Tag Archives: British Comedy Guide

The making of The Comedians’ Choice Awards at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe

I have mentioned the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in the last couple of blogs. The actual trophies were designed and made by mad inventor John Ward who is particularly keen (via an email this morning) that I mention he lives in or near Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire.

If you go to Wikipedia, you will find there is an article on Moulton-Seas-End currently illustrated with  a sole photograph (below).

John Ward clearly is, indeed, a man out standing in his own field.

Moulton-Seas-End, home of John Ward  (Photograph supplied by Kate Jewell via geograph.org.uk)

I suspect he may be trying to drum up tourist trade for Moulton-Seas-End, which is nowhere near the sea.

Having established specifically where he lives, onwards more generally to this year’s Comedians’ Choice Awards.

These, like the Malcolm Hardee Awards, are currently organised by the British Comedy Guide with trophies designed by John Ward but, in this case, there is sponsorship from London’s Museum of Comedy.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards were founded in 2014 and aim to help highlight “the amazing work of those at the Fringe who may well otherwise go unrecognised, as judged by those who understand their efforts the best: their peers.”

Every comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe is eligible to both cast a vote and to be voted for.

There is no panel of judges, no industry specialists. The performers themselves decide who wins. Voting is conducted during August via an online form administered by the British Comedy Guide.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards are presented in three categories:

BEST SHOW at the Fringe.

BEST PERFORMER – The best individual comedy performer at the festival.

BEST PERSON – “A person who the voter feels should get recognition for their contribution to this year’s Fringe. This does not need to be a performer; it can be anyone associated with the comedy industry at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from reviewers to producers and venue staff.”

The Best Performer and Best Show winners and the Best Show shortlist nominees get invited to take part in a special Comedians’ Choice showcase season at London’s Museum Of Comedy in October.

This year, as a bonus, streaming platform NextUp Comedy will also record some of the Museum Of Comedy nights, with the performer receiving a revenue share.

The actual trophies, as I said, are designed and made by John Ward, who lives in or near the village of Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire. He tells me:


John Ward, from Moulton-Seas-End, with the original Award

Before the Covid, if you recall we met up at Milton Keynes with the then ‘new’ Award that – unbeknown to me at the time – was then given in three classes and not one as I first thought.

Trying to replicate that one this year has been slightly chaotic… Since the Covid malarkey, things have been a bit fraught in acquiring the same materials in the making of.

The materials that went into making that Award are not readily available nowadays – blame the Ukraine business, the 3 Day Week, fluoride in toothpaste, wotever.

John Ward, resident of Moulton-Seas-End, crafting an Award

The new design is more handy for standing on a bookshelf, fireplace or to use as a door stop.

It’s in a mask configuration with the now standard ‘red nose’ being central, with a slanted ‘comedic eye’ on one side with the Comedy Guide emblem opposite making the twin ‘eyes’ as such with raised eyebrows.

The ‘grinning’ mouth has been chiselled out and filled with red ‘sparkly ripple’ type finish inserted and is not symmetrical but, as you look at it, there is a small curl on the left hand side at the top of it.

It is secured to the base with twin screws and a central wooden dowel so, in theory, there is not much chance of it falling apart… but, then again, they said the Titanic was unsinkable..

I have made nine of these: three for 2021 to give to the winners from then, three for this year 2022 and three for next year 2023, with each year being designated its own colour scheme.

The colours per year are: Gold, Silver and Bronze. This year, for 2022, it’s Silver.

Three years’ worth of The Comedians’ Choice Awards


THE COMEDIANS’ CHOICE AWARDS

2022 WINNERS

BEST PERFFORMER

Jordan Gray …performing in Jordan Gray: Is It a Bird?

Sharing the news on social media, Gray said: “This means EVERYTHING to me.”

BEST SHOW

Rob Copland: Mainstream Muck (Gimme Some of That)

In a nod to his unconventional show, when asked what it felt like to win, Copland supplied this statement: “\m/”.

BEST SHOW SHORTLIST

Ali Brice: I Tried To Be Funny, But You Weren’t Looking
Chelsea Birkby: No More Mr Nice Chelsea
Colin Hoult: The Death of Anna Mann
The Delightful Sausage: Nowt but Sea
Elf Lyons: Raven
Luke Rollason: Bowerbird
Siblings: Siblage
Shelf: Hair Stuart Laws – Putting Zoo

BEST PERSON

Martin Willis

He is managing director of show production company Objectively Funny. The company also produces and distributes the Small Book on Mental Health at the festival, to support performers.

Martin Willis said: “It is a massive honour to win an award like this, one that’s voted for by people involved in shows here. It means the world to be recognised by a community that I care so dearly about, and I’m incredibly grateful.

