Tag Archives: British Comedy Guide

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 22: Psychopath viciousness v Malcolm Hardee Awards

In the morning, I got queries because some prat had put comments on multiple performers’ listings on the Edinburgh Fringe website congratulating them for winning the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality. The messages were signed ‘Malcolm Hardee’.

None of them had won.

Malcolm drowned in 2005.

Performers with experience of the Fringe thought the messages were odd but dismissed them as fake. Many newer performers took them at face value, thought they had won an Award and were then disappointed.

In at least two cases, performers new to the Fringe were in tears.

I contacted the squatters who are staging a comedy play Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink tonight, the central conceit of which is that Malcolm faked his own drowning and has returned to the Fringe. Yesterday, they were keen to promote it.

They claimed it was not them.

I posted on social media a carefully measured and restrained message:


Someone is posting on the EdFringe site entries for random performers telling them that they have won the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

They have not.

The shortlist was announced on Monday

The winners are not decided until Friday. No-one has yet won any Malcolm Hardee Award and only those on the short list could win.

This has so far resulted in several people being disappointed and at least two people being reduced to tears.

If anyone knows the psychopathic cunt who is trying to hurt other performers, let me know. And if anyone would like to break the fucking legs and arms of the person doing it, I would be obliged.


Picture of a Chippendale comedian in stitches

In a physical injury totally unconnected with this, comic Phil Chippendale turned up at the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club a couple of days ago after a visit to hospital.

He told us then that he had had four stitches in his head but, today, he revised that to say it was only a three stitch wound, “but it read like a four”.

Ian Dunn of the British Comedy Guide, a regular at the Grouchy Club, told us he had managed to get a question included on BBC Radio’s Round Britain Quiz about Edinburgh Fringe comedy awards, including a cryptic reference to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards which no-one, including a professional comic on the team, managed to decode.

Malcolm used to listen to Round Britain Quiz in prison and dazzle his fellow prisoners with the number of questions he got right. They never twigged that he listened to the repeat transmission with them, but had already heard the first transmission alone.

In the evening, on the way to see the former Wibbley Wobbley squatters’ one-off performance of Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink, I met submariner comic Eric who said that he had received a “weird” message this morning about winning a Malcolm Hardee Award. He had dismissed it as fake because, as he has been very successfully performing his Tales From The Sea show here for the last ten years, it was unlikely he would suddenly win an award for Originality.

Which. alas, brings us to Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink.

Malcolm used to introduce new acts with: “Could be good; could be shit.”

Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink was previewed in New Cross last Friday. Someone who saw it emailed me:


Last night I saw a play called Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink… I think it was probably one of the worst I have ever seen on so many levels – Oh dear. I think it’s heading for Edinburgh. Definitely SHIT… with capitals. Only potential redeeming feature they tried to put the Balloon Dance in at the end. Two of them got naked with a balloon – I have seen car crash things before which are amusing because how shit they are. This is not one of those. One of the cast at the end tried to show some spirit of the balloon dance, got naked and then said “Sorry, no choreography” and then another cast member got naked so was stupid.


The problem with the new, improved version tonight was that it was incoherent.

Being a shambles is forgivable. Being incoherent is not.

After asking who in the audience had heard of Malcolm Hardee (it was about half-and-half), a lady appeared on stage who (I think) gave some background but in such a thick somewhere-in-Europe accent that I have no real idea what she said. And I knew the subject. What the less clued-up people in the audience made of it I can’t begin to imagine.

There were two funny things in the one hour duration.

A piece of wooden scenery fell over three times (unintentionally) and there was a giant silver fish about 18 inches long which a cast member attempted to put in his mouth (nothing to do with Malcolm).

The real Malcolm Hardee (top) and the re-enacted version

The plot seemed to be confused about whether it centred on the police looking for Freddie Mercury’s stolen birthday cake or looking for Malcolm who had returned from his fake death or looking for multiple people pretending to be Malcolm.

Along the way, there were bizarre miscalculations like lighting a firework which was not stuck up a bum (what was the point?)… having an un-choreographed shambling around balloon dance with three naked men and a half-naked woman (why bother and why insert a woman wearing panties?)… and an admittedly funny gag involving a teabag (except it is actually a famous, allegedly-true, story about Tommy Cooper, totally unconnected to Malcolm).

There were also bizarre basic errors like saying Malcolm was aged 31 in 1985 (he was born in 1950) and that, when the police lifted his body out of the dock, he was holding a glass (it was a beer bottle, according to the police report at the Coroner’s Court).

