Tag Archives: Paul Ricketts

The Edinburgh Fringe bog blog, toilet humour + replacement for crystal balls

Me with Copstick at yesterday’s Grouchy Club

Me with Copstick at yesterday’s Grouchy Club in Edinburgh

Yesterday’s Grouchy Club was fairly full and, on the audio recording, not perfect with the sound of a fan – well, we actually had two fans, something the Laughing Horse Free Festival is very good at providing for stuffy Fringe rooms.

When Kate Copstick and I arrived, we found a small brown ‘willy warmer’ aka ‘cock sock’ on the floor. No surprise there. This is the Edinburgh Fringe.

The educational part of yesterday’s Grouchy Club for me, though, was comedian Luca Cupani telling us that some woman had been putting on a show in which she told people’s future from reading their cocks. I’ve heard of people looking into crystal balls, but this was a new one. Comic Paul Ricketts told us that the woman had discovered her ability “at a party” though it was unclear what sort of party and, indeed, how she read the future in men’s cocks. There were a couple of feminist queries about whether she could read ladies’ futures. But sadly she has now left Edinburgh, so we can’t ask her.

Paul Ricketts was also able to tell us about his adventure the previous day in which he performed a comedy event – Now Wash Your Hands – Again! – at all of the Big Four fringe venues.

Well, more specifically, he had performed a comedy show with guests in the gents toilets in all four venues.

“It was done,” he told us, “to protest at the unreasonably high cost of the Big Four venue rooms by performing one show within each of the four venues’ toilets on one afternoon.”

He was angrily ejected by staff at the Underbelly and Gilded Balloon, politely ejected by the Pleasance and, of the four, only Assembly wholeheartedly embraced the concept.

There is a brief video of Paul’s toilet crawl on youTube.

His quick rundown of the previous afternoon’s events is:

1. The Pleasance Courtyard – only Chella Quint, who was going to sing a song about menstruation, turned up for the four guest spots. Chella hid in the gents toilet cubicle awaiting her introduction but unfortunately we were thrown out (very politely) before that could happen. A disappointed audience of four were ushered away.

2. The Underbelly (Cowgate) – An enthusiastic crowd of eight turned up with more trying to get in but, after 7 minutes, a very annoyed member of staff ejected us from the building. He asked if we had permission to perform or film. We said No… He was very confused: “You’re filming in the toilets,” he stammered. “It doesn’t make any sense!”  

3. The Gilded Balloon (Teviot Place) – A tough toilet to perform in. Too big, too empty, too bright, too many urinals for my taste. We did 15 minutes but only one bloke stayed for the whole show.

4. The Assembly (George Square) – The disabled/baby change toilet was perfect. It was easy to flyer potential audience members and even fellow comedian Jimeoin thought it was “a good idea and a good venue”… But unfortunately had just been to the toilet. A lovely audience of five turned up after our first punter came in, stood on my iPhone and then pulled the door behind him to use the convenience for its intended purpose. A member of the Assembly staff came in to have a look, laughed and let the show continue. 

“Was it worth it?” I asked Paul.

“I made £2.15p,” he told me, “but we proved that you can perform in the Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly venues without paying thousands of pounds – as long as you’re prepared to do it in the smallest room.

It seemed suitable – having established the level of humour – that standout shows I saw yesterday included Christ on a Bike – a fine show in which the Saviour, St Peter, Mary Magdalene and the ‘Three Wise Men’ (ladies with skimpy skirts and painted-on beards) gyrated and sang for an hour courtesy of The Voodoo Rooms, this year doing good business with bad taste. I look forward to Mohammed on a Moped next year.

Miss Behave watches her lovely assistant ‘Harriet'

Miss Behave watches as her lovely assistant ‘Harriet’ dances

My evening was rounded off by Miss Behave’s Gameshow, with a riotously happy audience split between iPhone owners and ‘Others’. I got a point for the iPhone owners by being the oldest person in the room. If only I got £5 for every time this was the case. I think there is more to develop in Miss Behave’s Gameshow, as there is an admirable foundation of cynicism underpinning the whole thing demonstrating that, in life, fairness and honesty are not what you should expect.

Returning back at my flat around midnight – fairly early for the Fringe – there was an e-mail from Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg Throwing Federation.

In this blog three days ago, I mentioned he was in the the cardiac care unit of Lincoln Hospital sniffing nitroglycerin.

His message last night told me:

Just back from operating theatre. 5 cm of artery completely blocked. Rodded. Two stents fitted. Morphine wearing off a bit. No pain, just zonked. Won’t be allowed to travel to Edinburgh.  Have a good one.

The annual national Scottish Russian Egg Roulette Championships will be supervised by his deputy, John Deptford, during the increasingly prestigious two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Counting House, Edinburgh, on Friday 28th August.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy

Bad signs at the Edinburgh Fringe while I bristle and Lewis Schaffer kisses me

Lewis Schaffer bestowed his blessings on me yesterday

Lewis Schaffer bestowed his blessings on me

I used to have a beard for 25 years, then cut it off. I think I am going to grow one again but have not yet figured how I can explain this as anything other than laziness.

And I may spend one day without wearing my spectacles.

A couple of hours after I posted yesterday’s blog mentioning Lewis Schaffer, I inevitably bumped into him. He kissed me on the head and launched into his new schtick where he tries to persuade anyone wearing glasses to stop wearing them because it is simply a conspiracy by opticians to sell unnecessary spectacles and the eyes will re-adjust by themselves.

This is partly true, of course. Only partly. But I was always very long-sighted and maybe do only need specs for close-up reading. I might give it a try for a day.

The Rule of Three obliges me to do a third thing but, short of donating my stomach and man-boobs to Oxfam, I don’t yet know what that might be.

Edinburgh Fringe fever may have set in, as it does every year around the halfway point of the festival.

This morning, I received a long e-mail from Sean Thoburn comparing Lewis Schaffer to the dwarf planet Pluto and expounding a theory in which each of the planets orbiting the Sun can be compared to comedians orbiting Edinburgh in August while “reviewers are like one of those Voyager satellites sent up to send back pictures of undiscovered worlds and maybe comets represent those US comics who make a brief appearance at a particular Fringe and take years to return and get far more attention than their fleeting appearances deserve.”

The e-mail was sent at 09.12am, so I doubt if drink or drugs can be blamed.

It can only be Fringe fever.

Ceci n'est pas une affiche Édimbourg

A previous year’s poster for the toilet run

Yesterday, Paul Ricketts was supposed to be doing his long-planned toilet crawl of Edinburgh – Now Wash Your Hands – Again – in which comedy was to be performed in the toilets at each of the Big Four venues at the Fringe, starting with the Pleasance Courtyard venue. I have asked Paul for a first-hand report of what happened. I could not go because his 3.30pm start time clashed with my Grouchy Club show (3.45pm-4.45pm at the Counting House).

On Day 3 of The Grouchy Club yesterday, audience figures rose again to those of Day One with half the audience being normal Fringe-going punters. This is interesting because the show has only been promoted through social media. There are no posters, no flyers and it does not appear in the main Fringe Programme. It only appears in the Free Festival programme and on the What’s On Where posters in the venue itself. So people appear to be returning to the true spirit of the Fringe and randomly going to shows simply because of the time slot, not because they have any idea what the show actually is.

The What’s On Where posters and signage in The Counting House is fairly good, which is not standard at the Fringe.

The Cowgatehead venue – fought over and proudly won by the PBH Free Fringe – is a disaster. The tiny doorway onto the street is barely visible and not even clearly identified as the Cowgatehead. Once inside, there is a vast bar and music area unrelated to the Free Fringe rooms and you have to spot that you have to double back, go down steps and then turn corners and go up stairs to get to the upper storeys which have venue spaces called things like UP2L. Even if you get vaguely near the rooms, the pieces of paper with their identification numbers/letters tend to be on the outside of the doors of the rooms so that, near performance times when doors are left open, they are hidden from sight.

The seagulls in Edinburgh are not small

Seagulls in the streets are more visible than shows in venues

This policy of putting names on the outside of doors which, when open, are completely invisible seems also to have been followed by C Venues at their Nova building – and probably in their other buildings, as C Venues have always been notable for appallingly bad or non-existent signage within their buildings. There are giant bleedin’ signs outside proclaiming what the venue is. Good. But, once inside, you have to guess, explore and try to find someone who knows which floor or room a show is in. There ARE some small notices, but hidden on walls amid an overwhelming visual patchwork of brightly-coloured show posters.

There should be a prize (perhaps there will be) for worst signage at the Fringe. Just the Tonic might win. As of last night, there appear to be no signs of any kind to any performance rooms in their Mash House venue. And the interior of their Caves venues – particularly for the shows they admirably ‘saved’ from the Cowgatehead debacle – are utterly incomprehensible. I half expect to find a Minotaur in there.

Yes. You need signs to get people inside a building from the street.

But… Surprise! Surprise! You also need to have clear signs to which shows are in which rooms inside the venue. Otherwise punters will be pissed-off with both the guilty venue and the innocent act and, after a shit user experience, the punters may well only go to the venue once.

There also appeared to be no signage inside the Frankenstein’s venue yesterday, where comedy magician Stu Turner was trying out his interesting Haven’t a Clue! format in which six comics play a version of charades in which you can speak.

Later, Sara Mason got a good audience, despite being in the Mash House venue, for her show Burt Lancaster Pierced My Hymen (When I Was 11) – one of the few Fringe shows to live up to an OTT title.

Luca Cupani has the good fortune to perform his show Still Falling on Bob Slayer’s double decker BlundaBus – you can hardly miss a double-decker bus painted in bright colours and it only has one top deck.

Visibility is everything in Edinburgh. Something performers understand but venue runners too often think only applies to the exterior not the interior of their venues.

Life-size poster of Tanyalee Davis by the BlundaBus

Visibility is everything at Edinburgh Fringe – A life-size poster of Tanyalee Davis by the BlundaBus

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy

Cunning Stunt obsessed comic steals all three Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

Adam Taffler at the Grouchy Club

Adam Taffler – Grouchy Club last year

And so the insanity has begun.

The Edinburgh Fringe has started.

Three-and-a-half weeks when anarchy is the norm.

Yesterday, it turned out that both the Grouchy Club and comedian Paul Kerenza’s show are booked into the same room at the Counting House 3.45-4.45pm on 14th August. So – as it does not affect us as much – and because we are so sweet – Kate Copstick and my Grouchy Club chat shows will now start on the 15th August not the 14th.

Performing at the Fringe is like a needle in a haystack trying to get noticed in the Amazonian Jungle. The haystack may stand out when you see it, but the Amazon is a big place. And, even after you find the haystack, you still have to find the needle.

Paul Ricketts who, in this blog two weeks ago, mentioned he was organising a comedy show in a toilet, tells me he now has several comedians interested but still has no confirmed (or maybe that should be engaged) venue:

Ceci n'est pas une affiche Édimbourg

Women wanted for stand-up urinal comedy

“There’s interest in the show,” he says, “and it’s been nominated on the Sell This Gig Out! Facebook page, even though it’s impossible to sell-out a show when no-one knows what day or in which toilet it will be held. But there is already standing room only. And I would also like to reach out to women comics to get involved and break down this last bastion of male oppression. If any ladies want you to do stand-up comedy in a Gents, they can contact me via the event page on Facebook.“

Paul helpfully sent me a link to the YouTube video of his last toilet exploits.

Twonkey this is a “haunting photo

Twonkey says this “haunting photo” is from a final rehearsal of Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop

Meanwhile the inexplicable Mr Twonkey sent me an inexplicable photo of what he claims was the final rehearsal for his show Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop.

And the unavoidable Lewis Schaffer, appearing in his first play since his schooldays, sent me a message: “I’m super busy trying to remember my lines so I don’t destroy Giant Leap the play I am in AND also I am thinking about the funny stuff I need to say at my own show Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, £5.”

Lewis Schaffer is never knowingly under-sold.

Which brings us to the core of this blog.

Lewis Schaffer (extreme right) in rehearsal for the Giant Leap

Lewis Schaffer (extreme right) in rehearsal for the Giant Leap

As I – perhaps foolishly – decided this year to come up to Edinburgh on an overnight coach rather than by car, I – perhaps foolishly – left the three increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards with performer Juliette Burton. She promised to deliver them to me later today – she is driving up from London to Edinburgh today. At least, that is what she claimed.

Juliette has always shown an obsessive, possibly unhealthy interest in the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

Now, this morning, I have received an e-mail from her with photos attached and a link to an 8-second online video. The photos are of a letter she has written to me. It says:


Dear John

Ransom letter, page 1

Ransom letter, page 1

As you know you gave me your awards. Thankyou for trusting me/falling prey to my masterplan. 

I’ve wanted to get my hands on these awards FOR YEARS! Now I have them I thought about not letting them go. I thought about holding them to ransom (because, let’s face it, that’s the only way anyone performing at EdFringe will make any money, right). 

But I’m keen to challenge mental health stigma and misconceptions about people like me, a known nutcase, so I thought the image of “crazed mad person holding awards for ransom; psycho lunatic threatens Fleming” may not help that cause… 

Ransom letter, page 2

Ransom letter, page 2

So instead I thought I’d permanent-mark my name on all 3. But my own plan was foiled… I awoke today, ready to head to Edinburgh with the awards, with permanent marker in hand… only to find the attached security camera footage. And 3 empty boxes.

Your awards seem to have escaped.

If you want to see your 3 empty boxes again, please send me £1,000,000,000,000 … in Scottish notes. 

Ransom letter, page 3

Ransom letter, page 3

With that, I might break even this festival.

Yours,

Juliette.

PS No, I don’t know why I wrote this and then emailed you the picture of it rather than just type it in an email… Artistic? Old fashioned? Crazy?


This is the 8-second video she linked to.

Juliette is fast catching up with Lewis Schaffer in the self-promotion stakes.

Juliette Burton with Russian Egg Roulette medal

Juliette proudly displays 2014 Russian Egg Roulette medal

She is also appearing in the official Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championship at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on 28th August. At least, she thinks she is. She will learn I am not a man to mess with.

But, even if I ban her from that, she is still up at the Fringe performing her Look At Me show (6 performances only) AND her Happy Hour show (9 performances) AND is appearing in the tenth anniversary Abnormally Funny People shows.

Look At Me - Fringe 2015

Happy Hour - Fringe 2015

Inevitably – this being the Fringe – entirely separate from Juliette, last night I was sent a link to the new Abnormally Funny People video.

And now I have very slight toothache.

Fairly regular – every third year or so – I get toothache in Edinburgh and have to get dental treatment.

Welcome to the Fringe. Share my pain.

3 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh, Festivals, PR

Edinburgh toilet humour, some bearded French Canadians, Death on the Fringe

This morning, I received an e-mail about the Edinburgh Fringe from comic Paul Ricketts. It was something he had actually posted on a Facebook page. It read:

Ceci n'est pas une affiche Édimbourg

Ceci n’est pas une affiche Édimbourg maybe

Four years ago I sent out a press release for a hoax show to be performed in the gents portacabin toilet cubicle in the Pleasance Courtyard.

It was supposed to be taking the piss out of the expense of hiring rooms at the ‘Big Four’ Fringe venues – something which I can’t afford to do.

Strangely, enough people (including US Comic Tom Green) took this show seriously and I went ahead and did a performance on August 20th, 5.30pm in cubicle 3. I charged a penny for all those who want to watch – I made 11p! 

I am considering bringing the show back this year (from Aug 6 to 17) this time as a mixed bill show on dates and big 4 venues toilets to be announced. Everyone is welcome.

Later in the day, I got another e-mail from Paul. this one read:

So far, three comics are willing to do spots/slots in Big 4 venue toilet. I am now SERIOUSLY considering bringing the show back! 

Barbu

The men who conquered the world with timber

At almost exactly the same time, I got sent a picture of three semi-naked men in black trunks and one suspended in a red bag. The accompanying e-mail read:

After having conquered the world with timber, Cirque Alfonse will now hit Edinburgh Fringe with its latest show Barbu (Bearded) Electro-Trad Cabaret

It is two weeks before the Fringe starts, but the quirkiness has started already.

It is probably unfair or in bad taste to use the word ‘quirky’ for my Skype conversation with Robert James Peacock up in Edinburgh this morning. He is the Managing Editor of the TV Bomb website.

“Death,” I started. “Tell me about death.”

“I am,” said Robert James Peacock, “ Director of Death on the Fringe, My main job is working freelance doing arts marketing but last year, as a voluntary thing, I started working for a charity called the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and one of their campaigns is a thing called Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief.

“It’s an alliance of various end-of-life associations – a lot of hospices are involved, a lot of NHS Trusts – and it’s run by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care. They’re promoting another Scotland-wide festival in November called To Absent Friends.

Robert James Peacock

Robert James Peacock talked from Edinburgh this morning

“The basis is that we, as Brits, are not very good at talking about death and dealing with death. Everyone has to go through it sometime – everyone loses someone close to them – and, if you don’t talk about it, you don’t necessarily confront all the issues involved with it.

“You don’t know if gran wants to be buried or cremated; people don’t leave wills; people don’t know how to support people who have been through a bereavement.

Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief is a year-round campaign doing all sorts of activities and they came to me last year and said: We would like to do something during the Edinburgh Fringe. So we came up with this idea: Death on the Fringe. Basically, all the shows on the Fringe to do with death, bereavement, grief – put them all together in one programme to raise the profile of the campaign. It also gets more people to see some shows and kick-starts a debate about death and bereavement.

“It went well last year and, this year, we’ve had a bit more time to get all the existing shows together, so we have also programmed our own series of lectures – academics and thinkers – about death.

Richard Smith brother of comedian Arthur Smith

Ex-BMJ’s Richard Smith, brother of comedian Arthur Smith

“We have the former British Medical Journal editor Richard Smith, who’s the brother of comedian Arthur Smith, doing a lecture on 31st August about the ‘up side’ of death – based on the idea that, if no-one ever died, there would not be space for all the people who are born.

“And we have Professor Scott Murray, the Chair of Primary Palliative Care at the University of Edinburgh, comparing death in Africa with death in Scotland and how we deal with it differently.”

“Is,” I asked, “death in Scotland any different to death in England? Is there a psychological difference?”

“Well,” replied Robert, “the Celtic tradition of death is very different to the English tradition, if you think about things like Irish wakes which are very different to the Anglo Saxon treatment of death.”

“I suppose,” I said, “Scots just remain dour.”

“All the performers have been very supportive of death on the Fringe,” said Robert. “Lynn Ruth Miller’s involved.”

Lynn Ruth Miller wants to rub some matzo balls

The inimitable Lynn Ruth: nearer to God, than thee

“Well,” I said, “I guess she’s closer to death than most.”

“Last year,” Robert reminded me, “her show was called Not Dead Yet. This year, it’s called Get a Grip. We don’t want things that are necessarily serious things about death; we want things that are contemplative, reflective, which make people think about how they want to live their lives.

“It’s not just comedy. We have a couple of plays at the Traverse Theatre. One is called A Gambler’s Guide to Dying about someone who placed all his savings on a bet that he would live to see the year 2000. The other one is called Am I Dead Yet? which is being done in conjunction with the emergency services and is about how death is no longer a moment: it’s a process.

“Then there’s a comedy play – The Ascension of Mrs Leech – in which a Mrs Brown-esque figure dies and ends up causing trouble in heaven.”

“You’re not,” I asked, “associated with the Dr Death or Mel Moon shows?’

Am I Dead Yet?

Am I Dead Yet? Live as part of Death on the Fringe

“Well,” explained Robert, “because the charity is very involved in things like hospices, Dr Death was a difficult one for us, because putting that in the programme would be almost like endorsing assisted suicide. It is a topic to debate, but we didn’t want to go so far as looking like we were endorsing it. We don’t want people to assume assisted suicide is the way to go if they haven’t explored other issues.

“With Mel Moon, although she’s now separated from Dr Death, it’s a bit too late to start adding her to the programme.”

“How,” I asked, “are you going to develop Death on the Fringe next year?”

“Well, this year, we took the step of programming some of our own stuff, like the lectures and a couple of cabaret evenings. Next year we might actually start looking at finding a space where we can host our own events throughout the Fringe.”

An unexplained giant sloth

Unexplained giant sloth attacked (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“It’s very interesting,” I said, “because Edinburgh does like meaty, serious subjects.”

I talked to Robert via Skype this morning.

When I got home tonight, there was an unexplained photograph from this blog’s Canadian correspondent Anna Smith.

It appeared to show a giant sloth being attacked by a giant cat while a Chinese gentleman looked on.

I was also sent a YouTube link to a video of Cirque Alfonse, the bearded French Canadians. They seem very energetic.

4 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Death

Edinburgh Fringe: Jim Davidson (the C word is a term of affection in Scotland)

At the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon, conversation between me, my co-host Kate Copstick – doyenne of comedy reviewers – and comedians in the audience turned to comic Jim Davidson.

Jim Davidson’s current Edinburgh Fringe show

Davidson’s current Edinburgh Fringe show

Copstick said that a non-British comedian who did not know anything about the great entertainer had seen his current show at the Edinburgh Fringe and had told her it was fantastic.

“He loved it,” said Copstick. “He said Jim Davidson was a great comedian and was just like a normal bloke, doing blokey comedy.”

“Maybe…” said audience member/comedian Matt Price. “I think he’s technically good, but…”

“Have you seem his show this year?” asked Copstick.

“No,” said Matt.

“Well don’t judge,” Copstick told Matt.

“I can’t avoid judging,” said audience member/comedian Paul Ricketts, “because I’ve worked with him. I know he’s a cunt.”

“But half the comics on the alternative scene,” said Copstick, “are cunts…”

“I know,” said Paul.

Matt Roper (left), Copstick, Paul Ricketts at Grouchy Club

Kate Copstick with Paul Ricketts (right) outside Grouchy Club

“I’m sorry,” Copstick said, apologising to two ordinary members of the public from Tasmania who were inexplicably in an audience otherwise filled by comedy industry people. “Cunt is a term of…”

“It is,” I explained, “like an Australian calling someone a ‘bastard’ – It is a term of affection in Scotland.”

“A lot of comics start a bit cuntish,” said Copstick, “but it takes many, many years…”

“A lot of hard work,” agreed Paul.

“…to become a total cunt,” concluded Copstick. “I think it is a very dangerous thing to judge what somebody is like on-stage by what they are like off-stage. If I did that, most people at the Fringe would be getting one-star reviews from me, because they are arseholes.”

Jim’s panto Sinderella - see what he did there?

Jim’s Sinderella – See what he did there?

“It is though,” said Paul, “very hard to divorce the art from the person when that person has annoyed you so much. I worked on Jim Davidson’s panto Sinderella at the Cambridge Theatre – I was a wood-pusher – I was working backstage – and I was on the verge of getting off with this wardrobe mistress, who was a very good friend of his.

“I went back to her place – gorgeous blonde – and she put on a video of the previous Jim Davidson pantomime and, after 20 minutes, I just thought No! I had to pretend to go to sleep – and turn down the sex – because I couldn’t stand it. That is real punishment and he doesn’t even know he’s done it.”

“What was wrong with watching the video?” I asked.

“It is a well-known fact,” said Copstick, “that Jim Davidson appears in very few comedians’ wank banks.”

“What about Jim Davidson’s Funeral?” I asked.

Jim Davidson’s Funeral - put the ‘ham’ into shambolic

The show that put the ‘ham’ into shambolic

“Well,” Copstick said, “among the many things I loathe – because I have lived long and every year the list of things I loathe gets longer – quite high up is performers who come up to the Fringe and only do one day.”

A couple of nights ago, I saw the terrifically funny one-off show shambles that was Jim Davidson’s Funeral, perpetrated by comedy double act Ellis & Rose. They won an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award last year for a publicity stunt in which Rose punched Ellis in the face causing actual bodily harm simply so they could get publicity by claiming he was attacked in the street by a punter outraged by their performance of Jimmy Savile: The Punch and Judy Show.

Kate Copstick failed to see Jim Davidson’s Funeral this week but, no matter, Ellis & Rose wrote a 5-star review of their own show claiming it was her review and posted it all over the internet. It read:

Ellis & Rose have cemented themselves as arch-villains of the Edinburgh Fringe… I’m now quitting as head critic at The Scotsman, as nothing is worth reviewing after this  – Kate Copstick

Another fake Broadway Baby hits the stands...

Another fake Broadway Baby hits the stands

I can’t see this fake review making it to the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award short list.

Nor the fake issues of Broadway Baby – another one appeared yesterday – as Barry Ferns got an award for the original idea last year.

A more obvious attempt to get a Cunning Stunt Award happened a few days ago when Frankie Boyle fans were enticed to the Pleasance Dome by the implied promise of a ‘secret gig’ by their comedy hero.

At the gig, comic Luke McQueen walked out on stage, said “Give me a cheer if you’re excited about seeing Frankie Boyle”, then explained that he (McQueen) could not get an audience for his own show, so he had to lie to draw a crowd.

McQueen told the Chortle comedy website: “They weren’t very happy. But I was confident, once they heard my comedy, the mood would change. To my surprise, it didn’t. They seemed quite upset that I wasn’t Frankie Boyle and began to leave. I offered to do a bit of Frankie’s material if they stayed but they weren’t interested. Some people said some pretty mean things as they left.” He told Chortle that the response was ‘demoralising’ but said he might try again: “Maybe I’ll try a bigger venue like the O2 and saying it’s Michael McIntyre. I think his audience will be more patient.”

As I told the Grouchy Club audience yesterday afternoon: “There is a heated debate to be had next Monday about whether stupidity is any barrier to being nominated for or indeed winning an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. It is arguable that it may be a positive advantage.”

“I love cunning stunts,” said Copstick, “that are done by people who are clearly idiots… Ellis & Rose are clearly idiots.”

Gareth Ellis (left) & Rich Rose at Jim Davidson’s Funeral

Ellis (left) & Rose at the Funeral. Jim Davidson allegedly criticised them as “intellectuals” – but are they merely idiots?

“They’re not idiots,” I remonstrated. “They’re just mentally deranged.”

“No,” argued Copstick. “It’s a fine line, John, but I think they’re idiots.”

“I think it’s desperation,” isn’t it?” said Matt Price. “Everyone’s desperate to get…”

“Desperation is good for comedy,” I suggested.

“Why not spend ten years learning how to be a comedian, though,” asked Matt, “rather than thinking about fame?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” I asked. “If you had the choice – ten years at the coalface or come up for one day and do Jim Davidson’s Funeral for self-publicity?”

“Oh no,” said Matt. “I’m not knocking those two…”

“Well obviously, if you were a cunt,” said Copstick, “you would do Jim Davidson’s Funeral.”

“And remember,” I pointed out to the two Tasmanians, “that the word ‘cunt’ is a term of affection.”

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy

The comedian and magician who used to tear his name off publicity photos

Mystery man of comedy Ray Presto on stage at Up The Arts

“The first time I met Ray was in 2004 at a Linda Trayers gig in Kilburn where Russell Brand headlined and only three people turned up,” Paul Ricketts told me yesterday.

“The gig was pulled but, Russell Brand still demanded his money (£100), leaving Linda Trayers in tears. Straightaway, Ray saw his opportunity to console Linda whilst at the same time continually asking for a gig.

“If he fancied and wanted to impress any lady or promoter he would do his ‘£5 of my own money’ trick which did have overtone of bribery when he paid over his ‘Bank Of Presto’ note with his own face printed on it.”

As well as being an excellent comedian, Paul Ricketts runs the Up The Arts comedy club in London (with Verity Welch) and booked Ray Presto regularly. I asked Paul about Ray Presto because, when he died aged 74 last week, Ray was said in an obituary to be a “stalwart of the London open mic circuit” and “a regular at clubs including Pear Shaped and, most notably, the Comedy Store‘s King Gong show, where he would receive decidedly mixed reactions from audiences… He returned time after time to the show – until 2009, when he was asked to stop, after a new booker took over.”

This intrigued me, because I had never seen his act and the phrasehe would receive decidedly mixed reactions from audiences” sounded interesting. Especially when Fix comedy entrepreneur Harry Deansway wrote in the obituary: “Famed for his strange but smart appearance, unique delivery of out-of-date jokes and magic tricks, Ray Presto often left audiences baffled. Was this a well thought-out character act, or a delusional Seventies throwback? Was he in on the joke? ”

Paul Ricketts told me:

“Ray was the last of the line of strange acts that I saw during the mid to late naughties – which included Phil Zimmerman, Joel Elnaugh, Linda Trayers, Persephone Lewin and Bry Nylon. Some of these acts were knowingly playing with the conventions of stand-up, while others could be seen as deluded in their ambitions.”

“Ray,” Paul told me, “stood apart because he did take himself very seriously. Because of his previous incarnation as a magician he felt he had the experience and stagecraft to make it as a comic. Right from the start he aggressively sold himself as a comedy performer.

“He became a monthly fixture at the Comedy Store Gong Show, cleverly realising that his Happy Days Are Here Again intro music took up at least one minute of the five minutes he needed to survive. His material was made up of inoffensive old jokes – the sort you’d find in Christmas crackers – delivered at a pace that would make Stewart Lee sound like fast-talking Adam Bloom. It was this slow, deliberate delivery which made him distinctive and generated much of the laughter.

“But his self-belief meant that he didn’t like to take advice from anyone. Don Ward of the Comedy Store liked Ray, gave him several 10 minutes spots and wanted him to develop his act from old jokes mixed with magic tricks to include more observations about his life and age. Ray, however, was wary of moving in this direction as he didn’t want to reveal too much about himself. Instead he tried to add more ‘racy’ material – notably a joke about underage sex – which led to him being immediately ‘gonged off’ at the Comedy Store.”

Anthony Miller of Pear Shaped remembers that Ray “became so successful at the Comedy Store that they had to ban him from the gong as he was undermining the object of the Gong Show – to be cold, intimidating and unwelcoming. He told me he didn’t understand why they stopped him doing the gong and seemed a bit put out by it and so I suggested to him that probably someone like him making it ‘human’ was undermining it a bit and that he shouldn’t let that undermine any relationship he had built up with them if they still gave him gigs. To which he replied That is very deep.”

Paul Ricketts tells me Ray was very ambitious, but would hand out publicity photos of himself with the corner torn off, presumably because they were old photographs and had his real name printed on them.

“He was as impatient as any younger comic about his progression in stand-up,” Paul says, “He would badger people for gigs and hand out leaflets and photos to any and everyone. Once he’d been on or turned up at a gig hoping to get on, Ray would heckle some acts by falling asleep in the front two rows. Not only would this disconcert those on stage, it would disconcert the audience who would be scared to wake him up as they weren’t sure if Ray was dead or alive. In any event ‘falling asleep’ would ensure that Ray became the centre of attention.

“Despite me asking Ray many times,” Paul told me, “he wasn’t forthcoming about his past – all he ever said was that he was a magician from Hull.”

Harry Deansway reveals that Ray moved from Hull to London in 2002 “with the aim of getting more work as a writer, but struggled to get published. Off stage, he was a committed atheist and hedonist, having published a book in 1972 called Choose Your Pleasurea collection of essays on the pros and cons of hedonism and self-indulgence. Off the back of this he got regular writing work as a columnist in Penthouse magazine, which he contributed to under his real name David Shaw… Although he will be remembered by many on the circuit, it will not be for what he wanted to be remembered for – as a serious writer.”

Paul Ricketts adds: “I had some political conversations with him and he was a libertarian in the way that he instinctively distrusted Government, especially the tax authorities. This could explain the occasion when he asked to perform his magic act at a children’s centre but changed his mind when he was asked to give his bank account details and undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check.

“On another occasion, he asked me how he could open a bank account under his stage name so he could avoid paying tax.

“All I really knew about Ray was that he had an eye for the ladies, he was ambitious to do well in stand-up and he seemed to have enough money to annually spend the winter months in Thailand and showed me pictures of himself strolling through Thai food markets wearing Bermuda shorts.”

3 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Magic