“That being said, it cannot go unmentioned that in the history of this particular award the winner has always been a man. That fact speaks both of the demographics of the voters but also of what we actually see from behind the scenes. For an industry that is historically male-dominated onstage, there is a vast array of brilliant women that have made so much work possible in so many ways – technicians, producers, agents, venue programmers and people that do whatever job needs doing with care and gusto.

“I would like to accept this award on behalf of the Objectively Funny team that has worked so hard to make excellent things happen at this festival: Ellie Brayne-Wyatt, Maddy Bye, Kathryn Higgins, Olivia Phipps and Lois Walshe.”

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This year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards: It all ended in tears and a fight by a bus.

Highly unlikely to ever want to rest in peace…

Yesterday’s blog was about the travails of this year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. The show was cancelled on the day (by the Award organisers) at The Counting House venue and then suddenly moved to another venue, Bob Slayer’s Blundabus: a double-decker bus. No reflection on the highly-esteemed Counting House.

Yesterday’s blog sort-of encompassed my philosophy of organising things… 

Anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong. 

And anything that cannot possibly ever go wrong WILL STILL go wrong.

The best thing is to prepare everything in advance to the last detail, organise everything with fallback positions and then, when the whole thing suddenly starts to go arse-over-tit despite all that, it is easier to manage the new chaos caused by one single unexpected disaster than have to sort-out this new and impossible-to-predict problem AND all the sundry could-have-been-foreseen-and-planned-for potential multiple problems.

You should plan for the foreseeable-knowns; you can’t plan for the unforeseeable-unknowns.

Malcolm Hardee also had a philosophy about First World problems: 

“Fuck it! It don’t matter do it? There are people starving in Africa. Not all over though. Round the edge – fish.”

I am in London. Three people have told me anonymously what happened in Edinburgh on Friday night/the early hours of Saturday morning .

One person, who had arranged to see the 11.30pm show at The Counting House with a group of people from London said: “I saw that the show had been cancelled and assumed that was the end of it. Wish I’d known that Bob had stepped in. Small venue though.”

Someone else, comic Giacinto Palmieri (who actually attended the re-scheduled 01.00am Blundabus presentation), opined: “A show that was so alternative that there was no show… Malcolm Hardee would have appreciated that.”

Apparently the awards were announced from a small stage in front of the double decker bus. When Jerry Sadowitz was announced as winner of the ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, there was, I’m told, “a noticeable but small Boo! from the crowd”. 

After the Awards, a vivid verbal contretemps then ensued between two of the people involved in the show which, it seems, can best be described as a non-meeting of minds between, on the one side, ‘very tired & emotional’ and, on the other, ‘very irritated and Woke’. It all ended in tears, as such things are prone to do.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote that an email sent to me at 02.59 on Saturday morning told me: “The news announcement (of the Award-winners) might be a little delayed… One bit proved quite controversial, so the judges are going to need a chance to decide on the wording first.”

It turns out this referred not to the decision on winners of the Awards but on the wording of the press release mentioning comedian Jerry Sadowitz. 

The press release was eventually issued yesterday afternoon. Here it is (I have added pictures):


For immediate release

MALCOLM HARDEE AWARDS 2022 RESULTS

The results of the Malcolm Hardee Awards 2022 have been announced during a ceremony at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The awards – handed out in the memory of comic, agent, manager, club-owner and prankster Malcolm Hardee – celebrate and promote the spirit of anything-goes comedy anarchy at the Edinburgh Festival.

This year’s winners are:

COMIC ORIGINALITY

Two thirds of The Flop: Dan Lees (left) and Cammy Sinclair (Photo: Stephen O’Donnell)

The Flop: A Band Of Idiots (Dan Lees, Tom Penn, Cammy Sinclair)

Comedy trio The Flop – Dan Lees, Tom Penn and Cammy Sinclair – performed their show at The Banshee Labyrinth at 10:10pm between the 6th and 20th August.

Their brochure blurb explains: “60 minutes, 12 notes and three idiots. Musical mayhem and expert clowning from the greatest band in the whole world… ever.”

Mr Chonkers was also nominated in this category.

Ivor Dembins without Edinburgh Council’s rubbish men (Photograph: Stephen O’Donnell)

CUNNING STUNT

Ivor Dembina

The 2022 Cunning Stunt prize goes to comedian Ivor Dembina, for his reaction to the Edinburgh bin collection strike, promoting the growing piles of uncollected rubbish as performance art.

 

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID

Sadowitz: offensive future millionaire?

