Tag Archives: Facebook

After yesterday’s blog, what people’s actual perception of me is… maybe

Robert Burns wrote:

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

which Wikipedia currently translates as:

And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

"Ever drifting down the stream. Lingering in the golden gleam..." (by Lewis Carroll - Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Always retain your dignity (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

I have been thinking for a few weeks that an interesting blog might be for my friend Lynn, who has known me for 40 years this year, to ‘interview’ me and to criticise me as much as she can (she knows all there is to criticise) and then see if I could answer any of her criticisms.

In the meantime, here is a strand (which is in the public domain – I checked) from Facebook (complete at the time of posting this blog).

It is interesting in that it presumably gives some idea of people’s perception of me.

Look – if you have a blog, narcissism comes with the territory.

The strand was started yesterday afternoon when my Facebook Friend Michael Legge posted the question “What is John Fleming?” on his Facebook page.

Michael Legge
What is John Fleming?

Neil Masters
He has a blog about comedy I believe…

Michael Legge
Is that it?

Giacinto Palmieri
And the founder of the Malcolm Hardee Awards. But I guess John Fleming can speak for himself.

Neil Masters
Before I got wind of his blog I had never heard of him. I know he is also a frequent visitor to North Korea.

Corry Shaw
He’s a big Copstick fan

Michael Legge
Ah. Well, he sounds lovely then.

Giacinto Palmieri
Gosh, people designing frontlines already…

Neil Masters
Ask Lewis Schaffer

Liam Mullone
Blah blah Malcolm Hardee blah blah doyenne of the Fringe blah blah the good old days blah blah real anarchists not like today blah blah Copstick blah blah police oppression blah blah repeat.

Michael Legge
That’s him.

Ronan Quinn
What’s a Copstick?

Peter Clack
A sinus Doctor?

Gari MacColl
A truncheon.

Kev Sutherland
Isn’t it that thing where you put clingfilm over a toilet seat?

Kev Sutherland
(Sorry I was answering the question at the top of the thread. A Copstick is of course police glue)

Simon Donald
He’s an Edinburgh thing. Of some sort.

Matt Whitby
John trying to clear his throat?

John Robins
If you find out do let me know in the pub, tonight, 9.30

Doug Segal
He’s very nice. He writes a daily blog. Used to book alternative acts on the telly in the 80’s.

Michael Legge
Ah, ok. I knew he must have done something else. He’s a prick about The Stand and he seemingly stands by Copstick’s rape apologist stance so I’m not sure I’ll find him that nice. But I was interested to know what his background was.

André Vincent
He wouldn’t have been anything if Malcolm hadn’t died.

Pope Lonergan
He also had something to do with Tiswas. And briefly managed Sadowitz.

Pope Lonergan
John is actually a lovely bloke (a bit fuddy-duddy and “UK Gold” but I’m saying that from the perspective of a 25 year old). Still, I found it troubling that he didn’t take Copstick to task when she used rape to strengthen her I-Say-It-As-I-See-It and I-Won’t-Change-For-No-One stance.

Michael Legge
That’s my problem with him too, Pope.

Pope Lonergan
All I can take away from that is a) he was keeping quiet out of loyalty to her, or b) he agreed with her.

Michael Legge
Either way, not good.

Caimh McDonnell
Who did Copstick rape?

Pope Lonergan
John Fleming.

(JUST FOR ACCURACY, I SHOULD PERHAPS POINT OUT THAT I HAVE NEVER MANAGED THE ADMIRABLE JERRY SADOWITZ AND THAT, SO FAR, I HAVE NEVER BEEN RAPED BY COMEDY CRITIC KATE COPSTICK)

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Facebook bans new members of The Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society

After comedian Malcolm Hardee died, I set up a website (scandalously seldom updated) and I also started the now highly coveted annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe, but I had nothing to do with setting up The Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society page on Facebook.

This was set up and run by Sally Western, who worked for a time at Malcolm’s now closed Up The Creek 2 comedy club in Croydon.

Sally set up the Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society page and, in Facebook terms, was sole ‘Administrator’ of the group. She monitored what was posted, erased any self-promoting irrelevancies and could, through her own personal Facebook account, accept new members into the closed group.

But, about three months ago, Facebook suspended and deleted Sally’s own personal account, which means that she now cannot access her own Malcolm Hardee account (because, as far as the Facebook computer is concerned, she does not exist). She cannot add anything to the page and, if someone wants to join the group, she cannot approve them – so no-one can join the group.

“My account got deleted,” she told me this week over a Scotch egg in a pub in Soho, “but Facebook would not tell me why. I was battling with them in e-mails and they said We want you to send us your ID – your driving licence or passport – to the USA. I said Tell me what I have done? and they refused, so now it’s in limbo… Because of identity theft and all the NSA stuff, I don’t want to send my passport or driving licence to America.”

“So what,” I asked, “do you think you could have done to get deleted by Facebook?”

“I have no idea,” replied Sally. “Americans can read things slightly wrong and get upset, but I have no idea what I’ve done and they won’t tell me.”

Sally is now in the position that she cannot even add a comment on her own Malcolm Hardee page (it is a ‘closed’ group for members only) because the Facebook account through which she was a member no longer exists. Therefore, as far as Facebook is concerned, she does not exist. This also means that, at the point her personal account was deleted, all the messages she ever posted on the Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society page were also deleted.