A shambles might have been a fitting tribute.

Incoherence and pointlessness is not.

It was a disappointing evening.

When an irrelevant fish and falling scenery get the biggest laughs, you know you have problems.

And, on the way back to my flat, a cash machine swallowed my bank card.

Life.

Tell me about life.

Publicity for Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink

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Behind the scenes of Ariane Sherine’s “Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn” video

Yesterday’s blog was about Ariane Sherine’s comic music video of her Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn. I play the UK Labour Party leader. In just over a day, the YouTube video had been seen by over 2,000 people.

There has been feedback.

Ian Dunt, editor of the politics.co.uk website Tweeted: @ArianeSherine‘s deeply disturbing sexual obsession with Jeremy Corbyn continues. Profoundly NSFW.

After Ariane Tweeted: “Joking aside, I am going to vote Labour on June 8th, and I urge you to do the same,” one annoyed woman Tweeted: “I am wondering quite genuinely what would move you to compose such a vituperative piece of video.”

When I pointed out that ‘humour’ was involved, the lady replied sic in three Tweets (too many letters for one): “Assuming your epreiteration affirms your claim that this was purely ‘humour’ rather than malice emitting flatus or being urinated on by dogs it seems to be pitched at those who would laugh as easily at people falling over.”

So I think this shows both that the video has hit a wide audience and proved that a little linguistic learning is no guarantee of coherence.

Kate Copstick, doyenne of UK comedy critics and never one to overstate the case, commented from Kenya: “John Fleming is a revelation. Part sex god and part tragic hero. A vastly untapped dramatic potential.”

She has a point.

The top reviews are in: “Part sex god and part tragic hero”

On Facebook, Mervyn Stutter, the talent-spotting equivalent of Simon Cowell at the Edinburgh Fringe for over a quarter of a century, appeared to want to book me on his Fringe show this year but, on further probing, backtracked, saying: “We only want the bed scene. Can you do 5 minutes?”

I find that both sexist and ageist.

A more heartwarming response was from Mysterious Mark who runs the British Comedy Guide website. He is nicknamed ‘Mysterious Mark’ because he does not like photos being taken of him and, a couple of people have told me, he seems not to cast reflections in mirrors.

He e-mailed me:

“I’m not sure if this is flattering or not to say John, but I honestly didn’t recognise you until about half way through watching the video. Then I remembered you mentioning, the last time we met, that you were about to play the Labour leader and it all came together in my mind and I went “WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! IS IT? YES, IT IS JOHN!”. It wasn’t until the credits rolled I was 100% sure though. It really is a fantastic video… well, apart from the bit where we get to see your thrusting behind,”

Ariane preparing for a sad part of the video

I told him that Ariane has great attention to detail.

She downloaded four headshots of Jeremy Corbyn from the internet (different angles) and then had them blown up and combined onto what I guess was an A2 photograph.

She then booked me into a top hair stylist and they cut my beard to the correct shape with those photos as reference. My eyebrows are bushier than Corbyn’s, so they lessened the depth (front to back) of my eyebrows and re-shaped them. He also has a pointier chin than me but the shaping of the beard helped change my apparent jaw shape.

We were going to add hair on top (Corbyn is not bald on top; I am) but this didn’t work properly, so she bought a Lenin hat and a Panama hat – both of the exact type and colour Corbyn has worn – (the Panama hat band is of a colour type he has worn). So the top of my head is covered at all times. Interesting aside – a Lenin cap and a Lennon cap are the same thing, which I had not consciously twigged.

The suit colours are as per Corbyn and the spectacles were replicas of the type Corbyn has appeared in (The bastard now seems to not wear specs!!!)

It is the beard and me looking over the top of the specs (which Corbyn does) which confuse the look of my face. If I looked over the top of the specs and kept my chin down, it looked more Corbyny.

Morning Star front-page; the back is even better

There are two jokey fake Morning Star covers and back pages in correct type style. And much more.

The props, hair and beard trims and extras appearing in crowd scenes cost Ariane over £1,000 combined.

The video was shot and edited by the unnecessarily tall Graham Nunn, Ariane’s best friend of 20 years whom she married for real last month.

He gave Ariane £50 worth of ASOS vouchers for Christmas and she spent them on a wedding dress for the Corbyn video – not knowing that she and Graham would fall back in love and she would end up marrying him for real in the Corbyn dress in Las Vegas.

Love Song for Jeremy Corbyn is only the second script she has done since leaving television writing in 2008. The last television series she worked on was the BBC1 primetime sitcom My Family.