Jerry Sadowitz

Originally scheduled to play just two shows at the Pleasance’s EICC venue as part of his national tour Not For Anyone, cult comic and former Hardee protégé Sadowitz made national headlines when his show was unceremoniously axed after its first night, with Pleasance claiming both “[we are] a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material,” and “the material presented at his first show is not acceptable… this type of material has no place on the festival”. Coherent, much?

Judges explained: “Ironically, after being cancelled, Sadowitz is seeing a huge increase in ticket sales for the show’s tour, and is now adding a date at the 3,600+ seater Hammersmith Apollo in November.

“The Million Quid is getting closer for the most unlikely of reasons.”

*** *** ***

The usual, anarchic awards show was not able to take place this year, but a results ceremony was held at Bob Slayer’s infamous BlundaBus venue at 1.00am this morning.

The winners each receive a specially made trophy designed by inventor John Ward.

This year’s judging panel was Marissa Burgess, Kate Copstick, Bruce Dessau, Jay Richardson, Claire Smith and Ian Wolf.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards have run since 2005, the year of Malcolm Hardee’s death. They ended in 2017, however having been ‘much missed’ at the 2018 festival, they have now been revived by British Comedy Guide, with the blessing of original organiser John Fleming and the Hardee family.

Find out more about the awards and previous winners at:
https://www.comedy.co.uk/hardees/

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Filed under Bad taste, Comedy, political correctness

A bit of a chat with Robert Wringham – Part 1 – The Stern Plastic Owl man…

Robert Wringham describes himself as a ‘humorist’… His latest book is 2021’s Stern Plastic Owl.

His first book, in 2012, was You Are Nothing (about Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee et al’s comedy show Cluub Zarathustra).

After that, he wrote A Loose Egg (2014), which was shortlisted for Canada’s 2015 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.

His 2016 book Escape Everything! was a spin-off from the New Escapologist, a lifestyle magazine he edited and published 2007-2017 and which continues as a series of online essays. New Escapologist describes itself as “the journal of the art of getting out of things” and suggests that “work has too central a position in Western life”.

Escape Everything! was successful enough to be translated into German and released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland as Ich Bin Raus and then, in 2018, in South Korea as [] 탈출하라. No doubt to further confuse readers, it was also republished in the UK in 2021 in English as I’m Out: How To Make an Exit.

Meanwhile, in 2020, in English, Robert had written The Good Life For Wage Slaves, which was re-published in Germany as Das gute Leben.

He had also written a regular column 2016-2020 in The Idler, a magazine whose declared aim is to “return dignity to the art of loafing” and had written for a variety of other esteemed outlets including Meat, The Skinny, the British Comedy Guide, Playboy etc etc etc.

Obviously, I had to have a chat with Robert.

It would have been churlish not to.

He lives in Glasgow and Montreal (his partner is Canadian), so we talked via FaceTime.


JOHN: You have said: “The highest form of human activity is the shenanigan”…

ROBERT: It makes sense, right? What could be better than a mischievous, spontaneous act?

JOHN: ARE you a mischievous, spontaneous act?

ROBERT: That’s what I aspire to.

JOHN: You describe yourself ‘a humorist’.

ROBERT: There’s a thing on Wikipedia at the moment about the definition of ‘humorist’ which says it’s “an intellectual who uses comedy to get his or her point across”. And that nails it for me. I don’t want to think of myself as an intellectual, but I do like the idea that I’m trying to communicate a ‘point’ packaged nicely with humour, so you can get inside somebody. It’s the sugar pill, right?

“I think it’s to do with anti-pigeon…”

JOHN: Why is your latest book called Stern Plastic Owl?

ROBERT: That’s a theme. My previous similar miscellany book was called A Loose Egg because I got hung up on that phase “a loose egg”. It came about by accident, because there was a loose egg in our fridge back in Canada.

Stern Plastic Owl is a random phrase too. Like all comedians and writers, I have a notebook nearby at all times, including by my bed. There is an idea that sleeping should be when your fertile ideas come up although, really, what I write down in the night is gibberish. But it feels like it’s a resource I should use and one of the phrases that stood out was Stern Plastic Owl. I didn’t know what it meant.

So there is a story in the book where I try to work out what it means. It’s kind of a detective story in the middle of the book.

JOHN: So did you find out what it means?

ROBERT: Not exactly. But I think it’s to do with anti-pigeon, do you know what I mean?

JOHN: No.

ROBERT: An anti-pigeon device. You’ve got an owl and you put it up on your roof to scare pigeons away. There’s one nearby and I think I must have seen that and it came back to me in a dream. So I tried my best to write a piece around one of those stern plastic anti-pigeon owls.

JOHN: I’ve never heard of this before. Are you telling me, if I come up to Glasgow there are fake owls on window sills and roofs all over the place.

ROBERT: They’re everywhere.

JOHN: You were a stand-up comic.

