Tag Archives: Perrier

Why Richard Gadd won a Perrier Prize at the Edinburgh Fringe but justifiably failed to get a Cunning Stunt Award

Richard Gadd with his used-to-be Perrier Award

Richard Gadd with what used to be called the Perrier Award

Richard Gadd’s first words to me were: “You thought I would cancel this meeting, didn’t you, John? You thought I would be too big for you now. But I like you, John, even though everyone else doesn’t.”

He was joking.

I think.

After he was nominated for – but failed to win – this year’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award back in August, he texted me a message saying: “You. Are. Dead. To. Me.”

He was joking.

I think.

Yes, he was.

Yes.

We nominated him for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award on the basis that he had caused a buzz at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe with his show Waiting For Gaddot – mostly because it was stunningly original but also because it was almost impossible to get in to see it because there were far more people wanting to see it than there was space in the small room he had booked at the Banshee Labyrinth venue.

So, this year, he booked his new show Monkey See, Monkey Do into an even smaller room at the Banshee Labyrinth, meaning the difficulty of getting in – and the consequent buzz – was even greater. We checked with him and he said, Yes, indeed he had booked himself into the smaller room as a cunning stunt to create more buzz.

Richard Gadd winning that ‘other’ award in Edinburgh

Richard Gadd winning that ‘other’ comedy award in Edinburgh

He failed to win our award, but he did go on to win the other main comedy prize at the Fringe – the one that is forever called the Perrier Award even though the sponsors have changed over the years.

“So,” I told him this week, “booking yourself into a smaller room was a very clever cunning stunt…”

“Well, no,” he replied. “It wasn’t a stunt.”

“You told us it was!” I said.

“No, it wasn’t a stunt,” Richard repeated. “When I visualised the show, there was only one room in the whole of Edinburgh I visualised – the Banshee Labyrinth Cinema Room. I needed a screen that was bigger than me. I needed a screen that would engulf me and engulf the audience.

“I thought: What do I do? Do I sacrifice audience numbers and money for artistic gain? And the answer was: Absolutely. I didn’t do it to create a buzz or as a cunning stunt or anything like that. It was a genuine artistic decision that I made.”

The poster image for Monkey See, Monkey Do

The poster image for award-winning Monkey See, Monkey Do

“And Monkey See, Monkey Do went on to win the Perrier,” I said. “That can be life-changing.”

“Well,” he replied, “I’ve had a lot of interest since then, but I’m not a mainstream act. It used to be, back in the day, that someone would win it and get a TV series straight away. But those days are over.

“I think now, if you win the Perrier, there is a more logical route towards the Have I Got News For Yous and Mock The Weeks. But that’s not my route either because I’m a very alternative act.

“I’m very interested in the art performance and I’m very theatrical, so those sort of (panel show) offers did not come through the door, but a whole bunch of people did get in touch who do want to work with me. Television companies and theatre companies. Writing work, drama work, stage work. And better acting auditions.

“People seem to take you more seriously. They know who you are – you’re not just a sort of underground comedian this, cult comedian that. People now know who I am and I think that’s important – and they know I take myself seriously and I’m still young – I’m 26.

“People don’t really trust people in their mid-twenties but, if you win the Perrier, if they have whittled down 1,000-odd shows in Edinburgh, it’s no easy feat to win that award. So at least I’m not being patronised any more.”

“A lot of people,” I said, “thought you should have been nominated for the Perrier last year.”

Richard Gadd wearing nob shoes to promote his Soho Theatre show

“All my other comedies have been very -in-your-face romps”

“Well, I think my work until very recently has been very polarising, very in-your-face and some people don’t like their eardums blasted or their eyes tainted with images of this and that. I think this year it set out to make a difference and to change opinions on things and it did tackle some big subjects.

“All my other comedies have been joyful romps or very -in-your-face romps but this year it set out to say something. I’ve had a challenging and complicated life in a lot of ways and this year I was tackling a subject that not many people speak about.”

“There is,” I prompted, “an autobiographical revelation in the show.”

“Yes, I use an autobiographical account in the show to reveal this information about myself. It’s an incident I went through that no person should go through and it caused a lot of turmoil and upheaval in my life, especially as a man.”

“I don’t want to give too much away,” I said.

“You can say sexual assault,” Richard told me.

“So the type of show you did,” I said, “was different this year…”

“I think the difference,” replied Richard, “was that, this year, it had a lot of heart and a lot of soul. It was trying to challenge views on masculinity. That was quite important to me. I’ve always felt I was a man but, after the incident, my masculinity was taken away from me.”

“Can I include that?” I asked.

“You can put what you like but just put me in a bloody good light, for the love of fuckery.”

“Righto,” I said.

Richard Gadd wants to challenge YOUR views on masculinity

Richard Gadd wants to challenge YOUR views on masculinity

“I wanted,” Richard continued, “to challenge the mainstream media definition of masculinity, cos masculinity needs to shift now, in this day and age of feminism and emotion on your sleeve. I feel masculinity needs to become synonymous with openness, But there is still this keeping-it-all-bottled-up masculinity; being ‘the man’.

“I bottled it up for so long because I felt it was a dent in my masculinity. That was the difficult part. But then, all of a sudden, you wake up one day and you realise: Jesus Christ! It’s just a word. It doesn’t exist.

