Tag Archives: naked

UK comedy roundup: How Malcolm Hardee made his trousers fall down & why Bob Slayer was naked in Norway

With my eternally-un-named friend and Martin Soan

With my eternally-un-named friend and Martin Soan (photograph by saxophonist & compere Vivienne Soan)

Yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend and I went round to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s back garden. It has Astroturf on it to stop weeds coming through.

Vivienne said she was thinking of speaking in German when she introduces one of the acts at this Friday’s Pull The Other One comedy club. As I mentioned in a blog last time she compered Pull The Other One, I am confident this German language thing will explain itself in a few months.

In the meantime, Martin Soan seems to have put together his very complicated Village Hall Experience show for Peckham, sponsored by Southwark Council and supporting The Fostering Partnership. He told me he is also building a large carrot for some comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“How is your penis going?” I asked him as we left.

“Very smoothly,” he replied. As previously mentioned in a blog, he is building a giant male member for another comedian’s Edinburgh show. It is not the first time Martin has been involved with genitalia at the Fringe, both carefully-crafted handmade ones and real. Not least because he and the late Malcolm Hardee used to perform the Naked Balloon Dance as the Greatest Show On Legs up there over many years.

My eternally-un-named friend and I then went to visit Jacki Cook and Jonathan Hale, who run the Emporium vintage clothes shop in Greenwich.

But not for much longer.

In less than two weeks time, they are closing their shop after 27 years.

“I don’t know,” said Jacki, “what all those scruffy old comedians are gonna do. Malcolm Hardee used to buy a new suit from us every week – sometimes two a week, depending what capers he got up to. He liked to roll around in a Savile Row suit. That was Malc. He never bothered to clean them; he just bought a new one from us every week.”

My eternally-un-named friend (who used to work for Malcolm) told me:

“Malcolm used to ‘distress’ jackets when he got them. I remember he undid the stitching round the arm of one jacket when he got it.”

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in Up The Creek office

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in his Up The Creek office last century (photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

“Why?” I asked.

“It just gave it a dishevelled look,” she told me, “and that’s the way he wanted people to see him. But the actual clothes he wore were really nice.”

“He liked to wear trousers that were slightly too big for him,” said Jacki, “so that, if he breathed in, he could make them fall down.”

Jacki & Jon’s shop is closing, but they are going to continue their business online – they have rented costumes in the past to television companies and big scale movies – everything from Mission Impossible I & II and Steven Spielberg’s Munich to Dagenham Girls.

When I got home to Borehamwood last night, waiting for me, inevitably, was a bizarre message from comedian Bob Slayer. He has just come back to the UK from Norway.

Bob Slayer (left), naked atop a Norwegian caravan

Bob Slayer (left), naked atop a Norwegian caravan – of course (photograph by the Norwegian comedian Christer Torjussen)

“They said at Oslo Airport,” Bob told me, “that I couldn’t take a bottle of wine onto a plane. I disagreed. I showed them I could take it onto a plane in my tummy. I opened it up and drank it at airport security. It is quite a nice place to hang out and have a tipple.

“I am now trying to get back from Leicester, but I got on the wrong train. thus turning a one hour journey into a three hour journey…  In other news, I can report that the Corby trouser press in my Holiday Inn room was less effective at re-heating last night’s kebab than I thought it would be.”

The great and the good of Edinburgh have allowed him to run a bar in his new Bob’s Bookshop venue at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. I am not necessarily convinced this is a good idea.

In the title of this blog, I included the words: WHY BOB SLAYER WAS NAKED IN NORWAY.

In fact, I have no idea why he was pictured naked, standing on top of a caravan in Norway. I suspect neither does he – nor does the good Lord.

Some things have – and, indeed, require – no sane explanation.

They just are.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Norway, UK

News of Edinburgh Fringe sexual organ props & the World Fart Championships

Martin Soan, an older man, but stylish in his Nigel Hall socks

Martin Soan (right) chats on Lewis Schaffer’s radio show

“I thought I was going to get away without building a sexual organ prop this year,” Martin Soan told me yesterday. “But the first order for a cock has come in today. It’s for a comedian going up to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Your FIRST order?” I asked. “How many do you normally get?”

