Tag Archives: comedian

British comedian Nik Coppin wins out-of-court settlement in Oz ‘racist’ case

Nik Coppin did not let Australia go to his head except in hats

Back in March, I blogged about a bizarre happening in Adelaide.

British comedian Nik Coppin was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. He was in the studio with Peter Goers.

Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) said he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

A few days later, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Nik took legal advice.

Last weekend, the Sunday Mail printed this in Peter Goers’ column:

Apology appeared in Australia’s Sunday Mail at the weekend

APOLOGY: On Sunday, March 4, in my column’s “What’s Not” section I referred to comedian Nik Coppin as “painfully unfunny racist Fringe comedian at the Austral Hotel: Minus four stars”. I acknowledge that my comments were false and made without foundation. In fact, I had not seen his show at the time I wrote my comments. I have no reason to believe that Nik Coppin is a racist or that his Fringe show contained racist material. I withdraw those comments without reservation and apologise for any hurt or embarrassment caused.

Yesterday, Nik told me what had happened.

This is what he said:

_______________________

Nik Coppin explains what happened….

The process involved in obtaining an apology and reparation for libellous and harmful comments printed in a newspaper is a very interesting one. In the eyes of the law, that which you feel would be perfectly reasonable to assume isn’t and that which you presume wouldn’t be, is.

The legal eagles certainly have a bewildering way of dealing with things.

A few people that I know and work with questioned whether it was worth it and warned that it could get very stressful, depending on how far I was willing to push it.

There is very little that I take too seriously, if I am honest. I mean, we’re all entertainers after all, right? Let’s just laugh it off and get some good ol’ fashioned PR out of it. But there surely must come a time in everybody’s existence on this here planet when you have to take a more solemn view of things and in some situations say to oneself, “Enough is enough”. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe is right.

In life, the press and certainly the world of comedy, all too often people take offence because they refuse to listen properly or shut off when they hear certain things said. This appears to be a natural reaction to things you might not want to hear, or that which touches a nerve, but it does not excuse what Mr Goers did and the Sunday Mail allowed to happen.

In my opinion, it was a vengeful and spiteful thing to do. Something you really would not expect from one of his years.

But, as laughable and nonsensical as this situation was, I had to take a more serious stance than to merely laugh off the bizarre and farcical comments. A half black man being accused of racism in possibly the most racist westernised country on the planet? My God, how ludicrous!

I should add, however, that I do not believe that Australians are racist. Well, not all of them anyway. I love visiting the place, doing the festivals, seeing the wildlife, having the banter and all the other delightful things that go along with being in such a beautiful country. But I think we all know that there are issues that need to be dealt with over there. The We’re too laid back to be racist or hate Aboriginals defence just isn’t good enough.

The amount of times I have heard white Australians say things like: “We give them money and offer them jobs, but they’re just lazy and want to get pissed all the time”.

Well, that says all you need to know about certain sentiments in a land where the indigenous population were slaughtered by the thousands and had their land, dignity, children and whatever else stolen from them.

I think any race that has suffered that and had their rights and entire way of life stripped away, has earned the right to ‘laze around’ and drink a few bevies if they choose to, don’t you?

I am not suggesting that they should attempt to ‘give back’ the country. Australia is predominately a white country but, in my opinion and many others, is black land. So those in privileged positions in Australia should be a bit more understanding and helpful in the future and support the Aboriginal as much as they can.

I mean, let’s face it, if you look at the table from the London 2012 Olympics and who won many of those medals for the UK and the US of A, maybe you could do a lot worse than support your black population, Australia. Then in a few years time maybe we Brits won’t be laughing at what little precious metal you took back ‘home’.

The thing about such a situation, though, is that – for one who earns his living as a comedian – the possibilities are many. I was considering writing a show about race and maybe religious issues and this story can underpin the whole thing.

So, while it was confusing, angering and frustrating having what I can only consider a foolish, arrogant Adelaidian ‘celebrity’ full of his own self-importance doing a childish, vindictive thing like calling me a “painfully unfunny racist” in a popular newspaper without even seeing my show or listening to me or doing his research properly… Was it worth it going through with the fight and standing up for what you believe in, in the face of a form of oppression?

Definitely.

And, to those who doubted whether it was the right thing to do, I say to you…

I would it again and again and again.

And so should you.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Legal system, Newspapers, Racism

Comedians punched and headbutted in the street at the Edinburgh Fringe

Ian Fox in Edinburgh earlier today

Before I left Edinburgh this evening, I had a drink with comedian-writer-photographer Ian Fox  who was attacked in the street on Wednesday night.

When I was with him today, he got a phone call from the police.

“It was around 11.30 at night and I was coming up that curved street Candlemakers Row, just before you get to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby,” he told me. “There were loads of people walking about, because the Tattoo had just finished.”

Throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, Ian has been taking nighttime photos of Edinburgh between around 10.00pm and midnight.

“I’d taken a photo in the Cowgate,” he told me, “ but put my camera away because there isn’t anything else to take photos of until you get to Bristo Square. The camera was round my neck, but underneath my top, so they didn’t see it. But it wasn’t a mugging.

“Some students were arsing about on the left hand side of the road, kicking a traffic cone about, so I crossed over the road to avoid them. I was in the road and only vaguely aware there were people walking down the other footpath then, as soon as the guy got level with me, he just hit me. He was wearing a ring, which is what cut me.

“I hit the ground, mainly out of surprise, then I heard another guy say: He’s gone down. I think the first guy had passed me, the second guy then hit me and I think the first guy had turned  to watch, because he knew what was about to happen and then he was celebrating the fact I’d gone down.

“When I heard him say He’s gone down! I thought to myself This probably isn’t the best place to be because I’ll get a kicking when I’m down on the ground. I’d quite like it if this was over now. So I stood up and turned around and walked to Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar.

“There was a chef outside. I thought he must have seen the whole thing, but he later told the police he hadn’t seen anything. I asked him if he could help me. He took about three seconds to make a decision on that. He obviously just thought it was drunks fighting but then I think he could tell from the way I was dressed and the way I was speaking that I wasn’t drunk.

“So I went into Bobby’s Bar and the waitress in there took over; she started handing me all the blue papery stuff to soak up the blood.  They phoned the police and the paramedics, because they were worried about how much blood was coming out of me. My cheek was bleeding; my nose was bleeding; so there was a lot of blood.

