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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 20, Part 1: The Malcolm Hardee Awards nominations

The nominees for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards have been announced. And the nominations are…


THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY
(The award is for performers, not for shows although, obviously, that has some effect)

Terry Alderton
Rob Kemp
Elf Lyons
Mark Dean Quinn


THE MALCOLM HARDEE CUNNING STUNT AWARD
(for a cunning publicity stunt promoting a performer or show at the Fringe)

Damian Kingsley
…for handing out flyers while wearing a security guard’s jacket at venues other than his own, on the basis that punters are more likely to take flyers from a security guard rather than a normal flyer.

Martha McBrier
…for a publicity stunt for her Balamory Doubtfire show so complicated that even an explanation by her with a timeline does not fully unravel the layers. I still have no idea where the truth begins or ends and the scam starts or finishes.

Mark Dean Quinn
…for sundry flyering scams on behalf of other people but, in particular, for attaching stars and quotes from other shows on his own flyers, thus potentially subverting the Fringe ‘star’ system.


THE MALCOLM HARDEE ‘ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID AWARD’
(Means what it says on the label)

Rob Kemp
His Elvis Dead show and subsequent similarly-formatted shows could end up worldwide (if the music copyright problems could be overcome) and/or could be franchised.

Al Porter
Already presenting his own Irish radio show and the Irish version of Blind Date, he has now been commissioned for a BBC Radio one-off, showing potential to make the leap to the UK and beyond.


You will no doubt have picked-up that, highly unusually, two performers are nominated for two awards each…

Rob Kemp for the Comic Originality and ‘Million Quid’ Awards.

And Mark Dean Quinn in the Comic Originality and Cunning Stunt categories.

This is the third consecutive year that Al Porter has been nominated for the ‘Million Quid’ Award.

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Edinburgh Fringe Day 1: Good shows, a questionable director and a late disaster

Mark Borkowski is looking for originality

In the afternoon, with Kate Copstick, I recorded the first in a revived series of Grouchy Club Podcasts with stunt-loving PR guru Mark Borkowski who is up here partly to find right-wing comedians who may appear in a series of TV shows on RT (Russia Today). Well, that is my spin on it. Really he is looking for anyone who is so original and different that they are unlikely to get onto the currently bland and unoriginal British TV channels. Mark, in performance terms, has a taste for the bizarre and the original. He is well worth a listen.

After that, I went to see Robert White’s show billed as a comedy opera InstraMENTAL which was – rather dauntingly for the first Fringe show I have seen this year – utterly brilliant. Robert won the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality in 2010 so can he be nominated again? Who knows? This unified show is so different it is not what he won for before and, unexpectedly, Kate Copstick’s voice turns up about ¾ of the way through. When I texted her about being in his show, it was news to her.

Narin Oz, budgerigar & Brunström belly paint

I had forgotten to take a photo of Mark Borkowski during the podcast recording, something I did not fail to do at Fringe Central when I was accosted by Narin Oz, who showed me a photo on her phone of her blue budgerigar in front of a blue painting created by Malcolm Hardee Award winning Michael Brunström’s belly.

Anyone present at the relevant Brunström shows will be aware this is not a joke.

Narin also showed me a photo of herself covered in mud and pointed out that her show #DirtyWoman includes copious amounts of real mud. She told me all her #DirtyWoman shows are being billed as ‘work-in-progress’ shows and, after the Edinburgh shows are finished, she will do previews in London of the already-performed shows. She said she reckons she may end up performing back in her mother’s womb. You maybe had to be there.

Elf Lyons – colourful Swan

Later, I saw that infinitely-rare thing, an act that has arguably been made even better by going to see that Gaulier man in France. Admittedly, we are talking about the already-highly-talented Elf Lyons. In her show Swan, she is telling and acting out the story of Swan Lake in eccentric costumes with dancing and mime and ongoing spiel in a form of Franglais. It is difficult to do justice to it all in a written description but, in parts, it is a sort-of disguised stand-up show with a Gaulier veneer, a lot of movement and her personality making it sparkle. She was justifiably playing to a full room.