“I usually get about two a year,” Martin told me.

As attentive readers of this blog will know, Martin was asked in May to perform the part of a vagina in a play. He is famed for The Naked Balloon Dance he created for the Greatest Show on Legs.

“What happened to your vagina part in the play?” I asked him this morning.

“The woman sent me the script, I read it and I politely told her I was not an actor.”

Martin was once asked to build a prop for a comedian which, he said, was an “all-singing-and-dancing talking vagina. I used silk. It had hair and eyes. It was really scary.”

He may not be an actor in the traditional sense, but he walks an ever-moving dividing line between being a comedian and a performance artist, a prop maker and a creator of stage fantasies.

mrmethanebends

Mr Methane flying off to fart in Finland

And, talking of unlikely career paths and fantasies, we have the case of my chum Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing farter who is attending the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. They are being held this Saturday.

He flies off at noon today, but may arrive in Finland earlier than scheduled if there is a following wind.

“I’m surprised they’re having championships,” I said to him yesterday. “Surely it’s a talent rather than a sport?”

“I would say it could be both,” he told me. “It’s a sport in terms of my kind of farting – petomania – because performing a full show like mine is quite strenuous and it requires one to be farting fit. I think the talent is being able to control one’s emission.”

“That is always a bonus when in polite society,” I suggested.

“Sometimes,” said Mr Methane, “when I am introduced as a professional farter, the ladies do not fully take into consideration the fact that a pro can control his emissions. That is a positive over your average male, surely?”

“I certainly consider it thus,” I said. “But do foreigners really understand the joke? Indeed, is it a joke?”

“I am the man,” said Mr Methane, “who apparently blew the doors of censorship wide open for Swedish TV after my 1991 appearance on Robert Aschberg’s TV3 show.”

Mr Methane performed in front of guests including the country’s Foreign Minister.

“Things were apparently never the same again,” Mr Methane told me yesterday. “Or so I found out when I was invited as a guest on a Swedish style This Is Your Life TV show for Robert. The show’s producer wrote to Barrie, my manager:

When Mr. Methane visited Robert’s show Ikväll in the early 1990s he stunned a whole country. Some was amused and some were appalled by Mr. Methane’s talent however – it was television history. None in Sweden had before seen this kind of a show. Robert’s show was a predecessor and Mr Methane was the one guest that made it happen.

“When Martin Soan and Malcolm Hardee and the Greatest Show on Legs took The Naked Balloon Dance to Sweden in the early 1980s,” I said. “it was very popular there, but Malcolm told me he didn’t think the Swedes actually understood why it was funny.”

“I think Malcolm is partially correct but not entirely,” said Mr Methane. “If you watch the clip of Robert Aschberg crying with laughter and tears running down his face as I perform, it’s hard to believe that Swedes have no sense of humour. I think they tend to conduct themselves in a reserved fashion and this gives off that impression.

“Robert’s mate Gert Fylking, who held the microphone, could give the Greatest Show On Legs a run for their money. He was mental and did some really crazy things. But, then, he did attend a boarding school in Uttoxeter… His parents felt that an English education would be good for him and it obviously paid dividends.”

“Crazy things?” I asked.

“He had an enema-shitting contest,” said Mr Methane, “but his real party piece is jumping up and down on one leg, naked, until his cock spins round like a propeller. Both were performed on TV3 after they’d tested the limits with my act. He is a Christian Democrat politician now.”

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

“I used to work for TV3 in the UK,” I said. “It is a fine TV company. I think they screened Little House on The Prairie undubbed. Do you think any one nation more attuned to the true appreciation of your farts?”

“I guess my show is best received in Australia,” mused Mr Methane, “though some Australians are touchy about it because they feel that the world sees them as crude and rude when they are, in fact, a highly cultured nation.

“My 1997 appearance on the Channel 9 Footy Show apparently holds the record for the most complaints about an Australian TV show. People were calling in to complain from remote places out in the bush that weren’t even meant to get Channel 9’s signal. The switchboard apparently melted. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

The Footy Show panel turned to rubble, the studio audience was a mix of Animal House delight and gob smacked incredulity and the phones ran hotter than a Kate Fischer calendar.

