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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 25: Comedy reviews, surrealism, nudity and politics

The Edinburgh Fringe splintered from the Edinburgh Festival 70 years ago and, like Christianity, has been splintering ever since.

The official International Festival and the official Fringe end on Monday; the Free Fringe ended today (Saturday); and the Free Festival and Bob Slayer’s Heroes venues close tomorrow (Sunday).

So today I saw shows for which mentions in this blog will, alas, not get any extra bums-on-seats. But, then, I think mentions in this blog only add to ‘profile’ not to bums. So apologies to them, but just think of the increasing prestige.

I always try not to ‘review’ shows or acts. I think I may have failed today. When I do this, it never ends well for me.

Cassie Atkinson (centre), a real character

I have a tendency not to like character comedy if the characters are too close to reality; I don’t mind more cartoon-caricature-like or wildly OTT character comedy. Which makes it odd that I like  Cassie Atkinson. I think it must be that the character comedy I hate is the stuff that feels like acting students doing an end-of term performance to their drama school mates. And I guess Cassie is a better actress than most! Or maybe she adds a tiny pinch of herself into even the characters least like her, so I buy into them more. I have no idea.

She does occasionally show a taste for the genuinely surreal – never a bad thing in my eyes though, alas, TV producers have no taste for the actual genuinely surreal. But now she seems to have linked up, more often than not in a blonde wig, with Kat Butterfield and Charlotte Pearson to perform sketches as Northern Power Blouse who, with luck, should be more attention-grabbing for TV producers – not that she really needs them with National Theatre work in her CV.

Lovely Lucy Hopkins – part light-fantastic

The genuinely lovely Lucy Hopkins is probably too good for British TV as her show Powerful Women Are About is said to be inspired by Mohammed Taleb’s Witches, Eco-Feminists, The Adventurers of the Soul of the World and is correctly described on the flyer as “part  electro-ritual, part theremin-experiment, part light-fantastic. Ultra-conscious comedy by award-winning, internationally-touring, terribly present clown.” In other words, it is totally un-categorisable – awkward for commissioners scared about the security of their jobs who think in terms of safe elevator pitches.

No great loss, though, as Lucy’s work is very specifically for live theatre.

Becky Brunning is interesting because she can bill herself as being an actor in the popular Broadchurch TV series – which will certainly help her in elevator pitches and may be why her room was literally full to overflowing with punters – some people couldn’t get in. Beaming is/was her debut solo show at the Fringe and, I have to say, was/is weird.

Becky Brunning suddenly pulled out a twist with a call-back

In Beaming, she establishes herself as a likeable, ordinary, modest girl-next-door then progresses to fairly standard, well-structured, low-key observational comedy – driving tests, shopping, crisps (I think she may have lost the audience on the long crisps section of the show) and she even, unless my ears had an audio hallucination, actually delivered the straight non-post-modernist line: “Does anybody in the room like food?”…

But then, in the last 10 minutes or so, she suddenly brings in a totally different and fascinating autobiographical strand about sexuality which would and perhaps should have been an entire show in itself. This strand did not come out of nowhere – it was a call-back to a tiny fact which had been mentioned in passing earlier in the show, but she suddenly pulled out a twist on this earlier comment.

Most of her show was standard and very general observational comedy. When she suddenly switched to very specific, unique personal stuff, something happened. I hate to say she is “one to watch” – far be it from me to be cliché. But I am certainly going to see her next show.

Luca Cupani even appeals to Hungarians

Then I went to see the wonderful Luca Cupani who, at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards last night added to his glittering collection of awards the title Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Champion 2017.

I thought I had seen his show – It’s Me! – at a preview in London, which is why I went to see it so late in its run here, but he has developed it beyond recognition and, of course, was superb. I can never quite get my head round why he is so good.

In theory, his Italian accent and what objectively is a rather dithery, broken-up delivery should interfere with the flow of the comedy but, for some reason – perhaps because it requires a slight bit of extra attention from the listener (but not too much), he is consistently fascinating. And he knows how to structure a story.

Interestingly, the room today contained Scottish, English, Siberian punters and a  lady sporting a T-shirt saying: I SPEAK HUNGARIAN. She was Hungarian. They all enjoyed it. I was watching the Hungarian lady a lot – her English was not too strong and she loved the show.

Becky backstage at Malcolm Hardee Awards

Next stop was Becky Fury, who had hosted the wildly chaotic Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show last night. The chaos was not of her making – acts not turning up, acts turning up late, acts not saying in advance what they were going to do. And she handled it all masterfully, if that’s the right word, making up most of it on the spot – including swallowing a 3ft long balloon and doing a gameshow based on the health warnings on cigarette packets. Literally honking her breasts, of course, is always a crowd pleaser. And so it was tonight in her Molotov Cocktail show, ending with her successful rollercoaster of a Calais Jungle story. She dropped the political sections of the show and it still worked.

I am still waiting for the autobiographical street anarchist show which she has in her: if she ever does it, that will be a unique, perhaps literally fiery Fringe show.

If she does not get arrested.

Or even if she does.

A man conducts himself well

Rounding off the evening for me was a show called Brain Rinse – Puppetry of The Audience which threatened in its publicity to be “immersive” (almost always a horrifying idea).

In fact, it was superbly entertaining for the same reason that Herbie Treehead worked so well at last night’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. Both Herbie and Brain Rinse’s Mike Raffone (say it out loud) have long experience in street performance, so their audience control is second-to-none. A well-structured show; the ability to ad-lib on the hoof; top notch audience psychology. All hail!

That was my day.

Meanwhile, elsewhere…

Last night, at the repeatedly aforementioned Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, Russian Egg Roulette competitor Samantha Pressdee could not stop herself taking her top off. She has a lot of ‘previous’ in this.

Samantha Pressdee – a woman never knowingly overdressed

And, while I was roaming round the hot and sticky comedy rooms of Edinburgh today, she was out in the fresh air and I do mean ‘out’.

Apparently this was the 10th International ‘Go Topless’ Day and there was a rally in Edinburgh. The stated rules included:

NO-ONE IS IN CHARGE.

AS ALWAYS THE RALLY IS ESSENTIALLY ANARCHIC AS NO-ONE HAS AUTHORITY OVER ANOTHER PERSON’S BODY OR VOICE.

Samantha sent me a ‘report’ on what had happened:


The annual Edinburgh Free The Nipple rally for International Go Topless Day and Women’s Equality Day has been a success.

Members of the public joined in with regular campaigners and an open mic was held as a platform to oppose the censorship of opinion as well as nipples.

Only one member of the public got offended, shouting at protesters: “Shame on you! You’re flaunting yourselves! I can’t bring my daughter in to this space!” 

I chased the lady whilst shimming my tits shouting: “Breasts feed children!”

The hysterical woman responded: “I know! My daughter has seen my tits loads of times!” before telling a photographer to “Fuck off!”

I wrote FREE LOVE on my chest in protest of the threatened extradition of alleged hacker Lauri Love.

He is appealing in the High Courts this November on the grounds that, because of his Aspergers and severe depression, he would be unable to cope in the US prison system and would commit suicide.

For more information see freelauri.com


So there you are.

Comedy reviews, naked tits and political activism.

For what more could one ask?

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Painful nipples after London Mayor Boris Johnson screws nude Edinburgh Fringe performer Juliette Burton

Janet Bettesworth (centre right) celebrates her birthday

Janet Bettesworth (centre right) celebrates her 70th birthday

Last night, I went to flame-haired comedy temptress Janet Bettesworth’s 70th birthday party in a room above the Bedford pub in Balham, Gateway to The South.

Downstairs, the pub was a scene like something out of the Black Hole of Calcutta mixed with the Sacking of Rome by the Goths & Vandals and with a noise level similar to the arrival of ‘Fat Man’ in Nagasaki in 1945. That’s a World Cup Saturday for you.

Upstairs, at Janet’s party, it was comedians socialising and a very loud folk band, though sadly no nudity.

Yesterday afternoon, though, there WAS nudity in Central London.

I went to the starting point for The Naked Bike Ride, just outside the new St Martin’s College of Art behind King’s Cross station.

In previous blogs, I have mentioned comedian Juliette Burton’s enthusiastically-anticipated (certainly by me) upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show Look At Me, which is about whether who we appear to be is who we actually are – and whether we can change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside.

Among other things, it involves her being videoed in public wearing a a ‘fat’ prosthetics suit, being transformed into a man… and nudity.

Participants prepare for the Naked Bike Ride yesterday

Participants prepared for the Naked Bike Ride yesterday

So, yesterday, she was going to take part in the Naked Bike Ride which – allegedly – was being held to protest against the pollution caused by Society’s dependency on oil.

I say ‘allegedly’ because it is an annual event and, as far as I can see, just an excuse to get your kit off for reasons of exhibitionism, Bohemianism  or eccentricity – mostly the last two and nothing wrong in either.

In August, you can streak nude for tigers

In August, you can strip off & Streak For Tigers at Lindon Zoo

As I waited for Juliette to arrive, I was handed a flyer for a naked Streak For Tigers run being held at London Zoo in August. Fortunately I will be in Edinburgh and will miss the inevitable carnage.

When Juliette did turn up with her musical director Frankie Lowe (Juliette has an entourage even bigger than Lewis Schaffer‘s) she had a story to tell.

She told me how she had just been screwed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Juliette advertised her Fringe show yesterday

Juliette advertised her Fringe show yesterday

“We spent a while with the make-up artist this morning,” she told me, “advertising my show on my back and advertising my boobs on my front. Then I put my clothes back on and went to get the Boris Bike.”

[Note to non-Brits: The publicly-rentable bikes causing traffic chaos all over London have been nicknamed ‘Boris Bikes’.]

Juliette, pained, after being screwed by Boris

Juliette, pained, after being screwed on a bike by Mayor Boris

“We had paid our £2 for the code to access a bike,” Juliette explained to me, “and we went round every single docking station in this row of bikes off Caledonian Road and none of them would let us have a bike. Boris screwed us over. So we walked here, just so we could salvage a shot of me standing around supporting the good cause surrounded by naked people and getting my things out.”

Frankie Lowe - a man who wears two hats

Frankie – a man who wears two creative hats

Juliette had been planning her naked bike ride since last December with Frankie Lowe – not only her musical director but also her cameraman – he is a man who wears multiple hats simultaneously and, yesterday, literally.

“We had been going to start here at King’s Cross,” explained Juliette, “and then do Haymarket and have Frankie film me on Westminster Bridge by the Houses of Parliament…

“I had taken my Dutch courage – a half a glass of Prosecco before I left. And then Boris screwed us. It’s very disappointing.”

“Though,” I said, “as of this week, you now do have the even better…”

“Except you cannot blog about that yet,” said Juliette.

So I won’t.

“Frankie,” continued Juliette, “made a very good observation that it was ironic we were prevented from doing a protest against oil dependency by the ineffectiveness of a city-wide bicycling scheme that is meant to help people not depend on cars.”

“Frankie should wear a PR hat on top of his other two,” I observed.

After the massed naked cyclists set off, the three of us had a drink nearby. This also gave Juliette time to go off to the toilet and take off her pasties.

I forgot to mention that Juliette had bright pink circular coverings over her nipples.

Juliette relaxes with her pink pasties in the foreground

Juliette with her pink pasties in foreground

Apparently they are called pasties – pronounced not ‘pass-ties’ but ‘paste-ies’ – and are/were stuck on with the make-up artists’ equivalent of super glue.

When she re-emerged from the toilet, looking slightly shaken, Juliette observed:

“Everyone suffers for their Edinburgh Fringe show, but I didn’t know I was going to suffer this much physical pain for it.”

“Suffering pain from tits is common in Edinburgh,” I suggested.

Rule 17 in blog writing: always try to give yourself the last line.

There is a promo for Look At Me on YouTube.

 

 

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Why performer Juliette Burton will dress as a Muslim woman, go naked and become a man with a very ‘big package’

Juliette Burton

Juliette Burton will cover up and strip off

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, Juliette Burton is performing her 2013 Edinburgh Fringe show When I Grow Up show at the Leicester Square Theatre in London and then she is immediately going off to tour Australia with it.

This morning she told me: “I just found out yesterday that I’m getting funding from the Arts Council towards the cost of research and development on my next show Look at Me.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because it’s all about body diversity, body confidence and the celebration of difference. It questions whether who we appear to be is who we are and whether we can change who we are on the inside by changing who we seem to be on the outside.”

“For When I Grow Up,” I said, “you pre-shot lots of video inserts and interviews with various people.”

“Yes,” said Juliette. “And that’s what the funding is going towards on the new show this year: things like prosthetics.”

“So this year, for Look at Me…?” I asked.

“I will be dressing more and more provocatively,” explained Juliette, “to see – if a woman does dress provocatively – if she is going to get unwanted attention from men.”

“You read what Kate Copstick said in that controversial chat show I had at the Edinburgh Fringe last August?” I said.

“I think some interesting points were made,” Juliette said carefully.

“Some people,” I said, “thought Copstick said women were ‘asking for it’ if they dress provocatively…”

Juliette stalked Prince Harry this week

For her When I Grow Up show, Juliette tried to marry Prince Harry by stalking him: she failed

“That’s what I’m finding out,” said Juliette. “But, to counteract that – to see if there is any substance to that – for another part of the show, I’m going to be wearing the hijab.

“I’ve been working with the Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh to make sure I do that in a sensitive and informed way, rather than in an Islamophobic way.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked. “Just wander around the streets?”

“With all of these appearances,” said Juliette, “I’m going to be spending some time in context – somewhere you might expect to see someone dressing in that way – and then somewhere it might appear to be a bit strange. So you might find it strange to see a woman wearing a hijab in an Ann Summers shop.”

I laughed.

“But why is that strange?” Juliette shot back. “Women wearing the hijab have every right to be in an Ann Summers shop.”

“My eternally-un-named friend has a burka,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“I’ve already got one,” replied Juliette.

“But, as well as the hijab in your show…” I prompted.

“There are prosthetics,” said Juliette. “I will become a man. Not only dress as a man. The prosthetics will turn me into a man with facial hair and, I hope, a big ‘package’.”

“A big package???” I asked.

Can this woman be turned into a man?

Can this woman be turned into a man?

“Well,” said Juliette, “I don’t quite know how, but I’ve got a very talented prosthetics make-up artist called Sarah Jane.

“I would like to find out what it’s like to be a man and whether men really are more empowered or maybe actually it’s really scary being a man. I have no idea. I need a mentor, John. You can teach me how to be a man.”

“More like a grandfather,” I said ruefully.

“That’s the next thing in the show,” said Juliette. “Age. I’m going to age into a much older version of myself using prosthetics. A lot of women of 60+ who I’ve spoken to in interviews for the show have told me they felt when they hit 40 they suddenly became invisible and that only increased as they got older. I’m a bit scared I might end up looking like my mum but, then, why would I be scared by that? My mum’s gorgeous. It’s just that thing of you never expect to turn into your mother.”

“It would be more frightening if I turned into my mother,” I suggested.

“Then, after the ageing process,” continued Juliette, “I will be revisiting my obese self. All the rest are interesting and fun and different, but I am quite nervous about this one. When I became obese, it was because of Compulsive Overeating Disorder – having been anorexic and then also experiencing bulimia. I was a size 4 from anorexia and then a size 20 from compulsive overeating.”

“Maybe it will be cathartic and give you closure,” I suggested.

“Maybe,” said Juliette. “I would love to be able to find some comfort in it. I will have an obese costume to wear. The whole point of the show is If I’m changing my appearance this dramatically, can I really still remain myself?

Starkers starters with a prophetic message

Members of the London Naked Bike Ride

“And then, finally, I will be going nude in two different ways, because I’m not sure which one will make it into the show. I’ve had a couple of meetings with the organiser of the London Naked Bike Ride…”

“Was he naked?” I asked.

“Interestingly,” said Juliette, “he wasn’t. He wore a bowler hat, a waistcoat, shirt, tie, jacket, trousers and overcoat. He was very very clothed.”

“It sounds,” I said, “like you may have dropped through a rip in the fabric of time into 1958.”

“And then,” said Juliette, ignoring me, “the other way I’ll be having a nude experience to see whether it makes a difference will be working with Mat Fraser. He has said I can perform at his Sleaze club night and he’s suggested I try to put together a performance routine where it’s maybe something about stripping away layers: a burlesque performance that’s less about sex and more about body confidence.”

“You could use prosthetics and take your face off, like in Mission Impossible,” I suggested.

“I’m thinking of maybe using the obese costume,” explained Juliette, “but, instead of stripping it away, I will maybe put it on and be sexy within it. Or maybe changing from a man into a woman by taking off the prosthetics. I’m hoping to get a couple of burlesque tutors and Mat says he’ll teach me ‘nudity comfort’.

“Everyone I’ve talked to for the show has these incredibly beautiful stories and experiences within them that you just cannot tell from first appearances.

Juliette filming with Adam Pearson

Juliette Burton filming with Adam Pearson for Look At Me

“There’s a guy called Adam Pearson who has neurofibromatosis, a condition where his nerve-endings continue to grow, so he is facially – for want of a better word – deformed. But he is an incredible guy. He is passionate, very funny. He’s actually starring in a film with Scarlett Johansson soon. Everyone is incredible.

“I interviewed Leo Gormley, who has horrific burns he received when he was 14 and in an awful petrol fire. But he escaped and it’s amazing his body recovered from that. We need to honour our bodies more for what they CAN do and not for their imperfections.

“I’ve also interviewed people who look completely ‘regulation’ – I don’t like the word ‘normal’ any more – but they may have a hidden illness.

“So I’ve spoken to two men currently battling cancer. To look at them, you can’t tell at all. One has a body which, because of the treatment, is being overwhelmed with oestrogen hormones which is changing his body in ways he never expected. Another girl looks beautiful, gorgeous, healthy and well but she has cystic fibrosis and is terminally ill and coughs up blood.

Juliette photographed looking in a mirror - What is real?

A photograph of Juliette photographed looking into a mirror – Which is real?

“She and I both, for different reasons, hate it when people say Oh, you look well. It’s hard when people project something onto you – not vomit but an idea – an idea of something they want you to be. Oh, you look like you’re having fun!… Well, don’t assume anything about anybody. Maybe ask them how they are feeling, rather than project onto them – again, not vomit. Unless you’re very drunk.”

“And all this filming, highly-edited,” I said, “will be in the show.”

“And I’ll be posting videos on YouTube in the run-up to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“And,” I said, “like last year there will be a song and a music video?”

“Yes,” said Juliette. “We’ve written the song already, It’s very catchy.”

“I don’t doubt it,” I said.

… CONTINUED HERE … AND JULIETTE EXPLAINS MORE ABOUT HER NEW SHOW ON YOUTUBE

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Why the Greatest Show on Legs started their infamous Naked Balloon Dance

This afternoon, I am driving to Totnes in Devon with comedian Matt Roper, who has started to describe himself as a homeless vagabond, though I prefer to think of him as an itinerant purveyor of comedic entertainment.

Being a ‘vagabond’ might imply dubious liaisons with women and goats… Of which more later.

Matt Roper claims I will like Totnes, because it is full of interesting creative people.

Martin and Vivienne Soan at home last night

Martin & Vivienne at home  last night

Coincidentally, last night, my eternally-un-named friend and I had dinner at Vivienne & Martin Soan’s home in South East London. Martin created comedy group The Greatest Show on Legs, famed for their naked balloon dance which included late godfather of UK alternative comedy Malcolm Hardee.

“Totnes is where we created the balloon dance,” Martin told me over dinner.

“I’ve never been there,” I said.

“It’s like a little model village,” explained Martin. “Perfect in every way. But full scale. Divorced rock ‘n’ roll wives in the 1970s decided that it was a good place to live.

“Malcolm had a liaison with one of these ex wives – I think she was an ex-wife of one of The Small Faces – and all these rock chicks had moved down there and just three miles up the road was Dartington College, which was the very first ‘free’ school which was very liberal and encouraged dramatic arts.

Totnes - like a model village but real... or maybe it is surreal

Totnes – like a model village but real… or is it maybe surreal?

“Totnes is like The Village in The Prisoner. It is perfect in every way. Not too many people. You have your drunks and you have your council house people. But, basically, all the locals have had four generations of acid-taking liberalism. Even the council-house crack-addict coke-head element has been gentrified and you get amazing sights.

“There used to be this one guy with a great big Afghan hound, an Edwardian suit and a waxed moustache who walked up and down like some latter-day rake.

“In the church, where Malcolm got off with a girl called Lucy The Goat Lady… That sounds very demeaning, but nicknames are easier to remember than real names… Her name was Lucy…

Aleister Crowley - "the wickedest man in the world"

Crowley “the wickedest man in the world”

“She said we could stay at her place, a big rambling farmhouse which belonged to Dick Heckstall-Smith, the English jazz saxophonist and in the grounds was this de-consecrated church. It had been de-consecrated because the occultist Aleister Crowley had bought the house years before and done secret ceremonies late at night. When the locals found out, they had the church de-consecrated.

“And, in the kitchen of the house,” Martin continued, “the Greatest Show on Legs reacted to the local extreme, over-the-top feminists who were living in this land of privilege and having weekly meetings about how they could wipe out Chinese foot-binding in Devon. Shit. They were all living in a bubble, really. It was our reaction to that. We thought up the balloon dance in the kitchen and we went to the Dartmouth Inn that night and premiered it.”

My eternally-un-named friend was a bit surprised.

“It was a reaction to feminists wanting to ban foot-binding in Devon?” she asked.

“The Greatest Show on Legs were feminists,” said Martin. “We weren’t sexist in any way.”

“That’s what I thought – sort of,” said my eternally-un-named friend, who knew Malcolm and Martin before I did.

“Though,” said Martin’s wife Vivienne, “they antagonised feminists all over the place.”

“Yes,” said Martin, “but they were feminists who weren’t really thinking. In actual fact, we were rather gallant as a group of performers.”

“You just went round fucking everybody in sight,” said Vivienne.

(From left) Malcolm Hardee, Paul Wiseman, Martin Soan (Photograph by Steve Taylor)

(From left) Malcolm Hardee, Paul Wiseman, Martin Soan possibly/probably in the 1980s (Photograph by Steve Taylor)

“I was trying,” said Martin, “to think of a rather more poetic or lyrical way of putting it… We were young men and we enjoyed ourselves, but we did it in a rather gallant way.”

After you, Malcolm…,” suggested Vivienne. “No, after you, Martin… Oops, sorry Malcolm… After you…

“But, getting back to the balloon dance,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “What year was that?”

“I can’t remember,” said Martin.

“It would have been the 1970s, early 1980s,” suggested Vivienne.

“It’s like writing Malcolm’s autobiography,” I said. “He never knew which decade things happened in either.”

“Anyway,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “in this kitchen, you suddenly thought Ooh! Let’s do a strip with balloons!

“Because,” explained Vivienne, “they were reacting against the ultra-feminists who were trying to create a storm about Chinese foot-binding.”

“I don’t quite see the connection,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“We arrived there,” said Martin, “and just thought This is sick. They’re living in their own world. Everything’s perfect. What right have they got to complain? They’ve got nothing to complain about. To start being over-the-top feminists in such a rarified atmosphere… It just antagonised us….

“So we thought: I know! We’ll fucking take our kit off! And we were laughing. We were not thinking about it as creating a routine. It was as much a joke for ourselves. A stunt. Let’s take our kit off! But it went down such a storm that night, Malcolm and I thought Right. Let’s keep it in the show.

Martin Soan enters his living room last night in SE London

Martin Soan enters his living room last night in SE London

“So,” said Vivienne, “Totnes is now full of creative people who are probably all the children of these feminists.”

“And this goat woman…” asked my eternally-un-named friend. “She would be about 60 now?”

“Probably,” mused Martin. “Older. She was older than us.”

“She had a goat?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“She did have a goat,” replied Martin.

“Is that why she was called Goat Woman?”

“Goat Lady,” corrected Martin. “Not Goat Woman.”

“The Greatest Show on Legs were always very gallant,” I said. “What was the goat called?”

“John,” said Martin reprovingly, “I don’t know what the fucking goat was called. It didn’t have a name. I would have loved it if the goat had been introduced to me, but it was just there as the goat.”

“But goats have names, too,” I protested. “Bob Slayer went round Australia with Gary The Goat.”

“That’s slightly different,” said Martin.

“You’re the one who calls women ‘ladies’,” I argued. “Goats deserve respect too.”

“Eat your pudding,” said Vivienne.

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Just when I thought the anarchic nature of the Edinburgh Fringe had peaked…

Four went naked in Edinburgh last night

Four comedians went naked at Bob’s Bookshop late last night

It was Bob Slayer’s final Edinburgh Fringe show last night and, I presume the last Fringe show in general, given that the Edinburgh Fringe officially finished five days ago.

That was no deterrent to Bob Slayer though and he ended it as anyone who knows him would expect – with four naked comedians playing what I think is called “Willie Tag”.

Willie Tag is played in much the same way as the normal children’s game of Tag – the object is to touch another person who tries to evade you. The difference is that, in Willie Tag, you try to touch the other person with your penis.

Yes, I know… I know…

What can I say?

I was as surprised as you.

All I can say is that the four naked comedians pursued the game with some vigour in-and-out of the audience and, shortly afterwards, the audience dispersed with a variety of looks on their faces.

But, as I say in the headline to this blog, Just when I thought the anarchic nature of the Fringe had peaked…

…there was another surprise.

A few days ago, I mentioned in a blog that a well-known comedian had (for reasons only known to himself) told his PR people NOT to put review quotes and stars on his posters. He had then been shocked to see stars from Broadway Baby reviews on his posters. But both his management’s PR people and his venue’s PR people denied sticking the stars on his posters.

There is nothing as worthless as yesterday’s stars

Edinburgh’s secret star maker is revealed

On a wild whim yesterday, I sent an e-mail to Barry Ferns who, this year, won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for publishing spoof versions of the Broadway Baby and Three Weeks review sheets, which included fake reviews praising his own Fringe show.

“I don’t suppose,” I wrote in my e-mail to Barry, “that by any stretch of a very stretched imagination this was you trying to get ahead on a Cunning Stunt for 2014?”

Today Barry replied:

“Ha! I was adding random bogus stars to posters throughout this Edinburgh for my own amusement… It wasn’t a campaign as such. I just had some printed up… I didn’t think anyone had noticed.

“However, to add to the intrigue, I did not accredit any stars to Broadway Baby… They were just unmarked stars… So perhaps the search continues!… I quite like this element of bringing out your deductive skills around my comedy industry related seditious acts. Moriarty to your Holmes…”

Bob Slayer protects what little modesty he has

Bob Slayer protects what little modesty he has

Barry warns me that he is planning an even bigger and more spectacular scam next year.

Who am I to dis anarchy?

I am leaving Edinburgh this afternoon with Bob Slayer in my car. He has not showered since Tuesday. It is an 8 hour journey to my home and another 45mins to his.

I have hopes of renting him to the Syrian government as a chemical weapon.

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Yesterday in Edinburgh, the post-Fringe world was getting increasingly odder with nudity, hedgehogs & flying saucers

Bob’s Bookshop Bar - a penis bottle opener, a bottle of gin & a fridge

Bob’s Bookshop has a basic minimalist Bar – a penis bottle opener, a bottle of gin & a fridge

Last night at what was the Edinburgh Fringe and is now just Edinburgh, Stompie the Half-Naked Chef played his last show at Bob’s Bookshop.

It was, for him, a normal show.

The room (a former shop) was full, so I sat outside on the cobbled street where venue runner Bob Slayer had thoughtfully placed three chairs for just such an eventuality – and because Stompie had always intended to perform his show both inside and outside the venue at the same time.

As always, Stompie – naked except for a kitchen apron and a pair of underpants (occasionally removed) – tended to run out onto the pavement to accost passers-by or into the middle of the street to stop passing cars, hail a cab or, on one occasion, to give a melon to a bemused and smiling middle-aged lady driver who appeared to speak no English.

I can only imagine she thought it was a local custom like men wearing kilts or people blowing bagpipes where the mouth movements bear no relation to the sounds being emitted.

The show occasionally strayed into the street

Car drivers were waved down by a half-naked man on cobbles

I was joined after a time by a passing lady who sat down. We watched couples and groups of mostly very respectable, ordinary (in a good way) people pass by, as the Festival Theatre round the corner had just finished its performance.

They – and other passing pedestrians who just looked in the window – and the accosted car drivers and taxi drivers who stopped because a mad-looking man was standing in the road in front of them – took in their stride the sight of a semi-naked man occasionally waving a cucumber at them.

A foreign lady driver accepted a melon of friendship

A foreign lady driver amiably accepted a melon of friendship

“Only in Edinburgh,” I said to the lady sitting beside me. “If this happened in Nottingham or Plymouth or London or Cardiff, people would be calling the police or running away.”

“I think I have seen too many shows,” the lady said to me. “It’s starting to seem normal. It has been a mad night.”

It turned out she, too, had been to the Festival Theatre show.

“What was it called?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she told me. “It was mad and wonderful and involved men and donkeys.”

Don Quixote?” I asked.

“It must have been,” she replied. “There were windmills.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

Artist Gay Halley watched the show from the street

Artist Gay Halley sat watching from the street

“My name is Gay,” she replied. “I always say that, rather than say I’m Gay. It avoids misunderstandings.”

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Just south of Aberdeen,” she replied.

“Stonehaven?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, surprised.

“I was partly brought up in Aberdeen,” I said. “We lived in Mastrick, a council estate on a hill. In the winter, my mother used to make the beds in the morning wearing her overcoat.”

Perfectly true. These were days of linoleum and coal fires, before fitted carpets and central heating.

“Where do you live?” she asked me.

“Borehamwood,” I replied.

“You’re joking,” she said. “My sister lives in Borehamwood.”

The lady sitting next to me on the cobbles turned out to be artist Gay Halley and she had just had a picture hung (and sold) at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.

After the show, in Bob’s Bookshop, I asked Stompie/Richard Stamp, the Half-Naked Chef what he was doing next.

“I have an Arts Council grant to build a flying saucer,” he told me truthfully.

stompie_cut

He has a grant to build a flying saucer but not to buy clothes

He is also going to London’s Wonderground, to perform with Miss Behave whose broken heel has now partially mended, though she is still performing on crutches.

If you have no idea what this is about, the only solution is to read my blogs regularly.

After that, I went back to my rented flat where two e-mails were waiting for me.

The first was from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. It commented on my blog of yesterday:

“You can find the odd hedgehog wandering the streets of Plashet Grove,” it said.

It did not define the exact meaning of the word ‘odd’.

Along the mean streets of Plashet Grove a hedgehog must go

Along these mean streets of Plashet Grove walked a hedgehog

Plashet Grove is in the East End of London, in the Upton Park/East Ham area.

“I once found a hedgehog there,” continued Anna. “Just once. I was with a comedian, very late at night. We almost released it into the custody of the local parkies, but they suggested we bake it in clay so we fled and set it free on Wanstead Flats (a nearby open area). It was odd, finding a hedgehog in Plashet Grove.”

Odd was the word last night.

The second e-mail waiting for me was from comedy critic Kate Copstick, who returned to London from Edinburgh at the beginning of this week.

In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that, now the Fringe was over, the paper strips stuck on posters giving review quotes and showing the 4 or 5 star reviews are coming unstuck in the wind.

Copstick told me that, when she was leaving Edinburgh, she had bumped into a well-known comedian at Waverley station. She wrote:

There is nothing as worthless as yesterday’s stars

Edinburgh: fading and sometimes unwanted review stars

“He had told both his venue and his PRs (at a major management company) that he did not want any strips of stars to be stuck on his posters. NONE. AT ALL. He saw some of his posters in Bristo Square with a Broadway Baby and another star strip stuck across them, so he called his PR people.

“They said they had not put any strips of stars up as per his instructions. So he called up the venue PR. They said the same and told him (which he has had confirmed) that it is the publications THEMSELVES who go around and put their own strips of stars up on posters sometimes!!… If the acts’ PRs do not stick the stars up, then Broadway Baby does!”

Copstick and I both found this odd.

But, to me, even stranger was the fact that the act did not want to have his stars and review quotes publicised on his posters.

Either I am or the world is getting increasingly odd. Perhaps both.

_________

P.S. The folks at Broadway Baby tell me: “Broadway Baby does NOT stick up flashes or stars on posters… Bizarre indeed. As if any publication would have the time, resources or inclination to stick pull quotes on posters.”

Yup. That’s the word for this story.

Bizarre.

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At the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday: nudity, farting and a hysterectomy

Today, my new temporary Edinburgh flatmate inventor mad John Ward arrives. He invents arguably useless or useful things like the bra warmer and the personal snow-making back pack. He also designed the physical trophies which are the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards.

Yesterday, Mr Methane’s window show entertained not just audiences but passers-by

Yesterday, Mr Methane’s Edinburgh show in the window of Bob’s Bookshop entertained not just audiences but passers-by

My previous temporary Edinburgh flatmate Mr Methane left yesterday, although he is returning on Friday specifically to perform at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

I will miss Mr Methane’s daily interesting facts which included not just surprising tales of touring with the semi-punk band the Macc Lads but also the fact that John Paul Jones – not the Led Zeppelin rock star but the 18th century US hero – led the only US attack on mainland Britain, by attacking Whitehaven in Cumbria and St Mary’s Isle near Kirkcudbright, Scotland, in 1778.

Mr Methane is very well-read for a man who farts professionally.

There is a distinctly literary lifestyle in my flat at the moment.

Comedy entrepreneur Neale Welch has a Fringe Odyssey

Comedy entrepreneur Neale Welch had a big Fringe Odyssey

Also staying here is Neale Welch from London’s Comedy Cafe Theatre. His audio company Just The Greatest has put up some money to cover part of the costs of the Malcolm Hardee Awards (though not any of my personal expenses lest I appear to be benefitting personally). For this, he gets to sleep on a sofa that is shorter than he is. No-one said life is fair.

I came back unexpectedly yesterday afternoon to find him reading Homer’s Odyssey.

He told me he had discovered Edinburgh is a great place for second-hand bookshops and that he had walked into one shop and asked if they had a copy of The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.

The owner of the shop had replied:

“Would you want a copy of that book in Greek, Latin or English?”

And, sure enough, the shop did, indeed, have copies of The History of the Peloponnesian War in all three languages.

“Which one did you buy?” I asked Neale.

“The English language one,” he told me.

Frankly, I was saddened and rather disappointed in him.

Shortly afterwards, I bumped into Nick Awde at the Pleasance Dome, who started talking about Adrienne Truscott and her much-discussed show Adrienne Truscott’s Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! which she performs naked from the waist down.

This coming Friday, Adrienne is a guest on my Fringe show Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! So It Goes – John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show. She will be discussing the joys and pitfalls of performing nude on stage with Martin Soan of The Greatest Show On Legs, who created the Naked Balloon Dance.

Nick Awde heads the Fringe review team for The Stage newspaper.

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott’s show split then united opinion

“Adrienne’s show split arty people and comedy people,” Nick mused yesterday, “At the very beginning of the Fringe, the comedy people were pushing her show away saying No, that’s performance art… and the performance art people were saying No, it’s comedy. Now they both claim it as their own.”

And now it is impossible to get tickets for Adrienne’s show.

In theory, you can turn up and entry is free; you pay to get out. But all the £5 pay-in-advance-to-guarantee-a-seat tickets have been bought and there is no space left. So an extra show has been added – tomorrow night at 11.00pm.

She has also been nominated for a Total Theatre Award.

Total Theatre “celebrates and supports a wide spectrum of contemporary theatre and performance” but I suspect Adrienne may get nominated for some pure comedy awards too.

While I was chatting with Nick Awde, he told me he always reads my blogs from the bottom upwards because, he claims, I usually get to any ‘meaty bits’ at the end. So this next bit  is hidden in the middle to confuse him.

I had a chat with Canadian comic Tanyalee Davis, who performed her first Edinburgh Fringe show in 2003 and who was last heard of in this blog transporting critic Kate Copstick to her trial. Tanyalee is currently appearing on the Channel 4 hidden-camera TV series I’m Spazticus.

“I come over to the UK on alternate months,” she told me.

“I always come over in December and this last December I had a 7-week tour booked but, after a couple of days, I developed a blood clot in my groin and then it all just went tits-up from there.

“It started when I got back with a guy I was dating 18 years ago. We only dated for 2 years, then I was married to somebody else for 13. So we were back together again. I went back on birth control because I was in a new relationship, I got a blood clot and then that caused all these problems. But him and I are together still, thank goodness, ten months on.

“The blood clot led to three months of having eight blood transfusions and ended up with me losing my box – my cooch, my meat locker – I got about 16 different ways of saying fanny.

“I was in four different countries for the whole medical shebang. It started in the UK. I flew to America, then Canada, then I got cleared to fly on a family holiday in Mexico and then I started hemorrhaging. I got there Friday, I started bleeding Saturday, I was hemorrhaging Sunday, then I ended up having a hysterectomy the next week because they were like We don’t know  what to do with you… Too many blood transfusions and, because I had the blood clot, they couldn’t do surgery because I could have died on the operating table.

Tanyalee turned tragedy into Fringe comedy

Tanyalee turned tragedy into Fringe comedy

“So now it’s a comedy show and the interesting thing is trying to find the humour in… I mean, I nearly died… I had 8 blood transfusions and nearly died on a couple of occasions and making that funny is…”

“I always tell comedians,” I said to Tanyalee, “that, if anything goes wrong in your life, it’s not a tragedy, it’s the script for your next Edinburgh Fringe show. It’s God giving you a 60-minute show.”

“Yeah, I lost my box,” said Tanyalee, “but I gained a show. I’ve been wanting to do a new show for a couple of years – I haven’t done a solo show since 2007 – but I didn’t want to do straight stand-up. So, when this whole shit went down, I thought Boom! Now I got a show! – It’s Big Trouble in Little ‘Gina.”

“Are you as ambitious since you nearly died?” I asked. “Or has that changed your perspective? I remember sitting watching my father die and thinking: Nothing really matters. Only love and friendship.

“Well,” said Tanyalee. “I just gotta enjoy my time while I’m here, because you never know when it’s gonna get yanked away from you. I have such a fun life normally, so being held up in the hospital and not being able to be on stage for three months… That was the worst thing.”

“Really?” I asked. “Not getting the applause?”

“No,” said Tanyalee. “It’s because it’s such an endorphin release and it’s therapy being on stage. I’m a raging bitch when I haven’t been on stage for a while.”

The Edinburgh Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and Edinburgh – my favourite city in the world – has been called the Athens of the North. But it is also a tough wee town on the quiet.

As well as Fringe people getting beaten up in the street – I refer you to previous blogs both this year and last – it is the home of Trainspotting and (being Scotland) heavy drinking. I can say that as a shamefully teetotal Scots.

Last night, at around 1.30am in the morning, on my way to Arthur Smith’s legendary annual tour of the Royal Mile, I bumped into comedian Eric cycling home.

“A mother and daughter just fell down in the street in front of me,” he said. “just fell down.”

Arthur Smith’s tour of the Royal Mile was as bizarre as normal. NOTE: Arthur is on my first Fringe chat show tomorrow afternoon.

Arthur Smith, alien, in the Royal Mile last night

Arthur Smith, alien, spouted poetry in the Royal Mile late last night

The tour involved occasional mass wailing by the group of about 30 people trailing down the Royal Mile with him. We were instructed by Arthur to do this in the fashion of North Koreans being told their leader had died.

There was also a shouted conversation with some people in the top storey flat of one of the buildings in the Royal Mile who played a Leonard Cohen song and threw plastic milk bottles out of their window… a £10 challenge for any man or woman to take their top off and sing the Proclaimers’ song 500 Miles… a demonstration of strange rickshaw driving… and a Lithuanian couple who were persuaded to sing in Lithuanian on the steps of St Giles Cathedral. It ended with Arthur disrobing and turning into a sparkly-costumed alien.

Among the crowd were comics Carey Marx, Phil Nichol and, recovering from a street attack in Leith, Scotsman journalist Clare Smith.

Bob Slayer (right) in his sponsored underpants

Bob Slayer’s (right) face-off in his underpants

Afterwards, I walked to Bob’s Bookshop to see if Bob Slayer’s Midnight Mayhem was still in full swing. When I opened the door, I was confronted by a fully-dressed man standing face-to-face with Bob who was in his underpants. This is unusual. To see Bob wearing clothes.

Alas, I arrived a few minutes before 3.00am and, as soon as I arrived, Bob told the audience to shout “tonight’s catchphrase” at me and the show stopped. I have no idea what they shouted, but they seemed to be laughing as they shouted it. I would like to think the show stopped because my arrival climaxed the show. In fact, it was due to licensing laws.

I then walked home.

About two minutes later, on the other side of the road, three girls were walking along singing. One fell over.

As I got to my flat, on the opposite pavement, a man still holding a mobile phone to his ear was picking himself up off the ground.

That’s Edinburgh.

Comedy, performance art, tragedy and people so pissed or drugged out of their heads that they fall over in the street.

Sometimes these categories overlap.

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Filed under Comedy, Health