Tag Archives: gag

Joke theft? Where did late UK comedian Malcolm Hardee get some of his gags?

Martin Soan prepares himself for Switzerland

Martin Soan prepares himself for Switzerland

Comedy trio The Greatest Show On Legs are playing five shows in five cities in five days in Switzerland this week. This morning, Martin Soan set off by train, laden down with props for the shows. The other two GSOL members – Steve Bowditch and Richard Ryszynski aka Dickie Richards – flew by plane. It is the best way to fly.

The late legendary comic Malcolm Hardee used to be a member of the Greatest Show On Legs. He was famous or infamous for many things as a comic, club-owner, compere and anarchic character. One was the fact that he had around six jokes which he lived on for around 20 years. Another was a set of catchphrases, most or all of them picked up from other people.

If a member of the audience left to go to the toilet during one of his shows, Malcolm would say to the audience: When he comes back… let’s all hide.

“I did that first,” laughed Martin Soan yesterday, “out of desperation and I didn’t realise it was funny until Malcolm said it. I said it at a gig The Greatest Show On Legs were doing. I can remember the stage but I can’t remember where it was, but something fucked-up. I was on-stage introducing a sketch and I think the tape machine or something fucked-up, so I was left on stage and had to fill and some guy just got up and walked off and I said: Let’s all hide before he gets back.

“I don’t know if I even got a laugh that night, but Malcolm took it on in later shows and he got laughs from it.”

Malcolm Hardee, man of the River Thames, had contacts (photograph by Vincent Lewis)

The legendary Malcolm Hardee – pirate of many a good gag (Photograph by Vincent Lewis)

One of Malcolm’s opening lines when he played a new venue (or sometimes even if he had played it lots of times) was to say:

“In show business, there’s a saying that you play (enter name of venue) twice in your career. Once on the way up. Once on the way down. (PAUSE) It’s good to be back…”

Before he left for Switzerland, Martin Soan told me Malcolm had nicked this line from comedian Ian MacPherson.

“It was Ian MacPherson’s gag and Malcolm had seen him do it,” Martin told me. “So Malcolm then goes out and does it and Ian MacPherson found out somehow. Ian MacPherson was actually really cool about it. But he rings up Malcolm and says: Hey! MaaaIcolm…  heard you did one of my gags…

“So Malcolm goes: Oh, err, well oy-oy, I.. err… I… ugh… the… I…erm… the… ugh… I… oy-oy

“And Ian MacPherson is really cool about it but he says: I want £400 for it.

“And Malcolm sent him £400 for the gag – or £200 or whatever it was. I dunno how much. But that story is the truth. And Ian MacPherson – of course – was gobsmacked.

“He’d been down to Malcolm’s club the week before and Malcolm had told him he would get paid £150 and only gave him £100 on the night. The sort of thing Malcolm usually did.

“But Malcolm paid Ian MacPherson for the gag… obviously because it was a great gag and he wanted to keep doing it forever.

“At Malcolm’s funeral, I opened the doors with the coffin behind me and I bellowed into the empty church: They say you play St Alfege’s twice in your career. Once on the way up. And once on the way down. It’s good to be back!… and then the whole procession came in and the audience filled the church.”

THERE IS MORE ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF THIS JOKE – INCLUDING IAN MACPHERSON’S VERSION OF WHAT HAPPENED – IN A BRITISH COMEDY GUIDE ARTICLE.

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Should all jokes have a ‘Sell By’ date?

Perhaps the simple cactus has a lesson for us all

Perhaps the simple cactus has a lesson for comics & for us all

In that strange dream-like world between sleep and waking this morning, I was thinking about comedians telling jokes.

This is never a good idea.

I thought that, like tomatoes and broccoli on supermarket shelves, perhaps there should be a Best By… date and a Sell By… date on all jokes.

After that, it would be illegal to expose the joke to the public.

But then I remembered a conversation I had with a man who sold flowers.

There was a Sell By… label stuck on each and every cactus in his shop.

“Do cacti actually go bad after a certain date?” I asked. “I thought they just went on year after year, surviving through drought and everything.”

“Yup,” said the flower shop owner.

From memory, he told me the European Parliament had passed a law that all cacti should have a two-year Sell By… date.

“After that,” he told me, “the law says I have to throw them away.”

“So what do you do with them if they pass their Sell By… date?” I asked the flower shop man.

“I peel off the Sell By… label on the cactus,” he told me, “and stick on a new one.”

That is not a joke. It actually happened. In European Parliamentary legislation, the dividing line between a joke and reality can be a spider’s web-thin one.

Maybe, though, some jokes should have a Best By... date and a Sell By… date.

On the other hand, some jokes are like cacti.

They can go on forever.

The connecting factor may be the involvement of little pricks.

In the world of cacti, pricks are essential.

In comedy, you cannot beat a good knob gag.

Having rationalised this, I turned over and happily went back to sleep.

Perhaps it was a mistake.

Not the turning over and going back to sleep.

The rationalising bit.