“So what are you doing at the World Fart Championship in Finland?” I asked.

“At 47,” said Mr Methane, I’m past my competitive age, so I’m there as a The Godfather of Flatulence – an inspiration to those who follow in my footsteps – or wherever – A bit like you get the retired footballers on Match of the Day.

Johann Strauss was a fine Austrian composer

Johann Strauss II was a fine composer

“I will be doing a fully-blown show there, but I will be pacing myself. I will be going at my own speed, not sprinting to a finishing line in the shortest time and I will be accompanied by the Utajärvi Brass Band in a special rendition of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. I see my show as a mature wine that should be savoured and not rushed so one can experience the true aroma.”

“How can they judge farts at the Championships?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” admitted Mr Methane. “You could have The Longest, The Shortest, The Fattest, The Thinest… Hang on, this is beginning to sound like the theme tune to Record Breakers.”

“Whither farting contests?” I asked.

“I think it is an event that could run and run,” said Mr Methane.

“Any helpful advice for actual contestants?”

“Relax… But not too much.”

“And after your visit to Finland?”

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

“As you know,” said Mr Methane, “ I am appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, with My Life In Farting at Bob Slayer’s Bookshop venue at 3.30 every afternoon,  13th – 17th August… Ring-side seats are still available.”

“And you are staying in my Edinburgh flat for that week?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mr Methane.

“Oh dear,” I said.

As I was about to post this blog, I got a mobile phone text from Mr Methane. It read:

“I’m hearing reports of a fart on The Archers. Not sure if true but, if so, you’d think they would have brought me in to do it. We both missed some publicity there.”

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Filed under Comedy, Finland, Humor, Humour, Sweden, Theatre, UK

The end of the UK’s Greatest Show On Legs and the naked balloon dance?

Martin Soan’s Thriller at The Hob last night

Martin Soan rubbers-up for Thriller at The Hob last night

Last night I went to see Martin Soan perform as part of The Greatest Show On Legs, the comedy troupe he created years ago. They were performing at the always interesting Hob venue in Forest Hill, South London.

In the interval, a large group of men in the audience cornered Martin in the bar.

“They asked me Have you finished painting yet?” Martin told me this morning. “They’d read your blog. They were out on a stag do. It’s the strangest stag do I’ve ever heard of: coming along to see naked men. But, there you go, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They follow your blog and they know me from my various… eh… performances.”

“It’s the irresistible attraction of The Greatest Show of Legs and the naked Balloon Dance,” I said. ”But you told me you’re not always going to be in The Greatest Show On Legs from now on.”

“No,” said Martin. “I keep trying to pass it on to other people, but they keep saying they can’t do it without me.”

“Well, they can’t,” I agreed.

“It’s perfectly feasible,” said Martin. “If I got them Paul Merton to go out as part of the Greatest Show On Legs, are you telling me people wouldn’t go see that and enjoy it?”

“It wouldn’t be the same,” I said.

“Well, not the same exactly,” agreed Martin.

“Paul Merton – nice man, but he hasn’t got your grace,” I said. “And he wouldn’t do the nude bit.”

“I just think it’s time to make The Legs more sophisticated,” said Martin.

“Sophisticated!!” I spluttered.

“Yeah,” said Martin. “Sophisticated.”

“That’d be like Fast & Furious without the cars,” I said, having just watched the trailer. “So there’s Steve Bowditch and now Dickie Ryszynski, but that’s only two people. There has to be three people… Chris Lynam was in the audience last night.”

The Balloon Dance performed at The Hob last night

The Balloon Dance was performed at The Hob last night

“He would be a good contender,” agreed Martin. “The first issue is there are three gigs coming  up in Switzerland.”

“You gotta go to Switzerland,” I said.

“I’d go to Switzerland,” said Martin, “but not by plane.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m not going to fly again,” explained Martin. “I’ve done all my flying. There’s a lot of comedians like me.”

“You think your luck might run out the next time you fly?” I asked.

“No. I just really do not want to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and hang around in airports and sit in a little metal tube and go up to 33,000 feet. I’ve done all that. And I don’t want to go by coach. I want to go by train or car. But the others don’t want to, because it’s more expensive.”

“Why not by coach?” I asked.

