Tag Archives: Dave Thompson

Yet more comedy industry comments on the death of Malcolm Hardee in 2005…

A few days after comedy legend Malcolm Hardee drowned, I set up an online page where people could post memories of him.

I reposted the first of these comments (ones by people in the comedy industry) two days ago; and more yesterday.

I hate to be predictable, but here comes Part 3…

Malcolm ran two famous – or arguably infamous – London comedy clubs: The Tunnel and Up The Creek.


KEVIN DAY, comedian – 11th February 2005

The last time I performed at The Tunnel was going as well as the others (the first heckle I got was: “Fuck you, Bronski Beat banana cunt”) when, after about ten minutes, a large skinhead got up on stage and stood there very gently holding my hand. This was unusual enough to quieten the room and the rest of the set went comparatively well.

Afterwards, the guy disappeared and Malcolm tried to explain to me that he was the ghost of a guilty heckler who had been killed on the way home from the last gig. Malcolm then suggested that the decent thing to do would be to donate my fee to the bereaved family – I count myself lucky that he eventually agreed to let me keep enough money for a cab and I still went home thinking he had done me a favour. I hope whatever God he believed in has put his name on the guest list.


FRANK HARDEE, Malcolm’s son – 11th February

There are too many memories of dad to write them all down here. Many of the memories that have been left so far have been to do with ‘comedy’. But as many of you know dad’s whole life was one big comedy, whether it be nearly sinking at midnight coming back from a boat trip ‘adventure’ up the Thames and we had lost all power and we were floating with the tide and the mobile had no battery left, so we couldn’t phone the PLA. Or whether it be blagging our way into the Millennium Dome before it was complete and there were still security guards everywhere – but we were still the first members of the public inside the Dome!

The thing that dad and I shared in common was our love for quizzes – I was brought up on quizzes. No cartoons for me as a child, but Bullseye, 15 to 1, Countdown followed by Going for Gold. Even recently we’d still watch The Weakest Link and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? There are many more memories which I shall be sharing at the funeral. Hope to see you ALL there. Let’s give Greenwich council one last headache from Malcolm. Take care Frank xxx


DAVE COHEN, comedian – 14th February

I was both privileged and unfortunate enough to play the Tunnel Club and Up The Creek many times. Like every comic I’ve spoken to over the last few days, I can clearly remember every Tunnel gig I did. It was the hardest club to find. It was on the most unpopular going out-night of the week. There was no quality control on the open spots. How could it possibly succeed?

It did, because it was totally in Malcolm’s image. Raucous, sometimes brutal, often generous. I remember some years later doing an out-of-town gig with Malcolm – Norwich I think it was – and when I came off he said: “How come you’re not shit anymore?” A compliment I have always cherished.


MARK HURST aka MARK MIWURDZ, comedian – 14th February

Many good memories – Coming down from Sheffield in 1983 to do the Tunnel for the first time and staying at Malcolm and Pip’s afterwards.Tripod had shit everywhere. Doing gigs in Chorley with Malcolm who brought the baby Frank with him. I fed him on the car journey home. Frank, that is, not Malcolm. Lots of boozy nights after shows of course. Malcolm lent me Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, a few years back. He said it was his favourite book. I never got to give it back to him. I’ll keep it now.


MARK BORKOWSKI, PR guru – 15th February

I first met Malcolm in a bar in Edinburgh in the 1980s; he had a profound influence on me. Malcolm was a legend and a true Gandalf of the dark alchemy of the publicity stunt. One of my last conversations with him was when David Blaine was doing his stunt in London, sitting in a glass box dangling from a crane. Malcolm rang me up to ask if I could help him organise the media and a crane because he’d got one of his mates in Deptford to knock up a glass box and he was going to put his up right next to Blaine and sit in it for the same amount of time… stark naked. When I told him he’d never get away with it, he decided to settle for standing underneath Blaine throwing chips at him. As anyone who ever saw him perform will know – he had balls.


BRENDON BURNS, comedian – 15th February

He once told me that getting angry wouldn’t work for me. What the fuck kind of advice did he give to people he managed? In his own words, “He was shit but I’d fuck him”


JEFF GREEN, comedian – 16th February

Myself, Matt Hardy, Shane Bourne and any others who want to attend his funeral and show their respects will be holding our own southern hemisphere celebration of Malcolm Hardee’s life. St Kilda Pier – 11 hours ahead of the UK service. Rum and coke obligatory.

Malcolm, I was at your birthday a few weeks ago and I remember many times backstage at Glastonbury – bringing me on to nothing!… and playing trivia machines at Up The Creek. I remember you pretending to faint in the Gilded Balloon – to see how many people would come to your aid. I remember spending an afternoon rowing boats on a trip to a gig in Bungay. And all those times I don’t remember ever hugging you and telling you what a great bloke you are. And I regret that.


CHARMIAN HUGHES, comedian – 17th February

Malcolm, Glastonbury won’t be as fun without you being there to take the piss out of it. The Tunnel was the beginning for so many of us – and the end – a level playing field where only you were king. xx


DAVE THOMPSON, comedian – 17th February

I did my fourth guest spot at the Tunnel Palladium. Everyone was saying the audience was volatile, because Malcolm was at Glastonbury and they missed him. “Who is this Malcolm?” I thought.