Ariane has been involved in various videos since then, including one for her Hitler Moustache song in which Charlie Brooker (creator of Black Mirror) and her now-husband Graham Nunn both appeared.

Love Song for Jeremy Corbyn is the first video she has ever directed.

“At times,” she says, “I got frustrated with the process, but I think I got the best out of John Fleming and he’s actually a really decent actor, given that I cast him for his looks rather than his acting!”

That is one of the crosses I have to bear. Women just want me for my body, not for my mind. In fact, Ariane had tried to hire a professional Jeremy Corbyn lookalike to cavort in bed with her. There were plenty available, but the going rate – for example at the Susan Scott Lookalikes agency – was “£600 for up to three hours plus expenses plus VAT” which, Ariane says, “made me think it might be cheaper to hire the man himself.”

She settled for me because although I would nor work for peanuts (I don’t like them) I would work for green tea and Tesco baked beans.

Ariane plied me with Tesco baked beans

She also brought in various extras for crowd scenes, including comics Kayleigh Cassidy, Siân Doughty, Henrik Elmer, Angelo Marcos, and Tommy West.

“The extras,” says Ariane, “were all brilliant and I couldn’t have asked for more professional, easy-to-work-with, punctual supporting actors. It could have been stressful, but I totally loved the day of the ensemble shoot.

“It was hard to simultaneously act and direct. The scene where John is singing to me (the singing voice is actually her husband Graham’s) and taking the engagement ring out of his pocket was the hardest to get right. In contrast, the sex scenes were surprisingly easy!”

It has been often said that I am surprisingly easy, bordering on the desperate.

Ariane’s favourite scene is the one in which Jeremy Corbyn looks at a framed photo of Diane Abbott during sex and has an immediate orgasm. I suggested I should twitch my toes at this point, which Ariane thought worked well.

I am available for roles in any upcoming porno foot fetish films.

Ariane has said in print: “John’s house, used for the shoot, is still cluttered with Jeremy Corbyn video props. At some stage, he will get his house back.”

I am not so sure. As with my house, so with my sanity.

There is a clause in my contract with Ariane saying that I will have my house back but, as all Marx Brothers fans will atest, everybody knows there ain’t no Sanity Clause.

And yes, obviously, my threshold of shame is high.

Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn is one of 13 tracks on Ariane’s album Beautiful Filth, which is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc.

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Sachsgate & the Mail on Sunday – How people became offended second hand

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Yesterday, I was at Brunel University in London, where their Centre For Comedy Studies Research had a panel discussion on Comedy, Class and Offence.

Mark Boosey, esteemed and eternally mysterious British Comedy Guide boss, brought up the 2008 ‘Sachsgate Affair’ in which vast offence was reported after a BBC Radio 2 edition of The Russell Brand Show.

On the show, Russell and guest co-presenter Jonathan Ross had phoned up actor Andrew Sachs (Manuel in Fawlty Towers) to invite him on as a guest. When he did not answer the phone, four messages were left mentioning that Russell had had sex with Sachs’ granddaughter, who was one of the performers in a ‘baroque dance group’ called Satanic Sluts.

Some extracts from the messages are below:

Sachsgate - BBC picture

MESSAGE ONE
Jonathan Ross: ”He fucked your granddaughter… “

MESSAGE TWO
Russell Brand: “I wore a condom.”

MESSAGE THREE
Jonathan Ross: “She was bent over the couch…”

This caused a furore. And Ofcom fined the BBC £150,000.

However, yesterday, Mark Boosey gave the timeline for the public’s outrage:

SATURDAY 18th OCTOBER 2008
The pre-recorded show was transmitted.

SUNDAY 19th OCTOBER
The BBC noted two complaints in its log of listeners’ views. One referred directly to the Andrew Sachs section.

Mail on Sunday - Sachsgate

The Mail on Sunday’s trigger for Sachsgate

SUNDAY 26th OCTOBER
Eight days after the broadcast, the Mail On Sunday ran a main story on the Andrew Sachs answerphone messages.

MONDAY 27th OCTOBER
The BBC received 1,585 complaints.

TUESDAY 28th OCTOBER
The total number of complaints rose to 4,772.

WEDNESDAY 29th OCTOBER
By 10.00am, the number of complaints had reached 18,000 and, at 11.30am, the BBC suspended Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. At 5.45pm, Russell Brand quit his show.

THURSDAY 30th OCTOBER
By 11.30am, the number of complaints had reached 30,500. At 5.50pm, BBC Controller of Radio 2 Lesley Barber resigned. At 6.21pm, with complaints now at 37,500, the BBC announced Jonathan Ross was being suspended without pay for 12 weeks.

