Tag Archives: Frank Sanazi

My night dressed as a woman at a fetish club: what happened at end of the night

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED

Do I make a good woman? Is the jury still out?

Do I make a good woman? Is the jury still out?

Comedian Will Franken cross-dressed as a woman for six months last year. I only did it for seven hours on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, I got a text from Sandra Smith, this blog’s South Coast correspondent, saying: “It’s the first time that I’ve ever walked into a pub with my tights around my ankles.”

A couple of months ago, performer Frank Sanazi (he sings like Frank Sinatra; looks like Adolf Hitler) asked me to come and see his new singing act ‘Elvis Corpsely’ – Elvis Presley back from the dead. He told me he was performing it for the first time at Torture Garden, the monthly BDSM fetish club.

And so he did this weekend, on Valentine’s Night (well, 9.00pm Saturday to 6.00am Sunday).

I went to Torture Garden maybe twenty years ago with comedian Tony Green. I blogged about it in 2011.

Tony knew Sophie Seashell, who had booked bizarre acts for that night. The Tiger Lillies performed. As did the extraordinary Andrew Bailey. In the cabaret section, it felt like they were trying to re-create a feel of the decadent Weimar Republic nightclubs in Germany between the Wars.

This year, I thought of going dressed formally

This year, I thought of going dressed formally

Twenty years ago, as now, Torture Garden had a dress code. Tony Green, wearing a white straw hat, a rather louche suit and looking a bit like Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation of Doctor Who. was told by the Torture Garden doorperson: “You’re OK. You look perverted.” Alas, my loud, hippie Indian-style shirt was not deemed a suitable costume. The people on the door conferred and suggested I take my shirt off so I was naked from the waist up, then take off my black leather belt and tie it diagonally across my chest with the buckle at the front.

With that, I was allowed in.

Since then, though, the dress code has been tightened, if that is the word to use.

Now the rules read:

You can’t wear a fetish top with normal black trousers or vice versa, we do not allow jeans, even black ones, no suits, no camo, no cotton underpants, no regular party dresses that you could wear to any club, no normal black trousers that you could wear anywhere and although full theatrical costumes are fine, cheesy fancy dress is not. Dresscode is enforced throughout the night. TG is a home for people that want to express the most extreme version of their fetish fantasy alter ego, so take this opportunity to push your boundaries.

BDSM and fetish are not my thing. I am quite happy with a picture of Baby Spice and a peach. So my wardrobe does not include anything remotely suitable.

So, on Saturday afternoon, I found myself in the car park at Beckenham railway station as Frank Sanazi handed over to me a long leather Gestapo coat – genuine, from the 1940s – and a small hand whip.  He had temporarily lost his Nazi armband down the back of a bookcase in his living room.

With legs like these, I could have a second career

With these legs, could I have a second career?

This was my fallback costume. But I also know comedian Sara Mason, whose Edinburgh Fringe show this year will be called A Beginner’s Guide To Bondage.

Which is how I found myself in her bedroom in Fulham at teatime. She was – for reasons I did not ask – particularly keen that I should go in drag.

So I tried on various shoes, stockings, panties, black tops and wigs. Sara seemed unsettlingly keen on dressing me in a variety of things, though I did stop at the offer of a butt plug.

I was going to Torture Garden with this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith, also not a BDSM fan, who, while I was trying on my flattering fishnet tights in Fulham, was glueing studs onto her black jacket in Brighton.

Later that night I met Pete Cunningham – aka Frank Sanazi – at a pub in Elephant and Castle and he told me: “I’m playing Tel Aviv on the 7th of April.”

“As Frank Sanazi?” I asked.

“Yes,”

“That should be interesting,” I said.

“I’m doing two gigs out there” he explained. “I’m opening for The Producers in Tel Aviv. It’s the first time they’ve shown the film out there. I’m doing my songs as a warm-up for the film. And I’m also doing a burlesque night – they have a dark burlesque night. I was a bit apprehensive at first, because imagine checking in at the airport.”

“It could be a tough gig,” I suggested.

“Well,” he said, “if I can play Berlin, as I did a couple of weeks ago, and last year I did Vienna – why not Israel this year and New York next year?”

This blog’s South Coast correspondent (initials SS) Sandra Smith

Prestigious blog’s South Coast correspondent (has initials SS)

At this point, Sandra Smith arrived at the pub. As she walked in, her tights fell down.

And then we went to Torture Garden.

Just as I found St Peter’s in the Vatican to be a decidedly non-spiritual and non-religious place, Torture Garden was decidedly non-erotic and the punters seemed to have changed in the last twenty years.

In the blog I posted about that visit, | wrote:

There was a look in the more outrageously dressed (or un-dressed) people’s eyes at Torture Garden which made me think a strong British sense of irony and an active sense of the ridiculous don’t gel (if that’s the word) with wearing outlandish sado-masochistic costumes for sexual thrills.

My memory of twenty years ago was that there were a few decidedly odd people wandering around. Sexual thrills were in the air. Some had come over from Amsterdam for the night.

Frank Sanazi/Pete Cunningham as Elvis Corpsely

Pete Cunningham – now a real dead ringer for Elvis Corpsely

This time, people seemed more relaxed wandering around semi-naked or in bizarre get-ups and there were more of them – 2,000 people in The Coronet, a fairly small former cinema.

But, just as people say that modern Glastonbury Festival-goers are not like they used to be in the 1970s – today they are sometimes like tourists visiting a theme park far-removed from their comfortable suburban lives – so Torture Garden seemed a bit like a theme park where participants dressed-up for the occasion. There was no sexual tension in the air.

Until towards the end of the evening.

Sandra Smith and I were trapped in the venue until 5.00am by a lack of trains home.

Elvis Corpsely in performance

Dug up: Elvis Corpsely in performance

So we were sitting at one of a group of cafe tables by the bar behind the large dance floor, shouting at each other. You had to shout because of the loud, thumping, repetitive music.

Sitting at one of the adjoining round cafe tables was a couple – a young man and his topless girlfriend. And, at another table, a similar duo. All the other tables had similar couples and groups in various states of undress.

Sandra and I, by this point, were rather disappointed by the normality of it all.

Alright, there was a lot of naked flesh, leather thongs, PVC, latex and occasional studded choker collars with dog leads on display. But everyone was terribly polite, well-behaved and very very British and I observed to Sandra that any other bar in Elephant & Castle – or anywhere else in London, really – filled with people in their 20s knocking back large amounts of drink for hours on end, would have been less politely civilised. Our little cafe area was a bit like sitting in a Costa Cafe emporium with actors resting and chatting between takes in a Mad Max movie.

The girl in one of the couples at one of the tables next to us decided to make a thing of showing off her very nice breasts and adjusting her leather or plastic costume. This resulted in an invitation for her and her man to join the couple at the other adjoining table. and, over the course of the next five minutes or so, five or seven other young topless girls meandered over. I think the attraction was her breasts. There was much silent female amiability with the girls canoodling, snogging, kissing/feeling each others breasts and suchlike. All in a strangely innocent, only semi-passionate way.

Somewhere along the way a taller, thin girl was involved and another man sat down at the next table and, as she bent over, aiming her naked buttocks in our general direction, he started to insert his finger into her in what I suppose one might call an active penile impression.

This then continued when she stretched over to put her hands on the seat of a nearby plastic chair and he replaced his finger with a more appropriate length of his body and started making what Shakespeare called ‘the beast with two backs’.

The strange thing was that this uniformly rhythmic movement was an emotionless, almost mechanical, happening. No passion, not real excitement, no eroticism – just a meeting of meat in what William Burroughs called the soft machine.

It was one person who had an emotionless face doing something to (not really with) another person who had an emotionless face. Watching it was like having an out-of-body experience although, obviously, it would be incorrect to use that description for the two participants.

This ended without really ending. It just stopped. It had got nowhere and never was going to get anywhere. Then there was some other unemotional happenings with soft machines, some erect penises being played with by the two men (separately) and, at some point, a wet wipe was taken out and used for no apparent reason. It seemed more for show that for any practical necessity.

I have a feeling the object was to shock two old and presumed dull people sitting at the other table (us). But really, at this sort of event, this was a forlorn hope,

I suppose this was the climax of the night but – ironically – it involved no climax by anyone.

Sandra Smith’s opinion today was: “It seemed a lot tamer than I expected. One thing that did amuse me in that little scenario at the end was the girl in the midst of it all. While one man was fucking her at one end, she was giving the man at the other end a blow job but covered her head with a coat. With everything else going on, she covered her head with a coat! That amused me.”

Personally, I too am mystified why a coat was necessary for this but not the other parts of what I can only call the act.

Which it did seem to be.


For Sandra Smith’s blog about the evening, click HERE.


About a week after posting this blog and after it was mentioned on the Chortle comedy website, Chortle editor Steve Bennett got this comment from Israel:

I wanted to clarify a mistake in a report about Nazi in Tel-Aviv. It was said that The Producers will be shown in Israel for the first time. Well… The Producers is a huge cult movie over here and always have been. You’d be surprised how much the Holocaust in Israel is a common topic for comedy. Since it’s the land of the Jews no one can accuse us at being anti-semitic so we can take it one or few steps ahead.

Steve Bennett commented:

If you can’t trust the word of a man pretending to be Hitler, who can you trust?


There is a video of Torture Garden’s 2015 Valentine’s Night Ball on Vimeo

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Frank Sanazi, hijab stripping and Jesus Christ flying in for Hitler’s birthday gig

Pete covers up a nasty spot on his neck Frank Sanazi

Pete covers up a nasty or potentially Nazi spot on his neck

This blog was supposed to be posted on 1st April, until I realised there might be a credibility problem if I posted it on that date.

I had a chat with Pete Perke aka Pete Sinclair aka Pete Cunningham aka Tom Mones aka Frank Sanazi. Frank Sanazi sings like Frank Sinatra but looks like Adolf Hitler.

“So,” I said to Pete,  “you are going over to Austria as Frank Sanazi to celebrate Hitler’s birthday.”

“Well,” he said, “Kulture Banane,  the Austrian boylesque troupe, have become massive in Austria and have asked me to go over and do my show Das Vegas Nights (Zis Time We Win) on 18th April, two days before Hitler’s birthday. Actually, I only recently realised that Hitler was born on 20th April, which is Aries. That would make him a genuine Arian.”

“They’re just boylesque?” I asked. “Not Nazi boylesque in short trousers?”

“Well,” said Pete, “one of the guys – he could be a woman for all I know – performs a hijab act which is basically strip burlesque.”

“You’ve played Frank Sanazi in Berlin, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Yeah. Five or six times.”

“How do they react?”

“The first time I did it, the crowd were a bit…”

“Stunned?” I suggested.

“Well, I was told they loved it, but you can never tell with German audiences. There’s not laugh-out-loud vocal appreciation. When I play to an older crowd in Germany, they can be uncomfortable-squirmy a bit, but the young crowd just find it hilarious. Time has moved on so much they don’t feel part of anything their forefathers did.”

The Awards Show was a rally for the middle classes

Frank Sanazi at the 2014 Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

“I suppose Hitler will never die,” I said. “Malcolm Hardee and I booked The Rockin’ Gorbachev on a couple of TV shows and, of course, his career died when Gorbachev got ousted. But you’re not just a one character act.”

“Yes, I’ve diversified,” said Pete. “I do a lot of straight singing and I have Frank Sanazi and Tom Mones (an old Tom Jones).”

“How is your Vladimir Putin act doing?” I asked.

“I’m not sure if he has legs,” said Pete. “Putin is still very ‘in’ at the moment. As long as he keeps in the spotlight, I’m OK. At the moment, I sing Ukranian Men (to the tune It’s Raining Men) But Crimea River (Cry Me a River) is an obvious follow-up. And then there’s Putin on The Blitz (Putting On The Ritz).”

“Are you doing him at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?” I asked.

“No,” said Pete. “This year I’ve got the Voodoo Rooms to take my whole Iraq Pack show. I’ve got Pete Storm playing Dean Stalin (Stalin singing like Dean Martin) and I’ve written a great song for George who’s going to play Osama Bing Crosby and Saddami Davis Jnr is singing Arranged Marriage to the tune of Love and Marriage:

Ar-ranged marriage
Ar-ranged marriage
To a woman called Fatima Mohammed
This I’ll tell you mother
She looks just like her brother

“I wrote a new song recently for Osama Bing Crosby. He said he needed a song on his own because we were just doing a duet:

I have heard to the Taliban
You are now a forgotten man
Well, dead Jew ever
What a swell party this is

“So I wrote him:

How unlucky can one guy be
They shot her, then they shot me
Like the New York Times said
Ain’t that a shot in the head?

“I’ve never,” I said, “heard you ever talk about getting bad reactions from audiences.”

A singing Hitler - Less offensive than a dead Elvis

A singing Hitler – apparently less offensive than a dead Elvis

“I used to do an act called Dead Elvis,” Pete told me. “I used to come out of this coffin in a mask with worm holes cut out and I did send-up songs: Are You Hungry Tonight? (Are You Lonesome Tonight)… and The Burgers Went Straight To My Heart… those sort of songs. And I got more stick for doing that than I ever have for Frank Sanazi. Because people love Elvis so much they treat him like Jesus. I stopped doing that act because I was getting so much grief for it.”

“And you’re trend-proof,” I said. “because you play the comedy circuit, the cabaret circuit and the fetish circuit.”

“Yes,” said Pete. “There’s a Festival of Sins show this Saturday, a new fetish night. It ran before, five years ago. It was always overshadowed by the Torture Garden but Festival of Sins was possibly the second biggest in London – run by a guy called David de Vynél and he’s re-kickstarting it. It went tits-up when he married the woman he ran it with.”

There is a clip on Vimeo from the Festival of Sins show in 2010.

“I performed at his wedding and the wedding cake was an entire woman just covered in cake: you had to eat the cake off the top of her. It was very well-presented. This guy turned up – the best man – completely stark bollock naked. All he wore were a couple of little bits of tinsel round his penis and a couple of baubles for balls. And he had a massive dong – I think that’s why he went round naked.”

“Just to annoy people?” I asked.

“Mmmmm….,” said Pete.

“I went to one Torture Garden years ago,” I said. “I blogged about it.”

“I remember one Torture Garden,” said Pete, “where there was a guy in a cage and he had a Superman-style cape on and nothing else and he was peeing on people as they walked past. The other thing they had was like an iron lung from Barbarella with perspex over it, so you could put your hands in the gloves and feel whoever it was inside.

“And you know those things they have in Post Offices? Big thick latex things that hang down. I think they do it for health & hygiene. They have them in abattoirs – almost see-through plastic that you can push our way through…”

“Your local Post Office,” I said, “is more interesting than mine.”

“Well,” said Pete, “they had these people just chopping meat up. They had carcasses of sheep. I don’t know how they got away with that, because blood was spattering over everybody as they were going through.

“A couple came in when I was performing- I only knew they were a man and woman because of their size and shape. They had full Nazi outfits on and full gimps masks with zips so you could just see their eyes. They sat right in front of the stage when I performed, watched me for about 25 minutes, then stood up, clapped their gloves together and walked out. It was the most surreal thing.”

“Who else is on the bill with you for the Hitler birthday gig?” I asked.

“Jesus Christ is flying over from Glasgow,” said Pete.

There is a clip on YouTube of Frank Sanazi singing Strangers On My Flight.

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Award-nominated Nelly Scott and Zuma Puma and the Grumpy Lettuce series

Nelly as Nancy Sanazi at the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

Nancy Sanazi at the Malcolm Hardee Awards

The last time Zuma Puma aka Nelly Scott appeared in this blog was in May last year, when she was showing her armpit hair at her weekly Lost Cabaret show.

“I’ve got an agent now,” she told me this week, “and I’m doing auditions. I did one yesterday for the lead role in a feature film. I don’t know if they’ll take me, because I think they probably want a British actor and I’m Canadian.”

Lost Cabaret continues, as do her occasional appearances as Nancy Sanazi singing Jackboots Are Made For Walking and other subtle classics in Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Nights – the next one is this Saturday at the Leicester Comedy FestivalDas Vegas 3 (Zis Time We Win).

“It’s going to be filmed by a Canadian documentary artist,” Zuma/Nelly told me, “which might be really fascinating; I don’t know how the Canadian audience will react to Das Vegas Night.”

And then there is her upcoming Grumpy Lettuce web series.

Zuma Puma with the Grumpy Lettuce logo

Jolly Zuma Puma with the Grumpy Lettuce logo (she drew it)

“It’s going to be up-and-running at the end of April or early May,” Zuma/Nelly told me. “We have something like 14 episodes already filmed and now we’re doing post-production, but it takes time. We have three editors working on it. The director Andrew Phan and I go to the editing studio every Saturday.”

“You’re not the director?” I asked.

“No. I’m the creator. Directing film is not like directing theatre; I don’t know anything about film, which is kinda why I wanted to do this project. Well, it’s not that I don’t know anything about film. I did a web series last year and some short films.”

“What was the web series last year?” I asked.

Joz Norris and Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma in The Backbenchers

Award-nominated Backbenchers Joz Norris and Nelly Scott

The Backbenchers – Joz Norris was in it as well and both of us have been nominated as Best Actors in comedy at the L.A.Web Festival in April, which they say is the biggest web festival in the world.”

“And now Grumpy Lettuce?” I asked.

“Well, we’ve been working on that since before June last year. My boyfriend Kamal and I were thinking that a lot of people have come through Lost Cabaret – We need to get these characters on film. That would be such an interesting project – So we started thinking up situations to fit characters like Dan Lees’ Jazz Prophet or Annie Bashford as The Widow or Sharney Nougher’s Australian therapist or Kamal’s Bollywood star character – he puts a wig over his dreadlocks.”

“What’s your character?” I asked.