I found out next time I did a guest spot. He wasn’t the cool bloke I imagined. He was an anti-guru, who didn’t know the meaning of stress.

Touring with him up North, everywhere we went, he knew someone who welcomed him without condition into their house.

He wanted everyone to have a good time all the time. He was a very bad boy, but ultimately he knew the difference between right and wrong.

I never achieved the success I wanted. Then Malcolm asked me to do The Greatest Show on Legs in Montreal. We went on last at the Theatre St Denis, and effortlessly stormed it. Twice. I’m still getting the TV royalty cheques for those gigs.

All those years doing finely honed one-liners and still rejected by Jongleurs and Don Ward of the Comedy Store. But Malcolm takes me to Montreal and I have fun prancing around naked in front of TV cameras and 2000 adoring people. Thanks, Malcolm. Whenever things seem too serious, I remember your attitude and it gets put into perspective. Comedy is about having a laugh… effortlessly. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.


JIM MILLER aka JAMES MACABRE, comedian – 17th February 

Jeff Green is right about those quiz machines… I had the measure of the one at Up The Creek at a time when 20 quid was beer for the night and more. Malcolm would always wait until I had spunked 3 or 4 quid before sidling up and saying: “Sorry, Jim: I got the jackpot half an hour ago”. He was proprietorial about that machine; I think he genuinely resented me or Jo Brand cleaning it out.

I played the Tunnel one night when some Millwall football fans genuinely WERE in (as opposed to the myth). King Dembina opened and I had to follow the torrent of hate he had incited. Only time I ever witnessed a comic being booed ON and that man was me. 

At half-time, after blood on the walls and actual coppers in the house, Malcolm appealed to the audience to give the last act (Michael Redmond, who didn’t need it) a chance or we would all be going home before ten.

At the time, I was almost hoping the brilliant Michael would also fail just to see what Malcolm pulled out of the bag – and he would have come up with something, you know…..


JEREMY HARDY, comedian – 18th February

Malcolm,

you helped and encouraged me when i started. at the time i think i took it for granted. i’m not sure i ever thanked you. we lost touch over the years, partly because i tried to avoid getting involved in things which would involve you owing me money. i’m sad now that i hadn’t seen you for so long. you once introduced me at the tunnel as your little brother and people believed you. i think you only meant it as a joke, but, in retrospect, i’ll take it as a compliment if you don’t mind.


JOHN HEGLEY, comedian – 19th February

Passing water in The Thames, thinking of Malcolm
it wasn’t sinking in that he was gone
the River Thames is similar to Malcolm
the going doesn’t stop the going on.

The last time I saw Malcolm was at Arthur Smith’s 50th birthday do in Paris. It was getting late.

We got on stage to do something for Arthur, with Ronnie Golden a.k.a. Tony de Meur. A twelve bar blues was agreed. I wasn’t sufficiently co-ordinated to tune the mandolin. So, Ronnie played guitar and Malcolm played harmonica, at the one mike available to he and I. His solo was of a good length. Arthur shouted:

“Let John have a go.”

Malcolm surprised me by handing me the harmonica. I hadn’t played one for 25 years and was grateful for the challenge.

Later I asked him to dance, and he said, “No.”


ANGELO MARCOS, comedian – 21st February

I only met Malcolm a few times but he was always nice to me, even after I’d had the worst gig of my life at one of his clubs (which wasn’t difficult!)

A true loss to comedy.

RIP Malcolm.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Edinburgh Fringe: 5-stars, fake breasts, deaf squirrels, iScream and Hokum

BethVyseA lot of Edinburgh Fringe acts do not need publicity in this blog any more. They are doing too well.

This morning, on my way back from the laundrette – oh, the glamour of the Fringe – I bumped into comedian Beth Vyse who, two days ago, had a full half-page article about her in the Guardian.

As a result, she told me, the audiences for her show As Funny As Cancer have changed for the better. Instead of (my phrase) drunken passing Scots, she is now getting more women interested in the actual subject of her show. The Guardian piece was headlined: Fake breasts, ping-pong balls and tears in a comic exploration of cancer. 

We will return to this morning at the end of this blog.

Tom Binns’ characters

Tom Binns’ characters need no help from me after that review

Yesterday, I went to see Tom Binns. He had just got a 5-star review from Kate Copstick in The Scotsman for his Club Sets show – hardly surprising as it showcases his three characters and himself and he does a genuine psychic trick, a card trick, ventriloquism and a plethora of sharp verbal and musical jokes.

Then I went to the Italian Cultural Institute where they were showcasing Italian-related acts and shows linked by comic Luca Cupani who surprised me – I have no idea why – by being a very very good MC.

Amy Howerska - allegedly

Amy Howerska – the word of mouth will deafen squirrels

Then Amy Howerska Sasspot – she really DID grow up in a family of trained killers – had her room so packed to the rafters with appreciative punters (on a day when, traditionally, audiences drop off) that she needs no publicity from me and the word-of-mouth on her energetic show will be so loud it will deafen squirrels at 200 yards.