FRIDAY 7th NOVEMBER
Radio 2’s Head of Compliance, David Barber, resigned.


Mark Boosey yesterday pointed out that only two people who heard the broadcast on transmission had been offended (perhaps only one) and it had taken eight days for 1,583 other people to have been offended second-hand.

What it all proves I do not know, but it must prove something. I personally thought what was broadcast (which I have listened to) was way-way-over-the-line into unacceptable offensiveness.

Yet, on 9th November 2008, Russell Brand told the Observer that what had been broadcast had been “toned down”: that “the worst bits” were cut out before the broadcast – presumably they believed the new version was not offensive.

I guess it also shows that, in a world of instant TV, radio and internet, newspapers still have a big effect. And it had a lasting effect even after it ‘ended’.

On Friday 21st November 2008, after publishing a report on the incident, the BBC Trust said that a list of “high-risk radio programmes” should be put together to prevent a repeat of what happened.

That is simultaneously sensible and unsettling and the BBC have, arguably, been running scared ever since.

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The end of the Edinburgh Fringe: death, reviewers, pigs, ham-fistedness & drink

Edinburgh Fringe George IV Bridge stunt

Goodbye to all this… at the Edinburgh Fringe

Yesterday’s blog was supposed to be about my journey back from the Edinburgh Fringe to London on Sunday but I got side-tracked by the unexpected news of the death of TV producer Danny Greenstone.

So it goes.

I should have paid attention at the start of the journey. At the St Andrew’s bus station in Edinburgh, young Fringe wannabe theatricals about to catch an earlier coach were chatting at the departure gate by me and one of them – I think trying to impress the others with his cool – started talking about the death of 21-year-old Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the 21-year-old who was the first black actor to play the Broadway lead – as Jean Valjean – in Les Misérables. He lost his balance and fell four storeys to his death from a Brooklyn fire escape early on Saturday.

So it goes.

“But at least he left something,” the young British theatrical said in Edinburgh. “He did something first. He had a record.” His young Fringe wannabe theatricals seemed to agree this was important.

Being ‘a success’ may also involve a large dollop of loopiness. Before I left, reviewer Kate Copstick had told me something which she later posted on Facebook:


Kate Copstick at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Kate Copstick at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photograph by Garry Platt)

After the dozens and dozens of acts who seem to regard my non-attendance at their show as a deliberate slight on their brilliance and an attempt to derail their deserved success, to say nothing of those PRs and promoters who seem to think I am part of their team, I get this (I have removed the name of the performer, but it relates to a review – a hugely positive review) in Scotland on Sunday that I wrote. If I was not so tired I would be angry …

“I don’t mean to be ungrateful but I was expecting a review with stars. A good review would have been very helpful because the English press have been hating us. I’m sorry but I need to ask this.”


This is almost surreal in that the performer:

  1. appears to be unable to spot a good review when he reads it
  2. has not noticed that Scotland on Sunday never includes stars in Copstick’s column
  3. seems to think a good review without stars is not a good review
  4. thinks it is either likely or possible that a newspaper is going to reprint a previously-published review with stars added (which is what he was actually asking for)

Reviews, of course, are both the dream and the nightmare of performers at the Fringe and some of the fly-by-night publications employ (unpaid) youngsters who are barely literate, let alone knowledgable.

Either last year or the year before, promoter and performer Bob Slayer got talking in one of his late-night chat shows to a ‘comedy critic’ for one of these Fringe publications whose reviews are coveted on many a poster.

Morecambe and Wise - akin to World War II

Morecambe and Wise – akin to World War II ?

It turned out that this young comedy critic passing wise judgment on shows at the Fringe had not only never seen but never actually even heard of Morecambe and Wise. For this blog’s foreign readers, this is akin to someone writing learned history books who is unaware the Second World War ever happened.

Last year, the online Fringepig website appeared, which reviewed the reviewers.

This year – last Saturday night – the first Ham Fist Awards were announced on board Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus on behalf of Fringe Pig.

I could not go but Sandra Smith, this blog’s South Coast correspondent, could. She tells me:


Bob Slayer on the bus with his Flying Fuck Award

Bob Slayer on the BlundaBus with his Flying Fuck Award

The evening kicked off a little after 12.30am, when Bob was presented with the Flying Fuck Award, specially made for him out of copper wire. It was presented to him because, by common consent, it was decided that he really doesn’t give a flying fuck.

Bob appeared very pleased with this, and carried it with him for the rest of the evening.

Ian Wolf, data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, was awarded an Unsung Heroes Award. He received a panda mask and a pen. Rules were being made up as they went along.

Ian Wolf - proud winner of a panda mask

Ian Wolf – proud panda mask winner

At one point, Bob was trying to recall an event. Convinced that I knew the answer from a half-remembered John Fleming blog, I leapt to my feet and shouted: “Was it the joke told by Julian Clary about fisting Norman Lamont at the British Comedy Awards?”

It was not. I was a quarter of the way through a beer at the time, so I can’t even put it down to alcohol. Just old age, a bad memory and enthusiasm.

Amongst the chaos that ensued, Bob replied with two questions:

“Do you know what fisting means?”

and, pointing at me,

“Who’s got my mother pissed?”

Not feeling in the slightest bit ridiculous, I still resolved not to be so hasty in future… until the next time. People then thought that I WAS his mother, yet again.

The evening continued apace, with the Ham Fist Award being given to Stuart Goldsmith, the reviewee, who will be receiving a £200 prize.

Stuart Goldsmith (left) with Bob Slayer

Happy Stuart Goldsmith (left) with Bob Slayer

The Ham Fist Award reviewer for 2015 was Graeme Connelly, of The List, who won £50 for writing Stu Goldsmith’s winning review.

Runner up was Chortle‘s reviewer Paul Fleckney, who had reviewed a show not by going to see it but by watching it live on Periscope

Sometime after 2.00am, everyone piled outside for a group photograph and Stuart Goldsmith headed off with his fiancée. They are expecting a baby on January 29th 2016 and seemed very excited by it and keen to tell people. Or was that Bob?


I should point out that Sandra has admitted drinking a little while on the BlundaBus.

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Whither comedy? Comics in cowls and fowl-mouthed government ministers

Yesterday, the second annual very well-organised British Comedy Guide’s  Big Comedy Conference in London was mostly about sitcom-writing and actor Neil Pearson posed an interesting question to writers Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, which was Why comedy writers often write in pairs but drama writers almost never do?

Turbaned comic Phil Kay at last night’s Soirée Subterranea

Turbaned comic Phil Kay hosted Soirée Subterranea last night

No-one had an answer to this question beyond the tentative suggestion that you have to try-out comedy on another objective person to see if it is actually funny and it helps to have someone else to bounce ideas off. This is true enough but surely much the same applies to drama plots and (in that awful US phrase) emotional arcs?

Soiree Subterranea

Brunel was known for his large shaft but did not foresee this

I had to miss the very end of the 9½ hour Big Comedy Conference in Clerkenwell to get down to Rotherhithe in time for the start of Martin Soan and Adam Taffler’s Soirée Subterranea where the secret location, only revealed to ticket-buyers on the day, was the disused access shaft to the Thames Tunnel – the first public tunnel under the River Thames (Rotherhithe to Wapping) constructed 1825-1843 by Brunel.

Dan Lees provided a cheese-themed Papal blessing

Dan Lees provided cheese-themed Papal blessing for the mass

The Thames Tunnel Shaft aka The Grand Entrance Hall aka The Great Bore (it was a tunnelling wonder of its time) is under the Brunel Museum. It is apparently half the size of Shakespeare’s Globe and used to host shows by acrobats, tightrope walkers and ‘serenaders’.

Robed and hooded comedians last night

Assembled robed and hooded alternative comedians last night

Last night, amid grey plastic robed and hooded ‘monks’ hiding various alternative comedians, there were chanted comedy routines, a medieval singing trio, classical(ish) dancing, lutes, accordions, three stand-up Isambard Kingdom Brunels and much more. Oh – and it got quite cold, something I had not reckoned with, despite knowing it was in a large underground concrete-and-stone chamber.

The Human Loire pours Rice Krispies into his trousers

The Human Loire pours Rice Krispies into his period trousers

The highlight for me – indeed, the highlight of almost any evening for me – was Michael Brunström as The Human Loire (France’s longest river) reciting a section of The Knight’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with correct Middle-English pronunciation while eating Rice Krispies and milk from his medieval trousers.

The Three Isamabard Kingdom Brunels

Never in Canada’s Delta: Three Isamabard Kingdom Brunels

I returned home to yet another e-mail from this blog’s Canadian correspondent: Anna Smith. For unexplained reasons, she was in the not-totally-vibrant Vancouver suburb of Delta and told me:

“Delta is known for its mud, ditches, boat ramps and pumping stations. Front page news here is BARN FULL OF POTATOES ENGULFED IN FLAMES. The report says: More than twenty firefighters battled the blaze for three hours. No injuries were reported.