Zuma Puma grabbed two audience members last night

Zuma Puma with two audience members at the Lost Cabaret

“I’m my Zuma Puma leopard-print character who just shows up unexpectedly and randomly. But we all play multiple characters, sometimes straight. The idea of Grumpy Lettuce is that it’s like Mighty Boosh characters put into our own real world – normal everyday situations – and then we meet these wild out-there characters, like you sometimes do in normal life.”

“Why is it taking so much post-production?”

“Because there’s 23 sketches. We probably have over 50 hours of filming and each hour we have to make into a minute-an-a-half or a 2-minute sketch.”

“Why is it called Grumpy Lettuce?

“It goes back to when I first moved to London two yeas ago. I moved here for my grandfather’s  funeral and visited Annie Bashford and started playing like the times we were back at Gaulier in Paris and we came up with this ridiculous sketch with The Widow where she got naked with the lettuce.

The Widow (left) with Nelly Scott: What What?

What What? The Lettuce? – The Widow (left) with Nelly Scott

“So we started to look up names for our double act because we were calling ourselves The What-Whats, which is a horrible name. We looked up ‘lettuce’ online and the first thing that came up was ‘grumpy lettuce’ with the Urban Dictionary meaning for ‘grumpy lettuce’.”

“Which is?” I asked.

“Unkempt vagina. So Annie and I thought: This is perfect. That’s exactly what we want to call our female double-act. 

“Then Annie and I stopped working together – we’re still good friends – and so, when Kamal and I were coming up with names for the web series, the great ones we thought of were already taken. Or, if we decided on one and got the Facebook page and started designing a logo, some of the other cast members would say: No! That’s a horrible name! And the only great name I could think of was Grumpy Lettuce.

“It’s got a double-meaning, it’s funny and you get an image in your head of an angry-looking lettuce, which is kinda cute. If you think of a grumpy lettuce, you think of a lettuce that doesn’t quite fit in, which is kinda what our web series is about – all of these characters don’t fit into our real world, even though some are based on real-life people. And, the minute I told people Grumpy Lettuce, everyone said: That’s an amazing name!”

“And Annie Bashford is in it,” I said.

“Yes. She almost got crushed during the shoot.”

“Physically?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“By a lettuce?”

“No. By a very dangerous stunt that I would have made safer if I had been there on that day. I don’t want to give away the punchline of the sketch.”

“I always find,” I said, “that it’s best not to kill the performers.”

Different Ways To Kill Annie,” said Zuma/Nelly, “Maybe that’s what the show should have been called.”

“The logo might be difficult,” I suggested.

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Singing Hitler act Frank Sanazi now to perform as gay dictator Vladimir Putin

Frank Sanazi performs at yesterday’s party

Pete at yesterday’s non-Communist party

Yesterday afternoon, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to the annual charity garden party thrown in Bromley by Frank Sanazi’s mother.

Frank Sanazi (real name Pete) sings like Frank Sinatra, but looks and acts like Adolf Hitler.

There were songs at the garden party from Elvis Presley impersonator Pete Storm and by our Pete (he has multiple surnames) – out-of-character as himself – singing straight Frank Sinatra songs.

Pete Perke aka Pete Sinclair aka Pete Cunningham aka Tom Moans aka Frank Sanazi etc etc told me: “I’ve been looking for a new character, because I’ve been doing Frank Sanazi for twelve years now.”

“That’s longer than the original Hitler,” I said.

Vladimir Putin - macho man incarnate

Vladimir Putin – a man who should be able to afford a shirt

“Just about,” said Pete, “I kept seeing photos of Vladimir Putin with his chest bare or coming out of the sea with a spear in his hand like he’s just caught a massive fish and he looks a little bit camp, to say the least.”

Vladimir, with a love of horses worthy of the wild Wild West

Vladimir, with a love of horses worthy of the wild Wild West

I said: “Putin’s forever riding stallions in forests with his shirt off.”

“So I thought,” said Pete, “after the whole furore about him being – excuse the phrase – hard on the gays and lesbians and his persecution of Pussy Riot, I thought I wanted to do a send-up of Putin because he obviously bats for the other side.

Headline on  today’s Daily Mirror

Headline on today’s Daily Mirror

“So I got this idea where I come on in a lovely suit as the iron man of Russia and deliver this speech in Russian and have it translated into English.

“And it’s welcoming Ukraine back into the old Soviet motherland and It’s going to be so nice now, because we are going to outlaw homosexuals and it will be a crime for them to be on the street and we will lock them all up. There will be a law against them, so we will have no lesbians or gays in Russia at all…

“And then the music starts playing It’s Raining Men and I start singing…

Tensions are rising
Gas supplies running low
According to my sources
Kiev’s the place to go
Tonight for the first time
Just about half past ten
For the first and the last time in history
It’s gonna start raining men

Ukrainian men!
Hallelujah!
Ukrainian men!
Ah, men!

Nazi but nice - Frank last night

Frank Sanazi rallies his audiences

…and I rip my shirt off and I have two tit-tassels underneath and I start swinging them around as I sing. I haven’t got a six-pack, but I bought a six-pack to go over the top of my normal chest and I bought these pants which have a bum added in the back and I’ve put a hammer & sickle there so, when I drop my pants…”

“You seem,” I said, “to be getting overly-excited telling us about the pants.”

“Yes,” agreed Pete, “because I didn’t think you could buy pants like that with a fake arse actually built into the bum. They were only £4.”

“What about your hairline?” I asked.

“I’ll put a load of talcum powder on my head and flatten my hair down and my face can look a little like Putin. I tested it out for the first time at Cabaret Roulette in Madame JoJo’s in Soho – Vivacity Bliss runs it – and it seemed to go down a storm, so Putin will be with Frank Sanazi as part of my new Dictators of The World show.”

Pete sniffs a 4711 face wipe

Pete sniffs a 4711 face wipe yesterday

At this point, my eternally-un-named friend said I admire Putin and gave Pete a packet containing a 4711 facial wipe.

“Think of it as a 9/11 wipe,” I suggested. “Keep calm and carry on. What’s your Edinburgh Fringe show this year?”

Das Vegas Night 3 – Zis Time We Win!. It’s all about if the Germans had won the Second World War and what would Las Vegas have been like? I’ve got Baghdad’s Got Talent coming to join us in their burkhas and they’re going to do some magic for us and a bit of puppetry with a little doll – that’s got a burkha on as well. It’s perfect for Das Vegas, because it’s wrong… but it’s right… and I’ve got Gay Jesus coming to finish the show.”

“Oh, he’s great!” I said. “Does he still live in Glasgow?”

“Yeah,” said Pete. “I have to go now. I have to sort Elvis out.”

And off he went.

Later, on the way home, my eternally-un-named friend said: “Do you think you should warn him It’s Raining Men might be in bad taste because of the plane exploding and all the bodies falling out of the sky onto the Ukraine?”

“Well,” I said, “Frank Sanazi sings Sinatra’s Witchcraft as Auschwitz-craft. So the body parts of men, women and children raining down onto fields and farms in the Ukraine won’t be a problem.”

You can see Frank Sanazi singing Third Reich on YouTube.

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A masterclass in how to perform good comedy – even at the Edinburgh Fringe

John Robertson - a man with outstanding hair

John Robertson, a man in Dark Room with outstanding hair

Life continues as normal at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Yesterday, I got a text message from Australian comedian John Robertson of The Dark Room saying simply:

“Crowd-surfed a dwarf at last night’s Spank! Life is good.”

The Scotsman gave a 4-star review to Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II ending with the line: “If you were hoping to find a Nazi themed Las Vegas style cabaret show with occasional nudity and a touch of the Nuremberg Rally then look no further.”

A while ago, I got an e-mail from Neil Dagley aka Flange Krammer, saying:

“I’m writing a spoof Edinburgh Fringe review site for the 2013 Festival.  The idea is that Golf Monthly has sent a team of reviewers to the Fringe– it’s supposed to be a wry commentary on the hundreds of totally unqualified reviewers who descend upon Edinburgh to pass judgement on the participants.

I’ve got several established comedians on board to write as guest reviewers (under golf related pseudonyms). Do you think it could be a possible candidate for a Malcolm Hardee Award, or is it a bit too subtle!”

Golf Planet - comedy site whose reviews are a load of balls

Golf Planet – comedy site whose reviews are a load of balls

Yesterday, I got a follow-up email from Neil, telling me that the established publication Golf Monthly had demanded that he change the name of his spoof review site to Golf Planet and comedian Sean Hughes had retweeted Golf Planet’s 2 golf ball review of his show Penguins, saying:Best written review so far.”

The review partly reads: “Dressed all in black, Hughes deliberately evoked thoughts of the great Gary Player… However, Hughes kept getting side-tracked by completely un-golf-related stories about his youth, which frankly left a sour after-taste following the promising start.”

I then bumped into uber-promoter/manager Brett Vincent of GetComedy who showed me the extraordinary way his printed Edinburgh brochure comes alive on an iPhone/Android phone with the Blipper app.

Brett Vincent reads his brochure with the Blipper app

Brett Vincent reads his brochure with the Blipper app

It works something like a QR code reader except you just point your phone at a picture/page in the GetComedy brochure – or at a flyer or a poster in the street – and it comes alive on your phone plus it allows you to buy tickets and see videos of the act performing.

It can show you the act before you buy the ticket.

Brett seems to be the first entertainment company in the UK to use Blipper. Other users include Justin Bieber, Heinz, JLS, The Wanted, The Gadget Show and Oyster Card.

“I just phoned Blipper up,” Brett told me, “and asked Do you fancy doing it for comedy? – I think they fancied the free comedy tickets as part of the deal. I just thought it was something different. You can go and blip all the posters, every image, watch the videos. I find out who blips it, what age group they are and if they’ve made a booking via the app. I can also find out which page you blipped in the brochure, which person you looked at and, hopefully, one day I’ll find out who you are.”

“How does it know who I am?” I asked.

“There’s a certain amount of things your iPhone can tell people because of your iOS settings,” explained Brett. “At the moment, only a few things. Your age group, your sex and sometimes your country.”

If only everything at the Fringe were so efficient.

C Venues – long-known for having such bad signage that people are constantly having to ask under-trained staff where a particular performance room actually is – managed to out-do themselves yesterday.

Their staff now appear not to know where their own outlying venue buildings are. They don’t know left from right And they don’t know the difference between the George IV Bridge and South Bridge (despite the fact South Bridge is a 5-second walk from their front door).

Lynn Ruth Miller - Grade A show; dodgy C venue

Lynn Ruth Miller – Grade A show; dodgy C venue

As a result, I arrived 3 minutes late for the wonderful Lynn Ruth Miller’s equally wonderful show Granny’s Gone Wild.

When I did arrive at the venue, of course, I had to ask two members of staff on different storeys where the actual performance room was.

Despite the fact the sound techie missed cues and the microphone only worked 50% of the time, Lynn Ruth Miller’s show – as always – was a joy for the audience particularly those, it seemed, in their 20s. A wonderful concoction of jokes and songs, it occasionally mixed in some sadness and certainly two 20-something girls in the audience were wiping away tears during one particular song.

The equally wunnerful Charmian Hughes’ show Odd One In managed to tell the true story of her youthful loves including a future Church of England bishop and recently disgraced government minister Chris Huhne. Sadly, this year, she did not do the Sand Dance.

But my evening was rounded-off with Scots comedian Brian Higgins’ show From Beer to Paternity at the Jekyll & Hyde venue – an L-shaped room with dodgy sight-lines which I have always thought was very difficult to perform in.

Brian Higgins - From Beer To Paternity last night

Brian Higgins – he went From Beer To Paternity last night

I had never heard of Brian Higgins, which just shows how much I know about comedy.

I went to see him on the recommendation of fellow Scot Alex Frackleton in Prague (of whom more, I think, in an upcoming blog).

Brian had managed to fill the basement venue to standing and awkward-sitting capacity and gave a masterclass in how to perform comedy to a mainstream mixed audience.

The word to bear in mind here is Mainstream.

We are not talking of alternative comedy, basement club-going, London-based, Islington-living Guardian readers here.

We are talking about normal people.

Alternative comedy, basement club-going, London-based, Islington-living Guardian readers are not normal people.

With some audience members from multiple ethnic origins, Brian trod a very fine PC line which some alternative comedy clubs might have been slightly (but only very slightly) unsettled by – and the same with some of the gags about women.

But this was not the world of Guardian-reading uber-PCers.

It was ordinary men, women and foreign students from Taiwan.

And they LOVED it. They loved every gag about themselves. And the couples loved it. And they all loved it. And Brian did, pretty much, seem to be hitting laughs every 10 seconds with no faltering – a laugh-rate few Guardian-rated comedians could even come close to.

He also managed to pull the rug from under the audience with a totally unexpected tragic story which had them in total, silent, rapt attention. That, he admitted, was the reason for performing this Fringe show. That one story. A story that had a sharper political knife-thrust than most trendy ‘political’ comics could ever muster.

I was sitting there thinking: He surely can’t end with this? How is he going to get the mood up again after this? He’s got them in a state of near-shock. How can he get them laughing again without seeming to be bad taste?

But he managed it through sheer professionalism.

He is a vastly experienced comic at the top of his game.

Njambi McGrath performs in Edinburgh last night

Njambi McGrath performing last night

He even interrupted the flow of his act about ten minutes in by giving a ten-minute spot to Kenyan comic Njambi McGrath who established “I am from Africa,” but then performed spot-on totally British social material with some very funny back-references to Africa. I particularly liked a joke about Oxfam which only an African could make. She is a potentially major comedian.

Anyone wanting to become a comedian should go watch Brian Higgins and try to deconstruct what is going on. You can’t beat total audience control with a seemingly casual persona.

And Njambi McGrath is one to watch.

From tomorrow, she is going to be one third of the cast in an 8-night run of a show called The Equal Opportunities Act 2010 Presents…

It promises “a Nigerian perspective from Nigeria, gold-digging stories from Kenya and dirty filthy knob jokes from Essex”

I will be there.

What is interesting is that – with the exception of the C Venues show where staff did not know where their own venues were and the microphone did not work – all the shows I have mentioned have been free shows – Charmian Hughes, Brian Higgins and the upcoming Equal Opportunities show.

I have a feeling that free shows may increasingly start winning the major comedy prizes in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, tonight at 2.00 in the morning, I will be outside the entrance to Edinburgh Castle awaiting Arthur Smith’s legendary night-time tour of the Royal Mile.

He will also be on my Fringe chat show on Monday.

Both those events are free too.

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A new religion rises, as Fascism rears its comedy head at the Edinburgh Fringe

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

Snapped shamefully asleep by Scotsman snoop Claire Smith

Snapped shamefully asleep in Brooke’s Bar at the Pleasance by Scotsman snoop Claire Smith

I have only been at the Edinburgh Fringe for less than four days and already lack of sleep is clearly getting to me.

I was shamefully snapped sleeping in the Press Room of the Pleasance Dome by Scotsman reporter Claire Smith. No-one likes a grass, Claire…

In today’s blog, I was thinking of majoring on the show Dave Millett and Tim Renkow Are Meandering With Purpose – featuring two of the most interesting, thoughtful and intelligent pieces of complementary comedy I have ever seen at the Fringe.

But, as regular readers of this blog will know, I tend to rather go for superficial crass excess.

Thus we have Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans – Wonder & Joy and Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II.

A few years ago, I tried to persuade comedian Simon Munnery that we should start a religion by writing a book together. How difficult can it be? L.Ron Hubbard managed it.

All you need to do is read a few Californian self-help books, note the chapter headings and build a pseudo-philosophy round them. People want to be led.

Alas Simon was not keen to be a godhead.

Twin godheads of a new comedy religion rising in our midst?

Twin godheads of a new comedy religion rising in our midst?

But Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans seem set to fill that gap in the market with their successful series of Sunday Assembly events in London and elsewhere. Others have taken up the idea in other countries and, from October to December, Sanderson & Pippa will be embarking on a roadshow called 40 Dates and 40 Nights, hosting Sunday Assemblies across the UK, Europe, the US and Australia.

Their current Edinburgh Fringe show – Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans – Wonder & Joy – which I saw last night – well, it was less a case of seeing it than experiencing it – is less a show, more a cross between an orgasm, a Nuremberg Rally and a drug or adrenaline-fuelled disco rave.

One of the quieter moments last night

One of the quieter moments of Wonder & Joy last night

Singalongs, chants, games, nostalgic disco music and a lot of shouting, bouncing up and down and waving your arms – or, well, anything you fancy – in the air. That was the format. And very sweaty and joyous it was too. Much like the start of a new religion or cult, but without (so far) any animal sacrifice or mass suicides in the jungle. But give them time… Give them time.

At the end of the show, Sanderson yelled at the bouncing audience, “This is not a show – It’s a movement!”

And he could be right

Sanderson Jones proves he is an android

Sanderson Jones encourages new believers

Sanderson encouraged anyone to get in touch if they wanted to start a Sunday Assembly in their town. And, at midday on the next two Sundays, their atheist celebrations of life will be held in Edinburgh.

I am not sure if I will be going. I am not sure I have that much sweat in my body to give. All that bouncing, pogo-ing and waving yourself around! At my age, I just want tea and Victoria sponge and to have the spittle dabbed from the side of my mouth by a nurse.

The only downside of the show last night was that, coming out of the Hive venue’s ‘Bunker’ room, I realised that poor Lewis Schaffer had been trying to perform his show in the adjoining room. It must have been like trying to perform a spoken word show during a Rolling Stones concert.

As I said, the show in the Hive’s Bunker room was part orgasm and part Nuremberg Rally.

Nazi but nice - Frank last night

Nazi but nice: Frank sang last night

Perhaps even closer to a combination of an orgasm, Nuremberg Rally and bunker show was Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II at the Voodoo Rooms.

