Tag Archives: Ian Fox

Women pray for God to strike down feared UK comedy critic Kate Copstick

Ian Fox yesterday, at the Pleasance Dome in Edinburgh

Last night, after I posted my blog chat with Ian Fox about how he got attacked in the streets of Edinburgh, I got a Tweet from Ian Hawkins saying: “I’ve felt very unsafe flyering in Grassmarket sometimes.”

It’s good to know someone reads my blog.

I drove down from Edinburgh to London overnight last night with a couple of sleeps in service station car parks and, when I was somewhere around Milton Keynes, I got a phone call from Alan McEwen at the Edinburgh Evening News.

He had just read my blog about the attack on Ian.

The Edinburgh Evening News should be running an article about the assault tomorrow, in an attempt to find the attackers.

And, indeed, the Huffington Post this afternoon carried my blog piece about the attack.

So, with luck, the psycho yobbo duo of Edinburgh may get their comeuppance.

Meanwhile, I have asked Alex Petty of the Laughing Horse Free Festival to pencil in Friday 23rd August 2013 for next year’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe and (I hope) have booked Miss Behave to compere, Andy Dunlop of the World Egg Throwing Federation to supervise another Russian Egg Roulette competition and Kate Copstick to hand out the prizes.

Although she does much more than that.

She has been a judge for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards since they started.

Although she does much more than that.

I ran a blog back in February this year headlined Top comedy critic Kate Copstick spends $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya.

All the money donated by audience members after the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards goes to Copstick’s charity Mama Biashara. No money is deducted for any show costs nor for any expenses of any kind; 100% is passed on to the charity.

The Mama Biashara charity works in the slums of Kenya, setting mainly women up in small businesses to help them pull themselves out of the absolute poverty in which they are living. Copstick spends four months of every year in Kenya, mostly in the slums of Nairobi. Below is a diary extract from one of her visits this year. It may give an insight into Copstick beyond her being the feared doyenne of British comedy critics:

______________________________________________________________________

Kate Copstick spends four months of every year in Kenya

Wednesday

I meet up with Doris in Kawangware and we head for the next workshop. This time out in a place called Wangiki, about an hour from Nairobi.

Doris is looking uncharacteristically nervous and asks the women who meet us at the matatu stage if we should get piki pikis to the meeting place. The women say “No, no, we are meeting ‘hapa tu’ (just here)”. They point at a building just down the hill.

Turns out it wasn’t really that one they were pointing at. It was one about half a mile further on. Kenyan distances are very much like Kenyan time – having the elasticity of a bungee rope over the Grand Canyon.

As we walk down the muddy lanes, I am increasingly fascinated by Doris’ bottom. It is an extraordinary thing which moves entirely independently of her skeleton. With each step forward it sways from side to side with a very attractive fluidity. But I digress.

The room is packed with women and the occasional spluttering child. We kick off with the ground rules of Mama Biashara:

– The money is only for business

– Know your status

– Respect for all

It is this last that causes consternation.

I explain that Mama Biashara has respect for all races, colours, religions and sexuality. I do not believe in God but I am fine if you do. You simply cannot refuse to help someone on the grounds that their beliefs/colour/sexuality etc are not yours.

There is much chatter. I start the workshop.

There is the usual litany of disaster, illness, abandonment etc but a lot of these women have good business heads. And good ideas. We are getting along well up to about number 12, when the increasing din outside reaches a crescendo. I get up and look out.

There is a… let us call it a group… outside the house. Animated to say the least. They are not happy that I do not believe in God. They say my money is corrupt and they have been off to the church opposite to pray to God to strike me down.

Doris wades in and emphasises that no-one needs to take my money, I am here only to help and just because I do not believe in God, I do not care if they do. She asks if I want to stop the workshop and leave. I say, “No”. We continue. With some terrific women. Good business plans.

At around number 28, there is another commotion at the gate.

This time, the women have brought the heads of the local Mungiki.

They are (to be fair) the most feared gang/sect in Kenya.

They are (or were originally) very strict Christians. And many Kenyans wish they were running the country now. They are real… errrr… disciplinarians.

We go out and Doris explains again what we are about. I shake hands and nod along with what she says. The Mungiki ask if we are forcing the money on the women. I laugh. We explain. The Mungiki say that is absolutely fine with them and shoo the women away. The remaining women relax visibly.

