Tag Archives: Christian Talbot

Comedy genes in one Irish family?

Kate Talbot with her 2014 Cunning Stunt Award

Kate Talbot with 2014 Cunning Stunt Award

A month ago, I blogged about Irish comic Christian Talbot and his now 13-year-old daughter Kate who jointly won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award last year and who are both performing at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. Christian is currently doing previews.

“How’s your daughter?” I asked him.

“She’s now booked in for I think it’s two – might be three – dates for Comedy4Kids and Bob Slayer sent me a message:

Hey! The good show you talked about on Fleming’s blog – Let’s do it on the bus! We have Grace the child (11) and Robin (3) who are both performing on the bus.

Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus

Bob Slayer BlundaBus currently in Croydon; soon Edinburgh

Bob Slayer has a double decker bus – the BlundaBus – as one of his Edinburgh Fringe venues this year.

“I sent him dates when Kate was over,” Christian told me, “but then he didn’t reply. I think he’s got caught up touring with Electric Eel Shock (Bob’s Japanese rock band) and then with the BlundaBus. I must email him again and refresh his memory.”

“So are you encouraging Kate to be a comedian?” I asked.

“I don’t really want my daughter to be a comedian though, if she’s good, I’ll happily take the money. She’s interested in doing it and, if she wants to do it, then… It just really depends on whether she enjoys it. We’ll just have to see.

“She can write phenomenally well. Her teachers are just blown away by her writing. The only trouble is she gets distracted by doing that to the detriment of anything else – her maths, her languages and the other stuff. She just wants to read books and write stories. She did this thing for school where she had to describe what it was like to be a cliff.”

Kate and Christian Talbot

Christian Talbot – not an éminence grise, just a proud dad

“A what?” I asked.

“A cliff. And she was talking about the weeds coming up out of it, like the dead fingers of sailors who had crashed against the rocks. I’m very proud of her. And some of her stuff’s quite dark.”

“Got her parents’ genes, then?” I asked.

“Gayle and myself went to Queen’s (University, Belfast) and we were the only two people to do the same degree. We both did English and Anthropology – social anthropology. Kind of learning about cultures. But I started off doing chemistry and physics and computer science and then I changed because I didn’t like it. I was good at chemistry; I just didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life.”

I told Christian: “I think my chemistry master emigrated to New Zealand because he couldn’t face teaching me any more. I always came last – except once when I came next-to-last in the class – and he wrote on my report: A fair try. He emigrated shortly afterwards. He probably thought his teaching career had peaked.”

“I remember,” said Christian, “going to the Head of Chemistry at university when I finished my first lot of exams and asked: Is this what it’s going to be like? Just doing titrations and bunsen burners and beakers and working in a lab? And he said: Yup, pretty much, unless you’re very lucky and you get into petrochemicals and work for somebody like Exxon or Esso or BP or Shell. That didn’t really appeal to me, so I changed courses.”

“Has your wife Gayle got any performance genes?” I asked.

Gayle Hayes with Christian Talbot

Gayle Hayes with Christian Talbot – a showbiz couple or not?

“She did stand-up a couple of weeks ago in Belfast. She did a course on stand-up with a load of other new people and wrote a thing but she had no interest, really, in performing it. She enjoyed the writing and the creating part of it. So she got up and read it off the sheet. Her heart wasn’t really in it and I asked her: Do you want to do it again? She said: No. She just doesn’t have that need – that void – that comedians have… I have to get up and say something!

“Gayle doesn’t admire it particularly. She just thinks there’s something lacking in people who want to get up and show off and talk about themselves. She’s right, of course!”

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Cowgatehead casualty Christian Talbot and his award-winning 13 y.o. daughter

Christian’s show was on at the Sligo festival

Christian’s show was on at the Sligo festival

Yesterday’s blog was yet another – surely this must stop soon? – about the chaos surrounding the Cowgatehead venue at this year’s upcoming Edinburgh Fringe.

Yesterday afternoon, I was talking via Skype with Irish comedian Christian Talbot in Belfast.

He told me: “There are a load of people – I was talking to them this morning – they’ve re-applied to the PBH Free Fringe and haven’t heard anything back and they’re waiting on Freestival stuff and it’s just… I mean, it’s really heartbreaking to… I know about ten or twelve people very personally, really good friends, who are… they just have no venue now… They’ve really become very, very disillusioned. They’ve all paid deposits on accommodation, they’ve all booked flights to Scotland which are now useless, they’ve paid for their entry in the Fringe Brochure – in some cases for two shows, which is £600. They really are… yeah… It’s not good… I wrote something for Chortle the other day about how the people who ARE over there this year can make it a bit better… But I don’t think the Fringe has come out of it really well…”

Christian Talbot (centre) with his award, me & Kate Copstick

Christian Talbot (centre) with his award, me & Kate Copstick

Christian and his now 13-year-old daughter Kate won an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award last year.