I saw this glorious celebration of bad taste with comedian Maureen Younger and – linking back to the start of this blog – Claire Smith of the Scotsman.

Maureen speaks fluent German and was able to vouch for the veracity of the occasional little snippets of German. I can vouch for the bad taste. Frank Sanazi claimed that, last week, he had been ejected from PC World.

I had gone expecting more of the same admirable old Frank Sanazi routines though (as blogged about two days ago) missing his fine rendition of Auschwitz Craft.

In fact, this was a real humdinger of a fake Vegas show in the kitsch surroundings of the Voodoo Rooms.

Lofty Anne Stank’s sang of her diary

There was a lofty performance by Anne Stank with her diary

The beloved Führer of Fun sang all his regulars, but also appeared in character as Tom Moans (an aged Tom Jones with a zimmer frame and tight leather trousers belting out pastiches of his songs).

Plus there were the added joys of Maureen Dietrich (I think I heard that right), Anne Stank (emerging from a wardrobe to sing about her diary, then searching for eroticism and love among the men in the audience).

Nancy Sanazi raises a black gloved Reich hand

Nancy Sanazi raised a black gloved Reich hand

And there was a new, even better, version of Nancy Sanazi not just singing Jackboots Are Made For Walking but with an almost genuinely frightening split personality – part dumb American blonde, part screaming, wild-eyed homicidal/genocidal schizophrenic.

Oh – and, just to round off the evening, Jesus Christ appeared, transforming from Messiah to Full Monty type stripper/dancer with red ribbons flowing from the wounds in his hands like some Maoist Chinese ballet from the 1960s.

Nazi but nice.

The whole show.

Frank Sanazi and his stormtroupers triumphed.

Bob Slayer -desperate for books

Bob Slayer – desperate for books, even though he lacks shelves

Meanwhile, in the more mundane world of Edinburgh Fringe promotion, Bob Slayer has put out an appeal for books. Bob’s Bookshop has proved a good idea as a venue, but is sadly lacking in the bookshop area… though Phil Kay‘s long-awaited crowdfunded autobiographical opus is allegedly arriving in the Bookshop on Friday.

My secret view revealed

My secret view of Edinburgh will be revealed

Before that, Such Small Portions’ book Secret Edinburgh with contributions from 160 comedians and vaguely comedy-connected people (including a non-humorous piece from me) should be arriving at other book shops in Edinburgh (and online) on Wednesday after, co-editor Andrew Mickel tells me, the books got held up at the Turkey/Bulgaria border.

Obviously.

This is the Edinburgh Fringe we are talking about. However unlikely or impossible anything is, it may happen.

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Chasing pussy at Edinburgh Fringe + Lewis Schaffer develops terminal cancer

Lewis Schaffer (left) , Lach and Phil Kay last night

Lewis Schaffer (left in white), Lach and Phil Kay last night

It was 01.40am this morning, when I left Bob Slayer’s first Midnight Mayhem show which has no structure and simply has performers and members of the (if they want to) paying public doing pretty much whatever comes into Bob Slayer’s head – a risky concept at the end of the day, given Bob’s proclivity for drink.

Frank Sanazi croons “It’s Auschwitz" last night

Frank Sanazi crooned about Auschwitz craft

The show was still going strong with Phil Kay just about to start his second musical set.

Earlier, Frank Sanazi had performed one song to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s Witchcraft which he told us he now no longer sings in public (because of too many complaints) – Auschwitzcraft. And Lewis Schaffer had refused to perform his legendary three-part Holocaust joke.

A punter called Sally said it was her third visit to the Fringe over the years and she and her man had seen three shows at the major venues over the course of the day, two of which she said were “shit”. She asked what were the requirements for performing on the Fringe.

Kate Copstick, there to review Midnight Mayhem for the Scotsman newspaper, told Sally that it was a free-access festival and if you paid (one particular major venue) £5,000 up-front, then that was your qualification for performing.

Midnight Mayhem was happening in Bob’s Bookshop which, as a Pay What You Want show within the Free Festival within the overall Edinburgh Fringe, is in a rather different league but it was one which Sally seemed to say was what she had thought she was going to experience when she came to the Fringe for the first time. The earlier shows had not been this anarchic.

Andy Zapp - the current man in my bed at Edinburgh Fringe

Andy Zapp – the current man in my bed at Edinburgh Fringe

My day had started oddly, having breakfast with Lewis Schaffer at midday. Also at the meal – well it was a snack, really – were Ivor Dembina and the man currently sleeping in my bed, Andy Zapp. (I should point out I am sleeping in the living room next door.)

“What’s your best advice to young new comedians?” Ivor Dembina asked Andy.

“It’s good to make money while you’re still shit,” replied Andy.

Lewis Schaffer told us that his Fringe show next year would be called Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer and would contain details of his battle with a life-threatening form of cancer.

“What sort of cancer?” I asked.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he replied. All Lewis Schaffer knows so far is that his show will have to be life-affirming and he says he feels he has to establish the title Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer early, in case someone else uses it.

In a press release later in the day, he wrote:

I have never had cancer, nor do I have cancer, but I hope someday to have cancer. Cancer worked for comic greats Andy Kaufman, Bill Hicks and Tig Notaro – why shouldn’t it work for me? My apologies to everyone who has cancer and everyone who hasn’t had cancer.

Has anyone seen Kitler? Lost in Edinburgh.

Anyone seen Kitler? Allegedly lost by F.Sanazi

At around the same time I received this press release, Frank Sanazi phoned me up with news that he was sticking up posters all over Edinburgh about the tragic loss of his pet cat Kitler. The feline was not, as far as he knew, dead but (he claimed) had gone missing in action on Thursday.

He told me he would give me more information if I came to see his show Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II (which I had already arranged to do.)