The public has a right to know these things...

Front page news in today’s tabloid

Meanwhile, back in the less parochial UK, this morning’s Mail On Sunday front-paged the story: MINISTER STAGED OBSCENE COMMONS DEBATE FOR A BET.

This is a story about the British government’s Communities Minister, Penny Mordaunt, making a speech on poultry during a debate on Parliament’s Easter Adjournment.

As reported by the Mail On Sunday, she “said ‘c**k’ six times, ‘lay’ or ‘laid’ five times and mentioned the names of at least six Marines officers during a debate on poultry welfare.”

Last week, the Mail On Sunday reports, she “confessed to the stunt” while receiving a prize at The Spectator magazine’s Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. Her award was for a speech earlier this year during which she uttered the words ‘penis’ and ‘testicles’.

Whither comedy?

 

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Comedy awards: how they start, how they get credible & where they may lead

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Desperate posing with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Comedy awards seem to be a growing industry.

In this blog a couple of days ago, Brian Damage and Vicky de Lacy mentioned that, at the Edinburgh Fringe one year, they had given a Derriere Award in competition with the then Perrier Award.

I have been giving my own increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards since 2007 and they will continue until 2017 when I run out of the increasingly prestigious trophies made by increasingly prestigious mad inventor John Ward.

This week, the British Comedy Awards announced their nominees for 2014. And, on Thursday, there is the announcement of the 3rd annual Gareth Morinan Alternative New Act of The Year Award, seldom known by its acronym The GMANAOTYA.

“I hear your annual award is becoming increasingly prestigious,” I told him.

Gareth Morinan talked to me at Soho Theatre

Gareth Morinan talked to me at the Soho Theatre

Surprisingly Credible is the line I go for,” he told me. “because no-one expects anyone to care about any…erm… definitely not my awards.”

“I was surprised two years ago,“ I said, “when a couple of people were clearly very pissed-off at not being nominated for my awards. I thought But it’s only the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards!

“I take them very seriously,” said Gareth. “I’m still working towards winning one day.”

Fringe Report,” I said, “once gave me an award for being the best awarder of awards. Frankly, I’m saddened I have never been nominated for your award.”

“There is a strict application process,” explained Gareth. “The main thing is you have to apply. I put up an advert; I get maybe 50 responses; and then I pick the 10 or 12 acts that sound most interesting.”

“Pity I’m not an act,” I said. “So what type of acts do they have to be?”

“Interesting.” said Gareth. “It’s for people who are doing something a bit different. Interesting. That’s the criteria I tell people to judge on and that’s what I book the acts based on.”

“I set up the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards so I could get free tickets to shows,” I said. “That was before free shows got started at the Fringe. Now I mainly go to free shows because they tend to be the more interesting and original ones. So I needn’t have bothered to set up the Awards in the first place.”

The show that started the Gareth Morinan Awards

The show that started Gareth’s Awards

“The only reason I set up my awards,” said Gareth was to get an audience for a preview of my debut Edinburgh Fringe show two years ago. I had a double preview booked, the other performer dropped out and I thought: Shall I book another act who will probably bring two of their friends? Or shall I just announce a ‘new act’ competition which means ten acts will turn up bringing their friends? It was the best-attended preview I had ever done.

“I thought that was pretty clever. But what is not clever is then carrying it on as a serious competition for two years after.”

“Especially,” I said, “as it might risk becoming prestigious.”

“I think it has become credible,” said Gareth. “Maybe in several years time it will become prestigious.”

“Why has it got credible?” I asked. “Because you chose the right people?”

“Well,” said Gareth, “people reviewed it last year and the winners of my award always go on to get nominated for a better award. Adam Larter, who won the first year, got nominated for a Chortle Award. Michael Brunström won last year and went on to be nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.”

“What is happening this year?” I asked.

“On Thursday,” said Gareth, “it might actually be a proper gig. Barry Ferns has given me his Angel Comedy Club for one night, so there will be an actual audience there who will not know what to expect, which will be great. Everyone gets a vote, including the acts.”

“But,” I checked, “they are not allowed to vote for themselves?”

Acts can vote for themselves this Thursday

Acts can vote for themselves this Thursday – if they want to

“They can,” said Gareth. “Everyone in the room gets three votes.”

“Do acts often not vote for themselves?” I asked.

“All the votes are equally weighted,” said Gareth. “So the really bad acts who have voted for themselves only get their own votes.”

“How many acts?”

