Tag Archives: Matt Roper

OH YES IT IS ! – Matt Roper + the first pantomime in New York for 100 years

(L-R) Jenni Gil as Jack, Michael Lynch as Dame Delancey, and Matt Roper as Silly Simon. (Photograph by Don Spiro)

“So,” I said to British performer Matt Roper in New York, “Have you ever done a pantomime before?”

We were speaking via FaceTime, obviously.

“Years ago,” he told me, “as a 20-year-old I was in Mother Goose at the Theatre Royal, St Helens, with ‘Olive’ from On The Buses. Anna Karen. She was great! What a woman! She was a Soho stripper in the 1960s in London. She was deported from South Africa in the Apartheid years. She was a puppeteer at a theatre in Johannesburg and gave a private puppet show to a bunch of black kids and she was deported.”

“And now,” I said, you’re in Jack and The Beanstalk – New York’s first panto for 100 years,”

“Yes. The first major panto for over a century.”

“How did you get involved?” I asked. “You were just an Englishman in New York?”

Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser (Photograph: Laura Vogel)

Mat Fraser lives in New York now and he wrote it with his wife Julie Atlas Muz. She’s a Ukrainian American. Mat’s English, as you know, and his parents were performers, so he grew up watching a lot of pantos.”

“Julie Atlas Muz,” I said, “is a ‘feminist burlesque star’?”

“Yes,” said Matt.

“OK,” I said.

“Matt and Julie have a long relationship with this theatre – the Abrons Arts Centre,” said Matt. “The last thing they presented here was an adults-only version of Beauty & The Beast – she was Beauty and he was The Beast. Very explicit. Very adults-only. But this time, with the panto, it’s completely 100% family-friendly.”

“The whole concept of panto,” I suggested, “must be next-to-impossible to understand if you haven’t grown up with it.”

“Someone is going to go out right at the top of the show,” explained Matt, “doing a whole warm-up routine, explaining the rules to the kids.”

“Someone?” I asked.

Dirty Martini plays the Good Fairy and Hawthorn Albatross III is – Boo! – villainous Dastardly Dick. (Photo by Don Spiro)

“Me,” said Matt. “I think it will work, because New York audiences are not very quiet audiences. I imagine it will be like an audience full of Scousers – you can’t keep ‘em quiet. There is a villain in the show – Dastardly Dick – so I will tell the kids: Every time you see him, you have to hiss and boo!

“And,” I said, “of course, you have to explain things like Behind you! Panto is just weird. The whole format – Things like the principal boy is played by a girl and the motherly dame is a middle-aged man. Who are you?”

“I’m the comic. I am Jack’s brother, Silly Simon. And Jack is an actress called Jenni Gil. She’s from the Lower East Side, from the projects. It has been adapted for a New York audience. So I think that will help. It’s set in the Lower East Side – in a lost village called StoneyBroke.”

“What about the accent differences? Or are you playing with an American accent?”

“It is set up that we had different fathers. In the story, both my brother – Jack – and my mother are people of colour – African American. It’s a really diverse cast; very New York. Our ‘mother’ is Michael Johnnie Lynch, a big, black, brassy drag queen from the Bronx. Honestly, we couldn’t have wished for a better dame.”

“Surely,” I said, “the dame has to be a male-looking man in a dress as opposed to a drag queen?”

“Michael just nails it in some way,” said Matt. “He’s brilliant.”

“Is he a feminine drag queen, though?” I asked. “You can’t be too feminine as the dame. You have to be knowingly masculine.”

(L-R): Julie Atlas Muz, Jenni Gil, Matt Roper, Michael Lynch in rehearsal in New York (Photograph by Dirty Martini)

“He’s feminine but not in a Danny La Rue type of way,” Matt explained. Occasionally he goes into a deep, husky voice… And we have Dirty Martini as the Good Fairy – a plus-size burlesque legend. She’s done great things for body positivity.”

“Any Trump parallels in the script?” I asked.

“The giant is Giant Rump and he lives up in the clouds.”

“Is the Giant a large actor or do you just have giant feet in the background?”

“All the puppets… there are quite a lot of animals in the show… There is Daisy the Cow, obviously, because Jack has to sell the cow to get the magic beans. There’s the goose and there’s the giant. And they’ve all been designed by a guy called Basil Twist, who has been nominated for Tony Awards on Broadway shows.”

“You don’t have a pantomime cow with two men inside?”

“Yeah, yeah. Of course. There’s actors inside the cow. Of course.”

“You have,” I told him, “done very well over there. How long have you been in New York now? Two years?”

“Just over. It’s tough. Health insurance and all that stuff. No-one gives a shit what you’ve done in the UK; you have to start at the bottom.”

“Certainly if you are the cow,” I said. “But you landed on your feet off-Broadway, playing Chico in the ‘lost’ Marx Brothers revue I’ll Say She Is.”

Top Marx (L-R) Seth Sheldon, Matt Roper, Noah Diamond.

“Yes,” Matt agreed. “The New Yorker said: Matt Roper catches Chico Marx’s unearned belligerence.”

“A Brit pretending to be an Italian-American…” I said.

“Well,” Matt reminded me, “of course, he wasn’t. He was a Jewish guy from the Upper East Side in New York. As a kid, because there were lots of Italian gangs and he was Jewish, he pretended to be Italian to protect himself from getting beaten up.”

“And then,” I said, “you went into that early American play.”

“We just closed it last month,” said Matt. “Androboros: Villain of the State. The earliest-known play published in what is now the US. Based on an investment scandal that happened in the 1700s in the British colony of New York.”

“And you were…”

Matt as Androboros: Villain of the State

“Androboros.”

“What was the appeal to a 2017 audience?”

“They put it on because there were many parallels between Androboros and Trump.”

“So you are surviving,” I said.

Yes,” said Matt. “And I write a column each week for Gorilla Art House, it’s a subsidiary of Lush UK, the ethical cosmetics company. And I have a voice-over agent here in New York.”

“And a residency at The Slipper Room,” I said. “What is the Slipper Room?”

“It’s a burlesque house. They market it as ‘a house of varieties’ – It’s like a new vaudeville.”

“Is it the whole caboodle?” I asked. “Singers, dancers, comedy…”

“And we have sideshows and a little bit of magic and it’s all rigged-up so we can have aerial acts.”

“What does ‘sideshow’ mean in this context?” I asked.

Wondrous Wilfredo performs at The Slipper Room

“People who stick piercings through their eyes and stuff like that. Stuff that makes your stomach turn.”

“And you…?” I asked.

“I open the show sometimes as my character Wilfredo… Wilfredo is more-or-less confined to the Slipper Room, which pleases me.”

“Are you ever ‘Matt Roper’ in the Slipper Room?”

“Yeah. We have in-house shows and some out-of-house guest shows who hire the theatre and I’ve done comedy sketches and stuff like that.”

“There is a man in a gimp mask on your Facebook page…”

Matt Roper (left) and Peaches, who lives underneath the stage

“That’s Peaches, the Slipper Room gimp.”

“The Slipper Room has a resident gimp?”

“He lives underneath the stage and, now-and-then, comes out and performs.”

“Nothing surprises me,” I said.

Jack and The Beanstalk opens at the Abrons Arts Center in New York on Sunday. Previews started yesterday.

“Break a leg on Sunday,” I said to Matt, when we had finished chatting.

“Don’t say that,” he told me. “On the opening night of the Marx Brothers musical, the guy playing the dowager’s butler actually broke his leg. So no broken legs. Especially with the cost of healthcare in this country.”

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BREAK A LEG! (a showbiz suggestion taken too far) – Matt Roper in New York

I’ll Say She Is

Bleary-eyed but still smiling Matt Roper, early this morning

Bleary-eyed but still smiling Matt Roper, early this morning

This morning, I was supposed to Skype English performer Matt Roper in New York at 0630 UK time (0130 New York time) to talk about the first off-Broadway preview night of I’ll Say She Is, the ‘lost’ Marx Brothers show in which he plays Chico.

Matt was not online at 0630.

At 0641 UK, I got an e-mail – “John! Problems this end! We’re at the theatre. Disaster tonight! – The ‘butler’ in the show fell and we had to dial an ambulance! I’ll be home in an hour (3am)!”

