Tag Archives: Bruce Dessau

Feeling slightly happier with attractive comic, actor, conman Nathan Cassidy.

Nathan Cassidy: a man hungry for publicity

I organise the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Awards – for the most cunning publicity stunt to publicise a performer or show at the annual Edinburgh Fringe.

My last blog was about cunning stunts and people being origami-like with the truth in publicity for their shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. You can make up your own mind whether what follows is along the same lines or not.

When I talked to comedian Nathan Cassidy in a Haggerston cafe, he told me he had just been asked to audition for Puppetry of the Penis, the globe-trotting performance group who specialise in penile origami.

“I suppose it’s a different type of stand-up,” I mused. “Why are we meeting?”

“I want to ask you to be a judge,” Nathan told me. “The Rat Pack are producing this show in Edinburgh: The World’s Best MC Award Grand Final.”

Is this just leading me towards an empty room?

He put a poster for it on the table. It said: Cassidy is an attractive man (Fringe Guru 2012).

“Did you make that up?” I asked.

“Of course I didn’t make it up!”

At the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, Nathan was nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

“And is this bit true?” I asked. “Thousands entered. 6 MCs survived. £5,000 cash prize. Plus an amazing headline act.

“We have scoured the world,” Nathan told me. “As all comedy competitions do. The world. The whole world.”

“Qatar?” I asked.

“Yes, the Rat Pack have been there.”

“Syria?” I asked.

“Yes, everywhere. We have a spare slot on the judging panel. Are you free? Steve Bennett of Chortle has pencilled himself in. £5,000 cash prize. Thousands of auditions and this is the Grand Final. We can’t reveal the line-up at this stage.”

“How,” I asked, “do you prove you’re a good MC in a final? Will there be a physical line-up? Will they stand there and say: And now… some fake act who isn’t there?”

Comic Jo Burke, slightly happier with Nathan Cassidy in 2015

“There are no fake acts,” said Nathan. “It’s just the MCs. The MCs will introduce each other. They have 5-7 minutes each. I will introduce the first MC and then they introduce each other.”

“Who,” I asked, “does the last MC introduce?”

“There is not a last MC,” explained Nathan. “Read the poster. There is an amazing headline act.”

“So you are the headline act?” I asked, sceptically.

“No, I’m the MC. And we have one gap on the judging panel on 14th August. Are you free?”

(After consulting my Fringe Diary) “I can move things around a bit and do it,” I said. “So Steve Bennett is pencilled in? I think he is having building work done on his house. Turning it into a replica of Citizen Kane’s Xanadu.”

“Where does he live?” Nathan asked.

“I’m not grassing him up,” I said.

“There is,” said Nathan, “a quote from Steve Bennett on my other show’s poster: Nathan Cassidy: The Man in The Arena.

Nathan Cassidy’s sold-out O2 gigs on right

He put it on the table.

I read: The entire second row is pissed… and there are only two rows (Steve Bennett, Chortle)

“What do you think of this other quote?” Nathan asked me. “Having seen Bill Hicks, I can honestly say he’s as good as him. It’s an official quote from the Buxton Fringe.

“Did you write it yourself?” I asked.

“No! That’s what everyone thinks. It’s buxtonfringe.org.uk – The Buxton Fringe sends out about ten reviewers to review all the shows. It’s a real quote. But I want a better quote I can use. AS GOOD AS Bill Hicks doesn’t really do it for me.”

“This poster,” I said, “says the show is sold out on 14th August, but you’re not doing it on the 14th – You’re doing the MC Awards.”

“No, it’s sold out,” said Nathan. “There are other dates still available.”

“You appear to have sold out the O2 Arena in October and November,” I observed.

“Well, I’m doing the O2 Arena on 4th November, as you know.”

“Do I? Which bit of it? The main auditorium?”

“Yes. Yes.”

“Are you going to fill it? I got free tickets to see Rod Stewart because he couldn’t fill it. How much are you paying for it?”

“I can’t divulge that.”

“So this is another Cunning Stunt?”

“Of course not.”

Nathan’s 2017 was even more sold out in 2016

At the Edinburgh Fringe in August last year, Nathan put up a poster for a fake tour – Nathan Cassidy: The Man in The Arena – with all the dates sold out throughout October/November 2017, except for a performance at the O2 Arena on 4th November 2017.

“People thought it was a fake show,” he told me, “but it was just pre-advertising for this year’s Fringe show… Bruce Dessau (comedy critic and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge) covered it a couple of times but, when I asked if he wanted to come to the O2 show, he didn’t reply.”

“His loss, I’m sure,” I said. “So, basically, I am going to turn up at the Three Sisters to judge this MC Awards show and there will be an empty room as you attempt to win a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award…”

“No,” said Nathan. “It’s legitimate. The Rat Pack are spending £250 on a massive poster. We are not going to do that for nothing. It’s totally real. Genuinely, I swear on my… I swear on your life and Steve Bennett’s life that a £5,000 cash prize will be given to the winner on the day. I am totally gimmick-free this year.”

“Is there more?” I asked.

“Is that not enough for you?”

“I would prefer £250 in a brown envelope,” I said.

“I am doing a third show in Edinburgh,” said Nathan, “but it’s a theatre show.”

Love & the winner of Sir Michael Caine’s Award

He put the flyer on the table. The title of the show is Nathan Cassidy: Watch This. Love Me. It’s Deep.

The headline pitch read: FOR THE PERFECT LOVE STORY YOU HAVE TO GO TO RIDICULOUS LENGTHS.

I turned over the flyer and read out loud:

“ONE-MAN THEATRE SHOW FROM THE WINNER OF THE SIR MICHAEL CAINE NEW WRITING AWARD.”

“Who won that?” I asked.

“Me,” said Nathan. “You are very sceptical, John. You think everything is a ruse to get you along to an empty room.”

“When did you win the Michael Caine Award?” I asked.

“About ten years ago now. I did theatre before I did stand-up. I won it for a play called A Cure For The Common Cold at the Leatherhead Theatre.”

“It says here,” I said, “that you have a distinctive stand-up style. What’s that?”

“Well,” replied Nathan, “last year Steve Bennet said: Nathan Cassidy will make you slightly happier for an hour or so… So I am ‘an attractive man’ who will ‘make you slightly happier’…”

“What’s the theatre show about?”

“Something happened in the last year which reminded me of a story that happened to me starting when I was 15 and it’s a perfect love story and it would not fit within stand-up but it would fit within theatre. People think that perfect love is impossible but I am telling you a true story from my life to show it is possible. There may be a happy or a sad ending; you will have to come to the show to see which.”

“You are very persistent,” I said.

Chubby had a female agent…

“In 2010,” said Nathan, “when I first did the Edinburgh Fringe, I performed to two ladies and Roy Chubby Brown’s agent. She never got back to me.”

“His agent was a she?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes. I first met Chubby Brown when I was 12 years-old. For a 12-year-old kid, it was fun. Do you remember his song He’s a Cunt?”

“Sadly not.”

“But those two ladies have come back every year to see me and, the last couple of years, they have even given out flyers for me.”

“Is that the smallest audience you have played to?”

“No. Once at Buxton Fringe, I performed to two people in a fridge. It had a capacity of three, so it was only two-thirds full. I was gutted I had not filled it.”

“What reaction did you get?”

“A standing ovation. They loved it. Admittedly there were no seats.”

The fridge story I believed. The Roy Chubby Brown story I believed. The Puppetry of the Penis story I believed. But I was unsure about the Michael Caine story.

I Googled it afterwards. There were pieces about it online. And a photo of a young Nathan Cassidy with Michael Caine.

Who knows what truth is at the Edinburgh Fringe or anywhere? I look forward to a tranquil night alone at the Three Sisters/Free Sisters venue at 7.45pm on 14th August.

The award-winning young Nathan with Sir Michael Caine

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Malcolm Hardee’s Wibbley Wobbley boat has re-appeared somewhere else

Malcolm & girlfriend Andree at the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

Malcolm and his girlfriend Andree Jenni standing by the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

The tribute banner’s initial position...

A brief fortnight ago, anarchy was celebrated

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog in which Malcolm Hardee Award winner Becky Fury and I went to Malcolm’s old floating pub/comedy venue The Wibbley Wobbley.

It was moored in Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, by the River Thames in London.

There were some very amiable squatters living in the boat, putting on monthly performances. They had been there for several months.

Suitably anarchic slogans adorned the sides of the boat.

Today’s Pantomime Horse Race in Greenwich

Today’s Pantomime Horse Race in Greenwich was interrupted

Today, while watching the annual Pantomime Horse Race in Greenwich, I got a message from Evening Standard comedy critic Bruce Dessau telling me that the squatters had been evicted; the Wibbley Wobbley had been towed away from its berth and would be broken up.

On the left, two gangways lead to where once the Wibbley Wobbley floated

Two sad gangways (left) lead to where the Wibbley floated

Bruce asked me for a quote which he could add to the news item he had written on his Beyond The Joke website. I gave him a quote but suggested he should just make up a much better one and claim that I had said it – something of which I think Malcolm would have approved.

