Tag Archives: Phill Jupitus

A great comedy show and scarcely-believable tales of Malcolm Hardee

The Greatest Show on multiple legs last night

The Greatest Show on many legs last night

It is a difficult blog to write if someone you know quite well does a really stonkingly good gig, because no-one is really going to believe you when you say how good it was.

Even moreso when it’s an entire comedy club evening.

All I can say is that last night’s Pull The Other One comedy show in Nunhead, South East London, was one of the best comedy nights I have been at. And I have been at a few.

Vivienne and Martin Soan’s Pull The Other One shows are always odd and always entertaining but – like all the very best comedy nights – there can be some ups and downs, much like a well-loved camel. Last night, there were no downs – it was more firm-peaked dromedary than lumpy Bactrian – and the very excitable audience had every right to be just that… excited.

New-ish Darren Maskell was fairly indescribable but, if I had to put words to it, I’d try ‘successfully surreal’ and audience member Phill Jupitus was roaring with laughter at many parts. I particularly liked the miniature-chainsawed ice sculpture Darren gave to a member of the audience.

Lindsay Sharman in full-flow as a rage-filled Scots poet was extremely funny, as perhaps only rage-filled Scots poets can be.

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan's hair

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan’s hair last night

And then Stephen Frost threw one of Martin Soan’s shoes out of the first floor window, grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off parts of Martin’s shirt and half his hair simply so Martin could deliver a gag about being “half-cut”.

Now that is true dedication to comedy. Especially as, if you throw a shoe out of a window into a South East London street, there is no guarantee it will still be there when you go to collect it ten minutes later. Fortunately the shoe was still there, though a shirt and jeans had been stolen.

Then, back on stage, there was Phill Jupitus reprising his 1980s persona of Porky The Poet with old and new material performed with flawless comic timing, followed by Oram & Meeton wildly on-form.

Triumphant Martin Soan obscured by cheering audience member

Stephen Frost and triumphant Martin Soan partially obscured by rising, cheering audience members in London last night

It maybe sounds like an ordinary comedy night ‘bigged-up’. It was not. It was a wonderful, wonderful event. At the end, one of the performers asked me: “Was tonight as good as I think it was?”

“Yes it was,” I said.

The night was, in fact, as good as some of the best nights at the late Malcolm Hardee’s clubs The Tunnel Palladium and Up The Creek and, inevitably, Malcolm’s ghost made an appearance last night.

‘Porky The Poet’ had written new poems about Martin Soan, Stephen Frost and Malcolm Hardee (as well as one about touring with Madness).

And, at the beginning of the evening, a man approached me in the club’s darkness saying “I know your face.”

Crimewatch?” I asked.

“No. You do occasional Facebook postings on the Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society page and I recognise your face from there,” he said.

This I find slightly worrying, as there is only a tiny icon-type picture of me there and, although I have occasionally been ‘recognised’ by people in trains and at parties in the past, I have only been mis-recognised as a totally different person, because I have a very unexceptional face.

I have often been mistaken for a ‘Peter’. Whether this is one particular Peter or, more likely, a variety of different Peters nationwide, I know not.

But this guy who really did recognise me in the dark at Pull The Other One last night was one Nick Bernard.

“I used to live next door to Malcolm Hardee’s house in Fingal Street in the mid-1990s,” he told me. “Well, Malcolm wasn’t living there then – that bloke from Only Fools and Horses was – but I used to hang out a lot with Malcolm. Have you heard the story about his first date with Jane (his future wife)?”

“Try me,” I said.

“I think Malcolm had met Jane at Up The Creek,” said Nick.

“Yes,” I said, “the way she tells it, the first time she saw him, he was naked on stage…”

“It was Malcolm who told me this,” said Nick, “and then Jane who ‘affirmed the narrative’… He chatted her up after the show and arranged to go on a date the next day.

“So the next day he turns up in his Jaguar at her house all suited-and-booted to pick her up… but he is desperate to go to the loo. And, rather than knock on the door and say I’m really sorry, I’ve gotta go to the loo, he thinks the best thing is to go before he knocks on the door. Except he needs to do a shit not a wee.

