Tag Archives: Ian Cognito

Agent & manager Addison Cresswell & the colourful world of British comedy

Here is an extract from the late Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. It refers to an incident when comedians Ian Cognito and Ricky Grover had a falling-out at the Edinburgh Fringe:

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 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.

While Ian Cognito was still unconscious another well-known agent rushed over and told Ricky Grover he shouldn’t hit comedians and that he, the agent, could have people killed. 

This bloke’s gone a bit funny. 

He behaves as if he’s a ‘villain’ for some reason. His father is actually a distinguished academic. He comes from a very posh family but he likes to be ‘laddish’ and he’s gone one step further now. He’s got the black Crombie, the waistcoat: everything the well-dressed villain should have.

I met a real villain who had seen him walking about in the West End of London and the agent told this bloke he was one of the Brindle Brothers. At the time, there was a bit of a feud, including occasional shootings, going on in South East London between the Brindle Brothers and the Arifs.

The un-named “well-known agent” at the end of that anecdote was Addison Cresswell of the Off The Kerb comedy agency.

Yesterday it was reported that he died in his sleep, aged 53, on Sunday night and is genuinely much-lamented. Whereas other agents might occasionally rip-off their own clients, I never heard anything bad about Addison in that respect. He was always said to be “hard-nosed” in his negotiations on behalf of his artists (which was his job) – but always in his artists’ interests.

In a 2008 Guardian profile, Kevin Lygo, then Director of Television & Content at Channel 4, described Addison as a “big, flamboyant character in the showbiz comedy world… In the end, you can judge how effective and how good agents are by the long-term relationships they have with their clients. In other words, is their client base always changing or not? Addison has managed to keep his clients for a very long time, which is an indication how good he is for them.”

Addison was oft-quoted as saying: “I don’t see us (agents) as in any way different from the people who run the (TV) channels. They’re complete bastards as well, but we all have to work with each other.”

The Daily Mirror yesterday wrote that he was “seen as a no-nonsense, forceful and larger than life character by many in the industry”.

In the 2008 Guardian profile, Kevin Lygo said of Addison: “With broadcasters, he can be volatile – but my experience with him is that he is straight, and you always have the feeling that he has his client’s best interests at heart. He has an understanding of television, and is a hard negotiator but also fair.”

I only encountered him in person a few times in 1995 when I worked on Jack Dee’s Saturday Night show for ITV1. Addison’s TV company Open Mike produced the show. He talked fast and usually seemed coked-out-of-his-head in a long dark coat. He cultivated a hard-nosed image but seemed to be honest in the sense that, as far as I ever heard, he did the best for his acts and, unlike some other agents, financially screwed companies for the benefit of his acts – he did not financially screw his own acts.

Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography, from which the Edinburgh Fringe story above is taken, was published in 1996. This is an entry from my diary two years after that:

Sunday 30th August 1998

In the evening, we went to (Malcolm Hardee’s comedy club) Up The Creek, re-starting its Sunday night shows after a summer break.

Malcolm was extremely drunk in a dysfunctional way when we arrived. At the end of the show, he was so drunk that he fell over and had to be replaced by Simon Fox – one of the comics on the bill – who wore Malcolm’s jacket & spectacles and told three of Malcolm’s jokes.

I drove Malcolm and a girl back to his former home in Fingal Street (which he still rents out to people). The girl was some sort of groupie, mid-20s, glittering hard eyes caused by drugs, drink or cynicism. 

During a break in the show, Malcolm had told me how he and (a friend) had had tea with comics’ agent Addison Cresswell in Covent Garden. Malcolm and (the friend) were “stone cold sober” but Addison was heavily coked-up. He kept telling them how he was now a millionaire and how much he loved them. 

Around the same time – I guess the late 1990s – I heard two other stories.

I had a chat with someone who was thinking of buying Addison’s home. He had gone round to see the property and had been surprised to find, he told me, that the kitchen had bullet-proof glass in the windows.

A stand-up comedian with a colourful past also told me Addison had taken to carrying a gun which he would occasionally take out and wave about to appear macho.

“You shouldn’t do that, Addison,” the stand-up comedian had told him. “If you get into an argument with naughty people (the phrase he used) they may hit you. But, if they know you’ve got a gun under your coat, they’ll just shoot you straight off.”