“I never got a horrible heckle ever…”

ROBERT: One of the very brief things from my very brief stand-up period was my come-back to hecklers: “Sir, you cannot count the number of cylinders I’m firing on”. I’m still happy with that. I never got to use it, but it was just there on standby. I never got a horrible heckle ever.

JOHN: You were too loveable?

ROBERT: Probably too young. A lot of audiences are just polite if you look very young.

JOHN: Why did you give up stand-up?

ROBERT: My favourite thing was writing the jokes and fine-tuning them. The hardest part was making it sound good, sound spontaneous. I didn’t enjoy the late nights or the Green Room badinage. I have met a lot of wonderful comedians in Green Rooms but I never felt I was holding my own in those conversations.

JOHN: You wrote that one great climb-down of your life was “pointing your imagination in the direction of writing rather than performance”.

ROBERT: Well, that’s not really true. That’s just what I put in the book. It didn’t really feel like a climb-down. I just didn’t want to tell the story in the other direction which was I was travelling in a favourable direction to the thing I wanted to do. I didn’t think there was any comedy in saying that.

JOHN: Is it a book full of lies? Like comedy routines?

ROBERT: Oh completely. The idea of what is true is something that is always on my mind a lot. For example, my real name is not Wringham. My actual passport name is Westwood. Robert Westwood.

 I wanted to change my name and be a persona. So, when I’m on the page or on the stage, it’s a separate thing. 

JOHN: Why Wringham?

Agraman aka The Human Anagram, John Marshall, c2018

ROBERT: I was always entertained by people like The Human Anagram (aka Agraman aka John Marshall) in the 1980s, but I wanted to do something else. I like horror novels and there’s one called The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

 It’s of the age of Frankenstein, but it’s Scottish and I think that’s why no-one has given a shit about it and it’s unjustifiably obscure. The villain in that is called Robert Wringham.

So, when I moved to Scotland, I thought: I’m taking that name! It’s sort of similar to mine and the thing about that book is it’s about doppelgängers. So I thought: My persona is going to be my evil twin. He’s going to do the stuff that I don’t do in real life.

(… CONTINUED HERE … )

Robert’s books have been published in the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Korea

 

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Filed under Books, Humor, Humour, Surreal

Lockdown spawns humorous manga CLAMPdown book by UK Wolf man

Ian Wolf is a man with a plan

I am posting this on April Fool’s Day. But it is after midday, so all that follows is true. And today is also CLAMP Day. 

Next year, on 1st April 2022, it may be CLAMP Day 2… or it may not be. It is complicated.

A few days ago, I got an email from Ian Wolf. Although that might not be his name. It is complicated. The email was headed:

Autistic author releasing CLAMP book a-chapter-per-year for free until he finds publisher.

During the UK’s multiple COVID-19 lockdowns over the last 12 months, Ian Wolf decided to keep himself occupied by writing CLAMPdown – a humorous book about his favourite comic book artists – the all-women Japanese manga group CLAMP.

CLAMP is a group of four women who have been creating manga since the 1980s. The group consists of writer Nanase Ohkawa, artists Mokona Apapa (aka Mokona) and Mick Nekoi (aka Tsubaki Nekoi) and designer and art assistant Satsuki Igarashi. 

CLAMP in 2006 (Photo by John (Phoenix) Brown)

Their subjects range from Hindu mythology (RG Veda), ‘magical girl’ kids romance (Cardcaptor Sakura), the apocalypse (X), social commentary (Tokyo Babylon) and fantasy worlds where everything is named after a car (Magic Knight Rayearth) to lesbian sex comedy (Miyuki-chan in Wonderland). 

Frankly, in my view, you just can’t beat a good lesbian sex comedy.

Author Ian Wolf works for the British Comedy Guide website. He is their ‘Data Specialist’: 

“I write up articles for several shows,” he explains, “creating feature articles, reporting news stories, maintaining the TV and radio schedule and so forth. Probably my most famous work is collecting the reviews for all the shows during the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2015, I was given the first and only ‘Unsung Hero’ Award at the Ham Fist Prizes for my work. In 2019, I became a judge for the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards.”

He also worked as an editor for the television website On The Box, having previously been a TV and radio reviewer for Giggle Beats.

Ian tries panda-ing to Eastern tastes

In early 2020, Ian also became a question writer for a couple of UK peaktime TV quiz shows Richard Osman’s House of Games and The Wall, under his real name (Ian Dunn).

He has also twice been a contestant on MastermindHis specialist subjects were the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Bleak Expectations and the Four Gospels. 

He tells me: “I also wrote in the preface to CLAMPdown that I was a Countdown conundrum setter – but this is a mountweasel. I put in as a trap to make sure journalists are paying attention, as I later mention in the introduction that this is one show I did not work on.”

