Tag Archives: Malcolm hardee

It is not as easy nor as quick as you might think to build a squirrel feeder

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward has occasionally been described in this blog as “mad inventor John Ward”.

There is a reason for this.

I have recently had some emails for him, cobbled-together by me below:


I have just finished construction of ‘Top Nut’, my latest squirrel feeder – as seen in Moulton-Seas-End (which is nowhere near the sea). It is based on Star Wars type stuff and cobbled together from all bits and bobs.

A few years ago now when I saw the squirrels we had running about in the garden I realised that a trail of nuts would lead their inquisitive minds to the pile of nuts or whatever I have built for them.

It has taken a week or so to get them to investigate Top Nut, but they are now getting used to it. 

I have taken some ‘grabbed’ photographs through the kitchen window so they’re not that clear. Now I know how Attenborough’s lot must feel sitting it out, waiting…

How did all this come to pass? I hear you ask.

The wheelbarrow we used in the garden had collapsed – it’s always the metalwork that rots or rusts through it seems. So what was left was the heavy duty plastic barrow part plus the wheel.

The more I looked at the shape, the more I wondered what it would look like upside down.

Inspired by what it DID look like upside down, the plan was to build another squirrel feeder – You can’t have enough squirrel feeders I always say, moreso as we live rural.

The barrow bit was cleaned and large holes cut into it based on when we get winds – it blows straight through – a lesson learnt years ago with the bird table that was blown over and basically destroyed… So that was sorted.

Next the ‘deck’ or floor was a discarded off-cut from a sheet of MDF, the miracle TV ‘makeover’ show product that seems to be used for just about everything in building anything in this day and age.

It was shaped to fit the upside down barrow bit leaving a narrow, half inch margin all round so that rain water can escape so as not to flood it – and it works very well I am happy to say. Tick the box marked ‘Forward Planning’ here.

I also applied five coats of waterproof vanish to seal it against the elements, which took over a fortnight, on and off, to allow each coat to cure or dry properly hence being waterproof (I hoped…).

Next was a stable but firm base. This was achieved by cutting an industrial type slotted racking support in half to make a ‘V’ shaped support, then welded to a metal plate to partly form the base.

This was bolted to an old office chair base that was being thrown out by a local company that I ‘rescued’ from their skip (with their knowledge – although they didn’t quite seem to believe what I was building).

To gain squirrel access to the craft, I made a ladder from a plastic PVC off-cut from somebody who was having new soffits (the bits that hold the guttering up) and double glazing put in. The treads are plastic packers as used in the building trade to even brick/woodwork up… cut down to scale and stuck on with superglue.

Next up was making the superstructure. The rear ‘motors’ are four old 35mm film slide projector reels, reversed then glued/screwed end to end.

They were then attached to two loudspeaker ‘horns’ to form the ‘motive power’ with the actual top being an old industrial size fluorescent plastic based light unit, cut in half and glued together to form the ‘upper hull’ section.

The various ‘wings’ on top are parts from a discarded electric buggy/wheelchair.

The ‘flight deck’ is made from an old desk ‘odds and ends’ tray cut in half and miniature ‘seats’ handmade using an old black imitation leather shopping bag for covering and inserted into small square type flower pots to form ‘bucket seats’ that are about to scale considering the size of our semi-resident squirrels – Sid and Shazz.

The controls are assorted colour beads and anything lying about. The ‘gear stick’ is based on a 1987 model British Leyland Maestro car. The ‘handbrake’ based on a Ford Sierra of the same era.

Between the seats at the rear is a scale model fire extinguisher. Should there be anything untoward happening on the flight deck, then this won’t make the slightest bit of difference, but it looks good!

The outside solar power and heat transfer modals are waffle plates – one per side – from a sandwich/waffle maker that somebody donated to the construction as they never used them as they only use the sandwich, toasty plates so they are brand new, unused.

The ‘front screen’ is an empty space with thin elastic threaded through drilled holes to form the ‘screen surrounds’ similar in appearance to WW2 planes.

The ‘Sid and Shazz’ sun visor – going back to the 1970s – where it was the thing to have the driver and passenger’s name in the sun visor over the windscreen – is a separate piece of Perspex with their names stuck on with letters from Poundland.

PS: in the first video, and possibly in a photo or two, there is a sign with ‘Painting by Carl’ on it.

He is the paint sprayer for a local engineering firm who was silly enough to ask if he ‘could do anything towards your project’ and so he sprayed the exterior of Top Nut in the machine grey you see.


John Ward is available to customise any totally insane projects you may have.

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The making of The Comedians’ Choice Awards at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe

I have mentioned the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in the last couple of blogs. The actual trophies were designed and made by mad inventor John Ward who is particularly keen (via an email this morning) that I mention he lives in or near Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire.

If you go to Wikipedia, you will find there is an article on Moulton-Seas-End currently illustrated with  a sole photograph (below).

John Ward clearly is, indeed, a man out standing in his own field.

Moulton-Seas-End, home of John Ward  (Photograph supplied by Kate Jewell via geograph.org.uk)

I suspect he may be trying to drum up tourist trade for Moulton-Seas-End, which is nowhere near the sea.

Having established specifically where he lives, onwards more generally to this year’s Comedians’ Choice Awards.

These, like the Malcolm Hardee Awards, are currently organised by the British Comedy Guide with trophies designed by John Ward but, in this case, there is sponsorship from London’s Museum of Comedy.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards were founded in 2014 and aim to help highlight “the amazing work of those at the Fringe who may well otherwise go unrecognised, as judged by those who understand their efforts the best: their peers.”

Every comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe is eligible to both cast a vote and to be voted for.

There is no panel of judges, no industry specialists. The performers themselves decide who wins. Voting is conducted during August via an online form administered by the British Comedy Guide.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards are presented in three categories:

BEST SHOW at the Fringe.

BEST PERFORMER – The best individual comedy performer at the festival.