Coming down the Gilded Balloon’s spiral stairs after seeing Amy’s show, I bumped into Charmian Hughes whose daily show When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs and Loves of a She-Comic) actually names names, including ex-boyfriend Dave Thompson (Tinky Winky in TV’s Teletubbies).

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian Hughes knew how to get booked

“I’m doing two of Dave’s jokes,” she told me, “to portray his part in my life. He said I could do it only if I told his jokes right, but I can get very muddled up. So he’s coming up from Brighton next week and he will have a walk-on part in my show next Tuesday or Wednesday, when he will do his own two jokes.”

“When did you two meet?” I asked.

“When he ran a show which included an open spot. My open spot went really badly and I thought: How can I get another booking? I know! I’ll get off with him, become his girlfriend and then emotionally blackmail him throughout the relationship so he has to give me gigs… And it worked!

I then went to see Adrienne Truscott’s a One-Trick Pony!

Yesterday morning, Adrienne had posted on her Facebook page:


Adrienne Truscott

Adrienne Truscott is not a one-trick pony

In the States they say that, if a pigeon shits on you, it’s good luck. 

I went out for coffee at the corner and came upon a 2-star review of my not-yet-ready-for-prime-time second show by a very thoughtful and fair writer.

I agreed with his observations heartily and went directly home to continue working on it and, in my lounge room, came upon 2 trapped pigeons! One for each star?!! They were flying everywhere and nowhere, mayhem back and forth, all around me, smashing into the windows, smashing into the walls, swooping past my head, feathers and wings everywhere.

They shat everywhere!!

Neither shat on me. Not one ounce. 2 terrified trapped pigeons and one shit-free me!

I am not yet an experienced stand-up comedian but I have a hearty sense of humor. I’ve cleaned up the shit. I’ve made my show better. I love it now and can’t wait for tonight.


She was still shit-free last night and the show was as she hoped.

PhilJarvis

Phil Jarvis’ Hokum. Don’t ask… Just don’t ask

The last show I saw yesterday was Malcolm Julian Swan Presents Hokum at the Freestival’s new venue in the New Waverley Arches. The repeated cry was: This is not a show. It’s an album!” And, indeed, it was not really a show, more a time trip to some deranged 1967 Happening which involved kazoos, pipes, much banging and chanting of random phrases like Human Detritus! plus a bit of nudity, projected computer screens, bits of cardboard and the repetition of phrases through a loud-hailer. Oh – and Phil Jarvis, whose admirably shambolic show it really was.

Hokum (if it really was called that) is highly recommended as a one-off which was really a two-off (it was only on for two days) but you can’t see it – last night was the final show.

So back – or maybe forward – to this morning.

This morning, comic actress Jo Burke was flying up to Edinburgh for her show iScream, which starts on Sunday.

Texts and e-mails flew, because she has also written a book iScream – now available – to go with the show.

Jo Burke with her physical book

Jo Burke with one of her physical books

“The show is new,” she told me, “but I wrote the book about ten years ago – It was a book about internet dating and a year in my life with a brief history of me to set it up. At that time, it was called From Strangers with Love – like in the subject heading of an e-mail.

“This year’s Fringe stage show was called iScream and I did a preview in London and someone – well, you, John – told me it should be more about me. So I took some stuff out that was not about me and thought: What shall I put in to fill the gaps that’s about me? And then I realised: Y’know what? I already have a whole book of stuff that is ‘me’ and, when I looked at it again, I found two little things from the book which I added to the stage show and I then thought: This is a perfect opportunity to release the book as well. So the book is now called iScream too.”

“Did you re-write bits?”

“No. It was written ten years ago and now I am a completely different person to the one who wrote the book.”

“So are the book and the stage show about the same thing?”

“No,” replied Jo. “The book is maybe only under ten minutes of the hour-long show, which is the abridged version of me. The stage show is very personal to me and it does end on what could be considered a downbeat note, but it’s actually not; it’s a very positive note. Like everyone else, you trolley through the shit and come out the best you can.”

Jo Burke iScream designed by Steve Ullathorne

Jo Burke’s show poster, by Steve Ullathorne

“You must be happy the book is out,” I said.

“It is doing extremely well and has been as high Number 17 on Amazon in Comedian Biographies. But I’m actually terrified people will read it and never speak to me again – I have been ridiculously honest. Friends read early drafts of it and told me to take things out and I refused. I’m already writing the second book.”

“The story continues?”

“No. I’m easily bored. I like to try my hand at different things.”

“With luck, money might roll in,” I said.

Jo Burke with butterflies and Prosecco a London City Airport

Jo – butterflies and Prosecco at City Airport

“If money was the prime motivator,” said Jo. “I wouldn’t have done all the things I’ve done in the last ten years. Unfortunately, money doesn’t motivate me; but doing stuff I can feel proud of or which makes other people happy or think… I enjoy that. Just a living. I’d just like to make a living out of it.

“If you’re money-motivated, you gravitate towards the City and almost no-one I know is a City suit person. I don’t want to meet City suit people. I don’t like them. They lost everyone’s money and are still rich and it makes me sad.”

“Where are you now?”