“Your masculinity is as fickle as sexuality. These words that just cause people so much pain and don’t mean anything in the end, because boundaries are blurred. Nothing is black and white. Nothing is concrete. They’re just words, but they can cause so much misery.”

“It must,” I suggested, “have been scary to decide to talk about it openly.”

“I hinted about it in every single thing I did. Every single show I did, there were big overtones of it.”

“You seem,” I said, “very commendably serious about what you do as being art.”

“Yes, I am. I care. I kick myself if things aren’t good enough. I always try my best. If I’ve made mistakes, I will try to learn from them. I’m interested in the process of art and what it can achieve. And I’m interested in always doing things differently. You just have to keep staying one step ahead of what people expect you to do and expect you to be.”

“So what is your next step ahead?” I asked.

“I’m going to chop my cock off on stage and then eat it and regurgitate it and use it as a flute.”

“And,” I asked, “in reality?”

“I have ideas about what next, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give them to you, Mr Fleming.”

“Would these new things,” I asked, “be like writing a different type of comedy drama or coming out of a totally unexpected trap like writing a musical?”

Breaking Gadd - Richard’s current show

Breaking Gadd: “I wasn’t doing anything different”

“I did Cheese and Crack Whores. Then Breaking Gadd the year after… and Breaking Gadd was Cheese and Crack Whores in a different setting with a different group of characters but sort of the same. Despite the fact it did well and got well-reviewed, I realised that the buzz was elsewhere because I wasn’t doing anything different. So the next year Waiting For Gaddot was a big shift in a different direction and that got the buzz.”

“Some people,” I said, “equate arty success with low audiences.”

“Yes,” said Richard, “Some people think: I like being cult. I like being not for everyone. I’m too cool for mainstream. But it’s ridiculous to think I would write a piece of work so only the cool people can enjoy it. I would like to be as mainstream as possible. But I still like to bring these off-kilter themes into the mainstream and still be challenging. You can be challenging in the mainstream: you just need to figure out how to do it. To rebel against it is wrong. Charlie Brooker is a good example of someone who manages to be quite challenging in the mainstream.

“I don’t care about money. I was brought up better than that. I don’t care about that. I would like to expand my audience size but, at the same time, get my message over and do a piece of work in the best possible way it can be done.”

“We are having a chat,” I reminded him, “to plug your Monkey See, Monkey Do show at the Soho Theatre in London, so when is it on?”

richardgadd_sohotheatre_cut

Richard trying to keep one step ahead outside Soho Theatre

“We are doing a live recording for the DVD this Saturday at 5.30pm. Then the show runs 18th October to the 12th November. That run is completely sold out already, so it will probably be back in the New Year.”

“So this blog is completely pointless,” I said. “You don’t need the publicity.”

“No, I don’t,” agreed Richard. “But I like talking to you, so that’s fine.”

I do not think he was joking.

But who can tell with comedians and actors?

Richard Gadd talked calmly yesterday of comics and strippers

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Critic Kate Copstick on the Edinburgh Fosters (ex-Perrier) Comedy Awards

The Grouchy Club live in Edinburgh (Photograph by Sandra Smith0

Copstick and I hosted the live Grouchy Club in Edinburgh (Photograph by Sandra Smith)

The latest weekly Grouchy Club podcast is now online.

During the recording, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I talked about staging monthly live Grouchy Club shows/meetings in London – in the performance area behind Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in Shepherd’s Bush.

Details on the Grouchy Club website.

In this very brief extract from the new podcast, she and I talk about the recent Fosters Awards (formerly Perrier Awards) run by producer and Nimax Theatres owner Nica Burns at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I run the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Fringe. Judges with me this year were Kate Copstick and fellow comedy critics Marissa Burgess, Jay Richardson and Claire Smith.


COPSTICK
There are few people I know that I admire more than Nica Burns. I think she’s an incredible woman who has done incredible things for comedy. I think she’s so genuine and she’s given so much I don’t know why she’s not a fucking Dame. There’s obviously been some kind of mistake.

JOHN
Well, if your ceiling falls on the punters, it’s not good, is it?

COPSTICK
That’s not her fault. That was nothing to do with her. Anyway, I think she’s an incredible woman, an incredible force for good in theatre and comedy and live performance.

JOHN
Yes, she is.

COPSTICK
But I do think that the Fosters are becoming more and more relevant only to the industry. That whole list – everybody on that list – it just seemed that Ooh! You can see them popping up on Radio 4 Extra or telly. They’ve all got ‘slots’ – even the clowny ones. You think: Well, they could go there; they could go here. There was no flash of genius.

JOHN
I don’t know if they still do it, but they brought in members of the public as judges.

COPSTICK
Yes, they always do.

JOHN
A terrible idea, I think – They (the public) don’t know what they want.

COPSTICK
Well, to be fair, they have to go through a much more stringent process than any of the industry judges and it’s just as possible, if not more likely, that you’re going to find some numpty who’s some kind of line producer for BBC Comedy. There are some very dull people working in professional comedy, John.

JOHN
So you’ve given up working in television again?