“Kate is doing a full 60-minute show this year, isn’t she?” I asked.

“No. She’s going to do about 3 minutes.”

“Oh lord,” I said. “So much for what I know. But, if she speaks slowly, she can stretch it out to fit.”

“Lots of other people have,” said Christian. “She was supposed to be doing another show. I had one set up with Freestival for a one-off, where we would have a load of kids 7-15 years old each doing three minutes. But that looks to be in doubt now, given the whole debacle.”

“Was it in Cowgatehead?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Ah.”

Sad-eyed Kate Talbot, the perfect flyerer, 2014

Sad-eyed Kate Talbot, the perfect flyerer, 2014

“We also had another one-off charity gig set up for the Neuro Foundation, which was going to be quite a big gig and have quite big names at it. That gig is now in doubt.”

“Was that one at Cowgatehead as well?”

“Yes. But neither of those gigs were going to be in the main Edinburgh Fringe Brochure – They were just going to be advertised at the time. So they may go ahead somewhere else…

“But Kate is definitely doing one show – Comedy 4 Kids. Three minutes. And she’s going to do a bit of a tutorial for an hour beforehand. Kate has been plaguing me to do something at the Fringe.”

“Building on her award-winning career start last year?” I asked.

“Absolutely.”

“And as for your own Fringe shows?” I asked.

“My main show Christian Talbot Is Shite at Being Irish is in the Underbelly and my other show Cheaper than Therapy was supposed to be in Cowgatehead. It’s now in Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus. It was supposed to be in Cowgatehead but I lost the venue, of course. Bob just messaged me out of the blue: Have you got a venue? and he gave me six dates.

Christian’s Cowgatehead show now moved to Bob’s BlundaBus

Christian’s Cowgatehead show scheduled in Edinburgh, now moved to Bob’s BlundaBus

“It’s going to be a talk show with a different theme every night. Things that lead us to therapy or things that you find therapeutic.

“So one of the shows will be about religion. We will have one on alcohol. One on your parents messing up your life. and one on depression.

“I did it a couple of times over in Sligo at the festival there, talking about various therapy things. It worked quite well. I just think it’s something different. I didn’t want to get people up to do stand-up again.”

“It’s an extension of your Seven 2 Ten podcast?” I asked.

“Yes. A little bit, but with a theme to each one.”

“Is your podcast still going?”

“I haven’t really had time,” Christian told me. “I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I’ll probably do Cheaper than Therapy as a podcast-and-record and put them out.”

“You don’t see the Fringe chat show as a leaping-off point for something else?”

“No. It’s just a bit of fun. It would be lovely if it was, wouldn’t it? But I’m not doing it for that reason. I’m doing it for a laugh.”

There’s a rarity. Someone doing a show at the Edinburgh Fringe just for the craic.

“This coming Sunday,” said Christian. “I’m doing a preview of Christian Talbot Is Shite at Being Irish at the Museum of Comedy in London – I’m on straight after Lewis Schaffer’s show.”

“Oh lord,” I said. “Oh lord. For you, the nightmare never ends.”

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

Christian Talbot at Soho Theatre yesterday

Christian Talbot was drinking Coke at Soho Theatre yesterday

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

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

Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe I was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“From County Contrary?” I asked.

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

“What is your show called?” I asked.

Christian Talbot ponders the title of his Ediburgh Fringe show

Christian Talbot ponders his Edinburgh Fringe show title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Hegarty faces up to his publicity stunt

Sean Hegarty faces up to reaction

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

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

I feel we may hear more of this.

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How do you win an increasingly prestigious Cunning Stunt Award?

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

The Malcolm Hardee Awards await collection near Edinburgh

Every August at the Edinburgh Fringe, I give away three increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in memory of the godfather of British alternative comedy. One of these is a Cunning Stunt Award for the best stunt publicising a Fringe show or act.

And every year, around this time, people ask me for the definition of Cunning.

Well, non-cunning stunts are easy to think up. You can walk up and down the High Street in Edinburgh wearing a read nose and handing out flyers.

That is a stunt but is in no way cunning.

