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

Nathan Cassidy: a man hungry for publicity

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

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

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

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

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

Is this just leading me towards an empty room?

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

“Did you make that up?” I asked.

“Of course I didn’t make it up!”

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

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

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

“Qatar?” I asked.

“Yes, the Rat Pack have been there.”

“Syria?” I asked.

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

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

Comic Jo Burke, slightly happier with Nathan Cassidy in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where does he live?” Nathan asked.

“I’m not grassing him up,” I said.

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

Nathan Cassidy’s sold-out O2 gigs on right

He put it on the table.

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

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

“Did you write it yourself?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. Yes.”

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

“I can’t divulge that.”

“So this is another Cunning Stunt?”

“Of course not.”

Nathan’s 2017 was even more sold out in 2016

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

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

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

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

“Is there more?” I asked.

“Is that not enough for you?”

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

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

Love & the winner of Sir Michael Caine’s Award

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


I turned over the flyer and read out loud:


“Who won that?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s the theatre show about?”

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

“You are very persistent,” I said.

Chubby had a female agent…

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

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

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

“Sadly not.”

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

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

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

“What reaction did you get?”

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

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

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

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

The award-winning young Nathan with Sir Michael Caine

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Comic going to hell at Edinburgh Fringe offers hug for £5, tongue kiss for £20

Craig Shaynak. He’s amiable and now he’s Google

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from amiable American actor, comic, raconteur and fat, bald, loud American guy Craig Shaynak. (Look, gimme a break – it’s the name of his website – fatbaldloud … )

I can vouch for the fact that he is amiable because, several years ago I wrote a review of one of his Edinburgh Fringe shows which I thought was constructive. But, of course, being a sensitive performer on the receiving end, he took it as being critically critical…. Nonetheless, he is still friendly when we bump into each other in the street in Edinburgh every August.

I highly recommend his show this year I Am Google, which has picked up 5-stars. Either I was wrong all those years ago or he has got much better. Almost certainly both.

His e-mail this morning, though, was a general e-mail to Free Festival performers. At the risk of him suing my ass off for breach of copyright and my past failings, this is what it said:


We’re past the halfway point now and things are crazy in Edinburgh as usual…

While the Festival has been fun, a few of our own have had some setbacks. There have been some missing props and performers left without a place to stay. (Someone get in touch with Lewis Schaffer if you know of a place to stay!!!!) 


At this point, I can reveal exclusively that Lewis Schaffer has a couple of days respite from homelessness on the streets of Edinburgh.

Because comedian Janey Godley rushed back to Glasgow when her daughter collapsed in the street, my spare room became suddenly empty and Lewis is now staying there until Sunday, when Janey returns for her Monday night, one-performance-only play #timandfreya at the Pleasance.

But enough of this blatant though worthy plug.

Craig Shaynack’s e-mail continues…


Recently, one of my personal favorite acts, Abigoliah Schamaun has endured a burglary. I thought it would be nice of us to pitch in and try to help her recuperate some of what she lost… Please read the message from Abigoliah below and see if you can’t pitch in and help. We’re all in this together!


The burgled performer Abigoliah Schamaun

Hello all,

So after having one of those great nights at the Fringe where my show sold out and meeting my favorite comedian ever, I got home to my flat to find it was broken into. Someone had crawled through my window (which LOOKED locked but apparently DIDN’T lock) and stole £300, my MacBook Pro, my digital camera and my camcorder battery, but not my camcorder (weird right?)

The police were called, the room was dusted for finger prints and it was concluded that someone did come through the window. However, he or she was wearing gloves so we can’t identify them based on finger prints. The Fringe community and others have been really helpful, finding me new accommodation, offering couches for me to crash on and what not. The only people who were not helpful were the landlord and the letting agency. They are taking no responsibility for the un-lockable window and refuse to give me back part of my money.  But, like I said, the Fringe community has been really sweet. So thank you for that! On the upside, I have new jokes for my hour long show!!

Craig suggested we do a fundraiser online so I might be able to recuperate my losses.  I know we all have spent a lot of money to be here so if it’s out of your budget, I understand. Unfortunately, I did not have insurance and any amount you can give will go a long way. If you do donate to my cause, I’ve arranged prizes:

£2 a big bear hug

£5 a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek

£10 a big bear hug and a kiss on the lips

£20 I will give tongue

£100 prize will be privately negotiated (I have no shame as well as no laptop)

Thanks, guys, for taking the time to read this and if you can help at all you can make a donation to my PayPal account.

See you around the Fringe!

Abigoliah Schamaun


I have removed Abigoliah’s contact address in case she gets the wrong type of response, but will happily pass on the details of anyone who wants to genuinely get in touch.

Fringe Abigoliah: Going To Hell

I think her £20 and £100 prizes represent the true Spirit of the Fringe and almost count as a Cunning Stunt in Malcolm Hardee Award terms – a Cunning Stunt does not always have to be a conscious publicity stunt, as Stewart Lee proved in 2010.

But Abigoliah did, perhaps foolishly, fall at the first hurdle of publicity: she forget to plug her show in the e-mail.

Her show, perhaps appropriately enough, is titled Girl Going to Hell.

Now, £100? That’s almost the price of two cappuccinos in Edinburgh in August.

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Why I cried this morning as I drove into Edinburgh for the Fringe comedy shows

Lewis Schaffer – Where are these posters?

I drove up from London to Edinburgh overnight last night.

At 4.00am, in a service station 65 miles from Edinburgh, I checked my e-mails.

One was from the American comedian Lewis Schaffer. It said starkly:

“My posters were lost at the Three Sisters venue. Three Sisters lost them. Not the German delivery company.”

I think this means Lewis will have a good Fringe because, without unhappiness, he is never happy. He thrives on adversity.

Another e-mail was from comedian Darren Walsh reminding me that, on Monday, he “will attempt to tweet a pun based on the name of every single comedian (who has a Twitter account) performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year… Twitter only allows 1,000 tweets per day. So, from more than 2,695 shows, I will pick 1,000 comedians and make 1,000 puns. Some will be good, some will be bad and some will be downright terrible.”

He added that this had already been reported by the comedy website Chortle. Presumably he pointed this out because I have always said anyone trying to win the annual Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best Fringe publicity stunt who actually has to TELL us about the existence of their publicity stunt has, by definition, failed.

I wish Darren luck but, this year, he is up against stiff competition even to get nominated. More of that, I imagine, in the next three weeks.

But it was neither of those e-mails which made me cry.

I had driven up the motorways of England to ELO’s Time, the Pet Shop Boys’ greatest hits, Ray Manzarek’s version of Carmina Burana and Lily Allen’s album It’s Not Me, It’s You. I have had that Lily Allen album playing on my car stereo up to Edinburgh for each of the last three years. I guess its mix of sex, drugs and swearing is a good preparation for almost four weeks at the Fringe; and, if you are that way inclined, the slightly world-weary cynicism (or is it realism?) of the album does not go amiss either.

What made me cry was this.

I had turned off the car stereo and, as I drove down the hill into Morningside, the Loch Lomond song came into my mind.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road an’ I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me an’ my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond

I never thought much of the song – often sung as a rousing chant – until someone I vaguely knew died.

I occasionally worked with someone in television. His wife was a high-flyer in business. She died suddenly. So it goes.

She was, I guess, in her early forties. She was Scots.

At her funeral, in a quiet English village church, a sole female singer with the purest voice imaginable sang Loch Lomond slowly, as it was meant to be sung – as a lament.

By yon bonnie banks an’ by yon bonnie braes
Whaur the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Whaur me an’ my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond

As I understand it, the song is about the aftermath of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s failed invasion of England in 1745. About two soldiers. One of whom survives; one of whom is killed. So it goes. The dead soldier sings that, in his coffin, he will reach Scotland before the soldier who survived.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me an’ my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond

Sung at that funeral perhaps fifteen years ago, with the light streaming in through the church’s windows and that pure, lone voice singing, it was unimaginably sad and this morning, as I drove into Edinburgh, I cried at the memory.

‘Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep sides o’ Ben Lomond
Whaur in soft purple hue, the Hieland hills we view
An’ the moon comin’ oot in the gloamin’

By yon bonnie banks an’ by yon bonnie braes
Whaur the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Whaur me an’ my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond

The wee birdies sing an’ the wild flowers spring
An’ in sunshine the waters are sleeping
But the broken heart, it kens nae second spring again
Tho’ the world knows not how we’re grieving

By yon bonnie banks an’ by yon bonnie braes
Whaur the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Whaur me an’ my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond

At the service station at 4.00am this morning, I also read that the writer and occasional wit Gore Vidal had died yesterday. So it goes. One of the pithy sayings attributed to him is:

It is not enough merely to win; others must lose.

It could be the motto of many performers at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Let the comedy begin.

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2005: I have this idea for a cunning stunt involving comic Janey Godley

In 2005, Janey Godley was allegedly Innocent

In August 2005, three years before we first thought of the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was writing a blog from the Fringe for the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

On 4th August, this was what I wrote about Scots comedienne Janey Godley who, that year, was performing her show Janey Godley Is Innocent. The hardback version of her best-selling autobiography Handstands in the Dark had been published two months before this…



“I think you should get kidnapped and murdered,” I said three weeks ago. “Think of the publicity.”

“No,” Janey Godley said sharply.

“You get publicity, the show gets publicity and you go down in Fringe history.”

“I’m no getting murdered. It’s no happening,” she told me.

“Look,” I said, “You get kidnapped in public on the Saturday night before your show starts by an unknown but very disgruntled East Glasgow gangster who has read you autobiography and taken offence. So the book gets plugged too.”


“The kidnapping would have to be in public with lots of witnesses,” I persisted. “If it happens mid-evening or late on Saturday, it will miss the Sunday papers but it will hit the Monday papers.

“Around 11.40 on Monday morning, Ashley announces – with a photo of your bloodied corpse sent in by the kidnapper – that her beloved mother Janey Godley has been killed. She can do tears and hysteria and everything. It will show off her acting skills. This will hit the lunchtime TV bulletins but not give them time to check facts in detail and it will get into the late editions of the Glasgow and Edinburgh evening papers: COMEDIAN KIDNAPPED AND KILLED AT EDINBURGH FRINGE.

“Later on that same day – Monday afternoon – around 1715, you re-appear and announce it is a stunt just in time to make the later editions of the Wednesday morning papers. And the early evening TV bulletins if they carried your death in their lunchtime bulletins. Your show opens on Thursday night and, as part of the show – the climactic story – you explains how you are innocent of this tacky stunt – You were persuaded into it against your better judgement by your beloved daughter whom you indulge too much – So… Janey Godley Is Innocent!”

“Fuck off,” said Janey Godley.

“The important thing here,” I continued, “is the timings. It all happens between late-night Saturday and teatime Monday. It has to be fast so that, at each point, you give the journalists just enough time to report the story but not-quite-enough time to fully check the background details.

“Even if it gets exposed midway through as a stunt, provided the media report it as a stunt, you get the press publicity for the show that you would have got anyway. You can’t lose. You could get prosecuted for wasting police time, but it’d be worth that in publicity terms and you could argue any fine would be tax-deductible for professional publicity.”

“NONONONOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooo” Janey Godley shouted at me. “Y’er a crazy fucking nutter! Ya fanny!… And don’t encourage my daughter to plot my murder… You know what the family’s like.”

“But she gets to show her acting ability as the distraught daughter and….”

“I will hunt you down and kill you like an animal…” muttered Janey Godley.

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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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