things…”

“We did programmes on motor bikes,” said Copstick, “and then we did sex. We did porn.”

“Do we talk about this?” I asked.

“Well,” said Copstick, “he’s a happily-married man with two children; I don’t see why not.”

We were also graced with the presence of Miss Behave, co-presenter with comedian Janey Godley of next Friday’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. Copstick is presenting the actual Awards at the show.

“You know,” I said to Miss Behave, “that Copstick has smashed her elbow in now?”

“I know,” said Miss Behave. “I think there should be a slave for Copstick on the show. I don’t care which forums we scout. It could be Fringe forums; it could be other forums. You just need someone whose idea of heaven would be to jump when Copstick blinks – goes and makes her coffee or helps her to the toilet.”

Kate Copstick cares in Kenya

Kate Copstick used to go clubbing (not baby seals)

“I think those people might be few and far between,” said Copstick. “Though, when I used to go clubbing – to SM clubs – I went as a sub but, because of the way I dressed, everyone thought I was not. So I was constantly getting sad little men coming up wanting to be my slave and the one time I said Yes, it was just embarrassing.

“I only went there so someone would rip three kinds of shit out of me with a whip and then I had this strange little man following me around and I had to spend hours every day working out things for him to do… I’ll do that… No, let me do it!

“This year,” I said, “the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show is lacking in nudity because we don’t have the Greatest Show On Legs.”

“We could,” suggested Miss Behave, “just cough and Bob Slayer would pop up.”

“We could run an advert,” suggested Copstick: “Someone needed to get their cock out on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

“And who better than you?” I suggested. “But the CNN lady looked particularly interested when S&M clubs were mentioned.”

“I have a friend who has a slave,” said Miss Behave, “and, in return for her walking on him with heels or whatever, he cleans her house, he cleans her shoes…”

“There’s a lot of ‘sissy mates’,” said Copstick.

“I personally would not be able to handle it,” said Miss Behave.

“I,” said Copstick, “have a friend who married her slave and he was something like a really high-up merchant banker or investment banker who comes home to run around in an apron and heels.”

“As far as I can gather,” I said, “the men who want to be submissive tend to be in positions of power at work whereas I, being only increasingly prestigious, don’t need it.”

“But,” said Copstick, “once you become truly prestigious…”

“Ah, then,” I said, “I guess I will suddenly have an urge to head for the apron, will I?”

“Have we,” asked Miss Behave, “got Russian Egg Roulette at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Have we got ponchos?” asked Miss Behave.

“If anyone wants one,” I said.

Miss Behave’s Game Show

This year, Miss Behave has gone all glittery golden

“Can I play again?” asked Miss Behave.

“Of course,” I said.

“I won’t be in rubber this year,” said Miss Behave, “I will be wearing gold and I don’t want to get eggs all over it.”

This will be worth seeing.

On Friday. Be there.

Malcolm Hardee Show 2014

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