In the audience watching her was Juliette Burton, whose Butterfly Effect show was today and will in future be (it is getting heavily booked-up ahead) playing to full houses.

All of the above titbits are part of the joy of the Fringe.

But I also received an email today from an act telling me about their show’s director:

The cobbles of Edinburgh have seen some blood flow in the last 70 years of the Fringe.

“I have paid (the named person) more than £2,000 over the last year to be director for my show and (the person) just told me TODAY that they won’t be coming up to the Fringe this year as if that’s the norm. They say their other clients who have shows here don’t mind. And I am even expected to pay an invoice for August because (the person) says they can direct my performance from London. It has really knocked me for six. This same person was here for my first few shows last year. I thought a director’s job was to sit in the audience early on to take notes. I worked really really hard doing various jobs to pay the director’s fees.”

Then, as I was about to post this blog online, Kate Copstick turned up at 1.00am (we are sharing a flat) saying she is due to review highly-esteemed musical act Die Roten Punkte for the Scotsman tomorrow night (well, tonight, in fact) – their opening night – but British Airways have lost all their musical equipment collected over many years and a very, very specifically-designed drum kit.

“British Airways,” Copstick told me, “don’t seem very concerned”.

Meanwhile, Die Roten Punkte are trying to borrow equipment and have arranged an emergency technical run-through at 07.00am.

The Edinburgh Fringe. Home of dreams and nightmares.

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Jaw droppers of the Edinburgh Fringe

Lewis Schaffer Googles himself outside a mosque

Lewis Schaffer Googles himself near a mosque

“You should consider Lewis Schaffer for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for comic originality,” Lewis Schaffer told me yesterday. “I’m so original people are starting to imitate me.”

“No-one could imitate you,” I told Lewis Schaffer.

“Yeah, they’re starting,” said Lewis Schaffer, “I saw this young comic who said he had done 1,000 bad shows.”

“And was he,” I asked, “too young to have done that?”

“Well, I don’t know if he had done it. I’m not saying I am the only failure in town, but I think people are realising it’s very easy to be a success at being a failure because most comedians are failures. There is heavy competition for my spot as the premier failing comic in the business.”

“And for this reason,” I asked, “we should nominate you for the increasing prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for comic originality?”

“Well,” argued Lewis Schaffer, “when people come and see my show, they say: God! I’ve never seen anything like it. That means it’s original.”

Everyone has to have a publicity angle in Edinburgh.

For me, yesterday, it was worth seeing Cassie Atkinson & Oh Standfast (Graham Goddard)’s Comedy In Progress show simply for the reference to the great Dudley Sutton who has one of the great unpublished autobiographies, as evidenced by his 2003 and 2006 Fringe shows Killing Kittens and Pandora’s Lunchbox. Anyone who mentions Dudley Sutton is OK with me.

Giada with some cutting-edge Fringe comedy

Unflyered by Giada in Edinburgh yesterday

Then I bumped into Italian comic Giada Garofalo in the rain about 20 minutes before her show started. She had been feeling ill, it was raining quite heavily and she had done no flyering, so expected me to be the only member of her audience for Live in the Staff Room (Sex, Fairy Tales, Serial Killers and Other Stuff). The second half of the title is very commercial; the first half not-so much.

But people in the full-to-overflowing audience yesterday seemed to have come simply because of the word-of-mouth. There were people listening to the show from the corridor because they couldn’t fit in. One couple had been unable to get in the previous day (no room) so had come back again, determined to see it. They were not disappointed.

Then, on the way to check-out The Counting House Lounge for my Grouchy Club with Kate Copstick (which starts today), I bumped into Giada’s fellow-Italian Luca Cupani, who has got through to the final of the So You Think You’re Funny comedy competition.

Does this look like an Italian character? Luca Cupani

Does this look like an Italian character?

