Tag Archives: Foster’s

The problems of advertising farting and a very strange sighting of Noddy Holder

Mr Methane on The Gadget Show with cameramen Rob Shaw & Mark Tredinnick of Mediadoghire.

Mr Methane prepares to perform on The Gadget Show with cameramen Rob Shaw and Mark Tredinnick of Mediadoghire.

“According to some factoids that ran during my recent appearance on Channel 5’s Gadget Show, the average person passes wind 15 times a day,” Mr Methane told me last night.

I was staying overnight with the world’s only professionally-performing farter at his home in Macclesfield, north west England.

“I had to road-test these anti-flatulance underwear pants on The Gadget Show,” he told me. “they were called My Shreddies. They’re quite trendy: they look like Calvin Klein underpants.”

“Who wears them?” I asked.

“The marketing people aren’t going for the traditional person who might be ‘going off’ (in farting terms) all over the place because their arse muscles have packed up. They’re trying to attract a normal person who is going out on a date and doesn’t want to fart in case it ruins the romance. They can pass wind in confidence. There will be no smell.”

“And they stop the sound of the farting?” I ask.

“No,” admitted Mr Methane.

“So what,” I asked, “is the fart-combatting element in the underpants?”

An image from the My Shreddies homepage

Image from My Shreddies homepage aims to appeal to buyers

“Some kind of charcoal,” said Mr Methane. “I think if you’ve ‘gone off’ in them a few times, once you wash them, it reactivates the odour-eating properties. The My Shreddies people seemed to be over-awed by the amount of publicity they got from me being on The Gadget Show. They got in touch with me and had some promotional ideas. They were going to make a pair for me in purple and were going to have a picture of me on a train – because I used to be an engine driver. I asked for a very economical fee. But they said I was a bit beyond their budget. It is a classic example of the way people put no value into farting.”

“So you farted and parted,” I said.

“We did,” said Mr Methane. “A few years ago, some company wanted me to do a viral ad for some charcoal biscuits which, again, were anti-flatulence.”

“Did you eat them or stick them somewhere?” I asked.

“You ate them,” said Mr Methane, “and they obviously did something in your intestines. I’m not sure what. Anyway, this guy wanted to do a viral ad so I said: Give us £1,000. That’s not a lot of money for a viral ad. They said they were a small firm, but £1,000 is only £20 a week for a year. If they can’t put away £20 a week for a year, they don’t deserve to be in business. So that didn’t happen either and I’m still open to offers. I think, in terms of doing a viral ad, you’ve only got one chance. Once my bottom is endorsing a particular product, that’s it.”

“British Gas should approach you,” I suggested.

How to use The Palm Bomber

Instructions on how to use The Palm Bomber in reality

“The only thing I have done as a viral ad,” said Mr Methane, “ended up a real bum deal. It was for the Palm Bomber. You know like when people used to fart in their hands at school and throw it at their mates?”

“I think,” I said, “maybe this only happened at schools in Macclesfield.”

“It’s obviously happened in America too,” said Mr Methane. “He’s an American, but his father came from Manchester in England. He spent a load of money making this Palm Bomber thing like a medical pump. Basically, you break wind, you suck up the fart into this rubber surgical container and then you go up to your friend and you ‘palm bomb’ – you squeeze out the fart into his face. It’s on YouTube. (He turned to his computer.) Here it is. Here’s the selling line:

It is the world’s first and only product that is designed specifically to capture, store and re-release your farts. A patent-pending vacuum-funnel system which easily allows you to capture your farts anytime anywhere with minimal gas leakage.

“This guy had gone to China to get these things made and then had a shitload shipped from China to the US.

“I did an advert for him on YouTube. I did it as a favour. It was one of those mad moments. He said I can’t afford any money, but my dad’s got a paper for ex-patriots in America and I’ll put an advert for you in his paper and blah blah, but he never put it in. It’s just a classic case of people taking the piss.”

“I’m surprised,” I said, “that you haven’t been picked up for some ad campaign.”

“Years ago,” said Mr Methane, “I did a Christmas gig for Saatchi & Saatchi and my manager Barrie kept in touch with one of the big cheeses there and said: I want you to get Mr Methane an advert. You remember that series of Fosters lager ads? – He who drinks Australian thinks Australian. Barrie had this idea of me going into a bar, farting and it empties the bar and then I get my pint of Fosters and the slogan is: He who thinks Australian stinks Australian.”

“I’m surprised they didn’t use it,” I said then, changing the subject: “You haven’t issued a Christmas CD for ages.”

Mr Methane’s Christmas CD

Mr Methane’s professionally produced CD

“The bottom’s dropped out of the market,” said Mr Methane. “It has to be MP3s now. And Barrie’s a perfectionist. The amount of time that we put into the orchestration of the songs… the actual production costs are quite high. On the last one, a lot of the guitar work was done by a very famous producer who worked with Britney Spears; he did it under a pseudonym. And, on the track Fucking Hell, My Arse Smells (to the tune of Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells), we got the fiddle-player out of Steeleye Span. He happened to be visiting Barrie who told him he had a country music track and he needed country fiddle on it. I don’t know if, even now, he knows he’s on the album.”

“So no planned albums?” I asked.

“No, but my personal fart greetings are going well.”

