Tag Archives: Mark Dean Quinn

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 20, Part 1: The Malcolm Hardee Awards nominations

The nominees for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards have been announced. And the nominations are…


THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY
(The award is for performers, not for shows although, obviously, that has some effect)

Terry Alderton
Rob Kemp
Elf Lyons
Mark Dean Quinn


THE MALCOLM HARDEE CUNNING STUNT AWARD
(for a cunning publicity stunt promoting a performer or show at the Fringe)

Damian Kingsley
…for handing out flyers while wearing a security guard’s jacket at venues other than his own, on the basis that punters are more likely to take flyers from a security guard rather than a normal flyer.

Martha McBrier
…for a publicity stunt for her Balamory Doubtfire show so complicated that even an explanation by her with a timeline does not fully unravel the layers. I still have no idea where the truth begins or ends and the scam starts or finishes.

Mark Dean Quinn
…for sundry flyering scams on behalf of other people but, in particular, for attaching stars and quotes from other shows on his own flyers, thus potentially subverting the Fringe ‘star’ system.


THE MALCOLM HARDEE ‘ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID AWARD’
(Means what it says on the label)

Rob Kemp
His Elvis Dead show and subsequent similarly-formatted shows could end up worldwide (if the music copyright problems could be overcome) and/or could be franchised.

Al Porter
Already presenting his own Irish radio show and the Irish version of Blind Date, he has now been commissioned for a BBC Radio one-off, showing potential to make the leap to the UK and beyond.


You will no doubt have picked-up that, highly unusually, two performers are nominated for two awards each…

Rob Kemp for the Comic Originality and ‘Million Quid’ Awards.

And Mark Dean Quinn in the Comic Originality and Cunning Stunt categories.

This is the third consecutive year that Al Porter has been nominated for the ‘Million Quid’ Award.

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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 18: The real spirit of the Fringe returns for one day

Stoic Mark Dean Quinn sits  by the Blundabus

Today turned into very much a Spirit of The Fringe day: a spirit far too often submerged by giant posters and promoters/managers/agents/venues screwing their performers. As is often muttered, SOMEONE is making money, but it is rarely the performers.

Yesterday’s blog included Mark Dean Quinn attaching other people’s stars and quotes to his own flyers… and enticing Narin Oz into this moral jungle.

Narin today told me: “The fake stars don’t work. It’s useless without people knowing what the real show is about!”

But Mark Dean Quinn is sticking to his figurative guns and actual stars.

Meanwhile, the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club shows chaired by feared comedy critic Kate Copstick and my loveable self continue. Today on Twitter, someone calling themselves TheAntiCrit Tweeted:

5 STARS The Grouchy Club – After the usual dodgy 1 STAR start, legendary fest talkfest is firing on all cylinders.

Today, the conversation in this alleged comedy chat show turned to the upcoming one-off Malcolm Hardee show (in which I am not involved) staged by former squatters on his Wibbley Wobbley boat, the rapist tendencies of the Kenyan police and an adopted lady in the audience who was meeting her birth mother for only the second time (mum is staging a Fringe show), who had had a brain operation recently and had gone blind in one eye while losing peripheral vision in the other. All human life is, indeed, mulled-over at The Grouchy Club.

Rowdy Peter Michael Marino rousing just part of his audience

I stayed on in the Lounge of the Counting House to see the lovely Peter Michael Marino’s show titled Show Up which was full-to-overflowing and which, much like The Grouchy Club, happily varies in content from day-to-day because it is highly audience-based.

Michael is American and, in their quaint Colonial lingo, a ‘hyphenate’ – a stage performer-producer-director force of Nature who can (again in their quaint Colonial tongue) ‘own’ a room. Wonderful audience control and charisma. He is occasionally called ‘Blackout Pete’ because he was conceived during an electrical blackout in New York.

Possibly too much information.

The most interesting part of the show for me, though, was when performer Jane Hill, who was in the packed audience, revealed that she used to “make tampons”. I could have asked her for more details after the show but decided that some things are better left to the imagination. In this case, the vision of her knitting tampons in an armchair in her quaintly thatched home as part of some little-known cottage industry.

My next trip was to the small wooden garden shed next to Bob Slayer’s Blundabus where Michael Brunström had promised an unadvertised one-off event of an undefined – and, as it turned out, indefinable – type.

Michael Brunström in fetching fruity shorts

Unusually, he did not turn up in a lady’s dress or Greek toga but in some very fetching white shorts with a pineapple motif.

The shed had a notice on it which was, loosely, also the show’s title and format – UP TO YOU.

“When I conceived it,” Michael explained, “I knew this would be a very stressful Saturday, especially for performers: it’s busy and the whole machinery, the whole ‘game’ of Edinburgh seems to be building up to this big crescendo next week of awards and wotnot. Winners and losers starting to be announced. Today is quite a frantic, busy day and what I wanted to do was just have a little space where we weren’t bothering about any of that. We’re just doing whatever we want to do. Just to leave Edinburgh aside for a little bit and just have a bit of fun. That’s all.”

Shed Art – the audience’s impression of Michael Bruström

The audience was me and a very amiable couple who were up for any new Fringe experiences. The event included trying to play rummy with a pack of playing cards, Michael reading from E. W. Hornung’s stories of Raffles, the gentleman thief, the female half of the couple – unbidden – drawing a sketch of Michael, the male half of the couple whipping eggs, Andy Barr chopping some edible green vegetables, Mark Dean Quinn cooking an omelette and everyone eating said. The couple gave him a definite genuine 5-stars for his omelette-making skills.

Mark Dean Quinn holds up a vegetable while Michael Brunström reads from Raffles aloud

The show was due to last 20 minutes. I left after half an hour.

I was later told that it continued for another hour after I left.

It was, like The Grouchy Club, entirely free.

Later, I went off to join Arthur Smith’s annual hour-long alternative tour of the Royal Mile – again, totally free, totally unpredictable.

This is the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe.

People doing things for no reason except enjoyment.

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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 12: How to destroy a comedy career & other news

One thing I always tell performers at the Fringe is: Always perform, even if there is only one person in the audience, because you do not know who that one person might be.

The two examples I endlessly give are …

  • Comic Charlie Chuck, at his first Fringe, unknown, was getting very few bums-on-seats. He was thinking of going home. I told him not to. A few days later, he performed to an audience of four… Two of them were TV producers and, as a result, he appeared on two Reeves & Mortimer TV series.
  • I turned up to see a show at the old Holyrood Tavern venue. I was 50% of the audience. I was looking for acts to appear on an ITV series. The other audience member turned out to be a BBC producer. The act had gone back to London in despair because they were not getting audiences.

Perhaps nothing would have come of us seeing the act. But maybe it might.

The thing to remember is that you are not necessarily paying out large amounts of money to get money back from audiences’ bums-on-seats. You are also – perhaps mainly – performing in Edinburgh to be seen by showbiz and media people who may change your career and your life.

An empty stage in London (not the Edinburgh venue)

Today, I turned up to see an act. I had seen this English act ‘die’ on several occasions at ‘open mic’ nights in London, performing basically to other open mic acts in ‘dead’ venues. But my intuition told me the act had something that might work and I might see it in a 60-minute show.

The show was in an out-of-the-way venue and, when I arrived, I was the sole audience member.

The performer turned up about three minutes before the billed start time and, two minutes before the billed start time, apologetically cancelled the performance, saying: “It would be awkward just performing to one person.”

About to join me, but slightly delayed, was Nick Awde, playwright, producer, publisher and critic/feature writer for The Stage.

Now, maybe nothing would have come of the two of us seeing the act but, if you perform, there is a possibility, however slight, that something may result. If you do not perform, there is a certainty nothing will result.

Cancelling is never a good idea. Cancelling two minutes before the billed start time is an even more self-destructive decision.

The phrase ‘self-destructive’ is, of course, bound to lead to Lewis Schaffer, the man who, on getting a 5-star review in The Scotsman only half-jokingly said he was depressed because he feared it might destroy his image as a loser.

“Quite unlike anything else in the programme”

This week, he got a good review on the Chortle comedy website, for his show Unopened Letters From My Mother.

The review gave him three stars but started: “Look beyond the star rating here, for this is one of those shows that it’s hard to judge by the standards of a conventional Fringe offering. For some, the fact that this is quite unlike anything else in the programme will be enough to make it a must-see.”

It went on to compare him to Award-winning Kim Noble.

Lewis Schaffer decided not to share a link to the review on his social media.

This morning at Fringe Central, I bumped into American performer Peter Michael Marino. He told me:

“I found a cracked iPhone in the Lounge at the Counting House, wedged between the fireplace and the stage. I put word out to performers in the Lounge and it turned out the iPhone was Lewis Schaffer’s. Before I gave it back to him, I tried to crack the passcode, so I could access his text messages and next year I could do a show called Unread Text Messages From Lewis Schaffer.”

PM Marino – a man with saliva in his mouth

JD who runs Sweet venues told me the Fringe Office had told him that this year’s line-up included 300 more comedy shows than last year. Getting even noticed at the Fringe takes an effort of promotion.

If you don’t promote yourself, you are invisible.

The official Fringe figures are that, this year, there are 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows from 62 countries in over 300 venues, including 686 free shows with comedy making up 35% of the shows, theatre 28% and cabaret 4%.

And that is only the Fringe. There is also the official International Festival, the Jazz & Blues Festival, the Art Festival, Military Tattoo, Book Festival and Television Festival (the last being a private conference rather than public festival, but having a big influence).

People will do anything to get noticed.

Peter Michael Marino’s Show Up follows The Grouchy Club show in the Lounge at The Counting House. Have I mentioned The Grouchy Club before? The increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club hosted by me and Kate Copstick.

Flaunt it. Flaunt it.

This morning the aforementioned Peter Michael Marino told me: “I swapped saliva with Copstick yesterday.”

“I am not even going to ask…” I told him.

I may come back to this story.

Eric has filled Fringe venues under the radar for ten years

I went inside Fringe Central and bumped into Eric, who has been performing Eric’s Tales of the Sea – A Submariner’s Yarn at the Fringe now for ten years.

After a brief conversation, he told me. “I’m off now. I gotta see this werewolf.”

Nothing odd about that at the Fringe.

An hour later, I got a text from him: “The werewolf has just finished. Cracking show. You missed a great experience.”

By this time, I was going into The Hive to see Mark Dean Quinn’s You Win You Lose. A true original, he is a combination of Andy Kaufman, Dadaism, intentional shambles and (I think genuine) emotional self-flagellation. What more could anyone want in an Edinburgh Fringe show?

I had to leave quickly at the end, taking the newly-fried chips with me (don’t ask) to get to Simon Caine’s elevator pitch event at the Apex Hotel in Grassmarket.

‘Reformed Whores’ pitch their show to Robert Peacock etc

He and JD had arranged a collection of Sweet performers to get in a lift (US translation: elevator) with reviewers Nick Awde (The Stage), Robert Peacock (Wee Review) and me and they had to pitch their shows to us in the time it took the lift to travel from the Ground Floor (US translation: 1st floor) to the 5th and back.

Then I saw Phil Ellis Has Been on Ice with unbilled co-star Pat Cahill. Phil’s breakthrough at the Fringe was with Funz & Gamez in 2014 and it has taken this long for the BBC to faff around without giving him a radio or TV show.

Phil is a successful example of one type of comedy. Post-modern originality and regular, gigantic audience Whhoooaaaaahhhs!!!!

Smug Roberts is a successful example of another type of comedy.

Neither is better than the other.

For me, the Smug Roberts show was possibly the most highly anticipated of the Fringe.

In 2006, he did a one-off, one-night performance at the Edinburgh Fringe of a show he called Me Dad’s Dead. And that is what it was about. I wrote a review of the show for the Chortle comedy website and have remembered the performance ever since.

I started the review: “Smug Roberts is a Manchester based Jongleurs-style club comic who might be described, not entirely correctly, as old-school. He is clearly a very professional Northern circuit act who can play to any audience and quickly endear himself to them rapidly.”

The intervening 11 years have not changed that, except that he is even more warm, natural and extraordinarily skilful as a performer.

He is a real person in a pub doing stand-up

Smug is 57 and had a pretty-much full audience at the Three Sisters aka Free Sisters tonight in which, I think, I was the only person over 30. It was an audience of 20-somethings (at least one was 19) and they laughed virtually non-stop for 55 minutes because this is a masterclass in comedy. Autobiographical, fanciful (at home, his dog speaks to him), seemingly effortless comedy within straight, traditional stand-up, including vocal and physical bits of ‘business’.

Smug Roberts should be a national institution.

He is a brilliantly assured comic now incapable, I would suspect, of ever putting a foot wrong with any audience.

His show is called Just Me In a Pub Doing Stand-Up.

That is more than good enough for me.

Wonderful.

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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 8: These shows are all far too good and then Consignia

Pitch perfect, beautifully written and paced

It has been a bad Fringe for me in the sense that, so far, I have not seen a truly terrible show. Where have all the shit shows gone?

I started today with Katharine Ferns in Stitches – about domestic abuse. Well, it starts off about domestic abuse and then gets more and more horrific. It is a pitch perfect performance and a beautifully-written, perfectly-paced comedy script.

Absolutely wonderfully done. A perfect Fringe show. Laughs. Tears. Jaw-dropping. It deserves a (formerly-known-as) Perrier Award but the (formerly-known-as) Perrier Awards are possibly in terminal decline.

Then there was Giants’ sketch comedy show For an Hour with Ian Hislop’s son Will Hislop and his friend-since-childhood Barney Fishwick. The former is in the unenviable position of facing 3-4 years of being called “Ian Hislop’s son” and the latter is facing 2-3 years of being called “the other one”. Nothing can be done about this. That’s life. As Oscar Wilde did not say, the only thing worse than being labelled is not being noticed.

(L-R) Will Hislop succeed? Yes he will, with Barney Fishwick

That’s the downside. The upside is that they are supremely self-confident, highly professional and write and perform impeccably. There is a humdinger of a ‘door’ gag and a very clever ‘Israeli’ reference which are worth the price of admission on their own. And they will have their own TV series within 3-6 years tops. Probably in some BBC2 double-billing with Ruby Wax’s equally well-connected daughter duo Siblings.

The next two shows I saw were Ashley Storrie’s and then Janey Godley’s.

Janey is probably the most talented creative all-rounder I have ever met. Her autobiography Handstands in the Dark was a bestseller in Scotland and England; she had a column in The Scotsman; her shows are masterclasses in audience control and performance; and this year’s Fringe show was preceded by a two-day shoot in a part specially-written for her in an upcoming Julie Walters feature film. If she did not live in Glasgow, she would be a major star.

When you know Ashley is her daughter, you can spot the inherited performance skills, though their on-stage personas and schtick are different. I saw their shows (in different venues) consecutively and it was fascinating to see how they dealt with overlap material (particularly the recent death of Janey’s father) differently.

Janey’s act mentioned the time she and I were sitting in her living room in Glasgow and an entire building blew up across the road.

Consignia – Phil Jarvis (left) & Nathan Willcock

Which brings me to Consignia’s intentionally shambolic late-night Panopticon show.

This is one show which should create a sense of nervous anticipation in any audience and where Malcolm Hardee’s intro “Could be good; could be shit” resonates. And, in the case of Consignia, he might have added: “Good and shit could be the same thing here. Fuck it.”

This is the traditional spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe.

I had very little (possibly no) idea what was going on during the show but neo-Dadaism might be the best description. I was dragged out of the audience, a pink tutu put on my head to represent a bride’s veil and I was told to wave my hand while repetitive music played for I guess around 4-7 minutes. Might have been 47 minutes. Meanwhile, Nathan Willcock stood with (what I think was) a fake TV screen on his upper body and Mark Dean Quinn repeatedly hit Phil Jarvis in the face with a mop while he (Phil) yelled out “No!”.

Eventually, in its repetitiveness, this became quite reassuringly mesmerising and I felt sadly empty when it ended.

I think Stockholm Syndrome may have kicked in.

Either that or my green tea was spiked with some hallucinogenic substance.

On my short walk home, I passed three people sitting chatting and drinking on the edge of a building.

Nothing unusual there.

This is Edinburgh in August.

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Naked ballet dancers, pigeons and Egg Roulette shock at the Edinburgh Fringe

Candy Gigi

Candy Gigi: one of her more reflective moments

More pigeon news. On Thursday in this blog, I mentioned the tussle performer Adrienne Truscott had with pigeons inside her flat.

Yesterday, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge Claire Smith of The Scotsman told me she had seen last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award winner Candy Gigi running out of a sandwich shop.

She ran out of the shop shouting: “There’s a pigeon in there!  A pigeon!  It’s a really nice sandwich shop!  Don’t let that put you off!  There are not normally pigeons in it!”

On the final Friday of the Edinburgh Fringe, the increasingly prestigious 2015 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards will be presented during the annual 2-hour variety show at the Counting House, as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

I got another message from Claire Smith this morning:

Get the naked ballet dancers. They are called The Two Wrongies. They are in Miss Behave’s show. Completely naked except for swim caps and goggles. And they lift up their legs a LOT

As normal, part of the Awards show will be the annual National Scottish Russian Egg Roulette Championships. Or, as some might say, comedians smashing eggs onto their foreheads.