“It was unanimous,” Luca told me, “but one of the judges thought I might not be Italian. He said I looked like an Italian ‘character act’ though he admitted my accent was very good. I asked him: Why should I pretend to be Italian? I would not wish anyone to be Italian.”

“I have just seen Giada’s show,” I told him. “She got a full room and had not done any flyering.”

“Yesterday,” said Luca, “I flyered two tramps. I thought it would be kind to offer them to come see a free show on the BlundaBus. But they were smelling in a wonderful way. Sometimes poverty stinks. Then I thought, if they get on the bus, maybe the act on after me will be not so happy. Luckily, they were a little bit drunk and didn’t take the flyer.”

Then I saw Harriet Kemsley’s show Puppy Fat. Immediately afterwards, I texted someone:

Harriet Kemsley with an owl

Harriet Kemsley with a stuffed owl

Good grief! I just saw Harriet Kemsley’s show. I think the audience and I need counselling. Talk about suddenly changing the tone without warning! There was no hint of it coming. Mouths were open and jaws dropped. It was like a trapdoor suddenly opened.

Then I went to see Elf LyonsBeing Barbarella. I bumped into Kate Copstick by accident in the cafe next door to the Voodoo Rooms. She was going to see Elf too. There was a mystery girl manning the door of Elf’s room who recognised both of us (always unnerving). Under intensive grilling, she admitted she performed comedy “occasionally” and was taking part in an Edinburgh Fringe show, but refused to say who she was or what the show was.

“But it’s publicity,” I suggested to her.

“I like anti-publicity,” she said.

Kate Copstick (right) with an unknown

Kate Copstick (right) with an unknown girl

She has something to do with shadow puppetry. The first person to grass her up and tell me her name and the show’s name gets a copy of Malcolm Hardee’s increasingly prestigious but tragically out-of-print autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

Anyway…

Elf Lyons’ Being Barbarella: mesmerizing, barnstorming, hyper charismatic performance.

Then I saw The Story Beast (John Henry Falle)’s show – mesmerizing, barnstorming, hyper charismatic performance.

Yes, both mesmerizing, barnstorming, hyper charismatic.

In between, I went to the launch of Freestival’s new venues at the New Waverly Arches where I bumped into Nicole Harvey.

“I didn’t know you were doing a show up here,” I said.

“I was coming up for a jolly and to support mates anyhow,” she told me, “and was warmed up after the Brighton and Camden Fringes and I saw Freestival had a new venue, so I thought Why not? But I wasn’t expecting to have to wrestle my Gorgeous Gavin from a rough drunken Scottish girl.”

NicoleHarveyFreestival_CUT

Nicole Harvey with her Gorgeous Gavin

Part of Nicole’s show Delicious and Dateless involves an inflatable man.

“This girl actually wanted to start a fight with me over Gorgeous Gavin,” Nicole told me. “His rather extended protrusion had been modestly covered with boxers but she was carting him off flashing all in sight.”

I don’t normally give show time and date details because it means bugger all to people reading this blog in Paraguay or in three weeks or two years time but, in this case, Nicole is performing her show Delicious and Dateless at Freestival’s New Waverly Arches:

15th August: Arch 1 at 6:45pm

16th August: Arch 2 at 6:15pm

18th-22nd August: Arch 2 at 6:15pm

Welcome to an everyday story of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe fucked-up by the mess at Cowgatehead.

But the Fringe is all about surprises.

Chris Dangerfield in Thailand yesterday morning

Chris Dangerfield in his prime in Thailand

This morning, I texted comic Chris Dangerfield to ask if he was coming up to Edinburgh. He told me:

“Avalon asked me to do their Comedy Central shizzle This Is Not Happening.”

Well, that should be interesting, then…

Chris Dangerfield is not Mr Mainstream Showbiz.

I asked if I could mention it in my blog.

“Of course,” he replied. “Just say …with Fringe big hitters like Chris Dangerfield not doing a show this year… or …with Chris Dangerfield successfully bribing me with drugs for copy this year…”

It is all about publicity. It is all about self-promotion.