“Twelve this year.”

“Just one award?”

“Yes, though we might also have a Judges’ Choice which will be just my choice, We might also have the Previous Winner’s Choice, because Michael Brunström will be headlining.”

“So you might have three awards. Any trophies?”

“Oh no. There’s absolutely nothing. This is why it’s surprisingly credible. There are no trophies but people still bother to apply. Last year the first prize was £1, the second prize was 50p and the third prize was the last half of my pint of cider.”

“Have you won awards yourself?” I asked.

“No. That’s why I set it up.”

“Did we nominate you?” I asked.

“You nominated me for the Cunning Stunt Award last year.”

“Oh yes,” I said, “so we did. You’re Gareth Morinan. I wondered who you were. Well, hopefully this blog will publicise your awards.”

Gareth Morinan in Soho yesterday, shocked by his memories

Gareth faces the prospect of people turning up for his Awards

“They’re at Angel Comedy on Thursday,” said Gareth, “but it’s always really crowded, so I would not recommend that people come to see it, because they won’t get a seat unless they turn up really early. But I have another show in two weeks, on 25th November – a new type of improvised comedy show that involves stand-ups. It’s got Pat Cahill and John Kearns and Harriet Kemsley. The Chronicles of Pat Cahill.”

“And why is it original?” I asked.

“Well,” said Gareth. “It may or may not be. The Advertising Standards Authority may sue me. It’s in The Proud Archivist in Haggerston.”

“That’s suddenly got very trendy,” I said. “But it’s the back of bleedin’ beyond.”

“Well, it’s in the trendy East London area,” said Gareth.

“It’s the back of bleedin’ beyond if you live in Borehamwood,” I said.

“Basically,” said Gareth, keeping on-message, “we will tell the life story of Pat Cahill.”

Pat Cahill, winner of an Amused Mose Award

Cahill, time-travelling winner of  Amused Moose Award

“What?” I asked. “every week?”

“No,” explained Gareth, “it’s a different person every week. And, when I say week, I mean month. So that’s why it’s unique: there’s no consistency and it’s like having people who can improvise do a story but the main character is a relatively well-known stand-up comedian.”

“Award winning,” I said.

“Multi-award-winning in Pat’s case,“said Gareth.

“How are you telling his story?” I asked.

“Well,” said Gareth, “to be honest, it’s not exactly his life story… It’s going to be more about him being a time traveller who saves the world or whatever.

The show that does not exactly tell Cahill’s story

The show that does not exactly tell Cahill’s story

“But it will be loosely based on his life story. It’s gonna just be a bit of fun, anything can happen and the audience can get involved. The audience will be like a Council of Time who get to decide what happens.

“It will be sort-of like the improv show you saw in Edinburgh. It’s sort of like that but better because there will be more people in it and I won’t be on stage. It will be almost worth £4”

“What are you doing next year at the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

“That is a good question,” replied Gareth. “I will probably be screaming more and the line between comedy and tragedy will become blurred.”

 

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More stories of comedians using other comedians’ lines – OK – stealing things

Picture of Ian MacPherson used without his permission from his website http://www.ianmacpherson.net

Picture of Ian MacPherson used without his permission or his knowledge from his website www.ianmacpherson.net

Yesterday, I blogged about Martin Soan’s version of how his late friend Malcolm Hardee appropriated – well, OK, stole – fellow comic Ian MacPherson’s gag.

The gag was to open your performance at a venue by saying:

“In show business, there’s a saying that you play (enter name of venue) twice in your career. Once on the way up. Once on the way down. (PAUSE) It’s good to be back…”

Martin Soan had heard (from Malcolm Hardee) that Ian McPherson had jokingly asked to be paid when Malcolm stole the gag and Malcolm had – much to Ian’s shock – actually paid several hundred pounds.

When he read yesterday’s blog, comedian Rob Thomas told me that a different version of what had happened was published in the British Comedy Guide in 2008, in an excellent piece by Robert Wringham.

I contacted Robert and asked him if he was happy with me quoting from his piece. “Is there anything you want plugged?” I added.

“You could mention my little book about Cluub Zarathustra,” he told me. “You helped out on that, I’m certain. I know I quote you in it.”

This surprised me because, in fact, I had nothing to do with either the book or with Simon Munnery’s show Cluub Zarathustra beyond seeing and immensely enjoying it at the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe. It is a fascinating show which was turned into a BBC2 TV series Attention Scum! directed by Stewart Lee in 2001.

The BBC have never released a DVD, but there are clips on YouTube.

