Kate Copstick was not at the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon because she was off seeing a show in one of her other hats – as one of the four judges on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.
In her place was comedian, promoter and Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner Bob Slayer, a man of a thousand hats. The previous day, Bob had sent a text message to me, Kate Copstick and others saying: “I’ve had a creative breakthrough – I’m not a comedian. I’m a performance artist.”
Among the audience at The Grouchy Club yesterday was Stuart Richards, who is staging LaughDance at the Fringe.
“It’s stand-up set to dance,” he explained. “It’s basically a stand-up comedy show. Each comic comes out and does their ten or fifteen minutes and we have four professional dancers behind who interpret the comedian’s set. For example, we have comedian Tim Renkow, who has cerebral palsy, and he tells a story about getting into a fight with a neo-Nazi while, in the background, we have two dancers doing Brazilian martial arts dancing.”
“Mocking him, really,” said Bob.
“That’s exactly the schtick that Tim takes,” said Stuart. “He starts screaming at them.”
“What do you do between Fringes?” a shrewd member of the audience asked.
“My day job,” said Stuart, “is a development producer with a TV company.”
“All development producers do,” said Bob, “is try to not get anything commissioned, because then they would be putting their head above the parapet… I have an idea… Fat Jockeys…
“I used to be a jockey. Me and another ex-jockey who is the right height, but round… We have a bet who was the best jockey and the only way to settle it is to lose weight, get fit and have one last race.”
“There’s definitely something in that,” said Stuart.
“With each element,” said Bob, “you can have little side bets like Who has lost the most sweat?”
“Basically,” said Stuart, “at the end of the week, you only get to ride if you have lost enough weight – otherwise the horse will buckle.”
“We could go for liposuction,” suggested Bob, “and see who will make the biggest body fat candle… This idea – Fat Jockeys – has been ‘in development’ twice.
“TV people love the idea of Fat Jockeys then, six months down the development line, they say: Oh, we need to attach a celebrity to it. This happened and I said: Great! Lee Mack used to be a jockey. He looked after Red Rum. Johnny Vegas loves horse racing… And they said: Yeees… We were thinking Jeremy Kyle. Apparently he owns horses and likes horse racing. Clare Balding was interested in it.”
“Can you tell the Devvo story?” I asked. “Or is that actionable?”
“Now,” said Bob, “we are getting onto my REAL beef with TV development producers. Devvo had a development deal about five years ago, first with Channel 4, then with the BBC.
“He had millions and millions of views online pre-YouTube and, when YouTube came along, he was one of the first YouTube stars.
There is an E4 video of Devvo on YouTube:
“The development people all said: We love Devvo. He’s not just someone dressed-up as a chav doing two-dimensional jokes. He inhabits his world; it’s not just crappy one-liners ridiculing chav culture.
“We did all sorts of bits of TV and then the BBC said: Can we put a laughter track on it? And we said: Well, no. The whole thing is it inhabits a real world. Then, a bit later, they asked: What’s his real name? They basically wanted to say THIS IS A CHARACTER … No!… The whole thing is it’s real.
“Then we got an e-mail – not even a phone call – saying he wasn’t going to be in this show and, when it was screened, who was in it? Lee Nelson, who was just somebody dressed up as a chav doing horrible jokes about chavs and he then went on and had Devvo’s career. I didn’t blame him so much, it’s just bloody TV producers! They wanted to commission Devvo but then they got cold feet.”
After the Grouchy Club show, Bob and I bumped into comedian Jeff Leach.
At the end of yesterday’s blog, I mentioned being told that the phrase John Fleming’s spunk in her eye featured in Jeff’s late-night rap battle against Sofie Hagen. Feigning shock, I wrote: All I know is that I feel soiled. Desperately soiled.
Jeff, apparently, was worried I had seriously been offended and had sent me an amiably soothing e-mail.
“Ah, Jeff Leach!” said Bob when we bumped into him. “I once wanked him off in a venue very near here, because he was dying on stage and the promoter said: Bob, can you pull him off stage. And all I heard were the words Pull him off. But whenever I tell this story, Jeff says: I wasn’t dying. I wasn’t dying.”
“What happened,” said Jeff pleasantly, “was I was on stage…”
“We used to have a friendship,” said Bob pleasantly.
“But then,” said Jeff pleasantly, “I heard some terrible things about you and I decided I didn’t want to be friends with a man who makes women feel that uncomfortable… So… what actually happened was I was on stage and Bob was very drunk and loud and obnoxious at the back and I said: Oh, Bob wants to be part of the show. So I said: Come up here and Bob thinks he’s a very shocking comedian; he’s always going to take it a step too far. So I said: Get yer cock out and he did, so I got my cock out and I grabbed his and he grabbed mine. That’s what happened. And I did not win the Malcolm Hardee Award despite doing that.”
“I love,” said Bob pleasantly, “how you’ve changed that version to put you in the centre.”
“Of course,” said Jeff pleasantly, “because I was the one booked to perform that night.”
“I was on after you,” said Bob pleasantly “I had to clean up the mess. What was interesting was the guy in that show whose face we wanked into – it was his first day at the Fringe and, this year, he’s doing the world record for the most shows at the Fringe. He’s seen 128 shows so far and I think he’s just looking for something near that first experience.”
“He’s never going to get it,” said Jeff.
“Has he been to see your show yet?” asked Bob.
“I’ve no idea,” said Jeff.
“I think you’ll find he hasn’t,” said Bob pleasantly. “Because you were dying on stage that night and he didn’t like you much and he thought I was very funny.”
“I don’t have to respond to anything that comes from Bob Slayer,” said Jeff pleasantly. “You ARE Bob Slayer; you are, in a sense, a walking piece of art.”
Perhaps all comedians are performance artists off-stage.
Expect a TV development deal soon for Bob Slayer and Jeff Leach in a reality show.