“Currently at London City Airport awaiting lift off. I have butterflies and Prosecco…”

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Film star Burt Lancaster’s sexual attack on comic Sara Mason when she was 11

Photo of Sara by Nathalie Kerrio

Sara Mason. (Photo by Nathalie Kerrio)

Sara Mason’s first full-length Edinburgh Fringe show is billed as comedy and is titled Burt Lancaster Pierced My Hymen (When I Was 11).

This is not hyperbole. It is true – with all that the title implies.

Last night, I told Sara that her show may not get as many laughs as she may have hoped for, because it is very difficult to laugh when your mouth is almost continually wide open and your jaw is repeatedly hitting the floor.

“That,” I said to her, “was not your original title for the show, was it?”

“No,” she said. “It was originally going to be called From Hollywood To Homeless – but I will save that story for another year.”

Sara Mason - Burt Lancaster poster

Sara’s story will last from here to eternity

“And,” I asked, the title Burt Lancaster Pierced My Hymen (When I Was 11) was suggested by Tinky Winky from Teletubbies?”

Sara’s show is directed by the multi-talented Dave Thompson who played the above mentioned part on children’s television but was replaced because his “interpretation of the role was not acceptable”.

“I was dubious about the Burt Lancaster title,” Sara told me. “I was dubious about even doing the story.”

“Even last year,” I said, “you were dubious about telling the story as part of a show.”

During last year’s Fringe, Sara and I shared a flat in Edinburgh.

“Well you,” Sara said to me, “must have been the second person I ever told that story to, the first person being my ex-husband.”

“How did he react?”

“He tried to sell the story to the newspapers.”

“With your knowledge.”

“Oh yes.”

“Why didn’t they pick it up?”

Sara performing the show last night

Sara previewing the show in London last night

“Because (she named another victim who was sexually attacked by Burt Lancaster) was alive at that time and he didn’t want it printed. He said: This is my life; I don’t want it discussed. He was so violent and vehement about it, so we dropped it.”

“One reason the show is so powerful,” I said, “is because the audience thinks it knows the worst from the title but, in fact you are very graphic about what actually happened – and then there is this extra unexpected thing they get hit with.”

“What inspired me and encouraged me to do it on stage,” explained Sara, “was seeing Chris Dangerfield’s show Sex With Children last year, because I thought Wow! I’ve got an anecdote quite similar to his and mine involves a famous film star.”

“So why were you so worried about telling the story in a show?”

Burt Lancaster (left) & Nick Cravat - billed as Lang and Cravat - in Federal Theatre Project Circus (1935–1938)

Burt Lancaster (left) & Nick Cravat – billed as Lang and Cravat – in Federal Theatre Project Circus (1935–1938)

“I was worried about my daughter, apart from anything else.”

“I always,” I said, “thought Burt Lancaster was gay, because there were rumours about him and his circus partner Nick Cravat.”

“Bisexual,” said Sara. “He had five children and three wives. But he was a paedophile. That’s clear.”

Sara was brought up in Hollywood.

“Some of the child actors,” she said, “have come out now about Hollywood being a hotbed of paedophiles.”

“So this year,” I said, “your show is entirely truthfully called Burt Lancaster pierced My Hymen (When I Was 11). What’s next year?”

The Beginner’s Guide To Bondage,” Sara told me. “I already have a set all worked out.”

“Why,” I asked, “is it called The Beginner’s Guide To Bondage?”

“Because I’m going to have a cross and I’m going to give a demonstration.”

“Why you?” I asked.

“Why me?” Sara laughed. “Ohhhh! that would be telling! But we all have to have a day job, don’t we?”

Sara Mason last night - much more to come

Sara Mason last night – much more to come

Having shared a flat with her last year, I know the Burt Lancaster and Bondage shows are only the tips of a flotilla of icebergs. As I left her last night, she said: “My father was a psychiatrist in Hollywood. He wasn’t allowed by his professional ethics to discuss the stars’ problems with outsiders. But I was his daughter. He told me the stories.”

Sara is by no means a one-shock storyteller. To adapt the most famous quote from All About Eve… Fasten your seatbelts, it’s likely to be a bumpy few years.

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Filed under Comedy, Movies, paedophiles, Sex

The vicar, the talking penis and the Edinburgh venue which restricts acts

Dave Thompson (centre) the fake vicar

Dave Thompson (centre) as the fake vicar at the TV wedding

In yesterday’s blog, comedy actor Dave Thompson mentioned in passing that he had recently been “a fake vicar at a TV executive’s wedding.”

Obviously, I wanted to know more.

“Well, basically,” Dave told me, “a senior person at Channel 5 (she works in digital sales and is not directly involved in production) wanted to have a ‘different’ sort of wedding.  The couple approached Geoff Whiting of Mirth Control comedy agency, who thought I was best suited to the job.  He had seen me playing an insane killer attacking and fighting Harry Hill in Harry’s recent live show Sausage Time.

“I met the couple at the wedding venue in Surrey. There was a minstrels’ gallery at the back of the room and a kitchen to the side of the ‘stage’ area, where the ceremony would take place. We decided I should pretend to be a vicar and they liked my suggestion that the caterers should make a lot of noise in the kitchen, prompting me to have an argument with them.

“The couple were married in secret the day before, so all 150 guests including the best man thought I was a real vicar, until the end of the ceremony.

“It started normal, then I quoted some extreme passages from the Old Testament about adultery and death.

“I adapted a normal wedding script, putting some of my own material in it:

Mark, you are a very handsome young man. Emily, you are an exceptionally attractive young woman. I am going to ask you both in turn to declare that you are free to marry one another. I hope that you will share a marital bed and perhaps, as dawn lights up the garden of the house you will one day be able to afford (preferably in a nice area), Emily’s slumbering leg will brush against Mark’s leg. This will lead to caresses and the flowing of conjugal juice.  Emily, may perfect milk abound from your perfect bosoms. And one day, may that milk of kindness mature into the cheese of wisdom.

Dave’s vicar garb, including axe and optional animal sacrifice

Dave’s vicar garb, including axe and optional animal sacrifice

“When I stripped off to my purple Lycra leotards and tights (custom made for my appearance in Ben Elton’s feature film Maybe Baby) and did a fertility dance down the aisle, the congregation started to wonder if, perhaps, I was not a real vicar. I danced provocatively and put my leg over the balustrade.

“I then produced an axe and sacrificed a small animal (cuddly toy) for their abundance. I qualified this by saying I’d just returned from several years serving in rural Africa, and had been influenced by their rituals.

“At the end of the performance, the bride and groom walked down the aisle and out of the wedding barn as if the ceremony had been completely normal.

“The couple paid me a very good fee and I hope to get more work like this, as it’s easier than stand-up and had a massive impact on the 150 people in the congregation – though I had to keep it fairly clean in case I offended any of the older people there.”

So there you have it: a blatant attempt by a stand-up comedian to tout for more work.

But he is not as desperate as Harry Deansway.

In other news, yesterday I got an e-mail from Harry, the publicity-hungry publisher-turned-comedian:

Harry the performer - as he wants to be seen

I ask you in all honesty Would you interview this man’s penis?

“After years on the sketch circuit,” it said, “my penis is hoping to finally get his big break in my Edinburgh show Wrong Way and is looking for press opportunities. I am e-mailing you on behalf of my penis as he is very shy, so if you would like to speak with my penis it would have to be via e-mail.”

I e-mailed back a rejection because:

“It sounds like your penis doesn’t have the balls to email me itself.”

Finally yesterday, I was told The Stand venue at the Edinburgh Fringe will not issue any tickets to any Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judges this year – although it has done that without any problem for the past six years – both via the main Fringe Office and via The Stand’s own Press Office.

EdFringe2011PassA

Acceptable to the venue in years past…

EdFringe2011PassB

the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show pass

As a result, no acts appearing at The Stand will be considered or nominated for any increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award this year.

Since when has the venue not the performer decided who should be allowed to see their shows?

Since a long time ago in The Stand’s case, as it has a long and undistinguished record in restrictive practices which adversely affect acts’ careers.

To quote Malcolm Hardee, “Fuck ‘em.” He would have gone round and pissed on their stage.

But The Stand has been taking the piss for too long already.

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Chris Dangerfield cancels his Edinburgh Fringe shows after death threats… Matt Price replaces him with show about his own death threats from Turkish mafia

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Matt Price’s new show at Edinburgh Fringe

Matt Price: suddenly-scheduled show at the Edinburgh Fringe

The last time comedian Matt Price was mentioned in this blog, it was about the time he asked a Glasgow gangster for a gun and about performing comedy inside Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane. He meets interesting people and interesting things happen to him.

Yesterday afternoon, I heard from comedian Daphna Baram – the woman with her finger on the pulse of rising comics – that comedian Chris Dangerfield had pulled out of his show at the Edinburgh Fringe. His show had been billed as Chris Dangerfield: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.

Chris Dangerfield’s slot at The Hive, Daphna told me, had been taken up by Matt Price with his interestingly-titled show Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia.

I looked up Matt’s website and it said he was in Turkey throughout August. No mention of the Edinburgh Fringe.

So I asked him what was up.

“I was supposed to be in Turkey for four and a half months,” he explained, “but it went horribly wrong after six weeks. Chris Dangerfield dropped out because of death threats from some very bad people and so I’m taking his time slot in Edinburgh – 6.30pm at the Hive from August 1st to 26th.

“I have only had a week in which to prepare my show, so it should be interesting… It’s been a very strange few months, but it’s quite a story. I could tell you more, but I don’t really know quite where to begin and I don’t want to give away what’s in my show.

“My concern at the moment is for Chris Dangerfield. I was dealing with some bad people myself, hence why I’m going to Edinburgh. The difference is they are in Turkey. The bad people Chris knows are in Britain.”

The billing for Matt’s new show says it “features fake Ralph Lauren polo shirts, holiday reps, the Turkish Mafia, Jason Manford’s brother and the bloke who played Tinky Winky (yes, the Teletubbies).”

Unexplained photo of Colin Manford in Turkey

Colin Manford: unexplained important photo

Yesterday, Matt told me: “The photo that stands out most for me from the trip is one of Colin Manford. It was in the stage area at one of the gigs. We did the last show there and were planning our escape via Rhodes. A plan that didn’t quite work out…”

As Tinky Winky from Teletubbies was involved – the ever creative Dave Thompson – I asked him what on earth had happened out in Turkey.