BBC executives never liked the series and hid it away on BBC2 on Sunday nights at 11.50pm. They cancelled the series which was then – embarrassingly for them – nominated for the Golden Rose of Montreux as best TV entertainment show of the year. As I understand it, BBC executives then had to fly with Simon Munnery to Switzerland and sing the praises of the series which they had cancelled because they hated it.

There is almost a sitcom in that saga in itself.

But back to Ian McPherson and the gag theft by Malcolm Hardee.

In Robert Wringham’s 2008 piece in the British Comedy Guide, Ian said he first did the gag in the early 1980s at the Earth Exchange, a tiny vegetarian comedy club on the Archway Road in London.

Later, Malcolm nicked the gag, much to Ian’s annoyance.

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in Up The Creek office

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in his Up The Creek office (Photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

“And,” Ian told Robert Wringham, “as he’d done it on some pap-for-the-masses TV programme, it looked as if I’d nicked it off him. So I had to drop it. He also put about that he’d bought it from me. Which he hadn’t. He then offered to buy it retrospectively. Fuck off, Malcolm, I quipped. So I fined him a pretty modest sum for theft. I was pretty furious about it at the time, but he had his eye on other stuff I’d written, so I was also warning him off. He ignored the fine at first, but he was just about to open (his own club) Up The Creek, so I gather some comedians refused to play there till he paid up. Which he grudgingly did. I also made it plain in words of one syllable that I was not, repeat not, selling the line. He muttered something about 6 seconds of material but, as I pointed out, It was 7 and a half seconds, Malcolm. You should have nicked my timing.

“Simon Munnery told me he does it too, but attributes it to me. Which is fine. No problem there. Good man Simon. I was told that Simon Fanshawe did it on radio. No attribution. I wrote to his agent at Noel Gay Artists three years ago for a clarification but he must be a slow typist. No response as yet. But not everyone is called Simon.

“A young film maker contacted me last month. Apparently he’s doing a documentary on Malcolm Hardee. Wanted to know if I wrote Malcolm’s gag. Malcolm’s? Apparently some of the older comedians who’d first seen me do it had told him it was mine. Anyway, he intimated they would be using the TV clip of Malcolm doing my gag and, er, was I okay with that. And maybe it was the Irish blood coursing through my veins, but my response was a good deal less than civil. Listen, I said. You people stole my country. I’m fucked if you’re nicking my act. Does that answer your question?

All those quotes from Ian have been stolen by me from Robert Wringham’s original article in the British Comedy Guide.

Well, not really stolen. I look on my use of them as an homage to Robert’s work and I recommend you buy his book on Cluub Zarathustra, a show that deserves to be remembered.

Robert Wringham’s assuredly excellent book which I have not read but buy it…

Robert Wringham’s assuredly excellent book which I have not read… But buy it

As a post-script to this tale of joke theft, I should also mention that juggler Steve Rawlings, who often played Malcolm Hardee’s clubs, also got in touch with me yesterday after reading my blog.

It is a widely-read blog and has probably had bits repeated from it without attribution.

Malcolm Hardee had handfuls of oft-repeated catchphrases. He used one of them to put-down anyone unwise enough to heckle him. He would say: “Isn’t it a shame when cousins marry?”

Yesterday, Steve Rawlings told me: “He got that line from me. I’d got it from a big-headed American juggler who was doing put-down lines on the other acts while we were sat drinking before a gig.

“He came out with three when I was sat alone with him.

“One was the when cousins marry line.

“One was It’s hard to believe out of millions of sperm you were quick enough to get there first.

“And the last was Living proof that Indians DID fuck buffalo, which was never going to work in England.

“I had the first two lines to myself for about two months and they were killing.

“Then Malcolm phoned me and said: Oy oy – Is that ‘when cousins marry’ line yours?

“I said: No, I nicked it off this American act.

“He said Oy oy again and hung up.

“Not long after that, everyone was using it. But for just a little while I had it to myself.”

I did ask Ian McPherson yesterday if there was anything he wanted to add to his British Comedy Guide tale of Malcolm stealing his opening routine. He said: “Say hello to Martin Soan and Steve Bowditch. Lovely, lovely boys and a credit to their respective mothers.”

Both are members of The Greatest Show On Legs which included Malcolm before he drowned and both are currently performing in Switzerland, where BBC TV executives had to smile and accept compliments for Simon Munnery’s cancelled series Attention Scum!

What the relevance of that is, I have no idea, but it sounds good – something which should never be underestimated.

Here is a YouTube clip of Steve Rawlings juggling.

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