Tag Archives: Harriet Kemsley

Jaw droppers of the Edinburgh Fringe

Lewis Schaffer Googles himself outside a mosque

Lewis Schaffer Googles himself near a mosque

“You should consider Lewis Schaffer for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for comic originality,” Lewis Schaffer told me yesterday. “I’m so original people are starting to imitate me.”

“No-one could imitate you,” I told Lewis Schaffer.

“Yeah, they’re starting,” said Lewis Schaffer, “I saw this young comic who said he had done 1,000 bad shows.”

“And was he,” I asked, “too young to have done that?”

“Well, I don’t know if he had done it. I’m not saying I am the only failure in town, but I think people are realising it’s very easy to be a success at being a failure because most comedians are failures. There is heavy competition for my spot as the premier failing comic in the business.”

“And for this reason,” I asked, “we should nominate you for the increasing prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for comic originality?”

“Well,” argued Lewis Schaffer, “when people come and see my show, they say: God! I’ve never seen anything like it. That means it’s original.”

Everyone has to have a publicity angle in Edinburgh.

For me, yesterday, it was worth seeing Cassie Atkinson & Oh Standfast (Graham Goddard)’s Comedy In Progress show simply for the reference to the great Dudley Sutton who has one of the great unpublished autobiographies, as evidenced by his 2003 and 2006 Fringe shows Killing Kittens and Pandora’s Lunchbox. Anyone who mentions Dudley Sutton is OK with me.

Giada with some cutting-edge Fringe comedy

Unflyered by Giada in Edinburgh yesterday

Then I bumped into Italian comic Giada Garofalo in the rain about 20 minutes before her show started. She had been feeling ill, it was raining quite heavily and she had done no flyering, so expected me to be the only member of her audience for Live in the Staff Room (Sex, Fairy Tales, Serial Killers and Other Stuff). The second half of the title is very commercial; the first half not-so much.

But people in the full-to-overflowing audience yesterday seemed to have come simply because of the word-of-mouth. There were people listening to the show from the corridor because they couldn’t fit in. One couple had been unable to get in the previous day (no room) so had come back again, determined to see it. They were not disappointed.

Then, on the way to check-out The Counting House Lounge for my Grouchy Club with Kate Copstick (which starts today), I bumped into Giada’s fellow-Italian Luca Cupani, who has got through to the final of the So You Think You’re Funny comedy competition.

Does this look like an Italian character? Luca Cupani

Does this look like an Italian character?

“It was unanimous,” Luca told me, “but one of the judges thought I might not be Italian. He said I looked like an Italian ‘character act’ though he admitted my accent was very good. I asked him: Why should I pretend to be Italian? I would not wish anyone to be Italian.”

“I have just seen Giada’s show,” I told him. “She got a full room and had not done any flyering.”

“Yesterday,” said Luca, “I flyered two tramps. I thought it would be kind to offer them to come see a free show on the BlundaBus. But they were smelling in a wonderful way. Sometimes poverty stinks. Then I thought, if they get on the bus, maybe the act on after me will be not so happy. Luckily, they were a little bit drunk and didn’t take the flyer.”

Then I saw Harriet Kemsley’s show Puppy Fat. Immediately afterwards, I texted someone:

Harriet Kemsley with an owl

Harriet Kemsley with a stuffed owl

Good grief! I just saw Harriet Kemsley’s show. I think the audience and I need counselling. Talk about suddenly changing the tone without warning! There was no hint of it coming. Mouths were open and jaws dropped. It was like a trapdoor suddenly opened.

Then I went to see Elf LyonsBeing Barbarella. I bumped into Kate Copstick by accident in the cafe next door to the Voodoo Rooms. She was going to see Elf too. There was a mystery girl manning the door of Elf’s room who recognised both of us (always unnerving). Under intensive grilling, she admitted she performed comedy “occasionally” and was taking part in an Edinburgh Fringe show, but refused to say who she was or what the show was.

“But it’s publicity,” I suggested to her.

“I like anti-publicity,” she said.

Kate Copstick (right) with an unknown

Kate Copstick (right) with an unknown girl

She has something to do with shadow puppetry. The first person to grass her up and tell me her name and the show’s name gets a copy of Malcolm Hardee’s increasingly prestigious but tragically out-of-print autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

Anyway…

Elf Lyons’ Being Barbarella: mesmerizing, barnstorming, hyper charismatic performance.

Then I saw The Story Beast (John Henry Falle)’s show – mesmerizing, barnstorming, hyper charismatic performance.

Yes, both mesmerizing, barnstorming, hyper charismatic.

In between, I went to the launch of Freestival’s new venues at the New Waverly Arches where I bumped into Nicole Harvey.

“I didn’t know you were doing a show up here,” I said.

“I was coming up for a jolly and to support mates anyhow,” she told me, “and was warmed up after the Brighton and Camden Fringes and I saw Freestival had a new venue, so I thought Why not? But I wasn’t expecting to have to wrestle my Gorgeous Gavin from a rough drunken Scottish girl.”

NicoleHarveyFreestival_CUT

Nicole Harvey with her Gorgeous Gavin

Part of Nicole’s show Delicious and Dateless involves an inflatable man.

“This girl actually wanted to start a fight with me over Gorgeous Gavin,” Nicole told me. “His rather extended protrusion had been modestly covered with boxers but she was carting him off flashing all in sight.”

I don’t normally give show time and date details because it means bugger all to people reading this blog in Paraguay or in three weeks or two years time but, in this case, Nicole is performing her show Delicious and Dateless at Freestival’s New Waverly Arches:

15th August: Arch 1 at 6:45pm

16th August: Arch 2 at 6:15pm

18th-22nd August: Arch 2 at 6:15pm

Welcome to an everyday story of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe fucked-up by the mess at Cowgatehead.

But the Fringe is all about surprises.

Chris Dangerfield in Thailand yesterday morning

Chris Dangerfield in his prime in Thailand

This morning, I texted comic Chris Dangerfield to ask if he was coming up to Edinburgh. He told me:

“Avalon asked me to do their Comedy Central shizzle This Is Not Happening.”

Well, that should be interesting, then…

Chris Dangerfield is not Mr Mainstream Showbiz.

I asked if I could mention it in my blog.

“Of course,” he replied. “Just say …with Fringe big hitters like Chris Dangerfield not doing a show this year… or …with Chris Dangerfield successfully bribing me with drugs for copy this year…”

It is all about publicity. It is all about self-promotion.

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Enthusiastic UK comedy with the dead Malcolm Hardee and a new Chris Rock

Charlie Chuck backstage at Weirdos last night

Charlie Chuck backstage last night

I went to Adam Larter’s very aptly named Weirdos Comedy Club in the East End of London last night with comedian Charlie Chuck, who donned his new-ish PVC suit for the performance at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

It’s no wonder Weirdos and Bethnal Green are much talked about. Equally odd Holly Burn was on the bill (“one to watch in 2013” said the Independent) plus Lee Kern as four-letter one-man band British Pasta plus 2011 Edinburgh ‘Best Newcomer’ Daniel Simonsen and 2011 Edinburgh ‘Best Newcomer’ Thom Tuck.

“Will there be any TV talent scouts around?” a friend asked me.

“No,” I said. “Too trendy for TV people.”

Which demonstrates what I know.

Because, after the show, I bumped into Polly McGirr, TV producer for Princess Productions and Managing Director of Up The Creek Management.

People tend to assume that Malcolm Hardee, the late godfather of British Alternative Comedy, owned his Up The Creek comedy club. In fact, the money was put up by three brothers – I like to call them The Brothers – and he initially owned an equal 25% in return for handling the creative side of the club.

Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich

Up The Creek club could have been named Jools’ or Malcolm’s

I think at one early stage Jools Holland was going to invest in the club but decided not to and, at one point, the club was going to be simply called Malcolm’s but it was decided (oddly, I think) that it sounded too ‘Essex’.

Polly McGirr is the daughter of one of The Brothers and is wildly enthusiastic about comedy.