The rest of the afternoon passes in financing, medication, back rubs, demonstrations of stretching exercises, nutritional advice and the usual whole nine yards.

I get an escort of about fifteen women back to the matatu stage. Doris suggests we leave ASAP. It turns out that Wangiki is not really the safest of areas. Doris says she was shocked by what happened today. She has been working with this group for three months and had not imagined they would pull a stunt like that.

I end the day munching delicious mutura (a sort of barbecued sausage made from goat intestine) washed down with a can of Tusker. With jelly babies for pudding.

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Filed under Charity, Comedy, Crime, Edinburgh, Kenya

Comedians punched and headbutted in the street at the Edinburgh Fringe

Ian Fox in Edinburgh earlier today

Before I left Edinburgh this evening, I had a drink with comedian-writer-photographer Ian Fox  who was attacked in the street on Wednesday night.

When I was with him today, he got a phone call from the police.

“It was around 11.30 at night and I was coming up that curved street Candlemakers Row, just before you get to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby,” he told me. “There were loads of people walking about, because the Tattoo had just finished.”

Throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, Ian has been taking nighttime photos of Edinburgh between around 10.00pm and midnight.

“I’d taken a photo in the Cowgate,” he told me, “ but put my camera away because there isn’t anything else to take photos of until you get to Bristo Square. The camera was round my neck, but underneath my top, so they didn’t see it. But it wasn’t a mugging.

“Some students were arsing about on the left hand side of the road, kicking a traffic cone about, so I crossed over the road to avoid them. I was in the road and only vaguely aware there were people walking down the other footpath then, as soon as the guy got level with me, he just hit me. He was wearing a ring, which is what cut me.

“I hit the ground, mainly out of surprise, then I heard another guy say: He’s gone down. I think the first guy had passed me, the second guy then hit me and I think the first guy had turned  to watch, because he knew what was about to happen and then he was celebrating the fact I’d gone down.

“When I heard him say He’s gone down! I thought to myself This probably isn’t the best place to be because I’ll get a kicking when I’m down on the ground. I’d quite like it if this was over now. So I stood up and turned around and walked to Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar.

“There was a chef outside. I thought he must have seen the whole thing, but he later told the police he hadn’t seen anything. I asked him if he could help me. He took about three seconds to make a decision on that. He obviously just thought it was drunks fighting but then I think he could tell from the way I was dressed and the way I was speaking that I wasn’t drunk.

“So I went into Bobby’s Bar and the waitress in there took over; she started handing me all the blue papery stuff to soak up the blood.  They phoned the police and the paramedics, because they were worried about how much blood was coming out of me. My cheek was bleeding; my nose was bleeding; so there was a lot of blood.

“The woman in there told me they’d just refused service to two blokes because they were very loud and very aggressive so the chances are it was these two blokes who had just got refused who walked outside and clocked the first person they saw.

“From the way they had been moving, I think they were on speed or something. They were on something, they’d had a skinful and the adrenaline buzz of hitting someone was the next thing they were after.

“The police said they hoped the cameras inside Bobby’s Bar had got a clear shot of them coming through the door, but that phone call I just got was the police saying it turned out the CCTV inside Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar has not been working since the 12th of August. The police said they’re now going to look at the Council’s CCTV in the street. But I’ve had a look three times and I can’t see a camera around there. I’m guessing somebody who behaves like that has probably done it before so would not do it near cameras.”

“You had another check-up today, didn’t you?” I asked.

Ian Fox with his mending eye in Edinburgh earlier today

“Yes, at the specialist Facial Injury unit in Livingston at 9 o’clock this morning,” said Ian. “It turned out everyone was given a 9 o’clock appointment, so it was first come, first served.”

“Livingston?” I said. “That’s miles away! That’s about 15 miles away!”

“It still counts as Edinburgh,” Ian said, “because it’s got an EH postcode.”

“Good job you brought your car up here,” I said. “You might easily not have done.”

“They told me I don’t need any further treatment,” said Ian, “but I may have a permanent scar beside my nose and the nurse advised me to avoid being punched in the face for a few months.”

“She didn’t,” I said.

“She did,” said Ian. “and I’m sure that’s very good advice.”

“I imagine the police won’t do anything about it,” I told him. “Did you read that blog of mine a couple of days ago, where a comedian had his computer stolen and he told the police where it was from the Apple GPS positioning and they wouldn’t do anything about it?”