The Guardian wrote yesterday: “Cresswell preferred his stars to be in the spotlight rather than himself although the BBC hoped he could rival Simon Cowell on a projected talent show.”

A spokesman for Off The Kerb said: ”He leaves behind a proud legacy in his tireless charity work, initiating and organising the annual Channel 4 Comedy Gala in aid of Great Ormond Street hospital. It was his dearest wish to raise enough to fund the opening of a brand new wing of the hospital, a goal that is now in sight. He is survived by his beloved wife, Shelley, his dogs Bonnie and Nessie and many, many pet fish.”

So it goes.

There is a rather strange report of his death on YouTube:

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Would Malcolm Hardee have HATED the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show?

I don’t know exactly what the etiquette is for exposing the identities of people on social media, but let us hope I am not breaching it in this blog.

This morning, the normally infallible mind-reader Doug Segal made an error when he re-Tweeted a message from itinerant comedian Matt Roper to me. The re-Tweet read:

@johnfleming RT @MrMattRoper: Too late for a Hardee Award? > “@doug_segal: Ian Cognito did 20 mins. Got his cock out then stormed off stage”

Ian Cognito - nothing is unexpected

Ian Cognito – comic originality comes as standard

My initial reaction was that, if Ian Cognito did NOT get his cock out and storm off stage then THAT would – for him – be comic originality.

But then I received another Tweet from Doug Segal. It read:

@MrMattRoper @johnfleming Whoops! Wrong @thejohnfleming

My Twitter address is @thejohnfleming NOT @johnfleming and Doug had accidentally Tweeted about Ian Cognito getting his cock out to a completely innocent other John Fleming who lives in Florida and who apparently is a “company builder, marketing and social media practitioner, clean tech advocate, country music fan and stumbling but dedicated parent”

Media people and performers – especially people in the comedy industry – do not live in the normal world as other people know it. So I do not even want to think what the other John Fleming made of the unsolicited Tweet about a cock.

Nudity, farting and sticking fingers up people’s bottoms (I refer you to yesterday’s blog) are perhaps not everyday occurrences in the world of entertainment, but they do not raise an eyebrow. Standards are different.

Anal entertainment: Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart

Arty anal entertainment? Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

For example, the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe last Friday had farting from Mr Methane and a man with bacon draped on his head and a singer who looked like Adolf Hitler crooning Frank Sinatra songs and giving the Nazi salute.

There was, as far as I am aware, only one complaint – which was that the show was too middle class.

On Facebook, just a few hours after the show finished, Bob Walsh posted:

The Awards Show was a rally for the middle classes

The Malcolm Hardee Awards Show was a middle class rally? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

I hope y’all enjoyed the MH awards whilst the people that actually worked with him DIDNT GET INVITED! The people that headlined his shows ARE NOT INVITED! And his whole ethos has been ignored by middle class cunts who he would have HATED enjoyed yourselves. Goodnight!

Comedian Keara Murphy replied: What you on about? It wasn’t an ‘invite’ situation. Janey, who hosted it, did work with him.

Bob Walsh responded: Wow there was one then… He would have hated it.

Patrick Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette

Pat Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

Keara argued: You don’t know what he would have hated. Fact! Loads of people who were there last night knew and worked with him. The organiser knew him personally. The performers were chosen for their reflection of his spirit – of who he was and the kind if acts he would have booked. Your rant is misinformed and misjudged.

Bob’s reaction was: I knew him well, he is the reason I am in comedy and I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT! An opinion not misinformed!

Keara replied: You said his ‘ethos was being ignored by middle class cunts’ – in what way, exactly? And exactly to whom are you referring? And who exactly are you calling ‘middle class’? John Fleming? Kate Copstick, Bob Slayer? Janey Godley? The audience?

Keara has something of a point here. I do not think former railwayman Mr Methane from Macclesfield would label himself middle class.

Do not call Janey Godley middle class

Janey Godley on a quiet day

And anyone calling Janey Godley middle class risks an unfortunate end, as she occasionally points out in her act that she can get someone killed for the price of a packet of chips. She is only joking, of course.

She could get someone killed for free, as a favour… and, indeed, she has half-joked in past shows that her uncle was killed one year as a birthday present to her.

But, by this point in the Facebook postings, I was a bit confused and I posted to Bob Walsh:

The GSOL as they are today (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

Greatest Show On Legs (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

I’d be interested to know who didn’t get invited. Martin Soan of the Greatest Show On Legs was booked to appear but, at the last minute, could not come up. Steve Bowditch and Dickie Richards, the other current two members of the Greatest Show on Legs, were invited to appear, decided to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller then decided they did not want to do it without Martin.

As for the middle class cunts in the audience, Malcolm discovered, when he was forced to turn the Tunnel Palladium into a members-only club, that a lot of his audience came from middle class areas. 

Malcolm ran his Tunnel comedy from 1984 to 1988. He told me that, to his surprise, a lot of his best hecklers worked in the City of London. I think (though I may be wrong) that his most legendary heckler – The Pirate – was a stockbroker who retired early on his mega-earnings to Spain.

Bob Walsh confused me even further, by saying: I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT and the whole middle class comedy industry and my drunken rant stands as my opinion. (Great line up tho Malcolm would have put some completely unknown acts on that HE liked)

The Silver Peevil from planet Venus

Would Malcolm have approved the Silver Peevil from Venus? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

It is, of course, impossible to know which unknown acts Malcolm would have liked because he drowned in 2005.

But I would lay bets that he would have liked The Silver Peevil in what I think (I could, again, be wrong here) was only his fourth performance.

And then there is the (in England, Scotland and Wales) unknown comedy harpist Ursula Burns, who performed her ditty I’m Your Fucking Harpist.

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, because of the sightlines in The Counting House ballroom, I did not ask her to perform her climactic opus in which she sings and plays the harp lying on her back, legs apart, with the harp on top of her. Trust me, Malcolm would certainly have appreciated that part of her talent.

With great respect to Ursula, I’m sure his outro to her act would have been: “I’d fuck her…”

On Facebook, though, I told Bob Walsh I was Still a bit vague. What would Malcolm have hated specifically and specifically why? I’m not arguing with your opinion, just interested in it.

Bob told me: Its just opinions of his regulars at Tunnel that I still associate with. They are NOT happy

I asked: Were they there?

Bob replied: I wasn’t but 2 were. The main gripe seems to be the lack of risks and how the show has become a cool thing for trendy comics to network at.

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring & Juliette Burton

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring and Juliette Burton? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

There are several points here.

One is that three acts did not appear on the show at the last moment. The act which had been going to climax the show phoned to cancel about 15 minutes before the show started. Two others (one a regular at Malcolm’s comedy clubs) simply did not turn up.

The other, more important point, is the incessant criticism of people being middle class.

Is that, in itself, a bad thing?

I think there is a worrying level of reverse snobbery going on here.

Yes, there is a comfortable Oxbridge elite of (especially BBC) producers who make programmes for audiences they do not understand. But there is no God-given rule of comedy that a so-called working class person from Liverpool can be funny and a middle class person from Surbiton cannot.

Tunnel Arts - Malcolm’s early management company

Malcolm’s early management business

If I booked a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show starring acts of which Bob Walsh’s ‘middle class cunts’ who read the Guardian and watch TV panel shows might approve, then Keith Allen, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Jules Holland, Stewart Lee, Sean Lock, Paul Merton, Vic Reeves and Johnny Vegas might appear on it. Malcolm booked, helped and sometimes even managed some of those acts.

He also booked bizarre odd acts and gave chances to new acts, which I always try to do.

As for “a cool thing for trendy comics to network at” – if only.

If only…

I would love that to be the case.

Those there last Friday – appearing on stage – if they hung around to see the show, that is not necessarily networking – included Baconface, Ursula Burns, Juliette Burton, Kate Copstick, Tim Fitzhigham, Janey Godley, Richard Herring, Lady Carol, Stewart Lee, Laura Levites, Mr Methane, Patrick Monahan, Frank Sanazi, Lewis Schaffer, Nelly Scott, Bob Slayer and Ewan Wardrop

Now, I am not specifying names, but I would not say all or even the majority of those names come into the liberal middle class elite of paranoid trendiness. And I may look like a fat, if shabbily-dressed, bank manager but, if forced to socially classify myself, I would say my upbringing was lower middle class and Malcolm Hardee’s was a step above me.

Malcolm was a grammar school boy who very nearly went to a public school. (American readers will have to translate that into their own native tongue.)

But, to steal Malcolm’s catchphrase – Fuck it!

Enough with all this class bollocks.

The so-called working class have no more right to own comedy than Oxbridge or the so-called middle class.

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At the Edinburgh Fringe, it is perfectly normal for women to wear nothing below the waist: it is cucumber season

Steve Ullathorne, photographer to the stars, outside the Gilded Balloon yesterday

Steve Ullathorne (right), photographer to the stars, doorstepped outside the Gilded Balloon yesterday

I arrived at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday to find it unchanged.

Going into the Gilded Balloon venue press party, I passed a young man who was wailing: “I just got wine on my phone! I just got wine on my phone!”

Inside the Gilded Balloon, comedian Maureen Younger, who was going in to see Janey Godley’s show Janey Godley Is Ungagged, told me people keep coming up to her in the street because they mistake her for either Janey Godley or Karen Dunbar – both of whom have Scots accents – despite the fact Maureen looks nothing like either and has an English accent.

Maureen Younger yesterday - or is it Janey Godley?

Maureen Younger – or is it Janey Godley?

On the other hand, Maureen’s own show The Outsider is about how she became the only London-Scottish, Austrian-accented German-speaking, black lesbian on the UK comedy circuit, despite being white, straight and British.

At the Gilded Balloon party, I also bumped into New York comic Laura Levites, still jet-lagged, who told me she had finished re-writing her show Selfhelpless eight minutes before her first performance yesterday, which turned out to be a good idea, as Kate Copstick (the Fringe’s most influential critic) came in to see that show.

Apparently Copstick liked it.

“What’s it about?” I asked Laura.

Laura Levites does not like puppet pigs

Laura Levites does not like puppet pigs at all

“What’s it always about?” she asked.

I can do no better than quote the blurb.

Life is shit. Drugs, shrinks, denial and the higher power of eBay haven’t helped. It took Laura three hours to get a new diagnosis – judge her in 60 minutes. ‘A straight-talking New Yorker with an upfront attitude’ (Scotsman). ‘Levites is both lovable and crazy’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com). If life were a cab it would first refuse to take her home and then hit her … wait … it just did! Laura almost let a creepy ex-neighbour photograph her in chains for this show. ‘Nuff said. Her dog needs vaginal rejuvenation. Lord knows what Laura needs.

What she did not need at the Gilded Balloon party yesterday was a rather scary pink pig puppet on the end of a man’s arm come up and try to sell his show to her while she was drinking.

Leaving by the pedestrian underpass outside the Pleasance Dome venue, I heard someone say: “He’s daubing graffiti with an invisible paintbrush,” and, indeed, a man was doing just that, while talking loudly to himself about the fact that the bees are being killed off by “them”.

But even I can be occasionally slightly surprised at the Fringe.

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott’s one-woman bottomless show

I have seen some topless comedy shows, but American performer Adrienne Truscott’s show is the first time I have seen a female comic’s show performed bottomless.

Her show was an eye-opener in that I now know the projected faces of several pop stars look even weirder with a lady’s pubic hair added to their chin. Her show is called  Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! 

As someone said to me afterwards, it seems perfectly normal, at the Edinburgh Fringe, for a performer to wear nothing below the waist.

Bob’s Bookshop bar - where everything costs £3

Bob Slayer’s new Bookshop bar – with Cat the lovely manager

The show took place in Bob’s Bookshop – a new venue run by comic Bob Slayer which unsurprisingly (for those who know Bob) has a public bar selling beers and sundry other drinks.

Before and after Adrienne’s show, I was chatting to comedian Ian Cognito. He was wearing a hat. He said he had a song about the late Malcolm Hardee. I invited him to perform it at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe. He said Yes.

The last time I saw Ian Cognito was when he, Jenny Eclair and I shared a funeral car at Malcolm Hardee’s funeral at Greenwich in 2005 – an event that was ‘reviewed’ by the Daily Telegraph with the words “Rarely can there have been so much laughter and irreverence at a funeral service and rarely can it have been more appropriate”.

Ian Cognito and Pam Ford at Bob’s Bookshop last night

Ian Cognito and Pam Ford (holding up the wall) last night

Last night, Cognito told comic Pam Ford and me a very funny series of stories about his own dad’s funeral and what happened to the ashes afterwards.

Alas, I don’t think I can repeat them, because I was harassing Cognito that he should do death stories as an Edinburgh Fringe show in 2014.