Alas, he just quoted the load of old cobblers I had thought of:

The Wibbley Wobbley (orange marker) in its old berth in Greenland Dock

The Wibbley Wobbley (orange marker) in its old berth in Greenland Dock. Malcolm Hardee drowned there in 2005.

“I thought 2016 was bad enough with Bowie, Prince and Manuel from Fawlty Towers dying, but this has really pissed me off.”

It’s not a great quote, is it?

The moral to this part of the story is:

If someone or something snuffs it, don’t ask me for a quote.

After the Pantomime Horse Race finished in Greenwich, I went to Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe, where the Wibbley Wobbley had been moored and where Malcolm had drowned in 2005.

The boat was, indeed, not there.

But I spotted it in the adjacent South Dock Marina.

The Wibbley Wobbley tonight, in its new berth at South Dock Marina

Wibbley Wobbley tonight, in a new berth: South Dock Marina

Coincidentally, before he bought the Wibbley Wobbley, Malcolm had lived in another boat in South Dock Marina and, ironically, I had fallen in the water there and almost drowned, myself, while carrying Malcolm’s vacuum cleaner onto the boat.

As always, it is better not to ask for too many details.

The banners which had been adorning the Wibbley Wobbley two weeks ago had, tonight, been removed.

Now under more secure lock and key in South Dock Marina

Now under more secure lock and key in South Dock Marina

But the boat itself looked perfectly OK; not ready to be scrapped.

As I left, I heard two people connected with the dock talking about the Wibbley Wobbley.

“The thing is,” one said, “if you get rid of squatters, they’ll just find somewhere else.”

A bit like memories, in that respect.


ADDITIONAL STUFF

theshippingpress_websiteThe Shipping Press account on Twitter posted an image of workers removing the Wibbley Wobbley from its original berth in Greenland Dock with text which said: “So called pirates left after trying to sink her! They converted upstairs into 7 bedrooms-and left a big mess.”

The Cockney Rebel account on Twitter commented: “Pirates on resisted removal by order of LBS ( )again! 2 make way for yuppie eatery!”

Leigh Miller replied: “How did this happen without notice? Admiralty Writ necessary- did anyone investigate?”

Cockney Rebel: “Don’t know yet. LBS very good at smash & grab doing what they want & abusing rule of law…to please developers!”

Leigh Miller: “There must be a worldwide shortage of brown envelopes by now….”

Cockney Rebel: “…mountains of used empties in every Labour/Tory Town halls also rumour has it massive stash at GLA/County Hall!”

https://twitter.com/theshippingpre1/status/807217946644856832

THERE IS AN UPDATE ON THIS STORY HERE.

 

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Is a Japanese comic doing their act in English with a Japanese accent racist?

Louise Reay Chinese

Image for Louise’s Chinese language show It’s Only Words

Last night, I went to see the final of the Leicester Square Theatre’s New Comedian of The Year competition, rightly won by character act LJ Da Funk (aka Zak Splijt).

One of the acts was the highly esteemed Louise Reay.

In a previous So It Goes blog, about her Edinburgh Fringe show, she explained to me: “I’ve always been interested in communication. People have a real mental barrier about languages and the way we communicate.

“But just one look can mean so much. We communicate all the time. Look at my hands. I can’t stop them moving. There’s so much more than language going on. That’s what my show’s all about. There was a very spurious 1960s experiment which proved that only 7% of communication was verbal. So my whole show is an experiment in the 93%. If I did it in French, it wouldn’t work, because most people maybe understand enough.”

Today, one review of last night’s show said: “Louise Reay was the first oddball of the night, coming on speaking Chinese and then explaining, via placards, that her whole act would be in Chinese. It could easily have been seen as racist, but Reay was more of an absurdist. I didn’t think it was offensive, maybe if I was Chinese – and very sensitive –  I might have felt differently.”

Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri is currently conducting a three-year PhD research project for the University of Surrey at Guildford. It is on the self-translation of stand-up comedy – comedians who translate and adapt their own material from one language to another.

On Facebook, his response to the review was “I don’t understand why the possibility of considering Louise Reay’s act racist is even entertained (although, fortunately, rejected). She does not even pretend to be Chinese; she just plays on the absurdity of using a language the majority of the audience cannot understand.”

The reviewer (alright, it was the admirable Bruce Dessau) came back to Giacinto with: “As you say, I did consider it before rejecting it. But I still wonder if a Chinese person would be OK with it, though I don’t like the idea of being offended on other people’s behalf so I won’t be offended on behalf of the entire Chinese population!”