“Well,” Ian said, “a deli I go into every day here… The guy there told me he had an incident a while back where one of his fridges wasn’t working and he called a repair man from an advert in the paper. The guy came and gave him a ridiculously high quote, so he said No.

“A couple of hours later, the cafe owner goes to the bank. Whilst he’s away, the repair man comes back, tells the girls behind the counter he’s there to fix the fridge, moves the fridges, hacks all the wiring at the back, tells the girls the griddle’s broken and says he needs to take it away for repair and leaves with the griddle.

“The cafe owner comes back, finds all the fridges are knackered and the griddle’s missing. So it’s criminal damage and theft. He rings the police, gives them the phone number of the advert and tells them this is the bloke who has done it – the girls have given a description of the guy… That was five months ago and he hasn’t heard anything since.

“He says he opens at 7.00am in the morning and has trouble with drunks coming in and, in the past, he’s tried to get the police to come and shift them and they won’t do it.”

“I love Edinburgh,” I said, “and it’s physically beautiful, but it’s a tough town under the surface. I’m surprised more comedians don’t have problems.”

Seymour Mace got head-butted outside the ScotMid in Nicolson Street in 2009,” Ian told me.

“Was that unmotivated as well?” I asked.

“Exactly the same thing as me,” Ian said. “Except he got headbutted instead of punched. Never even saw them. Though headbutting seems a lot more personal, somehow.”

“More Glaswegian,” I suggested.

“Seymour had a black eye for a week,” Ian said, “and he was doing a children’s show, so he had to explain to the children that he’d hit his head on a door. You can’t tell children there are random nutters out there in Edinburgh who will just headbutt you for no reason.”

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Filed under Comedy, Crime, Violence

The Edinburgh Fringe: increasingly influential, surreal and assault-prone

The Greatest Show on Legs without masks (or clothes)

This morning, I got a phone call from the Daily Star newspaper, who had got wind of the fact the Greatest Show on Legs are going to perform their Naked Balloon Dance in Prince Harry masks at tonight’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Sadly, it came to nothing, even with a quote from Legs leader Martin Soan saying:

“Prince Harry is a mere beginner in flashing and cavorting with women in hotel rooms. We have been doing it since before he was a glint in his father (or mother)’s eye… It is a great British tradition and we stand proud and erect as true patriots in support of Harry. We cry Thank God for Harry, England and Saint George! What the Scots will make of it, we don’t know…”

Journalists can be quirky people but they can sometimes work under difficult circumstances.

Apparently, journalists who write about the rival Edinburgh Comedy Awards and call it the… erm… Edinburgh Comedy Awards are getting phoned to be told they have to now call them the Fosters Comedy Awards, although the official website still calls them the FOSTERS Edinburgh COMEDY AWARDS… Mind you, the Fosters website also talks of “32 years of discovering comedy genius” – a bit of a dodgy claim, given that they were sponsored by Perrier 1981-2005 and Intelligent Finance 2006-2008. Then, famously, impecunious American comic Lewis Schaffer offered to sponsor them for (if memory serves me) £99 and he was – some feel unjustly – spurned.

Fosters have sponsored the awards since only 2010.

Did I mention the Malcolm Hardee Show?

So, strictly speaking, the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, established in 2007, have been running longer than the Fosters Comedy Awards, established 2010.

Far be it from me to try to get some cheap publicity.

However, following in the promotional wake of the aforementioned Fosters Comedy Awards, we have decided to precede the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards title with the phrase “the increasingly influential” and are thinking of starting an “Increasingly Influential” company to sponsor our awards for £1 per year and justify the title The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards beyond doubt.

Ian Fox before he was attacked in Edinburgh

On far more serious matters, yesterday I asked comedian-writer-photographer Ian Fox if he was coming to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show tonight to take his increasingly influential photos. I got this reply:

Probably not to be honest. I didn’t have the greatest of nights last night. I was randomly punched by some guy walking past me on Candlemaker Row. Never made eye contact with him, never even took any notice of him. He was walking down the hill I was going up. He got level with me and hit me. I ended up at Edinburgh Royal and now have three stitches in the side of my nose and a very swollen face. Evidently he was wearing a ring. If I can take photos I will but I’m going have to take it easy for the next day or two. 