“So he shits in her neighbour’s front garden but doesn’t have anything to wipe himself, so he pulls his suit back together, knocks on the door, takes her to the car, Jane gets into the car and becomes aware of this foul smell… but she still married him.

“There’s obviously some winning charm there.”

“I think,” I said, “women liked his innocence.”

“Well, he did have a huge charm,” said Nick. “I think it was the honesty. I mean he could be really quite cruel, but it wasn’t like mean or deliberate. He saw the line of humour and the eventual laugh and he thought: I’ll just go for the humorous line and fuck it!

“I think the definitive Malcolm story,” I said, “is the Matthew Hardy one where…”

“Oh! And his tax!” Nick said.

“His tax?” I asked.

“Well, you know Malcolm never paid his tax?” asked Nick.

I nodded, obviously.

“So, after Matthew Hardy moved in with him,” said Nick, “there was an M.Hardee and an M.Hardy sharing an address – same name but different spellings. So, after Malcolm was owing multiple years of tax… Well, he had written to the tax office and said he’d died and that hadn’t worked… Well, it did for a bit… Then he wrote to them saying You’ve been getting my name wrong and he told them he was M.Hardy not M.Hardee… Then the tax office started chasing Matthew Hardy…”

“After Malcolm died,” I told Nick, “his brother Alex was sitting sorting through the paperwork in Malcolm’s place and the phone rang. It was someone from the tax office asking: Can I speak to Mr Malcolm Hardee, please? So Alex says, I’m afraid he died and the taxman says, You tried that last year, Mr Hardee.

“But the definitive Malcolm story, I think, is the one Matthew Hardy tells on the anecdotes page of his website…”

THIS IS MATTHEW HARDY’S STORY:

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (photo by Steve Taylor)

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (photo by Steve Taylor)

He took my visiting elderly parents out in his boat. Goes up the Thames and on the right was some kind of rusted ship, pumping a powerful arc of bilgewater out of its hull, through a kind of high porthole, which saw the water arc across the river over fifty foot.

I’m on the front of the boat as Malcolm veers toward the arc and I assume he’s gonna go under it, between the ship and where the arc curves downward toward the river itself. For a laugh.

Just as I turn back to say “Lookout, we’re gonna get hit by the filthy fucking water” – the filthy fucking water almost knocked my head off my shoulders and me off the boat. I looked back to see it hit Malcolm as he steered, then my Mum and then Dad.

I wanted to hit him, and my Dad said afterwards that he did too, but we were both unable to comprehend or calculate what had actually happened. Malcolm’s decision was beyond any previously known social conduct. He must have simply had the idea and acted upon it. Anarchy.

We laugh… NOW!”

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The Secrets of The Elders of Zion and daft feminists at the Edinburgh Fringe

Hayden Cohen at the Edinburgh Fringe last year

Hayden Cohen at Edinburgh Fringe, 2012

After I saw Hayden Cohen’s show Age of The Geek at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, he interviewed me for his podcast.

Yesterday, he was passing through Borehamwood and popped in to see me at my home but, this time I asked him questions.

Obviously, the first thing I asked him what he was working on.

“I’m doing Secrets of the Elders of Zion,” he told me. “I can’t decide if it’s for the Edinburgh Fringe or not. I still don’t know what works at Edinburgh and what doesn’t – maybe no-one does. The concept is that I’m trying to become a member of the Elders of Zion, but I can’t find who I need to speak to, so I decide to start up the UK branch myself. The stage show would be like a members’ open day, to get people involved. I don’t know how far I want to take it in the real world. But I’m thinking of contacting the Chief Rabbi.

“I’ve seen Jewish performers do Jewish shows and it’s either Yeah! I’m proud to be Jewish! or I hate Jews!… I want to do something that’s kinda both. I did a free scratch performance of Secrets of the Elders of Zion at the annual Limmud Conference at Warwick University last month and I came out bleeding a little bit from that. But I now know what works and what doesn’t in the show.”

“And after that, it’s…?” I asked.

Feminisn’t,” said Hayden.

Feminisn’t?” I asked.

Feminisn’t,” said Hayden. “That’s the next show after Secrets of the Elders of Zion, if I can find a way to do it without alienating half of my demographic. I get irritated by sexism. It annoys me but, at the same time, I feel there are certain issues that blokes are scared to address… but, if I can do it in a funny way… What I was thinking of doing was going to as many different organisations and to as many different women as possible who define themselves as Feminist.

“A lot of religious women feel empowered even though the Feminist movement would argue the last thing they are is empowered. But they say: Well, it’s my choice to cook and clean and not do all the main praying in the place of worship. I want to contrast that with, say, the Women’s Institute people and the women who say Being a woman is just a construct of society; there is no gender.

“I already know what I want the end to be – I want it to be that anyone who thinks they know what Feminism is clearly doesn’t understand Feminism.

“It annoys me when Feminists say Oh, we want women to be able to choose whatever they want and, when a woman decides to choose to have a family, they then say Oh, well that’s anti-Feminist!

No it’s not. No it’s not at all.

“At the same time, I want to do it a way that’s not quite as ham-fisted as what I’ve just said, because that will end up offending people. I want to do it in a fun way and it’s difficult to get that balance.”

“So you see yourself basically as a comic doing serious material?” I asked.

“I don’t know if I’m ever going to make it with my style of stuff,” said Hayden. “I don’t want to be type-cast. Some people have said You should do Age of The Geek 2 and I did think of Age of The Geek 2: The Cash-In Sequel, but that requires Age of The Geek to be much bigger than it is.

“It sounds weird, but I want to be a guy like Phill Jupitus. Not really categorised as anything specific. Neither is Craig Charles now. They do lots of different things.”

“Well,” I said, “Craig Charles has done Coronation Street on TV and Phill Jupitus has been in Spamalot and Hairspray in the West End after starting as Porky The Poet, so I see what you mean. The money is in TV, though.”

“Money would be lovely,” said Hayden, “but it’s not about the money. You see the same faces again and again on TV panel shows and all the bite’s gone. The bite has disappeared from TV. Where is it? You’ve got Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, which I love.

“But the style I‘d like to emulate – not emulate, build-upon – is George Carlin. He was brilliant. The fact that he philosophised in a funny way that was never contrived. I still can’t figure it out. I’ve watched it loads of times and tried to think Can I do anything like that? but, every time I try, it just comes out like a rant.”

“But your rant,” I said, “might end up as good as his non-rant. If you copy someone else’s style it won’t work but, if you do the same basic skeleton of a concept in a different way, it can work because it will be you.”

“I don’t know where I fit,” Hayden told me. “Age of The Geek was not really a standard show. It wasn’t yer ordinary stand-up and so I felt a lot of people didn’t know what they were expecting.

“I got very frustrated when some people went Oh, I loved the poetry but I hated the songs and others went The songs were really good; hated the poetry. It feels like you can’t win. This is now my rant. It seems like everyone wants to pigeonhole you. You’re a stand-up comedian. Or You’re a writer. Or You’re a musician… Why?

“You can understand bureaucrats wanting to pigeonhole themselves, because they like the structure and clarity of it. But people in entertainment??? I don’t understand why… Well, I do understand from a practical viewpoint. If you say you’re a comedian, then someone who wants a comedian will get you in. But there needs to be something more – your favourite word – anarchic.

“I’ve done an album of straight music and I feel like I’m doing more comedy because people have said Oh, you’re a comedian! and it’s just too much of a headache to say It’s a bit more complicated than that… People don’t like that.”

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One man can change the world with a bullet (or six) in the right place….

(A version of this blog was also published in the Huffington Post under the title What Links Dead Comedian Malcolm Hardee, Gangster Mad Frank Fraser & a British Political Sex Scandal?)

My local handyman (who is a very interesting person; he was at university – UCL, London – with the mother of Kate Middleton, our possibly future Queen) came round to mend my side gate yesterday. He was telling me he hated reading Charles Dickens and could not understand what people see in Dickens’ writing.