We eventually talked at 08.30 UK / 03.30 New York time.

“You look bleary-eyed,” I said.

“It’s the middle of a heat wave,” Matt told me. It was 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32C) today. It’s nearly four in the morning now and it’s 76 degrees (24C) outside!”

“What happened to the butler?” I asked.

“You’ve seen the Marx Bros films,” said Matt. “The dowager character played by Margaret Dumont has a sort of butler/footman. He broke his leg.”

“Oh, wonderful!” I said with genuine enthusiasm, thinking of the publicity potential.

“Your Satanic grin!” said Matt. “You’re loving this, John, aren’t you?”

“Well,” I admitted. “That old theatrical good-luck wish – Break a leg! – he really did take it too literally – and on the first preview night!”

(Top to bottom; L-R - (Photo by Mark X Hopkins)) Matt Walters as Zeppo, Noah Diamond as Groucho, Matt Roper as Chico, and Seth Sheldon as Harpo

(Top to bottom; L-R – Photo by Mark X Hopkins)
Matt Walters as Zeppo, Noah Diamond as Groucho, Matt Roper as Chico, and Seth Sheldon as Harpo

“I think,” said Matt, “it was when he was going off stage, coming down a step. Something like that. He slipped. It’s a big loss, because a lot of his sequences are with Harpo, because Harpo is the one who is stealing all the family silverware. We have a good understudy, but we’re going to miss this guy because his comic timing is brilliant.”

“How long will it take to mend?” I asked.

“I don’t know. The ambulance came and he was whisked away. He might be able to perform on opening night at the Connelly Theater on Thursday on crutches: we might be able to work that into the show.”

“So what,” I asked, “other than people breaking their legs, has been the most difficult thing for you?”

“Learning to play the piano for the last eight weeks. Chico had such a particular style of playing.”

“All the funny hand movements,” I agreed. “Could you play the piano ‘normally’ before?”

“A little bit. Obviously, for my Wilfredo act, I sing and write music but, when the Chico’s hands start going, that’s something completely different. If you hit the wrong key on a piano, it’s invasive, right? But it went fine tonight.”

Les Dawson: comedian & piano player extraordinary

Les Dawson: comedian & piano player extraordinary

“If you can play the piano to begin with,” I said, “it must be really difficult to play oddly. It must have been really difficult for Les Dawson to play off-key because he could actually play properly.”

“Yes,” agreed Matt (whose father George Roper was one of Granada TV’s legendary 1970s Northern Comedians) “because Les was a very accomplished pianist. I mean, before he became famous, he was making money as a pianist. He spent months in a brothel in Paris playing piano.”

“He did?” I asked.

“Yeah. I mean, Les Dawson had this great ambition to become a poet and a novelist but, back in the 1940s and 1950s, because of his working class background, he felt he couldn’t, so he ended up making a living playing piano in all sorts of places.”

“Anyway,” I said, “back to the Marx Bros.”

I’ll Say She Is website

Premiering on Thursday off-Broadway

“Well I’ll Say She Is,” said Matt, “pre-dates musical theatre as we know it. It pre-dates Show Boat. It’s a revue, really. This is the show that really made the Marx Bros. It got them off the vaudeville circuit. They had been ready to give up. They had had enough by 1923/1924. They had been going for about 15 years and had made a lot of enemies on the vaudeville circuit.”

“So it’s more of a revue than a story?” I asked.

“It has a very loose plot, which may be why it was never made into a film. It’s a series of sketches, really, with a lot of music and the chorus girls and so on. But it does have a plot. The niece of the Margaret Dumont character is a high society girl on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and there is a sequence in the show called Cinderella Backwards. She longs to be poor and in the gutter and experiencing the gritty side of life.”

“How did you,” I asked, “an Englishman, get the part of a New York Jew playing an Italian-American?”

“I was doing a gig at a supper club called Pangea, on the bill with Sabrina Chap, a singer-songwriter, and we just got chatting and she said: I’m musical directing this Marx Bros musical. We have still to cast Zeppo and Chico. So I sent an e-mail to the producers and they said: It’s funny you should write, because we have heard about you through other people. Why don’t you come in and read for us? That’s how. Just circumstance.

“Chico,” I suggested, “is possibly not as interesting as Groucho and Harpo?”

Chico Marx - interestingly naughty man

Chico Marx – interestingly naughty man

“No,” Matt disagreed, “he is very interesting. The story goes that, as a young boy, in this great immigrant city of New York, he used to defend himself from gangs by adopting accents. There were anti-Semitic attacks and so on. If he ran into an Irish gang in the Lower East Side, he would pretend to be Irish. If he ran into a gang of Italians, he would pretend to be Italian. And that was how his Italian persona developed from a young age.

“And he was a compulsive gambler. He lost ALL of his money in crap games and poker. The Marx Bros movie A Night in Casablanca was made specifically so that Chico had some money to live off.

“Somebody once asked him How much money do you think you’ve lost gambling? and his reply was Ask Harpo how much money he has made and that’s how much I’ve lost. If he saw a drop of rain on a pane of glass, he would bet on which direction the drop would run down. He was a naughty, naughty boy.”

“He was called Chico,” I said, “because he was a womaniser?”

“Yes. His wife actually spied on him and caught him with a chorus girl and his response was: I wasn’t kissing her, I was only whispering in her mouth.”

“I had better let you get to sleep,” I told Matt.

I did not say Break a leg.

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UK comedy performer Matt Roper aka ‘Wilfredo’ in criminal court in New York

Matt Roper with his Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Matt Roper with his Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Yesterday, Malcolm Hardee Award winning performer Matt Roper (aka character act Wilfredo) was in court in New York City.

“Run me through how it happened,” I told him today. “It started about a month ago, didn’t it?”

“I was performing at The Slipper Room,” he said.

“You have a regular slot there?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he told me. “A couple of times a week; I host on a weekend. It’s a variety theatre – a burlesque joint as well. Often I don’t get offstage until 2.00am and then, to get up to 137th Street in Harlem where I’m living, it’s bit of a schlep at night: I have to catch two subway trains.

“I had been up since 7.00am the previous day and it was now 3.30am. I knew my train terminated at 96th Street and the carriage was more-or-less empty, so I thought I would just swing my legs across the seats, put my head against the window and get a little bit of shut-eye. so that’s what I did. When I woke up, two police officers were looking over me, saying: Get off the train please, sir!

“So I got off the train onto the platform. ID, they said. So I gave them my passport. Do you know it’s a crime what you’re doing? It’s outstretching. It’s a crime.

“I said: I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.

Matt did not know it was a crime

Matt did not know it was a crime amid the pools of whatever

“That was the annoying thing: I didn’t know. There are no signs saying it’s a crime. Feet on the seats we know is not cool, but these were just plastic seats, the carriage was empty and it was filthy because it was 3.30am in the morning – There were beer cans and pools of whatever. What was it Kenneth Williams said? I’m sick and tired of offending everybody. My crimes are nothing compared to Mussolini.

“I would have thought,” I said, “you would get off for being a foreigner and, by definition, ignorant.”

“They either wanted to make a bit of an example of me,” said Matt, “or there was some sort of incentive: I really don’t know. But they said: You’re going to have to come back to the station with us while we take your details and, as they said it, one of the officers was putting my hands behind my back and putting handcuffs on me. I just couldn’t believe it. I asked: Are you serious? – I was told: Yes, sir. They were quite sweet; they were charming. They took me back to the police station. I was fingerprinted and they photographed me, then put me in a cell for three or four hours. They locked me up and then released me. It was an interesting experience because I had never been arrested before – I’ve been all the way around the world without being arrested – so part of me was quite enjoying the experience but then, after the first hour passes and you’re still in a cell, locked up, the novelty wears off.”

“And, unusually,” I said, “you were not in a cell with prostitutes and gangsters?”

“No. which says a lot about Harlem these days. It was an empty cell and, if my crime was as bad as it gets at 4.00am in West Harlem, then I think its reputation is a little unjust.”

“Why,” I asked, “did they lock you up for three or four hours? What were they waiting for?”