I just had the inconvenience of four hours with the dibble in Edinburgh Royal. And the doctor told me he practised his stitching on cat toys. He replaces the cat nip every few weeks apparently. 

Shortly after this, I bumped into flame-haired American temptress Laura Levites.

“What are you doing after Edinburgh?” I asked.

“I may be going to red headed convention in Holland,” she replied.

I asked for no more details, as this seemed enough information.

Paul B Edwards (left) and Lewis Schaffer, Cowgate yesterday

Then I bumped into comedians Paul B Edwards, David Whitney and Lewis Schaffer in the Cowgate. Paul B Edwards told me BBC Radio 2 had interviewed him about the Fringe because, he thought, he had been mentioned in my increasingly influential blog.

After David Whitney had left, I told Paul B Edwards and Lewis Schaffer about the attack on Ian Fox.

“Well,” Paul said, “I heard that, two nights ago, Kunt and The Gang mentioned Margaret Thatcher in his gig. He gets a lot of punks at his gigs and a drunk punk at the back started screaming on a Thatcher rant that no-one could understand. He approached the stage and kept approaching the stage and Kunt said I have three words for you – ‘Fuck off now’ but the guy didn’t and threw a punch at Kunt and even though Kunt and The Gang looks like quite a little guy on the stage, he’s quite useful and apparently he punched this guy out of the venue. That’s what I heard. He punched him out and out of the venue to cheers and applause, because his crowd don’t have a problem with violence when it’s justified.”

David Whitney in the Cowgate yesterday

The back story to this is that David Whitney got criticised a couple of years ago when he allegedly head-butted an audience member after being provoked. A writer from a newspaper was present and wrote an article about the incident which, other comedians have told me, hurt his career.

“Sometimes,” said Lewis Schaffer, “people forget audience members deserve a good head-bashing, whether they’re walking or in a wheelchair.”

Paul and I laughed for reasons I have not yet, but might yet, blog about.

“I said ‘wheelchair’, said Lewis Schaffer. I didn’t say ‘paralysed’. Some audience members are just twats and, if they’re going to destroy a show and if they’re going to step towards the comedian, then they’re gonna deserve it. I’ve never hit a punter in my entire life but I…”

“Yes you have,” I interrupted. “You hit that bloke who smashed your iPhone at the Gilded Balloon the other year.”

“He wasn’t a punter,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He was just a guy in the street. He smashed my iPhone! That wasn’t comedy-related!”

“You gonna cry now?” Paul laughed.

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “because now I’ve punched one guy…”

“You’ve got a taste for it?” I suggested.

“I’ve got a taste for it,” Lewis Schaffer agreed, laughing, “and all I want to do now is punch people in the face.”

These are the sort of conversations which happen during the Fringe and seldom elsewhere.

Shortly afterwards, I was due to meet Miss Behave, host of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. I was striding towards the appointed meeting place in Parliament Square when she passed me, speeding in the opposite direction.

“Hi, John!” she said, “Just got to pick up a sword. Back in a mo!”

The surreal soon becomes reality at the Fringe.

I went to the Gilded Balloon party last night after their So You Think You’re Funny talent show final. A banner proclaimed:

25 YEARS OF FOSTERS SO YOU THINK YOU’RE FUNNY

The Gilded Balloon venue – evacuated by fire fear last night

This was news to me. Those wacky brewers are at it again! I thought. How surreal a twisting of reality is that?. Then the fire alarm rang and the entire Gilded Balloon building was evacuated.

Exactly ten years ago, in 2002, the old Gilded Balloon building burnt down.

I texted my comedy chum Janey Godley:

STANDING IN THE RAIN. GILDED BALLOON EVACUATED. FIRE ALARM.

Immediately, a text came back:

I AM NOT THERE. I AM IN GLASGOW. I HAVE AN ALIBI.

The fire alarm turned out to be a false alarm.

What a waste of a good alibi.

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British Airways are a bunch of drug smugglers who ruined a relationship

Martin Soan got high flying with B.A.

The story so far…

British Airways buggered up their flight from London to Beijing by overbooking it, downgraded my ticket, promised to refund the difference in fare (they have not yet) and gave me £75 compensation in the form of a BA Visa card which they are trying to foist on people.

However, most cash machines only dispense £10 and £20 notes, not £5. So British Airways, in attempting a bit of good PR have created bad PR for themselves by giving alleged compensation in a form where they accidentally but actually screw people for £5. Now read on…

As a Scot brought up among Jews, £5 is £5. I would have been happy with £70 compensation, which I could have accessed. But I am pissed-off if they are allegedly giving me £5 which cannot be accessed.

So, yesterday, having had no response to a message I sent to their Customer Relations Dept via the BA website ten days before, I blogged about it and their Twitter team @British_Airways sent me a message:

Hi John, sorry to read of your disappointing flight. Here is a link to our compensation card info.

All very jolly. Except it just says you get your money by using an ATM. That will be the ATMs which cannot dispense £75 then… Their next attempt was:

You can use the card at a retailer for the residual balance.

Sure enough, if you plough through their Compensation Card Info, you can indeed, use your card to pay at selected retailers displaying a Visa Electron sign. Even if you find a retailer visibly displaying this sign, it involves a terrible rigmarole of using another plastic card in addition to using the BA plastic card but making sure you use the BA one first.

At this point yesterday, I was just interested to see what hoops individuals at BA would contort themselves through in order not to sort out the problem and give me my £5.

What retailer? I replied. Why should I? What if I just want the money?

I got no reply to this, but my Facebook friend comedian Sameena Zehra told me:

BA have been crap for years. What really irritates me is the ‘One World’ concept, so that you can buy a Quantas flight (as I did when I went to Adelaide in March) but find out that one of the flights is operated by British Airways. and then they have different luggage allowances, check in procedures and their attitude is ‘Tough shit – you should have booked a different flight’. Arse.

My Facebook friend Aileen Kane told me: “Cash machines in Scotland give out fivers now! Worth checking…” but it seemed a long way to go from London to get my extra £5.

Pursued further, BA’s Twitter twits then tweeted:

Sorry you’re having difficulty withdrawing your cash, John.  Please call Customer Relations on 0844 493 0787.

I decided to see how much worse they could bugger up their customer PR. So I called.

“You can get £5 notes through-the-wall from Barclays Bank and Lloyds Bank,” I was told.

“I have tried that,” I replied. “Their machines don’t dispense £5 notes.”

“Yes they do,” I was told.

“Righto,” I replied.

So, with the same sense of adventure that built the British Empire, I went down to my high street.

I tried (again) Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest, HSBC, Halifax, Santander and Nationwide. None of their machines dispensed £5 notes. I even, humorously, went in to the Lloyds and Barclays branches and told them British Airways said their machines dispense £5 notes. “No they don’t,” replied one bank…. “British Airways are idiots,” replied the other bank.

I had to agree.

At home, there was an e-mail waiting from comedian Ian Fox saying: “I just got 2 fivers out of a Tesco cash machine.”

Unfortunately, this was in Manchester.

There was a second e-mail from Ian. It said: “You know I did think right after tweeting that That’s probably not going to help. I think I was right.”

This morning, I got a Tweet from journalist and Malcolm Hardee Awards judge Jay Richardson telling me: “You can get £5 only out in Glasgow. Don’t even have to pawn anything.”

But life is cheaper in Glasgow. I understand you can get someone killed for £5. If I could get my extra £5, I would put out a contract for a hit on the entire PR Dept at British Airways. Though it might cost £10 in Glasgow.

But Tesco may be the furrow to plough. Sadly, this morning, I am currently far from a Tesco. (Who would have thought such a thing was possible?)

Last night, comedian Martin Soan suggested Tesco probably do issue £5 notes because they would not want to lose the custom of someone wanting to buy £3.99 of lager.

“Why wouldn’t they just use their card?” his wife Vivienne asked.

“I know the mentality of someone wanting to buy £3.99 of lager,” said Martin.

And he told me his own British Airways story.

“My brother was out in Greece” he said, “and I’d never been out of the country before. I was only 18 or 19. My girlfriend encouraged me to go out there with her. But she made it abundantly clear – after seeing my excessive behaviour in the genre of drug-taking – that I must not take any drugs with me on the flight.

“Of course, I completely ignored her and took about five tabs of ‘Orange Sunshine’, which was the best acid you could buy at the time – about twice the strength of other types of LSD. It was infamously very powerful acid indeed.