“The woman in there told me they’d just refused service to two blokes because they were very loud and very aggressive so the chances are it was these two blokes who had just got refused who walked outside and clocked the first person they saw.

“From the way they had been moving, I think they were on speed or something. They were on something, they’d had a skinful and the adrenaline buzz of hitting someone was the next thing they were after.

“The police said they hoped the cameras inside Bobby’s Bar had got a clear shot of them coming through the door, but that phone call I just got was the police saying it turned out the CCTV inside Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar has not been working since the 12th of August. The police said they’re now going to look at the Council’s CCTV in the street. But I’ve had a look three times and I can’t see a camera around there. I’m guessing somebody who behaves like that has probably done it before so would not do it near cameras.”

“You had another check-up today, didn’t you?” I asked.

Ian Fox with his mending eye in Edinburgh earlier today

“Yes, at the specialist Facial Injury unit in Livingston at 9 o’clock this morning,” said Ian. “It turned out everyone was given a 9 o’clock appointment, so it was first come, first served.”

“Livingston?” I said. “That’s miles away! That’s about 15 miles away!”

“It still counts as Edinburgh,” Ian said, “because it’s got an EH postcode.”

“Good job you brought your car up here,” I said. “You might easily not have done.”

“They told me I don’t need any further treatment,” said Ian, “but I may have a permanent scar beside my nose and the nurse advised me to avoid being punched in the face for a few months.”

“She didn’t,” I said.

“She did,” said Ian. “and I’m sure that’s very good advice.”

“I imagine the police won’t do anything about it,” I told him. “Did you read that blog of mine a couple of days ago, where a comedian had his computer stolen and he told the police where it was from the Apple GPS positioning and they wouldn’t do anything about it?”

“Well,” Ian said, “a deli I go into every day here… The guy there told me he had an incident a while back where one of his fridges wasn’t working and he called a repair man from an advert in the paper. The guy came and gave him a ridiculously high quote, so he said No.

“A couple of hours later, the cafe owner goes to the bank. Whilst he’s away, the repair man comes back, tells the girls behind the counter he’s there to fix the fridge, moves the fridges, hacks all the wiring at the back, tells the girls the griddle’s broken and says he needs to take it away for repair and leaves with the griddle.

“The cafe owner comes back, finds all the fridges are knackered and the griddle’s missing. So it’s criminal damage and theft. He rings the police, gives them the phone number of the advert and tells them this is the bloke who has done it – the girls have given a description of the guy… That was five months ago and he hasn’t heard anything since.

“He says he opens at 7.00am in the morning and has trouble with drunks coming in and, in the past, he’s tried to get the police to come and shift them and they won’t do it.”

“I love Edinburgh,” I said, “and it’s physically beautiful, but it’s a tough town under the surface. I’m surprised more comedians don’t have problems.”

Seymour Mace got head-butted outside the ScotMid in Nicolson Street in 2009,” Ian told me.

“Was that unmotivated as well?” I asked.

“Exactly the same thing as me,” Ian said. “Except he got headbutted instead of punched. Never even saw them. Though headbutting seems a lot more personal, somehow.”

“More Glaswegian,” I suggested.

“Seymour had a black eye for a week,” Ian said, “and he was doing a children’s show, so he had to explain to the children that he’d hit his head on a door. You can’t tell children there are random nutters out there in Edinburgh who will just headbutt you for no reason.”

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Edinburgh Fringe ‘Big Four’ venue boss shocker: English ‘man’ is Scots woman!

So You Think You’re Funny?

Tomorrow night is the final of the So You Think You’re Funny? talent show for new comedy acts in the Gilded Balloon, one of the ‘Big Four’ venues at the Edinburgh Fringe. In past years, the contest has ‘discovered’ acts including Johnny Vegas, Dylan Moran, Peter Kay and Lee Mack – and it is now in its 25th year.

Jason Cook will be compering tomorrow night; celebrity judge will be Ruby Wax; and also on the judging panel, as always, will be Gilded Balloon boss Karen Koren.

“Ben Elton and all those alternative comics had started in the early 1980s,” Karen told me yesterday. “By 1988, when we began So You Think You’re Funny?, Saturday Live had been on TV but my idea was to find new comedians because they were few and far between – or, at least, scattered – in Scotland. That’s how it started.”

The ‘Big Four’ venues at the Fringe are, it is usually said, run by English men who went to public school.

Karen Koren is definitely not an English man

“I am not English,” Karen told me,” I’m definitely not a man and I didn’t go to public school. Well, I went to a private school, but I wasn’t boarding or anything. It wasn’t posh!”

In fact, Karen was born in Norway but brought up in Edinburgh; and Anthony Alderson who now runs the Pleasance venue was born into a Scottish family.

Another ‘fact’ which is always said or assumed is that all the Big Four owners are based in London and swan up to Edinburgh in August to make money at the Fringe then return South.

“I live and work here all the year round,” Karen points out. Her Gilded Balloon company produces stage and occasionally TV shows in Scotland.

When the Gilded Balloon started in 1986 Karen focussed, from the beginning, on comedy… well, from even before the beginning.

“I had actually started staging comedy in 1985 at McNally’s,” she told me, “a place I was a director of and all these wonderful new alternative comedians were there. Christopher Richardson at the Pleasance and William Burdett-Coutts at Assembly were doing comedy to subsidise their theatre shows, but I focussed on comedy.

“At that time, there weren’t loads and loads of comics, but there was a great camaraderie. Everyone helped each other. It wasn’t the struggling business it is now where everyone wants to be stars. Today there’s not the same support mechanism we had in those days.

The original very very late-night Fringe show

“Comedy at the Fringe had started properly in the early 1980s, really with Steve Frost and his wife Janet Prince. They wanted places to perform in Edinburgh. Janet and I started Late ‘n’ Live together, but she lived in London and I kept going with it.”

When I first came to see comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe in the mid-to-late 1980s, Late ‘n’ Live was the one late-night show. Comics used to go there after their own shows finished to drink and watch – and sometimes heckle – other comics.

Late ‘n’ Live has been rough this year,” Karen told me yesterday.

“Financially or physically?” I asked.