COPSTICK
(LAUGHS) I have indeed. But there are some very very dull people.

JOHN
Yes, but they can spot talent, whereas…

COPSTICK
What do you mean they can spot talent?

JOHN
No, I take it back. I take it back.

COPSTICK
Wash your mouth out. Have another Crunchie biscuit. (SHE STUFFS A BISCUIT IN MY MOUTH) And, while John’s munching on the Crunchie biscuit… Of course they can’t. Otherwise a completely different lot of people would be on telly and the programmes that are on telly would be much better instead of little comedy production line sausages, which is what they are. When I started working in telly, someone said to me: There is a reason why television is called a medium. I even said to… I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this; I hope she doesn’t mind… I bumped into Nica Burns and said Oh, has the panel been to see Jessie Cave? and Nica said Oh, Marmite! Which I can understand. Some people loathed her; some people loved her.

JOHN
‘Marmite’ is almost a compliment.

COPSTICK
Exactly. I said: Isn’t that great! and she said Well, you know, it divided the panel and I said Well, what are you going for? Lowest common denominator? And I suppose, because it comes to a vote at the end, that’s exactly what it is. It’s the kind of blandy people that everybody liked. It’s the Mirandas and the Jack Whitehalls… And I’m not saying… I mean, Jack Whitehall was a little superstar when he started, but he’s a very smart boy with a very smart dad and they know…

JOHN
… and a very smart mum…

COPSTICK
I haven’t met his mum. But they know where to go, how much to dumb yourself down to keep yourself in a lot of work in a lot of television programmes and it is lowest common denominator. That lowest common denominator might be different… Twenty years ago, that lowest common denominator was Les Dawson; it was Michael Barrymore….

JOHN
… who were great…

COPSTICK
… and nowadays… it’s… I don’t think an award should be looking at being given… that a panel, a judging panel should not be looking at giving an award to the lowest common denominator. There need to be people on that panel passionate enough to do the Twelve Angry Men thing – persuade the rest of the brilliance in somebody who is… I am not saying Jessie Cave should have won. She IS Marmite and I thought I would hate her and I loved her. It was an extraordinary performance…. I just really think it’s a… a worry almost everybody on that list was so forgettable.


The Grouchy Club podcasts are on Podomatic
and can also be downloaded from iTunes.

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Legendary cult act The Iceman talks of comedians Stewart Lee, Mike Myers &, inevitably, about melting blocks of ice

In Malcolm Hardee’s 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, he says:

There was a man called Anthony Irvine, who did an act where he just crawled across the stage wearing a yellow souwester cape and Wellington boots, got up a ladder, then put a chain with a hook on it between the two parts of the stepladder and picked up a bag. He took a toothbrush out of the bag, cleaned his teeth, got down the steps and crawled off stage again. This took between ten and twenty minutes depending on audience response. Today he calls himself The Iceman and melts a block of ice on stage – that’s his act.

It is, indeed, an act in which he tries to melt blocks of ice in various increasingly desperate ways. You have to see it to believe, if not understand, it. I first saw The Iceman when I auditioned him in 1987 for TV show The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross. The audition is on YouTube.

The Iceman at home via Skype a couple of days ago

The Iceman at his secret home via Skype a couple of days ago

A couple of days ago, I talked to The Iceman via Skype.

“You can facilitate my comeback,” he told me.

“You’ve never been away,” I replied.

“My last booking was from Stewart Lee,” he said, “at the Royal Festival Hall for At Last The 1981 Show in 2011 – his Austerity show. You didn’t come.”

“No,” I admitted.

“I was one of the main acts, but they put me in the foyer,” he said. “I did a block of ice on both nights.”

“Did you get a good audience in the foyer?” I asked.

“The first night was quite arty,” he told me, “but there was a very small audience. The second night Stewart – I should say Stew – told the audience to go and see me and suddenly, in the interval, I was overwhelmed by people. So I hid in the audience. I infiltrated them and no-one really knew who I was. Then some guy took it on himself to plug me. He stood up and said The Iceman! The Iceman! and, of course, a lot of people thought HE was The Iceman.”

“Now you’re now a cult,” I said. “A living semi-mythical legend.”

“Yes,” he replied. “That’s why I don’t want to be over-exposed and why I’m in deepest Dorset. They’ll never find me here.”

“So why am I talking to you for my increasingly prestigious blog?” I asked.

“I want someone to visit my website,” said The Iceman. “I just want some visitors. I think because it’s called Iceblocked.co.uk it’s not a name that people recognise quickly.”

“You should call it TheIceman.com,” I suggested. “Like The Iceman cometh.”

“There’s millions of ice men,” said The Iceman. “But they’re mainly Mafia hit men.”

“Yes,” I sympathised, “best not to annoy them.”

“There are pictures of ice blocks for sale on the website,” said The Iceman.

Then he put a tap on his shoulder.

The Iceman felt a tap on his shoulder

The Iceman felt a tap on his shoulder – he won it in Edinburgh

“Ah! The Tap Water Award!” I said.

For several years, it was given at the Edinburgh Fringe as an alternative to the Perrier Award.

“Did you win it?” I asked.

“I won it in Edinburgh with Malcolm Hardee as a nominee,” said The Iceman, “but, in his autobiography, Malcolm claimed he won it. It’s very controversial.”

“Still,” I said. “You have it. Possession is nine tenths of the law.”

“But more valuable than the tap,” said The Iceman, “are the Polaroids of every block of ice I have melted…” Then he added: “At least, some of them… I am giving people an opportunity to buy photocopies of the Polaroids of the blocks I have melted over the years. You have never availed yourself of this opportunity.”

“I am but a poor struggling scribe,” I said, “and they are about £99 each aren’t they?”

The Iceman with his 42-block photo at the Royal Festival Hall

The Iceman (right) with 42-block photo at Royal Festival Hall

“At the Royal Festival Hall,” said The Iceman, “I sold my picture of 42 selected blocks to a bloke for £11. The frame had cost me about £20. His name was Tobias…”

The Iceman waited for me to react.

“Should I gasp?” I asked eventually.

“Tobias…” said The Iceman. “To-buy-us… That’s extraordinary, isn’t it?”

“Extraordinary,” I agreed.

“On YouTube,” The Iceman told me, “there is a video where you can see me dropping that night’s block into the River Thames after the Royal Festival Hall show.”

“Why did you drop the block into the Thames?” I asked.

“It had to go somewhere,” explained The Iceman. “Are you recording this?”

“Yes.”

“How are you? Can I interview you? I think I am going to film you.”

He held up a camera and started taking pictures of the Skyped image on his computer screen of me looking at him looking at me on my computer screen.

The Iceman started taking pictures of me looking at him

The Iceman took pictures of me looking at him looking at me

“What do you see your role as?” he asked me.

“A sadly free publicist to interesting people,” I replied.

“Every comedy person and bizarre person seems to have a link with you,” he said.

“Which are you?” I asked.

“You’re a conduit,” he said.

“I think there’s a lot of con going on,” I said, “and precious little duit.”

“What do you really think of the Iceman?” he asked.

“I think it’s a wonderful, surreal act,” I said. “But I’m shocked that this man bought Polaroids of ice blocks for only £21. I thought photocopies of Polaroids were £99 each.”

“I was feeling generous,” said The Iceman, who thought a little, then added: “Gener-ice… Do you think there’s any possibility that The Iceman… I call myself The Iceman, but I’m also called Melt It 69 by Mike Myers… Do you think there’s any possibility that somebody might ask me back?”

“Where?”

“Anywhere. To do a live performance.”

“One hopes so,” I replied. “What did you say about Mike Myers?”

“He refers to me as Melt It 69,” replied The Iceman, “because he came to see me melt Block 69.”

“This is Mike Myers,” I checked, “as in the now-Hollywood-film-star Mike Myers?”

“Yes,” confirmed The Iceman. “He did the early days of alternative comedy in Britain.”

Neil Mullarkey (left) & Mike Myers in the 1987 Wacaday children’s TV annual

Neil Mullarkey (left) & Mike Myers in the 1987 Wacaday children’s TV annual

“I know,” I said, “Mullarkey & Myers.”

“He saw me at one event,” said the Iceman, “and thought I was a genius. He is a fan.”

“This would,” I double-checked, “be Mike Myers the now-Austin-Powers-Hollywood-millionaire?… Have you approached him to buy a photocopy of a Polaroid of an ice block for £99?”

“I don’t know how to contact him,” said the Iceman. “I was hoping he would buy my entire works.”

“It is very hot, California,” I said. “They like ice there.”

“The only other fan I have, I think,” The Iceman said, “is Stewart Lee, who books me occasionally. Do you talk to Stew much?”

“Whenever I bump into him.” I said. “It would be churlish not to. He’s very nice.”

“N-ice,” said The Iceman thoughtfully. “I saw his show on TV on Saturday.”

“Did you enjoy it/“

“I did. He is funny.”

“He should have you on it,” I said. “You are the ultimate alternative comic.”

“He could have me in the foyer,” mused The Iceman.

… CONTINUED HERE

 

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Filthy rock group tales of the comedian who took a cheese grater to his face

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott had a multi-award-winning show

Comedian Bob Slayer had a good time at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

He ran his Bob’s Bookshop venue for the first time and Adrienne Truscott’s show there won both the main Malcolm Hardee Award and what I think we have to call the Perrier/Edinburgh/IF/Fosters Comedy Panel Award in the smallest venue ever to win that award.

This year, there was no Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, because we did not think anyone was suitable. Instead, we called the pre-made trophy the ‘Pound of Flesh’ Award.

Yesterday, on what turned into a 9-hour drive down from Edinburgh to London, comedian Bob Slayer told me: “I’ve never seen the point of you giving that Million Quid Award anyway. It’s basically the same as the Fosters Comedy Award. So you’re just trying to cover the mainstream and I don’t think that’s what your awards are about.”

I agreed.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

“So what sort of award could we have instead of the Million Quid Award?” I asked,

“Just something more interesting,” Bob suggested. “Everyone knows who’s going to make a million quid. That prick Xxxxxx Yyyyyy probably already has.”

“Perhaps the Bob Slayer Award for best impression of Bob Slayer?” I suggested.

“Maybe you should have The Increasingly Prestigious Award,” Bob suggested.

“Don’t forget,” I said, “that the Million Quid awards have been pre-made until 2017 with a giant pound sign on them. That’s why we called it the Pound Of Flesh Award this year.”

Bob, surprisingly, thought that this year’s winners of the Malcolm Hardee Pound Of Flesh Award did not do anything particularly exceptional. Comedy performer Gareth Ellis got repeatedly punched in the face by his comedy partner Richard Rose and they then pretended Gareth has been attacked in the street just on the off-chance they could get a few lines of publicity for their show.

“That’s commendably excessive,” I suggested to Bob.

Gareth Ellis (left) & Richard Rose accept the Pound of Flesh Award

Gareth Ellis (left) & Richard Rose accept the Pound of Flesh (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

“Punching yourself in the face,” said Bob, “is just a very obvious idea. We’ve all done that. Once I was late for work and was facing the sack when I was 21 and working at Racal Mobical. I was putting electrical component parts into bags. I was late for work, so I took a cheese-grater to my face because I’d run out of all the normal excuses that my grandmother had died – you can only do that three or four times before they start getting suspicious. So I took a cheese-grater to my face and said I’d been run over by a…”

“Giant mouse?” I suggested.

“A truck,” said Bob.

“How long did your face take to mend from the cheese-grater?” I asked.

Just The Greatest sponsors

The perfect way to scrape the flesh off your late face

“The normal time after you cheese-grate your face,” said Bob. “I did my cheeks, nose, forehead and then I thought I must do my arms and hands, because I remembered when I was a kid I fell off my bike and I’d damaged the back of my hands, so I knew that was realistic. I told them I had been run over by a truck, but they asked me Was this a brewery delivery lorry? Because you stink of booze. And I got fired anyway.

“Then, a few days later, I got thrown out of the flat I was living in, because I hadn’t told anybody that I’d used the cheese-grater and, when they found out, they decided that was the last straw. They found blood on the cheese-grater whilst grating cheese and the vegetarian girl got annoyed and I got ejected.”

“You should use that in a show sometime,” I suggested. “The stories in your Edinburgh Fringe show this year seemed to have more structure.”

“Last year,” Bob told me, “I was so busy running the Hive venue that I struggled with my own show. Well, I thought that was the reason, but I think I was just going through a pupation and my inability to turn into a storytelling comedian. But, this year, it accidentally became a real show on Day Three.”

“Why do you want to be a storytelling comedian?” I asked.

“Because I’ve got lots of stories,” replied Bob, not unreasonably.

“Your image so far has maybe been you behaving OTT,” I said.

“One day,” said Bob, “I will have an audience cheer and be happy that I’ve done a turd on stage. But I can also spin the audience into beautiful stories in all sorts of directions. I think I’ve developed a range of skills and sensitivity this year.”

“Beautiful stories,” I mused, “like the Bloodhound Gang one.”

The Bloodhound Gang - a group of beautiful people

The Bloodhound Gang – inciters of urine/beer plastic glasses

“It is a beautiful story,” insisted Bob. “OK, it ends up with shit and puke and piss everywhere, but it is a beautiful story about friendship and freedom and life and vitality and happiness and a bunch of idiots.”

“How long have you been doing comedy now?” I asked.

“Well,” said Bob, “I first did it on stage with the Bloodhound Gang whenever the public smoking ban came in (2007). They went for a cigarette halfway through the gig and pushed me on stage, saying Our tour manager will entertain you, after blaming me for the fact that nobody could leave the venue to have a cigarette – there were no pass outs.

“They built up this hatred towards me, then they went for a cigarette and the whole room hated me for 8 or 10 minutes and showed their hate by throwing pints of beer at me.”

“Pint glasses?” I asked.

“Plastics,” replied Bob. “The Bloodhound Gang did it again the next night and I tried to speak to the audience and tried to make them laugh and, if anything, it made it worse and they hated me more by throwing pints in glasses but, this time, the rain was salty because they were pissing in them.

“Then on Day Three I hid, because I didn’t want to be pushed out on stage, but the band found me and gaffer-taped me to a chair and put me on stage and said: Our tour manager will entertain you. 

“They had been getting the audience to hate me, but the sight of a man gaffer-taped to a chair, weeping gently and muttering I hate the Bloodhound Gang… Well, the sympathy was, all-of-a-sudden with me and they laughed and I just said: Do you want to hear what wankers the Bloodhound Gand are?

“So, while the Bloodhound Gang was having a cigarette, I was telling the audience stories of what they’d got up to and there was laughter and it was fun and the band came back and we all sang a chorus of The Bloodhound Gang Are Wankers.

“Though, in fact, they’re not wankers. They’re beautiful people. We carried on the tour and we carried on doing that every night. Other bands might have thought Oh, he’s upstaged us or He’s slagged us off. But not them. I really learned a lot from them. They were beautiful clowns, for all their nonsense.

“I did tell a story in my show this year of them shitting and puking and pissing on each other on stage – that’s just where they took it. But they could have taken it anywhere, because they had a real clown sensibility. They were great performers.”

“So you told stories about them this year because…” I said.

Bob Slayer holds his hand, if not his head, high

Bob Slayer – creator of OTT stories and urban legends

“It just happened,” replied Bob. “Obviously, they got into trouble recently after wiping their bum on a Russian flag in Ukraine.

“My show had been going to be about all sorts of bands I toured with – Snoop Dogg, Iggy Pop – but the Bloodhound Gang were the most topical because they were arrested in Russia.

“On Day Three of my show, there was a Russian girl in the audience and I was trying to persuade her that they weren’t political activists; they were just idiots. So I told lots of stories to demonstrate they were idiots, culminating in the aforementioned shit and piss and puke story. And I stumbled on that as being my show.”

“So next year,” I asked, “you will have to be even more…”

“I’m thinking,” said Bob, “that next year I will be a musical act. I did whatever it was I did before… And I’ve bullied a Welshman on stage… I’ve done a game show… Done storytelling… Next year I have to do a musical show, don’t I?… Then the year after I will be an escapologist.”

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A UK comic with a building reputation and a collapsing Edinburgh Fringe show

Martin Soan - stimulated by decorating

Martin Soan – stimulated by home decorating

“I don’t mind admitting what I find stimulating,” said Martin Soan over breakfast this morning.

Pull The Other One comedy club runner Martin Soan is decorating my hall, stairs and landing this week.

It might seem odd having a man decorate your house who is best known for creating a naked balloon dance.

But Martin has more than a bit of previous, as prop-maker to comedy performers (of which I am not one).

“There was that Edinburgh Fringe show in 1995 where you created a kitchen for Boothby Graffoe,” I said.

“Did you ever see it?” Martin asked.

“No, I missed it,” I said. “But just getting the set in and out of the room must have been a nightmare.”

“For the first 20 minutes,” Martin explained, “Boothby did stand-up in front of a curtain while we erected the set behind the curtain. But, after the third day, I’d ironed-out all the problems and we could erect it in about 8 minutes. There was a table, oven, sink, bookcases, walls, doors and lots of little sight gags round the place.”

“And it was nominated for the Perrier Award,” I said, “but legend has it Boothby didn’t get the award because he wouldn’t be photographed drinking from a Perrier bottle.”

A photograph of a Perrier bottle without Boothby Graffoe

A Perrier bottle without any Boothby Graffoe

“He didn’t like playing up for the cameras” admitted Martin. “I was perfectly ready to prostitute myself. But, to be honest, we weren’t going to win, because it was about time a woman won it.”

“That was Jenny Eclair’s year?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Martin.

“Well, at least it was a chum of yours,” I said.

“And good luck to her,” said Martin, “But Boothby didn’t behave for the Perrier publicity and  Avalon (Boothby Graffoe’s agent at the time) didn’t want to put the show on tour because they couldn’t see any profit in it. Insane.

“Such a pity, because there were some brilliant gags in it. The concept was there were sight gags all round the kitchen and, five minutes before the end of the show, Boothby said: I’ve gotta just put some washing in the washing machine. Then he said Look after it and left the stage.

“Then there was just an empty kitchen with the washing machine in the middle going Brrrrrrr…. There was a great big pause and silence, then giggles from the audience. Then it goes into spin mode and I’d taken some of the ballast out of the washing machine so it really started shaking and that started vibrating the whole of the set and gradually, bit by bit, everything started falling down.

“The oven walked out and exploded – I had a stick and the top would come down and I’d weighted the top so, when it hit the back of the thing, it lifted everything up in the air….

“The Welsh Dresser’s shelves fell down alternately, either side, and the plates would run down like some sort of pinball machine…

“There was just lots and lots of stuff. We had great big lumps of cornice at the top which were knocked off and the wall was strips of lino so it looked like a solid wall but, of course, when the set fell apart, it used to curl up and fall to the floor…

“The table legs used to jump up in the air and the table would collapse.

“The door was fantastic – a floating door – so there were sight gags with that, where you would open the door one way, close it, then open it the other way and it used to spin on its axis.

“Boothby did this sketch about No 10 Downing Street. The door would spin round. It was black and had No 10 on it. He put on a policeman’s outfit and pretended to be the copper outside No 10, looking around. Then he’d open up the letterbox and shout in You wanker! Then the door would open and I’d stand there bollock naked wearing a John Major face mask.

“There were three of us putting up the set every day, then packing it away and putting it into a Portakabin. There was me and Suzie the stagehand and a guy called Adam. It was a massive show which packed down into almost a zen thing.”

“How long did it take to design and build the set?” I asked.

“About 9 months to make it,” replied Martin.

“And at Edinburgh?” I asked.

In lieu of any photos of a collapsing kitchen, Marton Soan in my hall this afternoon

In the absence of photographs of a collapsing kitchen at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1995, Martin Soan in my hallway today…

“I used to get there around five hours before the show,” explained Martin, “and I’d be fixing stuff because things got damaged every day. About 2 hours before the show, I’d start arranging the gear in a specific order for a massive get-in real quick when the show started.”

“And this was outside?” I asked.

“We had the Portakabin,” explained Martin, “and I stuck up tarpaulins outside in case it started raining.”

“You got full houses at the Edinburgh Fringe, didn’t you?” I asked.

“The first day, people were really, really worried we could pull it off,” said Martin. “Then there were respectable-sized audiences the first three days and the show was sold out from Day 4 for the rest of the run.”

“So you and Boothby made lots of money out of it?” I asked.

“There were £33,000 of tickets sold, “said Martin, “and we got a £400 cheque nine months later, after loads and loads of hassling.”

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The Edinburgh Fringe: increasingly influential, surreal and assault-prone

The Greatest Show on Legs without masks (or clothes)

This morning, I got a phone call from the Daily Star newspaper, who had got wind of the fact the Greatest Show on Legs are going to perform their Naked Balloon Dance in Prince Harry masks at tonight’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Sadly, it came to nothing, even with a quote from Legs leader Martin Soan saying:

“Prince Harry is a mere beginner in flashing and cavorting with women in hotel rooms. We have been doing it since before he was a glint in his father (or mother)’s eye… It is a great British tradition and we stand proud and erect as true patriots in support of Harry. We cry Thank God for Harry, England and Saint George! What the Scots will make of it, we don’t know…”

Journalists can be quirky people but they can sometimes work under difficult circumstances.

Apparently, journalists who write about the rival Edinburgh Comedy Awards and call it the… erm… Edinburgh Comedy Awards are getting phoned to be told they have to now call them the Fosters Comedy Awards, although the official website still calls them the FOSTERS Edinburgh COMEDY AWARDS… Mind you, the Fosters website also talks of “32 years of discovering comedy genius” – a bit of a dodgy claim, given that they were sponsored by Perrier 1981-2005 and Intelligent Finance 2006-2008. Then, famously, impecunious American comic Lewis Schaffer offered to sponsor them for (if memory serves me) £99 and he was – some feel unjustly – spurned.

Fosters have sponsored the awards since only 2010.

Did I mention the Malcolm Hardee Show?

So, strictly speaking, the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, established in 2007, have been running longer than the Fosters Comedy Awards, established 2010.

Far be it from me to try to get some cheap publicity.

However, following in the promotional wake of the aforementioned Fosters Comedy Awards, we have decided to precede the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards title with the phrase “the increasingly influential” and are thinking of starting an “Increasingly Influential” company to sponsor our awards for £1 per year and justify the title The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards beyond doubt.

Ian Fox before he was attacked in Edinburgh

On far more serious matters, yesterday I asked comedian-writer-photographer Ian Fox if he was coming to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show tonight to take his increasingly influential photos. I got this reply:

Probably not to be honest. I didn’t have the greatest of nights last night. I was randomly punched by some guy walking past me on Candlemaker Row. Never made eye contact with him, never even took any notice of him. He was walking down the hill I was going up. He got level with me and hit me. I ended up at Edinburgh Royal and now have three stitches in the side of my nose and a very swollen face. Evidently he was wearing a ring. If I can take photos I will but I’m going have to take it easy for the next day or two. 

I just had the inconvenience of four hours with the dibble in Edinburgh Royal. And the doctor told me he practised his stitching on cat toys. He replaces the cat nip every few weeks apparently. 

Shortly after this, I bumped into flame-haired American temptress Laura Levites.

“What are you doing after Edinburgh?” I asked.

“I may be going to red headed convention in Holland,” she replied.

I asked for no more details, as this seemed enough information.

Paul B Edwards (left) and Lewis Schaffer, Cowgate yesterday

Then I bumped into comedians Paul B Edwards, David Whitney and Lewis Schaffer in the Cowgate. Paul B Edwards told me BBC Radio 2 had interviewed him about the Fringe because, he thought, he had been mentioned in my increasingly influential blog.

After David Whitney had left, I told Paul B Edwards and Lewis Schaffer about the attack on Ian Fox.

“Well,” Paul said, “I heard that, two nights ago, Kunt and The Gang mentioned Margaret Thatcher in his gig. He gets a lot of punks at his gigs and a drunk punk at the back started screaming on a Thatcher rant that no-one could understand. He approached the stage and kept approaching the stage and Kunt said I have three words for you – ‘Fuck off now’ but the guy didn’t and threw a punch at Kunt and even though Kunt and The Gang looks like quite a little guy on the stage, he’s quite useful and apparently he punched this guy out of the venue. That’s what I heard. He punched him out and out of the venue to cheers and applause, because his crowd don’t have a problem with violence when it’s justified.”

David Whitney in the Cowgate yesterday

The back story to this is that David Whitney got criticised a couple of years ago when he allegedly head-butted an audience member after being provoked. A writer from a newspaper was present and wrote an article about the incident which, other comedians have told me, hurt his career.

“Sometimes,” said Lewis Schaffer, “people forget audience members deserve a good head-bashing, whether they’re walking or in a wheelchair.”

Paul and I laughed for reasons I have not yet, but might yet, blog about.

“I said ‘wheelchair’, said Lewis Schaffer. I didn’t say ‘paralysed’. Some audience members are just twats and, if they’re going to destroy a show and if they’re going to step towards the comedian, then they’re gonna deserve it. I’ve never hit a punter in my entire life but I…”

“Yes you have,” I interrupted. “You hit that bloke who smashed your iPhone at the Gilded Balloon the other year.”

“He wasn’t a punter,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He was just a guy in the street. He smashed my iPhone! That wasn’t comedy-related!”

