Tag Archives: hecklers

More comics’ comments on the death of the godfather of UK Alternative Comedy

Malcolm Hardee on his boat (Photograph by Vincent Lewis)

Malcolm Hardee’s birthday was yesterday in 1950.

He drowned on 31st January 2005.

A few days after his death, I set up an online page where people could post memories of him. 

Yesterday I re-posted the first of those memories by fellow comics.

They continue here…


ALAN DAVIES, comedian – 7th February, 2005

The Tunnel Club in early 1989. I was an open spot. I was 22 but I looked about 12. Malcolm looked worried for me: 

“You’re not going to wear that shirt are you? They’ll take the piss out of you your first line.”

He introduced me.

“Stone him!” they shouted. ”Crucify him!”

Before I could do my first line, someone asked what I was drinking. I held up my glass and said, “Directors”. Then I made a joke about my shirt and did some material before I could get booed off.

At The Tunnel, if you survived the open spot they’d slap you on the back and cheer you loudly. It was that or humiliation. No middle ground.

Malcolm said, “I’ll book you,” which was fantastic for me, just starting out. “By the way,” he said, “it’s not Directors. The landlord’s done a deal with Whitbread, even though it’s a Courage pub”. 

The following month, I did a full spot and soon after the pub was raided and it was over.

Up The Creek was great and I played it a lot but The Tunnel was special – the hardest gig. If you went well they’d virtually chair you off but, if not, a humming noise would start and gather volume as more joined in… ”Mmmm…” louder and louder.

Malcolm would hurry from the back bar. 

“MmmmmMALCOLM!” was the signal for him to rescue the turn.

One night there was a juggler who tossed clubs into the audience inviting them to throw them back.

“Oh no,” said Malcolm,”I’ve only just got them to stop throwing stuff.” The first club nearly took the juggler’s head off but he caught the second and was granted a wild ovation. 

Malcolm gave me loads of gigs, including one in Bungay which I drove him to as he consumed an enormous curry alongside me.

There were stories all the way there and all the way back.

He was the one-off’s one-off.


ALEX HARDEE, Malcolm’s brother – 7th February 

I had just met a new girlfriend, who had never been introduced to any of my family before. She was from quite a well to do family, and I was quite nervous of her meeting Malcolm.

Unfortunately, it happened to be at Glastonbury where the meeting was to take place, so I dragged her backstage to the Cabaret Tent, and said, “Malcolm, this is Claudia,” at which he whipped his genitalia out and said, “Look at this Ultravoilet knob,” as he had painted it earlier with Ultravoilet paint.

A shocked look came across her face and he responded, “Don’t you worry. You should see my wife’s mouth.”

Of course, I am not still with her.

Will miss you loads. The world is a sadder and less colourful place without you.


MATTHEW HARDY, comedian – 8th February

October 2, 1992. I landed alone in the UK, straight from having lived my entire life under Mum & Dad’s working class roof in the sunny Aussie suburbs. A mate who’d been overseas showed me a copy of Time Out and, though I’d only done six open spots in Oz, I decided there was more opportunity in England. Saved money for a one-way ticket cos I was impatient. 

Many calls down the then ‘cabaret’ listings got me nowhere, until Malcolm answered at Up The Creek. My old man had verbally forced me to agree on keeping a diary, despite me saying it was for poofs. The diary entry from Nov ’92, upon meeting Malcolm in the Lord Hood on a Sunday Creek Sabbath, reads: “This weird bloke called Malcolm gave me a gig, met me in the pub next door beforehand, got me to buy him a pint, then told me I’d be shit, but not to worry. Unfortunately he was right, but I’m not worried cos he gave me another gig anyway”. 

Soon he arranged accommodation and a welcoming woman’s number. Hardee hospitality.

Years later, he took my visiting elderly parents out in his boat. 

Goes up the Thames and on the right was some kind of rusted ship, pumping a powerful arc of bilgewater(?) out of its hull, through a kind of high porthole, which saw the water arc across the river over fifty foot. 

I’m on the front of the boat as Malcolm veers toward the arc and I assume he’s gonna go under it, between the ship and where the arc curves downward toward the river itself. For a laugh. 

Just as I turn back to say, “Lookout, we’re gonna get hit by the filthy fucking water” the filthy fucking water almost knocked my head off my shoulders and me off the boat. 

I looked back to see it hit Malcolm as he steered, then my Mum and then Dad. I wanted to hit him and my Dad said afterwards that he did too, but we were both unable to comprehend or calculate what had actually happened. 

Malcolm’s decision was beyond any previously known social conduct. He must have simply had the idea and acted upon it. Anarchy. 

We laugh… NOW!

R.I.P mate.


SIMON DAY, comedian – 8th February

He was my friend, my agent, father figure, dodgy uncle, wayward best mate. He ran the two best comedy clubs of all time. He had a humanity and gentleness which he tried to hide. Above all he was the king of comedy. They don’t make them like that any more. In the end he swam away with his underwater bollocks. Thankyou.


STEVE GRIBBIN, comedian – 9th February

As the man who launched the infamous Tunnel Club, one the two best and fiercest comedy clubs in the whole fucking world, Malcolm deserves to be justly celebrated, but those of us who knew him well will recall his love of a prank and a practical joke, which often shaded into criminality!

One time we were in Aberystwyth University and had to change in the kitchen. Malcolm saw a huge 15 foot square block of cheddar cheese in the fridge. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said: “Oy Oy… let’s have it!”

It took five of us to carry it into the white Ford Transit van that Malcolm had ‘borrowed’ off Greenwich Council. 

The next day a very irate official from Aberystwyth University rang up Malcolm screaming abuse down the phone. 

“You thieving bastard, I know it was you!”

Malcolm denied all knowledge, ending the phone-call with the immortal words: “Sorry mate, got to go now, me cheese on toast’s ready!”

For every tear of sadness that’s shed for his untimely demise there will also be an accompanying one of laughter. Malcolm was like that.


STEVE DAY, deaf comedian – 9th February

Malcolm helped me more than anyone else in my comedy career and when no-one else was interested. It used to be three good open spots at The Creek then you got a paid half spot – none of this perpetual open spot and competition rubbish. 

I had only done two when this happened – :

“The next bloke is a deaf bloke. I know he really is a deaf bloke cos I offered him a paid gig, but he didn’t hear me. So here he is for free… Steve Day”


IVOR DEMBINA, comedian – 9th February

Affectionate tales of Malcolm’s thieving abound, yet here’s one of an attempt of mine to steal from him. 

When I first saw Malcolm compere at his club, the Tunnel, I was so impressed by everyone’s reaction that I decided to ‘borrow’ his style of showmanship for my own comedy club in north London. 

My theft was doomed to failure because I wasn’t nearly as funny as Malcolm nor blessed with his gift for making strangers love him. 

My fruitless larceny taught me a painful lesson: as in comedy as in life, be only yourself, say what you think, do what you feel and stick to your guns. 

Malcolm Hardee was the living embodiment of that lesson and it’s a profound sadness to me that I never had the opportunity to thank him before he died.


KEVIN McCARTHY, ‘THE MAN WITH THE BEARD’, comedian – 10th February

For starting me off in this business – I thank you.
For giving me my name – I thank you.
For bouncing countless cheques on me – I forgive you.
For owing everyone on the circuit at least a tenner – I forgive you.
For swallowing a two bottle decanter of vintage port in one go and then redecorating my car with it – I forgive you.
For turning up at a meeting at the BBC as my manager with gravy down your tie and looking like a sack of shit – I forgive you.
For dying aged 55 – …


CHARLIE CHUCK, comedian – 10th February

I met Malcolm and played Up the Creek in 1990.

A man was sat on the steps with his head in his hands. 

I said to Malcolm: “What’s up with him?” 

He said: “it’s Jack Dee. He’s on next”.

Jo Brand, Lee Evans, Simon Day, John Thomson, Bill Bailey, Harry Hill, Johnny Vegas, Mark Lamarr, Boothby Graffoe, Bob Mills & the rest, you know who you are. Without Malcolm, The Creek and his pioneering, it may never have happened for some. He got the media to his club, he could have signed many a comedian, could have exploited them and made money out of them. Malcolm was not that kind of man.

He was deeper and kinder than you know.

For me, Malcolm saw me and pulled me out of a bolt hole in Nottingham. I auditioned for him re TV at that time. I didn’t have a clue.

He put me on a show called The Happening with Jools Holland. I died on my arse. I should imagine Malcolm felt bad about it. He took a chance on a twat like me. He said to me: “I’ve got Vic Reeves on at the Creek on 15th November; meet him”. The only Reeves I’d heard of was Jim Reeves. So, instead, I didn’t listen & played the Sandiacre F.C in Longeaton, Derby. Where?

During the Edinburgh Festival, at half one in the morning two men were locked out of a car; the only place open was a bread shop. They went in and borrowed some baking implements to break into the car. It was so funny. Me and Malcolm howled.

Anyway, fuck it!

Joke No 1. Malcolm told me he had a terrible day; he woke up at 9am and a prawn cocktail slapped him in the face. That was just for starters.

His memory will live on.


SIMON MUNNERY, comedian – 11th February

I first met Malcolm when I was doing open spots at The Tunnel. I’d been booed off before, but never booed on. I loved the place, and I loved Malcolm. I remember two blokes chatting in the toilets. 

Says one: “It’s been a good night.” 

Says the other: “Yeah. But if Malcolm gets his bollocks out it’s going to be a great night.”

And that was true.

I regarded Malcolm and his wife Jane as my adopted parents and one night they dropped in to my flat in Stoke Newington. Malcolm was drunk – hold the front page – and after a bit had to go to the toilet. 

Malcolm used to steal – hold the front page – particularly from bathrooms. I knew this, Jane knew this and we could hear him crashing about in an exaggerated fashion for ages. 

When he at last returned I said, “Alright Malcolm, what have you nicked?” and he goes “Uh… uh… sorry,” and gets out this tiny pot of my girlfriend’s aromatherapy oils.

But it was too quick. 

I said “Yes; and what else?” 

He goes, “Oh, sorry,” and gets out another. And so on, and so on until, half an hour later, the entire contents of the bathroom were spread out in the living room and he swore there was nothing else. 

Later, we were helping him down the stairs when I noticed an overpowering smell. 

“What’s that smell?” I asked. 

He had emptied a bottle of perfume over his coat.

… TO BE CONTINUED …

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Punchlines: comics getting beaten up

Comedy critics face fragile egos and non-comedic reaction

Yesterday, someone drew my attention to a copy of The Stage dated 26th April 1990. One article was headlined:

ARTISTS FEAR HECKLERS’ REVENGE

and started:

“Alarmed entertainers fear violence from rowdy club audiences may be on the increase after a series of ugly scenes which have put artists at risk on stage.”

Apparently comedian Paul Ramone had got a black eye and swollen nose after being head-butted by a member of his audience during a gig in Twickenham.

Manchester hypnotist Paul Nyles claimed he had had to abandon his act after 15 minutes when an audience member bit through his microphone cable. There were no details of what happened to the heckler when he did this.

Comedians getting beaten-up seems to be a non-uncommon phenomenon although biting through the microphone cable to stop an act is uncommon.

Off the top of my head, I remember three Edinburgh Fringe stories. One is told in Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake:


Ian Cognito - nothing is unexpected

Cognito maybe forgot Ricky Grover is an ex-boxer

An excellent performer called Ian Cognito was there and he was very drunk, as is his wont. When he’s drunk, he gets aggressive. Part of his Italian upbringing, I think. 

Ricky Grover had worked with him before, so said hello to him and Cognito grabbed him by his collar and said: 

“You’re a fat cunt!” 

Ricky doesn’t mind that sort of thing at all. He’s used to it.

So, not getting a reaction, Cognito continued: 

“You’re a fat cunt and you’re not funny!” 

Ricky still didn’t react, so Cognito added: 

“And your wife’s a fat cunt as well!”

This upset Ricky, because he’s one of those traditional people.

“Did you mean that?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ian Cognito said.

“Can you repeat it?” Ricky asked.

Cognito said: “Your wife’s a fat cunt”. 

And, with one blow, Ricky just knocked him out. Unconscious. Displaced his jaw a bit. The lot. Ricky’s a professional, so he knows exactly where to hit someone.

Standing three or four yards away was Jon Thoday, who runs the Avalon agency. I looked over at Jon and said: 

“Oh, have you go that £500 you owe me?”

Funnily enough, the cheque arrived in the post about two days later.


Police said Ian Fox suffered “a small cut to his nose”

In 2012, comedian Ian Fox was randomly attacked in the street during the Edinburgh Fringe. The local police, who allegedly knew quite a lot about beating people up, told the Edinburgh Evening News: “The victim suffered a small cut to his nose during the incident,” but Ian’s face looked more like he had had an argument with a rhinoceros.

And, of course, most infamously, in 2013, comedy performer Ellis got beaten up in an Edinburgh street by an irate member of the public who was annoyed by Ellis & Rose’s appearance in Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

Gareth Ellis suffers for his art (photo by Lewis Schaffer)

Comic Ellis claimed he suffered for his art (Photograph by Lewis Schaffer)

Except it never happened. In fact, Ellis had repeatedly hit himself in the face with the blunt end of a milk whisk so he could tell the being-beaten-up story to get publicity for Ellis & Rose’s Fringe show. When the blunt end of a milk whisk did not have the required effect, his comedy partner Rose punched him four times in the face to give him the required black eye. For this, they won a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

To me, the most bizarre part of the 1990 Stage article, though, was a paragraph towards the end which said:

“Alternative comedian Malcolm Hardee, who was knocked unconscious by a heckler at a Glasgow club, claims attacks are on the increase because comedy has become more aggressive.”

That this had happened to Malcolm seemed very unlikely – although admittedly Malcolm’s Tunnel Club had to become membership only after beer glasses were thrown at Clarence & Joy Pickles (Adam Wide & Babs Sutton) during their act.

Throwing beer glasses at acts was not uncommon at the Tunnel but, on this occasion (when Malcolm was NOT the compere) a glass hit Babs Sutton in the face and drew blood, after which several acts refused to play the Tunnel unless Malcolm reined-in his audience a bit.

MalcolmHardee_Diners

Malcolm Hardee – a comedian not unacquainted with alcohol

Anyway… Malcolm Hardee being knocked unconscious by a heckler at a Glasgow club sounded unlikely, so, yesterday, I asked Malcolm’s chum Martin Soan.

“This sounds unlikely,” I said. “Have you heard this story? Did he make it up?”

Malcolm making-up stories was not unheard-of, but Martin said surprisingly:

“Yes I do remember this. It is true after a fashion. The heckler sort-of pushed Malcolm in a friendly sort of way. Malcolm had drunk 13 pints of beer and some buckets of rum-and-coke and sort-of fell asleep for a bit… Talking of which, I had a knife pulled on me… twice. Once at the Old Tiger’s Head in Lee and once on the Glastonbury stage.”

Comedy can be a dangerous business.

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Chocolate genitalia from comedian Matt Price. Odd sex tips from critic Copstick.

Things you can buy for £1 in Poundland - two cartons of milk. (This become relevant later)

Things you can buy for £1 in Poundland – two cartons of milk. (This honestly becomes much more relevant later in this blog)

This is the final day of the Edinburgh Fringe and, as is traditional, it is a Bank Holiday in England, but not in Scotland. This means that, in Scotland, all the shops are open and it is a normal working day… except that the banks are closed.

You may want to read that paragraph again.

You did not mis-read it.

Yes. It is not a Bank Holiday and everywhere is open except the banks.

This does not seem odd in Edinburgh in August.

I saw a man dressed as a showgirl talking to a medieval monk outside a church last week.

Morning glory: Claire Smith on her iPhone + Matt Price thinks of sausages

Claire Smith on her iPhone and Matt Price thinks of sausages

And I am posting this after having had breakfast with comedian Matt Price and Scotsman journalist Claire Smith.

To brighten up their mornings, they have been asking people round to share sausages with them.

“I went through a phase,” Matt told me, “of taking a toy fish out onto the stage with me. When you start out as a comic, you assume anyone who contributes – like a heckler – is a threat. But they’re not. Sometimes they might be just thinking out loud. Sometimes they may be just eccentric.

“The fish became a good device for dealing with hecklers. If someone heckled me, I would say: Look, what you said wasn’t bad. But would you like to do it a second time and this time you have to do it holding a fish? It created a certain dynamic in the room and I’ve seen grown men start quivering. It was great fun: just playing around with the audience. You learn how to embrace hecklers rather than be frightened of them.

“I used to be scared of the audience. I was always very self-conscious until one day Martha (Matt’s partner) said to me: Why don’t you learn to love the audience? Why don’t you learn to accept that they maybe don’t hate you: maybe they’re there to have a good time. 

“And it was like flipping a switch. It changed almost immediately.”

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

I am an innocent at large in Grouchy Club with Kate Copstick

Matt and Claire were at yesterday’s final Grouchy Club show at the Edinburgh Fringe, in which critic Kate Copstick and I basically gossiped with comedians.

Yesterday, four genuine members of the ‘real’ public had inexplicably wandered in thinking they were seeing a totally different show. Also in the audience were sundry comedians, the head of the Stage newspaper’s Fringe review team, someone possibly pretending not to be from The British Comedy Guide and a Greek physicist; I have no explanation.

Matt Price chocolate cocks Kate Copstick

Kate Copstick examined Matt Price’s left-over comedy props

Matt’s first words yesterday, as he delved into a bag containing giant pink edible chocolate penises, were: “I’m not being crude, but…”

He explained: “My show is about self-assertion and I went into Ann Summers to buy some props for the show and the woman persuaded me to buy fifty giant pink edible chocolate penises. So I have loads of cocks. You’re very welcome. They’re really good quality. I’m sick of edible cocks. You’re welcome. Just, please… I’ve had enough. I’ve genuinely had enough. There’s 900 calories in each one of these,” said Matt.

“But,” said mind-reader Doug Segal, “if you’re practical, you can work off some of those calories.”

Kate Copstick eats chocolate cock

Kate Copstick sampling chocolate yesterday

Copstick sampled the product, saying: “It’s nicer than it looks,” but then started to choke and cough.

“They’re £9,” said Matt.

“Why on earth do you have so many left?” asked Doug.

“I over-anticipated,” said Matt.

Copstick had another attempt at sampling the product.

“It looks like Christmas morning,” said comic Matt Roper  (not to be confused with Matt Price) without explanation.

Copstick started coughing again. When she recovered, she said:

A rival to Ann Summers in Edinburgh

Poundland: a rival to Ann Summers’ sex shops in Edinburgh?

“Oddly enough, I’ve just been across to Poundland (a chain of shops where everything is priced at £1) and the thing with it is you have to keep going because you never know what is going to be there. It’s like a charity shop: you never know when something wonderful is going to come in.

“Today in Poundland,” she continued, rummaging in a bag, “I got vibrators and vibrating cock rings.”

She produced one of each.

There was controlled uproar and some disbelief in the room.

Kate Copstick with vibrator and cock ring

Kate Copstick’s discoveries from Poundland

“One pound each!” said Copstick.

“With batteries?” asked the Greek physicist.

“No, not with the batteries,” replied Copstick. “But I work a lot with commercial sex workers in Kenya and any time I can give the girls who want to stay as commercial sex workers any toys that they can use on the guys for bargaining… You can’t force a man to use a condom, but you can persuade him to wear one. If they try to force him to use one, the guy will just rape them and run away…

“Yesterday (at the Grouchy Club), I was talking about how I taught them about peppermint blow jobs and poor man’s champagne blow jobs.”

“What is a peppermint blow job?” asked Matt Roper.

“You get your girlfriend,” explained Copstick, “to either spread a little peppermint toothpaste over the inside of her mouth – or a mouthwash – and then, when she gives the blow job, it’s all tingly.”

“In Poundland,” I said, “you can get toothpaste for £1. It really is the poor man’s Ann Summers.”

“For the poor man’s champagne blow job,” said Copstick, “you just use beer instead of champagne and the bubbles kind of tickle.”

“It’s a great way to get a yeast infection,” said an anonymous voice from the audience.

Yesterday’s quickly-made logo

The chat show with comedians that provides oh so much more

That was just the start of The Grouchy Club’s final free Edinburgh show. Later we got on to the contest to find Edinburgh’s best Lewis Schaffer impersonator.

Claire Smith won.

Her prize was a Poundland vibrator.

“What have you done with it?” I asked her this morning. “Have you mounted it on the mantelpiece?”

“I think I might get some batteries,” she replied.

“And what’s next for you?” I asked Matt.

“No fish and no confectionary-based humour,” he told me. “It’s too stressful. I need to move on.”

“There is talk of a monthly London Grouchy Club – a venue has been suggested – and we have been approached by a pay venue to do the daily show again at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe – though I am not sure how a pay-to-enter show would work.

Perhaps we could get sponsored by Ann Summers or Poundland.

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When Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows go wrong – a lesson in audience control

David tells The Gospel Truth at the Fringe

David tells The Gospel Truth at the Fringe

Yesterday, I was talking to multi-talented American stand-up David Mills about gigs that go wrong at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“If you have a gig you don’t want to have,” David told me, “the great thing about Edinburgh is there’s another gig coming tomorrow and the next day and the next day. So you can always redeem yourself. I’m always looking to try to redeem myself.

“It’s like that thing they say about New York: Don’t worry if you fall on your face and everyone sees, ‘cause tomorrow someone else is going to fall on their face and everyone’s going to see that and your failure is going to disappear. And the same thing with any success you get. I say you’re nobody until you’ve got a one star review.”

“You’ll never get a one star review,” I said.

“I’m hoping to get a one star review,” said David. “Some of the greats have had one star reviews.”

“Anyway,” I said. “It’s bad if you get a two star review. But if you actually only get one star, then…”

“…then you’re onto something!” laughed David. “The performers I identify with are the performers who are never satisfied.”

Shows going wrong – or at least diverging from what you thought they were going to be – are not necessarily a bad thing. As evidence…

Matt Price’s new show at Edinburgh Fringe

Matt Price’s show yesterday turned into three shows in one

At the Edinburgh Fringe three days ago, I saw Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia – a very interesting and very funny show unbilled in the Edinburgh Fringe programme. In that, at least, it delivers what you expect from the title.

Yesterday morning, I got a Facebook message from comedian/promoter Nig Lovell saying:

“You should speak to Matt Price about this Machete Hettie gig for your blog. If I hadn’t been there I’m not sure I’d have believed it happened. Part of me is still wondering if I was hallucinating.”

Machete Hettie gig?? I thought. So I e-mailed Matt Price. He told me:

Machete Hetty and Matt Price at The Hive yesterday

Machete Hettie and Matt Price after the show

“Hettie says she will be back today with her balaclava this time. It was one of the best contributions I have ever witnessed at a show, but almost impossible to describe in an email. I’m hoping that the drunk people who took the group photo get in touch because we all need photographic evidence. Basically, a couple of audience members did their first gig last night and to be fair to them they stormed it.”

I then bumped into Charmian Hughes, who is performing at a totally different venue – the Banshee Labyrinth – a couple of doors away from Matt Price at The Hive. She, too, had heard of the Machete Hettie gig.

Hettie was from Ethiopia.

I phoned up Matt Price. He told me Machete Hettie was likely to turn up again – at yesterday’s show.

I was already scheduled to see the lovely David Mills at The Hive in a slot immediately before Matt Price’s show, but I then had a ticket to see the unmissable Tim FitzHigham’s show Challenger at the Pleasance venue soon afterwards and I was not going to miss that.

So I arranged to see the first half of Matt’s show again just on the off-chance that Machete Hettie would turn up.

David Mills’ show was, as always, a mystery.

The mystery is why such an audience-pleasing, sophisticated act has not been snapped-up by BBC2 or Channel 4.

The ways of British television at the moment are passing strange.

After David’s show, as we waited for Matt’s show to start, my heart sank. No Ethiopians were in the audience.

The gig started but where was Machete Hetty?

The gig started but which one was the elusive Machete Hettie?

But, it turned out Machete Hettie WAS there – I had mis-heard. She calls herself a ‘Leithiopian’ – someone from Leith in north Edinburgh.

She had bright eyes, a lively personality and I wished I had been at the previous day’s show.

Matt yesterday started with the words:

“First impressions are kind of weird because, if you don’t mind me saying, you seem a very nice, very respectful audience, very normal. But then I thought that about Hettie yesterday and, by the end of it, I knew more about her vagina than I knew about comedy… Is that a different friend sitting next to you today, Hettie?”

“Ye mind the half a brick? The half a brick?” said Hettie.

“You had a friend yesterday who was a nurse,” said Matt.

“This time, she’s a dental nurse,” said Hettie. “She just fixes yer teeth in the middle of the night.”

About three people started speaking at once, from different parts of the audience.

“Oh God, there’s more of you,” said Matt gently. “Hello, I’m Matt. I was going to do a show, but Hettie came in yesterday and interjected with things about her vagina and we haven’t looked back since. She had a Brazilian.” Then he turned to a friend of Hettie’s in the front row: “Do you have the footage safely?”

“Yes,” the woman in the front row replied. “We’ll put it on YouTube tonight.”

“Would you like a photo for John Fleming’s blog?” Matt asked.

“Oh brilliant,” replied Hettie. “Aye. Oh aye.”

Machete Hetty poses for my porn blog picture

Machete Hettie – keen to be in my porn blog picture with Matt

“It’s a porn blog, but don’t worry,” said Matt. “You told me yesterday about your vagina and today you’re straight in with Half a brick, big boy. I love it. Would you,” he said to the audience, “consider this as not so much a show – more a respite from the rain? Is that OK?”

“Smoked sausage!” said Hettie in dramatic showbiz style.

She had about ten friends and neighbours in different parts of the audience who laughed uproariously.

“Biscuits!” she added.

Matt then brilliantly, under trying circumstances, managed to simultaneously perform his show, interact with Hettie as part of an almost separate show and have an occasional running commentary with two fellow comedians in the audience. It was three shows in one simultaneously, all blending together seemingly naturally.

“Earlier this year,” Matt started, “I was asked if I would ghost-write the autobiography of a criminal and I said Yes. What do you know about crime, Hettie?”

“A lot,” she replied.

The whole audience laughed.

“Now, you might think,” continued Matt, “He has nothing to say, which is why I dipped into the audience just then. But I knew if I said that to Hettie, she would say A lot and it would get a cheap laugh, so I just couldn’t resist doing it.”

“I led a life of crime for 17 years,” said Hettie.

I am now hooked on Hettie and a vast admirer of Matt Price’s ability to tell a good story, control a difficult audience, improvise with control during a show and… well… I am going back to see what happens tonight. Hettie will be back.

Soon to be a doubly act? - Machete Hetty and Matt

Soon to be a double act? – Machete Hettie and Matt The Man

Matt tells me he has given her ten minutes on stage at the start of his show.

“John,” he told me, “I am now performing a two-hander against my will. She has turned me from a comedian into a talent scout.”

So I am going back for more tonight – not least because I forgot to ask why she is called Machete Hettie…

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A Hardee annual celebration: St Malcolm’s Day and the story of the penis in the flying frozen chicken

I thought I knew most things about the late “godfather of British alternative comedy” Malcolm Hardee, who drowned at the end of January 2005. We met around 1985, I wrote his autobiography for him in 1996 and, in his memory until 2017, I am organising (if that’s the word) the annual Malcolm Hardee Awards for comedy.

But I didn’t know there has been an annual piss-up in South London every February since he died. Apparently, for the last five years, the first Monday in February has seen a celebration of Malcolm’s life

Gordon ‘Bres’ Breslin tells me next Monday (7th February) is the day this year.

“That’s the day,” he writes, “that the Beckenham Tunnel Club and Up the Creek hecklers get together for what we call St. Malcolm’s Day. We had a memorial lunch to Malcolm on the first Monday in February 2005 as a way of getting over the loss of a comedy legend and we have been doing it ever since. We get together just to reminisce about the bizarre acts he put on and Malcolm’s own routines. So if you are passing the La Rascasse bar and restaurant in Beckenham High Street any time from 1.30pm through to late evening please feel free to join us.”

Alas, on Monday evening I’m going to the Fringe Report Awards at the Leicester Square Theatre, but I’ll certainly be popping in to Beckenham in the afternoon.

Bres also told me this anecdote about Malcolm. It was May 1997, it was Whitsun Bank Holiday Sunday and Bres’ birthday and what better way to celebrate, he thought, than a trip Malcolm’s Up the Creek comedy club in Greenwich…

“We took our usual seats in the first row by the stage,” Bres told me. “A double act came on for the Open Spot. Their act had something to do with a frozen chicken. They were obviously novices at this game and posh with it: you could sense the crowd smelled virgin blood and would up the heckle levels.

“What must have been a funny skit to their pals in a ski chalet in Verbier went down like Eddie Shit doing his Freddie Mercury impression. As the act disintegrated, the duo chucked their frozen chicken into the audience in disgust. Naturally, it was thrown back at them but it didn’t quite reach the stage. I’d never seen a live chicken fly through the air let alone a frozen one and it was bloody heavy. It landed on my table and I kept it warm and safe from further abuse. It was my birthday, after all.

“Later, Malcolm was bringing the evening to an end when, flush with birthday alcohol, I thought I should get on stage with the now de-frosting chicken. It seemed a good idea at the time, because my mate Adrian had somehow got on the panda and was playing his harmonica as a duo with Malcolm. So I got on stage with the frozen chicken and suggested that Malcolm should stick his knob in it.

“The, by now, very vocal audience thought this would be a great idea and, so as not to disappoint, Malcolm duly whipped out his knob and oversized bollocks and stuck the whole bundle in, giblet to giblet as it were.

“I’ve often wondered whether the double act seeing this happen incorporated it into their own act!”

So I will certainly be celebrating St Malcolm’s Day with Bres and his pals this Monday 7th February at La Rascasse, 59-63 Beckenham High Street, London BR3 1AW.

It starts at 1.30pm and goes on way through to late evening.

Gordon Breslin is at gobres@btinternet.com

From now on, I will be putting St Malcolm’s Day in my diary every year.

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