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English Elf Lyons on her duck flu, Barbarella and a dog in a gimp suit

Elf Lyons at Soho Theatre in London

Elf Lyons ordered pizza this week at Soho Theatre in London

In yesterday’s blog,  I mentioned in passing that I met comedian and writer Elf Lyons at Soho Theatre in London. She ate pizza.

“I came up with this world…” she told me. “This sitcom idea. I got really excited, then realised all the tangents and all the character layers couldn’t really exist in a one hour play, so I’ve written lots of different episodes. And I’m doing the first 45-minute pilot, as it were, next Thursday for three nights at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

“It’s based around me and my sister – two siblings stuck in a country farm. There’s this flu – Duck Flu – which turns people into ducks, but human-sized ducks. The only way you can tell if you have not got it is to drink tea. If your body can cope with tea, then you clearly have not got it. If you don’t want tea, then you have got the infection and you are going to have to be killed.”

“Can’t you,” I suggested, “just look in a mirror to see if you are a duck?”

“No,” said Elf, “because it starts with a sneeze, then a cough, then a quack…”

“Not a waddle or a quack, but a glide and a whistle and a snowy white back?” I suggested.

Duck Flu - Elf Lyons

Duck Flu – a simple tale of humanoid ducks

“Basically,” said Elf, “the two sisters are together and they’re slightly psychopathic. They are going to kill their mum. They have killed their dad – not because they had to, but because they needed to, because they would turn into ducks.”

“So it’s written as social realism,” I suggested.

“Yes,” said Elf, “Me and my family have this conversation all the time about what we would do in an apocalypse if someone died. On my computer, I have saved everyone’s funeral songs and what readings we would want. I want to make sure, if anything did happen, I would have it already organised. That may be a bit perverse, but in a nice way.”

“Where do you come from?” I asked.

“Crookham Hill in Kent. We have lots of horses and sheep and we were thinking: Oh no! If there were an apocalypse, who would look after the horses? And the sheep? And we’ve got dogs. Where would we move everybody? And what weapons would you use? Duck Flu spawned from that. And there are also some evil vegans in it.”

“Why evil vegans?” I asked.

“I don’t trust vegans,” explained Elf. “I remember when I joined my Vegan Society at Bristol University they were lovely but I sort-of expected the Tales of The Unexpected music to play any second.”

Tales of The Unexpected is before your time,” I said.

“My mum,” explained Elf, “when she was little, used to watch Tales of The Unexpected on TV and you know the woman who dances in the titles? My Granddad Squeak, who’s my mum’s dad, told my mum that it was her mum dancing – that it was Nanny Squeak.”

“You have a granddad called Squeak?” I asked.

“Yes. Because they had a cat called Squeak and my Nanny and Granddad Station – my dad’s mum and dad, they…”

“Station?” I asked.

“Yes. They always came down to visit us by train.”

“So we have a family here,” I said, “who have a daughter called Elf, and grandparents called Squeak and Station. What does your dad do?”

“He’s an economist – He’s the Economic Advisor to Boris Johnson.”

“But he’s not attached to Boris as such?” I asked. “He’s attached to whoever the Mayor of London happens to be?”

“Yes. He’s politically neutral.”

“But mildly eccentric?” I asked.

Afternoon tea with Elf includes interesting conversation

Afternoon tea with English Elf from a ‘quite’ eccentric family

“My family are quite eccentric,” said Elf. “Well, they ARE eccentric.”

“Siblings?” I asked.

“I have a little sister called Lulu. Her real name is Marie-Louise Kezia, but everyone calls her Lulu. She used to be a horse rider.”

“Professionally?”

“Yes. She was always away horse-riding but she had an epiphany after she had an accident and realised she wanted to help people. So now she is 21 and at university doing bio-medicine. My brother Gerard is 17 and at school doing his A-levels. He looks like a young George Michael from Wham.”