“You gonna cry now?” Paul laughed.

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “because now I’ve punched one guy…”

“You’ve got a taste for it?” I suggested.

“I’ve got a taste for it,” Lewis Schaffer agreed, laughing, “and all I want to do now is punch people in the face.”

These are the sort of conversations which happen during the Fringe and seldom elsewhere.

Shortly afterwards, I was due to meet Miss Behave, host of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. I was striding towards the appointed meeting place in Parliament Square when she passed me, speeding in the opposite direction.

“Hi, John!” she said, “Just got to pick up a sword. Back in a mo!”

The surreal soon becomes reality at the Fringe.

I went to the Gilded Balloon party last night after their So You Think You’re Funny talent show final. A banner proclaimed:

25 YEARS OF FOSTERS SO YOU THINK YOU’RE FUNNY

The Gilded Balloon venue – evacuated by fire fear last night

This was news to me. Those wacky brewers are at it again! I thought. How surreal a twisting of reality is that?. Then the fire alarm rang and the entire Gilded Balloon building was evacuated.

Exactly ten years ago, in 2002, the old Gilded Balloon building burnt down.

I texted my comedy chum Janey Godley:

STANDING IN THE RAIN. GILDED BALLOON EVACUATED. FIRE ALARM.

Immediately, a text came back:

I AM NOT THERE. I AM IN GLASGOW. I HAVE AN ALIBI.

The fire alarm turned out to be a false alarm.

What a waste of a good alibi.

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Top comedy critic Kate Copstick spends $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya

Oy! Oy! - Kate Copstick reveals her other life

Kate Copstick, the doyenne of Fringe comedy reviewers, is an interesting person. Call her Copstick, never Kate. She used to appear on children’s TV series No 73, owns the TV production company Bobby’s Girl, owns The Erotic Review and was cast as the ‘outspoken’ comedy judge on ITV’s Show Me The Funny.

According to ITV, she “has seen more live comedy and spotted more new talent than any other comedy critic in the UK… with a fearsome reputation on the circuit as being the toughest of the tough, who can either make or break a career.”

She has also been a judge for the Perrier Awards, Amused Moose, So You Think You’re Funny and my own highly-esteemed-by-the-comedy-cognoscenti Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.

Every year, 100% of any profit from staging the Malcolm Hardee Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe (no costs are deducted) goes to the Mama Biashara charity run by Copstick. She is currently in Kenya and sent me this:

__________

Yesterday afternoon I spent  $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi. Fifty two of them, in fact. Fifty girls and two boys.

My charity (how I hate the proto-Christian smugness of that word) Mama Biashara works in the slums setting women (mainly) up in small businesses to pull them out of the absolute poverty in which they are living and elevate them to simple poverty. It is, I have found, generally the best I can do.

Most sex workers here are girls with no education and no skills who turn to the street as a last resort to feed, house and clothe their children. Offer them a chance to do some other business and they leap at it. Mama B just gives them a financial trampoline to leap over the big barrier called ‘set up costs’. I say big barrier – usually $25 suffices.

Most of the girls (and two boys) are great. They mainly have good workable business plans – some even great. Waldah – an absolute charmer – is not fazed when I balk at the cost of a hot sausage selling machine. She has identified one and the owner has told her his price. Which is too high for Mama B.

“Eh” says Waldah, twinkling, “I am a sex worker… I can persuade him to lower his price!” 

There is one older woman, a widow,  from out near Mombasa who has come specially to see me. She is in her late forties. She has four children and now they are all in secondary school or college. When her hotel (cafe) business was simply not making enough money to pay school fees she did the only thing she could to give her children the education she believes they deserve – she went on the game. I felt like giving her a medal, never mind a business grant. 

She got 5,000ksh (about $50) which will enable her to set up a much bigger and smarter cafe. We are staying in touch to see how things go. She is the loveliest woman, a real quiet, gentle person. I hope her kids appreciate her.

One boy was a victim of the post-election violence in the Rift Valley. His family were killed and he lived on the streets for two years. Now – by becoming a rent boy – he has accommodation. But he has researched a business selling hot sausages (yes, yes, as opposed to selling his own ‘hot sausage’). There is, he assures me, a great demand.

Martin is quite a high-end (if you will pardon the expression) rent boy. He has a degree in International Relations, speaks perfect English, Farsee and Russian and worked successfully in PR till his employer sacked him for being gay.

“So you have real skills!” I remark.

“I’ve got skills!” affirms Martin, “I can get a ten inch cock up my arse”.  

His mother recently died and left him her house. Not exactly in the most salubrious setting, but it could be worse. There are two bedrooms. Sadly all the furniture was sold for funeral expenses. Martin wants to furnish the second bedroom (already decorated in fabulously flamboyant colours) and rent it out to gay people (workers, researchers, writers… people from activist groups or just travellers) as a place where they will be welcomed and safe when they visit Nairobi. Homosexuality is not at ALL safe in Kenya.  I think this is a great idea. A Brighton-style B&B in the heart of Homophobialand.

Everyone, as well as their start up grants, gets a dozen condoms and a small vibrator. Martin gets a Durex special vibrating cock ring.  He beams with delight as he lopes off to his next client.

“Charge extra,” I advise.

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