Christian Talbot’s increasingly prestigious Cunning Stunt Award

Kate Talbot’s increasingly prestigious Cunning Stunt Award

Last year, the Cunning Stunt Award went to comedian Christian Talbot and his 12 year-old daughter Kate.

Cute Kate would wander around the streets outside Christian’s venue looking sad and distraught, go up to strangers and say plaintively: “Have you seen my daddy?”

When they replied in the negative, she would tell them: “Well, you should, because Kate Copstick of The Scotsman says he’s an engaging performer” and give them a flyer.

The Fringe has reduced comedian Lewis Schaffer to this

Lewis Schaffer – a man not unused to cunning publicity stunts

In 2009 – a year when Perrier stopped sponsoring some other less increasingly prestigious awards – Lewis Schaffer won the Cunning Stunt Award for a fake press release which fooled several publications into printing stories (which they believed) saying he was taking over sponsorship of the awards for £99 and was re-naming them The Lewies. This resulted in a threat of legal action from the awards’ organiser and his agent sacked him. But he did win the Cunning Stunt Award, so it wasn’t all gloom and doom..

The Award started in 2008 when performer Gill Smith sent me an email saying she was nominating herself for the main Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis that, if she nominated herself in the email, she could justifiably put on her posters: MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD NOMINEE. She thought Malcolm would have approved. I agreed and gave her the first Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

One of Malcolm’s own cunning stunts at the Fringe, of course, was the year when he and Arthur Smith wrote a glowing review of Malcolm’s own show and put it in a tray at The Scotsman under the name of that august publication’s own reviewer William Cook. The Scotsman printed it, thinking it was a legitimate review.

Bob Slayer & Kate Copstick exchange specs & tongues yesterday

Bob Slayer found another way to influence  Kate Copstick

Another legendary stunt was the year Scotsman critic Kate Copstick (a Malcolm Hardee Awards judge) gave comedian Jason Wood’s show a 1-star review. He immediately plastered his posters and flyers with the strapline: “A STAR” – THE SCOTSMAN.

These are definitive cunning stunts.

Last year (or it might have been two years ago – I have a shit memory) an act publicised his show by having lots of ginger haired people march through Glasgow.

I got a vitriolic letter later from a PR man berating me for not nominating this for the Cunning Stunt Award because the stunt had got worldwide press and TV coverage.

But it was not in any way a cunning stunt. It was just a stunt – and a little odd as it happened in Glasgow. It was no different to walking up and down the Royal Mile wearing a red nose. There was no con involved.

In 2013, Barry Ferns rightly won the Cunning Stunt Award for a series of stunts including publishing fake editions of Edinburgh Fringe review sheets Broadway Baby and Three Weeks publicising his own show, but we sort-of gave a second award (which we called the Pound of Flesh Award) to Ellis & Rose.

Could Gareth be cruising for another bruising?

Comic Ellis was prepared to do anything for publicity…

Ellis had been beaten-up in the street by a punter angry about the duo’s Jimmy Savile comedy show.

Except it never happened. In fact, Ellis’ comedy partner Rose had repeatedly punched him in the face to give him a bruised cheek and genuine black eye… all to get a few inches of column space publicising themselves and their shows.

Like Lewis Schaffer doing a stunt in 2009 which lost him his agent, this seemed commendably OTT in stunt terms. And definitely cunning.

All this comes to mind because, a couple of weeks ago, Simon Caine invited me to be on his Ask The Industry podcast in the mistaken belief that I am increasingly prestigious in the comedy world and that he might get a Cunning Stunt Award for setting up a podcast solely so he could plug himself to allegedly influential people.

Previous interviewees had included Julian Hall (former comedy reviewer for the Independent and former Malcolm Hardee Awards judge), Alex Petty of the Laughing Horse comedy clubs and Edinburgh Free Festival) and Hils Jago (of the Amused Moose clubs and Comedy Awards).

Simon Caine Podcast

Simon Caine has another cunning idea – interviewing clothes

I told Simon that, if you set up a podcast simply to plug yourself to the people you invite on it, that is a commendable stunt but not a cunning stunt.

It would only be a cunning stunt if you invited people to the podcast recording, spoke to them for an hour and actually there was no podcast.

Sadly, he has scuppered his chances because there is a (very good) ongoing series of podcasts.

He has suggested he can get round this by never uploading the podcast with me or by not uploading it until September – after the Fringe has finished – but I am currently not convinced.

Watch this space.

