Tag Archives: Phil Kay

Part 4: In 2005, comics (and his mum) respond to the death of Malcolm Hardee

Continuing these daily re-posts of how British comics and other comedy industry people reacted when Malcolm Hardee drowned…


REX BOYD, juggler – 21st February 2005

I’m pretty sure the juggler that Alan Davies mentions playing at the Tunnel is me. It was just a month or so after some comic had been injured by a flying pint glass on stage at the Tunnel and a few months after Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie. 

Malcolm introduced me as “some American bloke. Might be shit,” and so I walked on stage to what I think to this day is the most intelligent heckle I’ve ever had: “Why didn’t you fly Pan Am?” (of course said with a gleeful hatred)

I thought I was doing an open spot and asked Malcolm how long I should do. He said: “Do as long as you can.” So I did about 20 minutes and, when I came off, much to my surprise, Malcolm paid me £80 for my open spot. 

His generosity and honesty only continued when 5 years later I came back to London to re-establish myself and Malcolm was the only promoter who was willing to book me without the hoop jumping open-spots.

Oh, and he tried to get my 4 month old daughter to take up cigarettes at Glastonbury.


LEE MACK, comedian – 22nd February

Instead of paying me for a gig, he once convinced me I owned half of a greyhound. I was actually quite excited until another comic told me that there were about five other comedians who owned the same half of the same greyhound. I didn’t know Malcolm particularly well, but somehow really miss him. X


BEN NORRIS, comedian – 22nd February

I remember one of my Malcolm Hardee adventures was when I was booked on the same bill as The Greatest Show on Legs at The Glee in Birmingham. Malcolm called me and asked if I wanted a lift with him Martin Soan and Steve Bowditch. I accepted and Malcolm picked me up in an old black cab… I knew I was in for a memorable weekend. 

I’m pretty sure I paid for the first tank of petrol as no one “had any cash on them”. On checking into the hotel, Malcolm gave a false name and told them that my credit card would cover him as well… DANGER!! 

After one of the gigs, we were sitting in the hotel bar when Malcolm popped off for a wee, but was back within a minute. I knew the gents was down 2 flights of stairs and along a corridor so I literally smelt trouble. Sure enough, he took delight in explaining that he’d only made it as far as the door to the hotel gym.

That night he insisted on buying the drinks and putting them on his room number. Very generous, I thought.

Needless to say when I received my credit card bill a few weeks later I discovered £200 had been taken to cover the room bill of my colleague a Mr Hardee Malcolm (surely his least imaginative alias) who had left the hotel without paying.

It seemed to be almost a right of passage in the comedy world to have Malcolm financially manipulate you.

Another time, Malcolm called me up out of the blue and asked me to go to a pub quiz with him. I couldn’t resist and had another mad odyssey with him… We didn’t do very well and Malcolm seemed slightly disappointed… It was only later I realised that he must have thought I was clever. After the credit card incident, you’d have thought not.

I managed to get my money back from the hotel, but what a shame I didn’t get to spend more time with MH; he will be genuinely missed.


JOAN HARDEE, Malcolm’s mum – 22nd February

Around the time he separated from his wife Jane, I was talking to Malcolm.

“You’re my son and I love you very much,” I told him, “but to live with you must be very disconcerting. After all, you’ve got all the vices: you smoke, you drink, you gamble and you’re a womaniser.”

“Good job I’m not into donkeys,” he replied.

There was no answer to that.


KAREN KOREN, Edinburgh Fringe venue owner – 24th February

Malcolm was always in and around the Gilded Balloon in the 1980s and 1990s performing at Late’n’Live or just hanging around. When Chris Lynam did his show in the early 1990s, his big finale was to stick a firework up his bum and light it, while playing There’s No Business Like Showbusiness. 

One night, Chris had to be rushed to hospital during the show, for some emergency or other, before his Grand Finale. Malcolm was in the dressing room and said, “I’ll do it”. 

So he went on stage, naked, and put his penis and bollocks between his legs, just like Chris would do. However, Malcolm had much longer and larger bollocks than Chris, and they stuck out the back. 

He had to stick the firework up his arse but his butt cheeks, not being quite as firm as Chris’, couldn’t quite hold it in place and, after lighting it, it dropped down and set his balls alight. 

He danced round that stage to There’s No Business Like Show Busniness with flames up his back, screaming his head off. 

He came off and said, in his usual downbeat manner, “That was alright”.


JANEY GODLEY, comedian – 25th February

It was the mid eighties and Jerry Sadowitz was doing a ‘big show’ at a Glasgow theatre. Having known Jerry for a few years previous I went along to see his gig.

I sat in the auditorium and watched as this shambolic looking man in crumply suit and big glasses wandered on. I and loads of other Glaswegians were very confused. Jerry’s brand of humour was just about enough of what we could handle, but this strange ‘English’ dude chatting was mental.

The ‘crumpled’ man then just pulled down his zip and got out his penis and stood there. I laughed till I hurt but was shocked!

A bit later there was some sort of fracas happening at the front box office and I rushed out to see what it was.

There stood Malcolm, the theatre manager and a disgruntled wee Glaswegian couple. The wife was shouting: “I have never seen anything like that in my life! I came here to see comedy! I have never seen anything like that before!”