Ian is from Stockton-on-Tees and has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, part of the autistic spectrum. 

Parallel to comedy, quizzes, Radio 4’s Bleak Expectations and entrapping unwary journalists, another area of interest for Ian is anime and manga. 

Ian as seen in Anime form…

“I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Anime for On The Box,” he explains, “and I review it for the website Anime UK News.

He was also the manga critic for all 71 issues of MyM Magazine” (2012-18)

I said to Ian: “Just for my blog’s reader in Guatemala, explain the difference between anime and manga…”

“Anime is animation from Japan. Manga is comic books from Japan.”

He has struggled to find a publisher for CLAMPdown partly, he thinks, because of his Asperger’s Syndrome and the niche subject of his book. 

He says: “Having written a comic book (‘comic’ as in ‘funny’) about comic books (‘comic’ as in ‘graphic novel’), I have decided to go about it in a comic (‘funny’) way and so, having set up the Twitter account @clampdownbook, I want to make the publishers come to me, by publishing free entire extracts of CLAMPdown for all to read.”

Chapter 1: From Gay Guys to Genderless Gods covers the origins of CLAMP and their first commercially published work RG Veda, a series loosely based on the Vedic text the Rig Veda and focuses on Ashura, a genderless god of destruction. 

RG Veda, a series loosely based on the Vedic text

Ian says: “I am publishing one chapter of the book online, for free, until a publisher picks it up or the entire book is available for free. If I find no company willing to publish the book within a year, then I will publish Chapter 2 the same time next year.”

If a publisher is still not found, he will then publish a new chapter every year until a publisher does appear or the entire book is available for free online. As it stands, he says, “this would end in 2038, but it could become longer if CLAMP create any new works during that time. 

“Of course, I want a publisher to take an immediate interest in my work and offer me the chance to release CLAMPdown now for anyone to buy. However, if no publisher is currently interested, I’m happy to play the long game. Plus, I feel I can deal with rejection better if it is told to me gently over roughly two decades rather than straight away.”  

As well as manga comics, CLAMP’s work extends into anime TV series. The group have provided character designs for the forthcoming TV anime series Cardfight!! Vanguard overdress, which debuts on Saturday (3rd April).

One of CLAMP’s older titles, occult detective series Tokyo Babylon, was the subject of a planned TV adaptation entitled Tokyo Babylon 2021, but production was cancelled on Monday after production company GoHands reportedly committed multiple acts of plagiarism. There are plans to restart afresh.

“What is your favourite anime TV series?” I asked Ian.

“The sci-fi comedy Gurren Lagann. Think Carry On Pacific Rim – big giant robots, and at one point a woman’s bikini flies off Barbara Windsor style.”

“I will keep that image of an anime bikini flying off into the air in my mind for some considerable time,” I told him.

“In anime and manga,” Ian emphasised to me, “there is something for everyone.”

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Filed under anime, Art, Comedy, Japan, Manga, Publishing

Samantha Hannah… A bad day in Australia and a trans-world romance

Next Up – it’s Samantha Hannah’s lockdown special show

Samantha Hannah got in touch with me in July to plug her newly online NextUp Comedy show – How To Find Happiness in a Year – it’s her 2019 Edinburgh Fringe show shot in her living room at home during the UK Coronavirus Lockdown with her partner as the sole member of the audience. NextUp had been going to film it on stage in front of a live audience until COVID-19 intervened.

But, when they saw her living room version, they snapped it up.

Hello. I thought. That’s interesting.

And also Samantha comes from Perth in Scotland. My mother was born in a village just outside Perth.

That’s interesting, I thought.

We met on 30th July in a pretty much deserted Covent Garden Piazza.

It was very interesting.

Three problems.

I have been lazy.

Lockdown Lethargy hit me.

And her back-story is so interesting, she is not getting much of a plug for her NextUp show here…


Samantha in a deserted Covent Garden…

SAMANTHA: I performed on the UK comedy circuit for about two years, about six nights a week. Then I gave up in 2009 for about seven years. Didn’t do any stand-up.

JOHN: You had always fancied being a stand-up?

SAMANTHA: Well, I studied Performing Arts at university then went more down a directing route – youth theatre, helping adults with learning difficulties… 

JOHN: Adults with learning difficulties? The comedy circuit…

SAMANTHA: (LAUGHS) No!

When I moved to London, I didn’t have the connections to do the work I’d done in Scotland, so I auditioned for A Christmas Carol at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town and did that for several weeks, but I always loved writing comedy sketches. I was writing them and putting them on the British Comedy Guide forum… Someone saw one of the sketches online and asked to film it.

