Tag Archives: offensive

Janey Godley on awards, a rat and c**ts

Janey gave me a warm welcome this evening

Janey gave me a warm welcome this evening

My Scots comedy chum Janey Godley is down in London this week, from Glasgow.

I met up with her this evening for a chat.

“I’ll give ye a blog,” she told me. “What do you want me tae talk aboot?”

And, before I could reply, she started:

“I’ve stopped smoking for a month now,” she said, “and I’m on a diet, so my whole family have been put into the witness protection programme while that happens. And, if you talk to me about it, I’ll stab ye.”

“Well,” I said, “No change there, then.”

‘It’s hard to stop smoking,” she continued, “but to stop smoking AND go on a diet isn’t really that much harder cos you’re using the same willpower for both.”

“I would have thought,” I said, “that it must make you twice as angry as normal – but maybe that’s not possible with you.”

“That,’ said Janey, “is what (Janey’s nameless husband) says: How can we tell the difference?”

Janey looked over her shoulder.

“There’s really loud people behind me,” she said, “who deserve to be stabbed. But I’m really excited cos I’m up for four Scottish Comedy Awards on 27th April. have you voted for me yet?”

“Yes,” I said quickly.

“I won the Podcast one last year,” she told me. “This year, I’m up for Best Headliner, Best Compere, Best Podcast again and Best Festival/Tour Show.”

‘Tell me why are you in London in some way that’s repeatable?” I asked.

“I’m in London this week,” she explained, “cos I had a couple of meetings with the BBC about future projects and I’m doing a couple of gigs – Banana Cabaret in Balham and Soho Comedy.”

“Is that the one in the gay street?” I asked. (It is not.)

“A gay street in Soho?” laughed Janey. “That must be a fucking hard task to find, eh?”

Admiral Duncan pub  in Soho (Photo by Ewan Munro)

The Admiral Duncan pub in Soho (Photograph by Ewan Munro)

“Old Compton Street,” I said, “I didn’t know the street was supposed to be gay until the Admiral Duncan blew up when the nail bomb went off.”

“You didn’t know it was gay,” said Janey, “because not one gay man has ever approached you in your entire life. They’ve all went: No, you’re on yer own, John.

“Not even women,” I said. “I once had a pigeon approach me at Oxford Circus.”

“I bet,” said Janey that even it bolted when it saw you.”

“No,” I said. “You know the barriers at the kerb to stop you walking across the street? I was outside one of those, walking on the narrow bit of the kerb, and this pigeon was strutting towards me and I thought it would give way to me, but it didn’t. I had to step into the road so it could walk along past me on the kerb.”

“That happened to me,” said Janey, “in Earls Court with a rat. You remember that hotel I lived in in Earls Court? There was a rat in the middle of the pavement and I thought: Well, clearly, if I bang ma feet, it’ll bolt. No. It stayed. I had to go into the road and I almost got hit by a car cos I was walking round a rat. And, see, when I went to the other side of the street, it turned its head to look at me and never moved. I am thinking like: Ya fuckin’ bastard! It was the size of a small poodle. I was frightened.”

“It was a very self-confident pigeon,” I said. “Its shoulders were going like it was an Essex Boy.”

“It’s the only bird that would come near you,” said Janey.

“Any other jollities for the blog?” I asked.

“I’m still,” said Janey, “having a fight with people on Twitter over the word cunt. They still can’t believe you can say that word. The other day, Ricky Gervais put up a post with the word cunt in it. That’s OK cos he’s rich and middle class. But, if I say it…”

“But you won’t,” I asked, “have had any Scottish people objecting?”

“A lot of people,” said Janey.

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

Janey’s current Twitter page

Janey’s current Twitter page has 16.5k followers

“Yup. It’s really weird that nobody will say anything to me (At the time of writing, Janey has over 16,500 Twitter followers) but, the minute I say cunt, people start to come on Twitter and moan. I always then put up this post that says: If the first time you’ve contacted me is cos you’ve saw the word cunt but, whenever I’ve asked you to donate to the Food Bank and you’ve never contacted me, then that means you’re a cunt.

“But I mean,” I said, “in Glasgow, it’s the equivalent of an Australian calling someone a ‘bastard’. It’s not strong.”

“They still have an issue with it,” said Janey. “It’s unbelievable that the word cunt makes you bad.”

“When you think,” I said, “of the things they asterisked-out in Victorian novels – H*ll possibly and certainly d***ed.”

“In London in 1960,” said Janey, “they had the court case over Lady Chatterley’s Lover – about the language in that – cunt – and it was found to be not obscene. So I can say the word cunt specifically.”

“Some of us,” I said, “lost the same court case in Norwich in 1996.”

“Did you?” said Janey.

“I was,” I told her, “found guilty of Malicious Communication for calling someone a fucking cunt.”

“You called somebody a cunt?” asked Janey.

“A fucking cunt,” I said. “I thought it was fair comment. The judge said in his ruling that both the words fucking and cunt were ‘clearly indecent’. As far as I could see, that overturned the decision in the Lady Chatterley case under Common Law.”

“You got taken to court for calling somebody a cunt?” asked Janey.

“Yes,” I said.

“You’re a dick,” she told me. “Who did you call a cunt? The Queen?”

“It’s a long story,” I said. “You should read my blog.”

“I usually do. It’s fuckin’ brilliant. Ashley (Janey’s daughter) is obsessed with your North Korean blogs. They’ve made Ashley want to go to North Korea.’

“Everyone should go to North Korea,” I suggested.

“She’s no going to North Korea,” said Janey firmly.

“It’s safe,” I said, “provided you don’t say anything. I used to go to lots of Communist countries because they were safe.”

Jonathan Ross as I remember him

Jonathan Ross as I remember him between my holidays….

“I have to say,” said Janey, “that the best laugh I ever had on Twitter was when I contacted Jonathan Ross and asked: Do you remember John Fleming? And he Tweeted back: Is he still going to weird Communist bloc countries? And I said: Yeah. You definitely remember him.”

“That’s it finished,” I told Janey. “That’s the way to do a blog. Pretend it’s about someone else, but it’s really all about Me, Me, Me.”

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Filed under Comedy, Legal system, Offensive

Frank Sanazi, hijab stripping and Jesus Christ flying in for Hitler’s birthday gig

Pete covers up a nasty spot on his neck Frank Sanazi

Pete covers up a nasty or potentially Nazi spot on his neck

This blog was supposed to be posted on 1st April, until I realised there might be a credibility problem if I posted it on that date.

I had a chat with Pete Perke aka Pete Sinclair aka Pete Cunningham aka Tom Mones aka Frank Sanazi. Frank Sanazi sings like Frank Sinatra but looks like Adolf Hitler.

“So,” I said to Pete,  “you are going over to Austria as Frank Sanazi to celebrate Hitler’s birthday.”

“Well,” he said, “Kulture Banane,  the Austrian boylesque troupe, have become massive in Austria and have asked me to go over and do my show Das Vegas Nights (Zis Time We Win) on 18th April, two days before Hitler’s birthday. Actually, I only recently realised that Hitler was born on 20th April, which is Aries. That would make him a genuine Arian.”

“They’re just boylesque?” I asked. “Not Nazi boylesque in short trousers?”

“Well,” said Pete, “one of the guys – he could be a woman for all I know – performs a hijab act which is basically strip burlesque.”

“You’ve played Frank Sanazi in Berlin, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Yeah. Five or six times.”

“How do they react?”

“The first time I did it, the crowd were a bit…”

“Stunned?” I suggested.

“Well, I was told they loved it, but you can never tell with German audiences. There’s not laugh-out-loud vocal appreciation. When I play to an older crowd in Germany, they can be uncomfortable-squirmy a bit, but the young crowd just find it hilarious. Time has moved on so much they don’t feel part of anything their forefathers did.”

The Awards Show was a rally for the middle classes

Frank Sanazi at the 2014 Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

“I suppose Hitler will never die,” I said. “Malcolm Hardee and I booked The Rockin’ Gorbachev on a couple of TV shows and, of course, his career died when Gorbachev got ousted. But you’re not just a one character act.”

“Yes, I’ve diversified,” said Pete. “I do a lot of straight singing and I have Frank Sanazi and Tom Mones (an old Tom Jones).”

“How is your Vladimir Putin act doing?” I asked.

“I’m not sure if he has legs,” said Pete. “Putin is still very ‘in’ at the moment. As long as he keeps in the spotlight, I’m OK. At the moment, I sing Ukranian Men (to the tune It’s Raining Men) But Crimea River (Cry Me a River) is an obvious follow-up. And then there’s Putin on The Blitz (Putting On The Ritz).”

“Are you doing him at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?” I asked.

“No,” said Pete. “This year I’ve got the Voodoo Rooms to take my whole Iraq Pack show. I’ve got Pete Storm playing Dean Stalin (Stalin singing like Dean Martin) and I’ve written a great song for George who’s going to play Osama Bing Crosby and Saddami Davis Jnr is singing Arranged Marriage to the tune of Love and Marriage:

Ar-ranged marriage
Ar-ranged marriage
To a woman called Fatima Mohammed
This I’ll tell you mother
She looks just like her brother

“I wrote a new song recently for Osama Bing Crosby. He said he needed a song on his own because we were just doing a duet:

I have heard to the Taliban
You are now a forgotten man
Well, dead Jew ever
What a swell party this is

“So I wrote him:

How unlucky can one guy be
They shot her, then they shot me
Like the New York Times said
Ain’t that a shot in the head?

“I’ve never,” I said, “heard you ever talk about getting bad reactions from audiences.”

A singing Hitler - Less offensive than a dead Elvis

A singing Hitler – apparently less offensive than a dead Elvis

“I used to do an act called Dead Elvis,” Pete told me. “I used to come out of this coffin in a mask with worm holes cut out and I did send-up songs: Are You Hungry Tonight? (Are You Lonesome Tonight)… and The Burgers Went Straight To My Heart… those sort of songs. And I got more stick for doing that than I ever have for Frank Sanazi. Because people love Elvis so much they treat him like Jesus. I stopped doing that act because I was getting so much grief for it.”

“And you’re trend-proof,” I said. “because you play the comedy circuit, the cabaret circuit and the fetish circuit.”

“Yes,” said Pete. “There’s a Festival of Sins show this Saturday, a new fetish night. It ran before, five years ago. It was always overshadowed by the Torture Garden but Festival of Sins was possibly the second biggest in London – run by a guy called David de Vynél and he’s re-kickstarting it. It went tits-up when he married the woman he ran it with.”

There is a clip on Vimeo from the Festival of Sins show in 2010.

“I performed at his wedding and the wedding cake was an entire woman just covered in cake: you had to eat the cake off the top of her. It was very well-presented. This guy turned up – the best man – completely stark bollock naked. All he wore were a couple of little bits of tinsel round his penis and a couple of baubles for balls. And he had a massive dong – I think that’s why he went round naked.”

“Just to annoy people?” I asked.

“Mmmmm….,” said Pete.

“I went to one Torture Garden years ago,” I said. “I blogged about it.”

“I remember one Torture Garden,” said Pete, “where there was a guy in a cage and he had a Superman-style cape on and nothing else and he was peeing on people as they walked past. The other thing they had was like an iron lung from Barbarella with perspex over it, so you could put your hands in the gloves and feel whoever it was inside.

“And you know those things they have in Post Offices? Big thick latex things that hang down. I think they do it for health & hygiene. They have them in abattoirs – almost see-through plastic that you can push our way through…”

“Your local Post Office,” I said, “is more interesting than mine.”

“Well,” said Pete, “they had these people just chopping meat up. They had carcasses of sheep. I don’t know how they got away with that, because blood was spattering over everybody as they were going through.

“A couple came in when I was performing- I only knew they were a man and woman because of their size and shape. They had full Nazi outfits on and full gimps masks with zips so you could just see their eyes. They sat right in front of the stage when I performed, watched me for about 25 minutes, then stood up, clapped their gloves together and walked out. It was the most surreal thing.”

“Who else is on the bill with you for the Hitler birthday gig?” I asked.

“Jesus Christ is flying over from Glasgow,” said Pete.

There is a clip on YouTube of Frank Sanazi singing Strangers On My Flight.

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Filed under Bad taste, Comedy, Offensive

Lewis Schaffer on Dapper Laughs + how to make an offensive joke acceptable

I have blogged about the Dapper Laughs controversy before. It is too complicated to explain again, but you can pick up the gist on Wikipedia if you have to.

There is also a compilation video of Dapper Laughs material on YouTube

Comedian Lewis Schaffer – an American based in the UK – once got a review at the Edinburgh Fringe from a young, inexperienced reviewer. It said his act was ‘mildly racist’. Lewis Schaffer has always said this review was one of the worst he has ever received because of the use of that horrible, horrible word – ‘mildly’.

“Who wants to be mildly anything?” he says.

Yesterday afternoon I went to see Lewis Schaffer perform at The Establishment Club in London and, in the evening, saw him perform at his regular weekly show at the Leicester Square Theatre.

At The Establishment, gay acts Scott Capurro and Dickie Beau were on the bill and stayed around to watch him. Lewis Schaffer’s act was relentlessly about gay people. In the evening, almost everyone in the audience got ‘picked on’ for being gay or Scottish or (in one case) coming from the Indian sub-continent – which translated as being a Palestinian Islamic extremist, despite the fact the guy said he was a ‘Christian atheist’.

Both shows were very funny.

After the Leicester Square show, I had a chat with Lewis Schaffer.

Lewis Schaffer at the Leicester Square Theatre last night

Mild Lewis Schaffer at the Leicester Square Theatre last night

“The attitude of people in this country at the moment,” he said, “reminds me of America during the Vietnam War – how excited everyone was about everything. There was a heightened level of awareness and movement.”

“I think we’re just as lethargic as ever,” I said.

“No, I think there’s a big difference,” said Lewis Schaffer, “between now and even five years ago. People now get into arguments over the slightest possible thing.”

“That is just you being argumentative,” I said.

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “it’s other people being argumentative – like what they did to Dapper Laughs. Whether what Dapper Laughs said was good or bad, I think the reason other comedians picked on him was because they were jealous of him: that he had not worked his way up through the ranks, that he called himself a comedian.”

“Well,” I said, “he needed a manager to control what happened.”

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer, “he needed someone to take the flak for him. He rose too high and he fell too fast.”

“But he was a one-off,” I said. “He was just not experienced enough to deal with it.”

“He had a TV series, a tour, an album,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He had everything. The question is What does he do now?

Dapper Laughs - “dead in the water"

Dapper Laughs – is the presenter’s career “dead in the water”?

“He’s dead in the water,” I said.

“Do you think he ever has a chance making it back in the comedy business?”

“Not for five or six years,” I said, “by which time he will be perceived as being from a previous generation of performers.”

“And,” said Lewis Schaffer, “at that point, he’s not going to be interesting to anybody.”

“Yup,” I said. “He tried the best he could by going on Newsnight and saying Oh, I’ve killed off the character – to make it seem like there’s a distinction between him and Dapper Laughs. But it was too little too late.”

“It’s similar to what happened to Andrew Dice Clay in America,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“He just seemed to disappear from the radar,” I said.

“Well,” said Lewis Schaffer, “he rose very fast as well. He was on MTV and making movies and things and then people heard what he was saying. He saw himself as a joke but his audience was taking him seriously. He was a skinny Jewish guy from Brooklyn and he was playing it as a tough Italian.

“And,” continued Lewis Schaffer, “he was on the Arsenio Hall TV show, (there is a clip on YouTube) explaining everything and he starts crying. He destroyed his own career by crying on TV.”

Andrew Dice Clay seemed indestructible

Andrew Dice Clay. He seemed indestructible

“Why was he crying?” I asked.

“He was under a lot of pressure with people hating him. He didn’t want people to hate him. He was a comedian. As soon as he cried – forget it – he lost his core audience. They didn’t want to see some supposedly tough guy crying.”

“What happened to him?” I asked.

“He still performs but he’s never reached the level of success he had. He’s done some acting – I think he was in a Woody Allen movie.”

I laughed out loud.

“He also did a DVD of a comedian basically being unprepared and self-destructing on stage.”

“He’s stolen your act,” I said.

“With me, hopefully,” said Lewis Schaffer, “there’s some kind of ending where it all comes together and we all have a good time. I think he was told at the time You can’t release this DVD and he released it anyway.

“It’s fascinating in this business what happens when people turn on you – what happens in life when people turn on you. It’s like The Bonfire of The Vanities scenario where the guy is a Master of The Universe one day and the next day he’s running for his life.”

Fatty Arbuckle - or Michael Barrymore?

Fatty Arbuckle – or is it Michael Barrymore?

Michael Barrymore was Fatty Arbuckle,” I said. “As far as I understand it, Fatty Arbuckle had three trials, was found innocent of rape and manslaughter – he didn’t do it, but his entire career was destroyed. He had just organised a party. And, as far as I’m aware, no-one has ever said Barrymore was in any way directly responsible for the death of the guy in the swimming pool. He just hosted a party in a rambling house where something happened. But his career was destroyed.”

“What interests me,” said Lewis Schaffer, “is how do people deal with being idolised one day and being persona non grata the next? I find that really fascinating. The question is What is going to happen to Dapper Laughs?

“He won’t have made that much money,” I said. “One series on ITV2 and a first tour.”

“The point is,” said Lewis Schaffer, “he’s the kind of person who’s doing anything for a laugh. He’s not political; he’s not motivated; he’s not a misogynist or racist; he just wants to be famous and he picked the wrong thing to be famous over. Now he’s thinking: Holy shit! I made a mistake here! It’s not that I agree with what he did or said – I don’t even know exactly what he did or said.”

“I don’t think it was the TV series that did for him,” I said. “It was the comedy club show. Telling a woman in the front row that she was ‘gagging for a rape’. That was way over the top. That was way beyond acceptable.”

“It’s too extreme,” said Lewis Schaffer, “but I imagine he meant it as a joke.”

“I think maybe,” I said, “he just lost control of the character. He was thinking through the character’s mind and lost objective control of what he was doing.”

“He wasn’t experienced enough,” said Lewis Schaffer. “After a while you know what you can and cannot say. He didn’t have that experience and the other comedians turned on him. Well, they don’t even consider him a comedian because he hadn’t done open mic spots or been on a road trip for some agency.”

Jimmy Carr at the 2006 Malcolm Hardee Show

Carr at the 2006 Malcolm Hardee Show (Photograph by Warren King)

I told Lewis Schaffer: “When I staged a five hour Malcolm Hardee show at the Hackney Empire in 2006, I had three comperes for the three parts and, because of their availability, I had to have Jimmy Carr and one of the hosts in the first part. I scheduled Jimmy Carr as the last act in Part 1. Then the compere of Part 1 – who wasn’t available for Part 2 – said he would not introduce Jimmy Carr because he had just done that joke about gypsy moths which had got him a lot of flak. So I had to move Jimmy Carr to the first act of Part 2 because he wasn’t available later.”

“What was the gypsy moth joke again?” asked Lewis Schaffer.

The male gypsy moth can smell the female gypsy moth up to seven miles away – and that fact also works if you remove the word moth. Which is a clever joke.”

“No it isn’t,” said Lewis Schaffer. “It’s not nice to the gypsies.”

I laughed: “Your entire act is based on insulting people. That gypsy moth joke is very well-crafted and, said, in Jimmy Carr’s cynical, throwaway persona I’m sure it was very funny. I never actually heard him tell it, so I don’t know.”

“It IS a well-crafted joke,” agreed Lewis Schaffer, “but the problem is it’s not making fun of the audience or making fun of the audience for believing that gypsies smell. The point is you can’t tell that joke to an audience of non-gypsies. I think Jimmy Carr is hysterically funny but that joke is inappropriate.”

“But you’re always insulting your audience,” I said.

Lewis Schaffer after last night’s show

Lewis Schaffer advice after last night’s Leicester Square show

“If he had an audience of gypsies and he made that joke right to their faces,” said Lewis Schaffer, “that’s OK… In my gig at The Establishment Club this afternoon, I didn’t do any race material. I never do black material unless there are black people there.”

“You’re right,” I admitted. “I suppose I could tell an anti-Semitic joke to you because you’re Jewish and that would be OK, but it would not be acceptable to tell it to…”

“…a room full of Nazis,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Though I might make good money.” I said.

“You might make some money,” agreed Lewis Schaffer, “but you shouldn’t do it. That’s the point.”

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Filed under Bad taste, Comedy

Anne Frank with her clothes on proves offensive to UK comedy-going audience

Elsewhere in London...

It’s Springtime for Hitler and SE London

Sometimes it is strange what people find offensive.

Last night, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s monthly variety and comedy club Pull The Other One in Nunhead, South East London.

Ending the night was Frank Sanazi, the wonderful act that sounds like Frank Sinatra but looks like Hitler.

Three people walked out.

The problem was his new sidekick ‘Anne Stank’ who talked about being lonely up in the attic and sang Björk’s Ssshhhhh….It’s Oh So Quiet.

United Kingdom - London - Annie 2012

Anne and attic antics

“I don’t understand,” my eternally-un-named friend said afterwards, “why they didn’t find Frank Sanazi offensive but they did find the Anne Frank bit offensive.”

And, indeed, the three walk-outs did seem to have found Frank Sanazi’s re-versioning of Sinatra’s That’s Life as Third Reich entertaining and found the re-writing of the Strangers in the Night lyrics as Strangers On a Plane (as in the 9/11 hijacks) perfectly OK.

But Anne Frank they walked out on.

I had never seen the Anne Frank part of Frank Sanazi’s show before – his Das Vegas Night is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this August (it got a 4-star review last year) – but ‘Anne’ told me after the show that I had blogged about her during last year’s Fringe.

“I was the one wearing a lettuce,” she told me.

“You didn’t recognise her with her clothes on,” Frank Sanazi added.

This is the reference from my blog last August:

__________________________________________________

I was walking down Niddry Street, and found comedian Bob Slayer standing in the street outside his Hive venue.

“I had to get naked in my show,” he told me. “I think it was the worst show I’ve ever done so I had to get naked. Jamie the sound guy sees my show every year and he told me: You failed on so many levels there, but it was definitely my favourite show. I had to get naked and there was a lady in the audience who turned up just wearing a lettuce.”

“Just a lettuce?” I asked.

“Just wearing a lettuce on her fanny,” said Bob.

“She had nice tits,” a female staff member added, tweaking one of Bob’s nipples. Passers-by ignored it. This is the Edinburgh Fringe.

“The lady with the lettuce was a friend of Frank Sanazis,” said Bob.

“That might go some way to explaining it,” I said.

__________________________________________________

Frank Sanazi’s Christmas show last year

Frank Sanazi’s 2012 Christmas show

The boundaries of offensiveness vary.

A girl wearing nothing but a lettuce leaf  over her frontal bits was almost normal in Edinburgh last August. But a girl with her clothes on (never referred-to as Anne Frank) in South East London last night triggered three people walking out of an always-bizarre monthly comedy show.

Personally, I thought it was slightly eerie and very funny.

But, then, I like Chinese pickled ginger with scrambled egg on toast.

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Filed under Bad taste, Comedy, Offensive

So, there is this Jewish comic who does not mind hecklers… provided they pay

Conspiratorial comedian Hayden Cohen in Tenerife this week

Conspiratorial comedian Hayden Cohen in Tenerife this week

Back in February, I wrote a blog about an anonymous comedian who had decided NOT to perform at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe because of the financial complications it always involves and the balance of creative risk-taking.

The then-anonymous comedian was Hayden Cohen who, last year, rather successfully performed his Age of The Geek show in Edinburgh.

He has now changed his mind and he will be performing his new show at the Fringe – Secrets of the Elders of Zion (which I blogged about in January).

I Skyped him in Tenerife this week…

Quite why he was in Tenerife wearing a white hat, looking like a dodgy South American dictator from the 1950s and surrounded by the sound of twittering exotic birds, I did not dare ask, in case he was involved in some secret conspiracy. But I did risk asking:

“Why did you change your mind about not going to this year’s Fringe?”

“I was desperate to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award,” he replied immediately.

“And how are you going to do that?” I asked this man who will clearly go far in showbusiness.

Symbol for a Cunning Stunt Award?

Edinburgh symbol worthy of a Cunning Stunt Award?

“I was going to try and get a gigantic Star of David,” he explained, “and hand out flyers that said: Sshhhhh…. It’s a secret! but I don’t think that’s cunning enough to get a Cunning Stunt Award. Maybe I need to offer free head-shavings, where you can get a Star of David shaved into the back of your head. Or a little tattoo just on the neckline.”

“Or have a number tattooed on your arm,” I suggested.

Hayden ignored this and told me: “I’m going to be at the Paradise Green venue. I’m actually paying. I think it has to be a pay venue. I think, if it was in a free venue, it would definitely attract the crazies.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Just because people are interested in stuff to do with Zionism and Jews. It’s difficult. I’m playing off that whole Jewish stereotype thing anyway, aren’t I? I don’t mind hecklers, in fact I quite like funny hecklers, but what I don’t want is people stopping other audience members enjoying the show. I just feel someone could start Oh I think blah blah blah… and going off on one.

“I don’t mind discussing or arguing with people – I love it – but, if people have paid to see a show, other audience members are likely to tell then to shut up and, frankly, if someone wants to pay money to heckle me – well – good for them; why not? I’m getting their money,”

“So you’re expecting to be heckled?” I asked.

“The show is only offensive if you want to take it as offensive,” Hayden said. “I’m not out to offend anyone but, at the same time, I’m a bit sick of mainstream comedy that doesn’t have bite any more.”

“Why did you change your mind about going to the Fringe?” I asked. “Have you won the Lottery?”

“No,” said Hayden. “It’s just I won’t be losing anywhere near £4,000. I’ve got a chance of breaking even – a chance. I’ll still probably end up losing money, but it won’t be too bad. At worst I might lose about £1,000 tops.”

“You do it for the love of it?” I asked.

“It actually annoys me when people say We do comedy for the love of it,” replied Hayden. “I think Well, yeah… I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it. But, at the same time, I think performers are being exploited at the Fringe. There’s a risk-reward ratio with anything. You invest in it; and it pays off or it doesn’t.

Hayden Cohen at the Edinburgh Fringe last year

Hayden Cohen at 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

“My issue with the Fringe is that, just to beak even, you have to have a 75% paying capacity audience – that’s what I figured out for my own shows. You hear about Aaaaaa Bbbbbb who loses £7,000 every time she goes up and it’s nuts.

“Like anyone else, I will have crafted my show for months. I’ve crafted my performing art for years. And to go out on stage at the Fringe with likely zero chance of making money. I’m charging £7 and £5, which isn’t a lot, but it’s not pennies either. The punters think we’re making money and we’re not. How can you continue to go back?”

“Well,” I said, “there’s that eternal chance you’ll get spotted and it will change your life.”

“Alright,” said Hayden. “Maybe I’m a hypocrite! If a big venue or agency snapped me up and said We love your show, Hayden, but you need to take all that Jewish stuff out and we’ll pay you £50,000 to do it, would I say No? Probably not.”

“So that’s the golden apple dangling at the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said. “It’s all potential sunshine and happiness.”

“But,” said Hayden, “this show, artistically, scares the life out of me.”

“Every silver lining had a dark cloud,” I said. “The weather is always ‘interesting’ at the Fringe.”

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BBC Radio women + a woman wearing only a lettuce at the Edinburgh Fringe

The BBC are giving away plastic pints

I woke up this morning to two things. One was the sound of comedian Janey Godley trying but failing to vomit in my toilet. I fear, dear reader, that you and I may hear more of this in the days to come.

The other thing was an e-mail which started:

Hi John,

 Just writing to say how much I enjoy reading your site. We at Lifeinsurancequotes.org recently published an article “8 Ways Funeral Homes Will Try To Rip You Off”, that we think is tailor-made for your readers.

Either their computerised spam system is totally out-of-control (surely not!) or I must be mis-targeting this blog.

I have little good advice on funeral homes.

Janey Godley once told me that, if you are going to murder someone, the best hiding place for the body is in a graveyard – the police will not look in a graveyard for a dead body and, if they are tipped-off, they will be wary of causing a public outcry by potentially digging up a body which may not be the missing victim.

That is my only funeral tip for today, but it may prove useful for Israeli comic Daphna Baram.

Whoever killed Jesus, it wasn’t Daphna

Yesterday, she told me: “There was a very drunken guy in the audience at my Frenemies show (it’s only on until Saturday) – Yuri from the Czech Republic. At some point during my set, the idea that I was Jewish – at least nominally – penetrated through the layers of beer in Yuri’s mind and he started heckling: You killed Jesus! You killed Jesus!

“I remembered I had a routine from my first Christmas as a comedian. Clearly this was a good moment for resurrection.

“In my most authoritative voice (I do authoritative well) and with, I regret to say, a certain degree of c-word usage, I informed Yuri that the whole 30 shekel story is highly non-credible as no Jew I’ve ever heard of would sell a hippy to the italian mafia for the equivalent of a fiver…

“He kept silent for a while but, in a later section about my military training in Israel, he started heckling again. I told the audience. I saw Yuri outside and invited him to the gig and thought Great! I’ve pulled!… But now all I can think about is where I am going to hide his body…

Well Daphna now knows, courtesy of Janey Godley, she can actually do this with little comeback.

But back to the Edinburgh Fringe proper…

Three Weeks – on the streets of Edinburgh now

In my first weekly column for Fringe magazine Three Weeks today, Mervyn Stutter criticises the BBC for putting on too many free shows at this year’s Fringe, to the detriment of hard-working performers who are already having a bad enough time with the big TV names and the Recession. You can read the Three Weeks piece by picking it up in Edinburgh or clicking here or you can download the whole issue here. I will post my golden words here on this blog in one week’s time (when the paper is no longer on the streets of Edinburgh).

I had another BBC-bashing angle punted to me last night, when I got chatting to someone who had better remain nameless. He works for a radio production company and has a lot of dealings with the BBC.

“It’s an odd thing,” he told me, “because, in America at the moment, there’s a huge flowering of female-driven comedy. You’ve got 30 Rock, Girls, the Mindy Kaling Project – loads and loads of female driven comedy – and people say part of the reason for this is the influx of women into US TV production. But, in Britain, we are not having that same increase in female-driven comedy.”

“Maybe because most producers here are male,” I suggested.

“Not now,” he corrected me. “Not in radio. Most of the level entry producers at the Beeb – the ones who comics new to radio would be working with – are female.

“At the BBC, there’s actually a big influx of women into radio production but, as yet, that doesn’t seem to be translating into a flowering of female comedy – certainly not at Radio 4 which has traditionally been a proving ground for comics before they get onto television. Radio 4 does not have many female-led, female-driven, female-written, female-fronted shows.

“That’s a generalisation, of course,” he said, “Jane Berthoud is top dog there and she’s tremendously supportive of women, but the increased number of female producers has not helped women in comedy.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he said. “All I’m saying is it’s an interesting area. There are now lots of female producers, which is good. Maybe the heterosexual ones are more interested in and more physically attracted to the male acts and therefore female comics are getting an even bummer deal that they were before.”

“You mean the female producers want to screw the male acts?” I said. “Now there’s a dangerous idea to say out loud. But surely, traditionally, there were more male producers and they would have wanted to cop off with female acts so there should have been lots of female shows around in the past. In theory, female comics should have always done better than men because there were more male producers. But that’s not the case.”

Possibly realising he was on dangerously non-PC ground, he continued: “It’s very difficult to un-pick because, statistically, if you looked at the number of shows made by men over all… Maybe there are more shows made with male stars because there are more men pushing to get in. Maybe sometimes there’s a lot of schmoozing and, rather than being about talent, it’s about who gets on with people and who people want to sit in a pub and chat and get drunk with.”

It is certainly an interesting idea and there must be something psychological going on beyond my fathoming.

Checkley & Bush’s Comedy Riot is just that

Last night, I was at a party thrown to celebrate ten years of the Funny Women organisation. Very hard-working. Very effective in raising the profile of female comedy, But still British TV and radio shows are generally skewed-away from female performers.

I left the party to see excellent character comedy from Checkley & Bush. They’re better than a lot of the under-experienced new male comics who pop up on TV and in radio.

And, earlier in the day, I had attended a ‘knittathon’ – a publicity stunt organised by Charmian Hughes at which the audience was invited to knit throughout her show to create something she could use in her climactic and erotic ‘Dance of the Seven Cardigans’… Charmian was listed at No 7 in the Chortle comedy website’s Ten Most Underrated Comics – the only woman in the list.

Lewis Schaffer, a masterclass in offending

No 8 in the list is American comic Lewis Schaffer, whom I had been chatting to even earlier in the day. There was a lot of chatting yesterday.

As I came out of Checkley & Bush’s show, I got a text message from Lewis which said simply:

I had 65 punters at tonight’s show. There were 40 walkouts.

I texted back:

Tell me more and I may blog about it.

He later told me what he had said.

“I can’t put that in my blog,” I told him. “You will get lynched.”

Perhaps being truly offensive is one thing women comics cannot get away with. As if to prove this, later I was walking down Niddry Street, and found comedian Bob Slayer standing in the street outside his Hive venue.

“I had to get naked in my show,” he told me. “I think it was the worst show I’ve ever done so I had to get naked. Jamie the sound guy sees my show every year and he told me: You failed on so many levels there, but it was definitely my favourite show. I had to get naked and there was a lady in the audience who turned up just wearing a lettuce.”

“Just a lettuce?” I asked.

“Just wearing a lettuce on her fanny,” said Bob.

Bob Slayer has his nipples tweaked

“She had nice tits,” a female staff member added, tweaking one of Bob’s nipples. Passers-by ignored it. This is the Edinburgh Fringe.

“The lady with the lettuce was a friend of Frank Sanazi’s,” said Bob.

“That might go some way to explaining it,” I said.

“Well,” said Bob, “Frank came and then that happened and then I had to get naked. It depends how you rate a show. It was the most avant-garde show I’ve ever managed to do. Apparently there was a reviewer for The Skinny in there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they made of it. I hope it was the guy who refused to get on stage. There’s no way I’m going to get a good review but I hope it was that guy because he HATED it.”

At the Fringe, being loved or being hated are good. Being ignored is bad. Oscar Wilde was born before his time.

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Mad comics, facts and fantasy exposed at yesterday’s Edinburgh Fringe shows

Somewhere under the rainbow, mad comedians in Edinburgh

Yesterday at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was told the true story of a comedian who, a few years ago, staged his Fringe show at a free venue, thus saving himself a lot of money. He reasoned that he could spend the money he saved on hiring a PR person and on posters, flyers, advertisements: the full works. He worked his proverbial ass off and got no reviews, no media coverage, no audience. Well, on a good day, he got a handful or less of people in his audience; some days literally no-one. He lost £10,000. This is the reality of the Fringe for a lot of performers.

It could be argued you have to be barking mad to be a comedian, which is what I suggested to someone at yesterday’s Gilded Balloon launch party, but more of that later.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw award-winning Eric’s Tales of the Sea again: a beautifully-crafted show by the utterly sane (he may take that as an insult) Eric about his life on Royal Navy submarines, with a completely unexpected and devastatingly emotional ending. It has successfully played around the world. Eric was persuaded to become a stand-up comedian after being a regular audience member at  the late Malcolm Hardee‘s Up The Creek club.

Johnny Sorrow (right) and Sir Richard Swan yesterday

The occasionally Gollum-like (his own description) Johnny Sorrow, won last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the Edinburgh Fringe. Last year he was performing as part of the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society – as he is this year. He was the funniest act I saw at the 2011 Fringe and you can take ‘funny’ in both its meanings.

He may be the same this year. What a full-throttle performance yesterday!

Originality is certainly the word – plus sometimes strangely experimental touches.

A Japanese couple walked in halfway through the hour-long show and watched in dazed incomprehension the unexplained parade of animal heads, weird noises, abstract speeches and dated cultural references which probably go way over the heads of even most Brits under the age of about thirty. What the Japanese made of it all I cannot even begin to imagine. Perhaps they thought it was experimental theatre, high performance art or just an example of impenetrable British humour.

And maybe they would have been partially right on all three counts.

Peyvand the Iranian & Daphna the Israeli – Fringe Frenemies

For more understandable comedy, they might have had more luck with Daphna Baram’s show Frenemies where she teams up with comedienne Shappi Khorsandi’s brother Peyvand for an Israeli-Iranian comedy hour. Daphna told me (and the audience) that she regards this as her ‘coming out’ show.

Until now, she has been known on the London comedy circuit as ‘Miss D’ to separate her night-time comedic persona from her day job as a serious political commentator and journalist. Now she is going to be ‘Daphna Baram’ in both worlds.

I have always thought she should not separate the two, as this strange diversity is her Unique Selling Proposition. And she can give an outsider’s inside view with both hats on.

Denis Krasnov: the very epitome of intellectual filth

Which I guess, to an extent, is what Denis Krasnov gives in his late-night Hour of Intellectual Filth. An outsider’s view. I saw him perform a few years ago at London’s eccentric Pear Shaped comedy club. Two people in the audience walked out back then and they were so highly-offended that they wrote to the club complaining about the specific offensive sequence in Denis’ act.

Pear Shaped’s Mr Fixit Anthony Miller checked an audio recording of the show and found that the highly offensive sequence they complained about did not actually exist. It simply had not happened. And I had been in the audience. They thought he had said something – a whole load of specific somethings – but he had not. Which was a bizarre tribute to his performance skills.

Back then, he was surprised that people found him offensive. This year, now New York based, he is intentionally trying to be offensive at the Fringe. At one point in last night’s show, he said, “I’m a comedian. My job is to expose lies,” but really his show is, as always, about playing with concepts of the mind. The show is neither off-puttingly intellectual nor is it actually definitively filthy. But it is mesmerisingly fascinating as he turns real comments about real situations into a bizarre form of fantasy without really ever lapsing into surreality. Indescribably interesting and highly original.

I find comedians a fascinating breed.

Taylor Glenn, former psychotherapist, at the Gilded party

Which brings me back to that Gilded Balloon’s launch party earlier in the evening, where I met for the first time my Facebook Friend  Taylor Glenn, a former psychotherapist.

“So you were a psychotherapist with a steady income for eight years and then you decided to become a comedian with no sensible income,” I said. “For heaven’s sake why?”

“I was treating patients who were facing lots of life challenges,” she replied, smiling “so I thought why not create the biggest one in the world for myself.”

“But comedians are all mad,” I suggested.

“I actually don’t think we’re any worse off in the mental health department than the rest of the world,” she replied, “but we’re allowed to act a little crazy. We have our own therapy behind a microphone… We have the ultimate outlet to express our angst.”

“So everyone’s mad, but comedians can show they’re mad?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” she said, “I think if you’re too ‘normal’ you fall by the wayside as a comedian.”

“So how are you mad?” I asked.

“I’m just,” she said, “a classic North Eastern American neurotic, constantly self-evaluating, constantly worrying and actually thinking I’m a lot more important than I am.”

“The thing which gets me,” I said, “is that comedians – who you would think must be extroverts – are actually very often introverted and are terrified of exposing themselves. They perform but they’re frightened of revealing themselves.”

“There’s more of a mix of people,” Taylor said. “You come across a lot more introverted people when you’re working with actors and there are a lot of exhibitionist comics who, in their daily life, are constantly seeking attention and then cracking jokes. So I think we fall into two or three categories.”

Taylor’s Fringe show is called Reverse Psycomedy and, as a stunt (or maybe it wasn’t) she offered to give free psychotherapy to any comic who wanted/needed it at the Fringe.

“I think doing the Edinburgh Fringe,” Taylor told me yesterday, “has been a real experience for me: to allow myself to be vulnerable and really tell the truth on stage. And there’s no character to hide that. I’m an exaggerated version of myself up there, but I’m very much me.”

“Is that through doing a 60-minute show as opposed to shorter sets?” I asked.

“I think doing an hour,” she said, “you have to find some kind of narrative: it doesn’t mean you have to have a theme, but you’ve got to find a way to fill in the gaps. People can’t just laugh constantly for an hour. So you’re telling a story along with the laughter.”

“And that has to be somehow more truthful?” I asked.

“Well,” said Taylor, “I’ve found that for sure. Because I’m telling a story that has to do with my own life and, if I’m not being truthful, it’s not gonna work.”

Me? I think there’s still a lot of howling at the moon goes on when comedians come off stage and are alone with their thoughts.

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The Edinburgh Fringe now insists on artistic control of all shows’ promotion

Comedian Lewis Schaffer lost his shirt staging Fringe shows.

In 2009, I staged a show at the Edinburgh Fringe titled Aaaaaaaaaarrghhh! It’s Bollock Relief! – The Malcolm Hardee Award Show. No-one batted an eyelid. More’s the pity.

Not when the title appeared in full in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme. Not when flyers were handed out in the street. Not when posters appeared in the refined streets of Edinburgh.

No-one cared about the word “bollock” back then.

But yesterday, in an online response to a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News about censorship in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Programme, comedian Jackson Voorhaar wrote:

A quote in my blurb was actually censored to “the b*st*rd offspring of Eddie Izzard and Noel Fielding”. Surely in that context bastard is a perfectly legitimate and inoffensive term?

My last couple of blogs have been about the Edinburgh Fringe Programme’s new-found puritanism where, for example, Richard Herring’s show Talking Cock (which had no problem in 2002) now has to be printed as Talking C*ck in the Fringe Programme because it might offend someone – despite the fact that, in August 2012 (as was the case in August 2002), large posters will festoon the billboards of Edinburgh saying Talking Cock and random pedestrians will be given A5 flyers advertising Talking Cock.

Vivienne Soan of London’s Pull The Other One comedy club talked to me yesterday about the title of the Stuart Goldsmith show, which the Fringe has insisted cannot be listed as Prick but has to be listed as Pr!ck. Vivienne sensibly said: “I think that, at first sight, they look like the same word… but actually the latter is slightly funnier/cleverer. Therefore,” she added a tad mischievously, “the Fringe programme are also insisting on artistic contro!”

She raises an interesting point here.

As Richard Herring told me: “Underneath the silliness and twatdom it’s a very important issue.” And it is.

Last night Mervyn Stutter, who has been staging Fringe shows for 26 years, asked me about the Charlie Chuck listing which the Fringe this year objected to as being “ungrammatical”.

“Strangely,” Mervyn told me, “I find that more sinister because it will affect so many more people with perfectly safe show titles.”

The 40 word Fringe Programme entry is an advertisement for each performer’s Fringe show. It is an ad paid for by the performer. It costs almost £400. So, if you use all 40 words, it costs £10 per word. If you used only 20 words, it would cost £20 per word.

Mervyn Stutter says: “If we pay £400 then we should choose exactly the wording we want. If it doesn’t ‘make grammatical sense’ then what happens next? An angry letter to the Fringe from an audience member demanding better grammar or just that we – the performers who pay for it – lose some audience?”

This is the key point.

Does the Guardian tell Renault it has to change the wording for a new car ad because it does not conform with the Guardian’s own ‘house style’? Does Exchange & Mart or eBay tell advertisers their ads are ungrammatical or must be changed into an appropriate house style?

The Fringe Programme is perfectly entitled to have a house style for its own wording. But not for paid advertisements. Occasionally, in the past, the Royal Bank of Scotland has taken out ads in the Fringe Programme. Were these vetted by the Fringe for proper grammar and checked for adherence to the Fringe Programme’s own house style? Bollocks. They were not.

Part of the blurb for absurdist comedian Charlie Chuck’s new show Cirque du Charlie Chuck mentioned above (trying to make every £10 work count) was submitted as:

Charlie Chuck back with cabaret, organ-playing, drum-smashing mixed-up magic, with burlesque bits of French songs and lady assistant.

The Fringe changed this to (the capitalisation is mine to show the changes):

“Charlie Chuck, IS back with cabaret, organ-playing, drum-smashing AND mixed-up magic, with burlesque bits of French songs and A lady assistant.”

The Fringe insisted: “These words are required to be added to make sure the copy is in our house style.”

Note they said “are required”. Not suggested. Required to be added.

When queried about this, Fringe Publications Manager Martin Chester confirmed that “as long as your copy… is grammatically correct… it can be run.”

His full explanation was:

“As long as your copy adheres to the style guide found on edfringe.com, is grammatically correct and within the 40 word limit (including your show title) it can be run.”

There are two points here…

  • What does it matter if it is ungrammatical? If an act were to pay the Fringe £400 to run a badly-written Fringe entry which made the show look bad, the performer seem illiterate and it persuaded punters NOT to come to the show, that is entirely the act’s problem. The Fringe officers – if they are hanging around and have loads of time on their hands – might kindly suggest the entry could be improved. But, if they are taking £400 simply to print the ad, then (provided the wording is legal and ‘decent’ by their standards) the English grammar contained within the ad is nothing to do with them. And…
  • Why do £400 paid-for ads come within the Fringe Programme’s house style at all?

A house style exists to homogenise the style of a publication created by a single entity.

It is reasonable that a document or publication written by the Fringe itself should have a house style.

It is unreasonable that a Programme listing hundreds of separate £400 paid-for ads in which individual performers are trying to uniquely distinguish their own show from the (literally) thousands of other shows should have all the £400 paid-for ads homogenised into a single style.

It is artistic nonsense. It is financial nonsense.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that comedian Jody Kamali told me that the Fringe Office “said I couldn’t use three dollar signs in a row ‘$$$’ in my Fringe entry, as it didn’t fit their ‘house style’.”

Call me innocent, but to have $$$ in your show title is not going to offend any man, woman or child who reads it. I fail to believe it will psychologically damage or morally offend anyone. I am unaware of $$$ being any obscure sexual term and I somehow think the Fringe’s own imposed C*ck and Pr!ick are a tad more objectionable than $$$.

What insanity is ruling at the Fringe this year?

This all seems to be the opposite of why the Fringe Programme exists. It seems to be the opposite of why the Fringe exists, the opposite of what the ‘open to all’ nature of the Edinburgh Fringe itself is supposed to be.

Performers and acts are not invited to the Fringe. Anyone can perform anywhere. You just have to arrange it yourself. The Fringe as an entity (the Fringe Office) does not stage, produce or directly promote the shows.

It can cost, over-all, around £7,500 to stage a fairly average Fringe show – venue costs, accommodation, promotion (including £400 to write Fringe Programme’s 40 words) etc etc.

100% of this is paid for by the performers.

The Fringe does not pay for the shows. The Fringe does not pay for the £400 show listings within the Fringe Programme.

So why does the Fringe claim that the £400 small ads (because that is what they are) within the Fringe Programme have (in the words of the man in charge) to “adhere to the style guide” and be “grammatically correct”?

In the Edinburgh Evening News yesterday, Neil Mackinnon, Head of External Affairs for the Fringe, said:

“It is not for us to vet the content of anyone’s shows – that’s one of our principles”.

Well, he is talking bollocks. And they are not even disguised, Photoshopped bollocks.

The Fringe are vetting the content of the ads people pay £400 to run. And not just for what they now (but did not in previous years) regard as ‘rude’ words. According to the Fringe’s own Publications Manager, the paid-for £400 non-rude words are vetted because they have to conform with the “style guide” – no use of $$$ in a title, for example – and be “grammatical”. Why?

The road to hell really is paved with good intentions.

In effect, the Edinburgh Fringe are now insisting on artistic control of the promotion of all Fringe shows. And charging performers £400 for the privilege not to have control of their own advertising.

The people who think of themselves as ‘good guys’ have turned into ‘rip-off’ merchants.

American comic Lewis Schaffer (who is staging two shows at this year’s Fringe – that means two Fringe Programme entries at £394 each) commented on a blog I wrote a couple of days ago:

“Next year I am not going to register my show with the Fringe and instead I will spend the money more effectively by paying the first 700 punters £1 each to come into my show. Or enrol everyone who comes to my show in a £700 lottery. Or spend £700 extra pounds buying drinks for the other acts bled dry by the Fringe Society.”

He may not be joking.

And he has a point.

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Barking mad censorship continues at the Edinburgh Fringe Programme office

The censored and acceptable Edinburgh Fringe show image

Yesterday, I blogged about the insanity and inanity which has characterised the compilation of the Edinburgh Fringe Programme this year. In particular, the barking mad decision by the Fringe that the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PRICK was unacceptable and that it should be replaced by the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PR!CK which was acceptable.

Commenting on my blog, Stuart’s reaction was: “I thought this was an isolated incident, but I’m genuinely disturbed by how many people have come forward and said they’ve had copy disallowed for reasons of ‘taste’, ‘decency’ or ‘house style’. This was the Edinburgh Fringe we were talking about – What’s happened?!”

The other cracker which I mentioned yesterday was that comedian Richard Herring’s updated version of his 2002 show TALKING COCK (which was printed in the Fringe Programme under that title with no problem in 2002) had been changed by the Fringe Office – without his knowledge – from TALKING COCK: THE SECOND COMING to TALKING C*CK: THE SECOND COMING.

Quite why the word ‘cock’ (which, in this context comes from ‘cock & bull story’ – a phrase with a totally non-sexual origin and meaning) was deemed offensive but, in this context, the word ‘coming’ was deemed inoffensive is a mystery.

And it remains a mystery. And it is not alone. Australian comedian Jon Bennett is performing his first Edinburgh Fringe show PRETENDING THINGS ARE A COCK at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.

The show’s title has been printed in full without any problem in the brochures for the Adelaide Fringe, the Edmonton International Fringe, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Montreal Fringe and the Vancouver International Fringe. And, this August, the Edinburgh Comedy Festival booklet/posters/flyers will have ‘Cock’ written in full in Pretending Things Are a Cock, but the official Edinburgh Fringe Programme will not.

This morning, producer Bronwyn Hooton told me: “It’s baffling to think that the Edinburgh Fringe – the largest fringe in the world – is censoring the art forms that appear within it, when your own Commonwealth countries do not.”

The Edinburgh Fringe, this year, seems determined to become a laughing stock world-wide, not just in Britain.

Bronwyn continued: “The welcome video on EdFringe.com says: The Fringe was created 65 years ago when eight companies who hadn’t been invited to take part in the international festival, in the true show-business tradition and in a flash-mob style decided to stage their work anyway. On a tradition of open-access and freedom, to have censorship issues from the Edinburgh Fringe Office themselves seems to go against this ethos they claim to abide by.”

The word ‘cock’ in Pretending Things Are a Cock had to be censored (to ‘c*ck’) on the image used in the Fringe Programme because the word was deemed to be offensive, though the image itself (see above) was not.

I could barely believe my eyes when I saw this censored image.

But it is a very nice asterisk and, obviously, it has made a big difference.

Has the Fringe Office got their kn*ckers in a twist and gone completely mad this year?

Well, yes, apparently it has.

The Chortle comedy website yesterday pointed out that, printed in the upcoming Fringe Programme will be “a show called Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, which has escaped the blue pencil, comic Chris McCausland has been allowed to use the quote from a Chortle review ‘balls-out funny’ and a show called Sex Ed: The Musical contains the blurb: Have you ever tried hand-to-gland combat? Playing the clitar? Spelunking? Have you ever been vaginally tardy?

Writing in his blog yesterday, Richard Herring pointed out that Kunt and The Gang’s name is acceptably print-worthy to the Fringe Office, as is Reginald D.Hunter’s show title Work in Progress… And Nigga (Reg has a tradition of putting Nigga in his titles) and that, indeed, in Richard’s own Programme entry, the Fringe Office took no exception to the phrase “the yoghurt-spitting sausage” but, somehow, ‘cock’ was too much for them to swallow.

Comedian Jody Kamali commented that the Fringe Office “said I couldn’t use three dollar signs in a row ‘$$$’ in my Fringe entry, as it didn’t fit their ‘house style’.”

Also, following my blog yesterday, Chortle phoned the Fringe Office and reported that “when asked why certain words are deemed offensive and others not – and how Herring’s title was changed without him knowing until now – the Fringe office said they did not wish to comment.”

No surprise there. But there was a surprise that – several weeks after the final deadline had past – the Fringe Office told Richard Herring yesterday that his very expensive quarter page ad in the Fringe Programme was suddenly also unacceptable. He was told that he would have to disguise the word ‘cock’ by removing the letter ‘O’.

In his blog yesterday, Richard wrote: “I wonder will the Fringe brochure people object if the “O” of cock is… hidden behind a big splurge of dripping white liquid… (it) might be allowed because a splurge of white liquid is not on the list of rude words.”

The two substitute censored versions he submitted to the Fringe are below:

“Talking Cock” – censored with an asterisk

“Talking Cock” – censored with a splurge

Presumably, the Fringe Office objected to Richard Herring’s ‘cock’ because of what they perceived as the use of a genital word (even though the common phrase Talking Cock is not sexual in origin).

However, they had no objection to a review quote on the ad, which says:

“Man’s answer to the Vagina Monologues – The Guardian”

So, apparently the word ‘cock’ (in the context of the non-sexual-origined phrase Talking Cock) is unacceptable but the word ‘vagina’ (which has a solely genital meaning) is completely acceptable.

Richard Herring, in his blog yesterday, wrote:

“Whilst I acknowledge there is a point where some choice has to be made over what is suitable to go into a general publication, I am concerned about the draconian level of censorship that is occurring here and what it says about what the Fringe is turning into. This should be the last place where freedom of expression is clamped down on.”

Or, as Richard said to me: “Underneath the silliness and twatdom it’s a very important issue”.

What on earth is going on?

One thing is certain. There is no point asking the Fringe Office.

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Necrophilia and its place in honouring comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee

(If you are easily offended – or, really, if you have ever been offended by anything at any point in your life – please do not read this blog.)

Yesterday, I had an interesting evening at the Star & Garter pub in Greenwich, where comic Steve Bowditch and ‘Paul The Poet’ hold regular Friday night Open Mic nights to a very traditional London pub audience. It is like a cross between the 1890s, the 1930s and the 2010s. I could imagine geezers having knees-ups at the drop of an ‘H’.

Last night was an even more than normally unusual night because, as well as occasional open spots, there was a tribute to Malcolm Hardee, betwixt his birthday on 5th January and the day he died, 31st January.

There was a table-top shrine with a photo of Malcolm and joss-sticks with the smell, Steve Bowditch claimed, of sandalwood, cedarwood, Brut and Vosene.

The evening included interesting local guitarist Danny Alex, Ian Breslin the acapella punk poet, soiled tissue juggling, selections from Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! and Greatest Show on Legs originator Martin Soan’s always wonderful-to-watch but painful-to-perform version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller using six rubber bands.

There were also 12 minutes of video clips from Jody VandenBurg’s long-gestating documentary Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There. One of the most interesting quotes in the film is from Malcolm’s long-term chum Jools Holland, who says: “He was like a Dickens character.”

Part of being a Dickensian-style character, I think, was (in public, at least) that he was larger-than-life, almost a cartoon caricature of someone who did not care about consequences.

Martin Potter, who started the infamous Tunnel Palladium comedy club with Malcolm, says in this future film: “He would always do what other people would like to do but didn’t dare do.”

Acapella punk Ian Breslin, who organised last night’s Malcolm tribute, told the crowded back bar at the Star & Garter:

“As some of you know, every time someone famous died, Malcolm would have a bet on the Queen Mother dying too. So, eventually it happens. The Queen Mother has just died but Malcolm has not had a bet on it happening. I’m beside myself to go down to Up the Creek and see what he’s going to say. I’m with a group of people. Some have never seen Malcolm perform before.

“I say to this woman: You do realise he’s going to say something about the Queen Mother in the first five seconds?

He wouldn’t dare, she says.

“I say: He’s going to fucking rip into her in the first five seconds.

No. No, she says, that won’t happen.

So, I say, you want a bottle of vodka on it?

“She shook my hand.

“Malcolm walks on stage and says: The cunt’s dead…

“A bottle of vodka in my hand, yeah?

“People walk out and get really upset and everything.

“Malcolm says: Still a good fuck, though…”

Ian dedicated his next poem/song to Malcolm.

“I’ve had a tee-shirt made,” Ian said.

I was pleased – indeed, humbled – to see it was a photo of the annual Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality which I organise – a microphone rising stiffly at an angle above two circles.

“This is called Dig ‘Em Up…” Ian said.

The poem/song was a sweet little ditty which started:

Had your picture on my wall
Shame you died when I was small
You looked at me through paper eyes

and later included the fine lines:

Thora Hird – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Nice old bird – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Mary Shelley – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Far too smelly – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Lena Zavaroni – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Far too bony – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em

It is good to see Malcolm’s memory being honoured. The only downside to the evening was at the very end, when Martin Soan told me of his disappointment:

“I thought we should polish it off in the right way for a Malcolm Hardee evening. I was going to get my kit off – fold my clothes very precisely, put my shoes on top of my folded clothes, my socks inside my shoes. But I was told, if I walked back through the bar, they wouldn’t like it. It’s a sad reflection on modern life when an Englishman can’t walk naked through a local pub.”

How true. How true.

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