“Gerard seems to be a very normal name for your family,” I said.

“Well, he likes to be nick-named Chat.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s so witty.”

“Interesting family,” I said. “You were called Elf as a child?”

“No. I was just Emily-Anne but, when I went to university – when I first went to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009, when I was 18 – I was volunteering at the Forest Fringe as an usher and loads of the guys who would come and buy tickets would say: Oh, you’re very elf-like.”

“Loads of them?” I asked.

“Loads,” replied Elf. “Because I had very short hair and I was sitting down. People always assume I’m going to be really short when they meet me.

“The Fringe was mind-blowing and I was staying on my own. I remember sitting in the Underbelly garden and then going up to somebody and saying: I’m really sorry, but do you want to be my friend? I don’t know anyone and I don’t know where to start.

“Then I met this really lovely Australian comic called Daniel Walmsley who was working on Mark Watson’s 24-Hour Show, so I got to sneak in and watch that and I met all these people and you know all those films where the kid gets the job at the Amusement Park and he meets all these kookie characters?”

“Your hair is slightly red,” I observed.

“I’m naturally a brighter ginger, because my dad is Irish. But I like dying my hair every now-and-again just to… to do something exciting.”

“And you have another show you are preparing…?” I said.

Being Barbarella. My new solo show.”

“But you are going to need a blonde wig for that?” I suggested.

“Yeah, you know the opening of the film? She takes off all her clothes. She takes off her spacesuit and her helmet and her hair just flows everywhere and I’m going to re-create that. I will take off my spacesuit quite slowly.”

Being Barbarella -  Elf Lyons

Being Barbarella – Elf Lyons, possibly in a wig

“Still my beating heart,” I said.

“The whole show,” explained Elf, “is about me trying to be sexy, but getting it wrong. And I talk a lot about sharks.”

“Why?”

“Because I love sharks. The first book I ever read was about sharks. I think they’re amazing.”

“But you wouldn’t want one for a pet,” I suggested.

“My family adopted a bluetip reef shark for me for Christmas.”

“Where does it live?” I asked.

“In the sea.”

“Which sea?”

“I don’t know. I have a certificate on my wall. I need to re-adopt it. I have got a pen pal and we have been swapping advice and she has told me I should adopt a donkey and I told her to adopt a shark.”

“Do you like donkeys?” I asked.

“I think you can’t be too judgmental,” said Elf.

“So…” I said, “Being Barbarella…”

“It’s basically about me trying to be my own idol and trying to be a sexy comedian.”

“Was Barbarella your main teenage fantasy?” I asked.

“No. My fantasy was Jane Eyre. Nanny Squeak took me to see a 4-hour production of Jane Eyre: The Musical – at the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham. Mr Rochester’s dog was a man dressed as a gimp. In a gimp suit. It had nothing to do with the show. I’m pretty sure it was Jane Eyre: The Musical. It might have been a really weird pantomime. Do you want a bit of pizza?”

Elf Lyons - pizza

Elf Lyons before realising her pizza mistake

“You don’t like the crusts?” I asked.

“They’re not fun. If they gave me butter I would eat them, but it’s too late now.”

“You met up with Joz Norris the other day,” I said.

“We went back to my flat and just sat in my room and we ate Magnum ice creams and drank non-alcoholic beer and talked about Socrates. I’ve been reading about Socrates in The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton. It’s really good.”

“You should do a show with Joz,” I suggested.

“I like Joz’s comedy,” said Elf, “because he allows himself to be vulnerable. There is that thin layer that’s so fragile between… You know when people talk about something that’s slightly dark? If you put too much pressure on it, it turns away from being funny to putting the audience in a difficult position.

“We were talking about the difference between comics who write specifically to get a laugh and those whose by-product of what they are talking about is the laugh. Because, when I write, my objective isn’t always that there is the laugh at the end, but the laugh will come because the things I’m interested in talking about are funny in themselves.”

I will be going to see Elf’s shows.

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