The sketch never got filmed, but the director of A Christmas Carol asked: “Who was that guy you were meeting?” 

“Oh,” I said, “he does comedy.”

“You do comedy? Why don’t you put on a show here for the next six weeks after this run finishes?”

“…a space to do whatever I wanted…”

So I was basically given a space above the theatre to do whatever I wanted… I got a few people together and put on a show that was about 3½ hours long with so many acts and so many intervals and Aaron Barschak did like a full hour of stand-up at the very end.

It was a most bizarre experience but, because I did it for about six weeks, I met lots of actors. I wanted to take the show to the Edinburgh Fringe, but everyone dropped out, so then I did a stand-up course to meet other people to write and perform with.

Then I realised: Oh! You can just do it on your own! You don’t have to rely on anybody and people won’t drop out!

That’s basically how I got into comedy.

JOHN: But then, after two years, you gave up for seven years. Why?

SAMANTHA: I think I just got burnt out by the circuit. I was doing some 20-minuters and getting paid, but I wasn’t enjoying it and didn’t know why I was doing it. It just wasn’t giving me any joy.

And also I met someone who was also in the industry – never do that. He was a promoter.

I gave up comedy; we broke up; my brother passed away and I just went travelling. I went to Australia for a year. I worked in ski-fields in the middle of nowhere, worked at Madame Tussauds in Sydney, making wax hands…

A very hand-some figure at Madame Tussaud’s in Sydney

JOHN: What qualifications do you need to make wax hands?

SAMANTHA: I have no idea. It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve had. I was just doing what came along. I worked on a cattle farm in Queensland…

JOHN: You rode horses?

SAMANTHA: I was given a horse by the owners and they said: “We trust this horse with our 3-year-old, so you will be fine.” 

One day I was mustering cattle and the horse was getting really unhappy. At one point, we went over mud and the horse really didn’t like it, started bucking and threw me off. I landed on my head on a rock – luckily I had a helmet on. The helmet got dented and, obviously, I was quite dazed and confused.

All the farmers around were saying: “You’ve gotta get back on the horse and teach it a lesson!”

But I couldn’t, so one of the other farmers, she jumped on the back of the horse and rode it off and gave it a telling-off.

Later that same day, we had to go into the bull pen, sorting out the cows and bulls…

Samantha’s animal encounters were unlike this (Photo: David Clode via UnSplash)

JOHN: This sounds like a bad idea.

SAMANTHA: I was told: “You’re alright. The bulls are not going to go for you. You’re fine.”

But this one bull just locked eyes on me and started charging towards me.

You know about ‘fight or flight’?

I did nothing. I was just staring at it and the farmer was looking at me like: Why is this girl not doing anything? And, at the last moment, as it got to me, it suddenly swerved out of the way. So it was fine.

When we got back to the farm that day, the mum took my dented helmet and was going to separate the sun visor from it… But, as she took it apart, she saw that, inside the helmet was a redback nest with a redback in it – a very poisonous spider – the Australian black widow. If I had been bitten by the spider, I probably wouldn’t have known because I was so dazed by hitting my head on the rock.

JOHN: An eventful day…

SAMANTHA: And then, a couple of days later, an eastern brown – one of the deadliest snakes in the world – came into the house and got behind the TV set.

JOHN: I’ve never really fancied going to Australia. New Zealand, yes.

SAMANTHA: My mother and father came over to visit me in Australia and wanted to go to New Zealand, so we went there. After they left, I stayed on and worked there in Queenstown – another ski resort – and lived in Glenorchy with an old man and an unrelated 7-year-old child. We watched Lord of the Rings. Then I decided to move up to Wellington and to write a show about trying to find a husband in a year.

I posted a Tinder profile…

…and I started to say Yes to EVERYone who replied. 

JOHN: New Zealand is a relatively small country.

SAMANTHA: Several times I ran out of matches. You could only do 100 every 12 hours.

JOHN: How many did you do? 400?

SAMANTHA: Oh, there were more than that! I went on a few dates. A few nice guys. And then, the day I got to Wellington, I was getting a bit sick of it. But the next morning, when I woke up, I’d had a Match with someone called Toby…

He was a New Zealander in London, doing his own experiment, trying to understand the algorithms and he thought he probably wanted to move back to New Zealand. He had thought: I’ll set it to New Zealand and see what happens. So he set it to Wellington.

He was in London, really near to where I used to live. And I was in Wellington, literally one stop away from where he used to go to university.

Samantha’s pic on Tinder. She liked melons.

We started Messaging. He was a data scientist. I asked if he could do an analytics report to see if we were a good match. He put all our messages into Excel and looked for commonly-used words and sentiments. I was going to use the results as part of my show.

JOHN: Were you a good match?