This year, Ellis & Rose already have a cunning stunt up-and-running. I have told them, if they can keep it going successfully until August without anyone noticing, I will nominate them for a Cunning Stunt Award (provided they actually do use it in August to publicise an Edinburgh Fringe show).

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Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner attacked after Edinburgh awards show

So, last night, the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show was held at the Counting House in Edinburgh as part of the Free Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe. The award winners were:

  • for Comic Originality – Candy Gigi
  • for best Cunning Stunt – Christian Talbot and 12 year-old daughter Kate
  • for Act Most Likely To Make a Million Quid – Luisa Omielan

You can find more details about them in the blog I posted when the nominations were announced.

Miss Behave co-hosted Malcolm Hardee Awards (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

Miss Behave: co-host of Malcolm Hardee Awards (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

Most unexpected parts of the evening for me (apart from co-compere Miss Behave dragging me on-stage and setting the top of my head on fire (true) were a whole series of random comedians doing worryingly realistic 20-second imitations of comic Lewis Schaffer’s on-stage persona. In the ensuing chaos, Lewis Schaffer appeared to award himself a fish.

And, in the Scottish national Russian Egg Roulette Championships (basically smashing eggs on your forehead), co-compere Janey Godley’s daughter Ashley Storrie (who agreed to compete a few weeks ago) withdrew because she remembered only yesterday afternoon that she is allergic to eggs… and Janey was (reluctantly and genuinely loudly protesting) forced to stand in and actually won the increasingly prestigious Scottish Egg Roulette title.

I will not mention exceptional singer Danusia Samal, Maori singer/dancer Mika with his gay haka, Doug Segal doing a Boy With Tape On His Face mind-reading act, Sharnema Nougar being almost dropped by three literally supporting comedians while she sang and played a ukelele, Lindsay Sharman as a Scottish poetess, Vladimir Putin singing gay anthem Ukrainian Men with a line about shooting planes down, Johnny Sorrow and his balaclava mystery man and Tim FitzHigham drinking a pint of lager through a bugle then playing The Last Post for Malcolm Hardee and Comedy in general.

Kate Copstick with Richard Herring last night (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

Kate Copstick (arm in sling) with Richard Herring last night (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

But I will mention that other Russian Egg Roulette contestants included Richard Herring and Juliette Burton. For the second year running, Juliette (a farmer’s daughter who reckons she can spot raw eggs from the aura round their shells) trounced Richard but came second – this year to Janey Godley.

The show probably finished around 1.30am, so lasted its normal two hours.

At 3.01am, I had a text message from worthy Cunning Stunt Award winner Christian Talbot.

Relevant to this might be the fact that, at yesterday afternoon’s Grouchy Club, critic Kate Copstick said another Edinburgh Fringe performer (surprisingly not Lewis Schaffer) had contacted her about a 3-star review she gave their show. The performer said they thought it deserved 4-stars. Her reaction was: Well, I did not and I am the reviewer. He told her bitterly: I think you took one star off me because of the content.

Well, yes, reviewers do tend to award stars and write their reviews on the basis of the perceived quality of the content. The same thing goes for giving increasingly prestigious awards.

Bear this in mind, dear reader.

Christian Talbot (centre) with his award, me & Kate Copstick

Christian Talbot (centre) with his award, me & Kate Copstick

Now back to award-winning Christian Talbot’s text to me at 3.01am this morning.

One of the other nominees in the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award category had been comedian Luke McQueen.

Christian Talbot’s text read:

Had Luke McQueen’s girlfriend grab my trophy off me in Brooke’s Bar (the Pleasance Dome venue’s bar for performers) and try to smash it. It’s not too damaged. What a lovely person she is.

I texted back: Are you sure it was his girlfriend?

She was with him and drunk, Christian replied. Not positive it was his ‘girlfriend’. Could have been a friend that is a girl. I can’t remember what he called her. She was very aggressive.

How did you know it was McQueen’s girlfriend or friend? I asked.

Christian replied: She was with him talking when I came in. I went to talk to him as I kind of know him. When I did, she grabbed the trophy from me. I assumed girlfriend as she was so aggressive with me.

How did McQueen react when she tried to smash the award? I asked.

He told her: “Oh, don’t do that.” He said congratulations to me, but that honestly he felt he should have won. Then I went home.

I forwarded Christian’s first message to fellow Malcolm Hardee Award judge Kate Copstick.

She texted back: Bloody hell! We made the right choice!

Christian Talbot’s increasingly prestigious Cunning Stunt Award

Christian’s increasingly prestigious Cunning Stunt Award

I wholeheartedly agree. (Only one of the four Malcolm Hardee judges had initially voted for Luke McQueen, then changed their mind and went with Christian Talbot too.)

Meanwhile, outside the Fringe bubble…

Anyone who read my blog two days ago may remember a passing mention of my farting chum Mr Methane being invited (under his own name, so the sender would not have known he was Mr Methane) to a Christmas gig by Michael McIntyre at the Tower of London.

Yesterday, I received a very polite e-mail from Michael McIntyre’s agent Off The Kerb, saying: “I hope you’re well. I just wanted to drop you an email to let you know that the information posted on your blog re. Michael McIntyre performing at The Tower of London is completely false (blog post 21st August). Michael is not performing at this event.”

I have removed the reference from my previous blog.

Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart from his bottom

Mr Methane at a previous Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

When I forwarded the news to Mr Methane, he was gobsmacked.

“An elaborate scam,” said Mr Methane, “that seeks to ruin the good name and reputation of Michael McIntyre with fake offers for non-existent tickets starting at £1,500 for a non-existent Christmas gig? Keep me posted!”

Mr Methane is currently on his holidays away from showbiz and continued:

“I’ve been staying at Hartington in the Peak District where I’ve been trying out different makes of electric bicycles on the Monsal, Tissington & High Peak trails, I have now moved on to the Ramada Consort budget hotel at Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, which is ideally situated to visit the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft which houses the world’s largest collection of historic trolleybuses.

“But its not an all-electric vacation, as finally I’m moving on to stay at Adlington, Cheshire, which is where my mum used to live during the war with grandad before she got married. It is also conveniently placed for a visit on Monday to the Anson Engine museum for a bit of diesel, steam and gas-powered stationary engine action.”

I can only dream of such a life.

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The increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards short list is announced at the Edinburgh Fringe

The short-list for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe has been decided amid a flurry of red noses and custard pie fights between the judges. In roughly alphabetical order…

Malcolm Hardee Show 2014

The three nominees for the main
MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY
(which is awarded to performers not to shows)
are:

The Birdmann
in A Man Like No Man
4.00pm at Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop

Candy Gigi
in I’m Not Lonely
4.00pm at The Hive

The Human Loire
(aka Michael Brunström)
1.00pm at Cowgatehead


The three nominees for the
MALCOLM HARDEE CUNNING STUNT AWARD
for best (cunning) stunt promoting an Edinburgh Fringe act or show are:

Luke McQueen
for persuading people that comedian Frankie Boyle was playing a secret gig at the Pleasance, then revealing that the gig did not feature Frankie Boyle at all but was a Luke McQueen gig. There was reportedly an element of disgruntlement in the audience. A brief debate between the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judges seemed to decide that stupidity was possibly a bonus in being nominated for a Cunning Stunt Award. Irate audience members can find him at the Pleasance Courtyard at 8.00pm in a show called Now That’s What I Luke McQueen.

Mark Dean Quinn
for bringing originality to the vital yet under-rated art of flyering for two shows. To ‘sell’ Ben Target’s show, he handed out blank strips of paper to passers-by. If they asked why, he gave them a small card with show details. This meant the right audiences self-selected themselves for the show. He also flyered for the ACMS (Alternative Comedy Memorial Society) by standing with his head in a cardboard box full of flyers. People were inclined to take them. He also flyered last year for a non-existent Fringe show. If we had heard of this last year, I would have certainly nominated him for that. As I wrote re the previous nominee, stupidity is a plus point.

Christian Talbot
– another award for creative flyering – for getting his 12-year old daughter Kate to wander up to strangers in the street, looking sad and distraught, asking them “Have you seen my daddy?” then, if they say No, handing them a flyer with details of where they can see his show – which is called Hello Cruel World (8.20pm at the Underbelly, Bristo Square).


All this brings us to the increasingly contentious
ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID AWARD

Last year, we did not present this award because we did not think anyone deserved it.

However, the award had already been made, so – given that it is in the form of a £ sign with a bite taken out of it, we awarded it under the name THE POUND OF FLESH AWARD to Ellis, who was beaten up by his double act partner Rose so that they could claim he was beaten up in the street by a punter irate at their Jimmy Savile: The Punch and Judy Show.

This year, we have decided to nominate two acts for this trophy and, depending on who wins it, we will call it by a different name.

