Tag Archives: curry

What singer Phil Collins thought of Mr Methane’s offer of a farted charity single

After three blogs this week about Mr Methane – the Farter of Alternative Comedy – I thought I had got the world’s only professionally performing flatulist out of my system, but then he goes and tells me that he has the third largest number of hits on the Britain’s Got Talent YouTube channel – at the time of writing, he has had over 28 million views against Susan Boyle’s 22 million views.

Phil Collins - not a fan of flatulence in 1997

Phil Collins – not a fan of flatulent music in 1997

And he also told me about Phil Collins.

In 1994, Mr Methane performed a version of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight – suitably farted and re-titled Curry In The Air Tonight. Mr M’s manager had initially approached Phil Collins via his PA and asked if they could record and release it

“The message came back,” Mr Methane told me yesterday, “that Phil said Do what the fuck you want with it. We finished the song and sent it off to Phil who was on the road with Genesis at the time for final approval. His manager got involved and said No. Apparently the technicians were playing it at Genesis sounds checks – Whether that had something to do with the change of heart I’m not sure.”

Mr Methane tried again in 1997, contacting Phil who was, at the time, President of Comic Heritage (which later became part of The Heritage Foundation).

Mr Methane’s letter said:


Mr Methane's letter to Phil Collins

Mr Methane tries to curry favour from Phil Collins

Dear Mr Collins,

Though mainly recognised as an international musician/composer, I note your interest and appreciation of comedy and as a result your title, Annual President of Comic Heritage 1997. This is to be applauded and now surely is the time for you to re-appraise the following issue.

I am a working comedy variety act, having performed the ability to pass wind in tune and at will. Three years ago I was refused permission by your publishers to release a comedy version of your well known hit single, ‘In The Air Tonight’. In view of the fact that you are now publicly allied with the world of comedy, I throw down the gauntlet and issue the following invitation.

Will the president of Comic Heritage grant licence for my much acclaimed parody of ‘In The Air Tonight’ entitled ‘Curry In The Air Tonight’ to be released with all royalties from this song’ sales going towards Comic Heritage or another charity of the composer’s choice?

Yours sincerely,

Mr Methane


A fortnight later, Mr Methane got a reply from Phil’s manager:


Reply from Phil Collins' manager

Reply from Phil Collins’ personal/business manager

As per our previous correspondence with you, this is to confirm that we will not grant permission for Phil Collins’ hit single “In The Air Tonight” to be used in the manner in which you describe.

This is a very serious song and we cannot see any reason for it to be taken so lightly.

Yours sincerely

Tony Smith

Personal & Business Manager
to Phil Collins


Currently, the official video of In The Air Tonight has had over 24 million views.

But I can’t help but feel that Phil’s manager’s decision was Music’s – and Comedy’s – loss.

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Getting a mouthful in London with comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee

Malcolm Hardee at Glastonbury

In yesterday’s blog, I quoted comedy scriptwriter Mark Kelly’s story about almost being a member of the Nashville Teens rock group. But he also told me a story about Malcolm Hardee, oft called the godfather of British alternative comedy. This is what Mark told me:


It was the late 1990s and we had performed at the Glastonbury Festival. It was one of the years it was particularly rainy and muddy and we were all in a real state.

I was due to come back to London on the Monday morning with Malcolm and Martin Soan in Malcolm’s taxi – at that time, he owned a second-hand taxi instead of a car.

Martin had driven all the way down there and it was Malcolm’s turn to drive back. I can’t drive. When we got up, Malcolm was still drunk from the night before and he was not able to drive.

I had, for a variety of reasons too complicated to go into, had very little sleep the previous night.

Martin Soan was not best pleased to discover he had to drive all the way back to London, but we set off with Martin driving and me and Malcolm in the back of the taxi. Martin was enclosed in the driver’s section of the cab and could not hear what we said, so Malcolm told me: “I’m not pissed at all. I just didn’t fancy driving.”

He was, indeed, completely sober. He and I did the cryptic crossword in The Times and I am fairly good at those sorts of things, but Malcolm was better. We had a very long chat all the way back and it went absolutely fine.

When we got back to London, Martin – having twigged there was actually nothing wrong with Malcolm – not unreasonably decided that the first point of call was his own place.

“I’m getting out first and going to bed,” Martin said.

So he gets out and Malcolm gets in the driver’s cab. I am still in the back. Malcolm drives me to no more than two minutes away from my flat, then leans back through the sliding window and asks: “Do you fancy going for a curry?”

I say: “No. I got no sleep last night, I’m really knackered. I’m not hungry. I just want to go to bed.”

Naturally, Malcolm’s response to this was: “Oy Oy. Off we go for the curry, then.”

He swerves off and we head towards London Bridge. He has a favourite curry house in the East End.

So, having got to almost within sight of my flat in South East London, where I desperately want to go to bed, I now find myself crossing the River to go for a curry with Malcolm.

We get there and the street is fairly full with cars, but there are a few small spaces.

Malcolm asks me: “Do you think I can get into this space?”

“No,” I say. “It looks a bit small.”

So, obviously, he decides to have a go.

He reverses straight into this very new, very flash-looking car, doing a fair bit of damage – not a huge amount, but it’s very noticeable.

Then these Asian guys come running out of the restaurant which we were about to go to. It turns out the car belongs to the manager of the restaurant. It is his pride and joy. He is not there at the moment, but his workers are and they are very loud and animated about it.

I say to Malcolm: “Just give them your details and we’ll abandon the idea of a curry and go home.”

I am really tired. I have somehow forgotten what Malcolm is like. Malcolm is indicating to the increasingly loud Asian men that producing his papers is not possible.