“You would make it funny, sad and odd,” I told him. “You should call it Four Funerals and a Funeral.”

He did not seem persuaded, but you never know.

When I got back to my Edinburgh flat, zonked, an e-mail was waiting for me from Alexander Frackleton, a Scot living in the Czech Republic, occasionally mentioned in this blog.

He told me: “Please gonnae no’ refer to me as an ex-pat. I hate ex-pats and avoid them like the plague cos they are always complaining about how things are not like Britain, America, Canada, Australia etc. And I’m not a comedian – and don’t want to be. Ye know that. I’m a Scots Poet in exile. Don’t look at me like that, yer a writer, ye can work with that idea.”

His real reason for writing, though was to tell me that a report he had spotted in yesterday’s Daily Mail online was not a wind-up.

“It is true,” he told me, “cos it was reported here in the Czech Republic a few days ago.”

Pastafarianism lives! - in the Czech Republic at least...

Pastafarianism lives! – in the jolly Czech Republic at least…

The report was about a Czech man who claims his religion forces him to wear a sieve on his head. He says his religion is ‘Pastafarianism’ and the authorities have now given him permission to wear a sieve on his head on his official Czech ID card picture.

Perhaps it is NOT just Edinburgh which is eccentric.

“Do ye know what the Czechs call the ‘silly season’?” Alex asked me. “They call it the cucumber season.”

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Comedian Paul B.Edwards on the UK’s crisis in comedy and The Helsinki Bus Station Theory of how to build a career

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Tomorrow, Paul B.Edwards’ Last Minute Comedy Club in Hitchin celebrates its 20th anniversary. He also runs comedy clubs in Letchworth, Luton and Baldock.

“People have been complaining about a ‘crisis’ in comedy,” I said to him yesterday, “with people not going to live clubs.”

“Well, my clubs are part of a huge squeezed middle,” he told me. “People at the very top are doing very well with their tours on the back of TV appearances. Michael McIntyre made more money than the Rolling Stones last year touring. But TV is making famous other people who aren’t ready.

“If people go and see ‘the funniest bloke they’ve ever seen on the telly’ live in a theatre and he actually isn’t very funny and he’s ‘the funniest person’ they’ve ever seen, what is the point of them going to a comedy club where they’ve never heard of anybody? It’s stopped new people coming to see live stand-up comedy.

“My single biggest problem is the falling number of people under the age of 30. Audiences are getting older, certainly in the sort of provincial clubs I’ve got.

“The comedy circuits are diverging. There’s a whole young Daniel Sloss audience who have never heard of Ian Cognito and vice versa. You’ve got kids going to see shows performed by kids. And adults seeing shows with adults in. And party types going to see Jongleurs-style shows. And people who really believe in stand-up comedy going to see shows in rooms in the back of pubs, like it always was and is supposed to be.

“You have five or six diverging circuits and very few people can work on all of them, which means all of our audiences have gone down as the number of clubs has expanded. There are more and more clubs around, but there are less and less people suitable for each type of club.

“Add to that an economic recession when existing audiences have tightened their belts and, instead of coming once-a-month or once-a-week, they come once-every-other-month or once-a-fortnight… You’ve halved the audience straight away and you’re not getting new people.

“It used to be that, when I got an article in the local Hitchin Comet newspaper, I would get 30 extra people at my club. Now it make no difference whatsoever unless the photograph is of someone people have seen on the telly.”

“So you have been affected by the economic recession?” I asked.

“My Hitchin show halved in numbers,” said Paul, “but I didn’t really know why. The audiences had always been great to the point they’d queue out into the car park to get in. Suddenly it was down to just over 100 people and I didn’t know why.”

“Did this happen in 2008 with the economic recession?” I asked.

“It took a little while to drop – maybe 2009,” replied Paul. “But now, to the current recession, you have to add the ‘Michael McIntyre’ effect, the big arena tours, the TV panel game effect. I think any one of those the comedy circuit would have survived but the fact they all happened at the same time halved audiences. Clubs shut. Anyone who says they didn’t suffer or aren’t suffering is a fucking liar.

“Every time one audience member doesn’t go to a comedy club, they may save themselves £10 but, collectively, if 100 people save themselves £10, the club loses £1,000.

“I didn’t know what to do until Peppa Pig showed up.”

“Peppa Pig?” I asked.

