At the end of yesterday morning’s blog, I mentioned the surprisingly not-yet-legendary fact that comics Bob Slayer and Jeff Leach once, in British English, wanked into the face of an audience member at the Edinburgh Fringe.
I had heard before of this (in British English) wankathon, but not the fact that an audience member was involved.
Yesterday afternoon, coming out of The Grouchy Club, I accidentally bumped into Dave Chapple – not to be confused with American comic Dave Chappelle – Dave Chapple is the afore-mentioned wank-incident audience member who is, this year, trying to set a record by seeing 287 comedy shows at the Fringe.
This man’s face played a role in Fringe history
“I only have 45 seconds before my next show starts,” he told me.
“It’s all true, then?” I asked him. “The story about the wanking?”
“Do you remember any details about it?” I asked. “The texture?”
“The texture? Not really.”
“Could you not get out of the way?” I asked. “Surely it takes a little time if they’re on stage and you’re in the front row of the audience?”
“Not in Espionage,” he replied. “They were on a stage and I was on a stool.”
“A stool?” I asked.
“A stool. Carole was sat next to me and she was laughing her head off. I was just grateful I had my glasses on.”
Other oddities at the Fringe yesterday involved…
Among the audience at The Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon were Italian comics Giacinto Palmieri & Luca Cupani and young comic Jake Baker.
Last year, my Grouchy Club co-host Kate Copstick, doyenne of comedy critics, was judge on the Gilded Balloon’s highly-esteemed annual So You Think You’re Funny talent show at the Fringe.
She was also a judge on an unspeakably dire comedy talent show on ITV called Show Me The Funny which kept trying to pretend it was not a comedy talent show by having the contestants go out and milk goats or some other pointless task.
Well, I do not think they ever WERE asked to milk goats, but it felt like it. Copstick, clearly cast as the evil Simon Cowell judge, was the only decent part of the show.
I express my own opinion.
Do not confuse the awful Show Me The Funny with the excellent So You Think You’re Funny.
It was on the excellent So You Think You’re Funny show that Copstick saw young comic Jake Baker.
A couple of months ago, he asked if Copstick could give him some advice on his act. She suggested he come along to The Grouchy Club one afternoon in August and perform in front of other comics. They would give him their comments.
Evening Standard reports the death
At the start of yesterday’s Grouchy Club show, I mentioned that Robin Williams had died, apparently from suicide. Copstick had not heard.
“That’s one of the horrible things about the Fringe,” she said. “things happen in the world and you don’t hear. Thousands die in Syria. ISIS are chopping the heads off children and the most terrible thing here is when someone is given 3 stars instead of 4 in a review.”
In the last week, I have had two comics sharing emotional wobblies with me because they got 3-star reviews that, they believed, panned them. When I read the reviews myself, both were enthusiastic, complimentary reviews with good quotes which could justifiably be extracted to publicise the show. Both comedians got good reviews. Both thought they had got bad reviews.
Copstick said: “I remember, when I was a performer here, spending two weeks being devastated because somebody had written: The show was great. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And Kate Copstick was a revelation.
“I thought: Well, they obviously expected me to be shit! The word on the street must be that I’m rubbish! I went into a spin about that, but real things were happening in the real world.”
After the shock of hearing about Robin Williams’ apparent suicide, she said: “But, then, there are no well-balanced people who go into comedy. You cannot be happy, well-balanced, with proper friends and be a comedian. You have to be fucked-up in some way.”
Religious Luca Cupani (left) & non-believer Giacinto Palmieri
“I am quite happy,” said Luca Cupani.
“Come on,” said Giacinto Palmieri, “you believe in God. How fucked-up is that?”
“He’s so powerful he scares me,” said Luca.
“You’re Catholic?” asked Copstick.
“Well, there you are,” said Copstick. “You don’t get more fucked-up than being a practising Catholic.”
“That’s true,” said Luca.
“I shared a flat,” continued Copstick, “with a practising Irish Catholic and she was quite a badly-behaved girl. Every time we had an appalling, badly-behaved party, she ended up under three different guys with four different kinds of drugs and spent the next morning going: Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin!
“She would go down to Confession, come back and do exactly the same thing again and then go: Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin! It was virtually a split personality. Half of her was shagging as a main hobby and a way of life – she specialised in married men – Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin! – and the other half of her was devastated by the sin of it.”
“I am protected,” said Luca, “because I don’t have so many girls going down on me so far.”
“How long have you been a comic?” Copstick asked.
“Five months,” said Luca.
“Oh, it will come,” said Copstick. “Giacinto, tell him.”
“They don’t” Giacinto said. “At least, not to me.”
Jake Baker performed at The Grouchy Club
“I’ve had the same girlfriend since I was seventeen,” said 24-year-old Jake Baker.
“Wow!” said Copstick, shocked. “Seven years! That’s amazing!”
“There’s still plenty of time for him to ruin his life,” I said.
“You can’t be a comedian,” said Giacinto.”You’re not fucked-up enough.”
“Why do you want to be a comic?” asked Copstick.
“It looked like fun,” said Jake.
“For you or for the audience?” asked Giacinto.
“I quite liked stand-up when I was at university,” said Jake. “I thought I’d give it a go, I’ve enjoyed it so far, so I guess I’ll keep going as long as I enjoy it.”
“Why did you want to be a comedian?” Copstick asked Giacinto.
“Because I have things I want to say. I like to play with my mind.”
“That’s the other thing, isn’t it?” I said. “To get things out of your brain.”
“I think now,” Copstick said to Jake, “the danger for stand-up is that there are lots of guys around your age who don’t really want to be stand-up comics. They want to be famous and they want to be on TV and they probably want to host something ideally within the next 18 months. For the last few years I’ve been able to go and see clones who have not really got anything to say.
“I think the worst thing you can have in politics is a career politician – someone who has not had a life but who went to university to do politics and then become a politician’s assistant and then a politician. In the same way, there’s nothing worse than somebody who goes to a comedy workshop or class – and you can tell them a mile off. They’re doing it by numbers, because comedy is a secondary drive. The primary drive is fame and television.
“So I think you’re coming into comedy at an incredibly crowded time, which is bad news. But the good news is most of the crowd are shit.”
A helping hand held out in a comedic world
Just for the record, Jake was very good. Not perfect. But very promising.
As I finished writing this blog, a lady came up to the table I am sitting at in Fringe Central.
“Can I give you this?” she asked in a soft voice, handing me a card. “If you need anyone to talk to. I know it is not always easy for you guys.”
The card was from The Samaritans.
If only she knew.
If only she knew.
I had already had an e-mail from Lewis Schaffer.