Facebook says you cannot this

Facebook says you cannot join…

“So,” I asked Sally, “loads of the posts – both text and photos – have disappeared from the Malcolm page because they were made by someone – you – that Facebook has decided is a non-person?”

“Yes,” said Sally.

“And, because only you as the sole Administrator can allow someone else to be the Administrator and you do not exist, no-one else can become Administrator so no-one else can ever be approved to join the Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society page on Facebook?”

“Yes,” said Sally.

“And you can’t re-join the group because only you can approve yourself to re-join and you don’t exist?”

“Yes,” said Sally.

Welcome to Catch-22 in 1984 in 2014.

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Filed under Comedy, Uncategorized

Comic Red Bastard and the KGB man who wants my Facebook Friends list

I would quite like to die on another planet.

As a way to go, it beats dying in the gloomy upstairs bedroom of a nursing home in Clacton-on-Sea, which is where I sat and watched my father die.

A step too far for the Evening Standard?

Is it rocket science to build pages with links?

So, two days ago, I lightheartedly tried to enter a London Evening Standard contest to win a trip into space. Well, OK, ‘trip’ might be a bit of an exaggeration. It seems the return flight takes 30 minutes overall but the time spent actually outside the earth’s atmosphere is only 4 minutes.

Still, if I want to die on another planet, it’s a start. One small step for a man…

The first problem I had was that the link to the Evening Standard’s competition’s page didn’t exist. Clicking the link just brought you back to the page you were already viewing. It took about a day to rectify this. Obviously creating a working weblink was a step too far in rocket science for the Evening Standard.

When the page was up and firing on all cylinders, I ploughed through the application form only to be told at the very very end of the process that I had to agree the Evening Standard could access my entire Facebook Friends list. Why? The only possible reason I could think of was that they wanted to spam the (at the time of writing) 4,854 people on my Friends list. And I would be responsible for that.

When I queried this, the Evening Standard Reader Offers department replied:

Will the Evening Standard’s explanation fly?

Maybe London Evening Standard’s explanation is groundless?

“Hi! The message you refer to is actually letting you know that the system we use to run the promotion will be able to access your friends list, which will allow you to share the promotion should you wish to. However we will not access or use that information for anything, so none of your friends will be effected (sic) because you have entered.”

Apart from my nagging worry that the Evening Standard people can’t spell ‘affected’, why would they need to have access to my Friends list in order to allow me to send a link for the Evening Standard’s offers page to any or all of my Facebook Friends? If I copied and pasted the web address into a message and posted it on my Facebook page, would that link somehow mysteriously not work unless the Evening Standard had on its computers each and every person on my list?

It is enough to make you paranoid.

I mean, it is surreal enough that the London Evening Standard (like the Independent newspaper) is now owned by an ex-KGB officer. Is this a case of old habits dying hard?

Not a woman in a burkha

Not a woman in a burka

Shortly afterwards, I went out to Holborn in central London and there I saw (I presume it was) a woman dressed in full burka standing next to a Post Office pillar box. It was like something out of a Magritte painting or an imagining of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels.

A medium-sized red-painted pillar with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could post letters beside which stood a medium-sized pillar of black cotton with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could see a pair of eyes staring out at me.

This oddness was not topped until a few hours later when I saw Red Bastard perform in the East End of London, strangely just round the corner from Vallance Road, where gangsters the Kray Twins used to live – and from the Repton Boxing Club where they… well… boxed as and with young men.

The showman Adam Taffler last night

Showman Adam Taffler celebrated last night

The Red Bastard event was staged by showman Adam Taffler aka Adam Oliver who had managed to successfully promote this off-West-End show at short notice so effectively that the original single show and single workshop by Red Bastard had been upped to two shows and three workshops. (The second show is tonight.)

The show last night seemed to have attracted whatever the collective noun is for a wide collection of some of the most cutting edge, potentially not-far-from-breakthrough acts in London including Holly Burn, Adam Larter, Lizzy Mace, Real McGuffin Dan March, Darren Maskell and Lindsay Sharman not to mention half of Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s new clown workshop.

Bob Slayer’s underpants were sponsored last night

Bob Slayer’s underpants were sponsored last night

One unexpected yet somehow not unexpected sight of the evening was comedian/promoter Bob Slayer acting as barman – obviously, occasionally without his trousers so he could display the underpants supplied by his Edinburgh Fringe sponsors Bawbags, purveyors of fine Scottish undergarments.

Bob’s presence was partly explained by the fact that, on 20th October, he and Adam are jointly promoting Malcolm Hardee Award winning Adrienne Truscott’s one-off show at the nearby Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

Who is Red Bastard; what is he?

Red Bastard – the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee

I saw Red Bastard at the Edinburgh Fringe – he was a nominee for the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality – and several people have asked me what he does.

I have never been able to find words with which to tell them.

Much like The Short Man With Long Socks, the act is uncategorisable.

That is, after all, a sign of true originality.

If you could include it in a single existing category – comedy, mime, therapy, actor training, psychology, performance art, voyeurism, drama, audience involvement – it would not be truly original. Perhaps the Red Bastard show is best described with that unfathomable 1960s word – an Event.

You cannot describe it; you have to experience it.

Please do.

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Filed under Comedy, Internet, Newspapers, Space

Edinburgh Fringe financing – was yesterday the tip of a deeper iceberg?

Bob scarred himself by falling down his own trapdoor

Bob Slayer scarred & maligned by yesterday’s caption

My blog yesterday was about a Facebook spat between comedy people Harry Deansway and Bob Slayer on the subject of free and pay-in-advance shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I captioned a photo of Bob Slayer with the words: Comic Bob Slayer has some issues with Harry Deansway, triggering this comment from Bob himself:

I have issues with this line “Comic Bob Slayer has some issues with Harry Deansway”. I don’t have any real issues with Harry.

He puts across a perfectly valid opinion – the pay-to-play venues suit some acts and some shows perfectly and Harry obviously had a thoroughly lovely time at the Fringe…

I feel that in the past the large venues tried to marginalise independent venues – but we have successfully redressed the balance and now there is a place for everyone at the Fringe. I think the big venues will need to offer small productions and comedy better deals and they will increasingly move into big production and theatre where their deals have more justification. But Tom Binns, who is possibly the smartest man at the Fringe, had a show with the Pleasance (Ian D Montfort) and a show with us (Ivan Brackenbury and others) – This worked really well for both shows helping each other out. We coordinated the promotion campaigns and Tom had a wonderful Fringe with literally the best of both worlds.

As for Harry’s rudeness which some people have pointed out, well that is just an exaggerated stance as part of his Harry character act. It’s beautiful really and maybe he is the funniest thing in comedy.

Sonny Hayes

Sonny Hayes triggered an unexpected response

When performer Sonny Hayes then commented on the blog: Gotta say, Bob Slayer wins the debate hands down, Bob replied:

Thank you Sonny but I don’t really want to win this debate… See what Harry is doing for whatever reason is attempting to polarise the debate. It’s them or us. This is divisive, negative and dated.

The Independent Fringe doesn’t need defending anymore – a couple of years ago I was very frustrated that the industry, media and acts believed the line that you had to be in one of the big venues to get noticed – However this year has really proved that is not the case. OK, some people still don’t get this but that is fine.

There is a place for everyone now and we can leave discussion about bad deals and pay-to-play to go on in the board rooms of the big venues and agents who need to decide if they want to offer better deals for low production shows and comedians OR if they want to continue to move into higher production and theatre shows where their deals have more justification.

Now that we have an extremely viable independent set up it doesn’t really matter what other people are up to – we can just carry on and have fun. There are more than enough acts who want to join us in this now and we can continue to explore smart ways to make the Fringe and comedy industry work.

Meanwhile, over on Facebook, comedian Mandy Dassa commented:

Mandy Dassa

Mandy Dassa was a bit shocked by the ego one-upmanship

Aside from all the ego one-upmanship, which clouded the actual point of this debate, we need to thank Bob Slayer for creating hype for the free/pay what you want Fringe and giving it the creditability it deserves.

We do need ‘the Big 4’ with its advertising and big purple cows and the like (if anything just to decorate the city of Edinburgh in bright colours) but, let’s put this straight right now, unless you are a massive comic you are being taken for a ride financially (if not by a venue then by your promoter pushing you to spend) – It’s not fair to cash in on people’s dreams so shamelessly.

Maybe all this debate and ranting may shake the big venues to lower their prices for acts and give the Fringe a bit of unity with its ticket prices. All I heard all summer was good things about Heroes (Bob Slayer’s venues) – We should be glad someone is expanding on the already genius idea of Free Fringe. Pay what you want/cheap tickets in advance was always going to be the natural move and well done Bob for making that happen.

Harry, I love ur ass, I laughed and laughed when I saw your show, but not all of us can afford to lose thousands of pounds in the name of performing in a venue like the Pleasance and people like Bob have given us broke comics a platform to bring our goods to Edinburgh without having to sell our grandmas!

There was another comment on Facebook – from Adrienne Truscott who, at this year’s Fringe, won both the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality and the panel prize from what used to be the Perrier Awards for her show staged at Bob Slayer’s Bookshop venue. Now back in New York, she wrote:

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott’s multi-award winning show: Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else!

Thanks for keeping this most necessary conversation alive. And to Bob Slayer for trying something new that seemed to work very well. Everyone I shared our venue with seemed genuinely happy and supported not only by our venue people, Bob and Miss Behave, but also by the model, the press and one another.

It’s hard to imagine any artist being angry about new models and paradigms emerging, fiscal or otherwise, for presenting art. Of the many Fringes I’ve done with many houses (3 of the Big 4), this was by far my most successful by any stick you use to measure.

Choosing Bob’s Bookshop and this model allowed me to bring a new and rough-around-the edges show to the Fringe to work on it in terms I could live with, without pretending that I was presenting a completely finished show to a paying audience and without the stress of paying more than I can afford at the top or thinking of my audience in terms of money made back, but rather as interested parties whose presence and energy every night helped change and improve my show, which is the main reason I brought it to the Fringe.

As it became popular and hard to get in to, the Heroes model swung into full effect and worked organically the way ‘the free market’ as I understand it says it will. Also, when it became successful I did not have a vulture of a venue runner suddenly laying claim to it as it suited him, but rather a supporter and friend who continued to evolve ideas about how to do things as the season went along. I reckon entertaining new models can make you sharper about how and why you make your own art too. It may depend on what kind of show you’re doing and what kind of audience you are after and, for some, the Big 4 may be an appropriate fit.