“I’ve lost people to coaches,” explained Martin. “Three people. And I was in an accident myself as a kid. Coming home after Christmas, the coach went off the road and into a ditch. No-one was killed, but it scared the living bejesus out of me as a child… and as an adult.”

The Red Sparrows strait to fly last night

The Red Sparrows took a more sophisticated turn last night

“The other issue is I said I only want to do The Legs with new material. You saw a bit of new material last night and getting the old material and doing it properly would be… Last night, for the first time with the Red Sparrows routine, we got proper vapour trails. I think that’s up to speed now.”

“And,” I said, “you now have a routine that can actually follow the naked Balloon Dance, which I would have thought was impossible… You say you don’t want to do old material, but you have to do the Balloon Dance.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right there,” agreed Martin. “I just want to do new material. I’m not saying I want to be taken seriously as an actor.

“Oh, go on, say it,” I said.

“I want to be taken seriously as an actor,” said Martin.

“As a vagina?” I asked.

“No, but if we follow the simple rule…”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Well,” said Martin, “The Number One rule is that in certain situations – not all situations – the prop is more important than you.”

“Even when you’re naked?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin, “Not when you’re naked.”

“Good,” I said.

“Rule Number Two,” said Martin. “Come in hard. Exit hard.”

“Is that just in performance or in other things?” I asked.

“Everything,” said Martin. “So it’s not as if I’m a stick-in-the-mud. It’s just that there are rules. Observe the rules and you’ll do fine.”

Audience participation Greatest Show On Legs style last night

Audience participation Greatest Show On Legs style last night

“What’s the third rule?” I asked.

“Why should there be a third rule?” asked Martin.

“The Rule of Three,” I said.

“OK,” said Martin. “Rule Three – There is no Rule of Three.”

“But,” I said, “Just to check. The three of you are coming up to perform at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe on Friday 23rd August.”

“I’ll be coming up especially for that,” confirmed Martin. “By train.”

“You could sail up to Edinburgh,” I suggested. “You’re near the River Thames. Get a boat; take it up to Edinburgh. Although I suppose Malcolm Hardee’s not a good example of surviving on water.” (He drowned in 2005)

Despite the gloss, Martin continues painting

Despite the gloss, Martin paints this morning

“We once got a gig in Rotterdam,” said Martin. “Malcolm said Let’s go by boat. I said Yes. Steve Bowditch said No. Not in any way whatsoever.

“Then I looked it up and the English Channel into the port of Rotterdam is the biggest navigable waterway in the world. Absolutely frightening. Even Malcolm chickened out of that one. I think we would have died… Though what a brilliant death…

“You could have blogged and blogged about that one, John. Two of us dead in one go and it could then have been the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee/Martin Soan Awards. And it would have been a lot bleedin’ easier for me. I wouldn’t be here painting your woodwork with old-fashioned gloss paint.”

“Is there a new-fashioned gloss?” I asked.

“Yes there is,” said Martin.

“I like the old gloss,” I said.

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A sound technician at the Edinburgh Fringe can face wetness and nudity

Misha Anker at Hampstead Theatre yesterday

Misha Anker sounded good at Hampstead Theatre yesterday

Last August, Misha Anker was sound technician for the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – as she was for several other shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. Three weeks ago I got this e-mail from her:

“It is with many apologies and a heavy heart that I must inform you that I won’t be able to tech at the Fringe this year. No amount of back-of-the-envelope maths will make my student loan even cover my rent for the summer let alone allow me to save the necessary £1,000 or so the Fringe requires me to have upfront in August.”

I talked to her at Hampstead Theatre in London yesterday and have now arranged for her to come up to specifically handle sound on this year’s Malcolm Hardee show. (She’s open to other offers!) When we met, she had recently handled sound at the Accidental Festival and the Machynlleth Comedy Festival.

“How many hour-long shows did you tech at the Edinburgh Fringe last year?” I asked.

“I had a core run of six a day,” Misha replied, “and then, at weekends, I did an extra one in the morning and some days I’d have an extra one in the evening. A couple of days I worked noon to midnight.”

“Good sound technicians have to very organised,” I said.

“Organised,” said Misha, “but not necessarily functional as people. If you take them outside their job, they just revert to being a man drinking beer and mumbling in the corner of a pub.”

“Yes,” I said, “most sound technicians are men.”.

“That’s why I have to have a short haircut,” said Misha, “otherwise they wouldn’t know what to do with me. You’ve either got to have a beard and a pony tail – which is difficult for me – or short hair and piercings.”

“I suppose a lot do look like ageing hippies,” I said.

“Ageing roadies,” Misha suggested. “You get to the point where you’re too old to travel in a van, so then you move into a theatre. And then, when you’re too old to climb up and down a ladder, you become a lecturer.”

“Comedians are of a breed too,” I said. “Usually wildly disorganised.”

“When I have to write a CV,” laughed Misha, “I always put down that I ‘provided technical support and emotional support’ because most of the job is somewhere between operating things and being their mother.”

“And what do you do to keep your own sanity?” I asked.

“Last year in Edinburgh, I played a game with Stuart Goldsmith,” said Misha. “It was called Wife or PA? He and I had to guess if the attractive lady following the other comedian round was his wife or his PA. It’s hard to tell. The average very shambolic comedian is often being followed around by a woman. Is she married to him or trying to make him do his job? Sometimes it’s both.”

“And sometimes they don’t know the other exists,” I said. “What is the attraction of men with no money who can’t organise their own lives?”

“God knows,” laughed Misha.

“The other game I played last year,” Misha told me, “was called Sweat or Rain? You can play it in the Underbelly Belly Dancer or in The Caves or any venue that gets quite clammy. You have to feel the back of your head and decide whether it’s all hot and damp and wet because you’re really sweaty from running around or because the inside of the venue has rained on you. That, of course, is a game you can only explain to someone who’s been in those venues. At least, outside, you know the rain has only come out of the sky.

“There was one show I saw in Edinburgh where they had plastic bin-bags over the speakers because it was raining from the ceiling inside the venue.”

“Ah!” I said. “The joys of water and electrics!”

One reason Misha is so good is her flexibility

One reason Misha is so good is her flexibility e.g. her thumbs

“Well,” Misha told me, “I was at a venue the other week (not in Edinburgh) where the roof was leaking when we arrived and the speaker stacks and cables were in a puddle. They told me: Oh, it’s fine; we’ve been using it like that all week and I said, OK, but I’m not going to be the one to turn it on. I quite like the idea of not being electrocuted. They turned it on and it was OK, but that was a night I was operating from arms’ length just in case.”

“You should wear rubber wellingtons when you’re working,” I suggested.

“I wear Doc Martens with rubber soles,” explained Misha. “They’re just about sturdy enough  if you drop something on your foot and they have rubber soles for when you unintentionally attach yourself to the mains.”

“That would have been a good sound effect,” I said.

“I was once asked to create the sound of a shadow crossing the moon,” said Misha. “I tried to create the sound of impending doom… And I was once asked to create the sound of summer rain. It can’t just be rain, they told me. It has to somehow ‘evoke’ summer.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“It involved some real rain and I spent far too long listening to summer birdsong.”

“But,” I said. “even real things don’t necessarily sound like themselves.”

“Yes,” agreed Misha, “Someone scrunching up newspaper sounds a lot more like walking through snow than actually walking through snow does. I think it’s partly to do with the way we perceive sounds. It’s not just what you hear through your ear. It’s the vibrations of the tiny bones inside your head. When you hear the recording of a real noise, you’re hearing it as recorded by a diaphragm, not the way you would hear that real sound internally through your ear.

“The most awesome things I’ve ever come across are binaural microphones, which are like two little headphones that you wear in your ears and they use the way your inner ear vibrates to record exactly as you hear things. It’s both very clever and really strange to listen back to. It’s proper surround sound. Really clever and really freaky.”

“Talking of which,” I said. “What did you think of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards show last year?”

“It was fun,” said Misha. “It was chaotic, but fun.”

“That’s why I wanted you back again this year,” I said. “Because it was chaotic but nothing went wrong technically. You doing the sound and Ellis of Ellis & Rose helping on the lighting. It must have been awful for you, because things kept changing during the show.”