Alas, it looks like the President of the World Egg Throwing Federation will not be there to supervise it. I got this message from Andy Dunlop this morning:

Andy Dunlop weighs the alternatives

Andy weighing the alternatives in happier times

John, as I’m currently lying in the cardiac care unit of Lincoln Hospital sniffing nitroglycerin like there’s no tomorrow (indeed there might not be – so it goes), I am not permitted to promise I will make the trip up to Edinburgh for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. My deputy John Deptford is already briefed and is seeking a glamorous assistant for “his show”.

I was admitted to Lincoln Hospital last Tuesday and hope that the intended invasion via my groin into that important and but often mistreated and under-rated piece of muscle in my chest will sort out issues it has recently informed me about.

On a positive note, as per the last time I was unable to attend the show, I will donate my intended accommodation costs to Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity…. as soon as I am able via a proper machine rather than this Kindle.

The Explorer 1 payload

Explorer 1 payload lost on way to International Space Station

On another issue, you sadly missed the World Egg Throwing Championships this year, but the English Graduated Gravitational Systems project to resupply the International Space Station had a successful test flight at Swaton when we launched our payload via the Eggsplorer 1 craft to 31,500 metres before it suffered a catastrophic failure to land 60 kilometres off Hull. It came ashore in Holland last week with egg payload still intact. The discovering Dutchman broke open the capsule to find that a raw egg does go bad after 6 weeks of floating in the North Sea.

Back on the bubble that is Planet Fringe, the mystery nameless girl mentioned in my blog yesterday, was grassed-up by performer James Hamilton and others as being Emma Levin. I confronted her on Facebook:

Emma Levin (left) revealed with Kate Copstick

Emma Levin (left) revealed with Kate Copstick

Have you any explanation for the secrecy (for quoting in tomorrow’s blog)? If not, I shall just make it up and ‘out’ you as part of an Oxbridge cabal.

She replied:

I guess, like a great many people who occasionally perform, I’m incredibly shy off-stage. It’s quite a boring explanation, but at least it’s logical. I know it’s an unconventional situation – someone asking *not* to have publicity during the Fringe –  but I think there are loads of  brilliant performers who actually want and deserve a mention in your excellent blog.

Which brings us to the weird shows I saw on the Fringe yesterday. they included:

James Hamilton is So Lonely
Emma Levin’s ever-weird grasser-upper in his first even weirder solo show after several years creating the weirdness of Casual Violence. I don’t think the time-travelling goggles will save him from the wrath of Emma Levin

The Church of Malcolm
This is billed as “a live rock gig sprinkled with a Kurt Vonnegut like worldview…Like a more positive take on the Rocky Horror Show.” It is the apparently true story of Malcolm Doherty who got leukaemia, saw an angel and is preaching the power of love and music by singing songs with his son on organ, a Brazilian on guitar and guest spots for a full-throttle stand-up routine by Ashley Storrie (children were temporarily removed from the room), a man singing an apparently anti-US capitalism song and a small lady of large proportions gyrating around quite a bit. I was confused. The audience were encouraged to wave their hands around a lot and shout out: “I agree!”

Mark Dean Quinn holds a flyer for his show

Mark Dean Quinn holds a flyer for his show

Mark Dean Quinn: Observation Without Comedy
Last year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award nominee in an indescribably odd show with an unexpected monologue at the end. Apparently different audiences react totally differently each night. Last night there were a few embarrassed giggles intermingled with stunned and possibly confused reaction. The potential is there for tears, too. I liked it immensely.

Mark had flyered me in the street before the show. It was a tiny flyer.

“Drawing attention to yourself again?” I asked. “Any drawbacks.”

“Well,” he told me, “the main problem with tiny flyers is people lose them very easily. So, although it drums up loads and loads of interest, it doesn’t necessarily generate an audience. I suppose a tiny flyer generating a tiny audience is appropriate, but I will be making new, bigger flyers next week.”

Mr Twonkey brought along some stinking bishop cheese

Mr Twonkey brought along some Stinking Bishop cheese to the Grouchy Club…

Oh…

Yesterday was also the first in Kate Copstick and my daily live hour-long Grouchy Club shows at the Fringe.

23 people turned up: not bad for a minor Fringe show – one which did not appear in the Fringe Programme and had no flyers and no posters publicising its existence.

