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New Scots comic Machete Hettie on she gangs, Bulgarians & the big black wave

Machete Hettie at The Grouchy Club in Edinburgh

Machete Hettie at The Grouchy Club in Edinburgh last month

When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe last month, I occasionally posted blogs about what had happened at the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club which I co-hosted with comedy critic Kate Copstick. But the shows were an hour long and what I mentioned in the blogs were only 5 or 10 minute excerpts.

One character who never turned up in the blogs was someone I did blog about last year – newbie comic Machete Hettie.

She lives in the Leith area of Edinburgh – or ‘Leithiopia’ as she calls it.

When she called in to The Grouchy Club, she had just come back from a holiday.

“Where did you go?” I asked.

“I went to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria,” she told us, “and the place was mental. The taxi drivers are really fucking crazy. They drive aboot wi’ a bottle of beer in one hand and a phone in the other and nae hands on the wheel. They charge what they want. They’re the dearest part o’ yer night oot.

“Everything over there’s fake, from yer handbag to yer fake lighters. They even sell ye fake lighters wi’ nae gas! Look!” she said, rummaging in her handbag, “I’ve got twelve bloody lighters! They’ll give ye one light and that’s it! Everything’s fake-it-an-bake-it.”

“How long were you there?” Copstick asked her.

Machette Hettie in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

Machete Hettie in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

“A week,” Machete Hettie replied. “Ma liver is in pain. Seven days of shots. I managed to get steamin’ drunk for like £2 a night. They give you great big tubes with a half bottle o’ vodka in them. It’s meant to dae ye from midnight to 6 o’clock in the morning. Great big tubes. But they’re that heavy you can hardly carry them. You end up using them as a dancing partner, ken? They’re that big.

“Till 6 o’clock in the mornin’ ye can get steamin’ in Sunny Beach an’ I’m sure there’s loads o’ people that must come back pregnant an’ call their baby Sunny cos that’s no very hard cos they’re all at it in the streets an’ that..”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Cos I seen it,” said Machete Hettie. “Cos I was there. It happens oot in the street. It happens everywhere.

“I didnae have any shenanigans wi’ them myself, like for sex or anything like that, no matter how much they were nice-lookin. I had it in my mind that, if you done anything wi’ those Bulgarians, you’d end up wi’ no flip-flops. But I ended up getting robbed o’ my flip-flips and my phone anyway. There was a great big fuckin wave came and took it all away. It took ma handbag, ma shoes, the fuckin lot.

“I was sunbathing a bit too close to the sea and a great big wave came and snatched ma bag and the whole shebang, then it threw it back at me wi’ a broken phone and ma money all tae fuck.”

“You’re used to nicking things,” I said. “Surely.”

Kate Copstick & Machete Hetty after Grouchy Club show

Kate Copstick and Machete Hettie after Grouchy Club show at Edinburgh Fringe

“But I’m no used to stuff getting fuckin robbed offa me,” replied Machete Hettie. “Especially by a Bulgarian Black Sea wave. I thought it was gonna be from some sort of Bulgarian/Romanian/Russian gypsy. I didn’t think some black wave was gonna come along and tax us.”

“Why did you decide on Bulgaria?” I asked. “Because it was cheap?”

“Aye. Cheap and nasty,” replied Machete Hettie. “It was a last minute deal.”

“Was the nasty bit good as well?” I asked.

“Nasty was very good. That good that I’m going back.”

“How did they manage with your accent?” I asked.

“Extremely hard. They were asking me which part o’ Bulgaria I was fae.”

“I’ve known you about a year,” I said, “and you’ve never ever told me why you’re called Machete Hettie.”

“Well, how do I explain that?” she replied. “It was basically shit that happened when I was younger. Let’s say I was up to nae good in the neighbourhood. Dysfunctional shenanigans. I was in my twenties.”

“What sort of no good?” I asked.

“Well…”

“Remembering,” I told her, “that this is being recorded.”

“I probably just hung aboot in she gangs and things like that. It was gang related.”

“They’re called She Gangs?” I asked.

“Aye. I’m originally fae Dundee. I’m a Dundonian/Leithiopian.”

“That’s scary,” said Copstick.

“That’s scary,” agreed Machete Hettie. “Now you can maybe understand ma nature.”