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Even when not writing about comedy there can be a gag on a daily blog

Gag gag

Last night, a comedian and his partner came up to my home in Borehamwood to have a meal with me and my eternally-un-named friend.

During the five hours he was was up here, the comedian must have told me at least – at the very least – five extremely bloggable stories (and several totally unprintable ones).

Stories like those are always best with direct quotes from the person and I always record them so the quotes are accurate. But I felt I could not say: “Oy! This sounds like it might be an interesting anecdote. Do you mind if I switch my iPhone on? Just hold it and tell the story into it.”

That would have (unjustly) made it seem that the only reason he was up having a meal with me was so I could extract some good blog material from him.

The balance between blog and relationships is not a difficult one.

The blog always has to lose out.

A pity in a way.

But not really.

Now, as for that story about Rupert Murdoch, the Bishop of Southwark and the badger with diarrhoea…

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If Bernard Manning had told these Jerry Sadowitz jokes, he might have been arrested – with good reason

(This blog was also published in the Huffington Post)

The comedian Jerry Sadowitz’s schtick is that he is highly offensive.

Last night, I saw his full-length stage show for the first time in a few years. The latest show is called Jerry Sadowitz: Comedian, Magician, Psychopath which, I think, pretty much covers all the angles – though it did not demonstrate any of the sheer genius of his actual magic act. He is a world class magician.

I have blogged before about Jerry’s early comedy career in the 1980s, how he was managed by the late Malcolm Hardee and how I produced a TV show in 1990 in which Jerry did not swear.

When I produced that show, Jerry spotted two lesbians in the audience (do not ask) and zeroed-in on them for particular comic attention. After the show, they were outraged and complained. Jerry was genuinely perplexed.

“They are just jokes,” he said, nonplussed.

My attitude was that, if you knowingly go to a Jerry Sadowitz show, you cannot complain afterwards about being offended. It is a bit like letting your small child watch Doctor Who and then complaining afterwards that he or she shat behind the sofa with fear.

That is almost the show’s raison d’être.

Doctor Who can sometimes scare the shit out of children.

Jerry Sadowitz’s comedy show is highly offensive.

The only reason to complain would be if Jerry were NOT offensive.

It was good to see last night that he can still go beyond highly offensive. All other so-called offensive comedians pale into insignificance compared to him. They are like a little pile of sugar four inches high in comparison to the Himalayas.

The two things which struck me last night were that he seems to be talking more about death than he used to. No surprise there, I guess. He is older. And, in among the bile and vitriol spewed at almost every target under the sun, there is an occasional unspeakable truth spoken.

I find it is always good for my blog to mention the late ‘old school’ comedian Bernard Manning because it annoys people. It is like saying “mint sauce” to a lamb.

If Bernard Manning had told almost any of the jokes Jerry told last night, people would have been even more outraged than the people who are currently retrospectively outraged by Manning’s live act although most of them never saw it.

If any other comic had told some of the jokes Jerry told last night, I think there is a high possibility he would risk being arrested.

And not without reason. Some of the Muslim jokes were so close to stirring racial hatred that there could be a nice philosophical discussion on where the line lies. Though, interestingly, some of the jokes were so unsettling because they said out loud some normally unsayable truths.

If comedy, like trouble, can be said to brew, Bernard Manning told comparatively mild gags. With Jerry, motormouthing for well over an hour at about three times the speed of any other comic, the gags are more bitter.

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Comedians are the arseholes of entertainment – from one who knows

I recently wrote a blog about fame which mentioned the music business and the comedy industry. It provoked an interesting response from Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing farter.

There is, of course, that famous old saying (usually credited to Janet Street-Porter) that “Comedy is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

Mr Methane’s view is:

“Comedy was not, is not and never will be on a par with rock ‘n’ roll stardom. You do not wake up in the morning humming a joke you heard fifteen years ago because a joke does not take you back in your mind those fifteen years – unless you a comedy trainspotter.

“Music finds pathways into a nation’s soul and gets very deeply rooted there. It is valued as a great work of art by those who listen to it.

“Comedy, though a very serious business and labour of love for the artist, is generally seen as nothing more than a throw-away laugh by the consumer.

Ringo Starr was not the only drummer in the Beatles – and, according to a joke by John Lennon, he wasn’t the best either – but let’s just say you have a choice between Ringo Starr and someone currently at the very top of the comedy tree coming round for dinner – maybe that Michael McIntyre bloke.

“It’s going go be Ringo Star every time for 90% of the British population. That is just how it is.

“We ain’t rock stars. We are the comedy arseholes of entertainment. In my case, literally.”

Is Mr Methane talking out of his arse (something he surprisingly rarely does) or clearing the air?

My thoughts are divided.

Comedians certainly rarely get respect as performing artists whereas singers do – although the increasing amount of money swilling around the upper, rarefied reaches of comedy success may be slowly changing that.

Nothing breeds admiration more than millions in the bank.

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The Sex Life of a Comedian is to be revealed by Lulu in print-on-demand

A week ago, I wrote a blog blatantly plugging the fact that Sit-Down Comedy, the 2003 anthology written by 19 comedians which I edited with the late Malcolm Hardee, is now available as an iBook from iTunes and in a Kindle edition.

