(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)
The last time comedian Matt Price was mentioned in this blog, it was about the time he asked a Glasgow gangster for a gun and about performing comedy inside Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane. He meets interesting people and interesting things happen to him.
Yesterday afternoon, I heard from comedian Daphna Baram – the woman with her finger on the pulse of rising comics – that comedian Chris Dangerfield had pulled out of his show at the Edinburgh Fringe. His show had been billed as Chris Dangerfield: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.
Chris Dangerfield’s slot at The Hive, Daphna told me, had been taken up by Matt Price with his interestingly-titled show Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia.
I looked up Matt’s website and it said he was in Turkey throughout August. No mention of the Edinburgh Fringe.
So I asked him what was up.
“I was supposed to be in Turkey for four and a half months,” he explained, “but it went horribly wrong after six weeks. Chris Dangerfield dropped out because of death threats from some very bad people and so I’m taking his time slot in Edinburgh – 6.30pm at the Hive from August 1st to 26th.
“I have only had a week in which to prepare my show, so it should be interesting… It’s been a very strange few months, but it’s quite a story. I could tell you more, but I don’t really know quite where to begin and I don’t want to give away what’s in my show.
“My concern at the moment is for Chris Dangerfield. I was dealing with some bad people myself, hence why I’m going to Edinburgh. The difference is they are in Turkey. The bad people Chris knows are in Britain.”
The billing for Matt’s new show says it “features fake Ralph Lauren polo shirts, holiday reps, the Turkish Mafia, Jason Manford’s brother and the bloke who played Tinky Winky (yes, the Teletubbies).”
Yesterday, Matt told me: “The photo that stands out most for me from the trip is one of Colin Manford. It was in the stage area at one of the gigs. We did the last show there and were planning our escape via Rhodes. A plan that didn’t quite work out…”
As Tinky Winky from Teletubbies was involved – the ever creative Dave Thompson – I asked him what on earth had happened out in Turkey.
“The situation,” Dave told me, “was that an Englishman who spends a lot of time in Turkey saw what he thought was a gap in the market for stand-up comedy in the Turkish resorts around Ölüdeniz. This was a year ago last June.
“He decided to go full steam ahead with promoting comedy out there this year, with no experience of it whatsoever.
“Instead of trying out a few shows last year to see if there really was a demand for them, he went into full-scale production. He booked nine comedians to work in three packages, all of which would be doing twelve shows per week for the entire summer of this year… His preparations were highly inadequate.
“We were booked for the Englishman’s shows through a British promoter and the British promoter was superb in every aspect. They were completely open with us, giving us the contact details of the Englishman so we could meet him and judge for ourselves if he was worth dealing with.
“I met him in Leeds, when I arranged for him to come to see me in Harry Hill’s show Sausage Time (which was being recorded for the live DVD).
“I noticed he didn’t buy one drink, allowing me to buy them all in the pub afterwards or drinking the beers from the rider in the dressing room. I got the feeling he didn’t have any money and that the entire project depended on the shows in Turkey being nearly sold out from the start. But, as I love travel and he paid for my plane ticket out there and arranged for us to be accommodated in a villa with a shared pool, I went out there just in case the project was a success.
“I was with Matt in the first group booked and I went out there anticipating the whole thing might collapse fairly soon, but prepared for it not to.
“The first show we did was in front of tour reps and their managers, for no money. The venue had been refurbished at the expense of the Turkish club owner, but there had been no consultation with anyone who had ever promoted comedy.
“Consequently, lots of money had been spent to build a dedicated comedy room that was totally inappropriate for comedy. The sound desk was in a separate room and had no communication with or view of the comedy room. There was no microphone stand. The sight-lines were appalling. The stage was too high and at the end of a long narrow room. There were no seat backs on the seats, which had been specially made and installed, even though he expected the shows to last for over two hours.
“The room could have been superb for comedy – if the English guy who initiated all this had bothered to consult someone who had run comedy shows before – or even consulted comedians.
“As a result, the large amount of money spent on the room was totally wasted.
“I don’t normally swear onstage, but the show was such a fiasco – with a few fat, thick tour reps who hadn’t paid to see the show – that I did swear on this occasion.
“After the show, the English promoter was euphoric about it, saying it was going to be a huge success. The next day, though, it turned out the tour rep managers were not keen on the show and I was singled out as having sworn. I was sacked a few days later, having only done one unpaid show.
“As I always knew it was a strong possibility the whole project would collapse, I had continued booking work elsewhere for the summer. So I stayed in a different resort in Turkey for a few days and returned to Britain after having had a pleasant week swimming in the sea and the pool every day.