No, no… Not that Peppa Pig

No… Not that Peppa Pig… The one with a computer database

“Peppa Pig is this girl who came to my show in Letchworth. The audience there used to be 120; but it had dropped to 80. That was alright. I figured it was a newer club and a smaller drop – though still a 33% drop.

“At all my clubs, I always go down to the the pub afterwards with the audience – from the minute they get to the gig, I’m their mate as well as their host. She came up to me afterwards and we got talking. Peppa Pig said: Is there anything I can do to help? I market local events for people putting things on. At the weekend, she gets dressed up as Peppa Pig and goes round children’s parties. She works in schools, all sorts of things.

“I asked What do you want? She said: I don’t want anything at all. I want the club to keep going and I can help.

“I had no idea what she could do to help. But she has a database that I’ve never heard of and they’ve never heard of me – namely young parents… Young people who had not been to my comedy clubs, who don’t get out very often but who plan a babysitter for once a month and go out. She told them: Come to comedy.

“Overnight, Letchworth was sold out, Hitchin was selling out… This was in January.”

“Last year?” I asked.

“This year,” Paul said. “It’s only just happened. The numbers had dropped virtually overnight. Now they recovered virtually overnight – simply by someone reaching a group of people I couldn’t reach. Full houses. Paul’s happy again.”

And now Paul has expanded into Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Paul’s Oslo Comedy Club

Paul has been expanding into Scandinavia

He has opened comedy clubs in OsloGothenburg and, as of next month, Copenhagen.

“I take two comics out there,” Paul told me yesterday. “It’s 100% English-speaking-as-a-first-language at the moment, but that may change as there are quite a lot of local comics who want to do comedy in English. At the moment, there’s quite an exciting comedy scene in Oslo of people who can’t get booked because the main club there has made themselves a sort-of closed shop. So there’s all these new comics coming through who have hit a glass ceiling and have nowhere to play.”

“Much the same thing happened in Scotland,” I said. “But making a career out of comedy has never been easy.”

“Do you know the Helsinki Bus Station Theory?” Paul asked me.

“No,” I said, mystified.

“If you want a successful creative career,” explained Paul, “you have to understand the timetabling and bus routes of Helsinki Bus Station.

“Helsinki Bus Station has about 25 or 26 different routes going to 25 or 26 different destinations, but there’s only one road into Helsinki Bus Station and only one road out. For the first kilometre, all the buses are on the same road.

“When you first start off, you start off thinking you’re having creatively original ideas, but you’re not having creatively original ideas because you don’t realise everyone’s having the same ideas as you. If you look out of the window, there are 25 other buses going along exactly the same road.

“But, after one kilometre, the buses start to move off in different directions. The the only way you can have a successful career is to Stay on the fucking bus. The longer you stay on the bus, the more likely you are to eventually reach that unique place that only you are going to.

“Other people are getting off the bus too early until, eventually, there’s only you and the driver.

Stay on the fucking bus – That’s the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

“As a stand-up comic, I’m not famous yet and I may never be famous, but I’m staying on the fucking bus.”

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UK comedian Nik Coppin accused of racism in Oz by white Peter Goers who “couldn’t tell” the colour of Nik’s skin

Nik Coppin not wearing a baseball cap and not looking down

(This was also published by Indian news website WSN – We Speak News)

British comedian Nik Coppin wrote to me last night:

__________

This situation in Adelaide has really hit me for six. Not because I can’t handle the shit that Peter Goers has sent my way, but I really can’t believe that an interesting and amusing story about Australian history and sport was met with such closed-mindedness, rudeness and ignorance!

It’s not just the way he verbally abused me in the studio and tried to get me to bow down on the phone, but to actually put in print that I am racist????”

__________

Last week, Nik was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) told Goers he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

Laughing Horse boss Alex Petty, who is partly staging Nik’s show, was also part of the radio interview.

“It was one of the most bizarre radio interviews I have ever been involved with,” he told me yesterday. “The interviewer even thought Nik was a Canadian. The next day, he said to Nik: “I couldn’t tell that what colour your skin was, as you had a baseball cap on and looked down a lot”For telling an anecdotal story about the change of racist attitudes in Australia, a middle-class, out-of-touch and unprofessional white man calls mixed-race comedian Nik Coppin racist! It is completely unjustifiable.”

I occasionally have my blogs printed in the Huffington Post.