SAMANTHA: We had our first phone call when I was quite drunk and, when I woke up the next day, didn’t really remember it but, because he had Uber Eats for Wellington, he used it to send me breakfast. And that was it. He was clearly the person for me. I met his parents before I met him.

Six weeks after the first message, I flew back to the UK to meet him. I arrived about 05.00am in the morning after a 38-hour flight… and he wasn’t there.

Then he turned up with a bottle of Copella apple juice in hand, because I had kept telling him how much I liked Copella apple juice. And we decided: “Right! Let’s go on our first date!”

JOHN: How did you decide what sort of date it would be?

SAMANTHA: It was six o’clock in the morning. I needed food and to go to sleep. But it was still a bit nerve-wracking. Imagine if you flew 12,000 miles to meet someone and…

Anyway, it was fine and we had a week together, then he went back to New Zealand for Christmas and I went up to Scotland.

In the New Year, we dithered a bit, because he was thinking about going back to New Zealand, But then he broke his leg in a ski-ing accident in France.

JOHN: You arranged this?

SAMANTHA: I wasn’t there! But, when he came back to the UK, he was very ill. He had picked up a bug. I was nursing him back to health and we just decided, because he couldn’t run away with a broken leg, we would go for it.

“…I only did it for four days in Maggie’s Chamber…”

JOHN: And you wrote the show…

SAMANTHA: Yes. How to Find a Husband in a Year at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. I only did it for four days in Maggie’s Chamber at 11.00am in the morning. I wasn’t even in the Fringe Programme. Then my second show, in 2019, was How To Find Happiness in a Year.

JOHN: Which is your NextUp show… But the Rule of Three. There has to be a third How To show…Were you preparing it as your 2020 Edinburgh show before coronavirus hit?

SAMANTHA: Yes: How To Win At Life.

JOHN: Edinburgh in 2021?

SAMANTHA: I hope so.

All’s Well That Ends Well… The happy couple – Samantha Hannah and Toby – at home in London

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The Malcolm Hardee Awards and after – President Obonjo to buy Greenland?

President Obonjo and his fearsome bodyguards attended the Malcolm Hardee Awards last night

I am in London.

The Edinburgh Fringe is, as tradition dictates, in Edinburgh.

Up in Edinburgh, the 2019 Malcolm Hardee Awards were announced and presented last night – well, this morning, because the anarchy started at midnight – in the Ballroom of The Counting House during the traditional 2-hour stage show.

The winners were – indeed still are –

Legs display their Malcolm Hardee Award to its best advantage

COMIC ORIGINALITY
Legs

CUNNING STUNT
West End Producer

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID
President Obonjo

The Awards were classier and glitzier than in previous years because, I hear, the judges were supplied with chips during their deliberations. That never happened in previous years when dry and occasionally stale biscuits were sometimes, but not always, provided.

For American readers: ‘chips’ are French fries. (Sometimes I think George III did us a favour by getting rid of the Colonies.)

President Obonjo, who was also compering the show, arrived with a group of threatening-looking bodyguards. They remained throughout the night and ushered him on-and-off stage in case the deeply-dodgy BBC Studios or E4/Channel 4 had any pickpockets or muggers working in the vicinity.

The mysterious West End Producer

Fellow Award-winner ‘West End Producer’ arrived in his mask, wore it throughout and left in it so Mysterious Mark – organiser of the Awards on behalf of the British Comedy Guide – tells me: “We still don’t actually know who he is.”

Some of the full-house audience apparently walked out after a time, reportedly confused by the bizarreness of the acts: Tom Crosbie, Lucy Hopkins, Legs, Dragos Montenescu, Mandy Muden, Charles Quarterman, Scratch & Sniff and Twonkey.

According to judge Claire Smith, the walkouts were by a few slightly dazed people with startled looks in their eyes.

Fellow judge Kate Copstick confirmed the problem was a new Fringe app which tells people what shows are about to start nearby with the result that people turn up not knowing what the show actually is, just that it’s free.

The result last night, says Copstick was that “we got some young, slightly drunk people who mostly walked out during Twonkey’s performance”.

2016 Malcolm Hardee Award winner Twonkey apparently displayed a jaw-dropping excess of surrealism and, at one point, got thoroughly entangled in the leads of three microphones. It is unclear why he actually needed to have three microphones.

Someone who was in the audience last night tells me, though, that Twonkey managed to ignore the drunks and “pulled it around again, finishing with a blistering performance of Goat Girl – his song about a girl on a skiing holiday on ecstasy…”

Audience members try to restrain Lewis Schaffer last night

The audience contained a large smattering of other comedians including Lewis Schaffer, who may or may not have diabetes (his Fringe show is called Mr Diabetes) and who has been living for months on a diet which excludes all fruit & vegetables but includes lots of meat, some of it raw.