I knew for my show I needed to be able to retain control over how it was presented, how the room felt etc. and I was allowed that freedom. It would be hard to argue that going with the costs and demands of one of the Big 4 would allow an independent artist to bring a new work to the Fringe without getting gutted financially. Also, this conversation doesn’t even dip in to the longstanding problem of some of those bigger houses failing to pay, on time or indeed at all, the artists that have filled their houses working every single night, a far dodgier conversation…

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Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh

Edinburgh spat between Bob Slayer and Harry Deansway over free Fringe shows

Harry suggested I shoot him next to a rubbish bin last week

Harry suggested I shoot him next to a rubbish bin in Soho

On Facebook over the last couple of days, there was a bit of a mini-ding-dong… between Harry Deansway (former editor of comedy magazine The Fix turned stand-up comic) and stand-up comic turned promoter Bob Slayer.

It started when Harry wrote an online piece giving his thoughts about this year’s Edinburgh Fringe which, he said, were written “to generate discussion about issues that will affect the future of the Fringe.” He added: “I’m not trying to piss anyone off, that is apart from Bob Slayer,” whom he called a “fanatic self publicist and cheap Fringe zealot.”

Below are edited highlights of the spat from Facebook. Who knows what the copyright is on such things? In my opinion, on Facebook, everything is either in the public domain or possibly owned either by Facebook or by the NSA and GCHQ.

Bob Slayer holds his hand, if not his head, high

Comic Bob Slayer has some issues with Harry Deansway

To explain some background… At the Edinburgh Fringe, audiences pay to see some shows. Others come under the banner of either the PBH Free Fringe or the Free Festival and, this year, Bob Slayer added an extra ‘pay-what-you-want’ layer where, at his two Heroes of Fringe venues (which were included in the Free Festival), you could either turn up for shows and get in free if there were seats available OR pay £5 in advance to guarantee a seat.

Harry Deansway’s piece basically pushed the line that:

“Ultimately giving shows away ‘free’ is damaging the long term sustainability of the Fringe… First of all, it is not free either for the performer or the audience. For the performer, both Free Fringe and Free Festival have administration fees in some form or another. For the audience, it is not free, as a bucket is forced in your face at the end of the show for you to donate money to the performer. Maybe a better name, not in breach of the Trade Descriptions Act, would be the Cheap Fringe? As a result, Fringe acts on the paid Fringe can’t compete.”

Below is some of the to-and-fro on Facebook in reaction to Harry’s piece:

______________________________________________________

BOB SLAYER: You have got your facts wrong in the first sentence – Adrienne Truscott was not in the Free Fringe in either sense – i.e. the PBH Free Fringe – or the wider ‘Free shows at the Fringe’. She was of course part of Heroes’ pay what you want or buy a ticket in advance – the show was hot and so if you didn’t buy a ticket after the first couple of days you wouldn’t get in. I had several journalists interview me and ask if they could call it Free Fringe as it would suit their agenda – and I said No, call it what it is.

HARRY DEANSWAY: Yes Bob you are part of the “Cheap Fringe”. I state this quite clearly in the second paragraph. You and your journalist friends can call it the Free Fringe, Heroes or Pay What You Want, however you want to market it.

BOB SLAYER: It’s terribly written! I mean I agree with much of what you are saying Mr Harry but you have let the fact that I enjoy mocking you at every opportunity cloud your judgement – you have totally failed to understand that it is not a case of Paid Fringe v Free Fringe (or Cheap Fringe as you quite rightly call it) – we moved on from that debate 2 Fringe Festivals ago.

The important consideration (which you do discuss but miss where the change is coming from) is Good Deals v Bad deals. Pay-to-Play is a terrible basis for a deal. 60/40 is also a shitty deal – add them together and you have a really terrible shitty deal – all it does is push up ticket prices as shows have to charge more to even stand a chance of breaking even.

The Free Fringe is a symptom of the shitty Pay-to-Play not a cure – shows and punters demanding a cheaper, more creative alternative – the Pay-to-Play reaction to this has not been to offer better deals but to offer worse and worse deals – this has created a gaping void between both models and is increasingly driving the new and more innovative comedians towards the Free model. They know it is not ideal and so these independent thinking acts have explored other ways around the problem.

At this year’s Fringe, Heroes launched a new model that bridges the gap between paid and free. (The Edinburgh Fringe is a unique scenario where we needed to innovate to compete with the big venues and their bad deals)

We called it Pay What You Want – ‘Free’ shows that you can buy tickets for to guarantee entry.

This means ‘hot’ shows sell out and quickly become paid shows. But shows that are still finding their audience can let people in on a Pay What You Want on the way out basis so there are few empty shows.

Our Pay What You Want model is simply a more honest version of both models. Free shows are not really Free – and most paid shows have to give away tickets to find an audience – so why not admit this? Because once you do admit it then you get huge benefits: the risks associated with promoting a show reduce drastically, the amount of unnecessary marketing spend you need reduces drastically. In short, the economics of the Fringe change drastically in favour of the artist.

All our shows made money at the Fringe, (there are only two other promoters – both independent – who can claim this). Also some shows made significant money – something I am very proud of and will continue to develop… Now if the Pay-to-Play venues would adopt this model the Fringe would be full of spirit once more…

HARRY DEANSWAY: Bob. Have you thought about re-branding Heroes as Bob’s Discount Fringe? I think you would come across really well in one of those late night cheap infomercials. Happy to continue this discussion when you (a) stop misusing the term Pay to Play and (b) actually state the facts of what deals the big four operate not the deals you make up to promote your own agenda.