“So you were in teenage she gangs in Dundee?” I asked.

“Yes. They were called the Hull Toon Huns.”

“Why Hull Toon?” I asked.

“Cos I was fae an area called Hull Toon – the Hull Town – which was quite a rough area. I done some shit years ago and I got the nickname Machete Hettie. I’m using it as a comedy name now because it’s catchy, but the balaclava and the whip, well… I’ve dropped them now; they was causing too much trouble… where airports and that were concerned. I’ve been accused of everything.

Machete Hettie celebrates in a Clerkenwell street last night

Machete Hettie in a London street last year

“They’d say: A gimp mask? They’d ask: Did you knit that yourself?… I wouldn’t like to be your neighbour if that’s what you go about doing to your neighbours. A lot of men thought it was quite kinky, ken. But I was fuckin sweating. I couldn’t handle it nae mare underneath them lights.”

“Have you ever in your life,” I asked, “held a machete?”

“Aye, of course I have. When you were allowed to bring them back fae Spain – and big Samurai swords an’ that.”

“The fact you were allowed to bring them back,” I suggested, “didn’t mean you HAD to bring them back.”

“Oh,” she said, thinking about it, “maybe you weren’t allowed to.”

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Big Comedy Conference in London plus a woman in balaclava + cat o’ nine tails

Machete Hettie (left) and Sarah Higgins in a street in Clerkenwell, London last night

Machete Hettie (left) and Sarah Higgins after Big Comedy Conference in London last night

A week ago, I mentioned in a blog that I had got a message from “a starting-out stand-up comedian” whom I did not identify asking if it was worth her while going to the British Comedy Guide’s Big Comedy Conference in London.

I went to the Big Comedy Conference yesterday and, indeed, she had come too. She performed three minutes of material at the end of the day – perhaps rather foolishly using her own name. It is quite some time since I cried with laughter watching a comedian perform. I did watching her.

I say she perhaps rather foolishly used her real name because regular readers of this blog with a taste for the bizarre may remember I blogged about her as Machete Hettie in August this year – She was an unforgettable audience member at comedian Matt Price’s Edinburgh Fringe show. She claimed she came from Leithiopia – her name for the docks area of Leith in Edinburgh.

In my opinion, she should appear on stage under the name ‘Machete Hettie’ because it is more commercial and gives more of a hint of what audiences would be letting themselves in for.

After yesterday’s Big Comedy Conference finished and we had left, she was chatting to me and Matt Price’s agent Sarah Higgins of Mirth Control Comedy. We had both seen her in Edinburgh.

Below is what Machete Hettie said. I have no explanation for parts of what follows and I suspect I do not want to know for my own safety. At the point at which this starts, Machete Hettie was standing in a street in Clerkenwell wearing a black balaclava and holding a whip, both of which she had produced after leaving the Big Comedy Conference building. Don’t ask. Just do not ask.

“You want me to tell people aboot my life of crime,” Machete Hettie was saying. “That’s what you want me to do. But that’ll come later once maybe I get noticed. Then youse’ll hear aboot my life of crime for 17 years. But really I cannae tell you that noo.”

“You’re a shrewd woman” I said. “People will have to pay to go see a show.”

“I dinnae jump aboot wi’ balaclavas for fuck all, John,” she said. “D’ye think I could afford to just come doon here for this just like that? No. Not if it wasn’t for my life of crime, ye know?”

“Why the whip?” I asked.”Or the cat o’ nine tails or whatever it is.”

“The cat o’ nine tails answers a lot o’ questions,” explained Machete Hettie. “That’s for me to know.”

“And why no machete?” I asked.

“Well,” she replied, “I cannae really go aboot wi’ knives and blades an’ that, cos I’ll get myself arrested. So the whip’s fine, but I really did evict my neighbour and I really did choke her to fuck. The whip was better than a blade.”

This was a reference back to part of her three minute routine on stage at the Big Comedy Conference.

“You did what?” I asked. “You choked her?”

Machete Hettie celebrates in a Clerkenwell street last night

Machete Hettie celebrates with whip last night

“I choked her to fuck like a horse, yes,” said Machete Hettie, slowing down and speaking slowly to me as if she were explaining something to a rather dumb school kid:

“I put the whip in her mouth, gagged her with the whip, held her and told the funky monkey junkie fuck that she was evicted cos Machete Hettie’s taking the law into her own hands and I’m no going through any Council situation.