Matt Roper last week, as Wilfredo (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Wilfredo did not know outstretching was illegal (Photograph by Garry Platt)

“I really don’t know,” said Matt. “When I researched it later that day… I spoke to you that day, I came back, had a sleep and then got up and Googled this ‘outstretching’ charge and it seems some people are just given a fine; one African guy was deported.”

“He was?” I asked. “Just for putting his feet on the seats in the subway?”

“I don’t know if he was an illegal or not,” said Matt.

“So,” I said, “there are police photos of you?”

“Well,” said Matt. “I wanted to get a copy of my photograph. They say it doesn’t exist, but I saw the form with my photograph on it. I said to them: Can I get a copy of this? Because I’d quite like it framed, really. They said: You can get it when you go to court.

“But, when I got to court, they said: No, no, we don’t have copies of that; you have to go up to the sixth floor. So I went up to the sixth floor and they said: No, no. Because we decided not to prosecute you, it doesn’t exist. But I don’t quite believe that.”

“Why did they say they were not going to prosecute you?” I asked.

“I think because they were having a busy day.”

“What was the court like?”

The doors of New York Criminal Court

“I was one of the few white people in there.”

“It was a proper high court. You go in through these huge doors and there’s the flag, there’s the eagle, there’s In God We Trust. all sorts of people making notes beside the judge. All these people on pews and all of them were on desk appearance tickets like me. They’d been speeding or busted with marijuana. They were mainly kids – mainly Latin-Americans and African-Americans. I was one of the few white people in there. I guess it shows the police go for a certain type of person.”

I said to Matt: “You playing comedy in a burlesque club is a bit like… Well, I think your father (comedian George Roper) was too young to do it, but like British comedians playing at The Windmill in London.”

“I think it’s exactly like that,” said Matt. “You know my dad was up in court with six striptease performers… You blogged about it…”

“Did I?” I asked.

“My dad was tried for obscenity in the 1960s…”

“Did I actually blog about this?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“I really must read my own blogs,” I said.

“It would have been in December 2012,” said Matt. “In the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, women were allowed to be nude on stage in England but, if they moved, it was considered obscene.”

“Were the girls dressed and your father was naked?”

“No.”

Wilfredo handed out roses to his last fans last night

Wilfredo in his now stolen costume

“Anyway,” I said, trying to change the subject away from this blog I had forgotten. “Your act got stolen in New York.”

“Yes, about three weeks after the arrest,” said Matt, “I was in a bar having a wonderful time, I put my bag down by my feet and it got stolen. I’m rather amused by the thought of whoever took it – hoping for a laptop or an iPhone – unzipping it and finding Wilfredo’s costume inside… The trousers were just… and the wig and the teeth and the shoes. They must be the most disappointed thieves. Though it was a pain in the arse because I had a gig a couple of nights later and Wilfredo is quite difficult to replace.”

“But you had a spare set of teeth?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s all back to normal, though the hair is a little bit longer.”

“Did you go to a wig shop in New York?”

“Yeah. One of the burlesque dancers said she would cut the wig for me. And now he has been cast in a feature film which we’ll be shooting this winter.”

“Made by?” I asked.

Movies beckon for Matt Roper

Movies beckon for Matt Roper and Wilfredo

James Habacker, who runs The Slipper Room, is now making films. He’s just made his first film called The Cruel Case of The Medicine Man, which won Best Feature at the Coney Island Film Festival.

“But his second film is an out-and-out comedy: The Mel and Fanny Movie – James and his wife are Mel and Fanny Frye – he plays this character from the Borscht Belt. Wilfredo has been cast as Mel and Fanny’s personal chauffeur.”

“That’s something to look forward to,” I said. “Wilfredo’s teeth in the movies.”

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A brief insight into fame, the drug habits of dinsosaurs and a phone in rice

Matt Roper last week, as Wilfredo (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Matt Roper as Wilfredo in Edinburgh last week (Photograph by Garry Platt)

As I am still a zombie from the after-effects of the Edinburgh Fringe and not yet fully able to string thoughts together, here is a blog (to quote Slaughterhouse-Five yet again) “somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales of the planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from”.

Matt Roper is almost unrecognisable as Wilfredo, the greasy singer he performed as at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show in Edinburgh last week.

But yesterday, Matt was paying for fuel at the counter of the Texaco garage in Totnes, in the South West of England, when the girl behind the counter asked him: “Are you Wilfredo?”.

He replied: “Not at the moment, no”.

Matt says: “As I was punching my PIN number into the card machine, she was showering me with praise… I love what you do… I keep up with what you’re up to… It’s so good to see you doing so well! And, at that very moment, with a queue of customers waiting behind me, my card payment was declined.”

Meanwhile, this morning, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who lives on a boat in Vancouver, sent me an e-mail:


Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

Anna Smith has been thinking about dinosaur eating habits

We had a major wind storm here that knocked down trees and left 700,000 people without electricity for up to four days (including me).

Apparently information websites crashed with people wanting to know when the electricity would return.

My phone is near dead. I dropped it in the bilge… Well it slid off my bed as I slept through the windstorm of ninety kilometer per hour gusts that was knocking trees onto houses and cars.  But it is now in a bag of red rice from Texas, so maybe that will revive it. 

A young server at the McDonald’s Drive Through restaurant suggested I put the phone into a bag of dry rice. It is supposed to work the way rice dries out salt in a salt cellar.


This, in itself, seemed a little surreal to me, but then she added:


Did Tyrannosaurus Rexes hallucinate on prehistoric acid trips?

Did Tyrannosaurus Rexes hallucinate on prehistoric acid trips?

Did you hear about the scientist who found ergot in amber? I was listening to a CBC radio program about it. They were speculating that dinosaurs were having acid trips…


I thought I had better check up on this and, indeed, the Daily Mail wrote a piece about it in February, headlined:

DID DINOSAURS GET HIGH?
FUNGUS CONTAINING LSD COMPOUND IS FOUND
ON A 100-MILLION-YEAR-OLD FOSSILISED BLADE OF GRASS

with the sub-headings:

– Ergot produces compounds that can induce delirium and hallucinations
– Scientists in the 20th century used these compounds to synthesise LSD
– Researchers say herbivorous dinosaurs are likely to have eaten the fungus

And I thought the Edinburgh Fringe was strange.

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Alarm in the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe

John Fleming bearded in his den (Photograph by Nick Awde)

John Fleming bearded with plastic bag (Photograph by Nick Awde)

Yesterday’s penultimate live Grouchy Club involved a discussion not about comedy but about the difficulties of scripting and shooting pornographic movies – one of the comedians present had enquired about entering the profession.

My afternoon was then taken up by getting the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies engraved and boiling eggs for the annual Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships which were to take place at the increasingly prestigious two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show that night.

At the show itself, the awards were announced as:

Comic Originality – Michael Brunström
Cunning Stunt – Matt Roper
Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid – Laurence Owen

Mr Twonkey at the point of triumph (Photograph by Blanche Cameron)

Mr Twonkey at the point of his egg triumph (Photograph by Blanche Cameron)

The Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships appropriately included performer George Egg and ‘Mr Spunky’ – an anonymous member of Mensa, which allowed one member of the audience to yell out: “He’s an egg head.” Fortunately the puns ended there and the worthy, if somewhat surprised, new Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Champion is Mr Twonkey.

Comedy critic and Malcolm Hardee Awards judge Kate Copstick presented most of last night’s show, as co-host Janey Godley had to go off and be Spanked. (It’s a show… It’s a show.)

Miss Behave, who turned up halfway through from another show had been going to co-host on her arrival, but somehow it turned into an act where she unexpectedly swallowed a giant pair of scissors and two flaming torches. As the torches produced a fair amount of upwards-drifting smoke, I was rather relieved no smoke alarm went off in the room, because I knew what was going to happen at the end of the show.

Chris Lynam with a banger-up-the-bum last night (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Chris Lynam with his banger last night (Photograph by Garry Platt)

This was Chris Lynam, former member of The Greatest Show on Legs, who performed his famous or possibly infamous banger-up-the-bum routine. This involves him putting a firework between his buttocks and having it lit (on this occasion by Malcolm Hardee’s sister Clare) to the strains of Ethel Merman singing There’s No Business Like Show Business.

As this is not an act which is easy to follow, it ended the show and, sure enough, just as it ended, the room’s smoke alarm did go off. It seemed a fitting end.

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I was tricked on my birthday by a comic’s Cunning Stunt on Facebook

So I currently have comedy performer Matt Roper staying with me. Last night, he went off to see some Edinburgh Fringe previews at comedy critic Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara emporium in Shepherd’s Bush.

There is a video on YouTube of Copstick plugging the Mama Biashara emporium in 2010. Things have only changed for the better.

While Matt Roper was at Mama Biashara last night, I was off elsewhere. It was my birthday.

During the evening, Kate Copstick posted this on her Facebook page:

We’ve got wonderful character comic Matt Roper visiting the emporium to see a show tonight. For those who don’t know him, he’s the man behind the vile but utterly loveable powerhouse creation of Wilfredo, of whom I had the good fortune to witness last year at the Fringe. Due to an error at The Scotsman, my review of his show only gave three stars when in fact it ought to have been a full five. He’s up at the Fringe once again this year in Routines, a new immersive comedy experience which I predict will smash the Festival this year (3.45pm at the Three Sisters). Those who haven’t seen Matt at work are highly recommended to do so. A huge comic talent.

Facebook posting that set it all off, sent from Mama Biashara

Facebook posting that set it all off, sent from Mama Biashara

I re-posted it on my Facebook accounts and thought no more about it until I got a Facebook message a little later from Matt. It said simply:

Just fraped Copstick.

I had to look this up. The online Wiktionary’s first definition of ‘frape’ was:

A crowd, a rabble.

This seemed unlikely.

The Wiktionary’s second definition was:

(Internet slang) To hijack, and meddle with, someone’s Facebook account while it is unattended.

Uh-oh, I thought.

And, sure enough, Matt had written the glowing review of himself (with the fake Scotsman stars) on Copstick’s computer while she had been off dealing with the Fringe preview in the Mama Biashara performance space.

I was not the only one who was taken in; there was widespread re-posting and Tweeting.

This morning, the real Copstick posted on her Facebook page:

So here’s a thing: Matt Roper popped by the Mama Biashara Emporium last night to pick up his typewriter. I leave him alone with my desktop for FIVE MINUTES and I wake up this morning to find FB wet with excitement over something I had apparently posted on the subject of how fabulous and talented he is and how the Scotsman stars were a misprint and should have been five. Yes I think he is pretty good and yes, to be fair, he did give me two slices of his pizza… but even John Bloody Fleming reposted the thing! Are my posts usually so fulsome in their praise? Well, I will be going along to see Routines (see place and times on ‘my’ previous posting) and it had better be FUCKING BRILLIANT, Roper!

A few hours later, Copstick posted:

They are still sharing Matt Roper’s fucking fake fucking fabulous fucking posting on my page about him and fucking WilfuckingFredo and RouFuckingTines. WTF.

Copstick is mellowing with age.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wilfredo-Unchained-Live-California-Explicit/dp/B0100E56JA

Matt strangely forgot to plug that his alter ego has a new album out – Wilfredo Unchained: Live in California

Matt just did this publicity stunt on a whim; there was no advance planning. But it is a thing of beauty. A contender (I would think) for this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

It did not just publicise Matt and his show but did so by making people not only fall for a con (as I did) but setting it up so that other people did the real work – all the people who were taken in and re-posted and re-Tweeted the initial frape.

It also, in this year – the tenth anniversary of Malcolm Hardee’s death – managed to doff a hat to one of Malcolm’s own legendary Edinburgh stunts. The one in which he and Arthur Smith wrote a glowing review of Malcolm’s Fringe show and submitted it to The Scotsman under the name of William Cook, the newspaper’s own highly-esteemed comedy reviewer – and it was, indeed published.

Matt’s stunt was almost better than this, in that he did not even have to write a fake review of his own show – he merely referred to an existing review and twisted perception of reality.

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

A desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Only a few days ago, I had been lamenting to myself that no cunning stunts had, as yet, appeared publicising a Fringe show or performer this year.

Ellis & Rose (as I mentioned in an April blog) had pretended they had appeared at Soho Theatre by hanging their own carefully-designed photo on the wall of the theatre’s bar. But they have no show in Edinburgh this year.

And, a few days ago, there was a brilliant publicity stunt by magicians Young & Strange who, while a Sky TV reporter talked to camera about government NHS reforms, staged a variation of the sawing-a-man-in-half trick behind him, on the green in front of Parliament.

This stunt got even better when it transpired that the whole thing was fake – it was not a real Sky reporter, nor a real Sky transmission, just a beautifully-crafted fake and one of a series of Young & Strange self publicity stunts aimed at getting broadcasters’ attention.

I would think this wonderful stunt would have been a sure cert for a Cunning Stunt nomination – if it were not for the fact Young and Strange are not plugging any Edinburgh Fringe show.

Still…

At least Matt Roper has now set a high benchmark to which others can aspire.

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China sponsors a Fringe comedy show. David Mills talks sex-change boxing.

The photo of Nicholas Parsons above my bed

The photo of Nicholas Parsons above my bed

Comedian Matt Roper is staying in my spare bedroom until the Edinburgh Fringe starts in August. In the middle of last night, he posted this on his Facebook page:

Well, friends. Here I lay on the bed of bewilderment in what is known as a cockroach hotel. I’ve known far too many of them in my time. The owners of such places tend to decorate bedrooms like mine with the strangest objects of paraphernalia. For example: who the hell is this grinning at me from the wall opposite my bed? I’ll be fucked if I know. 

This photo accompanies his Facebook post.

The face in an Istanbul hotel room

The face on the wall in Matt Roper’s bedroom

I should point out that Matt is in Istanbul for a week. But I will re-decorate my spare room so he feels more at home when he gets back. I have a much-admired framed portrait of Nicholas Parsons above my own bed.

Meanwhile, I have a backlog of blog chats to post and things keep happening to prevent me transcribing them.

Yesterday included being dragged willingly to the National Theatre by my friend Lynn, seeing Kate Cook’s excellent Invisible Woman show preview at RADA and (for a second time) seeing Sara Mason’s both funny and deeply traumatic show Burt Lancaster Pierced My Hymen (When I Was 11) as part of the ongoing Edinburgh Fringe previews at the back of Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in Shepherd’s Bush. This was followed by Copstick telling horrendous after-show tales of a Somalian vagina crawling with maggots in Kenya. She has shown me the video too. I am lucky I do not remember my dreams.

Performer Louise Reay was in the audience and told me her Chinese language It’s Only Words Fringe show (which I blogged about appropriately on 1st May) has now been sponsored by the Chinese government in the form of The Confucius Institute – China’s version of the British Council.

Louise Reay, cleaning a great wall

Cleaning a great wall may have helped Louise Reay in China

“How did you get them to sponsor you?” I asked.

“I asked them and they said Yes,” Louise replied. “It’s a real lesson in just posing the question.”

“What did you tell them the show was about?”

“I didn’t. I just said: My show’s all in Chinese, but for an audience that doesn’t speak any Chinese as all. I think they thought it would attract new people to the Chinese language.”

“So they have no idea what your show is about and they’re covering your costs?” I asked.

“And then some,” said Louise. “I’ve taken four months off work.”

My day had started with sophisticated comic David Mills sending me an e-mail:

I’ve just confirmed UK-boxing promoter Kellie Maloney (formerly Frank Maloney) as a guest on my chat show / podcast The In Crowd with David Mills at the new Camden Comedy Room on 8th July. Can I entice you to come along?

David knows me well enough to know that I am not going to turn down the chance to see a chat show involving a transsexual boxing promoter. I asked him more about the show.

David Mills will be boxing clever

David Mills – will be strutting his stuff, talking boxing

“As you know,” he told me, “I’ve been itching to take the reins of my own chat show for ages and I’ve trialled The In Crowd with David Mills out and about a few times.  The new Camden Comedy Room has really got behind the show and will be recording it as a podcast as well. We’re sort of seeing how this goes before hopefully launching something more regular after the Edinburgh Fringe. I approached Kellie on Twitter and she agreed immediately.”

This seems to confirm what Louise Reay says. “It’s a real lesson in just posing the question.”

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