“Just caricatures,” he fumed. “Just caricatures. But,” he continued, “Horace Walpole is worse. “The Castle of Otranto is utter shit yet people thought it was a great piece of writing at the time and they thought Horace Walpole’s name would be remembered. Now, quite rightly, no-one remembers him except dusty academics. He’s a footnote. Who knows which ‘famous’ people’s names are going to survive from the 20th century? It’s pot luck.”

Also yesterday, Bill Alford sent me a Facebook message telling me he had posted on Flickr ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… photographs he took in the years 1985-1987 at the late Malcolm Hardee‘s legendary – nay, notorious – seminal alternative comedy club The Tunnel Palladium.

In among the early photos of Keith Allen, Clive Anderson, Phil Cool, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield, Jeremy Hardy, Ainsley Harriott, Jools Holland, Eddie Izzard, Phill Jupitus, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey, Mike Myers (yes, that Mike Myers), Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Screaming Lord Sutch, Squeeze and many others at Malcolm’s Tunnel Palladium, there is a photo of a trendy-looking gent captioned Johnny Edge.

All ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… of Bill’s photos are interesting – a nostalgic flashlight on an earlier comedy era – but the photo of Johnny Edge was the one which interested me most because I never met Johnny Edge.

I only knew of him by reputation.

He died almost exactly a year ago, on 26th September 2010.

He was just an ordinary bloke living in south east London, whom most people had never heard of yet, when he died, he merited very lengthy obituaries in the Daily Telegraphthe Guardian and the Independent.

In that sense, he was a bit like Malcolm Hardee.

Most people in Britain had never heard of Malcolm Hardee but, when he drowned in January 2005, such was his importance to the development of British comedy, that he merited near full-page obituaries in the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the Guardianthe Independent and The Times – indeed, he managed to get two obituaries in the Evening Standard and two in the Guardian.

Malcolm had told me tales of Johnny Edge coming to his comedy clubs and, when I showed the Flickr photo to a friend who worked at Malcolm’s later comedy club Up The Creek, she immediately recognised him:

“Oh yes. I recognise him. He was a regular. He always seemed to me to be on his own. I didn’t know who he was, but other people seemed to know him and treat him with respect, like he had been in known bands or something, He looked ‘reggae’ and he held himself well, maybe just because he was older and quiet. He seemed nice. I think if he had been in a rock band I would have heard which one, which is why I wondered how people were familiar with him… Now I come to think about it, maybe Malcolm always put his name ‘on the door’ so he got in for free. Logically, I think that is highly likely.”

When Malcolm had told me about Johnny Edge being a regular at his clubs, I could feel the slight thrill he had in being able to say he had met and, to an extent, known him.

Johnny ‘Edge’ was a nickname. He was actually Johnny Edgcombe. What he did in 1962 was the catalyst that triggered the Profumo Scandal in 1963 which played no minor part in bringing down the Conservative government in 1964.

Edgecombe had fired six shots at osteopath Stephen Ward’s mews flat, where Edgecombe’s ex-girlfriend Christine Keeler was hiding.

Malcolm’s barely-contained thrill at having a link with Johnny ‘Edge’ was the same thrill I could sense in him when famed 1960s South London gangster Charlie Richardson came to a party on Malcolm’s floating pub the Wibbley Wibbley. It is the same thrill some people feel if they have an even tenuous link with the Kray Twins.  I have heard more than one stand-up comic joke about the TARDIS-like capacity of the Blind Beggar, seeing as how most of the population of East London appears to have been in the pub the night Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

It is the thrill of one or two degrees of separation from important historic or society-changing events.

Malcolm had three degrees of separation from the Krays, which I think he always cherished and which is mentioned towards the start of his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (now out-of-print, but currently available from me via Amazon at  the remarkably reasonable price of £49.99 + p&p).

When Mad Frank Fraser, the Richardson’s ‘enforcer’ was shot in the thigh during a fight at Mr Smith’s Club in Catford, he was eventually left lying in the front garden of Malcolm’s aunt Rosemary and uncle Doug. The shooting was part of the bad blood and linked events which led to the shooting in the Blind Beggar which brought the Kray Twins and, to an extent, the Richardsons down.