Giacinto, responded: “Indeed. But I think we need to go a step further: even if they were offended, they wouldn’t be justified in being so. Offence, even when real and not hypothetical, cannot be its own justification.”

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during the BBC2 TV series The School that turned Chinese

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during filming for her BBC2 documentary series The School That Turned Chinese

At this point, Louise pointed out: “My Edinburgh show was sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Edinburgh, which is funded by the Hanban, the culture department of the Chinese government. This would appear to indicate that my act is generally supported by both the Chinese and the academic community of Chinese speakers. I would add as a general point that it is not remotely racist (for a white English person) to speak real Chinese. A Chinese person speaking English is never questioned on the matter. The Independent wrote an article about it all in case of interest.”

Interestingly, by a quirk of scheduling at last night’s show, Louise Reay’s act (an English woman performing in Chinese) was immediately followed by Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani speaking English with a Japanese accent. She won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award last week.

There has never been any suggestion that her act could, in any way, at any time, be considered racist.

Louise Reay is currently working on her next solo show, titled Que Sera, 些拉 

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Critic Kate Copstick on her dislike of Lee Evans and Only Fools and Horses

Copstick takes a leek during yesterday’s Grouchy Club Podcast recording

Copstick took a leek during yesterday’s recording of the Grouchy Club Podcast

Yesterday, after unsuccessfully trawling St Pancras station for a likely place to sit, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I recorded our third Grouchy Club Podcast sitting outside the British Library on  Euston Road in London. The result runs 44 minutes and is HERE.

We also recorded it on video so that I could upload a 10-minute clip onto YouTube… But I may have erased that by accident. I will find out this afternoon when I go to the Apple Store in Regent Street and throw myself on their mercy. 

Among the things Copstick and I discussed yesterday were why Free Fringe founder Peter Buckley Hill told her I was “odious” and why Copstick thinks comedy critic Bruce Dessau is wrong to say I am “enigmatic”.

Copstick has very strong opinions which she is not afraid to express, as demonstrated in this brief extract from the podcast:


COPSTICK
…….. I’ll tell you what else The Man had, which was massive quantities of sweat. We were quite a small, intimate audience…

JOHN
You must love Lee Evans, then.

COPSTICK
Oh! I can’t stand… I don’t find him funny.

JOHN
Oh, poor Lee Evans. He’s very funny.

COPSTICK
I really don’t. I mean, I appreciate he’s a national treasure and everybody else in the world does, but I don’t find ‘stupid’ funny. I hate all the falling around and the ridiculous hurtling around on stage. I just can’t stand it. I just have to look away. When he used to be not-so-outrageously-famous-and-hugely-internationally-successful and he was on, say, at the Comedy Store, I used to go out (of the room) when he was on. All that manic hurtling around and the slapstick and the craziness I can’t cope with.

I’m a very un-fan of Buster Keaton, Abbot & Costello, all of those. I hate – I really really do dislike – any kind of slapstick comedy. I find it irritating in the extreme, because it’s stupid.

JOHN
But surely the basis of comedy is stupidity.

COPSTICK
No, the basis of comedy is aggression, I think you’ll find, John.

JOHN
The basis of your reviews is aggression.

COPSTICK
No no no no no. The basis of my reviews is truth about and passion for. That’s not aggression.

JOHN 
I have a feeling your autobiography is going to be called My Struggle.

COPSTICK
(Laughs) But, erm, no no no, I don’t think my…

JOHN
There is no basis of comedy, because there is no one thing called comedy, is there? There are all sorts of reasons for laughing.

COPSTICK
It’s, yes, disguised aggression and I don’t believe particularly that there’s a great deal of comedy that doesn’t have something as its butt.

JOHN
I never understood the Laurel & Hardy thing – even as a kid – where kicking someone in the bottom was apparently very funny in 1920 or something.

COPSTICK
I mean, the whole banana skin thing… Just look where you are going, for Godsake!

JOHN
But that can work. It’s the timing, isn’t it? You’re not laughing particularly at the slapstick. You’re laughing at the timing, because it’s unexpected…

COPSTICK
It’s… I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a worry, but it irritates me. It used to irritate me more – many other things about me irritate me more now. But it used to irritate me that I didn’t understand what’s funny about slapstick. Even if it doesn’t make me laugh out loud, I have a need to understand… I don’t get it.

JOHN
But the (British) nation’s ‘funniest’ joke is in Only Fools and Horses, isn’t it? Where he falls…

COPSTICK
Where he falls through the… yes…

JOHN
… falls through the bar.

COPSTICK
It’s beautifully done. But, you see, I hated Only Fools and Horses.

JOHN
I didn’t like it either, but…

COPSTICK
I really hated Only Fools and Horses.

JOHN
Why did you hate Only Fools and Horses?

COPSTICK
Because the people were stupid. Rodney was stupid.

JOHN
I thought they were cartoon characters who didn’t quite work.

COPSTICK
Yeah…


Noel Faulkner this week at the Comedy Cafe

Next, Noel Faulkner – Grouchy at the Comedy Cafe

Next Sunday’s recording of The Grouchy Club Podcast (no audience admitted) will be at London’s Comedy Cafe Theatre and should have its highly outspoken owner Noel Faulkner discussing comedy with Copstick.

Slander and libel lawyers – You have been warned!


You can listen to the third Grouchy Club Podcast HERE.

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How comedian Malcolm Hardee lost his virginity & then got stabbed in the back

Malcolm Hardee (left) at Christmas

Blessed Malcolm Hardee (left) in his early life

Yesterday’s blog was about the stage show which celebrated the death – ten years ago – of comedian Malcolm Hardee.

Well, ‘celebrated’ might not be the right word. But you know what I mean.

In debonair comedy critic Bruce Dessau’s review of the show, he called me Malcolm Hardee’s “enigmatic biographer”.

I enjoyed this description so much I may use it in publicity for something-or-other. Though I have no idea what. I may bung it on my increasingly prestigious website. Self-publicity was something Malcolm Hardee specialised in.

Anyway, I was not Malcolm’s biographer. It was his autobiography I wrote – in his own words and with his own title – I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

The amazon.co.uk description of the book still erroneously and surreally reads: “For successful classroom teaching, your students need to be engaged and active learners. In this book, there is practical advice that is grounded in the realities of teaching in today’s classrooms on how to be an inspirational teacher and produce highly motivated students.” 

This may explain why the book is out of print now. But I might re-publish it at some point. Perhaps I may crowdfund it. To quote one of Malcolm’s occasional questions: “Anyone want to lend me a tenner? Only for half an hour. I’ll give it back.”

Sometimes the unwary would give him a tenner.

In this extract from I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, Malcolm tells the tale of when he lost his virginity. He was always losing things. He lost a music tape of mine once. I glowered at him. He was a sensitive man who got unsettled whenever people glowered at him. Which was not infrequent. At these points, he used to blink a lot.

Here is Malcolm in his own words:


I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

Patron sinner of alternative comedy

My first proper girlfriend was Pamela Crew. I lost my virginity on my sixteenth birthday. So did she, though it wasn’t her sixteenth birthday. Then we got engaged but it was a very up and down relationship. I bought a ring and then we had a row on a 94 bus about something. I didn’t used to have rows, but she did. She threw the ring back at me and I later lost it. She never believed me – she thought I sold it – but I didn’t.

I was engaged from 16 right through to about 20 and I was completely faithful to her. We were almost exactly the same age. She was a nice girl. She went to Prendergast, which was the sister school to Colfes.

After we had been together about six months or a year, we learnt to exploit her father’s regular habits. He was a builder. He was the nearest South East London could get to Alf Garnett, a very disappointed man because he wanted a boy and Pamela was one of four daughters. His routine was that he’d do his day’s building, then, at 8.00pm, go round to the Summerfield Arms pub at the end of their street and every night he’d come home at 11.15pm and go to bed. So I used to go and visit Pamela Crew when he was out and sometimes we’d have sex in the front room when her mother and all her younger sisters had gone to bed.

This one night, her father came back at 10.50pm and looked in. I was lying on top of Pam on the floor in front of the fire, banging away. He shut the door behind him and she went out and talked to him. She was in tears and he said to me:

“You’ve made your own bed, now you can lie on it!”

I didn’t like to point out that we didn’t actually use a bed.

Her mother always had a bit of a soft spot for me, but her father just thought I was completely mad and alien. I went round there once on a white horse which I got from Mottingham Riding Stables. I thought This will impress Pamela and her dad answered the door.

“Hello,” I said. “Is Pam in?”

He said: “Bugger off, you silly fucker.”

And that was that.

For some reason, I took the horse up to Blackheath and just left it tethered to a tree. There was a  piece in The South East London Mercury later that week, headed THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE HORSE.

I once got Pam on the front cover of the local paper as ‘Miss June’. It was in the days before feminism, so she was sitting in the swimming baths with her tits half-hanging out. That impressed her. The fact that I’d contacted the press.