It is a fairly automatic routine. If I submit ‘em, they get published. But there was one which I sent them which was noticeably not printed. It discussed and used the word ‘nigger’.

I asked a black chum of mine whom I have known for over twenty years what she thought. “Love the article,” she said, “Interestingly, I have to say that I hate it more when I hear one black person call another a ‘nigger’, probably because it‘s being used when another adjective or noun would do.”

Nik told me last night:

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The word ‘nigger’ is a very interesting one. Powerful, perhaps the most powerful in the language, but I feel that it exists in a very strange and grey area. It’s not a swear word as such, like ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ – words that can’t really be used in any context without being deemed offensive – but, aimed as a term of abuse, it is far worse than any other.

However, in the context of a story, especially an historical one, why can it not be used? To not use it at all, even to outline a point or tell an anecdote is surely like brushing racism or certain aspects of it under the carpet, is it not?

I have experienced racial abuse from both sides of the black and white coin, so I, too, exist in some ways in some kind of grey area, in that I get it from both sides and could also be seen as racist against both sides, again depending upon the context. The British comic Ian Cognito ironically went on stage after me, years ago, when I was a new act and said: “If your mum was white and your dad was black, surely you would be grey? That amuses me to this day.

A story I have told that has actually sparked some degree of controversy was when I tried to stop an African man from sexually abusing a drunk young girl in the Meadow Bar in Edinburgh and, after repeatedly and politely asking him to stop, he told me that I was nothing to him – not a true black man – so to stay out of it. He repeatedly called me a “worthless half cast bastard”. He racially abused me to exert some kind of power over me in light of me not letting him have his way with a vulnerable young female friend of mine.

I have been there before with being called ‘hybrid’, ‘mongrel’, ‘half cast’, by black people (as well as ‘nigger cunt’ by white people) so, given that I had given him so many chances to play nicely with the girl and retract his racist abuse of my heritage, which he refused to do, I dropped the N-bomb on him. He, like many I have told the story to, became offended. After what he had done and said? Where is the sense in that? Even less sensical, he told me that I shouldn’t call him that because he had mixed race children! WTF????

I am not proud of myself for dropping that N-bomb on him and I should have perhaps taken the moral high ground, but I feel he deserved it in that instance. I make a wee joke of the story when I tell it in front of audiences by saying that all the Scottish locals in the Meadow Bar were looking at a black man and mixed race man racially abusing each other and thinking “I thought WE were racist!”

The really interesting thing about this story is that most people only flinch at the use of the word ‘nigger’. Him attempting to sexually molest a young girl – that’s OK – him calling me a worthless half-cast bastard – ooh, strange and not nice – but you called him a WHAT????

‘Nigger’ is a terrible word to use, especially when using it offensively or aggressively, but is it worse that being called a ‘hybrid, ‘mongrel’, ‘worthless half cast bastard’? It seems that it is in most people’s eyes. And should we really be banning it from everything and everywhere, even stories of the past? I don’t think so and we certainly should not jump to conclusions about someone being racist just for using the word if relevant and in context… should we, Mr Peter Goers?

Racism is a horrible and backward thinking way of life, but there are massive differences between race hate, a joke about a race, a racist joke, a story about race etc. People seem all to quick to lump anything to do with race in one basket, which is totally wrong in my opinion. By all means stamp out racism, but don’t do it by way of brushing it under the carpet.

True racists and race-haters are terrible, nasty people that have no place in modern society, which is why they whisper and meet in places on the quiet so often. When your ’cause’ makes you have to do that, then surely you must realise that your plight has failed. And since intelligent and forward-thinking people know that these people are to be looked down upon and shunned, I like to use the term, ‘Racists are the new niggers’.

Which is why I simply can’t let Mr Goers off the hook if I can help it. He has by calling me a racist, in effect, called me a nigger himself. I am not that stupid or ignorant to think or feel that way about any race of people with derision, scorn or hate. I simply don’t have that capacity within me.

I will be using these stories, examples and opinions and many more in my shows next year. Not necessarily at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, but certainly at all the festivals in 2013.

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Yesterday, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Alex Petty told me yesterday: “The implied accusations of racism by Goers (on the radio) have been put in print by the same person and this is going to be taken to solicitors, the Australian press complaints process and the editors and owners of ABC Radio and the Sunday Mail.”

This story may well have some way to run. And with good reason.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Racism