Yesterday was a day I had chosen to see shows by other acts I already knew. For example, I saw two shows by previous winners of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

Johnny Sorrow (left) in The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society

Johnny Sorrow (left) – Bob Blackman Appreciation Society

The first was Johnny Sorrow, appearing as 50% of the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society. I laughed out loud throughout, something I rarely do. The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society Bonanza show included tap-dancing fleas and ‘the man with no act’ and – suitably for a show steeped in showbiz nostalgia and kitsch – it also included the soundtrack of an ITV trailer of the type I used to make for 20 years.

After the show, I chatted briefly with increasingly prestigious award-winning Johnny Sorrow and he told me:

“A couple of weeks ago in Stockport, Bob Blackman’s grand-daughter Abbie came to see our show. She lives in Macclesfield.”

“Poor woman,” I said. “How did she hear about you?”

“She saw us our name on the internet and thought What the hell’s this? and got in contact with us.”

Bob Blackman used to appear on TV hitting his head with a metal tray to the tune Mule Train. It was a memorable act, now sadly and unjustly forgotten by most subsequent generations of thrill-seekers.

“We found out where Bob Blackman actually started the act,” Johnny Sorrow told me yesterday. “It was at the Waterman’s Arms pub on the Isle of Dogs in London. At first, he used to do the act just by hitting the tray on his knees but then, one day, the Watermans Arms was so packed the tray couldn’t be seen, so he started hitting himself on the head with the metal tray and his fame just took off. His son Raymond told me that. You know you can get plaques put up on walls where cult comedians did famous things? We want a plaque up for Bob Blackman.”

The Rubberbandits at the Gilded Balloon yesterday

The rousing Rubberbandits at the Gilded Balloon yesterday

The second Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winning act I saw yesterday was Ireland’s Rubberbandits, regaling a packed Gilded Balloon venue with their greatest hits including Spastic Hawk and Up The RA (including the appearance on stage of two balaklava-wearing fake IRA members).

I rather enjoyed the particularly bad taste of their Spoiling Ivan,

The Gilded Balloon seems to be on a roll this year. Earlier, I had seen two other shows by top-notch acts.

Janey Godley was untagged in Edinburgh yesterday

Janey Godley happily ungagged in Edinburgh

My chum Janey Godley has returned for two weeks only to the Edinburgh Fringe – after a break of a couple of years – with a stonkingly good show Janey Godley Is Ungagged mostly about social media.

But it also has one of the most interesting anti-police stories I have heard and Janey’s barnstorming performance occasionally teetered on the edge of successful rabble-rousing.

When she said she was thinking of standing as an MP (I think she was joking – although the late Margaret Thatcher once suggested Janey should enter politics) she was loudly cheered and, by the end, she was telling the audience to be ungagged and to realise words are just words and had them chanting along with her Cunt! Cunt! Cunt! which – as everyone knows – is a term of endearment in Glasgow.

Ashley Storrie with mother Janey at the Gilded yesterday

Ashley Storrie and mother Janey Godley at the Gilded Balloon

As always, Janey did the whole show unscripted and, for these particular Edinburgh shows, she is preceded by a 15-minute warm-up performed by her daughter Ashley Storrie.

I had never seen Ashley perform stand-up before. She got 4-star reviews at the Fringe when she performed as a 13-year-old in 1999, but lost interest in it shortly after that. A couple of years ago, she performed at the Fringe with sketch show Alchemy but, this year, she started doing pure stand-up again. I talked to her about it in January.

On-stage, she has her mother’s self-confidence and audience-controlling charm. Astonishing.

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette Burton in her first grown-up solo show

As is Juliette Burton’s show When I Grow Up, also at the Gilded Balloon.

“I was walking round today flyering people,” Juliette told me after the show, “and I remembered the first time I came up to the Fringe in 2005, just as a punter. Back then, I was really, really jealous of all the performers and now I am one.”

“Which is what your show’s about,” I said. “realising dreams. Though the one thing you do not say in your show is that, as a kid, you wanted to be a comedian when you grew up.”

Juliette Burton gets a dream Fringe pass

Juliette gets her dream performer’s pass

“Not a stand-up comedian,” replied Juliette. “And that’s not what I am now. Why does comedy have to be stand-up? Why do you have to necessarily adhere to one specific form of comedy to be considered a comic performer? If you’re billed as a comedian, everyone assumes you’re going to do stand-up.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I saw Janey Godley earlier this evening and she’s called a comedian, but she’s really not a traditional comedian – she’s a brilliant storyteller who gets laughs.”

“I don’t see,” continued Juliette, “why comedy has to be set-up/punchline/gag. Why can’t comedy take different forms? Mine is very mainstream storytelling, but it would not fit in the theatre section of the Fringe Programme: it would be too comedic. On the other hand, it’s not stand-up comedy.”

“The videos are very funny,” I said. “I normally don’t like videos plonked into live shows to attract TV producers. But your videos and recorded interviews are a seamless part of the live show.”

“I guess,” said Juliette, “that it’s poking fun at some of the social boundaries that we’ve enforced upon ourselves in ways that – I don’t want to give away what’s in the show, but I like to do things that might seem absurd and crazy and like a nutcase, but actually the real crazy thing is not to enjoy what you’re doing with your life.”

“I suppose,” I said, “that your enthusiastic presenting style says to the audience that it’s a showbiz, comedic piece, but it’s not actually..”

Juliette foregrounded by either arms or legs

Juliette (right) sings at rockfest T In the Park

“How can you define comedy?” Juliette interrupted. “I’m very honest on stage. In a way, a stand-up comedian’s routine is more dishonest than what I’m saying. Several people have told me in the last couple of days that they are tiring of stand-up because it’s so predictable. They actually want something a bit different, something to surprise them.

“Stand-up – however shocking it might be – swearing and taboo subjects – is no longer pushing any boundaries. So maybe redefining what a comedy show is might be the next boundary to push.”

“I cried at one point in your show,” I said. “Not from laughter. From sadness. Despite the fact I had seen the show before and knew what was coming. It has shades and the audience don’t see what’s coming. Sometimes comedy is best when you laugh AND cry”

Juliette’s pop promo for her song Dreamers (When I Grow Up) – recorded specially for her show – can be seen on YouTube and the song can bought online. All money made during the Fringe will be donated to Children In Need.

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