Possibly a lesson there.

Yesterday’s Grouchy Club included discussions of mass murder in Kenya, awful audiences/performers in Edinburgh, making porn films in Europe and an explanation of the term ‘stunt cock’.

And that is just in the brief 11-minute extract I posted online:

http://thegrouchyclub.podomatic.com/entry/2015-08-15T16_52_14-07_00

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Edinburgh Fringe: some shows, a man dangling from a bridge and a romance

Passing performer Richard Gadd prepares to punch comic Joz Norris yesterday

Performer Richard Gadd (right) appeared to be preparing to punch comic Joz Norris in an Edinburgh street yesterday

My yesterday at the Edinburgh Fringe started with a Danish man playing the bagpipes and ended with a policeman.

There were stunts along the way, but none of them cunning stunts.

I saw seven shows yesterday. Five of them were:

Claus Reis: Return of the Danish Bagpipe Comedian
The show works, but there’s a presentation problem. If your USP is confounding expectations by being a Danish bagpiper and you dress up in a kilt and traditional Scots piper costume and you look fairly Scottish, then there is no real visual USP. Naff as it may sound, you should be wearing Viking horns or some equally stock cliché Danish costume while playing the pipes.

Candy Gigi: Award-winner with a new face this year

Candy Gigi: Award-winner with a new face this year

Candy Gigi: Chicken Soup
Last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award winner for comic originality. This year, she has developed the madness, adding in more glimpses of her acting and great singing voice and, yesterday, picked a perfect punter to unleash her insanity on. She handled him so well, I thought he might be a plant. He wasn’t. It was like watching a mescaline-crazed Cilla Black. Her shows tread a narrow line between sunshine and darkness.

Joz Norris: Hey Guys!
Always talented and charismatic, Joz’s new show now holds together as an entity. Tremendously enjoyable, with hints of a genuinely interesting autobiographical back story. If he has the nerve to increase the true stories while retaining the surrealism, he could break through massively. Perfect TV face.

Martha McBrier: Pigeon Puncher
It is easy to think she is ‘just’ a naturally very, very funny storyteller, but there is a lot of preparation and an enormous talent in audience control behind this show and her performance. Very very very funny indeed.

Bob Slayer conducting business on his BlundaBus

Bob Slayer conducting his BlundaBus show

Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus: Never Mind the BusStops
With anyone else, this unplanned rambling shambles of comic chattery in a double decker bus would be a car crash. With Bob (nominally) in charge, it still is – but that is the point of it. It’s a success! Not so much as a show but as an event.

Nathan (right, in red) with his de Lorean

Nathan (right, in red) with DeLorean before the wind came


In among all the above, I also went to the Three Sisters pub in the Cowgate, where Nathan Cassidy had managed to get hold of and park a DeLorean car to plug his Back To The Future trilogy of shows.

People could wear the hero’s red jacket and get photographed in the car and the bonnet was covered in flyers for Nathan’s shows: a good stunt undercut by the fact this is eternally-windy Edinburgh and occasional gusts blew the flyers off the bonnet into the street.

On second thoughts, though, perhaps that was not a negative factor. That was publicity. This is the Fringe.

John Robertson: The Dark Room in the underbelly

John Robertson: very Dark in The Underbelly

Walking away from that, I bumped into John Robertson in a rubber suit (no change there, then) plugging his Dark Room show… and then photographer Garry Platt, who has been wandering round photographing shows and events.

As Garry and I wandered off, I looked up. The Old Town of Edinburgh is built on two levels. Above out heads was the George IV Bridge from which a giant trapeze was dangling and a young gent was climbing down a rope towards it.

I said to a girl standing on the pavement: “He has eleven minutes to kill himself.”

“What?” she said, slightly surprised.

“I have to leave in ten minutes,” I explained, “so he only has eleven minutes to fall onto the road and plug whatever show it is by killing himself.”

It turned out she was doing the PR for the show.

The dangling Dolls duo above the Cowgate (Photograph  by Garry Platt)

Dolls duo dangling dangerously above the Cowgate yesterday (Photographs by Garry Platt)

The young man dangled and was followed by a young woman who dangled. They both dangled. By the time I left, a fair crowd had gathered on the bridge above and on both the pavements below to watch them dangle.

The traffic slowed as drivers looked up and small flyers were handed out to publicise the show Dolls.

But I think, to be truly effective, it needed a banner dangling from the bridge itself, above the two dangling trapeze people risking their lives for a line in The Scotsman.

Semi-ironically, the next event I went to was a 90-minute event publicising Death on the Fringe, an umbrella organisation which I blogged about last month.

It aims to stimulate discussion of death, end-of-life issues, bereavement and grief.

It was held in the Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre in the Medical School building of Edinburgh Universally.

All the talk was of death, terminal illnesses and mortality, but it seemed strangely refreshing amid the incestuous atmosphere of egos swirling around in the streets outside.

There have been sadly few cunning stunts so far this year.

Mark Dean Quinn - King of Fringe Flyerers

Mark Dean Quinn – King of Fringe Flyerers

But I bumped into Mark Dean Quinn yesterday. Last year, he got a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt nomination for his flyering techniques.

This year, he is mostly plugging his own show More Observation Without Comedy Is Not On Today about which he was strangely quiet, perhaps because it does not start until ten days time and is only on for two days. But he is also plugging Ben Target’s show Imagine There’s No Ben Target (It’s Easy If You Try) by handing out imaginary flyers and paper bags which say:

A BAG IN WHICH TO PLACE
YOUR IMAGINARY FLYER FOR
IMAGINE THERE’S NO BEN
TARGET (IT’S EASY IF YOU TRY)

3pm
THE HIVE
WEAR SENSIBLE SHOES

“How does Ben Target pronounce Ben Target?” I asked.

“Well,” explained Mark, “he pronounces Target as target and Tarjay as tarjay

“Each day,” Mark told me, Ben has given me a precise number of people he wants me to get into his show by flyering.”

“A different number each day?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Mark.

“What,” I asked, “happens if you miss the target for Ben Target?”

“Well, I don’t intend to fail on any particular day, because I’m sure there will be serious ramifications and I have seen what he carries in his suitcase.”

Janey Godley in suitcase

Janey Godley in a suitcase. There is no Ben Target on view

“What does he carry in his suitcase?” I asked.

“I have signed an actual written document to say I can’t say what’s in it, but it’s quite special.”

“Is the penalty different,” I asked if you are over or under on the audience numbers?”

“If you want to find out what the penalty is – and see what’s in the suitcase – come to the show at 3.00pm at The Hive daily, you’ll actually see the inside.”

Now THAT is effective promotion with a hint of cunning stunt.

As I walked back to my flat at around 2.00am last night/this morning, I turned down a side street. On the other side, walking in the opposite direction, back into the centre of Edinburgh, were a ballerina and a policeman hand-in-hand. They were not publicising anything. Just happy to be with each other.

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Getting drunk at the Edinburgh Fringe and singing over a dead man’s body

The latest news (maybe) from Broadway Baby

The latest Fringe news (maybe) from Broadway Baby

My left shoulder is in middling agony if I move it. It is comedian Arthur Smith’s fault. More about that later.

This morning, I booked the Ballroom of The Counting House in Edinburgh on Friday 28th August next year from 11.00pm to 1.00am… for the increasingly prestigious annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. Next year is the tenth anniversary of the death by drowning of Malcolm, the godfather of British Alternative Comedy.

He was known, among many things, for his outrageous publicity stunts at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Yesterday in Edinburgh, it was good to see a special Broadway Baby review sheet about Fringe award winners.

Notable was Barry Ferns, who was listed on the front and who got a 6-star front page review for his show The Barry Experience. There was also a large photo of Barry on the back of the sheet, standing atop Arthur’s Seat. Also on the back sheet were reviews of sundry Fringe shows including:

  • Erection
  • Oxford English Dictionary: 2014 Edition
  • Laserdroids of Bangkok
  • The Elephant Nan
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern in Bed

You should be aware that, last year, Barry won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for a series of stunts including producing and distributing fake versions of Broadway Baby.

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

At The Grouchy Club, I was an innocent bystander to sex talk

Yesterday, the final Saturday of the Fringe, had a varied collection of other very interesting highlights including the penultimate Grouchy Club show at which my co-host Kate Copstick described to a Tesco Clubcard executive and his credit agency partner how she taught the sex workers of Nairobi about ‘soapy tit wanks’ and the use of fizzy drinks in penile erection plus she had tales of wild orgies in Radlett, Hertfordshire (the next village to where I live in Borehamwood/Elstree). Alas, the descriptions are too vivid for me to transcribe without breaking into tears and uncontrollable twitching.

This was followed by me being part of an alleged audience who were going to repeatedly sing the words “Neil Young” in a raucous way for a forthcoming music album. Alas, it never happened and, instead, Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt nominee Mark Dean Quinn appeared performing a one-hour act (possibly inspired by Andy Kaufman) in which he said very little but stared a lot at the audience.

Mark Dean Quinn - the Kaufman of ballooning

Mark Dean Quinn – arguably the Andy Kaufman of ballooning

It also involved (apparently by osmosis) the audience blowing up balloons to create male-genitalia-like hats. This went well until one young man was encouraged by his chum to get up out of his seat and immediately fell unconscious in a faint onto the floor.

He was tall, thin, pale-skinned and ginger haired. He had been previously blowing up a balloon but, at the time of his fall, was not. He was revived and Mark Dean Quinn quickly retrieved the balloons from his audience and changed the direction of his show.

If you can call it a show. It depends on your definition.

I certainly enjoyed it.

At any rate, all the donations received at the end of the show are now going to be given to an asthma charity.

It was a day of falling-downs and medical problems.

Wilfredo comforts Copstick (with her damaged left arm) by tickling her chin

Wilfredo comforts injured Copstick (with her damaged left arm) by tickling her with a rose

Later, I met up with the still physically and possibly mentally damaged Kate Copstick.

She had a hip replacement a couple of months ago (uninsured) after she fell off the platform on which her slum house stands in Kenya – and broke her elbow about a week ago after being accidentally bowled over by a couple of drunk gents in an Edinburgh street. She is still wearing a sling and goes “Ouch!” on a distractingly regular basis.

She blames the physical damage from both the Kenyan fall which smashed her hip and the Edinburgh fall which smashed her elbow on her being stone-cold sober. She reckons, if she had been drunk, she would have fallen in a more floppy, less damaging way.

Wilfredo handed out roses to his last fans last night

Wilfredo handed out roses last night

She and I were both in the basement of the Tron pub last night to see comic music act Wilfredo record his next album. References to Copstick seemed to pepper the show, the audience (heavily made-up of comics) adored the great man himself and I felt lucky to escape without Wilfredo’s spittle speckling me.

Afterwards, Wilfredo’s godfather Matt Roper told me: “I have to hear it back before I decide whether it will be released as an album. If it works, we’ll get it out by November.”

Which brings us to me lying face-down in the Royal Mile at about 2.30am this morning.

Arthur Smith was doing his annual free Alternative Tour of the Royal Mile last night from 2.00am which I guess attracted 50-80 people. That is a lot when you are one crowded bundle of people rolling down the Royal Mile following a man with surreality on his mind.

Arthur (left) and the stripped man in a waste bin

Arthur (left) & the stripped man in a waste bin in Royal Mile

There was a lack of the total nudity and urination which characterised his event in the later years of last century, but it still involved various pranks such as Arthur’s partner Beth doing the splits, Wally (as in Where’s Wally?) being chased out of his hiding place and legging it off up the Royal Mile, a man being persuaded to climb into a rubbish bin wearing only his pants, the assembled throng singing Jerusalem with obscene lyrics to bemused customers at a pizza stand, constant verbal attacks on the integrity of a local French restaurant and singing a song involving the word ‘cunt’ over the body of an apparently dead man on the pavement.

Arthur Smith encouraged singing over ‘dead’ man in Royal Mile

Arthur Smith led the singing over a ‘dead’ man in Royal Mile

At one point, shortly after singing the song involving the word ‘cunt’ over an apparently dead man lying on the pavement (one of Arthur’s many pre-arranged stunts),  I tripped and fell flat on my front on the pavement (no arms out, just a straight fall onto my front). People just ignored this for a brief moment and looked at me, presumably thinking it was another stunt. But then I was helped up. This getting-up worried me slightly because, as I went down, a shooting pain similar to cramp had shot up my left leg. Fortunately, though, I was OK.

Until this morning, when I found I had searing, shooting pain if I tried to move my left shoulder. The shoulder which never mended properly after being smashed when I got hit by a truck in 1991.

There is nothing broken, as far as I know. Presumably it is just bruised muscle.

But it makes me think Copstick has a point.

I was sober when I fell.

I do not drink, really, except at funerals and marriages, when it would seem rude not to.

If you are drunk, falling is less dangerous.

I think perhaps I should start to drink.

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