I was quite exhausted just hearing her enthusiasm.

“You remember Malcolm?” I asked.

“I remember the club that night,” she said.

“What night?”

“The night of his funeral. I remember all the acts getting on stage. I remember Jools Holland, Jo Brand and the naked balloon dance being performed and I remember when I was small Malcolm sweeping the stage. Whenever there was a shit act he…”

“You used to watch shows from the sound booth, didn’t you?” I asked, foolishly interrupting what could have been a good anecdote.

That’s what happens in snatched conversations.

“I’m so passionate about Up The Creek and I love it so much,” Polly enthused to me. “I remember being so young and my dad and my uncles allowing me to watch this comedy brilliance and seeing guys like Terry Alderton and Charlie Chuck. Brilliant, brilliant guys I adore so much now and Malcolm introducing new acts by saying Could be good. Could be shit. Fuck it! 

“On my 13th birthday, I remember going to the opening night of the Willesden club (there was briefly an Up The Creek offshoot there) and I remember Malcolm coming out and my mum screeching Noooo! He’s naked!

“And now you’re managing director of Up The Creek Management,” I said.

“Oh,” Polly explained. “I just do the new talent stuff. I love the weekends at Up The Creek. There’s no other place like it. That spirit of Malcolm is still there.”

“And Sundays…” I prompted.

“They’re done by Will, Jane’s son (Malcolm’s stepson). It’s brilliant. I love Sundays. They’re amazing. But Thursdays is now New Talent night. It’s either established acts trying out new material or it’s brand new guys and it’s still the same thing – Could be good. Could be shit. You never know.

Polly McGirr enthuses after the Weirdos show last night

Polly McGirr enthuses after the Weirdos show last night

“People are always saying to me: Why don’t you vet acts before they go on stage on a Thursday? But I say No. It HAS to be open mic: the idea that a crowd will never know who’s going to come on next. Could be good, Could be shit. You just don’t know.”

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

“Three years. And I love it. It’s my home. Really. Seriously. It’s ridiculous, but I love the club so much.”

“So how,” I asked, “did you get an interest in comedy? Just cos you were hanging around it so much? Because The Brothers’ background is not actually showbiz. They’re – what are they? – property magnates?”

“For a long time,” explained Polly, “I wasn’t really doing much about the club, because I’d been around it for so long… But now I work in television and, because I love the club so much, I thought What I really want to see is new talent back here and being established back here and I love shuffling through all the crazy acts to find a gem that you adore. When you feel that buzz and there’s a real mix of different types of acts.”

“And it crosses over with your television work,” I said.

“Yeah,” Polly agreed. “So now I can take acts from the club and put them on TV. Recently, we’ve taken two guys who I first met at the Up The Creek open mic nights and they’re on CBBC as Britain’s first black comedy double act – Johnny Cochrane and Inel Tomlinson. I first met them at the Open Mic and thought THAT is what it’s all about! Either side of them were insane acts and you saw their brilliance.”

“But people,” I suggested, “say television doesn’t like or want original comedy; it just does the same thing over and over again.”

“We’ve got Johnny Cochrane and Inel Tomlinson on screen.” countered Polly. “It took two years to get them on telly, but it has been the most amazing time to establish them. We’re not very good at doing it in the UK – cool comedy – until now. And I really believe there’s great female comedy out there as well.

“I really love Harriet Kemsley. What I love about her is it’s really, really ballsy. When she does a really aggressive joke, it’s brilliant, so beautifully written.

Dane Baptiste - the new Chris Rock?

Up The Creek: Dane Baptiste, a new Chris Rock?

“But the new act you HAVE to see is Dane Baptiste.

“For me, he takes every brilliant element of the urban (black) circuit and he does what acts usually can’t do in the UK which is cross over from urban comedy to mainstream comedy. He is Chris Rock to me.”

Dane Baptiste is already signed with Polly’s Up The Creek Management, but it is unusual to see even a comedy manager let alone a TV person so enthusiastic, I had to go home, lie down and recover.

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