BOB SLAYER: Nice one Mr Harry – but again terribly written! It doesn’t matter how much the tickets cost – but how much the artist sees – We were selling tickets for £5 and our acts saw all of that if they were producing the shows themselves or 70% if we produced the shows. Shows in Pay-to-Play venues actually see 60% of fuck all because they never cover their costs. Oh one of our shows on Heroes was £500 per ticket – the most expensive on the Fringe – and sold out all 4 shows – they sold 100% of that.

OK so we all know you got a better deal than most at the Pleasance – super – acts should not accept shitty deals and so well done for setting a good example… But whatever deal you got it was because they needed to fill a slot created by an act dropping out after the registration deadline. They simply needed to fill the slot – fortunately they got the best man for the job…

But the fact remains that the basic deals at these venues are appalling – and demands that acts need to pay money before the Fringe starts… £3,000, £5,000, £8,000 depending on what size room that they go into. The details of how they work out guarantees are public on their websites.

Of course extras and marketing costs are extra and can vary greatly – There are many acts who have given the facts of their deals. Tiernan Douieb didn’t go up this year – but his deal last year meant if he sold out all his tickets he would only lose £4,500.

The big venues have sold these shitty deals by pedalling the myth that you have to be in one of the big venues to get noticed. This year proved that was completely wrong. In fact you were less likely to get noticed in a big venue this year. How many reviewers did you get Harry? How many awards? It’s hard isn’t it and now that reviewers and awards are no longer giving preference to the Pay-to-Play venues (because the quality in independent venues is so high) it is equally hard for everyone – unless you are really good – like what (award-winning) Adrienne Truscott and John Kearns both were.

You know this. But it seems that you enjoy preaching to the ignorant by telling them what they want to hear. You are still banging that out-of-tune drum promoting the emperors new clothes after most people have seen that he is naked. Which makes you like a hilariously coiffeured TV evangelist.

HARRY DEANSWAY: Bob. I’m not going to enter into a discussion when you keep making things up and misusing the phrase Pay to Play. It’s pointless.

BOB SLAYER: Would you like to debate what Pay to Play is then? Here is how I see it:

Pay to Play is when a venue or promoter takes money off an act prior to them performing – usually with some system where they might be able to make that money back through people through the door / ticket sales. Underbelly, Pleasance, Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Just The Tonic all charge acts various amounts (in the thousands) to play in their venues for the month of August – and then offer the acts a shitty deal (60/40 at best) on trying to cover those charges – which few of them do.

Anyway sorry that you had such a shitty Fringe Mr Harry – I hope you come around and see that there is a much more fun and interesting way to do the Fringe – come and join the spirit of the Fringe x

HARRY DEANSWAY: What do you think the “big four” spend the 40% they take on?

BOB SLAYER: You tell me what they spend it on? Building huge temporary bars that make them the real cash? Promoting mixed bill shows that also make them cash and suck tickets from their real shows? Sending their kids to Eton?

What I can tell you is that it is not necessary for them to charge such shitty deals – and what is more – as more and more acts find alternatives elsewhere and leave the Pay-to-Play venues – then they will be forced to change how they operate / what they offer.

They will either be forced to offer comedians and other low production acts better deals.

Or, as we have already seen them doing, they will move out of comedy into shows requiring larger production where these deals originated and have more justification. I suspect we will see both happening

It’s all very exciting watching the Fringe move towards a more interesting place – something that independent promoters such as the Free Fringe(s) and now Heroes have made happen.

HARRY DEANSWAY: You had a bar in Bob’s Bookshop. Did the acts you promoted get a cut of that or did you get it all on top of the 30% you were already taking from them as a promoter? Sounds like what you would call Pay to Play to me.

Also you are going on about your deal like it’s amazingly better, it’s 10% better and considering your venue was so tiny and were only charging £5, relative to your interpretation of the Big Four’s deal yours really is not that great. In fact relatively speaking it’s probably worse than the Big Four’s.

Also can I just clarify your ticketing policy. You charge if a show becomes successful ? But the unsuccessful ones are “free?” Why do you not charge for all shows, do you think some are lesser quality than others?

I don’t know what they spend the 40% on but at a guess I would say maintaining the infrastructure of the venues to make it the best it can be for performers and audience alike.

BOB SLAYER: As you know you are looking at the percentages all wrong in order to add confusion where it doesn’t need to be… We price our tickets so that they sell without huge inefficient marketing costs (This year we went with a fixed price of £5)

That means the acts that we produced on a 70/30 split saw 70% of their ticket income = £3.50 per ticket pretty much from the first ticket – We also offered acts the option to self produce their shows and take 100% of their ticket = £5 per ticket – the majority of our acts opted for self production

Whereas the costs are set so high on the pay-to-play venues that the 60/40 split hardly come into play and so acts in their venues see roughly the square root of fuck all from each ticket sold.

HARRY DEANSWAY: I think you’ve had quite enough airtime now Bob and as usual it’s all been spent promoting yourself. The article is about the Fringe in general not Bob Slayer or for that matter Harry Deansway. Your opinions are laid out in detail in these comments so anyone who can be bothered reading this thread can make their own mind up now.

BOB SLAYER: Hey Mr Harry – so you do want a discussion? And now you don’t want a discussion? If you weren’t so accidentally funny then it would really hurt my feelings x

SALLY WESTERN: I am confused as to why Bob has to justify himself to Harry Deansway.. ? I’m scared..

