Tag Archives: Harry Deansway

Lovely Laura Lexx and pig-faced Joz Norris: comics who won’t tell me things

Laura Lexx

“Why is this going to be your first Edinburgh Fringe show?” I asked comedian Laura Lexx yesterday.

“Because I’ve never wanted to do one before.”

“What’s it called?”

Lovely.”

“What’s it about?’

“It’s about not really having any problems to write an Edinburgh show about, because my dad’s not dead and I don’t come from a shit-hole with a high pregnancy rate. So I can’t write the usual Edinburgh Fringe debut show jokes about being from a chavvy area.”

“No heroin, rape or other traumatic personal stories at all?” I asked.

Laura Lexx. Is the cup half full or empty?

Laura his week – Do you see the cup half full or half empty?

“Never happened to me,” lamented Laura. “My parents are still together; they don’t have a regional accent that’s hilarious; and I don’t look like the love child of anybody and anybody else. So, in Fringe terms, I don’t have anything to write about. My show is really about being quite happy and being quite fortunate. I feel like I’m breaking all the Fringe rules.”

“So instead?” I asked.

“It’s about comparing my life either to other people in the world or to animals and realising that whatever is kind of difficult for me is really not much to complain about if you put it into context.”

Laura and I then talked at length about some of the content of her show.

“But,” she then said, “you can’t talk about that bit in your blog. Because the whole show hinges on that, although you can mention me shitting myself at Disneyland in Paris. Then I meet a tiny bird that has an even harder love life than me. You can talk about the tiny bird. Do you want to see the poster?”

“Can I mention the poster in the blog?”

“Yes”.

Laura Lexx poster with the flying whale cut off

Laura Lexx poster with the flying whale cut off for no reason

“Can I say what your name is?”

“Yes.”

“Look,” said Laura. “The poster has penguins, owls and a killer whale.”

“A killer whale?” I asked. “Where?”

“There.”

“Oh yes,” I said. “It is a very small killer whale and it is flying. Lovely.”

“Yes,” said Laura.

“Why is there an airborne killer whale on the poster?” I asked.

“Because sometimes I talk about killer whales.”

“In the show?”

“No.”

“The poster says you are sponsored by Imodium, the relief for diarrhoea.”

“Yes. Because of my story about pooping myself at Disneyland. And because I talk about irritable bowel syndrome.”

“Is that,” I asked, “not going against the general flow of happiness in the show?”

“There is,” said Laura, “no ‘against the flow’ when you have irritable bowel syndrome. I do have IBS but, when you put that up against something like leukaemia or brittle bone disease…

“… or being French…” I suggested.

“I like France,” said Laura.

“Are there songs in the show?” I asked.

“No.”

“How am I going to write a blog about this?” I asked. “Are you absolutely sure you have never been addicted to heroin or run off to Syria to be a member of ISIS?”

“Sorry, no… I even like my mother,” lamented Laura.

There was a long pause, then Laura brightened up.

Laura Lexx at the Comedians’ Cricket Match in 2011

Laura at the Comedians’ Cricket Match in 2011

“l tell you,” she said. “Here you go… Here’s something… I’ve finished writing my novel – it’s taken four or five years and, as soon as I get back home from the Fringe, we’re filming a taster scene of it, so I’ve got a cast together to do a 5-minute preview and I’m working on the pilot for a sitcom pitch and then I’m gonna do a radio equivalent for it. That’s probably going to take up my main focus after the Fringe.”

“Why didn’t you mention this before?” I asked.

“I forgot.”

“You forgot?”

“I forgot.”

“What is the novel about?”

“It’s about the end of the world, but nobody has died.”

“Surely,” I said, “the end of the world, by definition, involves a certain amount of collateral damage?”

“You would think so,” said Laura. “Except it turns out not to be the end of the world. It is just that Jesus has paused things in this particular village, because it needs work.”

“But,” I said, “I am guessing I can’t mention this because that’s the end of the novel?”

“It’s the beginning of the novel,” said Laura. “It’s about a hapless group of West Country villagers who are dealing with the end of the world… And then Jesus turns up and has to try and fix things before the Devil wins.”

“Is the Prophet Mohammed involved?” I asked.

“No.”

“There could be publicity value in it,” I suggested.

Laura Lexx insisted on the teapot shot - nothing to do with me

Laura Lexx suggested this teapot shot – nothing to do with me

“He might be in the illustrations,” Laura mused.

“There are illustrations?” I asked.

“No. But if you want to do any… I am looking for a publisher.”

That conversation took place yesterday at the Soho Theatre Bar in London.

Today in the Soho Theatre, I talked to comedian Joz Norris.

Joz Norris (left) in Shambles

Joz Norris (left) shows acting talent in Shambles, Series 2

“The reason I got in touch with you,” he explained, “was to mention the Shambles web series that I’m in. “Harry Deansway made it. He told me: Plug it, Joz. Get people to see it.” And I thought I would talk to you about it, because you are increasingly prestigious. So I told Harry: Good news, Harry, I’m going to talk to the increasingly prestigious John Fleming about it. And Harry immediately banned me from saying anything about it. He says he doesn’t want any discussion of it at all.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Harry says he doesn’t want any spoilers. He says he thinks there is too little mystery in comedy these days. He says everyone’s so busy trying to plug everything and reveal all the secrets going on in it, it spoils the product. He says I can mention it and ask people to watch it, but you are not allowed to say anything about it.”

“About what?” I asked.

“You can’t trick me into talking about it,” said Joz. I think I am allowed to tell you the title Shambles and then hopefully people will just Google that. But Harry insists there should be no actual discussion of it at all. So the main thing you and I were going to chat about I am not allowed to.

Jox Norris trying to please everyone all of the time

Jox Norris tries to please everyone all the time

“Harry also said he was sad I had not recommended a show of his in a Q&A I did with the British Comedy Guide, so I thought maybe we could just talk about Harry’s show instead. That way, I’m still helping him out and giving him some good buzz, but I am not spoiling the secrets of his web series that he doesn’t want spoiled.”

“So what are you doing at the Edinburgh Fringe in two weeks?” I asked.

“I’m doing a show called Hey Guys!”

“If,” I said, “we are not going to talk about your web series and we’re not going to talk about your Edinburgh show…”

“Why can’t we talk about my Edinburgh show?”

“We have already, haven’t we?”

“Not really.”

“OK,” I said. “What are the forty words that sell it in the Fringe Programme?”

“I think it says something about being a pig-rat. The children I work with call me Pig-Rat.”

“Why?”

Joz displays his nostrils

Joz proudly displays allegedly porcine nostrils

“I have the nose of a pig – I have quite flared nostrils – and I have quite a weird, ratty mouth. But what I don’t like about my face is the combination of my mouth and my eyes. I think it’s jarring.”

“If,” I asked, “you have the nose of a pig and the mouth of a rat, where are your eyes from?”

“I have my dad’s eyes.”

“Which one of us is going to say it?” I asked.

“What?”

When does your dad want them back?

“Oh,” said Joz, “that will be one of the witty quips you throw into your blogs.”

There was a pause.

“It’s a very good show,” said Joz.

“What is?” I asked.

Joz’s Edinburgh poster image

Joz apparently has cheeks which are over-sensitive to lights

Hey Guys!,” said Joz.

“Have you seen it?” I asked.

“I filmed a preview and then I watched that… I admit I have not seen it live.”

“Are you going to see it live?”.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to because, every time I’m performing it, I’m always tied-up working and can’t get time off to be in the audience.”

“It is one of the eternal crosses a performer has to bear,” I said.

“I suppose so,” said Joz.

“Do you want another tea?” I asked.

“Not really,” said Joz. “Shall we just have a chat, as I can’t talk about anything?”

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Edinburgh Fringe financing – was yesterday the tip of a deeper iceberg?

Bob scarred himself by falling down his own trapdoor

Bob Slayer scarred & maligned by yesterday’s caption

My blog yesterday was about a Facebook spat between comedy people Harry Deansway and Bob Slayer on the subject of free and pay-in-advance shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I captioned a photo of Bob Slayer with the words: Comic Bob Slayer has some issues with Harry Deansway, triggering this comment from Bob himself:

I have issues with this line “Comic Bob Slayer has some issues with Harry Deansway”. I don’t have any real issues with Harry.

He puts across a perfectly valid opinion – the pay-to-play venues suit some acts and some shows perfectly and Harry obviously had a thoroughly lovely time at the Fringe…

I feel that in the past the large venues tried to marginalise independent venues – but we have successfully redressed the balance and now there is a place for everyone at the Fringe. I think the big venues will need to offer small productions and comedy better deals and they will increasingly move into big production and theatre where their deals have more justification. But Tom Binns, who is possibly the smartest man at the Fringe, had a show with the Pleasance (Ian D Montfort) and a show with us (Ivan Brackenbury and others) – This worked really well for both shows helping each other out. We coordinated the promotion campaigns and Tom had a wonderful Fringe with literally the best of both worlds.

As for Harry’s rudeness which some people have pointed out, well that is just an exaggerated stance as part of his Harry character act. It’s beautiful really and maybe he is the funniest thing in comedy.

Sonny Hayes

Sonny Hayes triggered an unexpected response

When performer Sonny Hayes then commented on the blog: Gotta say, Bob Slayer wins the debate hands down, Bob replied:

Thank you Sonny but I don’t really want to win this debate… See what Harry is doing for whatever reason is attempting to polarise the debate. It’s them or us. This is divisive, negative and dated.

The Independent Fringe doesn’t need defending anymore – a couple of years ago I was very frustrated that the industry, media and acts believed the line that you had to be in one of the big venues to get noticed – However this year has really proved that is not the case. OK, some people still don’t get this but that is fine.

There is a place for everyone now and we can leave discussion about bad deals and pay-to-play to go on in the board rooms of the big venues and agents who need to decide if they want to offer better deals for low production shows and comedians OR if they want to continue to move into higher production and theatre shows where their deals have more justification.

Now that we have an extremely viable independent set up it doesn’t really matter what other people are up to – we can just carry on and have fun. There are more than enough acts who want to join us in this now and we can continue to explore smart ways to make the Fringe and comedy industry work.

Meanwhile, over on Facebook, comedian Mandy Dassa commented:

Mandy Dassa

Mandy Dassa was a bit shocked by the ego one-upmanship

Aside from all the ego one-upmanship, which clouded the actual point of this debate, we need to thank Bob Slayer for creating hype for the free/pay what you want Fringe and giving it the creditability it deserves.

We do need ‘the Big 4’ with its advertising and big purple cows and the like (if anything just to decorate the city of Edinburgh in bright colours) but, let’s put this straight right now, unless you are a massive comic you are being taken for a ride financially (if not by a venue then by your promoter pushing you to spend) – It’s not fair to cash in on people’s dreams so shamelessly.

Maybe all this debate and ranting may shake the big venues to lower their prices for acts and give the Fringe a bit of unity with its ticket prices. All I heard all summer was good things about Heroes (Bob Slayer’s venues) – We should be glad someone is expanding on the already genius idea of Free Fringe. Pay what you want/cheap tickets in advance was always going to be the natural move and well done Bob for making that happen.

Harry, I love ur ass, I laughed and laughed when I saw your show, but not all of us can afford to lose thousands of pounds in the name of performing in a venue like the Pleasance and people like Bob have given us broke comics a platform to bring our goods to Edinburgh without having to sell our grandmas!

There was another comment on Facebook – from Adrienne Truscott who, at this year’s Fringe, won both the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality and the panel prize from what used to be the Perrier Awards for her show staged at Bob Slayer’s Bookshop venue. Now back in New York, she wrote:

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott’s multi-award winning show: Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else!

Thanks for keeping this most necessary conversation alive. And to Bob Slayer for trying something new that seemed to work very well. Everyone I shared our venue with seemed genuinely happy and supported not only by our venue people, Bob and Miss Behave, but also by the model, the press and one another.

It’s hard to imagine any artist being angry about new models and paradigms emerging, fiscal or otherwise, for presenting art. Of the many Fringes I’ve done with many houses (3 of the Big 4), this was by far my most successful by any stick you use to measure.

Choosing Bob’s Bookshop and this model allowed me to bring a new and rough-around-the edges show to the Fringe to work on it in terms I could live with, without pretending that I was presenting a completely finished show to a paying audience and without the stress of paying more than I can afford at the top or thinking of my audience in terms of money made back, but rather as interested parties whose presence and energy every night helped change and improve my show, which is the main reason I brought it to the Fringe.

As it became popular and hard to get in to, the Heroes model swung into full effect and worked organically the way ‘the free market’ as I understand it says it will. Also, when it became successful I did not have a vulture of a venue runner suddenly laying claim to it as it suited him, but rather a supporter and friend who continued to evolve ideas about how to do things as the season went along. I reckon entertaining new models can make you sharper about how and why you make your own art too. It may depend on what kind of show you’re doing and what kind of audience you are after and, for some, the Big 4 may be an appropriate fit.

I knew for my show I needed to be able to retain control over how it was presented, how the room felt etc. and I was allowed that freedom. It would be hard to argue that going with the costs and demands of one of the Big 4 would allow an independent artist to bring a new work to the Fringe without getting gutted financially. Also, this conversation doesn’t even dip in to the longstanding problem of some of those bigger houses failing to pay, on time or indeed at all, the artists that have filled their houses working every single night, a far dodgier conversation…

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Edinburgh spat between Bob Slayer and Harry Deansway over free Fringe shows

Harry suggested I shoot him next to a rubbish bin last week

Harry suggested I shoot him next to a rubbish bin in Soho

On Facebook over the last couple of days, there was a bit of a mini-ding-dong… between Harry Deansway (former editor of comedy magazine The Fix turned stand-up comic) and stand-up comic turned promoter Bob Slayer.

It started when Harry wrote an online piece giving his thoughts about this year’s Edinburgh Fringe which, he said, were written “to generate discussion about issues that will affect the future of the Fringe.” He added: “I’m not trying to piss anyone off, that is apart from Bob Slayer,” whom he called a “fanatic self publicist and cheap Fringe zealot.”

Below are edited highlights of the spat from Facebook. Who knows what the copyright is on such things? In my opinion, on Facebook, everything is either in the public domain or possibly owned either by Facebook or by the NSA and GCHQ.

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

Comic Bob Slayer has some issues with Harry Deansway

To explain some background… At the Edinburgh Fringe, audiences pay to see some shows. Others come under the banner of either the PBH Free Fringe or the Free Festival and, this year, Bob Slayer added an extra ‘pay-what-you-want’ layer where, at his two Heroes of Fringe venues (which were included in the Free Festival), you could either turn up for shows and get in free if there were seats available OR pay £5 in advance to guarantee a seat.

Harry Deansway’s piece basically pushed the line that:

“Ultimately giving shows away ‘free’ is damaging the long term sustainability of the Fringe… First of all, it is not free either for the performer or the audience. For the performer, both Free Fringe and Free Festival have administration fees in some form or another. For the audience, it is not free, as a bucket is forced in your face at the end of the show for you to donate money to the performer. Maybe a better name, not in breach of the Trade Descriptions Act, would be the Cheap Fringe? As a result, Fringe acts on the paid Fringe can’t compete.”

Below is some of the to-and-fro on Facebook in reaction to Harry’s piece:

______________________________________________________

BOB SLAYER: You have got your facts wrong in the first sentence – Adrienne Truscott was not in the Free Fringe in either sense – i.e. the PBH Free Fringe – or the wider ‘Free shows at the Fringe’. She was of course part of Heroes’ pay what you want or buy a ticket in advance – the show was hot and so if you didn’t buy a ticket after the first couple of days you wouldn’t get in. I had several journalists interview me and ask if they could call it Free Fringe as it would suit their agenda – and I said No, call it what it is.

HARRY DEANSWAY: Yes Bob you are part of the “Cheap Fringe”. I state this quite clearly in the second paragraph. You and your journalist friends can call it the Free Fringe, Heroes or Pay What You Want, however you want to market it.

BOB SLAYER: It’s terribly written! I mean I agree with much of what you are saying Mr Harry but you have let the fact that I enjoy mocking you at every opportunity cloud your judgement – you have totally failed to understand that it is not a case of Paid Fringe v Free Fringe (or Cheap Fringe as you quite rightly call it) – we moved on from that debate 2 Fringe Festivals ago.

The important consideration (which you do discuss but miss where the change is coming from) is Good Deals v Bad deals. Pay-to-Play is a terrible basis for a deal. 60/40 is also a shitty deal – add them together and you have a really terrible shitty deal – all it does is push up ticket prices as shows have to charge more to even stand a chance of breaking even.

The Free Fringe is a symptom of the shitty Pay-to-Play not a cure – shows and punters demanding a cheaper, more creative alternative – the Pay-to-Play reaction to this has not been to offer better deals but to offer worse and worse deals – this has created a gaping void between both models and is increasingly driving the new and more innovative comedians towards the Free model. They know it is not ideal and so these independent thinking acts have explored other ways around the problem.

At this year’s Fringe, Heroes launched a new model that bridges the gap between paid and free. (The Edinburgh Fringe is a unique scenario where we needed to innovate to compete with the big venues and their bad deals)

We called it Pay What You Want – ‘Free’ shows that you can buy tickets for to guarantee entry.

This means ‘hot’ shows sell out and quickly become paid shows. But shows that are still finding their audience can let people in on a Pay What You Want on the way out basis so there are few empty shows.

Our Pay What You Want model is simply a more honest version of both models. Free shows are not really Free – and most paid shows have to give away tickets to find an audience – so why not admit this? Because once you do admit it then you get huge benefits: the risks associated with promoting a show reduce drastically, the amount of unnecessary marketing spend you need reduces drastically. In short, the economics of the Fringe change drastically in favour of the artist.

All our shows made money at the Fringe, (there are only two other promoters – both independent – who can claim this). Also some shows made significant money – something I am very proud of and will continue to develop… Now if the Pay-to-Play venues would adopt this model the Fringe would be full of spirit once more…

HARRY DEANSWAY: Bob. Have you thought about re-branding Heroes as Bob’s Discount Fringe? I think you would come across really well in one of those late night cheap infomercials. Happy to continue this discussion when you (a) stop misusing the term Pay to Play and (b) actually state the facts of what deals the big four operate not the deals you make up to promote your own agenda.

BOB SLAYER: Nice one Mr Harry – but again terribly written! It doesn’t matter how much the tickets cost – but how much the artist sees – We were selling tickets for £5 and our acts saw all of that if they were producing the shows themselves or 70% if we produced the shows. Shows in Pay-to-Play venues actually see 60% of fuck all because they never cover their costs. Oh one of our shows on Heroes was £500 per ticket – the most expensive on the Fringe – and sold out all 4 shows – they sold 100% of that.

OK so we all know you got a better deal than most at the Pleasance – super – acts should not accept shitty deals and so well done for setting a good example… But whatever deal you got it was because they needed to fill a slot created by an act dropping out after the registration deadline. They simply needed to fill the slot – fortunately they got the best man for the job…

But the fact remains that the basic deals at these venues are appalling – and demands that acts need to pay money before the Fringe starts… £3,000, £5,000, £8,000 depending on what size room that they go into. The details of how they work out guarantees are public on their websites.

Of course extras and marketing costs are extra and can vary greatly – There are many acts who have given the facts of their deals. Tiernan Douieb didn’t go up this year – but his deal last year meant if he sold out all his tickets he would only lose £4,500.

The big venues have sold these shitty deals by pedalling the myth that you have to be in one of the big venues to get noticed. This year proved that was completely wrong. In fact you were less likely to get noticed in a big venue this year. How many reviewers did you get Harry? How many awards? It’s hard isn’t it and now that reviewers and awards are no longer giving preference to the Pay-to-Play venues (because the quality in independent venues is so high) it is equally hard for everyone – unless you are really good – like what (award-winning) Adrienne Truscott and John Kearns both were.

You know this. But it seems that you enjoy preaching to the ignorant by telling them what they want to hear. You are still banging that out-of-tune drum promoting the emperors new clothes after most people have seen that he is naked. Which makes you like a hilariously coiffeured TV evangelist.

HARRY DEANSWAY: Bob. I’m not going to enter into a discussion when you keep making things up and misusing the phrase Pay to Play. It’s pointless.

BOB SLAYER: Would you like to debate what Pay to Play is then? Here is how I see it:

Pay to Play is when a venue or promoter takes money off an act prior to them performing – usually with some system where they might be able to make that money back through people through the door / ticket sales. Underbelly, Pleasance, Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Just The Tonic all charge acts various amounts (in the thousands) to play in their venues for the month of August – and then offer the acts a shitty deal (60/40 at best) on trying to cover those charges – which few of them do.

Anyway sorry that you had such a shitty Fringe Mr Harry – I hope you come around and see that there is a much more fun and interesting way to do the Fringe – come and join the spirit of the Fringe x

HARRY DEANSWAY: What do you think the “big four” spend the 40% they take on?

BOB SLAYER: You tell me what they spend it on? Building huge temporary bars that make them the real cash? Promoting mixed bill shows that also make them cash and suck tickets from their real shows? Sending their kids to Eton?

What I can tell you is that it is not necessary for them to charge such shitty deals – and what is more – as more and more acts find alternatives elsewhere and leave the Pay-to-Play venues – then they will be forced to change how they operate / what they offer.

They will either be forced to offer comedians and other low production acts better deals.

Or, as we have already seen them doing, they will move out of comedy into shows requiring larger production where these deals originated and have more justification. I suspect we will see both happening

It’s all very exciting watching the Fringe move towards a more interesting place – something that independent promoters such as the Free Fringe(s) and now Heroes have made happen.

HARRY DEANSWAY: You had a bar in Bob’s Bookshop. Did the acts you promoted get a cut of that or did you get it all on top of the 30% you were already taking from them as a promoter? Sounds like what you would call Pay to Play to me.

Also you are going on about your deal like it’s amazingly better, it’s 10% better and considering your venue was so tiny and were only charging £5, relative to your interpretation of the Big Four’s deal yours really is not that great. In fact relatively speaking it’s probably worse than the Big Four’s.

Also can I just clarify your ticketing policy. You charge if a show becomes successful ? But the unsuccessful ones are “free?” Why do you not charge for all shows, do you think some are lesser quality than others?

I don’t know what they spend the 40% on but at a guess I would say maintaining the infrastructure of the venues to make it the best it can be for performers and audience alike.

BOB SLAYER: As you know you are looking at the percentages all wrong in order to add confusion where it doesn’t need to be… We price our tickets so that they sell without huge inefficient marketing costs (This year we went with a fixed price of £5)

That means the acts that we produced on a 70/30 split saw 70% of their ticket income = £3.50 per ticket pretty much from the first ticket – We also offered acts the option to self produce their shows and take 100% of their ticket = £5 per ticket – the majority of our acts opted for self production

Whereas the costs are set so high on the pay-to-play venues that the 60/40 split hardly come into play and so acts in their venues see roughly the square root of fuck all from each ticket sold.

HARRY DEANSWAY: I think you’ve had quite enough airtime now Bob and as usual it’s all been spent promoting yourself. The article is about the Fringe in general not Bob Slayer or for that matter Harry Deansway. Your opinions are laid out in detail in these comments so anyone who can be bothered reading this thread can make their own mind up now.

BOB SLAYER: Hey Mr Harry – so you do want a discussion? And now you don’t want a discussion? If you weren’t so accidentally funny then it would really hurt my feelings x

SALLY WESTERN: I am confused as to why Bob has to justify himself to Harry Deansway.. ? I’m scared..

BOB SLAYER: Ha ha – it was a nice exercise – I am currently writing up a piece about the Fringe – and ‘justifying to Harry Deansway made me realise that I need to simplify the intro somewhat in order to explain it to those that are ignorant of Fringe ways… Or in case of Harry, those that just like to be contrary and blindly support the underdog.

Harry has quite rightly spotted that the independent is no longer the dog that is regularly kicked and so he has withdrawn his support of it in favour of the poor folks behind the beleaguered Pay-to-Play venues… He is a noble and charitable man.

HARRY DEANSWAY: Congratulations on learning to write Bob! If you could just add reading to the pantheon of your abilities which include getting your penis out on stage and getting dressed in the morning I might start to take what you say seriously.

I’m glad that something I wrote honed into perspective what it is you are doing, it reminds me of the time when I told you to drop alternative from your marketing materials. Best of luck with the Cheap Fringe. (You can have that name for free, £5 if it becomes popular)

BOB SLAYER: But Harry isn’t it lovely that we both are thinking similar things about “cheaper Fringe”… www.cheaperfringe.co.uk

OK your idea is cynical and negative and has come on the back of what seems to have been quite a tough and challenging experience for you at the Fringe. And my “cheaperfringe” experience has been something I have been involved in for a couple of years and is about getting the Fringe to give something back to local residents and making the Fringe a more positive and happy place – but it is uncanny how we think alike x

HARRY DEANSWAY: Not at all, I had a great Fringe. My show sold out, had some lovely audiences, made some money and I wrote and performed a show I was really proud of. I even got a five star review. My article is objective, you should try and write something objectively. All you do is talk about yourself.

BOB SLAYER: I also talk about you Harry – with everyone I meet – I know your comments about me are merely joshing and I love you with an intensity that knows no limits x

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The vicar, the talking penis and the Edinburgh venue which restricts acts

Dave Thompson (centre) the fake vicar

Dave Thompson (centre) as the fake vicar at the TV wedding

In yesterday’s blog, comedy actor Dave Thompson mentioned in passing that he had recently been “a fake vicar at a TV executive’s wedding.”

Obviously, I wanted to know more.

“Well, basically,” Dave told me, “a senior person at Channel 5 (she works in digital sales and is not directly involved in production) wanted to have a ‘different’ sort of wedding.  The couple approached Geoff Whiting of Mirth Control comedy agency, who thought I was best suited to the job.  He had seen me playing an insane killer attacking and fighting Harry Hill in Harry’s recent live show Sausage Time.

“I met the couple at the wedding venue in Surrey. There was a minstrels’ gallery at the back of the room and a kitchen to the side of the ‘stage’ area, where the ceremony would take place. We decided I should pretend to be a vicar and they liked my suggestion that the caterers should make a lot of noise in the kitchen, prompting me to have an argument with them.

“The couple were married in secret the day before, so all 150 guests including the best man thought I was a real vicar, until the end of the ceremony.

“It started normal, then I quoted some extreme passages from the Old Testament about adultery and death.

“I adapted a normal wedding script, putting some of my own material in it:

Mark, you are a very handsome young man. Emily, you are an exceptionally attractive young woman. I am going to ask you both in turn to declare that you are free to marry one another. I hope that you will share a marital bed and perhaps, as dawn lights up the garden of the house you will one day be able to afford (preferably in a nice area), Emily’s slumbering leg will brush against Mark’s leg. This will lead to caresses and the flowing of conjugal juice.  Emily, may perfect milk abound from your perfect bosoms. And one day, may that milk of kindness mature into the cheese of wisdom.

Dave’s vicar garb, including axe and optional animal sacrifice

Dave’s vicar garb, including axe and optional animal sacrifice

“When I stripped off to my purple Lycra leotards and tights (custom made for my appearance in Ben Elton’s feature film Maybe Baby) and did a fertility dance down the aisle, the congregation started to wonder if, perhaps, I was not a real vicar. I danced provocatively and put my leg over the balustrade.

“I then produced an axe and sacrificed a small animal (cuddly toy) for their abundance. I qualified this by saying I’d just returned from several years serving in rural Africa, and had been influenced by their rituals.

“At the end of the performance, the bride and groom walked down the aisle and out of the wedding barn as if the ceremony had been completely normal.

“The couple paid me a very good fee and I hope to get more work like this, as it’s easier than stand-up and had a massive impact on the 150 people in the congregation – though I had to keep it fairly clean in case I offended any of the older people there.”

So there you have it: a blatant attempt by a stand-up comedian to tout for more work.

But he is not as desperate as Harry Deansway.

In other news, yesterday I got an e-mail from Harry, the publicity-hungry publisher-turned-comedian:

Harry the performer - as he wants to be seen

I ask you in all honesty Would you interview this man’s penis?

“After years on the sketch circuit,” it said, “my penis is hoping to finally get his big break in my Edinburgh show Wrong Way and is looking for press opportunities. I am e-mailing you on behalf of my penis as he is very shy, so if you would like to speak with my penis it would have to be via e-mail.”

I e-mailed back a rejection because:

“It sounds like your penis doesn’t have the balls to email me itself.”

Finally yesterday, I was told The Stand venue at the Edinburgh Fringe will not issue any tickets to any Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judges this year – although it has done that without any problem for the past six years – both via the main Fringe Office and via The Stand’s own Press Office.

EdFringe2011PassA

Acceptable to the venue in years past…

EdFringe2011PassB

the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show pass

As a result, no acts appearing at The Stand will be considered or nominated for any increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award this year.

Since when has the venue not the performer decided who should be allowed to see their shows?

Since a long time ago in The Stand’s case, as it has a long and undistinguished record in restrictive practices which adversely affect acts’ careers.

To quote Malcolm Hardee, “Fuck ‘em.” He would have gone round and pissed on their stage.

But The Stand has been taking the piss for too long already.

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Harry Deansway: UK comedy publisher turns Edinburgh Fringe stand-up comic

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

Harry suggested I shoot him next to a rubbish bin last week

Harry suggested I shoot him next to a rubbish bin last week

Harry Deansway published and edited The Fix comedy magazine for several years. He has also written comedy criticism, promoted and produced comedy shows and managed and directed acts.

In August, he is performing as a stand-up in his first full-length comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“Was The Fix magazine your first thing?” I asked him when we met in London’s Soho last week.

“Pretty much, yeah.” he replied. “It went on for four years: I lost about £30,000 on it and, obviously, I fell out with a lot of people through it, as I imagine you have through your blog. Have you upset anyone?”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“We would upset people on a monthly basis,” said Harry.

“Why on earth are you becoming a performer?” I asked.

“I’ve worked with a few acts,” replied Harry Deansway, “and they can be unreliable. I was doing a lot of work with other people and you get to a certain point when they go off with someone else and you’re left with nothing. So I thought I’d have a go at the performing side and, that way, I’m in complete control of my career.”

“Is your Edinburgh show going to be straight stand-up?” I asked.

“Without getting too pretentious about it…” started Harry.

“Feel free,” I told him.

“Well,” he continued, “straight stand-up, but working at a slightly different rhythm. Stand-up in its traditional form, but maybe subjects that aren’t as commercially dealt with, you know what I mean?”

“What sort of subjects?” I asked. “Chicken sexing? There’s a lot of money in chicken sexing.”

“I guess it’s more playing with the form of stand-up,” said Harry. “Obviously, I’ve observed a lot and understand the form a lot. Things like when acts get angry in a set and they’re not really angry. So I’ll do that in my act, but I’ll actually say I need to get angry for this bit.

“Deconstructing?” I suggested.

“Deconstructing,” agreed Harry. “There’s a lot of similarities between jazz and comedy in the rhythm and the improvisations. John Coltrane really inspired me for my Edinburgh show. The way he would take a song and break it down into its parts. It still sounds like a song, but it’s completely out of control and improvised. So sometimes it feels like he’s lost control of the song. That’s what I want to try and do with my Edinburgh show. Is it in control or isn’t it? Oh my god, he’s totally lost the audience! It’s fucked! And then you bring it back.

The Fix comedy magazine ran for four years

The Fix magazine ran for four years

“A deconstructed show, playing with the form, rhythms. A lot of comedy is like Build laughter until there’s a big laugh. I prefer to make it really awkward, get it worse and worse so people think it’s completely out of control and then you pierce that tension with a big laugh. It’s kind of the opposite of how other comedians do it. They like to build-and-build-and-build. I like to knock down and lower expectations.”

“That’s original,” I said. “trying to not get a laugh.”

“It’s been working pretty well recently,” said Harry.

“Isn’t there a chance people might think you’re a crap comic?” I asked.

“Yes, definitely,” said Harry.

“Would they be right?” I asked.

“I struggle to know the answer to that myself,” replied Harry. “Sometimes they would be; sometimes they wouldn’t be. Maybe inconsistent. Not crap.”

“How will you know,” I asked, “if you’re not getting a laugh successfully or not getting a laugh unsuccessfully?”

“It’s like Andy Kaufman,” said Harry. “People like that.”

“Or George Osborne,” I suggested.

“They make a career out of it,” said Harry. “It’s a long and hard road. I did a gig last night. The first three minutes, complete silence. Then some bloke in the front row leaned over to his mate and said Is it always this bad? and I said Do you think you could do better? and he said Yes, so he got up on stage and proceeded to tell two racist jokes. And the audience didn’t like me, but they hated him even more. It created this awful atmosphere that not even I could…”

“Well, you succeeded in being Andy Kaufman,” I said. “You know all comedians are mad. Do you aspire to be mad?”

“They are,” agreed Harry, “but to certain degrees. Some of it manifests itself in unreliability. In others it’s complete madness. Badly organised, unreliability, arguing all the time with people.”

“It’s OK to quote that?” I checked.

“Yes, you can quote anything,” Harry told me.

“There must have been something in you that was always a frustrated performer,” I suggested.

“Yes,” said Harry. “I’m definitely a happier person since performing comedy. Obviously there was a hole there.”

“So you are stopping being an entrepreneurial person?” I asked.

“No. What that did for me was give me a really good grounding, so that gives me a head’s start over any other act. I don’t mind doing my own admin and press, whereas that terrifies a lot of other acts. I’ve spent ten years as a highly unsuccessful businessman in the comedy industry.”

“Your show isn’t listed in the main Edinburgh Fringe Programme,” I said.

“As a marketing tool, I think it’s ineffective,” explained Harry.

“How long are you going to give yourself to become successful?”

“This Edinburgh. If I don’t win any awards, I’m giving up.”

“In September?” I asked.

“It needs to go well, I’ll tell you that much.”

“What happens if it doesn’t?” I asked.

“Over these last ten years,” said Harry. “I’ve had a feeling that I’m right. If it doesn’t work in August, then maybe I’m wrong.”

“Remind me what’s your Edinburgh Fringe show is called?” I asked.

Wrong Way.

“Because?” I asked.

“It just sounds good,” said Harry. “It’s a good hashtag for Twitter. My poster is me the wrong way round.”

The Fringe poster image for Harry Deansway: Wrong Way

The Fringe poster image for Harry Deansway: Wrong Way

“So this is going to be an anti-comedy comedy,” I said. “But is it going to work up to a climax?”

“Yes. But by messing around with the format of the Edinburgh show. It’s kind of taking the piss out of all those ‘journey’ shows where they get to the end and it’s poignant and all that bullshit. It’s really subverting that. I’ve seen so many Edinburgh shows and I hate any one that’s Joe Bloggs woke up one day and found his wife was cheating on him! Here’s the journey he took!”

“Doesn’t Andy Kaufman type anti-comedy only appeal to a minority audience, though?” I asked.

“But you can make a living out of it,” argued Harry, “though I haven’t even got to that stage yet.”

“You’d be happy making a living as opposed to being a superstar?” I asked.

“Oh, definitely,” said Harry. “Just the freedom… to… to keep innovating.” He laughed a rather embarrassed laugh. “That’s what I said, but I don’t mean it.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“It’s so bullshit. No, the freedom to build an audience who like what you’re doing and you can make a living out of it. The Stewart Lee / Simon Munnery model. It’s a longer process but, in the long term, you’re gonna have a more secure audience that are gonna want to see everything you do and it’s not going to be such a flash-in-the-pan thing. That’s what I’m doing, but I’m just in a hurry to get some sort of recognition. I’ve been doing this for ten years and I just don’t feel I’ve got the recognition I deserve, so I really need that.”

“What if reviewers don’t like your show?” I asked.

“They can say what they like,” replied Harry. “I watched this documentary about jazz and all the critics on it understood the form and theory of jazz and the way they spoke about it was amazing. But the majority of comedy critics are not up to scratch. In rock journalism, there’s a culture of Hunter S.Thompsons and Lester Bangs but it doesn’t feel like there’s been the same volume of good journalists. They’re all silver foxes.”

“I’m more of a slaphead fox,” I said.

“I set up a magazine – The Fix,” said Harry, “but really struggled to get interesting journalists for it. People who could really take the art of comedy seriously. I just don’t think there’s anyone who does that. We’re crying out for a great comedy journalist.”

“You’ve just started a podcast,” I said.

“Yes. Three or four weeks ago.”

“Why?”

“Profile,” replied Harry. “I interview big names and hope that they bring an audience to hear about me.”

“In our American cousins’ terms, how do you monetize that?” I asked.

Harry the performer - as he wants to be seen

Harry the comedy performer – the image he wants to be seen

“I’m not doing it to monetize it at the moment. It’s purely promotional for me and the act. Though, if someone set up a podcast advertising agency, there is money to be made there.”

“Perhaps you should do that,” I suggested.

“No thanks. I’m going to use all that knowledge for my own career. I’m not going to be helping acts any more. It’s all about me now. That’s what Edinburgh 2013 is all about. It’s my turn.”

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