When I left school, after taking my ‘O’ Levels in 1966, my first job was at a thriving advertising agency called Saward Baker at 79 New Cavendish Street in the West End. I started working as a messenger, as people did in those days, thinking you were going to progress up the line and become Mr Big at the top. I definitely wanted to be in advertising. It was a ‘glamorous’ profession. We all wanted to be copywriters or advertising executives. I was the bee’s knees, working in the West End: Malc the Mod, earning my living. My first weekly wage packet held £7-6s-8d (£7.33p in today’s money).

I worked at the ad agency with a bloke called Rod Stewart – but not Rod Stewart the singer. Like me, he was a messenger and a Mod and he had his own motor scooter. We once got stopped by the police going back to where he lived in Pratts Bottom, near Orpington in Kent. The policeman asked him his name.

“Rod Stewart,” he said.

“Oh yeah?” said the copper. “Where do you live?”

“Pratts Bottom.”

We almost got arrested on the spot.

One hot summer day, we went over to Regents Park for the lunch hour. I had a platonic friend called Diane Ainsley who was going out with a bloke called Ray Mitchell. So he came over to the park as well. We were just lying on the grass, I turned over on my front to get a bit of suntan and he threw a knife in my back. It probably went about half an inch into me and stuck there.

I was a bit shocked. He just did it with no emotion or anything. He didn’t say anything and I didn’t ask why he’d done it because it was known he was a bit mad. He must have taken the knife back and he went away. It didn’t hurt. When I got back to work, they all asked what had happened, because there was lots of blood coming out. My shirt was covered in blood. The first aid kit was out and someone stuck a plaster on it.

Another time, I was travelling with Ray Mitchell on a tube train. I was just sitting there, he got up and, for no reason at all, tried to deliver a karate kick right into the middle of my face. It narrowly missed and he sat down again. Never said anything. He just went like that occasionally. He lived in Blackheath and he was probably the first violent psychopath I had met.

He wasn’t a friend of mine. Just someone who was about.

About to stab me. About to kick me.


There is much more of that sort of stuff in Malcolm’s autobiography. He did not lead a dull life.

This year, as normal, the annual increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards will be presented in his honour at the Edinburgh Fringe, during a two-hour variety show on Friday 28th August.

Currently on YouTube, there is a ten-minute tribute to Malcolm, produced by Karen Koren of Edinburgh’s Gilded Balloon venue:

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Oy! What do you say to the frustrated organiser of a Jewish comedy day?

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

The Edinburgh Grouchy Club, being revived in North London

I mentioned this last year. Pay attention.

On 22nd February this year, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I are reprising our Edinburgh Fringe show The Grouchy Club for a Jewish Comedy Day at the London Jewish Cultural Centre. Neither of us are Jewish and the tickets are only £5. Life is full of constant surprises.

The organiser of this fine upcoming Jewish Comedy Day is Arlene Greenhouse. We met when she came to see a couple of Grouchy Club shows in Edinburgh last August.

Arlene is also organising a Kitchen Komedy show tomorrow night at the Hendon Park Cafe headlined by US comic Avi Liberman. It promises: “Kosher food, including yummy sushi.”

So yesterday, obviously, I had a chat with Arlene at Hendon Park Cafe.

Yesterday, she paid for the food.

Afterwards, I realised I had forgotten to take a photo of her for this blog. So I Googled “Arlene Gorodensky mum’s the word” on Google Images.

To find out why that name, you will have to read further.

This is not a picture of Arlene Greenhouse

Not the real Arlene Greenhouse

The interesting thing is that the first actual facial image to be displayed by Google Images was one of Wonder Woman.

“I like asking the questions,” Arlene told me yesterday. “I don’t like being judged.”

“I don’t judge,” I told her.

“This is my debut into – I dunno,” said Arlene. “Promoting? Organising?”

“Well, you’ve got a great line-up for the February Comedy Day,” I said, “present company excepted. I’ve read the programme. What do you see it as?”

“It’s celebrating Jewish comedy,” said Arlene, “like a spa day – where you come and get your fill of laughter and feel better for five days afterwards.”

“It’s just a talky-talky day?” I asked.

“No,” said Arlene, “We have everything. We have…”

“Strippers?” I asked hopefully.

“Yes, we do have a stripper,” said Arlene. “We have Lynn Ruth Miller performing. But, more seriously, it’s always been a very important part of our culture to be able to laugh at all the hardship. My first gig, I performed at…”

“You performed?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“I didn’t know that,” I said, “but I find research is over-rated.”