“Ring tones?” I asked.

“No, I do a video and send it to them. I’ve done three this last week. I did one for a guy who’s retiring from a big American symphony orchestra. It’s going to be a gift to him from the horn section. I do a trumpet piece from Brahms’ Concerto for Something-or-other No 1.”

“And,” I said, “you have a prestigious gig coming up that we can’t talk about because you had to sign a confidentiality agreement. What do we say in my blog?”

“Say it’s for ‘old money’,” suggested Mr Methane. “The British aristocracy.”

“We can’t mention,” I said, “the family name, the location or why this is so jaw-dropping, except you did the same thing 16 years ago.”

Mr Methane sits on his toilet last night wearing an Alan Partridge mask - It seemed like a good idea at the time

Mr Methane sits on his toilet wearing an Alan Partridge mask last night – Don’t ask me why.

“I’m a sort-of semi-regular customer of the British aristocracy,” said Mr Methane. “You’ve been there yourself.”

“I suppose I can say I went with you to a house in Central London 16 years ago.” I said.

“You went to a large, private house,” suggested Mr Methane.

“Well,” I said, “it was quite a small place, but I think it cost £20 million.”

“You can say,” suggested Mr Methane, “it’s not yer new money Simon Cowell classes, not yer footballers or yer Piers Morgans; it’s the aristocratic backbone of Britain. People who know what made Britain great.”

“Any more TV?” I asked.

“I’ve was asked to do that Come Dine With Me TV show. I thought at first it was the celebrity edition, but then it turned out it was just a normal one and they were looking for fruitcakes. They wanted someone from Macclesfield who was a little bit different. When I found out it wasn’t the celebrity one and I wasn’t going to have dinner with Keith Chegwin, I lost interest. They said: For some reason, we’ve got a dearth of applicants from Macclesfield and we don’t know why.

“Who does live in Macclesfield?” I asked.

“Apart from one or two Manchester United players,” said Mr Methane, “there’s Christine & Neil Hamilton – they live at Alderley Edge. And Tim Healey off Auf Wiedersehen, Pet drinks at a pub in Fulshaw Cross. Mike Yarwood used to live in Prestbury. And Noddy Holder lives in Prestbury.”

Noddy Holder in 1981 (Photograph by Andrew King

Noddy Holder in 1981 (Photograph by Andrew King)

“Noddy Holder???” I asked, “I assumed he lived in some London mansion on the back of royalties from Merry Christmas Everybody.”

“No, he lives in Prestbury, because you sometimes see him in Sainsbury’s supermarket doing his shopping. My mate saw him last year at the Senior Citizens Hall on Duke Street, going to a jumble sale.”

“Are you sure this wasn’t a Noddy Holder lookalike?” I asked.

“No. He was at the jumble sale at Senior Citizens Hall.”

“What was he wearing?”

“My mate reckoned he might have been looking for stacker boots.’

“What did he look like?”

“Like Noddy Holder, but a bit older.”

ADDENDUM

Four days after this widely-read blog appeared, Mr Methane got an e-mail from the Palm Bomber, saying:

I won’t get into details – we’ll call it miscommunication – but the bottom line is that I did not fulfill my end of the agreement, and I’d like to make up for it. I’ve attached the last draft of the print advertisement I’d sent to you – is it still OK to print in the UJ newspaper?
 
Also, just so you know – we did run a couple Mr. Methane videos and links to your website in the Union Jack Blab (the online newsletter)…hopefully brought some viewers/fans your way.  I’ll forward you the emails shortly…
 
I didn’t intend to take the piss out of you, I think you are a genuine person and I fancy myself the same.  Hope you’re happy with what we’re doing.

The Palm Bomber’s print advertisement is below:

MrMethaneAd-Rev1

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Filthy rock group tales of the comedian who took a cheese grater to his face

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott had a multi-award-winning show

Comedian Bob Slayer had a good time at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

He ran his Bob’s Bookshop venue for the first time and Adrienne Truscott’s show there won both the main Malcolm Hardee Award and what I think we have to call the Perrier/Edinburgh/IF/Fosters Comedy Panel Award in the smallest venue ever to win that award.

This year, there was no Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, because we did not think anyone was suitable. Instead, we called the pre-made trophy the ‘Pound of Flesh’ Award.

Yesterday, on what turned into a 9-hour drive down from Edinburgh to London, comedian Bob Slayer told me: “I’ve never seen the point of you giving that Million Quid Award anyway. It’s basically the same as the Fosters Comedy Award. So you’re just trying to cover the mainstream and I don’t think that’s what your awards are about.”

I agreed.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

“So what sort of award could we have instead of the Million Quid Award?” I asked,

“Just something more interesting,” Bob suggested. “Everyone knows who’s going to make a million quid. That prick Xxxxxx Yyyyyy probably already has.”

“Perhaps the Bob Slayer Award for best impression of Bob Slayer?” I suggested.

“Maybe you should have The Increasingly Prestigious Award,” Bob suggested.

“Don’t forget,” I said, “that the Million Quid awards have been pre-made until 2017 with a giant pound sign on them. That’s why we called it the Pound Of Flesh Award this year.”

Bob, surprisingly, thought that this year’s winners of the Malcolm Hardee Pound Of Flesh Award did not do anything particularly exceptional. Comedy performer Gareth Ellis got repeatedly punched in the face by his comedy partner Richard Rose and they then pretended Gareth has been attacked in the street just on the off-chance they could get a few lines of publicity for their show.

“That’s commendably excessive,” I suggested to Bob.

Gareth Ellis (left) & Richard Rose accept the Pound of Flesh Award

Gareth Ellis (left) & Richard Rose accept the Pound of Flesh (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

“Punching yourself in the face,” said Bob, “is just a very obvious idea. We’ve all done that. Once I was late for work and was facing the sack when I was 21 and working at Racal Mobical. I was putting electrical component parts into bags. I was late for work, so I took a cheese-grater to my face because I’d run out of all the normal excuses that my grandmother had died – you can only do that three or four times before they start getting suspicious. So I took a cheese-grater to my face and said I’d been run over by a…”

“Giant mouse?” I suggested.

“A truck,” said Bob.

“How long did your face take to mend from the cheese-grater?” I asked.

Just The Greatest sponsors

The perfect way to scrape the flesh off your late face

“The normal time after you cheese-grate your face,” said Bob. “I did my cheeks, nose, forehead and then I thought I must do my arms and hands, because I remembered when I was a kid I fell off my bike and I’d damaged the back of my hands, so I knew that was realistic. I told them I had been run over by a truck, but they asked me Was this a brewery delivery lorry? Because you stink of booze. And I got fired anyway.

“Then, a few days later, I got thrown out of the flat I was living in, because I hadn’t told anybody that I’d used the cheese-grater and, when they found out, they decided that was the last straw. They found blood on the cheese-grater whilst grating cheese and the vegetarian girl got annoyed and I got ejected.”

“You should use that in a show sometime,” I suggested. “The stories in your Edinburgh Fringe show this year seemed to have more structure.”

“Last year,” Bob told me, “I was so busy running the Hive venue that I struggled with my own show. Well, I thought that was the reason, but I think I was just going through a pupation and my inability to turn into a storytelling comedian. But, this year, it accidentally became a real show on Day Three.”

“Why do you want to be a storytelling comedian?” I asked.

“Because I’ve got lots of stories,” replied Bob, not unreasonably.

“Your image so far has maybe been you behaving OTT,” I said.

“One day,” said Bob, “I will have an audience cheer and be happy that I’ve done a turd on stage. But I can also spin the audience into beautiful stories in all sorts of directions. I think I’ve developed a range of skills and sensitivity this year.”

“Beautiful stories,” I mused, “like the Bloodhound Gang one.”

The Bloodhound Gang - a group of beautiful people

The Bloodhound Gang – inciters of urine/beer plastic glasses

“It is a beautiful story,” insisted Bob. “OK, it ends up with shit and puke and piss everywhere, but it is a beautiful story about friendship and freedom and life and vitality and happiness and a bunch of idiots.”

“How long have you been doing comedy now?” I asked.

“Well,” said Bob, “I first did it on stage with the Bloodhound Gang whenever the public smoking ban came in (2007). They went for a cigarette halfway through the gig and pushed me on stage, saying Our tour manager will entertain you, after blaming me for the fact that nobody could leave the venue to have a cigarette – there were no pass outs.

“They built up this hatred towards me, then they went for a cigarette and the whole room hated me for 8 or 10 minutes and showed their hate by throwing pints of beer at me.”

“Pint glasses?” I asked.

“Plastics,” replied Bob. “The Bloodhound Gang did it again the next night and I tried to speak to the audience and tried to make them laugh and, if anything, it made it worse and they hated me more by throwing pints in glasses but, this time, the rain was salty because they were pissing in them.

“Then on Day Three I hid, because I didn’t want to be pushed out on stage, but the band found me and gaffer-taped me to a chair and put me on stage and said: Our tour manager will entertain you. 

“They had been getting the audience to hate me, but the sight of a man gaffer-taped to a chair, weeping gently and muttering I hate the Bloodhound Gang… Well, the sympathy was, all-of-a-sudden with me and they laughed and I just said: Do you want to hear what wankers the Bloodhound Gand are?

“So, while the Bloodhound Gang was having a cigarette, I was telling the audience stories of what they’d got up to and there was laughter and it was fun and the band came back and we all sang a chorus of The Bloodhound Gang Are Wankers.

“Though, in fact, they’re not wankers. They’re beautiful people. We carried on the tour and we carried on doing that every night. Other bands might have thought Oh, he’s upstaged us or He’s slagged us off. But not them. I really learned a lot from them. They were beautiful clowns, for all their nonsense.

“I did tell a story in my show this year of them shitting and puking and pissing on each other on stage – that’s just where they took it. But they could have taken it anywhere, because they had a real clown sensibility. They were great performers.”

“So you told stories about them this year because…” I said.

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

Bob Slayer – creator of OTT stories and urban legends

“It just happened,” replied Bob. “Obviously, they got into trouble recently after wiping their bum on a Russian flag in Ukraine.

“My show had been going to be about all sorts of bands I toured with – Snoop Dogg, Iggy Pop – but the Bloodhound Gang were the most topical because they were arrested in Russia.

“On Day Three of my show, there was a Russian girl in the audience and I was trying to persuade her that they weren’t political activists; they were just idiots. So I told lots of stories to demonstrate they were idiots, culminating in the aforementioned shit and piss and puke story. And I stumbled on that as being my show.”

“So next year,” I asked, “you will have to be even more…”

“I’m thinking,” said Bob, “that next year I will be a musical act. I did whatever it was I did before… And I’ve bullied a Welshman on stage… I’ve done a game show… Done storytelling… Next year I have to do a musical show, don’t I?… Then the year after I will be an escapologist.”

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Cunning stunts at the Edinburgh Fringe & US comic Laura Levites left destitute by crowd funding site Indiegogo

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

Broadway Baby in Edinburgh yesterday - or is it?

Broadway Baby in Edinburgh yesterday – is it?

Cunning stunts seem to have escalated at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

Yesterday was to see the announcement of the shortlist for the Perrier Awards, now re-named the Fosters Awards, presumably because their parentage has been very variable.

Shortly before the announcement Barry Ferns, already nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award, distributed a second edition of his fake Broadway Baby review sheet – this one headlined FOSTERS AWARD NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED.

After an apparently self-publicising puff for Broadway Baby, the Fosters five Best Newcomer nominations included Barry Ferns and the six Main Prize nominees also included Barry Ferns.

At the Pleasance Dome, I watched as people picked up sheets of the fake edition to study what they thought were the real nominees.

edinburghcomedyawards_fakepage

Edinburgh Comedy Awards maybe?

Meanwhile, an Edinburgh Comedy Awards website appeared online at the address  www.edinburghcomedyaward.com in the same colours as the Fosters Awards and with a logo sporting an E instead of an F. I think the Edinburgh Comedy Awards was a previous name for the Perrier/Fosters Awards, but there have been so many it is difficult to remember.

The nominees for this years Edinburgh Comedy Awards included Nathan Cassidy (a Malcolm Hardee Award nominee last year) and it was said: “The Winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award 2013 will be announced at 7pm on Thursday 22nd August at Finnegan’s Wake on the stage at the end of Nathan Cassidy’s show (starting at 6.15).  This in no way reflects a bias towards Nathan.”

The site includes a clip of “the ‘great’ comedian (Broadway Baby) Nathan Cassidy in action.”

In a further confusing twist, explicably, it also turns out that the web address www.fosterscomedyawards.co.uk takes you to the Malcolm Hardee Awards page.

Andrew J Lederer in Edinburgh - not

Andrew J Lederer now in Edinburgh – not

To confuse matters even more, esteemed New York based comedian Andrew J Lederer sent me an e-mail saying: “I think I should have been nominated for the Cunning Stunt Award by figuring out the cheapest, laziest way to do Edinburgh yet devised – by simply not going.”

Instead of coming to perform at the Fringe this year, he has been posting a daily Fringe blog that makes no mention of the fact that he is not actually in Edinburgh.

“More people read the posts every day than typically came to see my Edinburgh shows,” he tells me. “And I have been receiving e-mails from people who think I am in Edinburgh saying Where are you? and We can’t find you listed.

Where all this leads next year, I barely dare to think. Life is anarchic enough at the Fringe.

For example, the final two days of my Fringe chat shows had their line-up thrown into turmoil yesterday.

Yesterday’s chat: Tim Fitzhigham (left) and Patrick Monahan (photograph by Garry Platt)

Yesterday’s chat: Tim Fitzhigham (left) and Patrick Monahan (photograph by Garry Platt)

Today’s show was to have featured Perrier/Fosters boss Nica Burns with iconic 80-year-old American performer Lynn Ruth Miller. Nica will no longer be appearing and has been replaced by flame-haired young comedy temptress Laura Levites. So we will be having two feisty American Jewish female comics from different generations.

And tomorrow (Friday) – adding to the anarchy – Martin Soan of the Greatest Show On Legs will no longer be coming up to Edinburgh from London after being kidnapped by a group of Bosnian gangsters when he was walking along a street in Peckham and held for a ransom which his wife Vivienne is unable or unwilling to pay.

At least, that is what I am going to tell people.

Anyway, he is not coming up.

So the billed Friday afternoon chat with multi-award-nominated Adrienne Truscott and Martin Soan will now instead be a chat with multi-award-nominated Adrienne Truscott and ultimate Scots comic Janey Godley, author of the bestselling and excellently-edited autobiography Handstands in the Dark, still in print after eight years. (I allegedly edited it.)

The bare image promoting the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

Increasingly chaotic Malcolm Hardee Awards

Martin Soan’s enforced non-appearance on Friday also has an interesting knock-on effect in that he was due to perform with the Greatest Show On Legs in the Naked Balloon Dance as the climax to tomorrow night’s increasingly prestigious and increasingly chaotic Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

No… At the moment, I have no idea what will happen either. But at least I have some money in my pocket.

Which brings us back to young flame-haired American comedian Laure Levites.

She crowd-funded her utterly brilliant current Edinburgh Fringe show Self Helpless through what seemed to be a trustworthy online site Indiegogo.com

Indiegogo may or may not actually be a competent crowd-funding site in the same way that Saddam Hussein was a humanitarian.

“I didn’t have the money,” Laura told me yesterday, “so I thought What a great way to fund my Fringe show. I wanted to raise $7,500 and the fundraising finished on July 15th. I was supposed to get the money I raised 7-15 days afterwards – the end of July – just before the Edinburgh Fringe started.”

“And has the money appeared?” I asked.

“As of today – 21st August – no,” Laura told me yesterday. “On July 22nd, I received an e-mail saying that Indiegogo didn’t have my bank account information which I’d previously set up.

Laura’s crowd-funded show was not

Laura’s crowd-funded show was not funded

“So I went in and put in my bank’s routing number. I put it in three times and their system declined it. So I got in touch with my bank and they gave me a different number. I put in that number and Indiegogo accepted it. By now I was in the UK.

“On August 1st, I received this message: We noticed your campaign Help Send Laura Levites To The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013 contains content that is prohibited by our Terms of Use. Our Terms of Use states that campaigners may not use Indiegogo to raise funds for ‘obscene or pornographic items, sexually oriented or explicit materials or services.’ Because the minimum age for using Indiegogo is 13, campaign pages may not include any explicit language or depictions, or offers of sexual services. Typically, we put campaigns and disbursements on hold.

“Did you have anything dodgy in your appeal?” I asked.

“No,” Laura told me. “I was very careful not to curse or anything. The next day, I got another message: Congratulations on raising funds. Today, on August 1st, we triggered a disbursement to your Bank. They said it would be in my account by August 8th.

“On August 9th, they said that the bank information I had put in on July 22nd and which their computers had accepted was incomplete or inaccurate, so they couldn’t disperse my funds.”

“I was in the UK by now so, on the 9th, my brother in the US sent a message to Indiegogo and, on the 10th, I sent them a message. My brother tried to get a phone number, but they don’t have a phone number. By the 12th, they hadn’t replied.”

Indiegogo, by this point had stopped claiming Laura’s appeal had been obscene and had started claiming her bank routing number (which their computer had accepted) was incorrect. It was the same bank routing number she used and uses on her PayPal account and it worked and works perfectly OK with PayPal.

She, nonetheless, got another routing number from her bank and gave it to Indiegogo on August 13th, adding: “I have already started my project and I don’t have money to eat.”

She then got an e-mail from a Brittany of Indiegogo: “Hi Laura, I spoke to your brother a couple of times today and we have done everything we can to get you your funds as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the routing number provided was incorrect, so I did a little research and had your brother update it with the correct number. You should be good to go. We expedited the process as much as we could so you will see your funds next week.”

Laura wrote back pointing out it was the third time she had updated her number.

Brittany replied: “The routing number you provided was in fact not correct. You provided a ‘Wire Transfer’ routing number as opposed to an ‘ACH/Direct Deposit’ routing number… I understand how this information may be misleading, so I would be happy to bring this up to our product team for further review… I spoke to your brother and we were able to input the correct routing number and we expedited your disbursement to occur next week.”

Laura wrote back: “I’m not happy with this as the routing number I originally provided for you was correct and you told me it wasn’t.  I can’t get my money next week, I have no money to eat. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I HAVE NO MONEY TO EAT. YOU GUYS HAVE SCREWED THIS UP NOT ME. I NEED MONEY TO EAT, IT CAN’T WAIT TILL NEXT WEEK.”

Laura Levites yesterday, reduced to borrowed Coca Colas

Laura Levites yesterday, reduced to borrowing Coca Colas

Yesterday, Laura told me: “Their customer help team is called the Customer Happiness Team so, at the end of every fucking message you get from them, it says Cheers, Brittany, Customer Happiness. Are they fucking kidding me?”

“What happened next?” I asked.

“On the 14th August,” Laura told me, “I get a message from Pam of Customer Happiness. It said: Please update your bank account information.

“So I write back to Pam and tell her the whole story again, because no-one at Indiegogo reads their e-mails. I said: I’m very upset with Indiegogo. You have put me in a horrible position. I have used this platform because I needed help. Now I’m in the UK with no money to eat, in debt, and the people that have donated to me are furious. They want to cancel their donations and just give me or wire me money. Everybody has emailed me saying they want to do this. So I urge you, to please get my funds released to me.

“What happens? I get a message from Brittany: My apologies that you’re unhappy with the current situation… We do not currently have a banking information verification for our system.

“They don’t have a verification system for checking anything?? We’re talking about money here! Money! No bank verification system? PayPal has bank verification. How are Indiegogo taking money from banks and credit cards without a bank verification system? They have a bank verification system for the money coming in but they don’t have a bank verification system for the money going out?

“Then I get a message from Jordan of the Customer Happiness Team. It says: I help manage disbursements here at Indiegogo and Brittany shared your note with me. I’m happy to help clarify the status of your current disbursement… Unfortunately, Indiegogo does not currently have the ability to verify bank account routing numbers. Our system can recognize when a routing number is the correct format, but our system cannot recognize when a routing number is correct… I completely understand your frustration thus far, and I do agree that it would be extremely helpful to have built in verification systems on Indiegogo… I’m reaching out to our payments team to see if there is anything we can do to help you receive your funds.

“Then, on August 15th, I get an e-mail from Sandy. It says: We have expedited your disbursement to be included in the current cycle and you should expect to see your funds in the next 3-5 business days. I got this on the 15th. It is now the 21st!”