Claire Smith tells me: “He looks great. He has lost a lot of weight, which is good, but his breath smells horrible.”

Apparently, he has been seen around Edinburgh recently wearing a badge saying: YES, I KNOW MY BREATH STINKS.

This is, she tells me, partly because he now believes that eating no fruit or vegetables means he no longer needs to brush his teeth.

“I keep stumbling on him in Edinburgh,” Claire told me today, “crying in underpasses because he has accidentally eaten an avocado.”

Claire today also attended the other, less increasingly prestigious, comedy awards – Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards – where, she reports, significant numbers of half-starved young comedians were to be seen absconding with armfuls of the free croissants. (Dave’s sponsored Comedy Awards has a higher budget than the unsponsored Malcolm Hardee Awards).

President Obonjo salutes his Million Quid win

In later developments, President Obonjo announced he was thinking of putting in a bid to the Danish government to buy Greenland now that Donald Trump is out of the running…

And the BBC posted an online link to their World Service’s Focus on Africa which acknowledged that President Obonjo was “one of the few African comedy acts well known on the UK comedy circuit” (and, indeed, for the last ten years, the ONLY deposed African President/leader character on the UK comedy circuit)… which makes the self-proclaimed ignorance of the apparent Intellectual Property thieves at BBC Studios/E4/Channel 4 even more spectacularly jaw-dropping…

BBC Studios and E4/Channel 4 had originally been shortlisted for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award “for exponentially increasing the knowledge of, and sales for, President Obonjo with their ‘appalling theft of his character'”… but, on the night, they were trounced byWest End Producer –  a man in a rubber mask.

#JusticeForObonjo

BBC World Service – President Obonjo

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How to create an Edinburgh Fringe comedy award in less than a fortnight…

Going Forth: the old Malcolm Hardee Awards (L-R) Comic Originality, Million Quid, Cunning Stunt

The annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe ended in 2017.

‘Mad inventor’ John Ward designed and made the actual trophies awarded over the previous ten years – for Comic Originality, for best Cunning Stunt and for the Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid.

A fortnight ago, it was announced the awards – re-named The Hardees – would re-start, this time run by the British Comedy Guide website.

The BCG already give annual Comedians’ Choice Awards at the Fringe.

With the Malcolm Hardee Awards revived after a short hiatus, new trophies had to be made. So the BCG asked John Ward to make more with (this year at least) the same design AND also to design and make a new-style trophy for their Comedians’ Choice Awards.

John Ward lives in Lincolnshire. I live in Borehamwood, on the edge of London. 

So we met in Milton Keynes, somewhere between us, and he showed me the newly-designed Comedians’ Choice trophy which, together with The Hardees, will be awarded in Edinburgh next weekend…


John Ward with Edinburgh’s newly-designed Comedians’ Choice Award in… erm… Milton Keynes

WARD: I wanted to design something that would stand out, so it doesn’t look like everybody else’s trophies, although whoever wins will probably need a hernia belt – it weighs about a kilo. It’s made from a recycled plastic tube, copper pipe, steel, wood and other bits.

It’s mounted on a base composed of three pillars, representing Mirth, Merriment and Laughter. There is a brass/copper central stem (based on the idea you might need a ‘brass neck’ to perform in some venues!) with a big, wide, steel ‘grin’ signifying laughter and a red nose on top – the traditional emblem of the clown.

My original design for the grin was symmetrical but, when I looked at it there was something odd about it. So I turned the grinning mouth to one side by an inch so now it has a sort-of jaunty ha-ha-ha look about it. I think that works. If you look from the front or the back, it’s still a laughing mouth with a nose on top.

FLEMING: How long did it take to make?

WARD: You don’t wanna know.

FLEMING: I do.

WARD: No you don’t.

FLEMING: Yes I do.

WARD: You don’t.

FLEMING: Oh yes I do.

WARD: Oh no you don’t.

FLEMING: Oh lord.

WARD: I would think I probably spent – cutting, shutting, painting, all of that… a good three days there, on and off.

FLEMING: Cutting and shutting??

WARD: Cutting the tube and shutting the ends off to get them smooth and level, not sharp edges. There’s nothing on there that would cut your hand or anything or…

FLEMING: Where’s the fun in that?

WARD: True: that Boadicea with her chariot; think of the fun she could’ve had with her chariot down the Tottenham Court Road on a Saturday. But that were before the days of Health & Safety. For me, it were a case of making something so no-one could say: “Oh! It fell on me and broke me big toe”… Although, to be fair, that could happen.

FLEMING: Comedy is all about the unexpected.

WARD: Three days.

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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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