Still not a photo of Arlene Greenhouse - This is Roseanne Barr

Not Arlene Greenhouse – Roseanne Barr

“My very first gig ever – if I can call it a gig,” said Arlene, “I was on-stage with Roseanne Barr in Montreal in 1983 (Arlene comes from Montreal) and we were volleying Jewish jokes back-and-forth.”

“This,” I asked, “was when Roseanne Barr was still unknown?”

“No. she was already known.”

“So your first gig was onstage with a famous comedienne?”

“Yeah. And – though my daughter thinks this is a lie – I did tell Ellen DeGeneres in 1982 after her show in a little seedy basement comedy club in New York that she was gonna be famous. She was so amazing. The type of humour I like. She was talking about bridesmaids and how the bride chooses her ugliest friends to walk down the aisle and, to make doubly sure she shines, she puts them in slime-green bridesmaids dresses.”

“How long were you doing comedy for?” I asked.

“I wasn’t,” said Arlene. “I have had one gig maybe every two decades. I have done about six now. My biggest regret in life is that I never wrote for Joan Rivers. I could never figure out how to do it.”

“You had the opportunity?” I asked.

“No.”

“Why should you have written for her?” I asked.

“Because my humour is the same as hers.”

“So,” I asked, “you must be a frustrated writer-performer?”

“I’d prefer to write,” said Arlene. “I do like the limelight but I would prefer to write, because you can do that in your pyjamas.”

“You should write for Lewis Schaffer,” I said.

Lewis Schaffer last night - aspiring moustache twirler

Lewis Schaffer not to be confused with Arlene

“About a year ago,” said Arlene, “I went and saw Lewis Schaffer and I said: Lewis Schaffer! Gimme the mike! and I got up and he was heckling me the whole time and I  felt very comfortable with that because, when I was growing up, you sat around the table in my house and you heckled each other. That’s how we communicated. There was never a compliment. It was like: You think you look good? You don’t look good.”

“Lewis Schaffer is at your February Comedy Day too,” I said, “interviewing critic Bruce Dessau.”

“Yeah. He’s not gonna embarrass me is he?”

“Lewis Schaffer?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t really know Lewis Schaffer, do you?” I said.

“I do.”

“Well of course he’s going to embarrass you,” I told her.

“Oh God,” said Arlene. “I’m gonna have to threaten him. Seriously.”

“You like his act?” I asked.

“I like a comedian in a jacket. It makes a big difference.”

“Potatoes have jackets,” I said. “I preferred him when he dyed his hair. Why don’t you do something about writing? They’re crying out for writers at the BBC.”

“I did write a sitcom script,” said Arlene. “I thought it was quite good.”

“I’m working on something very similar myself,” I told her.

“About what?”

“About whatever you are about to tell me. The trouble with the Beeb is that they’re inclined to steal people’s ideas. So what did you do with your script?”

“I sent it to the BBC and that was it.”

“You heard nothing back?” I asked.

Arlene shrugged.

“So,” I said, “this thing tomorrow night…”

American comic Avi Liberman (right)

American comic Avi Liberman (right) will be in Hendon…

“I met this guy Avi Liberman on Facebook,” Arlene told me. “He said he was coming to London so I said: Do you want me to organise a gig for you?

“My cheap psychology,” I said, “still tells me you are a frustrated comedy performer. Or writer. You…”

“I am such a frustrated comedian person,” agreed Arlene.

“But, in real life…” I prompted.

“I’m a psychotherapist,” Arlene told me, “but I’m winding down, because I do find comedy a lot more…”

“Me too,” I said, “You could spend a career doing therapy on comics.”

“Look at Lewis Schaffer…” said Arlene. “I’m talking as a psychotherapist now, rather than as a comedy audience. Lewis Schaffer is funny, but he has a fear of success. If he would just put the effort into it, he would be top, top. You have all these students doing academic papers on him because he really is something to study. This whole persona built on failure. Is it a persona? Is it the self? What is it?”

“I think,” I said, “that loads of comedians sabotage their careers intentionally. Well, maybe subconsciously. They know what it’s like to fail and to struggle and they know they can cope with that: the empty, slight pain in their stomach.”

“They know they can deal with the familiar,” said Arlene.

“Yeah,” I said. “But they’re subconsciously frightened of succeeding, because it’s the unknown. Lewis Schaffer would be a great presenter of documentaries – or be good on TV panel shows – because he’s got lots of interesting views and odd knowledge but he can’t duplicate the exact same word-for-word act time-after-time, which is what the want for stand-up on TV. What sort of psychotherapy did you specialise in?”