Laura wrote back to Sandy on the 16th: “I find this totally unacceptable. You haven’t kept up your end of the deal. My campaign finished on the 15th of July it’s now the 16th of August. This is a breach of your contract. I’ve had to borrow money… My show is suffering as I don’t have the funds needed for essential promotional activity.  Now, I’m going to lose money as a result.”

Laura then got a message: “Today, August 15, we triggered a disbursement to your bank account… We estimate that you will receive your new disbursement by Thursday August 22.”

Today is Thursday August 22nd. No money has arrived. Laura’s fundraising finished on July 15th. Her money was due 7-15 days afterwards, at the start of August, to fund her Fringe show.

“People have asked how crowd funding has worked for me,” Laura told me today, “and the truth is it hasn’t worked for me at all. Extreme unhappiness doesn’t even begin to cut it. I don’t have my money.”

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The Edinburgh Fringe: increasingly influential, surreal and assault-prone

The Greatest Show on Legs without masks (or clothes)

This morning, I got a phone call from the Daily Star newspaper, who had got wind of the fact the Greatest Show on Legs are going to perform their Naked Balloon Dance in Prince Harry masks at tonight’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Sadly, it came to nothing, even with a quote from Legs leader Martin Soan saying:

“Prince Harry is a mere beginner in flashing and cavorting with women in hotel rooms. We have been doing it since before he was a glint in his father (or mother)’s eye… It is a great British tradition and we stand proud and erect as true patriots in support of Harry. We cry Thank God for Harry, England and Saint George! What the Scots will make of it, we don’t know…”

Journalists can be quirky people but they can sometimes work under difficult circumstances.

Apparently, journalists who write about the rival Edinburgh Comedy Awards and call it the… erm… Edinburgh Comedy Awards are getting phoned to be told they have to now call them the Fosters Comedy Awards, although the official website still calls them the FOSTERS Edinburgh COMEDY AWARDS… Mind you, the Fosters website also talks of “32 years of discovering comedy genius” – a bit of a dodgy claim, given that they were sponsored by Perrier 1981-2005 and Intelligent Finance 2006-2008. Then, famously, impecunious American comic Lewis Schaffer offered to sponsor them for (if memory serves me) £99 and he was – some feel unjustly – spurned.

Fosters have sponsored the awards since only 2010.

Did I mention the Malcolm Hardee Show?

So, strictly speaking, the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, established in 2007, have been running longer than the Fosters Comedy Awards, established 2010.

Far be it from me to try to get some cheap publicity.

However, following in the promotional wake of the aforementioned Fosters Comedy Awards, we have decided to precede the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards title with the phrase “the increasingly influential” and are thinking of starting an “Increasingly Influential” company to sponsor our awards for £1 per year and justify the title The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards beyond doubt.

Ian Fox before he was attacked in Edinburgh

On far more serious matters, yesterday I asked comedian-writer-photographer Ian Fox if he was coming to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show tonight to take his increasingly influential photos. I got this reply:

Probably not to be honest. I didn’t have the greatest of nights last night. I was randomly punched by some guy walking past me on Candlemaker Row. Never made eye contact with him, never even took any notice of him. He was walking down the hill I was going up. He got level with me and hit me. I ended up at Edinburgh Royal and now have three stitches in the side of my nose and a very swollen face. Evidently he was wearing a ring. If I can take photos I will but I’m going have to take it easy for the next day or two. 

I just had the inconvenience of four hours with the dibble in Edinburgh Royal. And the doctor told me he practised his stitching on cat toys. He replaces the cat nip every few weeks apparently. 

Shortly after this, I bumped into flame-haired American temptress Laura Levites.

“What are you doing after Edinburgh?” I asked.

“I may be going to red headed convention in Holland,” she replied.

I asked for no more details, as this seemed enough information.

Paul B Edwards (left) and Lewis Schaffer, Cowgate yesterday

Then I bumped into comedians Paul B Edwards, David Whitney and Lewis Schaffer in the Cowgate. Paul B Edwards told me BBC Radio 2 had interviewed him about the Fringe because, he thought, he had been mentioned in my increasingly influential blog.

After David Whitney had left, I told Paul B Edwards and Lewis Schaffer about the attack on Ian Fox.

“Well,” Paul said, “I heard that, two nights ago, Kunt and The Gang mentioned Margaret Thatcher in his gig. He gets a lot of punks at his gigs and a drunk punk at the back started screaming on a Thatcher rant that no-one could understand. He approached the stage and kept approaching the stage and Kunt said I have three words for you – ‘Fuck off now’ but the guy didn’t and threw a punch at Kunt and even though Kunt and The Gang looks like quite a little guy on the stage, he’s quite useful and apparently he punched this guy out of the venue. That’s what I heard. He punched him out and out of the venue to cheers and applause, because his crowd don’t have a problem with violence when it’s justified.”

David Whitney in the Cowgate yesterday

The back story to this is that David Whitney got criticised a couple of years ago when he allegedly head-butted an audience member after being provoked. A writer from a newspaper was present and wrote an article about the incident which, other comedians have told me, hurt his career.

“Sometimes,” said Lewis Schaffer, “people forget audience members deserve a good head-bashing, whether they’re walking or in a wheelchair.”