“I was working as a Punch & Judy man at the time, calling myself The Greatest Show on Legs. Being a Punch & Judy man, I could accommodate – embarrassing though it is to say – a large mass at the back of my throat.”

(Background info: The swazzle which creates the voice of Mr Punch is two bits of silver held together by a piece of cotton thread. It is put in the back of the performer’s throat. When he wants to speak as Mr Punch, he presses the base of his tongue against the swazzle and directs all the air from his windpipe through the swazzle.)

“So,” Martin told me, “I had this ability to hold and manipulate things at the back of my mouth, top of my throat. The night before the flight, I chewed-up a load of chewing gum and lay the five tabs of acid in the resulting tiny ‘pudding’ of chewing gum. I waited for it to go hard, then shaved it down with a Stanley knife, making it into a small saucer shape – roughly swazzle size. If any Customs man caused problems, I could swallow it.

“In the morning, I had the thing in the back of my throat, leaving the country for the first time, going off to Greece which had very draconian laws against drugs. I was nervous.

“In the departure lounge, I took it out and had a drink, then put it back in my mouth. We get on the British Airways plane. A little later, the pilot announces we’re flying over Paris at so-many-thousand feet. I am nervous. I absent-mindedly think What’s that in my mouth? and feel this bit of what feels like plastic in my mouth. What’s that? I think. I put it between my teeth and pull. I see this vaguely orange saliva-ey thing on the end of forefinger and thumb and think Oh fuck! and then swallow the whole lot – five tabs of Orange Sunshine acid – out of shock.

“I spent the next hour ordering whisky from the flight attendant and trying to ‘come down’ but events started overtaking me and I had some very interesting conversations with my girlfriend who was sitting next to me.

You promised you wouldn’t take drugs, she said. Everything’s OK, I told her. Why are you drinking so much whisky? she asked. I thought Why do I have to be stuck in a Social Security office with 150 of the ugliest and weirdest people I have ever seen in my life? Things like that. Then Oh! I know why! Because I’m not in a Social Security office; I’ve taken some acid and I’m on a plane.

“I remember the British Airways stewardess struggling to understand this man behaving rather strangely It was about 1971.

“At one point I thought I’ve just got to say something to appear normal. It’s going to seem weird if I don’t talk. People were murmuring all around me, then the plane hit this pocket of air and we dropped maybe 50 feet. Everybody went Ooh! and shut up. Total silence. But I immediately launched into some loud nonsensical monologue and everyone looked round at me.

“When I got off the plane, the blast of Greek heat hit me and sent me doolally. I completely lost control. I was convinced we were in Ireland and there was some trouble with the tarmac, so I wanted to lie on it to protect it. I was aware people were looking at me oddly but didn’t know why. I then started running to the terminal building and managed to run through the Customs and out the other side before any staff had arrived there.

“Then I panicked and went back through. I had nothing to declare and I wanted to prove it. They accepted that.

“The girlfriend was not pleased. She had this restrained anger about her the whole holiday. When we got back to Britain, she wrote me a horrendous letter. Quite deservedly. End of relationship. I’ve never seen her since.”

“So,” I asked Martin, “British Airways are a bunch of drug smugglers who ruined your relationship?”

“You want to say that?” asked Martin.

“Well,” I replied, “it would be quite jolly and would it make a good blog heading.”

“Oh,” said Martin. “OK.”

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Filed under Airlines, Comedy, Drugs, PR, Travel

How to write a daily blog? Easy. Incest, grumpy camel stories and nude women

If desperate, use a nude, copyright-free Wikipedia photograph

I can’t remember why I was being interviewed last night by Ian Fox, comedian, photographer and online omni-presence.

It is for some online jollity he is planning and he did mention it to me before I went to North Korea (did I mention I went to North Korea?). In fact, I think he suggested it to me almost two years ago. I have a notoriously bad memory and can’t remember why he was asking me questions.

But one was: You write a daily blog. Is it difficult to keep coming up with stuff each day?

My answer was: “It’s not that difficult.”

Ironically, I then woke up this morning with no obvious subject for a blog.

But incest can be a fruitful thing.

If Ian Fox interviews me for some online project he’s doing, then I can blog about him interviewing me. On this basis, British-based American comedian Lewis Schaffer and I have built up a fruitful cyber-incestuous relationship by occasionally blogging about each other. I quote him in my blog, which he then mentions in his blog, which I then comment on and on and on…

When short of a blog idea, I highly recommend going along to one of Lewis Schaffer’s free shows and then letting him buy you a Chinese meal and/or an expensive ice cream afterwards. It costs you nothing and New York Jewish comedians’ neuroses are always a bottomless pit to excavate. It also makes you feel better. You think: At least my life is not THAT shit…

Also useful is recycling your as-yet unprinted interview answers.

Last night, Ian Fox asked me about the lowlights of my career.

I told him about the occasion when I was working for the children’s TV series Tiswas and a circus provided me with a one-humped Bactrian camel. I was not well-pleased. A child had written-in saying he wanted to ride between the humps of a camel. This requires a minimum of two humps. The circus guy swore blind to me that this clearly uni-humped creature was actually a two-humped Bactrian camel and it was just the way the humps were lying that morning. The camel appeared to be as grumpy as I was; I think it had expected to be on a better class of TV show. The child was, fortunately, just happy to be on any camel.

The camel farted.

That’s the way to fill up a blog when you have nothing specific in your mind.

Tomorrow, though, I should be OK for a blog subject.

Because today I am having a ‘death lunch’ with Lynn, my friend of 37 years. We are executors of each others wills and occasionally meet to update where we keep our money, our knowledge of Kyrgyzstan and other goodies.

After that, I am eating with miniature comedienne Laura Lexx, then comedy scriptwriter Mark Kelly, then street sensation Paolo Ferrari, then doyenne of comedy critics Kate Copstick… and then I am seeing Lewis Schaffer’s ongoing twice-weekly comedy show Free Until Famous in Soho. And possibly getting a free curry or ice cream out of him afterwards.

Surely one of those people has some bloggable story I can steal. My motto is: Get someone else to write your blog for you. If all else fails, Lewis Schaffer’s neuroses can be excavated.

The downside is that, with all those meals and muffins and sitting around, I get ever fatter.

Writing a daily blog?

It’s a piece of piss.

Which is possibly what a reviewer would say.

* * *

The interview by Ian Fox appears HERE.

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Filed under Blogs, Comedy, Writing

“How to Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show”

How many editions do books come in?

I must have coughed myself awake last night, because I remember I had a dream… I only remember my dreams if I wake up during one.

Yesterday evening, I had a meal at an Italian restaurant owned by Iranians in Esher with Fred Finn, the Guinness record-holder as the world’s most travelled person. He told me that his author father was called Fred Finn too and he came from a line of 17 Fred Finns. He also told me the President of Turkmenistan recently visited the Ukraine.  I went to Turkmenistan in 1995. An interesting place.

Last night, in my dream, comedian Ian Fox told me that he, too, had visited Turkmenistan. That was in my dream. In reality, I do not think Ian Fox has visited Turkmenistan, but he knows a lot about Edinburgh.

I am obsessed with places like Turkmenistan. Comedians are currently starting their annual obsession with the Edinburgh Fringe, because the ‘cheap’ entry deadline for the festival is in two days time.

Ian Fox is more than just a comedian – he is a comedian, author, blogger, professional photographer and even, last year, a successful last-minute, thrown-in-at-the-deep-end sound supervisor for the Malcolm Hardee Awards at the Fringe.

Ian has produced and performed in fourteen Fringe shows over the last nine years –  which is why he can justifiably title his book How to Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show. In our new, more complicated publishing world, it comes as a paperback, in a Kindle edition and as an eBook.

So, I asked him yesterday afternoon, why a book in any form? And why by him?

“In addition to my own shows,” Ian told me, “I always make a point of asking how others people’s show are going and I end up learning stuff from others. The book wasn’t my idea – a couple of people suggested that I should write it. I usually get comics asking me Fringe questions in gigs the rest of the year. Writing it down – all my advice and what I’ve learned myself – seemed like a good idea.”

The things which he himself surprisingly first learnt by going up to the Fringe were “from a business point of view VAT and the surprise of discovering you have to pay it on your ticket money. And, from a personal viewpoint, how different people react to the stress and pressure of doing a show each day for almost four weeks. I’ve seen some super egos appearing from people who’ve started to believe their own press.”

But, I asked him, isn’t the Fringe so full of competition and rip-off venues, so chaotic and such a bottomless money pit that it’s not worth performing there at all?

“Competition is not really a problem,” was his surprising answer, “Rip-off venues are an issue but incompetence is usually a much bigger issue, both in the people managing the venue and the temporary staff doing the day-to-day running of the place. But I personally think things of beauty arise from chaos.”

The alternative, I suggested, is losing less money doing a show as part of the PBH Free Fringe or the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

“Well, some of the free shows are surprisingly lucrative,” Ian says, “and, if you’re sensible with the money you put up-front  then I think you can turn a profit. I reckon there’s advice in my book to save a new performer at least £300.”

But why should people need to buy a book? Isn’t it obvious what to do even if you are going to the Fringe for the first time?

“Some of it is,” says Ian, “But some of it you only learn by doing it. In March, you’re usually too exited or confused by the small print to know what it all means. In October, when you get your final figures, you discover what it all means and wish you’d had a better understanding of how it worked before you invested your money. Plus the official stuff from the Fringe Office, is – How can I explain this? – ‘official’. There is more of a street-wise approach to my way of doing things.”

Also recently published was Mark Fisher’s book The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: How to Make Your Show A Success (which I blogged about here).

How are the two books different?

“Mark’s a theatre critic, I’m a comedian,” Ian explains. “We both have different experiences of the Fringe. His version probably doesn’t include his flatmates going mental and committing assault with a deadly weapon or fist fights with drama students. My book has my own stories in it, aside from one or two anecdotes I included just because they were funny – so it’s unique to me. It’s got a behind-the-scenes element to it that the people who aren’t performers enjoy reading as well.”

Comedian Ashley Frieze is credited as co-author of Ian’s book.

“He edited it,” explains Ian, “and he was a good sounding board for ideas. Plus he added a couple of sections here and there and reminded me of stuff I’d forgotten. The thing he did most was leave comments in the margins saying: Yeah, you probably should NOT mention that! in the true story sections of the book. I’m at that point now where I’ve pretty much got to work with someone or I just don’t do anything other than watch old films I’ve seen loads of time before.”

Ian’s own show at the Edinburgh Fringe this August is going to be “about photos and stories. Similar to last time… in fact, if I don’t get some writing done soon, it might be really similar to last year’s show.”

And is there another Ian Fox book on the horizon?

“I’m hoping the next one is going to be ‘real’ book,” Ian says. “I have a super secret project I’m shopping around, but if that doesn’t pan out I’ll probably do some more erotic fiction written under the pen name Panther Stevens. Starbucks have started asking for your name when you order a drink… I think people should tell them their name is Anus Sandwich.”

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Miss Behave and an encounter with Kunt at the Edinburgh Fringe

Last night at the Edinburgh Fringe, I went to see Miss Behave’s variety show The Mess at Assembly in George Square.

She may have been laid low with meningitis for weeks, but Miss Behave sure knows how to put on a show.

It’s not often you get in one show, clowns, music, Phil Kay in full manic flight, Charlie Chuck and his plank of wood, magician Paul Zenon, a host of other top acts and 25 circus stunts in 5 minutes. And it is a different show with different acts every night.

Leaving George Square later, I bumped into stuntmeister of the moment Kunt and the Gang with comics Ian Fox and Ashley Frieze.

Ashley is, it seems, a great fan of Kunt’s magnum opus Shannon Matthews: The Musical.

Kunt promised to give me a copy and he told me that the Edinburgh Council men, who threatened him with a £3,000 prosecution for inciting audiences to stick paper penises onto other acts’ posters, were tremendously amiable. They told him – he swears this is an exact quote:

“We’ve been round 100 sites, pulling cocks off.”

Ian Fox has posted online some of the random penile graffiti, which he photographed before the council men went around doing their civic duty.

More worrying than the threatened £3,000 court case, though, Kunt has heard a rumour that managemrnt/promotion company Avalon may sue him for £50,000 for… I am not quite sure what for… damage to their acts’ images?… inciting audiences to deface random posters with sticky cocks? As Kunt did none of the cock-sticking himself, it is a tough call. I am not sure if ‘incitement to commit graffiti’ is on the statute books.

But maybe this rumour is just the sign of a stunt that has gone beyond control and now has a life of its own. Or maybe Avalon are now in the race for next week’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

Whatever.. Kunt now has 4,300 sticky paper penises left over.

If anyone has a good suggestion about where to stick them, then let him know.

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Filed under Comedy, Crime, PR