Links within links within links.

To an extent, I share Malcolm’s thrill with one or two degrees of linked separation from national, international or parochial history. Everything and everyone is inter-linked.

Malcolm never met Mad Frank Fraser. I have and I am glad to have met and chatted to him a couple of times: the man who once lay bleeding in Malcolm’s aunt and uncle’s front garden.

Links within links within links.

Once, Mad Frank told me he worried “a bit” what people would say about him after he was dead, because what people are seen as being is ultimately not what they are but what people write about them in retrospect.

A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazonian jungle really can change the world. Ordinary unsung individuals can be part of the chain that creates historic events. Or, to quote anti-hero Mick’s line in Lindsay Anderson’s trendy 1968 film If….

“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place…”

Or six bullets.

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Day Three of Malcolm Hardee Week – pasta chaos and a finger up the bottom

Malcolm Hardee Week continues apace.

After Monday’s Malcolm Hardee Debate finished a whole hour late (it merged into the next show), Scots comic Nob Stewart grabbed Kate Copstick when she came off stage and chatted to her on camera for 45 minutes.

I guess the adrenaline (and possibly the two pints she had had on-stage) pumped away. In the first two minutes, she named a comedy company whose flyerers had physically threatened her and she was laying into the big promoters at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you think she is sharp-tongued on ITV1’s Show Me The Funny, you have only heard the half of it…

Later today, Copstick is travelling down to the O2 arena in London as a judge for the live final of Show Me The Funny (although the winner is decided by viewer voting). Then tomorrow she is on a train back up to Edinburgh when we decide the Malcolm Hardee Award winners at noon and she will take an active part through the wonders of 21st century technology. As I said in my blog yesterday, what’s this thing with the Prime Minister having to be dragged back from holiday every time something happens?

If we had Copstick as Prime Minister, things would be easier.

Me? I have to be at the Blue Moon cafe-restaurant-bar in Barony Street just off Broughton Street in the New Town at noon today to collect more spaghetti for the second day of the Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest. The Blue Moon is generously sponsoring us with free spaghetti.

The spaghetti-juggling happens outside the Beehive Inn in the Grassmarket.

Yesterday the first spaghetti-juggling contest, partially in the rain, became less of a solo juggling event, more a three-a-side sideways-throwing contest with the participants constantly changing. This came about when Scots comedian Bruce Fummey valiantly tried to bring some order into the proceedings; it must be his background as a teacher.

In its latter stages, to be honest, with spaghetti stocks dwindling, the thing degenerated more into a custard-pie type spaghetti fight than juggling. The arrival of Malcolm Award nominated Johnny Sorrow on the scene in a macintosh and flat cap did little to quell the degeneration of this fine potential Olympic sport – and he seemed to encourage the rain.

At the end, Laughing Horse Free Festival supremo Alex Petty mucked-in with a stiff broom, helping to clear up the scattered spaghetti in the cobbles outside the Beehive Inn. If his flirtation with big-time comedy promoting ever falls through, he has a future as a street sweeper.

Today’s spaghetti-juggling will include on-the-spot advice on the aerodynamics of pasta from Dr Sophia Khan, formerly of NASA , Harvard, the Japanese Space Agency and Shanghai University. She will be joined by Dr Andrew Bunker, former Head of Astronomy at the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Oz and now Reader in Astrophysics at Oxford University.

Who said spaghetti-juggling was trivial?

Brainiac eat your heart out.

While waiting for the spaghetti-juggling to start yesterday, I got dragged into Lancelot Adams’ show outside the Beehive Inn – The Magic Drawabout – an enticingly odd concept in which he gets passing members of the public to take part in a one hour show which involves drawing each other in various parts of the Grassmarket while he chats to the ‘sitter’.

He told me he had thought I looked like a weirdo when he first saw me in the street, but soon realised I was not. I was genuinely offended this.

Have the last several decades of my life, cultivating weirdness, all been in vain?

The Magic Drawabout and Lancelot Adams’ other show at the Beehive Inn – Ze Hoff Und Friends – about David Hasselhoff – are decidedly quirky, but the ‘sleeper’ of the Fringe has arguably been Paul Provenza’s Set List: Standup Without a Net which started in Just The Tonic at the Tron, then moved to one of Just The Tonic’s bigger venues at The Caves and now has moved to a bigger Cave, such has been its increasing popularity. It has gathered even more word-of-mouth with Paul Provenza flying in from LA last week.

Set List: Standup Without a Net has also been getting a lot of word-of-mouth buzz among comedians, because its format of the stand-up comic being shown a list of six words or phrases as subjects – the set list – one-at-a-time without pre-warning only when they are on stage is an utter nightmare. The best comics can weave a thread through the disparate subjects rather than just perform six unconnected routines. The risk of getting lost is high. The likelihood of a comedian eventually shitting on stage must be equally high.

Last night, among those trying their luck were Frank Skinner, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Richard Herring and Phill Jupitus. Big names for a concept that seems likely to get bigger.

One tiny aside…

While waiting to get into Set List last night, a comic came up to me and said she had just been to Malcolm Hardee Award nominee Bob Slayer’s show at The Hive where, on stage, she had stuck her finger up his bottom. A rubber glove had been provided by the ever-amenable Bob.

As far as I know, it is the second time this has happened in Bob’s show.

Call me old-fashioned but I think, as a format, Set List: Standup Without a Net has more likelihood of being commissioned as a TV series.

I would be happy to be proved wrong, though I am not sure I would be watching on a regular basis.

Bob Slayer was nominated for this year’s Malcolm Hardee Award “for going beyond OTT into uncharted areas of comedy excess”.

I think it would be difficult to fault our nomination.

When I mentioned this story to Bob Slayer, he said, “Well, I do want to point out that it did not happen a second time – The lady who did it the first time was in the audience last night and so another lady tried to emulate her (who wouldn’t?) – She tried to do a fist but failed .

“I obviously don’t want people to think that any Tom, Dick or Harry can finger my entrails.”

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For the third and last time – pity the poor comedian with a bad memory or an impish audience member

I am the ideal comedy audience because I have a shit memory.

I can watch a stand-up performance and love it and adore every gut-wrenchingly funny punchline and walk out at the end of the gig and ten minutes later… I cannot remember any of the jokes.

In that sense, I am the stand-up comic’s dream: that he/she could perform the same gags every day to the same Alzheimer’s audience and they wouldn’t realise it.

Alas for the poor comedian, audiences do remember if you have told them a gag, especially if you just told them that same gag ten minutes ago.

The last couple of days, I have blogged about stand-up comedians who have – either intentionally or unintentionally – repeated all of part of their routines within the same gig to increasingly bemused audiences.

After reading the blogs, Mark Hurst aka Mark Miwurdz contacted me on Facebook:

“Yikes! I did that at the Edinburgh Fringe once, must have been festival fatigue. Finished a routine and began it agin, as if on a loop. I pretended it was deliberate but I don’t think anyone believed me.”

There is also a problem, of course, if comics don’t watch the comedians who precede them at a club gig. Mark Hurst says:

“I saw two comics very recently, back to back, who both did routines on knife crime and using a spoon instead. The audience suddenly went quiet on the second one, much to his confusion.”

“Ah the topical comic’s nightmare,” Brian Mulligan of Skint Video told me yesterday: “We once had a joke about Frank Bough caught sniffing coke to which the punchline was Next we’ll find out Lord Denning is a rent boy! And Felix, who was on before us, had done the same gag.”

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned the occasion recalled by Ronnie Golden and Michael Redmond in which Lee Cornes intentionally re-told his jokes to confuse an audience at the Comedy Store in London. And Steve Bennett of the Chortle comedy website told me of an occasion which was the reverse of this:

“There’s a related story,” he told me yesterday, “that a comedian – I think it was Phill Jupitus – was once heckled by a voice from the front row which quietly told him: You’ve already said that… He hadn’t, but he had performed at four other gigs that night and couldn’t be sure what he’d done, so he was thrown completely.”

Comedians trying to confuse audiences… audience members trying to confuse comedians.

Pity the poor comedian.

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