Paul and I laughed for reasons I have not yet, but might yet, blog about.

“I said ‘wheelchair’, said Lewis Schaffer. I didn’t say ‘paralysed’. Some audience members are just twats and, if they’re going to destroy a show and if they’re going to step towards the comedian, then they’re gonna deserve it. I’ve never hit a punter in my entire life but I…”

“Yes you have,” I interrupted. “You hit that bloke who smashed your iPhone at the Gilded Balloon the other year.”

“He wasn’t a punter,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He was just a guy in the street. He smashed my iPhone! That wasn’t comedy-related!”

“You gonna cry now?” Paul laughed.

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “because now I’ve punched one guy…”

“You’ve got a taste for it?” I suggested.

“I’ve got a taste for it,” Lewis Schaffer agreed, laughing, “and all I want to do now is punch people in the face.”

These are the sort of conversations which happen during the Fringe and seldom elsewhere.

Shortly afterwards, I was due to meet Miss Behave, host of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. I was striding towards the appointed meeting place in Parliament Square when she passed me, speeding in the opposite direction.

“Hi, John!” she said, “Just got to pick up a sword. Back in a mo!”

The surreal soon becomes reality at the Fringe.

I went to the Gilded Balloon party last night after their So You Think You’re Funny talent show final. A banner proclaimed:

25 YEARS OF FOSTERS SO YOU THINK YOU’RE FUNNY

The Gilded Balloon venue – evacuated by fire fear last night

This was news to me. Those wacky brewers are at it again! I thought. How surreal a twisting of reality is that?. Then the fire alarm rang and the entire Gilded Balloon building was evacuated.

Exactly ten years ago, in 2002, the old Gilded Balloon building burnt down.

I texted my comedy chum Janey Godley:

STANDING IN THE RAIN. GILDED BALLOON EVACUATED. FIRE ALARM.

Immediately, a text came back:

I AM NOT THERE. I AM IN GLASGOW. I HAVE AN ALIBI.

The fire alarm turned out to be a false alarm.

What a waste of a good alibi.

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Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe – Why? How?

The bad news is that, every year around this time, I fear nobody will do any publicity stunt that is award-worthy by the end of August. The good news is that every year so far, somebody has.

The Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt promoting an act or a show at the Edinburgh Fringe was created in 2008 specifically because comedian Gill Smith sent me an e-mail halfway through the Fringe nominating herself for the main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

She said she was writing to me nominating herself because then she could then legitimately put on her flyers and posters MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD NOMINEE even though we had not nominated her.

She said she thought Malcolm would have approved.

I had to agree that he would have.

So I started the annual Cunning Stunt Award and Gill won it. We felt we had to give it to her before she awarded it to herself.

In 2009, the award-winner was fairly obvious even before the Fringe started.

The Perrier Awards had lost their Perrier sponsorship in 2006, then got sponsored by Intelligent Finance who, for one year, called them the unwieldily-named if.comeddies then, for two years, called them the if.comedy Awards and then Intelligent Finance removed their sponsorship possibly because of utter confusion over the name, possibly because of world financial meltdown or possibly because everyone still called them “the former Perrier Awards” anyway, so the publicity value to Intelligent Finance was zero. Personally, I had always called the new awards The Iffies.

So, in 2009, the awards were looking around for new sponsors.

London-based American comic Lewis Schaffer – always an original thinker – issued a press release to the media saying he was now sponsoring the awards for £99, they would be called “The Lewies” in his honour and his mother and agent would be on the judging panel but this would not mean he had any undue likelihood of winning. He issued this spoof press release under the name Nika Burns (the former Perrier Awards were/are run by Nica Burns).

A couple of publications actually fell for this stunt and printed the spoof as fact and, even more ridiculously, Nica Burns’ lawyers threatened to sue Lewis for defamation because his ‘Nika Burns’ press release had made slighting reference to the French and Nica did not dislike the French. Lewis also got ‘sacked’ by his own agent for the spoof.

Nica’s lawyers demanded an apology, which Lewis duly gave them in writing. It included the sentences:

“Lewis Schaffer wants to make it clear that Nica Burns had absolutely nothing to do with the press release sent on June 6th, 2009 from ‘Nika Burns’, it was entirely created by Lewis Schaffer. Nica Burns did not say she ‘gladly accepted his offer of £99 a year for sponsorship’ of what had previously been called the ‘Perrier Awards’. Anyone knowing Lewis Schaffer knows he couldn’t come up with that kind of cash… Lewis Schaffer’s only defence was that his ‘press release’ was created to publicise his Edinburgh Fringe show -‘Lewis Schaffer – Bigger and Blacker’ – running August 6 to 30 in the Ballroom of The Counting House, behind the Pleasance Dome.”

This apology, written under legal threat, was also issued as a press release and admirably managed to include (for a second time) his Fringe show’s name, dates, venue name and location. A neat trick, even if he did lose his agent.

So there was really no serious doubt about who would win the 2009 Cunning Stunt Award, which Lewis eventually did.

Last year, again, the award was almost in the bag before the Fringe began – again through the misdirected actions of the former Perrier Awards.