The manager looked at Malcolm, who turned to the woman and said: ”What? Are you kidding? You have been married for years and you have never seen a man’s penis?” He then pulled out his penis again and showed her it. ”There you go missus, just in case you forget what it looks like.”

He walked away laughing.

That was how I first met Mr Hardee.

Years later I got to know him a wee bit more.

He will be very sadly missed.


ALAN DAVIES – 25th February

I remember the predictions he would do on stage at the end of the year about who might die the following year. He’d keep a list of people who he and the audience reckoned might go in the year ahead and then pull it out again at the end of December to see how many were right.

The list always began with “The Queen Mum, hot favourite”.

He would then go through the people who’d gone unexpectedly before compiling a new list for the coming year, which would begin with “Queen Mum,obviously”.

There was so much laughter guessing who might die.

He’d weigh up the chances of a suggestion as if thinking what the odds were.

The juggler at The Tunnel who had his clubs hurled at him and caught them was Rex Boyd. Malcolm was worried as there was a comics’ boycott going on after Clarence and Joy Pickles had had an injury from a plastic glass. Malcolm was upset and wanted to make sure the comics would come back again.

They all did of course because they were so fond of him.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Adam Taffler produces comedy that is, this weekend, literally underground

Adam Taffler, underground entrepreneur (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

Adam Taffler, underground entrepreneur (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

So, yesterday I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get access to the underground chamber where performer Martin Soan and showman Adam Taffler are constructing a one-off venue for this Saturday. It is in Zone 2 of London.

“People who buy tickets  will get texted the location on the day, just like our last event,” Adam Taffler told me.

Last month Martin and Adam staged a Soirée in a Cemetery with comedian Stewart Lee headlining. I could not attend.

“How did it go?” I asked.

“Phenomenal,” said Adam. “Completely sold out. It was in Tower Hamlets Cemetery. We did a walk among the gravestones lit by candles. We had fire breathers and an accordionist and people walked through the whole experience which immersed them in the fabric of the location and the history and then they sat down for the show. Because they were immersed in the location, I liked to think that affected how they received the performance. Certainly Stewart Lee said it was his favourite gig of the last three years.

“This time – this Saturday with Soirée Subterranea – we’re going to take people into the Hellfire Club of Sir Francis Dashwood.

Adam (left) with Martin Soan yesterday, preparing the secret subterranean venue

Adam (left) with Martin Soan yesterday, preparing the secret subterranean venue

“It’s in a secret underground chamber. It’s a historical location, so some of the acts will have a historical twist. At one time, it was the biggest tourist attraction in the world. On the first day it opened, 50,000 people came through.

“Sir Francis Dashwood is played by Phil Kay with twelve monks and artists – everything from Lucy Ridley and classical dance through to comics Ed Aczel and Nick Revell doing monk and nun based humour and there’s absinthe cocktails and it’ll be a giggle.”

“So,” I said, “a mixture of comedy, cabaret and music but without the Satanic sacrifice of goats and virgins. What’s the capacity?”

“About 120. They turn up at different times. We have this process of immersing people into the experience. They turn up in groups of about ten. When the audience is ready for a show, then we will go further with it than before. I’m going for this idea of immersive comedy. I don’t want people just to laugh. I want them to have a bit of a cry as well.”

Some underground laughs + some underground tears

Underground laughs. Underground tears

“What will they cry at?” I asked. “Will they get tortured by the monks of Medmenham Abbey?”

“Lucy is going to do this beautiful dance to Dido’s Lament,” said Adam. “And then the comedy will flip the energy right back up.”

“Who was Dido?” I asked. “Was she the one with the Minotaur?”

“I dunno,” said Adam. “But it’s a bit sad. She’s lamenting and there’s a harpsichord and a lady singing.”

“Are you going to put on these Soirée shows regularly?” I asked.

“I think we would like to do the shows every three months, maybe on an increasingly bigger scale.”

“And are you,” I asked, “still picking up random women in parks?”

Adam’s grandfather was a lady lifter – a strongman who, painted in gold, lifted women in the air.

Adam runs a company called Adamotions. The company slogan is: BEWARE YE GODS OF MUNDANITY, WE ARE ALREADY AT YOUR GATES!

“I have a new intern called Gabby,” he told me. “She’s great. We go round lifting up women together. I do the lifting. She does the photography.”

“You were in Vice recently,” I said.

Speed dating where you can’t say anything

Speed dating events where you can’t say anything

“Yes,” said Adam, “they came and reviewed my Shhh silent speed-dating event the other month – it’s on twice a month in Clapham and Islington. Good places for single professional people.”

“So are Iraq and Syria,” I said.

“So,” said Adam, ignoring this, “Vice came and were very complimentary, which was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a positive article by them about anything. Although the girl who wrote it did call Clapham “a kind of fuckwit caliphate run by Time Out” – But that’s a beautiful turn of phrase.”

“What else are you doing?” I asked.

“I’ll be doing more Clowning in Nature with Doctor Brown in 2015. The idea is we go to Burning Man and then we do a Clowning in Nature in California.”

“Where’s Burning Man?” I asked. “Nevada?”

“Yes. It’s the festival of festivals. You should go there.”

“They would burn me like Edward Woodward,” I said.

“We could arrange that,” said Adam. “My mate builds the structure.”

Oh Christ! Oh Christ!” I said in the best Western Isles accent I could muster. “And you are now managing the Greatest Show On Legs and occasionally performing with them.”

Adam with Matt Roper (left)  and Martin Soan (right) in The Greatest Show On Legs (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

Adam (centre) with Matt Roper (left) and Martin Soan (right) in The Greatest Show On Legs (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

“Yes. We did this lovely gig down in Totnes last weekend. What was really exciting was that lots of new gags and sketches came together. We’re planning to take the Legs back to the Edinburgh Fringe next year.”

“Are you involved with Pull The Other One in Leipzig?”

“No. Martin and Vivienne Soan do that, but I’m helping Martin with the planned festival in Leipzig, either in 2015 or 2016. It will be a week long or maybe a long weekend to start with. Start small and casual, but it’s such fertile ground over there.”

“So,” I said, “lots of fingers in lots of pies. Is there anything that links them all?”

“I’m excited by taking an audience further than they would expect to go,” said Adam. “I think if you ask people if they want to go somewhere new, they may say no. But, if you gently take them there and push them, they will love it.”

“That sounds like Apple under Steve Jobs,” I said. “He never did market research to see what the public wanted; they just made the product – like an iPad – and sold it. Supposedly because Henry Ford said: If I had asked the public what they wanted, they wouldn’t have said they wanted a motor car – they would have said they wanted a better horse.

“I think the same thing about the public,” said Adam. “They don’t really know what new thing they want but, when they turn up and are shown it, they can think: Yeah! That’s bloody brilliant! If you give them a name they recognise or something they recognise to entice them in, then you can give them more than they expect.”

As I left, Adam was talking to someone on his mobile phone. All I heard was:

“We have to speak to the friar. We need him to supply us with 120.”

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An average day with Red Bastard, rants & a girl with crisp packets on her breasts

Adam Taffler in Square this week

Red showman Adam Taffler in Soho Square

Yesterday morning, I got an email from showman Adam Taffler aka Adam Oliver aka Adamotions, whose slogan is Cultivating Hilarity and Humanity. He is promoting Red Bastard’s current appearances at the Pleasance Theatre in London. Red Bastard’s shows involve a lot of audience participation and daring the audience to do what they really want to do.

“Tickets are selling faster than chihuahuas in Miami,” Adam told me.

I have no idea what this means, but it sounds unsettlingly sexual. Perhaps it is best not to know some things.

Bob Slayer, a Red Bastard cut-out and Zuma Puma this week

Red Bastard oddly impersonates Bob Slayer with Zuma Puma

“In attendance last night,” Adam continued, “were some of the MalcolmHardeearti – most notaby the Bob Slayer monster who sat next to someone who told Red Bastard he wanted to stop drinking but did not love himself enough. Bob did not like that too much.

“After the show Bob and I went to the train station together arguing about different producing models (in a friendly manner). Arguing with Bob is difficult as, any time you try to say something, he cuts you off and says But you haven’t listened to what I said, before ranting on some more.”

In 2011 I presented Bob with his Malcolm Hardee Award

A 2011 discussion with Bob Slayer (left) about him winning one of my increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards

Having been the object of some Bob Slayer rants, I know this to be true. If you want to see fireworks, do not wait until 5th November, just say to Bob Slayer – I think the big pay venues at the Edinburgh Fringe are often unfairly criticised. They have to pay their overheads and they are themselves being screwed by Edinburgh University – then stand well back and have some tea and biscuits ready while he has a lengthy rant.

“Last night,” Adam continued, “we met a couple of girls at the station who had been at the show (one of whom told Red Bastard she wanted to be the president of Ukraine and got a round of applause for it). They got on a train with Bob and a handful of ‘dare cards’ from Red Bastard. They must have had an interesting journey home.”

Last night in my own life (if you can call it that), I went to a one-off Doodle-a-thon-edy show at Goldsmiths College, which was billed as “a mad and unique fusion of comedy, doodling, clowning, theatre and alcohol”.

The girl with crisp packets on her breasts

The girl who had crisp packets on her breasts

It was hosted by Phil Kay (so was guaranteed to be an unrepeatable one-off) and paper plates and pens were handed out on entry so the audience could draw the show on their plates (or on themselves or on the girl with crisp packets on her breasts) as it went along – all of this while Peter Morey, The Live Scriber, did his increasingly widespread thing of drawing the show’s highlights on a giant white sheet of paper.

I understand Peter is going to be artist-in-residence at Bob Slayer’s new Bookshop venue at the Edinburgh Fringe (as well as roaming round drawing other live shows).

The results of last night’s show – drawn and photographic – are going to be posted on The Live Scriber’s Facebook page.

My plate - yours at a reasonable rate

My paper plate – yours to buy for a mere £573.84p upwards

My own paper plate is available for purchase at bids starting at over £573.84p.

I have to live and Mars Bars are not getting any cheaper.

When I got home after the show last night, there were two emails waiting for me from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent.

She updated me on Arty The Clown, about whom I perhaps foolishly asked.

Arty sports a bow tie in Vancouver

Arty sports a bow tie and vocation for jestering

“I usually just bump into him while shopping,” she told me, “and when I am exhausted. His story involves his twin brothers, a car accident and head injuries to both him and a brother. His father maybe has dementia and the whole family is infuriated that Arty insists on continuing with his vocation of being a jester. Arty also produces ink drawings outside of the Vancouver Aquarium most days. He wonders why people have to be so critical about the way he dresses. He often wears his underwear on top of his trousers.”