“The audiences have been very, very…” she started. “Well, I made a TV programme called The Late ‘n’ Live Guide to Comedy and maybe audiences now think they can misbehave dreadfully. We’re going to have to shake them into shape. We’ve had a couple of rough nights.”

“Is it like that thing,” I asked, “with Malcolm Hardee’s club The Tunnel, where its reputation fed on itself?”

“That’s right,” said Karen. “Late n Live has always been fairly rowdy, but in a good-natured way. But now, in the Recession, maybe people are a wee bit more desperate… people are not doing so well financially or whatever… so maybe they’re just a bit ‘hungrier’ and want to ‘make’ things happen.”

“Do you think the comics are precipitating the behaviour?” I asked.

“No,” she said immediately. “Not at all. Though I think if you put a comic on who doesn’t know Late ‘n’ Live… well, there was an American comic who went on and talked about not being able to use Scottish money in England and he was saying it as a joke but the minute you touch on that  kind of subject in Scotland… Ooh! Oooh! Ooooh!… and the audience reacted and he only did five minutes. He walked off. Though he came back and did very well but… The problem is we have to put on comics who are challenged by the audience in order to make it work, but…”

“Lots of changes over the years,” I said.

“I expanded from one small theatre to 14 in the heyday of our building in the Cowgate,” said Karen. “And then we were up in Teviot one year before the fire which burned down our old building. So now we are in Bristo Square.

“I did have another venue called The Counting House at the beginning of the 1990s. I named it The Counting House because that’s where they counted the money above the Peartree pub and that was around the time I gave up my full-time position as the PA to the Norwegian Consul-General in Edinburgh. Before that, I had taken my holidays in August to coincide with the Fringe.”

Did I mention the Malcolm Hardee Show?

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t know you had had the Counting House. That’s where I’m doing the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show in Friday.”

In Edinburgh, promotion is everything.

Karen, of course, knew Malcolm from the 1980s onwards and he appeared many times on Gilded Balloon stages.

“We all still think about him today,” Karen told me, “though I loved him better when he was sober than when he was drunk. But I nearly always did what he asked me at the Gilded Balloon, that was the odd thing.”

“He must have been ‘challenging’ to put on,” I suggested.

“But always entertaining,” Karen said. “The last time he was on, he just took it upon himself to go on Late ‘n’ Live speccy-eyed and glaked-looking and then just took off his clothes. And there he was with the biggest bollocks in showbusiness.”

“And that was the act?” I asked.

“Well,” said Karen, “a pint of beer might have been involved. I actually found some film of that recently – the last time he was on stage here – when we were making The Late n Live Guide to Comedy… and I wanted them to use it on the TV series, but they wouldn’t.”

“Because it was in bad taste?” I asked.

“Well,” Karen said, shrugging her shoulders, “they screened footage of Scott Capurro pissing on the stage and, although there was a big ‘X’ over his baby elephant trunk, you could see the glistening pee well enough.”

“Censorship is a variable art,” I said.

“Yes,” laughed Karen. “At least Malcolm never peed on stage.”

“Well, perhaps not in Edinburgh.” I said. “I once saw him go to the back of the stage at the Albany Empire in Deptford and pee during a show.”

“Well, that’s OK,” said Karen. “He had his back to the audience… With Malcolm, it wasn’t just about his appendage, it was about what he did. He always gave people a chance. I listened to him when he told me about the young Jerry Sadowitz – Oh – go on – Give him a chance! – and I did and that was something I always did do with Malcolm. He did play all the Big Three venues, as they then were, and he invented the Aaaaaaaaaaarghhh! at the beginning of show titles so he would get the first listing in the Fringe Programme. And he had the art of being noticed with publicity stunts – writing a review of his own show and getting it published by The Scotsman and all that. We all do still think about him today. Never forgotten.”

Karen Koren talks about Malcolm Hardee in this video made by the Gilded Balloon which opens with The Greatest Show on Legs, currently performing in Edinburgh (with Bob Slayer replacing the late Malcolm) for the first time in over 30 years:

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The confusions of the Edinburgh Fringe and lessons learned from Lewis Schaffer

On the stylish streets of Edinburgh, the Athens of the North

It must be a nightmare for newcomers to the Edinburgh Fringe.

First of all you have to get your head round the fact there is an Official Festival which is not the one most people think of. Then there is the Edinburgh Fringe, the Free Fringe, the Free Festival and the Alternative Fringe (linked to the Free Festival), all of which come under the banner of the Edinburgh Fringe Office who stage no shows themselves.

Then yesterday I got an invitation to a showcase event today at the Spiegeltent Teatro at Assembly George Square Gardens in the Old Town. This is not to be confused with the Famous Spigeltent in the New Town outside the Assembly Rooms, which has no connection with Assembly.

Fringe newcomers have all that to contend with but I have worse. I have to contend with American comedian Lewis Schaffer who has temporarily landed in my spare bedroom for two nights and, as if that were not enough, I keep bumping into him in the street.

Yesterday, I bumped into him in Bristo Square standing with another comic.

Lewis Schaffer (left) gives advice to comedian Erich McElroy

“This is Erich McElroy,” Lewis told me. “He is the young Lewis Schaffer and he is one quarter Scottish.”

“Hello,” said Erich McElroy, shaking my hand.

“He has an American accent,” I told Lewis Schaffer.

“He is still one quarter Scottish and he learned from Lewis Schaffer,” replied Lewis Schaffer.

“What did you learn from Lewis Schaffer?” I asked Erich McElroy.

“Years ago, in 2002,” Erich McElroy told me, “Lewis Schaffer told an audience of English people that he was going to be the funniest comic in Britain that year. He had been storming the night and, as soon as he said that, they turned on him and then he turned on them and said, Fuck you! I will be! I will be! Afterwards...”

“I never said Fuck you!” Lewis Schaffer interrupted.

“Afterwards,” Erich McElroy continued, “I explained to him, Lewis, you can’t tell an English audience that. You need to tell them you’re going to be the worst comic of the year and they will love you for that. And he said, No, no! I am going to be the best, Erich. I AM going to be the best! and I told him That doesn’t matter. You can’t tell them that.”

“And what did you learn from that?” I asked.

“I learned you can’t talk the way he talks and say those things with an American accent,” said Erich McElroy.