By now, those eternally-named “former Perrier Awards” had managed to get Fosters lager as a sponsor. The Perrier Awards had started in 1981, so 2010 was their 30th anniversary. Fosters had the bright idea of pretending they had been associated with the awards for somewhat longer than they had by mounting a campaign “Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Awards – Celebrating 30 years as the unofficial Oscars of Comedy”.

I thought this was a dodgy strategy because it seemed to risk them getting sued by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, who are usually very protective of their ownership of the name ‘Oscar’.

But they got away with it, though people still called the things “the former Perrier” Awards.

Part of their strategy last year, however, was to invite a public vote for a ‘Comedy God’ to be chosen from all 173 (mostly Perrier) nominees of the previous 30 (well 29, actually) years. Their idea, I presume, was to get some iconic populist name like Al Murray or Frank Skinner associated with their branded awards.

This incurred the always fearsomely impressive wrath of comedian Stewart Lee who sent what he called a “grumpy” e-mail to the organisers and who wrote about his objections in the Guardian and elsewhere. His valid point was that it was ludicrous to compare past nominees – some were entire shows, some were artists and most were performances never seen by the people voting. How could you compare or choose between Catherine Tate and The Arthur Dung Show? He suggested people might as well vote 1984 nominees, the excellent though little-seen and (he thought) disbanded Japanese performance art group Frank Chickens.

This people did in droves, presumably as a protest vote, and, as a result, the Frank Chickens art collective won the contest as ‘Comedy Gods’ – announced in a rather low-key way by the award organisers. Frank Chickens, it turned out, had not disbanded and, though they had not played the Fringe for years, they came up for a special performance with Stewart Lee.

As a result, Stewart Lee almost inevitably won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award because, although totally unintentional, his e-mail to the former Perrier Award organisers and his later articles and interviews resulted in media publicity and a viral campaign which resulted in successful promotion for a Frank Chickens Fringe show which did not exist at the time but which, as a result of the publicity then did exist.

You can see Stewart talking to Malcolm Hardee Award judge Kate Copstick about his prestigious win here.

The fact that a publicity stunt is unintentional is no bar to winning a Cunning Stunt Award. There are no rules (Malcolm Hardee would turn in his urn if there were) and you don’t have to apply for the Cunning Stunt Award (though Gill Smith did).

Indeed, applying for the prize makes a win less likely.

If you have to make the Malcolm Hardee Award judges aware that you have done a publicity stunt then, by definition, the stunt has failed because they were not aware of the publicity.

Having said that, I now fear nobody will do any publicity stunt that is award-worthy by the end of August.

Oh Lord.

Another year. Another Fringe.

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Comic Originality – not being interested in money

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

The Malcolm Hardee Awards – being given annually by me until 2017 to honour the memory of the “godfather of alternative comedy” and famous Edinburgh Fringe prankster – were thrown into temporary and rather surprised confusion after a rebuff to our nomination of American stand-up Bo Burnham for the Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award.

Burnham’s London PR company – whose clients include a wealth management and an insurance broking, risk assessment and financial services company – wrote to me saying of Bo: “making money is not what he’s driven by at all and (we) don’t think he’d be at all comfortable with receiving this award.”

As a result, the five Malcolm Hardee judges have now additionally nominated Bo Burnham for the main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality because “for a modern day stand-up comic not to be interested in money is entirely original”.

If you are a fan, Bo’s online store is currently selling his personalised teeshirts, CDs, posters, bumper stickers and koozies.

I’m not exactly clear what a koozie is – it appears to be some sort of Colonial cosy to keep beer cans warm. I don’t think Malcolm would have approved as he liked his beer cold. But he would have admired Bo’s disregard for money. So we have asked the PR if Bo would like to lend us £500 or £1,000, which we promise to pay back. We haven’t had a reply yet, but we live in hope.

The late, great Malcolm was famous or perhaps notorious for borrowing money from his friends and, when he drowned in the Thames on January 2005 left behind many debts.

Jo Brand refers to this in a 2-minute poem she read at Malcolm’s funeral which you can listen to here.

The three annual Malcolm Hardee Awards will be announced and presented around midnight this Friday 27th August during comic Nik Coppin‘s nightly Shaggers show, running as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Both Bo Burnham and our other ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ nominee Greg Davies are in the running for the former-Perrier-now-Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award. The prize there is £10,000. It’s a start.

There’s a recent 8 min 41 sec interview with me about the Malcolm Hardee Awards here – on Edinburgh’s student radio station Fresh Air.

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Frank Chickens are Our God

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

According to the comedy industry website Chortle, the gloriously eccentric Japanese group Frank Chickens are likely to be named the best comedy show to have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in the last 30 years. This has transpired because comedian Stewart Lee complained about a misguided attempt by Fosters, new sponsors of what used to be the Perrier Awards, to get some cheap publicity and pretend they’d been sponsoring the prize for 30 years. (This is their first year.)

As a further result of this misguided publicity stunt by Fosters, I have now nominated Stewart Lee for this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Fringe – in this case, for publicising a non-existent show not playing the Edinburgh Fringe. I feel Malcolm would have approved both of Stewart’s original complaint and the nomination.

Frankly, so far, it looks like a pretty slim year for publicity stunts and currently Stewart stands a pretty good chance of winning.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards this year are going to be presented on Friday 27th August during Nik Coppin’s nightly show Shaggers, part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Three Sisters in Cowgate

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