“It comes with working on comedy a lot,” said Misha. “When you do a mixed bill night, you get people turning up saying: There’s a point in our sketch. You’ll know when to play it or You’ll know when it’s ended. And I think I really won’t and I ask Have you got anything more specific? and they never do. I think the trick is, at all times, to have a laptop with you – I have a MacBook – and make sure it’s running every type of software available.”

“Scripted plays much be much more satisfying that chaotic comedy,” I said.

“Not necessarily,” said Misha. “When the same thing happens every night, you could almost automate to a time schedule and go away. Whereas comedy is fun.”

“And the performers?” I asked.

“I suppose it’s like being a mother with children. They can be frustrating and annoying and you might sometimes want to slap them but, at the end of the day, it’s worth it because there are moments where it’s just the most fun you could possibly have. Though the thing about working with comedians is they don’t understand to concept of I need an early night.”

“Ah,” I said. “The Malcolm Hardee Awards Show ends at one in the morning.”

“I have to tell you,” said Misha, “that the Counting House is not the place for that show. If you’re directly in front, the Naked Balloon Dance is very clever but, because the technical position is off to one side and slightly behind the performers… from that angle, the balloons are not doing their job. Last year, I saw more of Bob Slayer than I ever want to see again. It was really quite difficult to work out where to look. I thought: I’m just going to stare at shoulder height…”

“I dread to think how many times I saw the red spots on Malcolm Hardee’s buttocks,” I said.

“Well,” said Misha, “I think I’ve seen Tom Parry of Pappy’s and Lee Griffiths from Late Night Gimp Fight naked more than any other men I know. Both of them just seem to have this desire to expose themselves. The more people there are in the room, the more exciting it is for them to take all of their clothes off.”

“It may be a growing trend,” I said. “I saw The Beta Males at the Brighton Fringe last night and…”

“Yes,” said Misha, “John Henry likes to take his clothes off a lot.”

“But he does have great tits,” I said.

I regretted saying it almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth.

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Why Chris Tarrant’s TV show OTT was taken off air – a naked Malcolm Hardee

Partial Tiswas reunion in Birmingham yesterday

Partial Tiswas singing reunion in Birmingham yesterday

I went to a Tiswas reunion in Birmingham yesterday, organised by the Tiswas Online website (who are currently offline, in a suitably anarchic way)

I was told four completely unpublishable TV sex stories (none involving Tiswas but three involving BBC Television Centre).

Buy me a tea and a muffin and I’ll tell you.

The most interesting anecdote, though, was told to me by one of the Tiswas Online stalwarts, Peter Thomas.

He told me why Chris Tarrant’s attempt at a late-night ‘adult’ version of TiswasOTT – was taken off-air.

Tiswas was originally produced by ATV but then ATV lost its broadcast franchise partially because it was seen as a London-based TV company not a Midlands company (it had the ITV Midland franchise) but also largely, it was said, because the regulatory body was embarrassed by the low standard of its Crossroads soap opera, which had become the butt of comedians’ jokes.

The company which took over – Central Independent Television – was, in effect, the same as ATV – it had much the same staff, premises and programmes (even Crossroads). But it had new shareholders.

One of these was Boots, the chemist company.

Peter Thomas told me: “The wife of a director at Boots was appalled when she saw The Greatest Show of Legs perform the naked balloon dance at the end of the first OTT show.”

The Greatest Show on Legs, at that time, were Martin Soan, Malcolm Hardee and ‘Sir Ralph’.

“She found the whole thing to be immoral and perverse,” Peter told me. “So pressure was put on the Central board to tone down the show.”

The writing was on the wall, despite the fact the Greatest Show on Legs were invited back again.

“Chris Tarrant & co had expected a second series,” said Peter, “but Central would not let them do it live – It would all have to be pre-recorded so Central could vet everything… and Central would not give them a studio. So OTT became Saturday Stayback, an alternative comedy sketch show filmed in a pub.”

This terrible dog’s dinner of an idea, of course, did not succeed.

Peter tells me this story of the decease of OTT was recounted by Wendy Nelson, former newsreader for ATV Today and Central News in the documentary ATVLand In Colour, in which he and other Tiswas Online people were involved.

The Greatest Show on Legs’ OTT appearance is on YouTube:

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Great Sexpectations – a successful stab at some 21st century divine decadence

Grace Gelder & Mat Fraser on stage last night

Grace Gelder & Mat Fraser on stage last night

I remember asking the late godfather of British alternative comedy Malcolm Hardee why The Greatest Show of Legs had come up with their idea of the naked balloon dance in the 1970s.

Why naked?

“There was an awful lot of it about then,” he told me. “Nudity.” And there was. The Romans in Britain causing outrage with simulated sodomy at the National Theatre in 1980. And people were streaking at, it seemed, every public event under the… well, not under the sun… this was and is Britain.

In 1969, I saw Hair on stage in London’s West End and it seemed like you couldn’t go to any fringe play anywhere – be it Greek drama, kitchen sink or a play about Serbo-Croatian pottery of the 13th century – without people stripping off and jiggling their boobs or balls at you two feet from your face. Every naff suburban pub seemed to have lunchtime strippers. And then there was Paul Raymond.

Bush Hall - OTT scene of last night’s Great Sexpectations

Bush Hall – OTT scene of last night’s Great Sexpectations

I was reminded of this last night when I went to Great Sexpectations – the semi-finals of the performance section of the annual Erotic Awards, held at the wonderfully OTT Bush Hall in London. The event was a cross between a classy Venetian masked ball and a strip club run by Paul Raymond when he was claiming he was in the business of art not tart.

Last night was a successful stab at some glamorous 21st century divine decadence, just as co-organiser Grace Gelder had promised when I chatted to her for a blog a week ago.

She organised the charity fundraising event with Lianne Coop under the banner of Juicy Productions.

During the interval at the Great Sexpectations show last night

During the interval at the Great Sexpectations show last night

The fundraising was for The Outsiders’ Trust and this was the event’s 25th year, but Grace & Lianne’s first after taking over event production from originator Tuppy Owens

The Erotic Awards sign on stage last night had, as its subtitle, a quote from English artist Grayson Perry who, in The Times, described Tuppy Owens and her helpers as “the good people in a gloriously mucky business”.

Last night’s performers were divided into Stripping and Performance Art. Personally, I couldn’t see the difference. There was also a high element of Mime going on too and the whole thing reminded me of the newly-added section of the Edinburgh Fringe devoted to Cabaret – though with added nudity and expensive costumes.

One former venue for the event was London’s ICA – the Institute of Contemporary Arts – and, as last night’s stonkingly excellent compere Mat Fraser said: “We are contemporary and we are artistic.”

The craft of compering is always under-recognised and Mat seamlessly brought together audience and performers into a party atmosphere… with, among delights too numerous to fully mention, Rubyyy Jones &?!’ (pronounced And What?!) singing the Dead Kennedys’ Too Drunk To Fuck song and stripteaser Tiny Tim bringing up-to-date 1960s TV’s Musical Muscle Man Tony Holland’s act with added sex and back-flips off a large stage speaker.

A highly coveted Erotic Award - the Golden Flying Penis

A highly coveted Erotic Award – the Golden Flying Penis

Other highlights for me included Aurora Galore debuting a new act. She was winner of the Miss Paris Burlesque Festival 2012 and says her influences range “from Lady GaGa to Haute Couture and a wide range of dance styles”. That rather understates the act.

Then there was Mynxie Monroe with an act which only incidentally included a wig, two bras, two panties and a dog being beheaded. Now, for me, that’s top class, well-structured entertainment.

There’s a special mention for (from Norfolk) gender bending MissCairo Mascara doing a striptease as Pinocchio with creative use of the nose.

But let’s not mention or even hint at what MisSa Blue did with the lit candles.

All this was merely a ‘taster’ for the much larger Night of The Senses event in May.

If Mat Fraser’s description last night was a true reflection of what has happened at that event in previous years, it’s going to be… well, quite a lot of things are better left unsaid.

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Malcolm Hardee & Bob Slayer, British comedians, discovered high and naked

Like Malcolm, a unique one-off

Last year’s poster for the annual Awards…

The Edinburgh Fringe does not start until August but has to be thought about from now.

Yesterday, I paid the fee for the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show to be listed in the Edinburgh Fringe programme.