BOB SLAYER: Ha ha – it was a nice exercise – I am currently writing up a piece about the Fringe – and ‘justifying to Harry Deansway made me realise that I need to simplify the intro somewhat in order to explain it to those that are ignorant of Fringe ways… Or in case of Harry, those that just like to be contrary and blindly support the underdog.

Harry has quite rightly spotted that the independent is no longer the dog that is regularly kicked and so he has withdrawn his support of it in favour of the poor folks behind the beleaguered Pay-to-Play venues… He is a noble and charitable man.

HARRY DEANSWAY: Congratulations on learning to write Bob! If you could just add reading to the pantheon of your abilities which include getting your penis out on stage and getting dressed in the morning I might start to take what you say seriously.

I’m glad that something I wrote honed into perspective what it is you are doing, it reminds me of the time when I told you to drop alternative from your marketing materials. Best of luck with the Cheap Fringe. (You can have that name for free, £5 if it becomes popular)

BOB SLAYER: But Harry isn’t it lovely that we both are thinking similar things about “cheaper Fringe”… www.cheaperfringe.co.uk

OK your idea is cynical and negative and has come on the back of what seems to have been quite a tough and challenging experience for you at the Fringe. And my “cheaperfringe” experience has been something I have been involved in for a couple of years and is about getting the Fringe to give something back to local residents and making the Fringe a more positive and happy place – but it is uncanny how we think alike x

HARRY DEANSWAY: Not at all, I had a great Fringe. My show sold out, had some lovely audiences, made some money and I wrote and performed a show I was really proud of. I even got a five star review. My article is objective, you should try and write something objectively. All you do is talk about yourself.

BOB SLAYER: I also talk about you Harry – with everyone I meet – I know your comments about me are merely joshing and I love you with an intensity that knows no limits x

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Would Malcolm Hardee have HATED the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show?

I don’t know exactly what the etiquette is for exposing the identities of people on social media, but let us hope I am not breaching it in this blog.

This morning, the normally infallible mind-reader Doug Segal made an error when he re-Tweeted a message from itinerant comedian Matt Roper to me. The re-Tweet read:

@johnfleming RT @MrMattRoper: Too late for a Hardee Award? > “@doug_segal: Ian Cognito did 20 mins. Got his cock out then stormed off stage”

Ian Cognito - nothing is unexpected

Ian Cognito – comic originality comes as standard

My initial reaction was that, if Ian Cognito did NOT get his cock out and storm off stage then THAT would – for him – be comic originality.

But then I received another Tweet from Doug Segal. It read:

@MrMattRoper @johnfleming Whoops! Wrong @thejohnfleming

My Twitter address is @thejohnfleming NOT @johnfleming and Doug had accidentally Tweeted about Ian Cognito getting his cock out to a completely innocent other John Fleming who lives in Florida and who apparently is a “company builder, marketing and social media practitioner, clean tech advocate, country music fan and stumbling but dedicated parent”

Media people and performers – especially people in the comedy industry – do not live in the normal world as other people know it. So I do not even want to think what the other John Fleming made of the unsolicited Tweet about a cock.

Nudity, farting and sticking fingers up people’s bottoms (I refer you to yesterday’s blog) are perhaps not everyday occurrences in the world of entertainment, but they do not raise an eyebrow. Standards are different.

Anal entertainment: Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart

Arty anal entertainment? Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

For example, the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe last Friday had farting from Mr Methane and a man with bacon draped on his head and a singer who looked like Adolf Hitler crooning Frank Sinatra songs and giving the Nazi salute.

There was, as far as I am aware, only one complaint – which was that the show was too middle class.

On Facebook, just a few hours after the show finished, Bob Walsh posted:

The Awards Show was a rally for the middle classes

The Malcolm Hardee Awards Show was a middle class rally? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

I hope y’all enjoyed the MH awards whilst the people that actually worked with him DIDNT GET INVITED! The people that headlined his shows ARE NOT INVITED! And his whole ethos has been ignored by middle class cunts who he would have HATED enjoyed yourselves. Goodnight!

Comedian Keara Murphy replied: What you on about? It wasn’t an ‘invite’ situation. Janey, who hosted it, did work with him.

Bob Walsh responded: Wow there was one then… He would have hated it.

Patrick Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette

Pat Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

Keara argued: You don’t know what he would have hated. Fact! Loads of people who were there last night knew and worked with him. The organiser knew him personally. The performers were chosen for their reflection of his spirit – of who he was and the kind if acts he would have booked. Your rant is misinformed and misjudged.

Bob’s reaction was: I knew him well, he is the reason I am in comedy and I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT! An opinion not misinformed!

Keara replied: You said his ‘ethos was being ignored by middle class cunts’ – in what way, exactly? And exactly to whom are you referring? And who exactly are you calling ‘middle class’? John Fleming? Kate Copstick, Bob Slayer? Janey Godley? The audience?

Keara has something of a point here. I do not think former railwayman Mr Methane from Macclesfield would label himself middle class.

Do not call Janey Godley middle class

Janey Godley on a quiet day

And anyone calling Janey Godley middle class risks an unfortunate end, as she occasionally points out in her act that she can get someone killed for the price of a packet of chips. She is only joking, of course.

She could get someone killed for free, as a favour… and, indeed, she has half-joked in past shows that her uncle was killed one year as a birthday present to her.

But, by this point in the Facebook postings, I was a bit confused and I posted to Bob Walsh:

The GSOL as they are today (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

Greatest Show On Legs (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

I’d be interested to know who didn’t get invited. Martin Soan of the Greatest Show On Legs was booked to appear but, at the last minute, could not come up. Steve Bowditch and Dickie Richards, the other current two members of the Greatest Show on Legs, were invited to appear, decided to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller then decided they did not want to do it without Martin.