The first nominee – for the ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID AWARD is the amazing crowd-pulling Luisa Omielan. Over the last year, she has been touring with What Would Beyonce Say? This year, her new Fringe show is Am I Right, Ladies? (10.15pm at The Counting House)

If the other nominee wins the trophy, it will be called the ACT LEAST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID AWARD. The nominee for that is Fringe legend Peter Buckley Hill, who created the Free Fringe and spawned all the other copies of the ‘free’ model in Edinburgh, London and elsewhere. Unlike most acts, Peter has heroically never aspired to make any money from the Fringe and has staunchly defended his free model. His unlisted-in-the-main-Fringe-Programme show Peter Buckley Hill and Some Comedians is 9.35pm at Canons’ Gait.

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

The three awards for Comic Originality (left), Cunning Stunt (right) and the Million Quid Award

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Edinburgh Fringe: Who started the free shows? Not PBH. PLUS The perfect way to sell an Irish comedy show by flyering

This year’s PBH Fringe logo

This year’s PBH Fringe logo

Everyone ‘knows’ that the concept for the blossoming number of free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe first began in 1996 when Peter Buckley Hill (PBH) performed his show Peter Buckley Hill And Some Comedians without charging for entry. This developed into the PBH Free Fringe, which begat the Free Festival, Bob Slayer’s Heroes/Pay What You Want venues and, this year, the Freestival.

But I realised something a couple of days ago.

And in the audience at yesterday’s Grouchy Club show at the Edinburgh Fringe was Paul B.Edwards, artistic director of the PBH Free Fringe.

I said: “People claim that PBH was the first to perform free shows at the Fringe in 1996. But, in fact, the year before – 1995 – Malcolm Hardee publicised his yet-to-be-published autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake by doing free shows in Edinburgh.

Malcolm Hardee’s 1995 free Fringe show

Malcolm Hardee’s 1995 free Fringe show

“He didn’t want to pay for the hire of a venue, so he decided to perform the show in the flat he was renting. One of the other tenants in the block of flats was an ex-solicitor who said You can’t do this. You need an entertainment licence. You can’t put on a public performance to a paying audience in a private flat and have rowdy people going up and down our stairs. The guy went to the Council and was threatening legal action.

“So Malcolm said: OK. We won’t charge anyone to come in. We will let them in for free. We just won’t let them out unless they pay.

And that is, indeed, what happened. The audiences were small – basically as many as could sit on the sofa and on a few chairs in the living room. And admittedly it was more of a hostage situation than the establishment of an altruistic philosophy of free shows. But I maintain that, in fact, the pioneer of the free show model at the Edinburgh Fringe was none other than the late lamented stuntmeister Malcolm Hardee.

I let people into the flat for those shows in 1995. The first thing they saw through an open door directly opposite them was Malcolm, naked in the bath, washing himself in preparation for the show.

Oy! Oy! I’ll be with you in a minute! he said to greet them. And, when everyone was seated in the living room, he would come in and regale the assembled group with stories from his life. At what point – if any – he put on his clothes, I cannot remember.

Paul B.Edwards was at The Grouchy Club yesterday

Paul B.Edwards was at The Grouchy Club

“Well,” said the Free Fringe’s Paul B.Edwards at the Grouchy Club yesterday, “I was in the venue with Peter Buckley Hill in 1996 when he started his show… and his show was not free. It was at the Footlights and Firkin pub and all the shows there were £5. Peter’s was the last show of the day and no-one was coming along. So, after the first week, Peter said: Fuck this. I’m going to make it free, just to get people in. That’s how it started.

“Peter has never pretended he didn’t have a ticketed show to start with. He just says he started the free model. The reason he did it was the tickets were not working. In 1996, £5 was a lot of money to go and see a show by someone you had never heard of.”

Getting people into shows in Edinburgh is difficult.

Handing out flyers is seen as vital.

After yesterday’s Grouchy Club show, I had tea with Irish comic Christian Talbot,

Sad-eyed Kate Talbot, the perfect flyerer

Sad-eyed Kate… Have you seen her daddy?

“My daughter Kate is my secret flyering weapon,” he told me. “She’s twelve years old and she’s brilliant.

“I have her wandering around outside my venue looking all sad and she goes up to strangers and says Have you seen my daddy? and people tell her No, no. Sorry, love.

“And she says: Well, you should, because Kate Copstick says he’s an ‘engaging performer’ and then she whips out a flyer and gives it to them.

“She’s brilliant. Next year, I’m going to bring her to Edinburgh and have her actually in my show just to get sympathy. She’s going to come on stage and say: I need shoes.

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