I was slightly confused by this message, but I realised confusion is comparative when I read Anna’s second message:

Anna Smith in the Vancouver bookshop

Self-effacing Anna Smith Vancouver bookshop

“I have been unpacking a hellish amount of mostly junk from cardboard boxes,” it started. She continued: “I found a picture (which she did not include) of my last actual performance doing comedy. It was a benefit performance at the student union building for The Global Association Against Traffic in Women, I did a character called Simone de Boudoir.

“The funds raised were used to return a young Russian woman (who had answered a lonely hearts ad and ended up ensnared by a deranged farmer on a farm in the wilderness outside of Prince George, which is in itself a kind of wilderness) back to Saint Petersburg in Russia. The benefit also paid for her cat (which she had acquired in Canada) to fly back to Russia and it cost nearly as much to send the cat as it did to send her.”

Anna is currently working at a bookshop in Vancouver.

“The book store continues in its erratic way,” she told me. “A sixty year old man was looking for Joan Collins for his decrepit Chileans just off the boat from Yokohama.”

I have no idea what any of that means.

But I refer you to my earlier comment.

Perhaps it is best not to know some things.

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Two Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winners plan Magikal Mystery Tours

So yesterday I met comedian Ellis in the basement bar of The Toucan pub off Soho Square in London. He did not have a black eye.

Ellis says he does not want to be forever remembered as the man who got his stage partner Rose to punch him in the face so Ellis & Rose could claim Ellis had got beaten up by an irate objector to their Edinburgh Fringe show last year (Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show), get some publicity in the press and win a highly coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

The video excerpt of him being repeatedly punched in the face is still on YouTube. He should be proud of how he suffered for his art. But, for some reason, he seems unwilling to milk it.

Now Ellis & Rose have come up with another new idea.

Over the summer, they intend to run monthly Magikal Mystery Tours.

Potential mystery and mayhem coach masters Ellis (left) & Rose

Potential mystery & mayhem coachmasters Ellis (left) & Rose

“We will get a luxury coach,” Ellis told me, “fill it with people and a few acts and drive out of London to weird, random towns and do bizarre town tours and scavenger hunts for weird items and the audience will be split into two teams. It will be like me and Rose taking a bunch of people on a school trip gone wrong.

“Before the people get to the bus, they will have filled out an online survey and we will split them into Red and Blue teams and they will have to come wearing predominantly one colour.

“We’ll stop off at weird museums and things and end up in the evening at a weird small venue where the headline act will do a show.

“Essentially, it’s going to be a very strange but fun full-day comedy show. We’ll stop off at a few places, acts will do bits and pieces but, if they’ve got a stage persona, the acts won’t necessarily be in that persona the whole day; they’ll be themselves, just part of the group. There will be about 45 people – the number we can get on the coach.”

“How are you going to sell tickets?” I asked.

The Kickstarter page through which tickets are bought

Magikal Kickstarter page

“Through a Kickstarter page,” said Ellis. “People will pledge money to get a ticket, so we will know how many people want to come and we will hire the right-sized coach for that number of people. It also means our audience knows exactly what they are letting themselves in for and they are invested in the whole experience. We need to get the right audience for the trip: a comedy-savvy audience, the Soho Theatre audience.

“I think this is the perfect antidote to our Jimmy Savile show – another string to our bow – showing that we can do something big and organised.

“We’re thinking of doing it monthly over the summer. We could do it at the Edinburgh Fringe as a one-off.”

Their Kickstarter campaign has just gone online. It ends on 25th April, with the first coach trip exactly one month later, on Sunday 25th May. Tickets cost £40, leaving London at 10.00am and arriving back no later than 10.00pm.

Gareth Ellis, coach master, at the Toucan bar yesterday

Ellis, at the Toucan bar yesterday, has a Speedy idea

For the first Magikal Mystery Tour, Phil Kay will be ‘Chief Tour Guide Extraordinaire’ and Miles Lloyd, billed as ‘the most accident-prone Welsh comedian ever’ will be the coach’s ‘House Band’.

“How are you going to publicise this?” I asked. “Apart, obviously, from having it mentioned in my increasing-prestigious blog?”

“Maybe,” mused Ellis, “me and Rich should go on a bus and say we’ve put a bomb on there so the driver can’t slow down below 31 miles an hour otherwise the bomb will go off unless 45 people buy tickets for our own coach trip.”

“It’s a thought.” I said. “A good thought.”

Ellis & Rose’s appeal is on Kickstarter and on YouTube:

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Are female British comedy performers funnier and more original than men?

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Candy Gigi – Are men doing this sort of comedy act in Britain?

This is a story of two female performers who, on stage, are utterly different. One comes across as an English rose; the other can possibly be best described as a live-action version of Warner Bros cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil.

A few months back Martin Soan, who runs the Pull The Other One comedy club with his wife Vivienne, told me he felt a lot of the best up-and-coming comedians – especially the weirder acts – were women. Martin knows a lot about new talent and it is maybe worth pointing out that Pull The Other One is currently compered by funny woman Lindsay Sharman while Vivienne Soan is setting up a new Pull The Other One club in Germany.

As any regular readers of this blog in the last year will have spotted, I think phenomenally highly of former BBC Broadcast Journalist turned comedy performer Juliette Burton. She is not a comedian in the traditional sense – certainly not a gag-spouting stand-up comic, but she is a genuinely great creator and performer of full-length shows.

Her When I Grow Up show at this Year’s Edinburgh Fringe (which I saw four times, just to be sure it really was as good as I thought it was and not just a one-off freak) was masterfully (there is no non-male word) researched, crafted and performed, had unexpected intellectual depth and vigour and I shed a tear at each performance, despite knowing what the emotional twist to the seemingly lighthearted show was.

I am not normally a fan of – in fact, I usually actively hate – video inserts in live shows. But Juliette spent the year in the lead-up to the Fringe shooting interviews and video inserts which to my constant surprise fitted perfectly into the live show with live voice-overs and links by her. She also (there is no non-male word) marketed her balls off in the lead up to and during the Fringe.

There were video clips on YouTube and a pop song called Dreamers which she performed at T in The Park immediately before the Fringe

and which was accompanied by a pop video posted on YouTube.

All profits from sales of Juliette’s Dreamers song from iTunes and elsewhere will go to the BBC’s Children in Need. until 15th November, the BBC’s transmission day.

In Edinburgh, there were also QR codes on flyers linking to the Dreamers music video promoting her When I Grow Up show; she arranged a flash mob in the Royal Mile; and much more.

There was something else she did at the Fringe which she reminded me about yesterday. She is auctioning off a book.

“It starts today,” she told me yesterday, “and you can bid to become the proud owner of the When I Grow Up Dreambook.

“It’s a book I ran around the Edinburgh Fringe with. I asked lots of famous and soon-to-be famous Fringe performers to write in the book what they wanted to be when they were children and what they do now.”

“So who has written in it?” I asked.

“Ooh,” said Juliette, “loads,: Barry Humphries, Phil Jupitus, Frank Skinner, Robin Ince, Marcus Brigstocke, Stewart Lee, Andrew Maxwell and loads more including Gary Morecambe the son of Eric Morecambe and Brian Henson the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson. And John Fleming of the Malcolm Hardee Awards and the John Fleming blog.”

“Only the crème de la crème, then,” I said. “Was Brian Henson green?”

“He picked a green page to write on,” replied Juliette.

“Barry Humphries is an interesting man to meet,” I mused.

“I remember him being very well dressed,” said Juliette. “Patrick Monaham wrote in the book twice.”

“Did he hug you?” I asked.

“Twice,” said Juliette.

“He may have been thinking of something other than Children in Need,” I suggested.

“We even did a little video of it,” said Juliette.

“The hugs?”

“Me getting people to sign the book. You are at 3 minutes 30 seconds into it.”

“So it’s worth watching the first three minutes, then,” I suggested.

“People can bid to own the item and all of the money received is going to the BBC’s Children In Need appeal,” Juliette said.

“Why Children In Need?” I asked.

“With the show being about childhood dreams,” replied Juliette, “it seemed appropriate, fun and lovely to see if dreamers achieved their dreams.”

“How long is the auction?”

“It closes on 15th November – next Friday – the day Children In Need is transmitted. The auction is on eBay.”

“And,” I said, “as a result of your Fringe show, you have been offered four or five interesting projects.”

“Nothing signed yet,” said Juliette, “so we can’t talk about them.”

“Australia?” I asked.

“I can talk about that,” said Juliette. “A company are touring me in Australia for three months. They’re taking me there in February to perform When I Grow Up at the Adelaide Fringe sometimes twice, sometimes once a day and I’ll also be performing with Lizzy Mace in our Rom Com Con show which was at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. After that, I’ll either be doing the Melbourne Comedy Festival or touring around. The itinerary is to be sorted out.”

“And, when you come back to the UK at the beginning of May,” I said, “you have deals with a couple of British media companies.”

“Agreed but not signed yet,” said Juliette, “so we can’t talk about those. But I’ll be back in time to do a show at the Brighton Fringe.”

“Will your show at the Edinburgh Fringe next year involve making videos in advance?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Juliette. “It will involve interviewing people on video and I definitely need people to get in touch with me if they want to go on record talking about their appearance and their relationship with how they look.”

Phil Kay performed with a bread product last night

Phil Kay performed with a bakery product last night

After seeing Juliette yesterday afternoon, I went to see one of the monthly Goodfather comedy nights run by Thomas Ward and Phil Kay at the Comedy Pub, a short heckler’s cry from the London Comedy Store in Oxendon Street – although heckling Phil Kay is not something to be recommended.

Thomas encouraged me to review the evening, but I rarely blog straight reviews. Instead, I will mention the aforementioned Tasmanian Devil comic – Candy Gigi, whom I mentioned last week.

Any show compered by Phil Kay is bound to be interesting and have stand-up acts worth seeing. But Candy Gigi is virtually unreviewable except visually. Some people might (I guess) not like her act, but it would be difficult to actively DISlike it because you would be suffering from sensory overload and unable to think clearly. I was sitting at the back of the audience so I could not see faces, but I had a feeling some may have mirrored the open-mouthed facial reactions of the First Night audience at Springtime For Hitler in Mel Brooks’ film The Producers. A combination of disbelief and sensory overload shock is not necessarily a bad thing in comedy.

In my very erstwhile role as a finder of bizarre talent for TV shows, I would sometimes see acts which were wonderful live but which would never translate to two-dimensional TV screens. I always went for talent, energy and originality. Go for the performer who has that ‘X’ Factor (in the pre-Simon Cowell sense.)

Candy Gigi has it, though how she develops this eye-popping and ear-assaulting act I have no idea. All I know is that the only way to describe it is to see it.

..

candygigi3

candygigi2

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If there were any justice in the comedy and entertainment world, then both Juliette Burton and Candy Gigi – two utterly different acts – would become rich, successful and famous, not necessarily in that order.

There is not.

So I can but toss a coin and pray, hope and mention.

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Comedians’ crowdfunding, books and ‘missing’ Edinburgh Fringe free shows

Enterprising early example of crowdfunding

Enterprising early example of crowdfunding

This year, several performers crowdfunded their shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Yesterday, I was in Brighton for the launch of registrations for the Brighton Fringe festival.

The crowdfunding site Zequs are saying that they will give £500 each to the first ten people who raise £1,000 for their shows via the Zequs site.

And, in a reassuring marketing wheeze, they cleverly point out that crowdfunding is not new – the plinth for the Statue of Liberty was financed by crowdfunding.

Crowdfunded anarchic autobiography

The crowdfunded anarchic autobiography

It certainly seems to be on the rise.

Last Saturday, I was at the launch of comedian Phil Kay’s crowdfunded book The Wholly Viable at the Soho Theatre, despite the fact I seem to remember there were two launch gigs for it at the Edinburgh Fringe back in August.

Still, it is being promoted by publicity maelstrom Bob Slayer.

Bob is also crowdfunding a new “children’s book for adults” with illustrations by Malcolm Hardee Pound of Flesh Award winner Rich Rose. The online Kickstarter appeal seems suitably non-sober.

Bob Slayer appeals - not very soberly - in a Kickstarter videoStill, it was being promoted by publicity maelstrom Bob Slayer.

Bob Slayer appeals – not very soberly – in a Kickstarter video

His book is called The Happy Drunk and he aims to raise £666 (I wonder where that number came from?) and, at the time of writing, he has already raised £481 with 12 days still to go.

The Happy Drunk is sub-titled Bob Slayer: The Baby Years and Bob’s pitch is: “Got kids? Here’s how to start them on the booze!”… “I don’t know why this was rejected by my publisher,” he says. “You can receive rewards of exclusive artwork, a caricature, a show in your own home, a magical mystery tour… even your very own baby… all of which will help make this project happen…”

CalPolIsEvil

The original title of Bob’s book

The book was originally titled Calpol Is Evil, but Bob surprisingly changed the title.

Meanwhile, fellow comedy performer and Edinburgh Fringe regular Ian Fox has updated his book How to Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show.

Now updated both online & as print book

Now updated both online & as print book

The book, says Ian, “shares eleven years experience of producing shows at the Fringe for the price of a café latte, without the social awkwardness of having to sit with the author in a coffee shop – highlighting the author’s personal experiences of half-full houses, flatmates gone bad, hostel horror stories, campsite calamities, and general comedy cock-ups.”

“Why update it?” I asked Ian yesterday. “Surely advice about putting on a show at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago is much the same as today?”

“The principles are the same,” he told me. “but some of the information has changed. Things like the price of ads in the Fringe Programme and the PBH Free Fringe have a voluntary contribution for their shows.”

“Ah, that’” I said, is one of the advantages of eBooks and publishing on demand: you can update facts immediately for new purchasers of the book.”

“And,” said Ian, “everything new which I’ve added, I have put online. Both the Kindle and the on-demand printed version have an address in them which tells you where you can find the updates on-line. It would be a bit unfair if you had to pay for small updates.”

“What’s the main difference,” I asked, “between 2003, when you first produced a show, and 2013?”

Michael McIntyre beaten for Perrier Best Newcomer Award

Oddly, Michael McIntyre was beaten for Perrier Best Newcomer Award in 2003 by Gary Le Strange

“The number of free shows,” replied Ian. “There weren’t any in 2003 and there were 814 last year… Well, 814 official ones, because a lot of the PBH Free Fringe ones aren’t actually listed in the Fringe Programme. The Laughing Horse Free Festival insists all its shows are listed in the official Fringe Programme, but the Free Fringe doesn’t.

“I got the 814 figure by searching the official Fringe site for free comedy shows, but the Chortle and the British Comedy Guide websites actually listed over 1,000 shows: so those extra ones obviously listed themselves on those websites but didn’t pay to list themselves in the Fringe Programme.”

“So,” I asked Ian, “if I ‘m a performer thinking of going to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time next year, why should I buy your book?”

“It will probably save you £300 or £400,” replied Ian. “The secret to making money at the Fringe is knowing how to not spend money unnecessarily. One Fringe publication was offering – for £100 – to put your ad on a webpage that got 10,000 impressions. But I remember from 2011 – the year of ‘Cockgate’ – when I took all those photographs and put them on my blog site… I thought I’d put an advert for my show down the side of the page…. I did… I got 14,000 hits on that page on the first day and I got two clicks on the ad… and one of them turned out to be Ashley Frieze, who I was sharing a flat with.”

“OK,” I said. “Let’s say I’m going to perform at the Fringe for the third time next year. Why should I buy your book?”

Ian Fox in Edinburgh during the Fringe

Ian Fox – now over a decade at the Edinburgh Fringe

“I probably can teach you some stuff, but there’s also loads of stories in there and some of the history you might not know, people’s failures. It’s not just a technical guide; there’s loads of anecdotes. There was one year when me and Ashley were putting free tickets for our shows in the Half Price Hut and people were getting them, even though the tickets were free. It’s just an extra outlet, another way of advertising a show – our show came up on the LED board outside the Half Price Hut – Shows starting in the next hour… There’s loads of tips like that in the book.”

“Do you know what show you’re doing yourself next year?”

“Sort of. I read that blog of yours about the more interesting shows being less straight-stand-up. I’m definitely going in that direction: that it’s not totally straight stand-up.”

“You could do burlesque,” I suggested. “Stripping in a sequin dress. I’d pay to see it.”

“I’m definitely not doing that,” laughed Ian, “though I once did a video with Mick Ferry. He used to do a show in Manchester called Mick Ferry’s Space Cadets and, every month, the audience used to set him a challenge and, because they’d had a burlesque dancer on in a particular show, they said he had to be a male burlesque dancer. I used to make videos of his challenges – shoot them on the Monday for the gig on the Tuesday. They’re on YouTube and on the videos page of my website.”

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Chasing pussy at Edinburgh Fringe + Lewis Schaffer develops terminal cancer

Lewis Schaffer (left) , Lach and Phil Kay last night

Lewis Schaffer (left in white), Lach and Phil Kay last night

It was 01.40am this morning, when I left Bob Slayer’s first Midnight Mayhem show which has no structure and simply has performers and members of the (if they want to) paying public doing pretty much whatever comes into Bob Slayer’s head – a risky concept at the end of the day, given Bob’s proclivity for drink.

Frank Sanazi croons “It’s Auschwitz" last night

Frank Sanazi crooned about Auschwitz craft

The show was still going strong with Phil Kay just about to start his second musical set.

Earlier, Frank Sanazi had performed one song to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s Witchcraft which he told us he now no longer sings in public (because of too many complaints) – Auschwitzcraft. And Lewis Schaffer had refused to perform his legendary three-part Holocaust joke.

A punter called Sally said it was her third visit to the Fringe over the years and she and her man had seen three shows at the major venues over the course of the day, two of which she said were “shit”. She asked what were the requirements for performing on the Fringe.

Kate Copstick, there to review Midnight Mayhem for the Scotsman newspaper, told Sally that it was a free-access festival and if you paid (one particular major venue) £5,000 up-front, then that was your qualification for performing.

Midnight Mayhem was happening in Bob’s Bookshop which, as a Pay What You Want show within the Free Festival within the overall Edinburgh Fringe, is in a rather different league but it was one which Sally seemed to say was what she had thought she was going to experience when she came to the Fringe for the first time. The earlier shows had not been this anarchic.

Andy Zapp - the current man in my bed at Edinburgh Fringe

Andy Zapp – the current man in my bed at Edinburgh Fringe

My day had started oddly, having breakfast with Lewis Schaffer at midday. Also at the meal – well it was a snack, really – were Ivor Dembina and the man currently sleeping in my bed, Andy Zapp. (I should point out I am sleeping in the living room next door.)

“What’s your best advice to young new comedians?” Ivor Dembina asked Andy.

“It’s good to make money while you’re still shit,” replied Andy.

Lewis Schaffer told us that his Fringe show next year would be called Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer and would contain details of his battle with a life-threatening form of cancer.

“What sort of cancer?” I asked.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he replied. All Lewis Schaffer knows so far is that his show will have to be life-affirming and he says he feels he has to establish the title Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer early, in case someone else uses it.

In a press release later in the day, he wrote:

I have never had cancer, nor do I have cancer, but I hope someday to have cancer. Cancer worked for comic greats Andy Kaufman, Bill Hicks and Tig Notaro – why shouldn’t it work for me? My apologies to everyone who has cancer and everyone who hasn’t had cancer.

Has anyone seen Kitler? Lost in Edinburgh.

Anyone seen Kitler? Allegedly lost by F.Sanazi

At around the same time I received this press release, Frank Sanazi phoned me up with news that he was sticking up posters all over Edinburgh about the tragic loss of his pet cat Kitler. The feline was not, as far as he knew, dead but (he claimed) had gone missing in action on Thursday.

He told me he would give me more information if I came to see his show Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II (which I had already arranged to do.)

Yesterday was a day I had chosen to see shows by other acts I already knew. For example, I saw two shows by previous winners of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

Johnny Sorrow (left) in The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society

Johnny Sorrow (left) – Bob Blackman Appreciation Society

The first was Johnny Sorrow, appearing as 50% of the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society. I laughed out loud throughout, something I rarely do. The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society Bonanza show included tap-dancing fleas and ‘the man with no act’ and – suitably for a show steeped in showbiz nostalgia and kitsch – it also included the soundtrack of an ITV trailer of the type I used to make for 20 years.

After the show, I chatted briefly with increasingly prestigious award-winning Johnny Sorrow and he told me:

“A couple of weeks ago in Stockport, Bob Blackman’s grand-daughter Abbie came to see our show. She lives in Macclesfield.”

“Poor woman,” I said. “How did she hear about you?”

“She saw us our name on the internet and thought What the hell’s this? and got in contact with us.”

Bob Blackman used to appear on TV hitting his head with a metal tray to the tune Mule Train. It was a memorable act, now sadly and unjustly forgotten by most subsequent generations of thrill-seekers.

“We found out where Bob Blackman actually started the act,” Johnny Sorrow told me yesterday. “It was at the Waterman’s Arms pub on the Isle of Dogs in London. At first, he used to do the act just by hitting the tray on his knees but then, one day, the Watermans Arms was so packed the tray couldn’t be seen, so he started hitting himself on the head with the metal tray and his fame just took off. His son Raymond told me that. You know you can get plaques put up on walls where cult comedians did famous things? We want a plaque up for Bob Blackman.”

The Rubberbandits at the Gilded Balloon yesterday

The rousing Rubberbandits at the Gilded Balloon yesterday

The second Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winning act I saw yesterday was Ireland’s Rubberbandits, regaling a packed Gilded Balloon venue with their greatest hits including Spastic Hawk and Up The RA (including the appearance on stage of two balaklava-wearing fake IRA members).

I rather enjoyed the particularly bad taste of their Spoiling Ivan,

The Gilded Balloon seems to be on a roll this year. Earlier, I had seen two other shows by top-notch acts.

Janey Godley was untagged in Edinburgh yesterday

Janey Godley happily ungagged in Edinburgh

My chum Janey Godley has returned for two weeks only to the Edinburgh Fringe – after a break of a couple of years – with a stonkingly good show Janey Godley Is Ungagged mostly about social media.

But it also has one of the most interesting anti-police stories I have heard and Janey’s barnstorming performance occasionally teetered on the edge of successful rabble-rousing.

When she said she was thinking of standing as an MP (I think she was joking – although the late Margaret Thatcher once suggested Janey should enter politics) she was loudly cheered and, by the end, she was telling the audience to be ungagged and to realise words are just words and had them chanting along with her Cunt! Cunt! Cunt! which – as everyone knows – is a term of endearment in Glasgow.

Ashley Storrie with mother Janey at the Gilded yesterday

Ashley Storrie and mother Janey Godley at the Gilded Balloon

As always, Janey did the whole show unscripted and, for these particular Edinburgh shows, she is preceded by a 15-minute warm-up performed by her daughter Ashley Storrie.

I had never seen Ashley perform stand-up before. She got 4-star reviews at the Fringe when she performed as a 13-year-old in 1999, but lost interest in it shortly after that. A couple of years ago, she performed at the Fringe with sketch show Alchemy but, this year, she started doing pure stand-up again. I talked to her about it in January.

On-stage, she has her mother’s self-confidence and audience-controlling charm. Astonishing.

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette Burton in her first grown-up solo show

As is Juliette Burton’s show When I Grow Up, also at the Gilded Balloon.

“I was walking round today flyering people,” Juliette told me after the show, “and I remembered the first time I came up to the Fringe in 2005, just as a punter. Back then, I was really, really jealous of all the performers and now I am one.”

“Which is what your show’s about,” I said. “realising dreams. Though the one thing you do not say in your show is that, as a kid, you wanted to be a comedian when you grew up.”

Juliette Burton gets a dream Fringe pass

Juliette gets her dream performer’s pass

“Not a stand-up comedian,” replied Juliette. “And that’s not what I am now. Why does comedy have to be stand-up? Why do you have to necessarily adhere to one specific form of comedy to be considered a comic performer? If you’re billed as a comedian, everyone assumes you’re going to do stand-up.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I saw Janey Godley earlier this evening and she’s called a comedian, but she’s really not a traditional comedian – she’s a brilliant storyteller who gets laughs.”

“I don’t see,” continued Juliette, “why comedy has to be set-up/punchline/gag. Why can’t comedy take different forms? Mine is very mainstream storytelling, but it would not fit in the theatre section of the Fringe Programme: it would be too comedic. On the other hand, it’s not stand-up comedy.”

“The videos are very funny,” I said. “I normally don’t like videos plonked into live shows to attract TV producers. But your videos and recorded interviews are a seamless part of the live show.”

“I guess,” said Juliette, “that it’s poking fun at some of the social boundaries that we’ve enforced upon ourselves in ways that – I don’t want to give away what’s in the show, but I like to do things that might seem absurd and crazy and like a nutcase, but actually the real crazy thing is not to enjoy what you’re doing with your life.”

“I suppose,” I said, “that your enthusiastic presenting style says to the audience that it’s a showbiz, comedic piece, but it’s not actually..”

Juliette foregrounded by either arms or legs

Juliette (right) sings at rockfest T In the Park

“How can you define comedy?” Juliette interrupted. “I’m very honest on stage. In a way, a stand-up comedian’s routine is more dishonest than what I’m saying. Several people have told me in the last couple of days that they are tiring of stand-up because it’s so predictable. They actually want something a bit different, something to surprise them.

“Stand-up – however shocking it might be – swearing and taboo subjects – is no longer pushing any boundaries. So maybe redefining what a comedy show is might be the next boundary to push.”

“I cried at one point in your show,” I said. “Not from laughter. From sadness. Despite the fact I had seen the show before and knew what was coming. It has shades and the audience don’t see what’s coming. Sometimes comedy is best when you laugh AND cry”

Juliette’s pop promo for her song Dreamers (When I Grow Up) – recorded specially for her show – can be seen on YouTube and the song can bought online. All money made during the Fringe will be donated to Children In Need.

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