As for the middle class cunts in the audience, Malcolm discovered, when he was forced to turn the Tunnel Palladium into a members-only club, that a lot of his audience came from middle class areas. 

Malcolm ran his Tunnel comedy from 1984 to 1988. He told me that, to his surprise, a lot of his best hecklers worked in the City of London. I think (though I may be wrong) that his most legendary heckler – The Pirate – was a stockbroker who retired early on his mega-earnings to Spain.

Bob Walsh confused me even further, by saying: I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT and the whole middle class comedy industry and my drunken rant stands as my opinion. (Great line up tho Malcolm would have put some completely unknown acts on that HE liked)

The Silver Peevil from planet Venus

Would Malcolm have approved the Silver Peevil from Venus? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

It is, of course, impossible to know which unknown acts Malcolm would have liked because he drowned in 2005.

But I would lay bets that he would have liked The Silver Peevil in what I think (I could, again, be wrong here) was only his fourth performance.

And then there is the (in England, Scotland and Wales) unknown comedy harpist Ursula Burns, who performed her ditty I’m Your Fucking Harpist.

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, because of the sightlines in The Counting House ballroom, I did not ask her to perform her climactic opus in which she sings and plays the harp lying on her back, legs apart, with the harp on top of her. Trust me, Malcolm would certainly have appreciated that part of her talent.

With great respect to Ursula, I’m sure his outro to her act would have been: “I’d fuck her…”

On Facebook, though, I told Bob Walsh I was Still a bit vague. What would Malcolm have hated specifically and specifically why? I’m not arguing with your opinion, just interested in it.

Bob told me: Its just opinions of his regulars at Tunnel that I still associate with. They are NOT happy

I asked: Were they there?

Bob replied: I wasn’t but 2 were. The main gripe seems to be the lack of risks and how the show has become a cool thing for trendy comics to network at.

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring & Juliette Burton

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring and Juliette Burton? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

There are several points here.

One is that three acts did not appear on the show at the last moment. The act which had been going to climax the show phoned to cancel about 15 minutes before the show started. Two others (one a regular at Malcolm’s comedy clubs) simply did not turn up.

The other, more important point, is the incessant criticism of people being middle class.

Is that, in itself, a bad thing?

I think there is a worrying level of reverse snobbery going on here.

Yes, there is a comfortable Oxbridge elite of (especially BBC) producers who make programmes for audiences they do not understand. But there is no God-given rule of comedy that a so-called working class person from Liverpool can be funny and a middle class person from Surbiton cannot.

Tunnel Arts - Malcolm’s early management company

Malcolm’s early management business

If I booked a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show starring acts of which Bob Walsh’s ‘middle class cunts’ who read the Guardian and watch TV panel shows might approve, then Keith Allen, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Jules Holland, Stewart Lee, Sean Lock, Paul Merton, Vic Reeves and Johnny Vegas might appear on it. Malcolm booked, helped and sometimes even managed some of those acts.

He also booked bizarre odd acts and gave chances to new acts, which I always try to do.

As for “a cool thing for trendy comics to network at” – if only.

If only…

I would love that to be the case.

Those there last Friday – appearing on stage – if they hung around to see the show, that is not necessarily networking – included Baconface, Ursula Burns, Juliette Burton, Kate Copstick, Tim Fitzhigham, Janey Godley, Richard Herring, Lady Carol, Stewart Lee, Laura Levites, Mr Methane, Patrick Monahan, Frank Sanazi, Lewis Schaffer, Nelly Scott, Bob Slayer and Ewan Wardrop

Now, I am not specifying names, but I would not say all or even the majority of those names come into the liberal middle class elite of paranoid trendiness. And I may look like a fat, if shabbily-dressed, bank manager but, if forced to socially classify myself, I would say my upbringing was lower middle class and Malcolm Hardee’s was a step above me.

Malcolm was a grammar school boy who very nearly went to a public school. (American readers will have to translate that into their own native tongue.)

But, to steal Malcolm’s catchphrase – Fuck it!

Enough with all this class bollocks.

The so-called working class have no more right to own comedy than Oxbridge or the so-called middle class.

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Comedy man Steve Bennett talks about stalking women and losing his virginity

Chortle website owner and editor Steve Bennett

Steve Bennett, owner of the Chortle website

Since 2007, I have organised the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. They continue until 2017.

Steve Bennett started the Chortle comedy website in 2000.

In 2010, he looked back at The 50 Most Memorable Gigs of The Decade and, at Number 6, put the Malcolm Hardee Tribute Show staged at Up The Creek comedy club in February 2005.

He wrote:

“The funeral of this alternative comedy legend was probably one of the gigs of the decade, but this wake in the venue he founded must run it a close second. A suitably raucous celebration rich with reminiscences, gags – and, of course full-frontal male nudity, the line-up included Arthur Smith, Jools Holland, Jimmy Carr and Chris Lynam, with his traditional firework up the backside.”

So I was little surprised when, last week, I got an email from Steve Bennett headed Elegibility For Malcolm Hardee Award, saying:

“I am doing my first solo hour as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival this year. I was just wondering about the eligibility criteria for your awards. Do I need to apply anywhere or do you just come to my show and decide from there?”