“But it had become clear while we were out there that the owner of the hotel and nightclub where the performances were happening was connected to the Turkish mafia.
“Mafia is maybe rather an umbrella term. But it was obvious that, in certain ways, they were not concerned about the law or the police. We did not have work permits and we were told that, if the police came to the show to enforce the law, as soon as they saw a certain person who would be in the audience, they would leave without interfering.”
I asked Matt Price yesterday what happened after Dave Thompson left.
“For the five weeks that followed Dave’s departure,” he told me, “things really went downhill. Every day was more and more tense. The Englishman was, shall we say, ‘a fantasist’. He was drink driving every day and there were daily talks of ‘killing Tinky Winky’.
“I took the gigs in good faith thinking that it was the trip of a lifetime – and in so many ways it was, but not the way I expected!
“When I said goodbye to Dave Thompson, I never expected to end up on the last night sleeping in my clothes, holding a kitchen knife and wondering if was capable of killing anyone. Cole Parker and me locked ourselves into a luxury villa with weapons waiting for the Mafia to arrive.”
“Weapons?” I asked Matt. “Was that just the kitchen knife or something more substantial?”
“I would prefer not tell you?” said Matt. “The weapons will be explained in my Fringe show. It’s a huge part of the story, as is our escape.
“I’d like to create as much intrigue as possible really, John. You’d laugh if you heard some of the rumours going around about how we had to be rescued in the middle of the night by helicopter, we stole a car and drove to Istanbul, came home via Europe on the train, the SAS were sent in. The list goes on.
“I’ve had to get my show together at such short notice – one week – I’m hoping the mystery behind the story will get people in. All I want to say is that Chris Dangerfield and I have both been involved with some bad people. I just hope that none of the bad people confuse me for him.”
At this point, obviously, I asked Chris Dangerfield why he had cancelled his Edinburgh shows just one week before the Fringe began.
“Due to the sensitive nature of my situation,” he told me with unusual care, “I have decided to explain the situation myself on a podcast which will be aired this week. I apologise to anyone negatively affected by my cancellation, I wouldn’t have done it if I had any other options. Have a good festival and see you next year!”
“What about your sponsors?” I persisted.
“I’ve already had more press than I had last year,” said Chris, “and last year was a great success in this area. My Edinburgh sponsors this year sorted me out with 100 syringes, 100 x 27 gauge 25mm spikes, 100 2ml bottle ampoules of sterile water and 100 alcohol swabs. They are over the moon because of the coverage I’ve already had.
“They are wonderful people – Exchange Supplies. They were set up by drug workers to improve the harm reduction response to drug use. They developed the nevershare syringe – the world’s first syringe designed specifically for injecting drug users – and they also supply injecting paraphernalia. They are involved in harm reduction on the front line of a society that usually prefers to turn its back on its less palatable creations – usually causing a cultural sciatica we all have the pleasure of feeling.
“I’m also getting enquiries daily,” he continued. “The British Comedy Guide just contacted me, asking about my cancellation and about hosting a podcast about the announcement. I’ll be using such platforms to raise the entire censorship debate as well as the ugly negative gender politics that seem to be doing their best to strangle the last breath from the weary lung of stand-up.”
I presumed this meant Chris did not want to talk to me about the alleged death threats and why he cancelled the show.
“So where are you going to perform it now, if not at the Fringe?” I asked. “It was a good title: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.
“This show will not be performed now – ever,” said Chris. “Mainly because it didn’t exist in the first place and it seems pointless to bother making the effort now. Much like last year’s show Sex Tourist, I was just going to wing it and cross my fingers.”
That doesn’t quite explain everyone’s reference to death threats and Chris clearly did not want to tell me any more details, but I look forward with interest to the explanatory podcast.
In the meantime, the whole sorry saga does have some good resulting from it.
Matt Price will be performing his show Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, even if I do not approve of the spelling of ‘Program’. And Dave Thompson tells me:
“Shortly after returning from Turkey, I was offered a role in Harry Hill’s forthcoming feature film and did five days work on it. I have also had a lucky streak of work since, including being a fake vicar at a TV executive’s wedding and I will be relaxing on a beach in Croatia during August, a long way from Edinburgh and the Scottish weather. Be sure to mention I will also be handling the almost overwhelming surge in orders for my book The Sex Life of a Comedian.”
Roll up! Roll up! Promotion! Promotion!
Everyone even remotely connected to the Edinburgh Fringe in August is promoting their product(s).
See you at my chat show.
THERE IS A PROMO FOR MATT’S SHOW ON YOUTUBE: