Tag Archives: minister

If the Daily Mail calls you “zany” is that good or bad at the Edinburgh Fringe?

It is good to know the Daily Mail reads my blog, even if a little belatedly.

Yesterday’s column by Richard Kay carried a piece using a quote from my blog last week about increasingly embattled government minister Chris Huhne. I am not quite sure if it is intended to support or undermine him. Who can understand the Machiavellian machinations of Fleet Street where politics are concerned? Or maybe it’s just printed because the quote is quite sweet. Let’s assume it is that:

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Chris Huhne’s reputation as a ladies man has been enhanced by zany stand-up comedienne Charmian Hughes, who recalls a romantic encounter with the priapic Lib Dem Cabinet minister when they were teenagers in West London.

Convent school-educated Charmian says her first snog came courtesy of Huhne, who used to drive around in a London taxi, when she was 15 and he 17. 

‘He was a very glamorous and sexy figure. We all adored him. He was brainy and cool and sophisticated. I think he only snogged me to put me out of my misery.’

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It is a pity the Daily Mail calls Charmian “zany” as that is one of those words which sometimes sit uneasily as a quote on an Edinburgh Fringe poster – and anyone performing at the Fringe in August is currently poring over possible quotes for posters, flyers and press releases.

“Zany” is one of those words which student revues use on their first trip to perform at the Fringe – it’s only one step down from the much-dreaded word “wacky”.

I wrote comedy reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe for a couple of years. One comic still calls me a “cunt” on sight because of one rather mild review I wrote of her performance. But, if I ever saw publicity for a comedy show billing itself as “wacky”, I would run a royal mile and try to find a group of limbless orphans performing a play about the Moors Murders. More chance of comedy in that.

The other problem is that the “zany” quote comes from the Daily Mail.

The Mail is like a red (or should that be blue?) rag to a bull for many comics because of its perceived too-far-to-the-right-ness. What this knee-jerk reaction misses, of course, is that it has built up its massive circulation because it knows what Middle England likes and thinks. (Its sales in Scotland, interestingly, are negligible.) I wrote an unloved blog about this which got me e-mails saying I’m a prat with neo-Fascist tendencies. But beware of ignoring the selling power of the Daily Mail.

A quote from the Daily Mail will not get you loved by mostly Guardian-reading reviewers, but it may well get you more bums-on-seats.

Whether a very good stand-up like Charmian Hughes can put “zany” on her poster (I think she can) and can use a quote from the Daily Mail (I think she should) even if it’s out-of-context because it is not actually a review of her show (everyone does that at the Fringe) will be one of the many interesting things to see in August.

When I told her about the Daily Mail quote, Charmian’s reaction was:

“OMG, how do they know I am zany? Do you think they were secretly in my audience at the Brighton Fringe?… I’m using ‘hilarious’ Guido Fawkes as a quote.”

This could turn out to be a battle of the quotes. The Guido Fawkes political website – which deals in Westminster gossip – tweeted that my blog is a “hilarious read” and that the specific Chris Huhne blog in question was “a brilliant post”.

Now I just have to figure out how to spread the news that I am a “hilarious read” before news of Charmian’s “hilarious” zaniness spreads to Edinburgh.

Or could Charmian’s surprising and, to me, suspicious schmoozing of politicians, websites and the Daily Mail be a devious early ploy in a campaign to win the much-coveted and increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award?

Publicity?

Tell me about publicity…

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Cabinet minister Chris Huhne and the convent-raised comedian

I mentioned in a recent blog that comedian Charmian Hughes was one of the first small intake of six girls at Westminster Boys’ School. The person who suggested she go there was her childhood chum Chris Huhne now (well, at the time of writing he still is) a Government Cabinet Minister. He is currently having a spot of bother over claims by his furious estranged-wife that he got her to accept penalty points for speeding when, in fact, it was (reportedly) he who was driving the car.

“I was driven in a car by him,” Charmian tells me. “He used to have a London taxi in his gap year before university. He must have been 18 and drove it to Turkey. But, alas, he didn’t take me to Turkey… Alas.”

He did give Charmian her first snog though and, back when Charmian first knew him, his preferred mode of transport was pedal-powered. She was about 10 when the two of them used to ride their bikes through a South Kensington mews. “It was such a genteel area,” she tells me. “The neighbours shouted at us because they found it a bit threatening and noisy.”

“His family were always extremely kind to me,” she says. “His mother – an actress – was the first person ever to take me to the theatre. It was The Mermaid Theatre. I think Marcel Marceau was miming something or other. Chris’ family were nice to me when I was persecuted by my own family. His mother said I was very artistic and special whereas my own family said I was twisted and strange because I wrote poems.

“When he was in the Sixth Form, he started a school paper called The Free Press for London-wide free distribution and didn’t have enough paid adverts for the first one, so the first edition was in danger of looking very bare and amateur. His friends were all making up ads he could stick in. I was about 14 or 15 and I wanted to impress him like mad and I remember we were sitting in a tube train on the Circle line when I suggested: How about an advert for Madame Hughes, Maison de Plaisir with my mother’s phone number? That would be good!

“I didn’t really think he would do it, but he did. I forgot all about it until one day the phone rang. I picked it up and a husky male voice said: Is that Madame Hughes? My blood ran cold, my stomach sank. I was terrified my mother would hear me talking to the man on the phone and I whispered: It’s all a ghastly mistake. A joke. I’m a school girl. The man was very understanding and rang off. My mother was and is a terrifying person with a terrible raging temper.

“The next phone call was from a tabloid newspaper reporter investigating ‘the schoolgirl brothel’. My mother answered. I heard her Medusa-like voice shrieking and threatening and the reporter scampered away never to ring again. When I told her what we’d done, she summoned Chris round.

Are you going to sue me? he asked in his most sophisticated timbre. Sue you? my mother sneered, A silly stupid little arrogant schoolboy like you? You must be joking, but I’m going to speak to your parents…”

Charmian’s first snog was with Chris Huhne when she was around 15 and he was around 17.

“I was at a convent boarding school,” Charmian tells me, “so it was hard to cop off.

“Later it was Chris who suggested I went to Westminster Boys’ School, but,” she adds dolefully, “by the time I’d got there, he’d left. Once he was at Oxford I hardly saw him. He was a very glamorous and sexy figure. We all adored him. He was brainy and cool and sophisticated. I think he only snogged me to put me out of my misery.”

Then she adds mysteriously:

“I also gave Frank Skinner his first avocado.”

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