I said two of the Sit-Down Comedy contributors were considering publishing print-on-demand books. Now a third tells me he, too, is doing the same thing. He is currently checking the proofs.

Dave Thompson co-wrote a very quirky short story for Sit-Down Comedy with Jim Tavare and tells me:  “I am about to publish my novel The Sex Life of a Comedian via Lulu.com after having fallen out with a ‘proper’ publisher.”

Dave explains: “It was what I witnessed at the London book launch of another comedian’s book that made me realise what a shambles I’d got involved with. And then I bought a copy of a book by another comedian I knew and it was bursting with errors. There were so many mistakes, it looked like it hadn’t been proof read…

“From what I hear from other people who get involved in publishing books, publishers rival comedy promoters for incompetence and greed.”

Dave is highly-original. He has written for Ben Elton (they have been friends since schooldays); ITV’s BAFTA Award winning series The Sketch Show with Jim Tavare; Harry Hill’s TV Burp; and, uncredited, for many other Big Name comics. He has even amazingly written for the newly-enobled (as-of today) Sir Bruce ForsythTime Out called Dave “one of the finest joke writers in the country”. But, to the public, he is mostly known for the Tinky Winky incident in 1997.

He played Tinky Winky (the purple one) in the world-famous children’s television show Teletubbies but was equally famously fired after American fundamentalist tele-evangelist Jerry Falwell warned parents that handbag-carrying Tinky Winky could be a hidden homosexual symbol, because “he is purple, the gay pride colour, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle: the gay pride symbol”. Ragdoll, the show’s British production company, decided that Dave’s “interpretation of the role was inappropriate” and sacked him.

In Kazakhstan, the Teletubbies are still banned by order of the president who considers Tinky Winky to be a pervert.

The Sex Life of a Comedian is about a stand-up comedian on the UK circuit who gets a job wearing a blue furry costume in a world-famous television show but then gets fired. The story involves drug-fuelled celebrity sex romps, the Mafia and wild parties aboard luxury yachts.

Well, at least no-one in the television or comedy worlds has to worry about it being autobiographical, then.

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How did spaghetti-juggling get into this year’s Edinburgh Fringe programme?

The ever-energetic comic Bob Slayer is looking after The Hive venue at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe for the Laughing Horse Free Festival and, back in January, he asked me if I wanted to do any chat-type shows based on my blog.

I had already arranged to stage a two-hour Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe.

So we arranged that I would precede this with four ‘talking head’ shows. Debates, but with comedians. I would chair the first two and doyenne of Edinburgh Fringe comedy reviewers Kate Copstick (a Malcolm Hardee Award judge) would chair the second two. The subjects seemed quite clear:

On Monday – “Comedians are psychopathic masochists with a death wish” – based on a blog I wrote which comedy industry website Chortle later used.

On Tuesday – “Racist or sexist jokes? It doesn’t matter if they’re funny!” – again based on a blog of mine which Chortle later printed.

On Wednesday –  “Have the Big Boys Fucked Up The Fringe?” about large promoters, producers and management agencies’ effect on the Fringe.

On Thursday – “Are Bono, Bob and the Big Boys Fucking Up The World?” about charity and aid money.

This was all OK until Copstick discovered, at the last moment, that she had to be in London for the final of ITV’s new reality TV series Show Me The Funny on the same days as her planned Fringe debates – and possibly rehearsing in London on the previous two days.

This happened a few days before the final Fringe Programme deadline, when the titles and billings had already been submitted.

I have always wanted to hear the introduction, “And now… a man juggling spaghetti…”

I would accept a woman. If you have a spare one, let me know.

But, if I could hear that introduction and then see someone do it, I could die happy and fulfilled.

Since the mid-1980s, when I was working on the LWT series Game For a Laugh, through series like The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross, I half-heartedly tried to find someone who could juggle cooked spaghetti for more than one minute. It appears it cannot be done. In the 1990s, I tried with the brilliant juggler Steve Rawlings, at which point, I gave up – If he can’t do it, no-one can do it, I thought – but it has always simmered away at the back of my mind.

So, on the basis that I could not think of anything better, I decided to hold the Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest – Year One (who knows if there will be a Year Two, but it sounds good) at the Laughing Horse Free Fringe venue which is exactly what it says in the name – Outside The Beehive – in Grassmarket for 45 minutes on the final Tuesday and Wednesday nights of the Edinburgh Fringe.

It should be messy and, if it rains, shambolically messy – a fitting tribute to Malcolm Hardee. But it might get a few pictures in the media and/or some word-of-mouth to plug the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on the Friday night. And I suspect I can get quite a few comics to wander along and take part as well as members of the public.

The submission has gone in to Guinness to see if – in the unlikely event someone can actually keep cooked spaghetti in the air for more than a minute – they would actually recognise spaghetti-juggling as a world record.

Now all I have to do is find somewhere to get large amounts of cooked spaghetti on two nights in Edinburgh in late August…

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