Arlene Greenhouse - Mum’s The Word

Arlene’s 1996 book on mummy’s boys

“Nothing. Eclectic. But I also wrote a book in 1996: Mum’s The Word: The Mamma’s Boy Syndrome Revealed under my maiden name Arlene Gorodensky. It’s been translated into about six languages. I made no money out of it. Somebody has.”

“That’s publishing for you,” I said. “Are comedians mummy’s boys?”

“Not necessarily,” Arlene said. “I married my husband because he’s very funny.”

“What does he do?” I asked.

“He’s a lawyer. That’s not funny, but he’s probably one of the funniest people I know. When we have an argument, I always say to him: The only reason I don’t dump you is because you’re so funny. He proposed to me on our first date and, afterwards, he said: My mother told me to ask all women to marry me so they know I am serious and I’m not going to waste their time. I was the one out of a hundred that said Yes to him.”

“You said Yes on the first date?”

“Well, I didn’t say No.”

“Where was your first date?”

Arlene Gorodensky-Greenhouse as she wants to be seen...

Arlene Gorodensky-Greenhouse as she wants to be seen…

“He took me to the Savoy and told me: You’re going to have a very hard time getting married. I was 36 and he was 48. Neither of us had ever been married. The only good piece of advice my mother gave me was: Marry rich. Did I listen? No.”

“Yes you did,” I said. “He’s a lawyer!”

“She wanted me to marry a doctor,” explained Arlene. “I’ve been a disappointment to my parents.”

Arlene is performing comedy at the Hendon show tomorrow.

It will be interesting.

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A day to laugh at Jews

Birth of the world’s mot famous Jew

The birth of Jesus, the world’s most famous Jew (born c 5 BC)

As it is almost Christmas, it seems appropriate I should mention Jews. I feel He would have wanted it.

Laughing at Jews has become an international tradition and a special day has now been set aside – Sunday 22nd February. If you are not attending church that day, I suggest you book now.

Sunday 22nd February 2015 is when the London Jewish Cultural Centre is holding a Jewish Comedy Day in North West London.

They say: “When your history is filled with pogroms and persecution, what else can you do but laugh?”

The day includes:

  • Jewish Mothers: Myth or Mirth
  • A Room With a Jew
  • Speed Pitching: Sitcom with Bennett Arron
  • Laughing Yoga
  • It’s a Verkakte World with Lynn Ruth Miller

… and Beyond The Joke, based on the esteemed comedy website of the same name.

In that session, comedian Lewis Schaffer will be interviewing comedy critic Bruce Dessau.

“Surely poor Bruce will not get a word in?” I asked Lewis Schaffer. “And surely he should be interviewing you?”

LewisSchaffer (Photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

Lewis Schaffer, the definitive New York Jew at the Hare Krishna temple in Hertfordshire (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Lewis Schaffer, of course, ignored this question and told me about himself:

“Bruce listed my show as one of the ten shows he must see in the last week of the Edinburgh Fringe in August and then either forgot to come OR didn’t have time to write about it.

“He saw one of my first shows in the UK – upstairs at the old East Dulwich Tavern – back in 2000. That night I should have learned that, while British audiences may look like American audiences, they aren’t like American audiences. I was booed offstage TWICE.

“First was when I pointed out that there were three black guys in a room full of white people after saying to the three black men in the front: Hello black guys.

“I begged forgiveness and asked to be allowed back on stage and start again. I then repeated the entire sequence of jokes and then said again: Hello black guys.

“I thought it was ballsy and funny but the audience did not. British audiences do not like being pointed out by racial characteristics, unlike American audiences. It can be done and I can now do it, but the comic must understand how charged a situation the comic is entering.”

Another session on the Jewish Comedy Day in February is a reprise of The Grouchy Club – the chat show which critic Kate Copstick and I did at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and will again do at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

Copstick and me at the Grouchy Club in Edinburgh this year

I am not Jewish but seem to have been surrounded by Jews my entire life.

This was a good thing at school, because normal lessons were pretty-much abandoned during Jewish holidays in favour of general knowledge quizzes.

There seemed little point doing normal lessons when, for example, the Latin class was missing two-thirds of its pupils.

Everyone had to study French and one other language – the choice being between German and Latin.

Most Jews at my school chose Latin.

I also had to be circumcised late in life for what were claimed to be medical reasons but what was, I suspect, either some bizarre in-joke or a job creation scheme by doctors who were manufacturing handbags from the cut-off bits. When you rubbed the handbags, they became suitcases.

And that, dear reader, is why I am not and have no ambition to be a comedian.

Merely a Jewish chat show co-host kinda goy.

A boy has to have ambitions.

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