“I never said Fuck you!” Lewis Schaffer protested again. “In Britain in 2002, when I said I’m going to be the best comic in Britain in 2002, British people thought: You arrogant American!… But, when I told my American friends I was going to be the best comic in Britain 2002, they suggested I aim higher…”

“That was just after the 9/11 attacks,” I said. “Has he told you about his Tweets today?” I asked Erich McElroy.

Erich McElroy shook his head and looked rather worried.

“After seeing my show, somebody sent me a Tweet,” Lewis Schaffer explained to Erich McElroy. “It said: For the first half of your show, I wished you were in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. And, during the last half, I wished I was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

“That is good,” said Erich McElroy. “That is good, Lewis.”

At about ten minutes past midnight this morning, as I was about to go to bed, I got a text message from Lewis Schaffer.

“Oh my god. Huge fuck up,” it read.

“…and what would that be?” I texted back.

“Horrible,” Lewis Schaffer texted back. “I need some advice.”

I eventually got to bed at 3.10am.

It may be a bumpy two days for me.

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The indiscreet charm of a slobbering, innocent singer at the Edinburgh Fringe

The wonderful world of sexist, slobbering Wilfredo

Wilfredo has been described as a “grotesque caricature of Falstaffian appearance: trousers pulled up to the top of a corpulent stomach, a tight flamenco shirt, a wild black mop wig and a set of prominent prosthetic teeth. Typically, the character will always hold a pint of beer on stage, even whilst dancing and singing. He smokes his way throughout songs, salivating over the audience and musicians while berating them with rich expletives.”

The character of Wilfredo was created by comedian and actor Matt Roper, whose father George Roper was on TV in my erstwhile youth with Bernard Manning et al in the ITV series The Comedians. When I went to see Wilfredo’s Edinburgh Fringe show The Wonderful World of Wilfredo this week, I was fascinated by the number of women in the audience. Wilfredo is a sort of sleazy, greasy singer who slobbers saliva as he talks, yet he has built up a female fan base.

“I don’t understand why women like the character,” I said to Matt Roper. “They certainly wouldn’t be attracted to him in reality.”

“And they certainly aren’t at point blank range,” admitted Matt. “Sometimes I flyer in the streets as the character and, when he’s presented out of context, they certainly don’t want him coming up to them.”

“So maybe,” I suggested, “they like the on-stage character because there’s a willing suspension of disbelief because they know it’s satirical. He’s sexist but they know it’s a joke.”

“I think there’s an outlandish quality to him,” said Matt, “which they find attractive. When I did a preview down in Devon which is kinda my adopted home town area – Totnes – a friend’s mother came backstage afterwards and said The thing I love about Wilfredo is that nobody seems to have taught him the rules.

“If it’s a character you can get away with being ironic. And all the peacenik stuff Wilfredo spouts is very positive; it’s so important. He says Come on you cunts, but I think Wilfredo’s positive innocence – I’m the greatest singer in the world – he believes it’s true… That’s Wilfredo for me.

“There’s a strange innocence about the character which maybe makes him acceptable. He’s slobbering and he’s grabbing his penis and he’s calling the audience cunts but it’s all undercut by a form of charm, really. The charm is the licence. If Bernard Manning were not a real person and was a character, would…”

“Bernard wasn’t charming, though,” I interrupted.

Matt knew that generation of ‘old school’ comics through his father.

“You must have mixed with alternative comedians of your generation,” I said, “who were slagging off your father’s generation of comedians.”

“Yes,” said Matt. “I think Liza Tarbuck used to have that a lot. She’d be at a bar watching comics and people would turn their back on her. The first thing I did was News Revue at the Canal Cafe in the late 1990s and, yes, when Bernard Manning is considered the apotheosis of the Northern comic… that’s pretty hard. ”

“There are a few children of famous comedians up in Edinburgh this year,” I said.

“Yes,” said Matt. “Milo McCabe is here doing a show with his father Mike McCabe who, like my dad, was an old school comic; he’s actually got his dad performing in his show with him. Phil Walker’s here: Roy Walker’s son. And Katie Mulgrew, Jimmy Cricket’s daughter. We don’t know each other but, when we do meet each other, it’s acknowledged that our parents knew each other.”

Matt’s dad George Roper, one of “The Comedians” on ITV

“Your dad was never really tarred by the ‘old school’ criticism, wasn’t he?” I said. “He never had any of the bad image that Bernard Manning had. People never criticised him for his material.”

“When I watch old footage of him performing,” said Matt, “it’s very much his own laid-back manner. He was a storyteller.”

“Did you always want to be a performer because of your dad?” I asked.

“Well, I was exposed to the business because of him,” Matt replied. “I was always doing impressions and getting in trouble at school for clowning around.”

“All comedians, to an extent, hide behind a character,” I said.

“Well, we’re all hiding behind an alter ego, definitely – even the old school, my father’s lot.”

“Have you ever done straight stand-up?”

“When I was a lot younger,” said Matt. “I stopped when I was around 24 because I had nothing to say. I started when I was about 17 or 18. What does an 18 year old have to say? I might go back to it and I have got things to say, but it’s fun to inhabit somebody else, though I think maybe it’s less ballsy to hide… I think Jo Brand was talking about this re female comics. There tends to be a high ratio of female character comics and she was saying that’s because it’s easier to stand back from it if it doesn’t work if you’re hiding behind a character.”

Matt has been playing the character of Wilfredo for the last five years. It evolved from a a character he played at festivals, singing twisted versions of songs by John Lennon, the Rolling Stones and Amy Whitehouse.

“Are you coming back to the Fringe next year as Wilfredo?” I asked.

“Maybe as Wilfredo. Maybe in some multi-character show. I know you’d like to see that.”

“I just think it would show you have more breadth,” I said. “You do have other characters.”

“Yes,” said Matt, “there’s a performance poet character, but I don’t think the other characters I have would fit in with a Wilfredo audience.”

“How do you sell him when you flyer?” I asked.

“If I am out-of-character, as myself, I stop people by saying Entertainment for the discerning!… If I’m in character, I say: Hey! Hey! Come here! The character is a complete licence to take it as far as I want.”

“He is perversely attractive,” I said.

Matt replied: “Someone Tweeted yesterday: Recommend seeing Wilfredo at The Tron – Funny and disturbingly moving.

“I still don’t really understand why the character has such a female following though” I said.

The real Matt Roper at the Edinburgh Fringe this week

“It seems to be,” said Matt, “that there’s a high proportion of women who find funny men attractive and, as far the reverse is concerned, men are threatened by funny women.”

“That’s a whole different blog,” I said. “A whole different can of comedy worms to open.”

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Edinburgh Fringe: a 14 year old comic, Janey Godley and tales of a Tit Factory

Eternally relevant street art in Edinburgh

So far, I have bitten my tongue about the ticket incompetence at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

On my first day here, a ticket for a show (ordered ten days before from the Fringe Office) was not confirmed. The show started at 6.10pm. Eventually, at around 8.30pm, I got an e-mail to say the ticket had now been confirmed.

A couple of days ago, a ticket ordered even longer in advance never appeared (twice); I went to the venue press office instead; they arranged it; on the night, it was still not at the box office.

I never blogged about these (and similar) things because it’s impossible to know who cocked it up and, each year at the Fringe, different parts don’t work. You just have to accept it. That’s Fringe life. But it is just as well I did not complain. Yesterday it was me with the massive cock-up. Oooh missus!

Janey yesterday – not photographed by me

Comedian Janey Godley was at an event in Glasgow at lunchtime yesterday. New housing was being opened next to the pub she used to run in the Calton. The housing is named after St Thenue and Janey had been asked to donate a painting of St Thenue and to officially open the new housing with the Lord Provost of Glasgow. Why?

“I kept that building up,” she told me last week (you have to read her autobiography), “and, because of that, they had to build good, sympathetic architecture next door to it.”

“It’s your swirly painting?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “The one that looks like my mammy in the Clyde, but it’s St Thenue, who also ended up in the Clyde.”

I invited myself along to take photos and blog about it.

It happened yesterday.

Except I had put it in my Fringe schedule as happening today.

“Where are you?” a text from Janey said yesterday morning.

By that time, it was too late for me to get to Glasgow from Edinburgh.

Which was a bummer because, in all truth, it was going to be one of the highlights of my Edinburgh Fringe this year.

I allegedly edited Janey’s autobiography Handstands in the Dark – still in print and a book which gives Edgar Allan Poe a run for his money in horror. I have walked round Shettleston, where she grew up, and the Calton, where she ran a bar for 14 years. But not with her. It would have been fascinating. We had even talked about it last week.

She had been to see the new housing development in the Calton a couple of weeks before and had popped into her old bar next door.

”The guy who runs the pub now,” Janey told me, “is a guy I barred from the place back in the early 1990s. I told him I’ve just been to see the new houses and he says Aye, they’re just gonna be alcoholics and wife-beaters in there so I asked Have you got your name doon?

Anyway. I let Janey doon yesterday – often a physically dangerous thing to do, as others have found to their cost – and, while she was opening the housing in Glasgow with the Lord Provost and photos were being taken by her daughter Ashley, I was in Edinburgh watching 14-year-old stand-up comic Preston Nyman perform his Fringe show Shtick. (It is only on until Sunday.)

Preston Nyman wears well for 14

I had asked Janey’s daughter Ashley about this because in 1999, aged 13, she had performed her own comedy show What Were You Doing When You Were 13? at the Fringe.

“I can hardly remember it,” she told me. “I know I was ballsy and blatant about it all and everyone was very worried I would say something risqué by accident. But mostly I blanked it all out. I did enjoy it but, looking back, I think What the fuck was I doing? Who let me do that? I wasn’t made to do it. It was all my idea… but who let me do that?”

Preston was very professional, part 1950s Catskill joke purveyor, part fast-talking double glazing salesman. He even did sword-swallowing and persuaded a member of the audience to put his head in a guillotine. Aged 14, he has been, he says, performing since the age of 7 and was dressed in a rather 1950s outfit with blue blazer, frilly-fronted cream shirt and checked trousers.

Young Preston and his guillotine with perhaps foolish punter

“This is what I normally wear,” he told me after the show.

“Where on earth do you live?” I asked.

“Hammersmith in London,” he replied.

“It’s kinda Catskills Jewish,” I said. “The clothes and the act.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s a kinda mix of vaudeville and 1970s ITV. All my life I’ve just loved performing and making people laugh and, seven years ago, I heard about this workshop Comedy Club 4 Kids. It’s every day, 5.30, at the Bongo Club during the Edinburgh Fringe, but I do it in London at the Soho Theatre.”

Preston’s dad is Andy Nyman actor, magician and co-creator/co-writer of the Derren Brown TV shows Derren Brown – Mind Control and Trick of the Mind. He has also co-written and co-directed four of Brown’s stage shows.

After the impressive shock of young Preston yesterday, I went to see the gloriously-titled musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory. The Fringe office had buggered-up the ticket for this too but, through Janey Godley, I contacted the show’s writer Paul Boyd and got a comp ticket (remember I’m a Scot brought up among Jews).

Paul Boyd wrote the intro and outro music for Janey and Ashley’s weekly podcast as well as eighteen previous musicals.

“Paul and I were on blog.co.uk back in 2004,” Janey told me. “He’s of the same ilk: he’s a performer, a writer, similar minds. We became friends and then this guy John Palmer from New York, a model, started talking to him and talking to me. Paul wrote to me and said You know, that guy John, I kinda fancy him and I said Go for it! He looks gorgeous and he sounds amazing!

“So then Paul phones me out of the blue – we’d never actually talked – and said I’m about to get on a plane and go to New York and meet John. I’ve given up my life, my lover. I’m gonna go. And he did and they’re still together after all these years.

“Then, a couple of years ago, me and Paul were in the Groucho Club in London with John one night and in walk some of my comedy friends. One of them was Tara Flynn. Paul is Irish, so I said jokingly Oh, Paul, you might know Tara Flynn – she’s also Irish. They screamed and hugged each other. I had been joking, but they’d been in a play together twelve years before and now she’s in Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory.”

And Molly Wobbly, I can say with total honesty, is astonishing.

It has more catchy tunes in it than all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals combined. You could argue that’s not difficult but it’s still very very impressive. It is a combination of Rocky Horror style exuberance, British music hall jollity and the best of West End musicals.

All this plus a singalong song titled “When I Shouted ‘Fuck’ in the Manse”.

Whether it will play to Americans I don’t know, but its effervescent vitality is quite something to behold and, given that it got a lot of attention because the official Fringe Programme (which is very censorious this year) printed the title without any asterisks, there is a wry smile to be had at the very end of the performance with a change to the words in the title.

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Mad comics, facts and fantasy exposed at yesterday’s Edinburgh Fringe shows

Somewhere under the rainbow, mad comedians in Edinburgh

Yesterday at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was told the true story of a comedian who, a few years ago, staged his Fringe show at a free venue, thus saving himself a lot of money. He reasoned that he could spend the money he saved on hiring a PR person and on posters, flyers, advertisements: the full works. He worked his proverbial ass off and got no reviews, no media coverage, no audience. Well, on a good day, he got a handful or less of people in his audience; some days literally no-one. He lost £10,000. This is the reality of the Fringe for a lot of performers.

It could be argued you have to be barking mad to be a comedian, which is what I suggested to someone at yesterday’s Gilded Balloon launch party, but more of that later.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw award-winning Eric’s Tales of the Sea again: a beautifully-crafted show by the utterly sane (he may take that as an insult) Eric about his life on Royal Navy submarines, with a completely unexpected and devastatingly emotional ending. It has successfully played around the world. Eric was persuaded to become a stand-up comedian after being a regular audience member at  the late Malcolm Hardee‘s Up The Creek club.

Johnny Sorrow (right) and Sir Richard Swan yesterday

The occasionally Gollum-like (his own description) Johnny Sorrow, won last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the Edinburgh Fringe. Last year he was performing as part of the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society – as he is this year. He was the funniest act I saw at the 2011 Fringe and you can take ‘funny’ in both its meanings.

He may be the same this year. What a full-throttle performance yesterday!

Originality is certainly the word – plus sometimes strangely experimental touches.

A Japanese couple walked in halfway through the hour-long show and watched in dazed incomprehension the unexplained parade of animal heads, weird noises, abstract speeches and dated cultural references which probably go way over the heads of even most Brits under the age of about thirty. What the Japanese made of it all I cannot even begin to imagine. Perhaps they thought it was experimental theatre, high performance art or just an example of impenetrable British humour.

And maybe they would have been partially right on all three counts.

Peyvand the Iranian & Daphna the Israeli – Fringe Frenemies

For more understandable comedy, they might have had more luck with Daphna Baram’s show Frenemies where she teams up with comedienne Shappi Khorsandi’s brother Peyvand for an Israeli-Iranian comedy hour. Daphna told me (and the audience) that she regards this as her ‘coming out’ show.

Until now, she has been known on the London comedy circuit as ‘Miss D’ to separate her night-time comedic persona from her day job as a serious political commentator and journalist. Now she is going to be ‘Daphna Baram’ in both worlds.

I have always thought she should not separate the two, as this strange diversity is her Unique Selling Proposition. And she can give an outsider’s inside view with both hats on.

Denis Krasnov: the very epitome of intellectual filth

Which I guess, to an extent, is what Denis Krasnov gives in his late-night Hour of Intellectual Filth. An outsider’s view. I saw him perform a few years ago at London’s eccentric Pear Shaped comedy club. Two people in the audience walked out back then and they were so highly-offended that they wrote to the club complaining about the specific offensive sequence in Denis’ act.

Pear Shaped’s Mr Fixit Anthony Miller checked an audio recording of the show and found that the highly offensive sequence they complained about did not actually exist. It simply had not happened. And I had been in the audience. They thought he had said something – a whole load of specific somethings – but he had not. Which was a bizarre tribute to his performance skills.

Back then, he was surprised that people found him offensive. This year, now New York based, he is intentionally trying to be offensive at the Fringe. At one point in last night’s show, he said, “I’m a comedian. My job is to expose lies,” but really his show is, as always, about playing with concepts of the mind. The show is neither off-puttingly intellectual nor is it actually definitively filthy. But it is mesmerisingly fascinating as he turns real comments about real situations into a bizarre form of fantasy without really ever lapsing into surreality. Indescribably interesting and highly original.

I find comedians a fascinating breed.

Taylor Glenn, former psychotherapist, at the Gilded party

Which brings me back to that Gilded Balloon’s launch party earlier in the evening, where I met for the first time my Facebook Friend  Taylor Glenn, a former psychotherapist.

“So you were a psychotherapist with a steady income for eight years and then you decided to become a comedian with no sensible income,” I said. “For heaven’s sake why?”

“I was treating patients who were facing lots of life challenges,” she replied, smiling “so I thought why not create the biggest one in the world for myself.”

“But comedians are all mad,” I suggested.

“I actually don’t think we’re any worse off in the mental health department than the rest of the world,” she replied, “but we’re allowed to act a little crazy. We have our own therapy behind a microphone… We have the ultimate outlet to express our angst.”

“So everyone’s mad, but comedians can show they’re mad?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” she said, “I think if you’re too ‘normal’ you fall by the wayside as a comedian.”

“So how are you mad?” I asked.

“I’m just,” she said, “a classic North Eastern American neurotic, constantly self-evaluating, constantly worrying and actually thinking I’m a lot more important than I am.”

“The thing which gets me,” I said, “is that comedians – who you would think must be extroverts – are actually very often introverted and are terrified of exposing themselves. They perform but they’re frightened of revealing themselves.”

“There’s more of a mix of people,” Taylor said. “You come across a lot more introverted people when you’re working with actors and there are a lot of exhibitionist comics who, in their daily life, are constantly seeking attention and then cracking jokes. So I think we fall into two or three categories.”

Taylor’s Fringe show is called Reverse Psycomedy and, as a stunt (or maybe it wasn’t) she offered to give free psychotherapy to any comic who wanted/needed it at the Fringe.

“I think doing the Edinburgh Fringe,” Taylor told me yesterday, “has been a real experience for me: to allow myself to be vulnerable and really tell the truth on stage. And there’s no character to hide that. I’m an exaggerated version of myself up there, but I’m very much me.”

“Is that through doing a 60-minute show as opposed to shorter sets?” I asked.

“I think doing an hour,” she said, “you have to find some kind of narrative: it doesn’t mean you have to have a theme, but you’ve got to find a way to fill in the gaps. People can’t just laugh constantly for an hour. So you’re telling a story along with the laughter.”

“And that has to be somehow more truthful?” I asked.

“Well,” said Taylor, “I’ve found that for sure. Because I’m telling a story that has to do with my own life and, if I’m not being truthful, it’s not gonna work.”

Me? I think there’s still a lot of howling at the moon goes on when comedians come off stage and are alone with their thoughts.

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I don’t mind being called a lady, but I am not English, despite the Italian slur

Does this chin make you think I am an English lady?

Last night, I flew back to the UK to what seems to be a tsunami of publicity – on BBC Radio 2, on French TV, in UK newspapers and online about my fellow Scot Janey Godley’s ‘Train Tales’ Twitter saga.

I myself wrote about Janey’s allegedly public-privacy-invading Twitters (soon, perhaps to become an Edinburgh Fringe show) in this blog and in the UK edition of the Huffington Post two days ago… and the US edition of the Huffington Post re-visited the story in a second article yesterday.

Janey is very good on publicity. And she is not alone.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned some of the stories in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

Italian-born, mostly British-based comedian Giacinto Palmieri commented:

“I think what is missing in Italy is the newspaper market ‘segmentation’ between broadsheets (most of which nowadays are tabloid-size) and tabloids. So, Corriere della Sera and Repubblica are a mix of ‘serious’ articles of the type you could find in the UK in the Guardian or the Telegraph but also the kind of gossip you mentioned. Having said that, it’s also true that politics in Italy is often about personalities, so political reporting tends to be quite gossipy in nature.”

I prefer to think of it all as admirable Italian eccentricity.

Yesterday, in a shopping centre in Milan, I spotted a tanning salon where people go to get fake tans. The temperature was 102F and sun is not an unknown phenomenon in Italy.

“A tanning salon? Is this some new thing?” I asked my English friend who has lived in Italy for almost 25 years.

“No,” she told me. “They’ve been here as long as I have.”

“Why would Italians want fake tans?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” she said. “It’s a mystery.”

Giacinto Palmieri was born and grew up in Milan. I asked him what he thought of my view of Italians as ever-so-slightly eccentric – in an admirable way.

“I’ve been following your reports from Milan with great interest,” he told me. (He will go far.) “They remind me a bit of what I’m trying to do with my own comedy as an Italian in Britain: showing how things that are too familiar to be noticed in the eyes of the ‘natives’  can be shown as surprising, weird and (hopefully) funny in the eyes of an outsider.

“Having said that,” he continued, “I have also enjoyed observing the observer and I need to confess a mental association you might not find very flattering.

“There is this comedian in Italy called Enrico Montesano who, a long time ago, had a character called La romantica donna ingleseThe romantic English lady. She was a comedic equivalent of the mother in A Room With a View. Her catchphrase (uttered in a strong mock English accent) was ‘Molto pittoresco’ – ‘Very picturesque’ – a comment she found suitable for almost everything she saw.

“I don’t know what Montesano’s source was, but the character was spot on. It really seemed to capture something true about the English visitors’ view of Italy. Please don’t take it as a criticism: your remarks are, indeed, very interesting and often funny. Besides, nobody can be held responsible for his free associations.

“By the way, I tried to find a seamless link into a casual mention of my Edinburgh Fringe show Giacinto Palmieri: Pagliaccio at the Newsroom, 2-26 August, 7.00pm… but I couldn’t find it.”

Relentless publicity is a vital thing for any comedian: which is unfortunate, as an awful lot of comedians – Pagliacci indeed – are ironically so lacking in self confidence that they are terrified of the self-exposure in print and in the media that they confusingly crave on stage.

But Giacinto Palmieri, like the unstoppable force of nature that is Janey Godley, is different and will clearly go far.

Well, he will in this blog.

But not if he calls me English again!

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The £1,000 publicity stunt worthy of a 2012 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award?

Usually, each year at around this time, I lament the fact that good publicity stunts at the Edinburgh Fringe have been, in recent recent years, thin on the ground and I try to encourage people to pull their publicity finger out so we have some worthy nominees for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award – No need to apply. If you have to tell us your publicity stunt has happened it has, by definition, been a failure.

This year things are looking better, though, thanks to comedian Stuart Goldsmith.

I have blogged before about the publicity he gathered when the Fringe Programme went mad and started ludicrously censoring the title of shows like Richard Herring’s Talking Cock – The Second Coming and Stuart Goldsmith’s Prick while (quite rightly) leaving untouched Kunt & The Gang and Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory.

Stuart cleverly posted a video on YouTube to reap the benefits of the Fringe’s mindless stupidity.

This was not a stunt. It was intelligent marketing.

But now he has got a bit closer to a potential Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award nomination by posting on YouTube a cleverly thought-out stunt.

He says that, at the end of the Edinburgh Fringe, he is going to donate £1,000 of his own money to the Waverley Care HIV charity…

“…unless I see a single instance of the title of my show being used in a pun… If any puns at all based on the title of my show being Prick are used in any piece of comedy review or criticism, either in a magazine, in a paper or online then for every instance I will remove £100 from my charitable donation. So that’s my challenge to you, comedy critics. What’s most important to you? Looking a little bit clever? Or saving a life?”

I mentioned this yesterday to Kate Copstick, doyenne of Fringe comedy critics and a Malcolm Hardee Award judge and said I thought Stuart might be in line for a Cunning Stunt nomination because the stunt plugs his show’s title strongly and he will clearly never actually have to pay any money out (something that was close to Malcolm’s heart). It also publicises a worthy Scottish charity to non-Scots journalists.

She responded:

“Absolutely. I have offered to put ALL of the puns he mentions into one review if he will give me the money for my Mama Biashara charity…”

Copstick is on to a winner whatever happens, as 100% of any money the Malcolm Hardee Awards make in audience donations go to Mama Biashara.

This year’s Awards are announced during a two-hour variety show as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival at The Counting House in Edinburgh on Friday 24th August. There are three Awards:

– The Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality

– The Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best stunt publicising a Fringe show

– The Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award

Stuart may or may not be on the shortlist for the Cunning Stunt Award. There is plenty of time for other even more cunning stunts to burst forth.

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How not to run a comedy club – and Mr Nasty’s five nightmare comedy gigs

Mark Kelly amplifies tales of bad clubs

So I was talking to comedy scriptwriter and author Mark Kelly, who used to perform as a stand-up comic under the name Mr Nasty and this is what he told me:

__________

Gigs can go wrong for all sorts of reasons, sometimes because of human stupidity.

I once did a gig at a really big student venue in Central London with a brilliant new sound system. We did a sound check and it was really, really good.

I was on first and there were about 350 people in the audience.

I started off and it was absolutely fine, but I started losing people at the back. It was a bit odd: people turning away, talking and leaving, but it was only at the back. Then I started losing more of the people now left at the back.

You can lose an audience, but why would you start losing them sequentially?

I was going very well to the people down the front but completely lost the people at the back. I did about half an hour. By the time I finished, there was a semi-circle of people round the front – maybe only about 30 people – who really, really liked my act. Everyone else had given up.

It turned out the students running the venue had forgotten to switch the sound system on. There was no foldback, so I hadn’t twigged I wasn’t being amplified.

I remember turning up at a another gig at another student venue where they were really, really proud of their brand new sound system. They showed me the speakers – Yes, they look really new and good – and they showed me the microphone – Yes, that looks really good….

But there was nothing in-between.

I said: “Where’s the amp?”

And they just looked at me.

“Oh,” they asked. “Do we need something else?”

“Yes,” I said, “you can’t plug microphones into speakers. You need an amp.”

It was quite a big venue and I had to do it without a microphone.

But worse than that was a nightclub near King’s Cross in the 1980s, when comedy was becoming popular and a lot of places decided to start hosting comedy nights even though they weren’t necessarily physically suitable.

This was the opening night and, as it turned out, the closing night as well.

There were three acts and I had opted to go on first but was also compering.

When we turned up, there was no obvious performance space. They said they would clear a circle on the dance floor: they would put a microphone on the dance floor with a light on the microphone.

So the first problem was that we had to perform in the round, which isn’t ideal for comedy, particularly not with one microphone, because I had a guitar as well.

What happened was they ejected everyone off the dance floor – and the people dancing were not best pleased at this – then turned all the flashing disco lights off, put a microphone with stand in the middle of the dance floor and turned the light on to illuminate the performer at the microphone.

But, when they turned the light on, it also turned on the strobe light.

“Can you turn the strobe light off?” I asked.

It turned out they couldn’t, because the strobe was somehow connected to the only lighting which could be used in the centre of the dance floor.

So the choice was to perform in the dark or perform in the strobe light.

Faced with this and the desire to be paid, we decided to perform possibly shorter sets in the strobe light.

I was the first act and I had never performed comedy in the middle of a strobing light. Trying to get your timing right was not easy. I didn’t even make ten minutes. I got a blinding headache and everyone else just abandoned it.

The audience were at best bemused. They’d come for the disco; they hadn’t expected comedy anyway. The idea of some bloke standing there at a microphone with an acoustic guitar round his neck in a strobing light… They just stared at me…

A venue that was even more badly thought-out was a gig I played in Middlesbrough in the early 1990s.

I turned up at this pub which had been running comedy gigs for a few weeks and I was going to be headlining with a local act supporting.. The pub had bouncers outside and looked like a bit of a heavy pub, but not too bad.

I got the train up from London, got there early and wandered round the pub, but couldn’t find anything that looked like a stage area. It was a very big pub and there were lots of different alcoves where small groups of people could drink. Scattered around the pub were maybe 20 small CCTV-type screens which were showing the best bits of various comedy shows – big laugh, short clip stuff.

It turned out that they had one small alcove into which no more than half a dozen people could fit and they set up a microphone on a stand in this alcove with a camera in front of it.

In order to do the gig, you had to perform to the half dozen people in the alcove and to the camera. This was relayed round the pub on the small CCTV-type screens.

So the idea of the ‘live’ comedy performance was, essentially, just performing to a camera.

The local support act was on before me. So, suspecting what was going to happen, I walked round the pub when he was performing and, sure enough, no-one was taking the blindest bit of notice of him because they’d already had all the laughs they were going to get from the comedy clips.

He came on. The sound was terrible and the camera was not at the best of angles. No-one was taking any notice of him.

So I went on and had to do nearly an hour performing to, at most, five people I could actually see and I pretty much opted to perform to them and, if anyone watching on the screens decided to enjoy it, it was entirely up to them.

The idea that live comedy could possibly work in that situation was absurd.

Topping that venue in awfulness, though, was a gig I vaguely remember was somewhere just off the M25 orbital motorway around London and, in fact, it would actually have been easier performing on the M25 itself.

This was again in the early 1990s.

This guy had seen me somewhere, really liked what I did and booked me for the opening night of his comedy club.

He was on the phone to me for a long time and seemed very enthusiastic about comedy. He said he’d made quite a bit of money and had bought this pub. He had decided to re-design it himself because he wanted a ‘real’ comedy venue. He went on and on about how much thought he’d put into it. I was going to love it. I would absolutely love performing there, because it was a custom-built comedy venue.

Three of us – all fairly decent established acts – came out from London for the opening night and there were some teething problems in the sense he had forgotten to do any advertising.

There was actually no audience whatsoever expecting a comedy show. He literally went out into the street and tried to drag people in. However, the  pièce de résistance of the evening was his architectural design.

When the three of us walked in, we couldn’t quite spot the stage. It was a very large room with a very high ceiling. As my eyes ran up the wall, about 20 feet up, there was a very large enclave.

You had to go in a door at the side of the bar, up a rickety wooden staircase and into what the guy described as a stage area which had an inbuilt disco console which could not be moved. So, in the actual stage area, although it was quite deep, the actual width you could use was quite small.

The audience that night got to look up the nostrils of three comics who teetered on the edge of the 20ft high performance alcove trying not to fall out, trying to perform comedy halfway up a wall to an entirely bemused audience down below.

There was little applause. He had – literally – had to persuade people off the streets. They were all just standing around drinking and occasionally looking upwards.

My understanding is that was the opening and closing night of his comedy club.

The guy who ran it was very nice, very keen, genuinely loved comedy and had sunk all his money into this. He wanted it to work, but he obviously had not asked advice from any comics.

There’s a lesson there.

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