“I told her: That’s it! You’ve got two minutes to get yer goods and chattels together! And she says to us: I don’t know why you’re wearing a balaclava because I recognise you with your tattoos and I said I couldn’t give a fuck if you recognise me. You’re fucking evicted. Ten cats?

“Ten cats?” I asked.

“Ten cats,” repeated Machete Hettie. “My eyes were stinging with the stench o’ cat piss an’ everything. And she says: Well nine cats now. One committed suicide. Threw itself oot of the window. Which it really did – because I thought it was a jacket comin’ oot the window.

“Between me holding anti-social parties doon the stairs and her holding her fucking prostitute parties up the stairs…I mean, she was lucky she got paid £5 for prostituting herself! She had eyes that popped oot like ET. She used to tell people she had cancer to get money. She would shave off half her hair and leave the other half a Mohawk.”

“Is she still in the area?” asked Sarah Higgins.

“No,” said Machete Hettie. “Neither am I, cos I got evicted too. Basically I told the Council, if I didn’t get the fuck oot o’ there, I’d be throwing myself oot the window too, like the cat. By the end of it there were 12 cats which got her arrested for the PDSA. The woman was a fat disaster. She was worse than camel toes and me… And she’s getting £5 for that?”

“Camel toes and you?” I asked.

“Aye,” said Machete Hettie. “Well I’m fat. And fat develops camel toes, John. Maybe if I got more confident, I could tell you more about camel toes than you’ll ever know.”

“She’s a lady,” said Sarah Higgins.

“It’s just a no-go area, you know?” said Machete Hettie. “It’s no a lady garden.”

“Neither of us,” I told her, “are going to argue with you, because you’re too dangerous.”

“I have to be dangerous living in the city I do,” said Machete Hettie. “If I didn’t be dangerous, man, people’d walk all over me.”

“You live in Edinburgh,” I said.

“They’ll take advantage of your nice personality and accuse it of being a weakness,” explained Machete Hettie. “That’s why you have to be tough, right? You have to be fucking tough and nae cunt will mess with you. So I rule the roost. That’s the way it is.

“Now I’m in a new build: a penthouse and all that. Still in Leith, but right beside the boats.”

“By the Royal Yacht Britannia?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “That’s exactly where I am. So she’s done me a favour, Rita The Meter – I got the fuck oot of nightmare on Duke Street.”

“You should do an Edinburgh Fringe show,” I told her, “next year or the year after.”

Edinburgh and Machete Hetty - very Trainspotting

Edinburgh and Machete Hettie – both are very Trainspotting

“I done a monologue of my life,” she told me, “in a theatre in Fife, which was very interesting and very Trainspotting. That’s been my life. It’s been very Trainspotting. I’ve got a hard neck to slag Rita. Well, I may have led a Trainspotting life, but at least I’ve got OCD: I didn’t have a minging house like her. Fucking dirtiest toilet in Leith. Ten cats and mice running aboot that wore overcoats.

“There’s hardly any Edinburgh people performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. Do you hear anybody talking about Edinburgh or Leith? I’d want to open up the dark side. I’d tell ‘em what Edinburgh’s all aboot – Shifty characters, watch yer wallet – the whole shebang. “

“And now the police are closing the saunas,” I said. “What is the place coming to?”

“Scotland’s all run by the Glasgow force now,” said Machete Hettie, “which is all corrupt. It used to be Lothian & Borders and Strathclyde Police and all but now they’ve merged them all into the one Scottish Police Force. Now Glasgow rules the whole of Scotland and they’re just fucking corrupt,”

“Why DO you have a balaclava?” I asked.

“They came from my son,” explained Machete Hettie. “He’s Army and he got me a range of colours – pink, orange, glow-in-the-dark, everything. But I like the black one because black goes with anything and it makes you look slim. He gave me the balaclava. The whip I’ve always had, just for daft parties. Never used for any kinky things; just used at parties that lasted from Fridays through to Mondays where you ended up with no eyebrows and a lot of things that stayed within the four walls that you just wouldn’t repeat.

“I play the part of being normal quite well, so they say,” she added

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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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