“The situation,” Dave told me, “was that an Englishman who spends a lot of time in Turkey saw what he thought was a gap in the market for stand-up comedy in the Turkish resorts around Ölüdeniz. This was a year ago last June.

“He decided to go full steam ahead with promoting comedy out there this year, with no experience of it whatsoever.

“Instead of trying out a few shows last year to see if there really was a demand for them, he went into full-scale production. He booked nine comedians to work in three packages, all of which would be doing twelve shows per week for the entire summer of this year… His preparations were highly inadequate.

“We were booked for the Englishman’s shows through a British promoter and the British promoter was superb in every aspect. They were completely open with us, giving us the contact details of the Englishman so we could meet him and judge for ourselves if he was worth dealing with.

“I met him in Leeds, when I arranged for him to come to see me in Harry Hill’s show Sausage Time (which was being recorded for the live DVD).

Harry Hill’s Sausage Time became involved

Harry Hill’s Sausage Time DVD became involved in the saga

“I noticed he didn’t buy one drink, allowing me to buy them all in the pub afterwards or drinking the beers from the rider in the dressing room. I got the feeling he didn’t have any money and that the entire project depended on the shows in Turkey being nearly sold out from the start. But, as I love travel and he paid for my plane ticket out there and arranged for us to be accommodated in a villa with a shared pool, I went out there just in case the project was a success.

“I was with Matt in the first group booked and I went out there anticipating the whole thing might collapse fairly soon, but prepared for it not to.

“The first show we did was in front of tour reps and their managers, for no money. The venue had been refurbished at the expense of the Turkish club owner, but there had been no consultation with anyone who had ever promoted comedy.

“Consequently, lots of money had been spent to build a dedicated comedy room that was totally inappropriate for comedy. The sound desk was in a separate room and had no communication with or view of the comedy room. There was no microphone stand. The sight-lines were appalling. The stage was too high and at the end of a long narrow room.  There were no seat backs on the seats, which had been specially made and installed, even though he expected the shows to last for over two hours.

Dave Thompson - no room for comedy

Dave Thompson – no room for comedy

“The room could have been superb for comedy – if the English guy who initiated all this had bothered to consult someone who had run comedy shows before – or even consulted comedians.

“As a result, the large amount of money spent on the room was totally wasted.

“I don’t normally swear onstage, but the show was such a fiasco – with a few fat, thick tour reps who hadn’t paid to see the show – that I did swear on this occasion.

“After the show, the English promoter was euphoric about it, saying it was going to be a huge success. The next day, though, it turned out the tour rep managers were not keen on the show and I was singled out as having sworn. I was sacked a few days later, having only done one unpaid show.

“As I always knew it was a strong possibility the whole project would collapse, I had continued booking work elsewhere for the summer. So I stayed in a different resort in Turkey for a few days and returned to Britain after having had a pleasant week swimming in the sea and the pool every day.

“But it had become clear while we were out there that the owner of the hotel and nightclub where the performances were happening was connected to the Turkish mafia.

“Mafia is maybe rather an umbrella term. But it was obvious that, in certain ways, they were not concerned about the law or the police. We did not have work permits and we were told that, if the police came to the show to enforce the law, as soon as they saw a certain person who would be in the audience, they would leave without interfering.”

I asked Matt Price yesterday what happened after Dave Thompson left.

Matt Price in London last week

Matt Price, armed, waiting for the Mafia to arrive

“For the five weeks that followed Dave’s departure,” he told me, “things really went downhill. Every day was more and more tense. The Englishman was, shall we say, ‘a fantasist’. He was drink driving every day and there were daily talks of ‘killing Tinky Winky’.

“I took the gigs in good faith thinking that it was the trip of a lifetime – and in so many ways it was, but not the way I expected!

“When I said goodbye to Dave Thompson, I never expected to end up on the last night sleeping in my clothes, holding a kitchen knife and wondering if was capable of killing anyone. Cole Parker and me locked ourselves into a luxury villa with weapons waiting for the Mafia to arrive.”

“Weapons?” I asked Matt. “Was that just the kitchen knife or something more substantial?”

“I would prefer not tell you?” said Matt. “The weapons will be explained in my Fringe show. It’s a huge part of the story, as is our escape.

“I’d like to create as much intrigue as possible really, John. You’d laugh if you heard some of the rumours going around about how we had to be rescued in the middle of the night by helicopter, we stole a car and drove to Istanbul, came home via Europe on the train, the SAS were sent in. The list goes on.

“I’ve had to get my show together at such short notice – one week – I’m hoping the mystery behind the story will get people in. All I want to say is that Chris Dangerfield and I have both been involved with some bad people. I just hope that none of the bad people confuse me for him.”

At this point, obviously, I asked Chris Dangerfield why he had cancelled his Edinburgh shows just one week before the Fringe began.

The logo for Chris Dangerfield’s cancelled show

The logo for Chris Dangerfield’s cancelled show

“Due to the sensitive nature of my situation,” he told me with unusual care, “I have decided to explain the situation myself on a podcast which will be aired this week. I apologise to anyone negatively affected by my cancellation, I wouldn’t have done it if I had any other options. Have a good festival and see you next year!”

“What about your sponsors?” I persisted.

“I’ve already had more press than I had last year,” said Chris, “and last year was a great success in this area. My Edinburgh sponsors this year sorted me out with 100 syringes, 100 x 27 gauge 25mm spikes, 100 2ml bottle ampoules of sterile water and 100 alcohol swabs. They are over the moon because of the coverage I’ve already had.

“They are wonderful people – Exchange Supplies. They were set up by drug workers to improve the harm reduction response to drug use. They developed the nevershare syringe – the world’s first syringe designed specifically for injecting drug users – and they also supply injecting paraphernalia. They are involved in harm reduction on the front line of a society that usually prefers to turn its back on its less palatable creations – usually causing a cultural sciatica we all have the pleasure of feeling.

Chris Dangerfield: addicted to strong stories

Chris Dangerfield not surprisingly gets enquiries daily

“I’m also getting enquiries daily,” he continued. “The British Comedy Guide just contacted me, asking about my cancellation and about hosting a podcast about the announcement. I’ll be using such platforms to raise the entire censorship debate as well as the ugly negative gender politics that seem to be doing their best to strangle the last breath from the weary lung of stand-up.”

I presumed this meant Chris did not want to talk to me about the alleged death threats and why he cancelled the show.

“So where are you going to perform it now, if not at the Fringe?” I asked. “It was a good title: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.

“This show will not be performed now – ever,” said Chris. “Mainly because it didn’t exist in the first place and it seems pointless to bother making the effort now. Much like last year’s show Sex Tourist, I was just going to wing it and cross my fingers.”

That doesn’t quite explain everyone’s reference to death threats and Chris clearly did not want to tell me any more details, but I look forward with interest to the explanatory podcast.

In the meantime, the whole sorry saga does have some good resulting from it.

Matt Price will be performing his show Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, even if I do not approve of the spelling of ‘Program’. And Dave Thompson tells me:

Dave Thompson (centre) the fake vicar

Dave Thompson (centre) was a fake vicar at a real wedding

“Shortly after returning from Turkey, I was offered a role in Harry Hill’s forthcoming feature film and did five days work on it. I have also had a lucky streak of work since, including being a fake vicar at a TV executive’s wedding and I will be relaxing on a beach in Croatia during August, a long way from Edinburgh and the Scottish weather. Be sure to mention I will also be handling the almost overwhelming surge in orders for my book The Sex Life of a Comedian.”

Roll up! Roll up! Promotion! Promotion!

Everyone even remotely connected to the Edinburgh Fringe in August is promoting their product(s).

See you at my chat show.

THERE IS A PROMO FOR MATT’S SHOW ON YOUTUBE:

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The link between gangland Edinburgh and “The Sex Life of a Comedian”

Comedy performer Dave Thompson has been telling me more about his new novel The Sex Life of a Comedian, which I blogged about yesterday. Dave famously got fired as Tinky Winky in the TV series Teletubbies because, after a lengthy period playing the iconic purple creature, it was suddenly said his “interpretation of the role had not been accepted”.

The plot of his novel involves a stand-up comedian on the UK circuit who gets a job wearing a blue furry costume in a world-famous television show but then gets fired. The story involves drug-fuelled celebrity sex romps, the Mafia and wild parties aboard luxury yachts.

Dave tells me: “Although the novel is fictitious, I’ve drawn from the landscape I’ve worked in and mixed real events with made-up ones. That’s why one of the main characters is a promoter from Edinburgh with gangland connections.”

So I was particularly interested to hear more about the section of the book in which the central character, at a celebrity sex party, accidentally spurts on a member of the mafia…

“Well, yes,” Dave tells me. “I have done gigs overseas for promoters who were organised criminals. In one country which shall remain nameless, I found myself working for comedy promoters connected to the IRA.

“The local mafia had tried to extort protection money from them, but found themselves up against IRA tactics. The mafiosi came round to ‘teach the promoters a lesson’ for not paying them protection money, but the IRA guys beat up the mafia guys with baseball bats and threatened far worse if they ever came back. The beating was so severe the mafia left them alone after that.

“I had a great gig that night and, after the show, there was a party in the nightclub where the gig was held. I had some business to sort out with one of the promoters and we went back to my hotel room to do this. He and I hit it off and had a convivial chat and a drink from my mini-bar. When we returned to the party, people who knew the promoter looked very anxious.

“As soon as I was separated from the promoter, I was asked if I was okay. I said I was fine and didn’t understand why they were so concerned. It turned out that the man I’d invited to my room was notorious for his temper and they thought we were gone so long because I’d offended him and he was beating me up.

“There’s a lot more about their criminal activity that I can’t talk about because they could recognise themselves and I might end up like the mafiosi who annoyed them.

“I think there’s a mutual attraction between organised crime and show business – each lends glamour to the other.

“At the height of their power, the Kray Twins used to hang out with celebrities in the West End of London and Barbara Windsor was married to East End villain Ronnie Knight, who was jailed for his part in the £6 million Security Express robbery in 1983.

“He escaped and whilst he was on the run in the Costa Del Sol, taking advantage of the lack of an extradition treaty between Britain and Spain, he owned a nightclub called ‘Club R Knights’.

“I was invited to the opening night party and met Ronnie. He was very pleasant and pulled me a pint of lager. Barbara Windsor had already left him because she couldn’t stand the Spanish heat and he had another blonde partner, who looked very similar to Barbara Windsor. I had a long conversation with her and was impressed by how well-read she was.

“I had been invited to the party because of my girlfriend at the time – a pretty blonde actress and singer who appeared in West End musicals. Her mother and stepfather owned a villa near Fuengirola on the Costa Del Sol. The stepfather was from Essex, had a huge black Rottweiler and was a friend of Ronnie Knight’s. He took us to lots of parties thrown by ‘geezers from Essex’.

“We were warned never to ask anyone what they did for a living as this was contrary to etiquette. The stepfather told me that, whenever I took my girlfriend to a restaurant, I should tell them he had sent us. That way, we got the best table, free drinks and the meal was be less than the menu price.

“One evening we were relaxing by her mother and stepfather’s pool and the English language radio station was running a phone-in competition for couples in love. The stepfather told me to phone in and mention his name and, immediately, my request was played on the radio and we won a bottle of champagne.

“I never saw the bottle of champagne because, soon after we got back, the girl dumped me in favour of a criminal, who subsequently beat her up.

“That relationship is long over but she and I are still good friends. Years later we posed naked together for the News of the World.  One of the characters in the novel is partly based on her.

“As for Ronnie, the News of The World later paid him £45,000 to stage-manage his return to Britain, so he could see his mum before she died.  He was arrested and sentenced to another seven years in prison.”

Dave also tells me:

“I’ve checked the sales figures on the book again and it’s looking very encouraging!”

I am not surprised.

You can buy The Sex Life of a Comedian here.

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Outside the Edinburgh Fringe, TV show sleaze and a comedy award for sale

In Edinburgh yesterday morning, I saw President Ahmadinejad of Iran walking purposefully through Bristo Square. But surely this cannot be? All I can think is that a serious President Ahmadinejad wannabe lives nearby.

Later in the day, also in Bristo Square, I watched as a flyerer approached a mother and child with the opening line: “Can I interest you in a show about a tree?”

Ah! – the Edinburgh Fringe!

Outside the cocoon of the Fringe, surprisingly, the world still turns.

Comedian Dave Thompson has just published his novel The Sex Life of a Comedian about which I have blogged before

It is available as a printed book or as an eBook download.

He famously played Tinky Winky (the purple one) in the children’s television show Teletubbies but was equally famously fired for being too gay (which he isn’t) in the role and he is no stranger to the backstage world of television.

His novel is about a stand-up comedian called Doug who “lands a big part in Rats Milk Cheese, a bizarre sitcom… In a world where louche girls romp in dressing rooms, luxury yachts and drug-fuelled orgies, Doug thinks his career has taken off. But show business has a dark side. As the wealth at stake increases, so does the greed of those who want it. At a celebrity sex party, Doug accidentally spurts on a member of the Mafia…”

Dave tells me The Sex Life of a Comedian is only partially autobiographical.

It has only been out a week or so, but already has some impressive admirers:

“It’s funny, it’s gripping and it’s not for the squeamish.” (Ben Elton)

“If you love comedy and/or sex you’ll love this book. My wife caught me reading it and I had to do the washing up for a week.” (Harry Hill)

Also still available as a paperback, a Kindle eBook and an iBook for the iPad is Sit-Down Comedy, the anthology to which Dave contributed a short story with Jim Tavaré. The book had contributions from 19 stand-ups and was edited by me and the late great Malcolm Hardee.

Which inevitably brings me to the Malcolm Hardee Awards.

Show Me The Funny judge Kate Copstick (who is also a Malcolm Hardee Award judge) has already exchanged thoughts with me about acts which might be worth seeing for this year’s Award.

Meanwhile, last year’s winner of the main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality is not playing the Fringe this year.

Last year, Robert White did well: good reviews, career progression, a Malcolm Hardee Award, new gigs and the industry noticed him. But, he tells me:

“It left me poor: I am not doing Edinburgh this year and instead am releasing some YouTube sketches and selling my Malcolm Hardee Award on eBay.”

You read it first here.

I’ll be interested to see what price he gets for the increasingly prestigious, nay, unique trophy. Unfortunately, the man who was going to do Robert’s publicity has temporarily gone into prison – not for a social visit

“To be honest,” Robert says, “it’s thrown everything up in the air as he was going to do all the social networking etc. He has the Twitter account for a comedy club The Comedy Closet I am starting in central London. His Facebook is gone, I can’t ring him as he is in prison and I do not know exactly his circumstances. I have created some funny video sketches and set up all sorts of stuff and now I just don’t know really. I suppose I am going to have to teach myself Twitter in the space of a week.”

Robert intends to release five comedy sketches on YouTube on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th of this month – to coincide with Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Did I mention there is a Malcolm Hardee Week at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe?

At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, there is a Malcolm Hardee Week.

There, I’ve said it.

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