I was even more surprised when I Skyped him yesterday in Bordeaux and he told me about the night he lost his virginity.

Obviously, the Steve Bennett of whom I write is the Irish comedian who shares his name and not the esteemed Chortle website supremo.

Still, losing your virginity is always interesting.

This other Steve Bennett – the Irish one – currently teaches English to kids in a primary school in Bordeaux. He has been a comedian since 2008, but he has only “treated it seriously” since 2011, when he finished four years of studying French and Psychology at college in Galway.

This August, he will be performing his one-man show In Bits at the Finnegan’s Wake venue during the Edinburgh Fringe..

“I do a lot of musical comedy with a ukelele or a guitar,” he told me yesterday. “This year, it’s been ukelele mostly because I couldn’t bring my guitar to France, so I bought a ukelele here  – it was cheaper and smaller.

Steve Bennett talks to me via Skype yesterday

Steve Bennett talks to me yesterday from Bordeaux via Skype.

“My Edinburgh show’s about the ‘breakup hangover’ – what happens post-breakup and comparing that to the drinking hangover, being Irish. One song’s about your ex finding you on Facebook all the time. The stalking thing that happens. So it’s written from her point of view – kind of crazy zany, which suits the ukelele because it kinda has a NING NING NING NING sound to it. The…”

“Erm…” I interrupted. “You said ‘the stalking thing that happens’ as if stalking is an everyday result of a relationship breaking up.”

“The stalking thing on Facebook,” explained Steve. “It’s done more by girls, I’m told, than by gentlemen. I don’t really do it too much, but it’s where you can go on Facebook when you’re Friends with your ex and take a look and see what they’re doing with their lives. That’s the thing the exes do now: they keep tabs on you.”

“You said I don’t really do it too much,” I said. “This implies that…”

“Oh, I’ve definitely taken a look see,” admitted Steve. “Who’s that guy? Is he your boyfriend?

“Does the ex-girlfriend know you’re doing this show about the breakup of your relationship with her?”

“Yeah, she’s aware of it. She’s not aware of all the intense details and I think I’d be happier if she didn’t see it. But she told me she’d be happy with it so long as it wasn’t baring all the details of our relationship. I’m fine with that too: I don’t want to get too personal about stuff. It’s more about general things and exaggerated things. A lot of it’s true, but not all of it’s true: the same way with most comedy.”

“When did you realise there was another Steve Bennett?” I asked.

Steve Bennett performs at the Róisín Dubh club in Galway (Photograph by WonderfulLife Productions 086 668 1375)

“Quite early,” replied Steve Bennett. “I started doing the Róisín Dubh club in Galway. The guy who runs the club introduced me to another more experienced comedian who went: Oh! You’re that asshole! It turned out Steve Bennett had given him a bad review at some point.

“Chortle actually ran a short piece about me and included a very early YouTube video of some of my stuff that I’m not very happy with. It’s from a talent show back in 2009. I won that, but it’s not really indicative of my stuff these days. I do a lot more high energy comedy these days.

“Back then I was a very subdued man standing at a microphone telling jokes. Now I’m a lot more getting into the crowd, having fun and the songs are snappy and fast, some done in characters like the Facebook one written from my ex’s point of view.”

“But you seem quite sane,” I said. “Why do you want to be a comedian? All comedians are mad.”

“I don’t know,” Steve replied. “I’m probably trying to find some deep-seated emotional depression.”

“But,” I said, “You are too happy to be a comedian, surely?”

“I probably just like the attention. When I was about ten years old, a kid at school said to me You should be a comedian, because you’re funny and I just went Yeeaahhh! That only came back to me after I started doing the comedy. I only fell into it because… well, the first time I picked up a microphone at an Open Mic night was the night I lost my virginity. So that’s why I…”

“Say that again?”

“The first night I did a comedy Open Mic, I lost my virginity.”

There was a long pregnant pause.

“So that’s probably why I’m still doing it.”

“Perhaps you are hoping to lose it again,” I suggested.

“That’s maybe it,” said Steve. “I’m still trying to find what I was looking for.”

“But you’re going to be stuck in France for the foreseeable future,” I prompted.

“Oh no, I’m done here at the end of next month. So I’ll be back in Ireland from May 3rd and I’m booking comedy stuff now over the summer and then in August it’s Edinburgh.”

“And after that?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m going to pick up the odd job here and there, maybe tutoring people in French.”

“But you’d like to be a permanent, full-time millionaire comedian?”

“That would be the ultimate goal, wouldn’t it? But I’ve always liked the idea of having a day job to give me material. If I was only a comedian, I don’t know what I‘d talk about. I know there’s life and day-to-day stuff, but I’d like to have that other job I do at the same time. Which works, because there’s no money in comedy at my level.”

“And next?”

“At the moment, I’m running an internet thing. I campaigned on Facebook amongst my friends and fans to try and get as many words and descriptions of hangovers as possible. Sick as a parrot. Those kind of things. One of them became my show title – In Bits – and I took loads of suggestions and, when I was in Paris one weekend, I said the words to camera with loads of Parisian landmarks in the background. And now I’m trying to get people to send me videos of them saying In Bits and I was hoping to put together a promo video of loads of people saying the name of the show.”

“Do you read the Chortle website?” I asked.

“I don’t much. Not at all, no.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. Is that a good place to keep up-to-date? Is that what I should be doing?”

“You should be reading my blog every day,” I told him.

“Oh,” said Steve Bennett. He seemed surprised.

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