He says to me: “The best thing to do is to go in for a curry and I’ll think of something.”

I suggest to him that going in for a curry is probably not a good idea because these restaurant guys look very angry.

“It’ll be alright,” Malcolm mumbles. “It’ll be alright, be alright…”

“No,” I tell Malcolm. “No. They’ll probably piss in the food or something. This is not good.”

“I’ll think of something while we’re in there,” he insists.

So we go in and I think these restaurant guys are a bit taken aback that we’ve actually come in and expect to be served.

Malcolm is still resolutely refusing to produce any papers.

He tells them he’ll sort it out when the manager arrives.

“The food here’s great,” Malcolm mumbles to me. “Great. The food here’s great.”

We order. The curries arrive. I take only a small mouthful, because I have a premonition.

And it is, indeed, like trying to swallow the sun.

This curry is internally powered by nuclear energy. It’s extraordinary. They have quite clearly deliberately made it as hot as possible. I have only taken a small mouthful. Not even a mouthful. A small bit. And I can’t stop hiccupping for five minutes.

Malcolm pretends there is nothing wrong with it. I am sitting opposite Malcolm and his face is melting with the sweat. He is mumbling: “Mmm. I told you it was good, Mark, Good, innit? Good. Nice.”

I am picking out odd bits of potato, scraping the sauce off, trying to make some sort of effort, hiccupping and drinking huge amounts of water. Basically, I have given up.

Malcolm gets halfway through, then looks at me and mumbles: “Mmm! Can’t eat this!”

“So what are we gonna do?” I ask.

“I’ll sort it out,” he mumbles. “I’ll sort it out.”

“Well,” I say, “I’m going to go to the toilet now. I’ve drunk loads of water.”

So I go to the toilet, come out and Malcolm has gone. His coat has gone. He has left.

I think: “Oh Fuck! He’s done a runner!”

These unsmiling restaurant guys are standing by the door.

I think: “Fucking hell!”

I don’t even know where I am particularly. Somewhere in the East End. And I haven’t got any money particularly, because Malcolm has not yet paid me for Glastonbury.

I probably foolishly think: “I’ll just try to walk out and see what happens.”

I walk to the door – no sign of Malcolm at all.

As I get to the door, the men still don’t smile, but they open the door.

I walk out. They close the door behind me.

And then, from down the street, I hear a honking sound.

Malcolm is in the middle of the road in his taxi with the door open.

“Oy! Oy! Get in, Mark! Get in!”

I think: “He can’t have done a runner, because they wouldn’t have let me out.”

I get into the cab and – of course – it turns out Malcolm has not got any papers – he has no insurance, he is banned from driving and he has paid them in cash with all the money he got – including mine – from Glastonbury. Hundreds of pounds. He has paid them everything he has – well over the odds – to avoid them reporting him to the police.

We drive off and Malcolm asks: “Do you fancy going for a game of pool?”

“No I don’t fancy going for a game of pool!” I tell him. “I just want to go to bed.”

So I finally get home and go to bed with this incredible burning sensation in my stomach.

In a way, it encapsulates a lot of my dealings with Malcolm: curry, dodgy dealings, not getting paid and a slight edge of danger.

Afterwards, I did try to point out to Malcolm that driving without insurance or a valid licence was incredibly irresponsible though, obviously, it was utterly pointless.

But the taxi did work.

Surprisingly, Malcolm did eventually pay me the Glastonbury money and, when he died, even more surprisingly, he owed me nothing.

Though his brother did.

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Of comedy awards, bra warmers and the death of Malcolm Hardee

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

Time Life Books called John Ward “possibly the best English eccentric inventor living today”. Yesterday I went up to Lincolnshire to see him at his home (an enormous, rambling bungalow within someone else’s farmyard). I was up there to take delivery of his latest creations – the newly-designed Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award and the new-this-year Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award. They join his Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality trophies. All will continue to be awarded annually until 2017.

John’s other creations include his surprisingly overlooked invention the electric bra warmer, as well as the one-man personal barbeque, the mobile church font and my personal favourite – a small rubber nautical mine which you leave in your cup of tea so no-one else will steal it.

He still fondly remembers a curry which the late lamented Malcolm Hardee cooked for him in my kitchen. It was, I think, the only occasion known to me when Malcolm did not drop curry down the front of his shirt, something I am eternally grateful for. Malcolm once had a meal with comedian Charlie Chuck at the end of which, instead of asking for a doggie bag, he spooned the uneaten parts of his curry into the top pocket of his white suit.

His famed Edinburgh Fringe exploits included writing a glowing review of his own show and conning The Scotsman into printing it under the byline of their own comedy critic…  and riding a tractor (naked) through the middle of American performance artist Eric Bogosian’s show.

Malcolm, oft-called the “godfather of British alternative comedy” talent-spotted, encouraged and advised Keith Allen, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield, Harry Hill, Paul Merton, Al Murray, Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Jim Tavare, Johnny Vegas and many other comedians early in their career.

He drowned in Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, in 2005. At the Coroner’s Court, Police Constable Martin Spirito said that, when they pulled Malcolm from the water, he “had a bottle of beer clenched in his right hand”. Even in  death, he had a sense of his priorities.

Five years gone but not forgotten by the comedians he helped.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards this year are going to be presented on Friday 27th August during Nik Coppin‘s nightly show Shaggers, part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Three Sisters in Cowgate. I feel Malcolm would have approved of the title of the show. Judges include Tim Arthur of Time Out and Dominic Maxwell of The Times plus The Scotsman‘s Kate Copstick and Jay Richardson.

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