BEST PERSON – “A person who the voter feels should get recognition for their contribution to this year’s Fringe. This does not need to be a performer; it can be anyone associated with the comedy industry at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from reviewers to producers and venue staff.”

The Best Performer and Best Show winners and the Best Show shortlist nominees get invited to take part in a special Comedians’ Choice showcase season at London’s Museum Of Comedy in October.

This year, as a bonus, streaming platform NextUp Comedy will also record some of the Museum Of Comedy nights, with the performer receiving a revenue share.

The actual trophies, as I said, are designed and made by John Ward, who lives in or near the village of Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire. He tells me:


John Ward, from Moulton-Seas-End, with the original Award

Before the Covid, if you recall we met up at Milton Keynes with the then ‘new’ Award that – unbeknown to me at the time – was then given in three classes and not one as I first thought.

Trying to replicate that one this year has been slightly chaotic… Since the Covid malarkey, things have been a bit fraught in acquiring the same materials in the making of.

The materials that went into making that Award are not readily available nowadays – blame the Ukraine business, the 3 Day Week, fluoride in toothpaste, wotever.

John Ward, resident of Moulton-Seas-End, crafting an Award

The new design is more handy for standing on a bookshelf, fireplace or to use as a door stop.

It’s in a mask configuration with the now standard ‘red nose’ being central, with a slanted ‘comedic eye’ on one side with the Comedy Guide emblem opposite making the twin ‘eyes’ as such with raised eyebrows.

The ‘grinning’ mouth has been chiselled out and filled with red ‘sparkly ripple’ type finish inserted and is not symmetrical but, as you look at it, there is a small curl on the left hand side at the top of it.

It is secured to the base with twin screws and a central wooden dowel so, in theory, there is not much chance of it falling apart… but, then again, they said the Titanic was unsinkable..

I have made nine of these: three for 2021 to give to the winners from then, three for this year 2022 and three for next year 2023, with each year being designated its own colour scheme.

The colours per year are: Gold, Silver and Bronze. This year, for 2022, it’s Silver.

Three years’ worth of The Comedians’ Choice Awards


THE COMEDIANS’ CHOICE AWARDS

2022 WINNERS

BEST PERFFORMER

Jordan Gray …performing in Jordan Gray: Is It a Bird?

Sharing the news on social media, Gray said: “This means EVERYTHING to me.”

BEST SHOW

Rob Copland: Mainstream Muck (Gimme Some of That)

In a nod to his unconventional show, when asked what it felt like to win, Copland supplied this statement: “\m/”.

BEST SHOW SHORTLIST

Ali Brice: I Tried To Be Funny, But You Weren’t Looking
Chelsea Birkby: No More Mr Nice Chelsea
Colin Hoult: The Death of Anna Mann
The Delightful Sausage: Nowt but Sea
Elf Lyons: Raven
Luke Rollason: Bowerbird
Siblings: Siblage
Shelf: Hair Stuart Laws – Putting Zoo

BEST PERSON

Martin Willis

He is managing director of show production company Objectively Funny. The company also produces and distributes the Small Book on Mental Health at the festival, to support performers.

Martin Willis said: “It is a massive honour to win an award like this, one that’s voted for by people involved in shows here. It means the world to be recognised by a community that I care so dearly about, and I’m incredibly grateful.

“That being said, it cannot go unmentioned that in the history of this particular award the winner has always been a man. That fact speaks both of the demographics of the voters but also of what we actually see from behind the scenes. For an industry that is historically male-dominated onstage, there is a vast array of brilliant women that have made so much work possible in so many ways – technicians, producers, agents, venue programmers and people that do whatever job needs doing with care and gusto.

“I would like to accept this award on behalf of the Objectively Funny team that has worked so hard to make excellent things happen at this festival: Ellie Brayne-Wyatt, Maddy Bye, Kathryn Higgins, Olivia Phipps and Lois Walshe.”

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This year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards: It all ended in tears and a fight by a bus.

Highly unlikely to ever want to rest in peace…

Yesterday’s blog was about the travails of this year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. The show was cancelled on the day (by the Award organisers) at The Counting House venue and then suddenly moved to another venue, Bob Slayer’s Blundabus: a double-decker bus. No reflection on the highly-esteemed Counting House.

Yesterday’s blog sort-of encompassed my philosophy of organising things… 

Anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong. 

And anything that cannot possibly ever go wrong WILL STILL go wrong.

The best thing is to prepare everything in advance to the last detail, organise everything with fallback positions and then, when the whole thing suddenly starts to go arse-over-tit despite all that, it is easier to manage the new chaos caused by one single unexpected disaster than have to sort-out this new and impossible-to-predict problem AND all the sundry could-have-been-foreseen-and-planned-for potential multiple problems.

You should plan for the foreseeable-knowns; you can’t plan for the unforeseeable-unknowns.

Malcolm Hardee also had a philosophy about First World problems: 

“Fuck it! It don’t matter do it? There are people starving in Africa. Not all over though. Round the edge – fish.”

I am in London. Three people have told me anonymously what happened in Edinburgh on Friday night/the early hours of Saturday morning .

One person, who had arranged to see the 11.30pm show at The Counting House with a group of people from London said: “I saw that the show had been cancelled and assumed that was the end of it. Wish I’d known that Bob had stepped in. Small venue though.”

Someone else, comic Giacinto Palmieri (who actually attended the re-scheduled 01.00am Blundabus presentation), opined: “A show that was so alternative that there was no show… Malcolm Hardee would have appreciated that.”

Apparently the awards were announced from a small stage in front of the double decker bus. When Jerry Sadowitz was announced as winner of the ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, there was, I’m told, “a noticeable but small Boo! from the crowd”. 

After the Awards, a vivid verbal contretemps then ensued between two of the people involved in the show which, it seems, can best be described as a non-meeting of minds between, on the one side, ‘very tired & emotional’ and, on the other, ‘very irritated and Woke’. It all ended in tears, as such things are prone to do.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote that an email sent to me at 02.59 on Saturday morning told me: “The news announcement (of the Award-winners) might be a little delayed… One bit proved quite controversial, so the judges are going to need a chance to decide on the wording first.”

It turns out this referred not to the decision on winners of the Awards but on the wording of the press release mentioning comedian Jerry Sadowitz. 

The press release was eventually issued yesterday afternoon. Here it is (I have added pictures):


For immediate release

MALCOLM HARDEE AWARDS 2022 RESULTS

The results of the Malcolm Hardee Awards 2022 have been announced during a ceremony at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The awards – handed out in the memory of comic, agent, manager, club-owner and prankster Malcolm Hardee – celebrate and promote the spirit of anything-goes comedy anarchy at the Edinburgh Festival.

This year’s winners are:

COMIC ORIGINALITY

Two thirds of The Flop: Dan Lees (left) and Cammy Sinclair (Photo: Stephen O’Donnell)

The Flop: A Band Of Idiots (Dan Lees, Tom Penn, Cammy Sinclair)

Comedy trio The Flop – Dan Lees, Tom Penn and Cammy Sinclair – performed their show at The Banshee Labyrinth at 10:10pm between the 6th and 20th August.

Their brochure blurb explains: “60 minutes, 12 notes and three idiots. Musical mayhem and expert clowning from the greatest band in the whole world… ever.”

Mr Chonkers was also nominated in this category.

Ivor Dembins without Edinburgh Council’s rubbish men (Photograph: Stephen O’Donnell)

CUNNING STUNT

Ivor Dembina

The 2022 Cunning Stunt prize goes to comedian Ivor Dembina, for his reaction to the Edinburgh bin collection strike, promoting the growing piles of uncollected rubbish as performance art.

 

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID

Sadowitz: offensive future millionaire?

Jerry Sadowitz

Originally scheduled to play just two shows at the Pleasance’s EICC venue as part of his national tour Not For Anyone, cult comic and former Hardee protégé Sadowitz made national headlines when his show was unceremoniously axed after its first night, with Pleasance claiming both “[we are] a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material,” and “the material presented at his first show is not acceptable… this type of material has no place on the festival”. Coherent, much?

Judges explained: “Ironically, after being cancelled, Sadowitz is seeing a huge increase in ticket sales for the show’s tour, and is now adding a date at the 3,600+ seater Hammersmith Apollo in November.

“The Million Quid is getting closer for the most unlikely of reasons.”

*** *** ***

The usual, anarchic awards show was not able to take place this year, but a results ceremony was held at Bob Slayer’s infamous BlundaBus venue at 1.00am this morning.

The winners each receive a specially made trophy designed by inventor John Ward.

This year’s judging panel was Marissa Burgess, Kate Copstick, Bruce Dessau, Jay Richardson, Claire Smith and Ian Wolf.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards have run since 2005, the year of Malcolm Hardee’s death. They ended in 2017, however having been ‘much missed’ at the 2018 festival, they have now been revived by British Comedy Guide, with the blessing of original organiser John Fleming and the Hardee family.

Find out more about the awards and previous winners at:
https://www.comedy.co.uk/hardees/

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Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe – organising anarchy

ITV’s Tiswas – Good clean family fun

I was a researcher on the final series of anarchic Saturday morning ITV children’s show Tiswas. It had been going for years at the point and everything ran fairly smoothly. It was broadcast live usually for 2-3 hours. I remember at least a couple of the live shows ran for 4 hours. I think the series I worked on ran for 39 weeks of the year. 

Because it was allegedly for young-ish children (and university students) all the items were very short because of their short attention span. The only long items were cartoons (about 7 minutes long) and live pop songs (about 3 minutes).

Everything else tended to be I guess no longer than around 30 seconds. 

On a live TV show – with guests, children, rock bands, cameras and crew in the studio, with anarchy being the format and with water, custard pies, electric cables and people moving all over the place all the time on the studio floor – this was a recipe for disaster.

The trick was to have one meeting early in the week with representatives of all the technical and editorial departments involved to pre-spot potential problems… and an editorial meeting late in the week to iron out the detailed practicalities.

One week, at one of these meetings, the producer lamented that everything ran far too smoothly on-screen. It was an ‘anarchic show’ but so well-planned that nothing ever actually went too wrong. How could we add in some genuinely unplanned chaos?

The answer was, really, that we couldn’t. Because the only way to run anarchy on stage or in a TV studio is to plan it carefully in advance, with fall-back positions, and then fly by the seat of your pants. You plan for as many possible contingencies as you can and then it is easier to cope with the ‘impossible’ things that actually happen on the day.

Which brings us to the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. I used to run them but no longer do – so, when things go wrong, I can comfortably sit back in London and observe from afar.

(L-R) The 2022 ‘Million Quid’, Comic Originality and Cunning Stunt Awards, designed by John Ward

The format is that there are (over the years) 4-6 judges who decide on three Awards – Comic Originality, Cunning Stunt and ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’. In the past, the Short List of nominees was announced around Tuesday of the Fringe’s final week and the Awards were decided by the judges at Friday lunchtime, then announced and presented during a live 2-hour stage show just before midnight in the ballroom of The Counting House venue, which is part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

This involved me getting a taxi down to Leith as soon as the winners were decided… to get the names engraved on the three Awards… and rushing down again around teatime to collect them before the evening show. Meanwhile, acts for that night’s show would be dropping out or changing arrival times or causing creative chaos in sundry ways. 

During the show, acts would also not arrive at all or arrive an hour late or whatever. It was like juggling spaghetti. (Another thing I occasionally included in the show.)

Oh the joy of it all…

The ballroom had a 150 seating capacity and we got in trouble one year because too many people had been standing round the edges of the 150 seated audience. The fire regulations did not allow this.

The next year, we had officials counting numbers in and out of the room. With all seats occupied, no-one was allowed in unless someone went out. This meant, if you went out to the toilet, you might not be able to get back in again. I did wonder if some people just ‘did the necessary’ in situ rather than leave. If so, I suspect Malcolm would have approved.

Action-packed Russian Egg Roulette at the 2012 Awards

The live show was a Hardee-esque variety show of bizarre-as-possible comedy acts plus, in later years, a competitive Russian Roulette contest with eggs (organised by the World Egg-Throwing Federation) in which comedians smashed eggs against their forehead in a knock-out contest to find out which was the sole hard-boiled egg. It was messy.

I never booked the nominees or upcoming winners of the Awards to perform in these variety shows in case their acts were so bizarre the audience hated them…

I stopped organising the Awards in 2017 after ten years. 

There were no Awards in 2018 because I couldn’t find anyone to take them over – and nor could a top UK PR who tried to find sponsors for them.

They returned briefly in 2019 organised by the British Comedy Guide and then, of course, Covid hit. So there were no Awards in 2020/2021 although, in 2021, when there was a sort-of Edinburgh Fringe, Will Mars was given a Cunning Stunt Award.

The Awards re-started ‘properly’ this year, with the Edinburgh Fringe re-emerging from Covid.

The winners were due to be announced last night (Friday) during a live show in The Counting House at 11.30pm.

I am totally uninvolved in the Awards now but, as a courtesy, I am kindly kept in the loop by email, so I know roughly what is going on. 

On Thursday evening at 21.28, there was talk of cancelling the Friday show because “it wasn’t felt there were enough original acts here to put on a show and we’ve left it a bit late to organise a good show even if there were… (We) should be sending over the results and pictures that you can use in your blog first thing tomorrow”.

And, indeed, yesterday, Friday, the Counting House show was cancelled and moved to the upper level of former Award-winner Bob Slayer’s Blundabus venue (a double-decker bus), to start after midnight, around 01.00 .

I woke up this morning to an email sent at 02.59 telling me: “The news announcement (of the Award-winners) might be a little delayed… One bit proved quite controversial, so the judges are going to need a chance to decide on the wording first.”

Around 15.10 this afternoon, the Awards were finally announced: 

COMIC ORIGINALITY: The Flop.

CUNNING STUNT: Ivor Dembina & the Edinburgh bin collectors.

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID: Jerry Sadowitz.

The phrase “in light of the present unpleasantness” has been used on Facebook.

At the time of posting this blog, I know no more that you, dear reader.

I suspect more will follow in a further blog… AND IT DOES, HERE


Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005. Karen Koren of Edinburgh’s Gilded Balloon venue produced this tribute at the time…

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What happened when I produced a Jerry Sadowitz TV comedy special…

WARNING! THERE ARE MULTIPLE USES OF THE ‘F’ WORD AND THE ‘C’ WORD IN THIS PIECE… PROCEED AT YOUR PERIL IF YOU ARE OF A NERVOUS OR EASILY-OFFENDED DISPOSITION… OTHER BLOGS ARE WIDELY AVAILABLE TO READ ELSEWHERE…

The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz in September 1990


Yesterday’s blog was an extract from the late Malcolm Hardee’s 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake in which Malcolm recalled being, for a time, Jerry Sadowitz’s manager/agent in the 1980s.

I encountered Jerry through Malcolm during that time and later, in 1990, I produced a couple of TV shows for BSB (the precursor to BSkyB) via Noel Gay Television.

One was Malcolm Hardee: 25 Years in Showbiz, a variety show interspersed with various people, including Jerry, paying tribute to Malcolm.

The other was an episode of Noel Gay’s series The Last Laugh.

The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz was recorded to be a 55-minute show though it was later transmitted as a 45-minute show (for general scheduling reasons, not because of content).

BSB had a fairly liberal remit for comedy content. 

Comedians were allowed to swear, within reason, and could use the words ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ if they were an integral and essential component of the routine – ie if removing or changing the words would weaken the gag.

However, as Jerry tended to have a high level of expletives in his act – and, indeed, at one time used to say, with some justification, that “The word ‘cunt’ is a term of affection in Glasgow”, I thought trying to bar him from using the F and the C words altogether would damage the flow of his delivery of the lines.

So I told him in advance something like (I can’t remember the precise words nor the exact number):

“Try not to swear but we can probably cope with a couple of ‘cunts’ and four or five ‘fucks’. We won’t cut them out or bleep them but, if you try not to use them at all then, if a few slip through in the nature of the act… that’s OK.”

Imagine my surprise when he did the whole comedy and magic act, full-on for 55 minutes without a single ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’. And he was still able to maintain the offensiveness of the act.

There was one, not really surprising, problem though.

During the show, there were two lesbians in the audience whom Jerry spotted and, inevitably, he started making them the butt of some of his material.

Afterwards they made clear to me and others how outraged they had been by all this “offensive” material aimed at them.

I can’t remember whether Jerry was there when they complained or whether I told him afterwards.

But he was, in my opinion, genuinely taken aback that anyone would or could be actually offended and complain about the content of his comedy show. His reaction was – and again I paraphrase here – “But it’s a comedy show!” 

I tend to agree with him. 

(The lesbians were cut out of the transmitted show for flow-of-the-programme reasons, not for offensiveness reasons.)

The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz but without lesbians, for time reasons…

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What UK comedy ‘Godfather’ Malcolm Hardee thought of Jerry Sadowitz…

Jerry Sadowitz’s Edinburgh Fringe show and his upcoming, now fast-selling-out UK tour…

As the Jerry Sadowitz row at the Edinburgh Fringe is still rumbling on (see my previous three blogs), below is an extract from the late Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

Jerry in Malcolm Hardee: 25 Years in Showbiz, a 1990 variety show I produced for Noel Gay TV/BSB

Note: This book was published in 1996 and, despite several heads-ups and complaints over the years, amazon.co.uk still has the book listed with a totally irrelevant description from someone else’s academic book page.

I imagine Malcolm would have approved.

Note also that, at the time the book was written, Jerry had a tendency to randomly bill his name as both Jerry Sadowitz and Gerry Sadowitz.

You can’t keep a good anarchic comedian down.

So, what Malcolm said in his 1996 autobiography…


Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography

The most talented performer who never made it is probably Gerry Sadowitz, because he is a genuinely gifted magician-comedian. I recently read Alexei Sayle quoted as saying he thought Gerry was the only current comic genius.

*** *** ***

The first time I delved into management was with Gerry Sadowitz and, like most managers, I was also his agent, although he did get some bookings from other agents.

I first saw him when he came down to The Tunnel Palladium. His act was brilliant. A breath of fresh air. He just launched into a tirade of abuse.

This was at a time when, to be considered funny,  all an alternative comedian had to do was to say that Mrs Thatcher was horrible and Barry Manilow had a big nose – which is itself a Gerry Sadowitz line. 

Gerry came on stage at the Albany Empire in Deptford, which had an extremely ‘politically correct’ Arts Centre audience. And he started his act with: 

“Nelson Mandela. What a cunt!” 

But you had to realise he was deliberately doing it to upset that particular type of audience. And they WERE upset. He was on for two nights and, on the second night, they picketed the place. It was all water off a duck’s back to Gerry. I never knew if he really meant half of it or not. He is a very complex character, to say the least.

When he’s good he’s very, very good, but he gets black moods. A year ago, I saw him for the first time in ages in a curry house in the East End, which I’d introduced him to years ago. He came in with this woman and just didn’t speak. He looked at me and went: 

“Ugh!”

He just grunted and sat down. Another time he might go: 

“Oh! Malcolm! Hello – How are you?” 

Very strange chap. 

He doesn’t drink.

Sometimes, he’d do a really good show and come off stage in a really horrible black mood. Another time he’d have one of the worst reactions ever and he’d come off and be as happy as anything. I think he hated success, really. I had to almost pull him out of cars onto the stage sometimes. He refused to go on loads of times and his later agents Avalon had the same problem with him. 

Once, in Edinburgh, he was asked to perform five minutes on the Pick of The Fringe programme on BBC TV Scotland. Michael Leggo was directing it. I hadn’t met him since we were childhood neighbours in Lewisham. When I turned up, Arnold Brown was remonstrating with Gerry, who was refusing to go on. We cajoled him and threatened him and, in the end, he agreed to do it only if he could do what he wanted because he was obviously going to be heavily censored. They filmed his act with the Cunts and Fucks and everything in, then edited it with beeps. The result was like watching Gerry Sadowitz but listening to jokes in Morse Code.

The first year I took Gerry up to Edinburgh, his advert in the Fringe Programme was something like: 

GERRY SADOWITZ – GLASWEGIAN COMIC MAGICIAN.

A MAN WHO’S HAD HIS ACT 

COMPLETELY RIPPED-OFF BY BING HITLER.

Bing Hitler was the stage name of Craig Ferguson

Gerry had told everyone about Bing Hitler ripping-off his act and I quite sincerely believed it. 

Craig Ferguson was up there in Edinburgh, being represented by Vivienne Clore, a big high-powered agent who later became my agent. Craig wanted to sue the Fringe Society and Gerry for libel, which meant I was going to be sued because it was me who’d put the advert in. As I dug deeper into it, I couldn’t find one example where Craig Ferguson had actually nicked any line. 

They’d started off at around the same time at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and, at the time, Craig Ferguson was doing witty songs on the guitar. Possibly Craig was influenced by Gerry’s style and started doing things where he said: I hate this… and I hate that…. but that was as near as it got. 

Craig Ferguson had a record out as Bing Hitler and there wasn’t one line of Gerry’s on it. He would have won his case but what was decided in the end was that the Fringe Society fined Gerry and he didn’t get his Fringe Club ticket money, which upset him greatly. I think it would have been about £1,500. 

I arranged a meeting between the two of them at which Craig said he didn’t do it for the money and he agreed to give the money to a charity of Gerry’s choice.

I took Gerry up to the Edinburgh Fringe twice. He’s a Glaswegian, so he hates Edinburgh because of that. Or, at least, he feels and sounds Glaswegian. 

He was actually born in America and has an American passport. His dad was an American who split up from Gerry’s Glaswegian mother. Gerry came over to Glasgow when he was very young and later said he had hardly any schooling because he had a serious medical condition which he insisted was coprophilia. He spent a lot of time in hospital, which is where he started to learn magic. He spends hours and hours perfecting magic tricks. He’s written books on it and writes for a monthly magic magazine about new tricks he’s invented. He’s a very clever bloke. 

He was very difficult to handle but I stayed with him because he was so good and everyone wanted him. There was a point where the phone didn’t stop ringing but a lot of the time he wouldn’t do the work. One day it would be because he wasn’t offered enough money; another day he’d travel the length of the country for next-to-nothing.

It didn’t make any sense. 

Once, before he’d become high-profile, I had a phone call from Sheffield University and they were offering him £300 for a show, which was good in those days. Most comics were going out for £100. He asked if it included travel or accommodation but it was an ‘all-in’ fee and he said: 

“No! I’m not doing it!” 

About two hours later, Sheffield Polytechnic rang up and offered him £200 plus travel and accommodation. In those days, travel and accommodation came to £40-£50. I phoned him and he said: 

“I’ll do it!” 

So he accepted the £240-£250 and turned down the £300. 

The amount of money wasn’t the most important thing. They could have offered him £3,000, I reckon, and he’d have turned it down if it meant he had to get on that train and fork-out money for his own ticket and sort out some accommodation. He had a syndrome where small amounts of money seemed an enormous amount, but enormous amounts didn’t mean anything. 

There was a point in his career where he was earning a lot. He earned £6,000 for one Avalon gig at the Clapham Grand, got paid in cash, was in the car with the bloke from Avalon, driving back and the car broke down. The bloke from Avalon asked Gerry if he’d lend him the £12 cab money to get home and Gerry wouldn’t lend it to him. He had £6,000 in his pocket that the bloke had just given him. But the £12 seemed like a lot of money to Gerry.

One of the unsettling things about him was he didn’t seem to know the difference between night and day and he’d ring me up at 4.00am to say someone had nicked one of his lines. 

He was also a very male-orientated comedian with much of his material being deliberately misogynistic. He once told me he wanted to play to an audience full of men and I said he probably would do if he ended up in Nick. He wanted to fill Wembley Stadium with men. It was just one of his ideas. He also wanted to do a show where the audience didn’t pay to get in: they just all brought him presents. I thought that was quite a good idea.

He was never unbookable in live venues. There were always people willing to book him. But on TV he was said to be unbookable. Eventually, he did get his own TV series, but it didn’t work. The whole thing about Gerry was the shock and the outrage, which you can’t do on TV – not to the level he did on stage.

(…SORT-OF CONTINUED HERE… What happened when I produced The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz, a one-off  TV comedy special…)

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Is comedy dead or dying?… What I gibbered about on GBNews last night

A couple of days ago, I was asked to appear on GBNews’ today to give my opinion on the future of comedy. 

And, sure enough, last night I appeared briefly on the Mark Dolan Tonight show. That will teach them never to invite me on a TV show again!  I can be quite fluent verbally – in writing – but I am in no way vocally fluent. I’m not a fluent speaker. I gibber.

Anyway, I was one of three comedy ‘experts’ on Mark Dolan’s show, the others being US podcaster and author Drew Allen and the wonderful British showbiz legend that is Christopher Biggins.

I think GBNews may have mistaken me for someone else, as I was called a “highly-respected comedy journalist”.

Anyway… because this is MY blog, it’s all about Me, Me Me… so here are the excerpted bits with me. Spot the inconsistencies…

Mark Dolan Tonight with (L-R) Mark Dolan, me, Drew Allen and Christopher Biggins


MARK: You’ve written extensively for many years on the subject of comedy. Do you think it’s dying?

JOHN: I don’t think it’s dying. I think it’ll probably change. I mean, it goes through periods, doesn’t it. Hello Biggins! I used to work with him on Surprise! Surprise!

I think television has changed now. In the days of Surprise! Surprise!, what producers did was they made programmes that they themselves liked which appealed to viewers. 

Alan Boyd at London Weekend TV produced Surprise! Surprise! because he liked the sort of programmes that people wanted to watch. Nowadays, I think people are producing the sort of programmes they THINK the ‘lower classes’ want to watch.

So all these Oxbridge people are making programmes for people in Essex they don’t really know.

MARK: John, do you think Brexit has been a problem for British comedy? That sort of dividing live between Remainers and Brexiteers has been a really divisive aspect in comedy. Because I do know of comedians, John, who have been cancelled for being pro-Brexit.

JOHN: Well, I think it’s a problem in Society, isn’t it? I think by-and-large – a gross exaggeration but – by-and-large comedians tend to be Left Wing because they possibly rail against authority and that’s a good thing for comedy. So most comedians are Left Wing and, if you’re Left Wing, you take certain views. And, by-and-large – by-and-large – Brexit was a Left/Right divide.

MARK: What about shows like The Mash Report which seem to be one long attack on the Conservative Party and Brexit.

JOHN: I think again, that’s because television producers nowadays make programmes for themselves and their mates who have lunch in Soho wineries. They don’t make programmes for the punters.

In my glorious days when I was young in the late 17th Century, comedy television programmes were on in peaktime. They were on at 7.30/8 o’clock at night. Nowadays comedy tends to be either on minority channels like BBC Three or very late night or at 9 or at10.30.

In my day, comedies were populist. Nowadays, in a strange way, it’s elitist, because it’s made by people for their chums not for the people who are actually watching the programme.

MARK: We’ve seen, haven’t we, some comedies being given a trigger warning at the start of the show… We saw an episode of Fawlty Towers which was actually removed from its platform for a while, even though the episode contained a message of anti-racism which the Woke Warriors didn’t seem to get the memo on. That one. 

And then you’ve got shows like Little Britain which have been Cancelled by the organisation that made them – the BBC. I mean, Little Britain – OK, it was hit and miss – but at times it was wildly offensive and wildly hilarious, John.

JOHN: Yes, I think you have to be offensive to be… I think the key thing is the word ‘PUNCHline’.

At the end of a joke there’s a punchline and you laugh at the punchline. The reason you laugh, you lose control of your body, is because you’re getting a release because there’s a surprise – something you don’t expect. It’s a release. I gibbered there, but a punchline triggers a release.

MARK: John, last word goes to you. You’ve been writing about comedy for a long, long time, who are the greatest British comedians of all time in your view?

JOHN: Oh, you and Leo Kerse, obviously. (THEY HAD TAKEN PART IN THE PRECEDING SHOW ON GBNews)

MARK: (LAUGHS) God bless you. Have you been drinking again, John?

JOHN: (LAUGHS) I don’t drink. 

It depends what you mean by ‘greatest British comedians’. Michael McIntyre is a great comedian, but I wouldn’t go and see his show because it’s gonna be the same every night. It’s a very slick show, I prefer to see very uneven shows – rollercoasters – so… I wrote Malcolm Hardee – a great comedian – ’s autobiography. So I’d like to put in a plug for Malcolm Hardee as being an anarchic comedian who should be better known.

MARK: A wonderful comedian. I was doing a show at Up The Creek, his legendary comedy club in Greenwich, and towards the end of the set I said to the audience: “I’ll be back.”

And he shouted from the side of the stage: “No you won’t!”

There you go. Comedy’s always got a victim and on that occasion it was me…

(THE ENTIRE EDITION OF THIS MARK DOLAN TONIGHT SHOW IS CURRENTLY ON YOUTUBE)

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Brian Damage and Krysstal, Malcolm Hardee reborn plus balls and bagpipes…

(Photo via pxhere.com)

Some stories which I do not mention in this blog are often even more interesting than what appears, but not quite long enough to blog about. And some are just plain unrepeatable.

Last week, I spent Tuesday evening in the company of the infamous Flying Haidrani Twins, purveyors of the best gossip and most scandalous international tales in Greater London. Sadly my lips are sealed on the details, but I hope their cracking stories will surface in some future novel or magazine article by one or both of them.

The night before that, I went to Chesham Cricket Club which, somewhat unexpectedly, is in the same place as Chesham Football Club. This confused several revellers.

I was there because comedy act Brian Damage & Krysstal were hosting a farewell event. They are moving to Australia.

Brian Damage and Krysstal – any old excuse for a party…

Well, it turned out they are not actually moving to Australia until September but – hey! – any excuse for a party.

For almost the whole of this century, they hosted the Pear Shaped comedy club, which they wrongly billed as the second worst comedy club in London.

At some point during the evening, with cricket continuing in the background, four comics were discussing heckler anecdotes and Brian recalled one female comic’s response to an annoying heckler: she took a fish out of her clothing and threw it at the heckler, catching him in the face.

After that, Brian & Krysstal implemented a ‘no fish’ policy at the gigs they hosted.

Apparently the fish was not part of the planned act; it just happened to be in the comic’s clothing.

Cricket ground selfie by Pam Ford with (L-R) Stephen Carlin & Andrew O’Neill

Andrew O’Neill, one of the veritable plethora of comedy industry people who got up on stage to pay tribute to Brian & Krysstal said:

“I started in 2002 and I never met Malcolm Hardee and there are all these stories about him, but I feel like we’ve got our own Malcolm Hardee now, but there’s two of them in Brian & Krysstal.

“I can’t remember the first time I went to Pear Shaped; they sort-of morphed into one incredible adventure. But that absolute fucking madness… held together by what I genuinely believe is one of the funniest comedy acts I’ve ever seen.”

The evidently not incomparable Malcolm Hardee was renowned for having the biggest bollocks in British showbiz.

Patsy Kensit as a baby with (L-R) her father James, her mother Margaret and her family godfather Reginald…

But in fact, he told me, he only had the SECOND biggest bollocks in British showbiz.

He had once come second in a table-top contest with Patsy Kensit‘s father ‘Jimmy the Dip’ who, allegedly, used to book acts for, I was told, the British Army. 

Two nights before Brian & Krysstal’s cricket-based farewell, I had bumped into Malcolm Hardee’s chum Martin Soan at a wake for Dave ‘Bagpipes’ Brooks, an early occasional member of Martin and Malcolm’s Greatest Show on Legs comedy group.

Dave Brooks died two years ago but Covid had delayed the get-together.

So it goes.

Dave Brooks with offensive bagpipes

In 1981, Dave was part of The Human Scottish Sword Dance with the Greatest Show on Legs on the TV show Game For a Laugh in which they performed a ‘human sword dance’ in Highland costume, with presenter Matthew Kelly lying on the ground instead of swords, looking up while The Greatest Show on Legs members danced over him. 

Martin Soan mentioned something I had never realised before: that, in keeping with Scottish tradition, the Greatest Show on Legs wore nothing under their kilts on this (and no doubt other) occasions. 

Alas, YouTube have seen fit to remove the relevant clip. 

Dave’s son Charlie Brooks reminded me that one of Dave’s many claims to fame was a court fight with the Corporation of London over his playing bagpipes on Hampstead Heath. I mentioned it in a 2020 blog.

In 1996, the Corporation prosecuted Dave at Hampstead Magistrates’ Court under an 1890 by-law for “playing a musical instrument (his bagpipes) on Hampstead Heath on three separate counts”. This was despite the fact that Dave had been playing his pipes on the Heath for an hour every morning for 15 years without any complaint from anyone.

History seemed to come to Dave’s rescue. 

One of the weapons of war used at Culloden in 1746

After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the Lord Chief Justice of England ruled that the bagpipes were not a musical instrument but an instrument of insurrection.

Dave argued his case against the Corporation of London on the basis that his Highland bagpipes legally remained (in 1996) an instrument of war and insurrection and therefore were not a musical instrument as charged. 

Sadly, he was still found guilty on three counts of playing a musical instrument and fined £15 on each count plus £50 costs. 

But, like Malcolm Hardee and Jimmy ‘the Dip’ Kensit, you have to admire his balls.

RIP Dave (1947-2020), Malcolm (1950-2005) and Jimmy the Dip (1915-1987).

So it goes.

Dave also used to play bagpipes at Indian weddings…

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Facebook attacks the long-established UK tradition of a ‘banger-up-the-bum’

It seems to have taken six months for Facebook to decide that sticking a banger up your bum is unacceptable. This message arrived just before 07.00am this morning (UK time). Bad news for fans of football and Chris Lynam…

The above was posted in a members-only Facebook group for fans of the late comedian Malcolm Hardee.

I think the picture of England football fans in Leicester Square during the Euro 2020 Championsip was taken from the UK newspaper Metro – owned by Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail – or possibly from the BBC News website, though I can’t quite remember. It was also published online by the Daily Mail itself.

I can’t help but feel this frown from Facebook demonstrates a cultural gap between UK (possibly European) and US sensibilities. Sticking a banger-up-your-bum is a commendably British tradition which started in the 1980s – 40 years ago.

Comedian Malcolm Hardee, in his 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, tells how the revered banger-up-the-bum routine originated…


One of the most popular acts with any Tunnel audience that enjoyed General De Gaulle was Chris Lynam, who had been so kind to me when Pip was ill.

He was in The Greatest Show on Legs at one point and we were all sitting round saying:

“How can we follow The Balloon Dance? We’re all naked. What can we do? We just have to walk off stage. There’s no way to finish it!”

“Well,” I said, “You might as well stick a banger up your arse!”

“Good idea!” Chris said: “You do it!”

So I was the first one to do it. But I only did it once.

You don’t actually stick the banger up your arse, you just clench it between your buttocks, then light it. I didn’t have the necessary muscle-control. It drooped a bit and set light to the hairs on my testicles. I said to Chris:

“You’d better do it”.

So now the finish to his act involves putting a firework up his bottom, then an extravagant version of There’s No Business Like Show Business starts playing on loudspeakers, the firework is lit, goes off and he exits the stage trailing glorious sparks. Sometimes it’s a three-stage Roman Candle shooting forth increasingly spectacular jets of silver sparkles. Good finish. Difficult to follow.

The first year he did it in Edinburgh, we were playing a little pub called The Comedy Boom. It wasn’t very big, but we got the Banger Up The Bum routine passed by a Fire Officer called Maurice Gibb. That’s his real name. It just is. We did the routine the first night then the landlord said he wouldn’t let us do it again. He said:

“You’re not doing that in my pub!”

I said we’d compromise. At the end of our show, we’d take the audience outside and do it in the street. So we did that the second night and it wasn’t just the audience from the show who were there: it drew a bit of a crowd. The landlord said:

“No! You’re not doing that again. It’s bringing my pub into disrepute!”

So we had to video the routine and show the audience the video and it wasn’t the same.

On the last night of our run, I decided we’d do it again for real. We’d been paid already, so fuck the landlord. I was sick of it. We’d had other rows about our act – obviously.

So Chris Lynam bought an extra-large firework.

That night – banger in the bottom – light it – No Business Like Show Business – and it set the pub alight. Just the wall. A bit of plaster. It wasn’t much damage. But some people…. moan, moan, moan.

The next year, The Greatest Show on Legs played The Assembly Rooms, the big, prestige venue at the Edinburgh Fringe. Same thing again. The Fire Officer passed it. First night went without a hitch. Lovely. On the second night, for some reason, it set off all the fire alarms in The Assembly Rooms and they had to evacuate the entire building – about 3,000 people had to evacuate, including our audience and some Russians who were doing a four-hour play and only had three minutes left to go.

We were all standing around outside The Assembly Rooms – a motley crew – when the fire engines turned up with Maurice Gibb. He was there, ready with the hose. Then he saw me naked, saw Chris Lynam, and said:

“Banger up the bum?”.

“Yes,” I said.

“Hoses away, lads!” he said.

And off they went.

The Russians – fair play to them – went back upstairs and did the last three minutes of their play.


YouTube has a clip of Chris Lynam’s routine, as shown nationally on France’s Got Talent in 2014…

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Too mild? Chris Rock should learn from Jerry Sadowitz and/or Malcolm Hardee

Last weekend, actor Will Smith (a former comic) slapped Chris Rock (a current comic) in the face at the Oscars ceremony for allegedly slighting his wife with an ad-libbed joke obliquely-referring to her alopecia-caused baldness/shaved head.

I can’t help but feel that Americans’ sensibilities are a little too touchy and their attempts at edgy comedy could do with a bit more edge-sharpening. 

Still… it was the slap that echoed round the world, making front-page news and generating much comment.

On Twitter, British comedian and writer David Baddiel observed: “As a comedy moment it’s still not up there with a member of the audience at Montreal’s Just For Laughs 1991 punching Jerry Sadowitz out cold for opening with Hello moose-fuckers!

The full line was: “Hello moose-fuckers! I tell you why I hate Canada: half of you speak French, and the other half let them.

As David Baddiel pointed out, there is no footage of that particular punch, but there is a video of Clive Anderson interviewing comedians Denis Leary and Bill Hicks about it after the event…

In a comment on David Baddiel’s Tweet this week, Mr AR Felix (who describes himself as a “Ferrari supporter, casual artist and culture vulture”) wrote: 

“The rarely-quoted follow up line, which Sadowitz claims is what actually led to him being attacked was: Why don’t you speak Indian? You might as well speak the language of the people you stole the country off of in the first place.

When I mentioned the Sadowitz attack on my own Facebook page, former Time Out editor Dominic Wells commented:

“Loved Jerry/Gerry Sadowitz — the reason for my G/J being that when I was still chief sub on Time Out, and editor Don Atyeo showed his new columnist round the office, I asked him (pre-internet): How do you spell G/Jerry? 

Spell it how ye fucking want, son, ah don’t give a shite, quoth the comic. 

Jerry or Gerry Sadowitz takes Time Out with Ben Elton

“So I (unlike Wikipedia, now that it exists) spelt it with a G in all his Time Out columns and the cover he was on, throttling the Spitting Image puppet of Ben Elton, for which Ben apparently never forgave us. 

“G/Jerry was by a long chalk the funniest columnist I have EVER read, let alone subbed. I would hoot with laughter at his copy. Sadly G/Jerry proved too close to the edge even for Time Out. The editor couldn’t handle the letters of complaint and sacked him after just four or five, despite my entreaties. 

“I guess the tone was set by his very first column, replacing Muriel Gray, who had departed for the Guardian or similar. It opened with a poem: 

See that Muriel Gray/ In a’ the Fleet Street papers/ You can read her if you want/ But I’d rather fuck the Proclaimers.

After this Facebook comment, comic and cultural icon John Dowie reminisced:

What’s the worst opening remark a comedian could ever say? asked Nick Revell, backstage prior to a 1980s comedy gig. Nelson Mandela – What a cunt! was the winning answer… Jerry opened with it… Of course.”

Then, returning to the subject of outrage caused at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, Rob Williams (who describes himself as a “writer of stuff” added:

“Malcolm Hardee at Montreal got told before going on that they love observational humour. Do observational stuff and you’ll be fine, they told him… So he opened with: Have you ever noticed that if you stick a carrot up your arse and lick it it tastes like shit?

I can’t help but feel that Will Smith – especially as an ex-comic – was being more than a tad over-sensitive and Chris Rock could have been more offensive.

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