Tag Archives: Nik Coppin

British comedian Nik Coppin wins out-of-court settlement in Oz ‘racist’ case

Nik Coppin did not let Australia go to his head except in hats

Back in March, I blogged about a bizarre happening in Adelaide.

British comedian Nik Coppin was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. He was in the studio with Peter Goers.

Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) said he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

A few days later, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Nik took legal advice.

Last weekend, the Sunday Mail printed this in Peter Goers’ column:

Apology appeared in Australia’s Sunday Mail at the weekend

APOLOGY: On Sunday, March 4, in my column’s “What’s Not” section I referred to comedian Nik Coppin as “painfully unfunny racist Fringe comedian at the Austral Hotel: Minus four stars”. I acknowledge that my comments were false and made without foundation. In fact, I had not seen his show at the time I wrote my comments. I have no reason to believe that Nik Coppin is a racist or that his Fringe show contained racist material. I withdraw those comments without reservation and apologise for any hurt or embarrassment caused.

Yesterday, Nik told me what had happened.

This is what he said:

_______________________

Nik Coppin explains what happened….

The process involved in obtaining an apology and reparation for libellous and harmful comments printed in a newspaper is a very interesting one. In the eyes of the law, that which you feel would be perfectly reasonable to assume isn’t and that which you presume wouldn’t be, is.

The legal eagles certainly have a bewildering way of dealing with things.

A few people that I know and work with questioned whether it was worth it and warned that it could get very stressful, depending on how far I was willing to push it.

There is very little that I take too seriously, if I am honest. I mean, we’re all entertainers after all, right? Let’s just laugh it off and get some good ol’ fashioned PR out of it. But there surely must come a time in everybody’s existence on this here planet when you have to take a more solemn view of things and in some situations say to oneself, “Enough is enough”. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe is right.

In life, the press and certainly the world of comedy, all too often people take offence because they refuse to listen properly or shut off when they hear certain things said. This appears to be a natural reaction to things you might not want to hear, or that which touches a nerve, but it does not excuse what Mr Goers did and the Sunday Mail allowed to happen.

In my opinion, it was a vengeful and spiteful thing to do. Something you really would not expect from one of his years.

But, as laughable and nonsensical as this situation was, I had to take a more serious stance than to merely laugh off the bizarre and farcical comments. A half black man being accused of racism in possibly the most racist westernised country on the planet? My God, how ludicrous!

I should add, however, that I do not believe that Australians are racist. Well, not all of them anyway. I love visiting the place, doing the festivals, seeing the wildlife, having the banter and all the other delightful things that go along with being in such a beautiful country. But I think we all know that there are issues that need to be dealt with over there. The We’re too laid back to be racist or hate Aboriginals defence just isn’t good enough.

The amount of times I have heard white Australians say things like: “We give them money and offer them jobs, but they’re just lazy and want to get pissed all the time”.

Well, that says all you need to know about certain sentiments in a land where the indigenous population were slaughtered by the thousands and had their land, dignity, children and whatever else stolen from them.

I think any race that has suffered that and had their rights and entire way of life stripped away, has earned the right to ‘laze around’ and drink a few bevies if they choose to, don’t you?

I am not suggesting that they should attempt to ‘give back’ the country. Australia is predominately a white country but, in my opinion and many others, is black land. So those in privileged positions in Australia should be a bit more understanding and helpful in the future and support the Aboriginal as much as they can.

I mean, let’s face it, if you look at the table from the London 2012 Olympics and who won many of those medals for the UK and the US of A, maybe you could do a lot worse than support your black population, Australia. Then in a few years time maybe we Brits won’t be laughing at what little precious metal you took back ‘home’.

The thing about such a situation, though, is that – for one who earns his living as a comedian – the possibilities are many. I was considering writing a show about race and maybe religious issues and this story can underpin the whole thing.

So, while it was confusing, angering and frustrating having what I can only consider a foolish, arrogant Adelaidian ‘celebrity’ full of his own self-importance doing a childish, vindictive thing like calling me a “painfully unfunny racist” in a popular newspaper without even seeing my show or listening to me or doing his research properly… Was it worth it going through with the fight and standing up for what you believe in, in the face of a form of oppression?

Definitely.

And, to those who doubted whether it was the right thing to do, I say to you…

I would it again and again and again.

And so should you.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Legal system, Newspapers, Racism

Life in Adelaide after comic Bob Slayer leaves: audiences collapse with laughter

Eric, ex-Navy, now comedy lifeguard (photo by Alex Brenner)

I saw Oscar-winning silent movie The Artist last night, where the dog has all the best lines. After getting home and taking my NightNurse cold remedy, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought today’s blog should be an update on what has been happening at the Adelaide Fringe in Australia.

Which might be why, when my coughing woke me during the night, I was in mid-dream about getting off a bus near Victoria station in Manchester. Packs of feral dogs roamed the near-empty streets, barking at and harassing anyone who got off a bus. And, in an empty street, idle dogs of various breeds watched two Alsatians sliding along the roadway on their stomachs and taking run-ups then bouncing in the air like kangaroos, rising maybe ten feet high with each bounce.

British comedian Bob Slayer – whose exploits in Australia were the subject of many a blog these last few weeks – has now returned to the UK with his explanations of what happened to him there mostly ending with the phrase “because I am an idiot”.

Meanwhile, Italian-born British comic Giacinto Palmieri arrived in Adelaide last week from Sydney and emailed me: “It is just like arriving in Southern Italy from Milan. Everybody is suddenly chatty and eager to tell you how much better the weather and the food are and how much friendlier the people. Although, just like with the Southern Italians, it is friendliness with a double edge: Ah! they say here, You are an Italian Pom! And you are going to the backpackers hostel? Aren’t you the wrong age for that?

German comic Paco Erhard’s computer has broken down which, in the 21st century, is almost a trigger for psychological counselling. He writes: “I’ve definitely been more boring than Bob Slayer. But hopeful I have proper stories to tell after/while travelling and doing the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Hope my computer gets fixed soon, then I can write down some stuff.”

The Nik Coppin “racist” row with radio host/journalist Peter Goers is still in the hands of lawyers.

And English comedian Eric tells me of his constant hassles with late-night Adelaide transport and his new(-ish) daughter ‘Little E’, whose milk seems to come in leaking bottles. He also tells me that history has, in a way, repeated itself.

He is currently performing his show Eric’s Tales of the Sea in Australia.

When he was performing the same show at London’s Soho Theatre last year, a woman got up halfway through, left the auditorium and collapsed outside. Eric rushed off stage and, remembering First Aid Training from his 17 years in the British Navy, put her into the recovery position.

At the time, he was quoted as saying:

“I was just getting to the part of my show which is particularly emotional and often has the audience shedding a tear, but the reaction has never been as extreme as this before.”

A couple of days ago in Adelaide, Eric says: “Nik Coppin sent me a text message asking me to be a guest on his show. Unfortunately, he sent it while I was doing my own show, so I didn’t see it until after I had finished. I then texted him back. But, by that time, Nik had already started his show. So I thought I would wander over to the Austral venue to tell him that I was available if he needed me.

“When I got there, Nik had sorted out a guest but he bought me a beer. Just then, Alan Anderson walked by and asked me if I would be a guest on his show. Just before Alan’s show started, Nik and I were stood in the corridor leading to the Red Room, which was filled with punters eagerly awaiting entry to Alan’s show, when there was a loud thud.

“A man was prostate on the floor.

“As this was Australia, after 10.00pm at night and it was a public holiday (Adelaide Cup Weekend), everyone assumed the man was drunk – and he was with a friend, who helped him up.

“A few seconds later, though, the man collapsed again and this time it was clear to me that he was unconscious.”

Eric’s British Navy training kicked in again. He put the guy in the recovery position and got a nearby woman to call an ambulance. Eric says he “instructed the man’s friend as to what position to put his friend’s legs in, as I could not reach them in the narrow corridor, while I attended to him at the head end.”

I remember in the very dim and distant past – 1975 – someone had a heart attack while laughing at The Goodies on British TV. Newspapers quoted his wife saying, “He died happy.”

In comedy, there is The Rule of Three.

Having had two people collapse, I just hope Eric is not practising for a publicity stunt in which he can say his audiences really do die laughing.

Although, if that happened during this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, he might well be in the running for a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

PS… The man in Adelaide recovered fully.

PPS… For regular readers of this blog I have, alas, no further news of Juliet Meyers’ bottom-watching exploits.

I live in hope.

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UK comedian Nik Coppin accused of racism in Oz by white Peter Goers who “couldn’t tell” the colour of Nik’s skin

Nik Coppin not wearing a baseball cap and not looking down

(This was also published by Indian news website WSN – We Speak News)

British comedian Nik Coppin wrote to me last night:

__________

This situation in Adelaide has really hit me for six. Not because I can’t handle the shit that Peter Goers has sent my way, but I really can’t believe that an interesting and amusing story about Australian history and sport was met with such closed-mindedness, rudeness and ignorance!

It’s not just the way he verbally abused me in the studio and tried to get me to bow down on the phone, but to actually put in print that I am racist????”

__________

Last week, Nik was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) told Goers he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

Laughing Horse boss Alex Petty, who is partly staging Nik’s show, was also part of the radio interview.

“It was one of the most bizarre radio interviews I have ever been involved with,” he told me yesterday. “The interviewer even thought Nik was a Canadian. The next day, he said to Nik: “I couldn’t tell that what colour your skin was, as you had a baseball cap on and looked down a lot”For telling an anecdotal story about the change of racist attitudes in Australia, a middle-class, out-of-touch and unprofessional white man calls mixed-race comedian Nik Coppin racist! It is completely unjustifiable.”

I occasionally have my blogs printed in the Huffington Post.

It is a fairly automatic routine. If I submit ‘em, they get published. But there was one which I sent them which was noticeably not printed. It discussed and used the word ‘nigger’.

I asked a black chum of mine whom I have known for over twenty years what she thought. “Love the article,” she said, “Interestingly, I have to say that I hate it more when I hear one black person call another a ‘nigger’, probably because it‘s being used when another adjective or noun would do.”

Nik told me last night:

__________

The word ‘nigger’ is a very interesting one. Powerful, perhaps the most powerful in the language, but I feel that it exists in a very strange and grey area. It’s not a swear word as such, like ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ – words that can’t really be used in any context without being deemed offensive – but, aimed as a term of abuse, it is far worse than any other.

However, in the context of a story, especially an historical one, why can it not be used? To not use it at all, even to outline a point or tell an anecdote is surely like brushing racism or certain aspects of it under the carpet, is it not?

I have experienced racial abuse from both sides of the black and white coin, so I, too, exist in some ways in some kind of grey area, in that I get it from both sides and could also be seen as racist against both sides, again depending upon the context. The British comic Ian Cognito ironically went on stage after me, years ago, when I was a new act and said: “If your mum was white and your dad was black, surely you would be grey? That amuses me to this day.

A story I have told that has actually sparked some degree of controversy was when I tried to stop an African man from sexually abusing a drunk young girl in the Meadow Bar in Edinburgh and, after repeatedly and politely asking him to stop, he told me that I was nothing to him – not a true black man – so to stay out of it. He repeatedly called me a “worthless half cast bastard”. He racially abused me to exert some kind of power over me in light of me not letting him have his way with a vulnerable young female friend of mine.

I have been there before with being called ‘hybrid’, ‘mongrel’, ‘half cast’, by black people (as well as ‘nigger cunt’ by white people) so, given that I had given him so many chances to play nicely with the girl and retract his racist abuse of my heritage, which he refused to do, I dropped the N-bomb on him. He, like many I have told the story to, became offended. After what he had done and said? Where is the sense in that? Even less sensical, he told me that I shouldn’t call him that because he had mixed race children! WTF????

I am not proud of myself for dropping that N-bomb on him and I should have perhaps taken the moral high ground, but I feel he deserved it in that instance. I make a wee joke of the story when I tell it in front of audiences by saying that all the Scottish locals in the Meadow Bar were looking at a black man and mixed race man racially abusing each other and thinking “I thought WE were racist!”

The really interesting thing about this story is that most people only flinch at the use of the word ‘nigger’. Him attempting to sexually molest a young girl – that’s OK – him calling me a worthless half-cast bastard – ooh, strange and not nice – but you called him a WHAT????

‘Nigger’ is a terrible word to use, especially when using it offensively or aggressively, but is it worse that being called a ‘hybrid, ‘mongrel’, ‘worthless half cast bastard’? It seems that it is in most people’s eyes. And should we really be banning it from everything and everywhere, even stories of the past? I don’t think so and we certainly should not jump to conclusions about someone being racist just for using the word if relevant and in context… should we, Mr Peter Goers?

Racism is a horrible and backward thinking way of life, but there are massive differences between race hate, a joke about a race, a racist joke, a story about race etc. People seem all to quick to lump anything to do with race in one basket, which is totally wrong in my opinion. By all means stamp out racism, but don’t do it by way of brushing it under the carpet.

True racists and race-haters are terrible, nasty people that have no place in modern society, which is why they whisper and meet in places on the quiet so often. When your ’cause’ makes you have to do that, then surely you must realise that your plight has failed. And since intelligent and forward-thinking people know that these people are to be looked down upon and shunned, I like to use the term, ‘Racists are the new niggers’.

Which is why I simply can’t let Mr Goers off the hook if I can help it. He has by calling me a racist, in effect, called me a nigger himself. I am not that stupid or ignorant to think or feel that way about any race of people with derision, scorn or hate. I simply don’t have that capacity within me.

I will be using these stories, examples and opinions and many more in my shows next year. Not necessarily at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, but certainly at all the festivals in 2013.

__________

Yesterday, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Alex Petty told me yesterday: “The implied accusations of racism by Goers (on the radio) have been put in print by the same person and this is going to be taken to solicitors, the Australian press complaints process and the editors and owners of ABC Radio and the Sunday Mail.”

This story may well have some way to run. And with good reason.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Racism

Comic capers and calamities on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Eric with “Tales of the Sea” - and now Adelaide

Two days ago, I got an e-mail from Bob Slayer – the day before his comedy show opened at the Adelaide Fringe:

__________

I am in Adelaide stopping at the house of a man called Matthew who I met on couchsurfing.org.

I have stopped at many random people’s homes in my life but never one I met through an online service that did not involve the prospect of sex. I once topped-and-tailed with singer-songwriter Beth Ditto – the big girl in The Gossip – in Portland, Oregon, when they supported Japanese band Electric Eel Shock, which I was managing. Did I tell you this recently? I also have an early demo I was sent by a band called the Arctic Monkeys who were, at the time, looking for a manager… Anyway I digress…

Matthew seems cool. He took me straight to the bottle shop and we bought beers. Jimbo came around to introduce Gary the Goat.

Oh! How I have missed Gary the Goat in the last few days!

Jimbo and he stayed in Port Kenny on the Eyre Peninsula with a girl while I went to visit an old tour manager friend of mine in McLaren Vale and ended up shoveling grapes and making wine for a couple of days. They paid me in my weight in wine.

I have lots of new things to talk about in tomorrow’s gigs like killing and eating the Australian national emblem but I might also pop into the hospital and see if I can visit strangers just to add their story to the mix.

__________

I got that e-mail from Bob two days ago. Then, yesterday, I received this e-mail from comedian Eric about his (Eric’s) show on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe.

__________

As last year, I am doing my show at the Tuxedo Cat venue. Last year it was ‘Adelaide Fringe venue of the year’. It is run by super cool Cass & Bryan who, every year, take over a derelict building and make it into something wonderful.

As with all refurbishment projects, it takes time to complete and, as Bryan & Cass are presented with just a shell every year, the build is coming from a long way back. Time is the old enemy and, when I ask about doing a technical rehearsal on the day of my first show, I am somewhat taken aback to be told that my room has not been built yet – but a blitz is about to take place that will turn three walls and a pile of old pallets into a performance space in time for my first show at 6.00pm.

I discover that there is no projector either. Last year I borrowed Dan Willis’ projector, so I drop him a quick text. He tells he now lives in Melbourne but has left his magic lantern with a mutual friend who lives in Adelaide. Our mutual friend Alex is at work and cannot leave. I go to his place of work (30 minute drive), pick up his keys, drive to his house (20 minute drive) pick up the projector, drive back to my house (20 minute drive) pick up my family (wife Helen and baby ‘Little E’), drive back to his place of work (30 minute drive) drop his keys back to him, then drive to the venue (30 minute drive).

I eventually emerge triumphant with projector and family at the venue. We park outside and unload everything we need for the show, which now includes pram, change bag, bottles and assorted toys.

I discover that the Blue Room where I am due to perform in an hour’s time is nowhere near ready and my heart sinks. Fifty minutes later, little has changed. There is no lighting, no sound, we have done no tech rehearsal at all. There seems little or no prospect of putting on a show. And the room is now filling with punters clutching their tickets.

I inform them that the room is not ready and invite them to return to the bar. No sooner have these people vacated than another wave of punters arrive. I give these people the same advice and, as the third wave arrive, I decide this is hopeless and locate the ushers and tell them the room is not ready and ask them to hold the audience in the bar until we are ready. I obtain the customary Australian “No worries, mate” response, return to the room and do what I can.

Five minutes later, there appears to have been a shift change with the ushers as the room again starts to fill with punters.

We finally kick off nearly half an hour late. I ask if any of the audience need to be anywhere before 7:30 and offer anyone who does their money back – No-one moves and we crack on with the show.

Ten minutes into the show, we lose all power. The light that we belatedly got onto the stage extinguishes. The projector’s whirring fan falls eerily silent and we lose both sound and picture, like a faulty TV.

Then the audience, who have been so tolerant up to now, really come into their own. Many of them take out their mobile phones and light the room up with their screens. It is a joy to behold… almost literally ‘people power’.

As we have gone completely off-piste and are unable to continue with the show, we just spend the next ten minutes chatting. Cass dashes about in the shadows trying to fix the problem which, as expected, she does and we finally get on with the show – a show that, to be fair, I have actually enjoyed… And so, it seems, have the audience. Much of the credit must go to them. I resolve to have all of them come to all of my gigs.

Comic Juliet Meyers is doing the show following mine and she is none too pleased that she is starting over half an hour late (and to be honest neither am I). I tell her the only upside is that she now gets to see me change out of my seafaring show garb and into my civvies.

As I drop my trousers, she tells me that my buttocks are “surprisingly pert”. I am not entirely sure how I should take this information but eventually conclude that the only explanation is that Ms Meyers has been imagining my buttocks for some time and now – faced with the actuality of my derrière – has found them to be more pert than she had imagined…

I then go off to find the family.

As usual, Little E is found feeding on her mum and, after I get myself and Helen some of the fabulous Vietnamese salad with dumplings from the food counter, we sit and eat in quiet contemplation, until a queue unexpectedly forms beside us.

Unbeknown to us, the ‘quiet’ corner that Helen had positioned herself in to feed Little E was in fact right next to the entrance to the Yellow Room venue and, for the next five minutes, we become a living exhibit entitled ‘Feeding the Family’ for the entertainment of the waiting crowd….

I then dash across to the Austral venue to perform in Nik Coppin’s show Shaggers.

On arrival, I see Bob Slayer making his way from the bar with four jugs of beer, two in each hand.

“Oh” I innocently think, “He is getting a big round in… He must be with a large group of people.”

Then I see him go and sit at a table alone and conclude he must actually be continuing his mission to outdrink Australia and, having done battle with Perth, it is now Adelaide’s turn…

The crowd at Shaggers are also lovely and everyone has a lovely time talking filth with them.

I am second on and, as I finish my stint onstage, I get a text to say Little E has finally fallen asleep and Helen has come to the venue collect me but there is a fight in progress outside the Austral and she is sheltering around the corner.

With the time approaching midnight and the car park I abandoned our car in closing at midnight, I have no choice but to brave the crowd and the fight and collect my girls. We all go home, having had one very long day.

__________

…That was a heavily shortened version of what happened in Eric’s hectic day. And that was only Day One of the Adelaide Fringe.

I feel we may hear more anarchic tales from Down Under.

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Oz comedy news: mermaids in Perth and British Laughing Horse in Adelaide

Marcel Lucont and mermaid in tank in Perth

Comedy promoter Alex Petty of Laughing Horse and Edinburgh’s Free Festival tells me he has no news of Bob Slayer more up-to-date than my blog of yesterday, when Bob had fled Perth for Coober Pedythe opal-mining centre of the world.

“I last saw him heading for the Outback with Jimbo and a goat in a van,” Alex says. “I’m hoping he survives the trip (and more importantly the Outback survives Bob) and he makes it to the Adelaide Fringe, which starts on the 24th.

“Perth is a relatively little town, but it clearly couldn’t handle the over-the-top charms of Mr Slayer, who managed to out-drink everyone and get in trouble in his first two days in the town even with the limited about of drinking time available (half the bars close at 9pm for god sake). Bob has promised to behave for Adelaide. Let’s see.

Perth is a great little Fringe. A baby Fringe that will hopefully grow over the coming years. Probably what Edinburgh was like 50 years ago, but with sun, mosquitoes and expensive beer. The size of the Fringe fits the city perfectly. Unlike Edinburgh. It’s well worth visiting British performers thinking about doing Perth as well as Adelaide and Melbourne. (but let’s hope it doesn’t grow too big!).

Eric and Marcel Lucont had great runs and Marcel was last seen swimming around a tank with some mermaids. You don’t get that in Edinburgh; there would be ice on the water.”

Alex’s Laughing Horse, Alan Anderson and Nik Coppin are running the Austral venue at the upcoming Adelaide Fringe.

Alex says: “It seems odd to me that, in Adelaide, performers can travel half way around the world, put on paid shows and come home with a profit and a tan – both of which are near-impossible in Edinburgh. I’m getting into Adelaide to build the venue and hoping it will be a warmer version of what I do in Edinburgh with the Free Festival.”

Alex, never one to hold back on publicity, says: “We’re bringing Free Festival acts Nik Coppin with his Shaggers show, David Lemkin, Blues singer Mike McKeon, storyteller Sameena Zehra, comic John Scott. It’s great fun to get these shows from their freebie venues in Edinburgh to the other side of the planet. And of course Bob Slayer… possibly… if he gets there.

Alex is also bringing over to Adelaide the much-admired-by-me German comic Paco Erhard (blogged about here) and also Hollywood comic and actor Craig Shaynak, a sturdily-built chap who once threatened to beat me up over what he perceived as a lukewarm review by me of an old show of his which I wrote for the Chortle website. I think he was joking. He has always otherwise been terribly friendly to me. And he is very funny. An excellent performer. I cannot praise him enough. I love him. I want us to have babies together. He may not have been joking.

I notice Alex is also staging a Laughing Horse pick-of-the-Fringe show and has (as he did at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe) blatantly stolen the late Malcolm Hardee’s idea of prefixing the title with “Aaaaaaargh!” so it gets an early alphabetical listing in the programme.

It’s blatant theft!

He has nicked Malcolm’s idea!

Malcolm would be proud of him.

And I think I could beat him in a fair fight.

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The Malcolm Hardee Awards presentation + Arthur Smith’s tour of Edinburgh

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

The Malcolm Hardee Awards were presented late night on Friday and it was, at last, my first chance to meet the very charming, very very amiable Bo Burnham, who had had PR trouble earlier in the week.

In honour of the late Malcolm Hardee, everything was thrown together after the Award winners were decided at Friday lunchtime. Around 6.00pm, it was decided doyenne of Scotsman critics (and Malcolm Hardee judge) Kate Copstick would present the awards with comic Simon Munnery… and Nik Coppin, within whose Shaggers show it was happening fitted everything smoothly in with Arthur Smith coming along as a last-minute top of the bill.

Perhaps the most interesting act of the evening to me was Diane Spencer, who appeared at first to be a seemingly newish stand-up. She must be underestimated by many. Very very likeable. And very professional. I have seldom seen anyone play a post-performance room that smoothly or that effectively. I think she will go far.

After the show and a break to e-mail out press releases, at 2.00am I joined a growing and expectant crowd outside Edinburgh Castle for Arthur Smith’s legendary  tour of the Royal Mile.

This year, it involved a philosophical dissertation on the meaning of life and the existence or non-existence of God and… as we wandered down half The Mile… a mermaid sitting on a stone wall, a man in a white suit singing on a mini roundabout to the confusion of taxi drivers, the three Segue Sisters singing in rickshaws, a very lucky busker, soldiers singing from fourth floor windows, yellow-jacketed local council workers dancing in the street and Simon Munnery donning a German accent but, unlike in previous years, failing to get arrested by the local police.

In among the crowd, there was also a placid man in an orange plastic vest jacket with the words (as I remember them) LEGAL OBSERVER on his back; he took occasional notes. I thought he must be part of the surreal festive frivolity and would become relevant later on but, it seems, he was the real thing. Quite what he was observing, I know not. Perhaps he was trying to gather evidence to grass up Simon Munnery to the Leith Police. Arthur, as always, encouraged the unusual along the way which, this time, involved synchronised rickshaw driving and paying £20 to anyone who would stand on their head in a full-to-the-brim smelly rubbish bin; one young man, of course, took up the challenge and got the money.

Among the crowd were London Evening Standard critic Bruce Dessau turning up on a bike after phoning Arthur to see where he was on the Royal Mile, Steve Bennett editor of comedy industry website Chortle apparently trying to merge anonymously into the stone walls in case an aggrieved comic spotted him,  comedienne Hattie Hayridge wearing a big black coat and hood saying she felt like she’d come as the Scottish Widow and a desolate Comedy Store Player Richard Vranch arriving 45 seconds after the tour ended.

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Comic Originality – not being interested in money

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

The Malcolm Hardee Awards – being given annually by me until 2017 to honour the memory of the “godfather of alternative comedy” and famous Edinburgh Fringe prankster – were thrown into temporary and rather surprised confusion after a rebuff to our nomination of American stand-up Bo Burnham for the Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award.

Burnham’s London PR company – whose clients include a wealth management and an insurance broking, risk assessment and financial services company – wrote to me saying of Bo: “making money is not what he’s driven by at all and (we) don’t think he’d be at all comfortable with receiving this award.”

As a result, the five Malcolm Hardee judges have now additionally nominated Bo Burnham for the main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality because “for a modern day stand-up comic not to be interested in money is entirely original”.

If you are a fan, Bo’s online store is currently selling his personalised teeshirts, CDs, posters, bumper stickers and koozies.

I’m not exactly clear what a koozie is – it appears to be some sort of Colonial cosy to keep beer cans warm. I don’t think Malcolm would have approved as he liked his beer cold. But he would have admired Bo’s disregard for money. So we have asked the PR if Bo would like to lend us £500 or £1,000, which we promise to pay back. We haven’t had a reply yet, but we live in hope.

The late, great Malcolm was famous or perhaps notorious for borrowing money from his friends and, when he drowned in the Thames on January 2005 left behind many debts.

Jo Brand refers to this in a 2-minute poem she read at Malcolm’s funeral which you can listen to here.

The three annual Malcolm Hardee Awards will be announced and presented around midnight this Friday 27th August during comic Nik Coppin‘s nightly Shaggers show, running as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Both Bo Burnham and our other ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ nominee Greg Davies are in the running for the former-Perrier-now-Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award. The prize there is £10,000. It’s a start.

There’s a recent 8 min 41 sec interview with me about the Malcolm Hardee Awards here – on Edinburgh’s student radio station Fresh Air.

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