The extract below from Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake proved to be slightly relevant yesterday. Malcolm died in 2005. The incident took place in the early 1990s and actually did happen – I talked to other comedians who were in the hotel at the time and they confirmed Malcolm got his balconies confused. They told me the policemen looked “stunned”.

* * * * *

Julia remained a flatmate but wasn’t into mating or at least not with me. We did share many things, naturally; we even co-owned a long leather coat that she had bought but which I decided looked much finer on me. And we often mooched around together. When I was asked to screen test for a part in the video recording of a live show in Newcastle of Vic Reeves’ Big Night OutJulia was keen to come along on the jaunt.

The day before we were to head North I had gone into Ladbroke’s bookmakers at Charing Cross with twenty pounds and, in a miraculous series of drink-inspired bets, had won £5,200 by the end of the afternoon. Ladbroke’s didn’t have enough cash in the office to pay me so I agreed to pick up my winnings the following day. For some reason Julia and I convinced ourselves that the most appropriate place for this vast booty was a hat box she intended to take to Newcastle. So we turned up at King’s Cross for the train, Julia manically clinging to her hat box and me feeling like the cock of the walk as I swaggered along in my favourite leather coat – though I probably looked more like a raddled Gestapo torturer.

At Newcastle we were booked into the five-star Copthorne Hotel where Vic Reeves, Simon Day, Jimmy Nail and assorted others connected with Vic’s Big Night Out were staying. Julia and I scanned our room for a hiding place for the five grand and the only thing even vaguely suitable was a tall vase on top of the television. I picked the vase up, shook it and tipped out a pack of very pornographic playing cards. There were pictures of people – mainly – doing things even I wouldn’t do. I pocketed the cards. In case the owner came back in search of them we decided not to put the cash in the vase and so it ended up divided between the pockets of the leather coat.

I failed to make it on to Vic’s video but the live show was jolly. We trooped back from it on Vic’s tour bus – a sort of mobile hotel with bedrooms and lounge area – and spent a liquid evening in the Copthorne bar. I was one of the last to leave and when I was approaching my room I realised that Simon Day, who had been chosen in preference to me for the video, was on the same landing. He had been given the presidential suite – a very grand affair with a balcony that ran along the front of the hotel. I suspected that Simon had retired early to his room because he had lured some unsuspecting female there and, all things considered, it seemed right that I should bid him a congratulatory goodnight.

Wearing only the leather coat and a pair of socks I crawled along the balcony of my room and clambered across to Simon’s. I hammered on his window intending to flash open the coat when he pulled back the curtains. Not a sound. Disappointed I eventually returned to my room to find Julia in her bed, cowering under the sheets, and two men with guns pointed at me. They were Special Branch. Anti-terrorism. And I vaguely recalled some notices pinned in the hotel about a senior politician – Michael Heseltine, I think – who was staying there and ‘would guests behave accordingly’ as the Special Branch boys handcuffed me and marched me down to a Portakabin in the car park that was both their headquarters and their prison cell.

I was asked to turn out my pockets: £5,200 in cash and a very pornographic pack of playing cards. I was asked for my address, which I gave as 1 Mell Street, Greenwich, which they ran through their computer. This told them a fact that I had known but not been unduly bothered by before: that Mell Street had been the home of Gerard Tuite, the convicted IRA bomber who had been arrested there some years before.

Things did not look good. I was facing a charge that could have resulted in life imprisonment had a jury been convinced that I intended to murder Mr Heseltine with a pack of dirty playing cards. I spent an uncomfortable few hours – what a waste of a night in a five-star hotel – until Vic Reeves’ tour manager could be found to confirm that I was there to not star in his video.

* * * * *

Bob Slayer at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe

Bob Slayer at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe

That anecdote became relevant yesterday because I asked comedian Bob Slayer if anything interesting had happened when he performed in Leicester on Friday.

“Yes I nearly died,” he told me. “Well, almost. I was given a Health & Safety lecture after the gig because, during the show, I ran along the balcony wall (naked of course) 40 feet up.”

The moral to this story is simple.

Times change.

Comedians don’t.

The attraction of British balconies to naked comedians remains constant.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour