Tag Archives: Queen Mother

“What happened to your cancer?” I asked comedian Lewis Schaffer

Tony Green (left) as The Pompous Man & Martin Soan as Hercule Poirot (part of the show Lewis Schaffer did not see)

Tony Green (left) as The Pompous Man and Martin Soan as Hercule Poirot at the 10th anniversary Pull The Other One

Occasionally I get asked to see shows by people in the hope that I might mention how wonderful they are in my increasingly-prestigious blog. I usually accept the free ticket. I am, after all, a Scot brought up among Jews. But, really, I tend not to review shows – I prefer to preview upcoming events with blog chats.

This has the advantage that I appear to have a bigger finger on the pulse of what is about to happen than I perhaps do… plus I get to drink tea and eat cake with some interesting people… and I do not have to give my detailed opinion on shows.

If I actually review shows, I risk being hated over a period of limitless years and being thrown out of parties to which I have been accidentally invited. This is not a good option for someone who likes tea and cake.

There is also the problem that, if I see a really superb show, there is very little I can say.

Martin Soan, filmed before the show Lewis Schaffer didn’t see

Martin Soan, being filmed by Ravensbourne before the show

If I were to write a blog full of extreme adjectives praising the brilliance of the performance, writing and chair upholstery at the venue, it would read – even when it is entirely justified – like the worst luvvie puff imaginable and too much of this would lose me any credibility I might or might not have. So…

If I see crap and say so, I am a bastard.

If I see genius and praise it to the full extent it deserves, I am a luvvie puffball.

As a result, I prefer to talk to interesting people and enjoy quiet conversations over tea and cake.

Having said that…

Lindsay Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Superb Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Yesterday’s alleged 10th anniversary Pull The Other One comedy show in London’s strangely-increasingly trendy Nunhead was even more wonderful than normal, boosted even moreso by Lindsay Sharman hosting as three characters. Suffice to say, the show opened with Martin Soan’s Riverdance routine (a show-closer anywhere else) and ended by opening The Gates Of Hell.

Look, you had to be there.

(Comedian Lewis Schaffer was not.)

There were so many people on the bill – each one excellent – that there is no point me listing the names without going into extreme detail of why they were so good.

Not listing them will get me a black mark from each of the acts.

Listing just the names would lose reader interest.

Yesterday’s PTOO cast as listed on a poster

Yesterday’s PTOO cast as listed on a poster

Describing only some would get me disliked by the un-described.

It is an eternal trap for a critic.

Which, thankfully, I am not.

I am a mentioner of occasionally colourful background.

So I will just mention that the whole preparations for the night as well as the show itself were shot on five cameras by a crew from Ravensbourne College directed by a man who used to direct Cannon and Ball for ITV.

During the afternoon, club runner Martin Soan also took phone calls from various showbiz chums for various props they wanted him to create for them (including yet another giant vagina, which is becoming his speciality)… and comedian Lewis Schaffer wandered in.

David Crossman (left) interviews Lewis Schaffer

David Crossman (left) interviewed Lewis Schaffer yesterday

Lewis Schaffer was not on the bill for the show, though Martin Soan had asked him to come along in the afternoon.

Lewis Schaffer wandered in and started saying Hi. I’m Lewis Schaffer to anyone who would listen. He is, after all, Lewis Schaffer and this is what he does.

One of those who listened was David Crossmanthe aforementioned director from Ravensbourne, who wisely or unwisely chose to ask Lewis Schaffer questions in front of the cameras.

 Frost and Ireland in the show Lewis Schaffer slept through

Frost and Ireland had very stiff upper lips in yesterday’s show

I fully expect the eventual half hour documentary to be about Lewis Schaffer with little mention of Pull The Other One.

Obviously, I chatted to Lewis Schaffer too. He makes it difficult not to.

“What happened to your cancer?” I asked him. “You were going to call your Edinburgh Fringe show Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer.

“I WAS going to develop cancer for my show,” said Lewis Schaffer, “but then I developed a boil on my back.”

I sympathised with Lewis Schaffer.

“I suppose it hasn’t got the same publicity value,” I said.

“No,” agreed Lewis Schaffer glumly, “and you’d be surprised how slowly those things go away.”

“Cancer?” I asked.

“Boils,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I don’t want to talk about this. It’s disgusting.”

“And cancer isn’t?” I asked.

“It was in the long line of show titles I have almost used but didn’t,” he replied, perking up. “Lewis Schaffer Is Jimmy Carr. Do you remember that one? The thing is people suggest show titles to me and then they’re mad when I choose my own show title,” he added glumly.

“What have you eventually decided to call your show this year?” I asked.

Lewis Schaffer: Success Is Not An Option… I don’t have a plan for the future, John. I’m SO tired.”

“Why are you tired?” I asked.

“Because I’ve got sleep apnea.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You know, John, when you’re old…”

“I know,” I told Lewis Schaffer.

“… your body gets flabby,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You probably don’t notice because you’ve never looked in a mirror, John: I can tell by the way you dress… Your body gets flabbier. But also your body on the inside gets flabbier too. You get all sorts of floppy-flop bits that are going on inside…”

“You’re thinking of women,” I suggested.

“…and what happens with old men,” said Lewis Schaffer, ignoring me, “is – like me – When I’m trying to fall asleep, I fall asleep and then my internal flaps…”

“What internal flaps?” I asked.

“Your glottis, your adenoids… In your throat, there are things that close.”

“Like bad shows?” I asked.

“They close,” said Lewis Schaffer, ignoring me, “so you don’t drown.”

“I think your ear lobes keep growing,” I mused. “They keep growing. My mother had big ear lobes when she died. The Queen Mother must have had ear lobes down to her knees.”

“They probably caught up with her tits,” said Lewis Schaffer. He pondered this for a few seconds and then asked me: “Is that funny?”

Shortly afterwards, Lewis Schaffer left the building because he was feeling exhausted and had to go home to bed. It was about 6.00pm.

About ten minutes later, I looked out the first floor window and saw him talking animatedly to three men in the street. He had found another audience.

About five minutes later, I went out and joined them. He talked for another ten minutes.

Usually, audiences seek out good comedians.

Lewis Schaffer seeks out good audiences.

Sharnema Nougar fell for four audience members in the PTOO 10th anniversary show which Lewis Schaffer missed

Sharnema Nougar fell for four audience members in the PTOO 10th anniversary show which Lewis Schaffer missed

He never turned up for the show.

Heather, one of his entourage, said he was asleep.

That was a pity. He would have enjoyed the show.

He could have talked to the audience afterwards.

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Necrophilia and its place in honouring comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wouldn’t dare, she says.

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

No. No, she says, that won’t happen.

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

“She shook my hand.

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

“A bottle of vodka in my hand, yeah?

“People walk out and get really upset and everything.

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

Ian dedicated his next poem/song to Malcolm.

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

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

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

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

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

and later included the fine lines:

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

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

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

How true. How true.

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The downside of being a dead celebrity: Liz Taylor, Charlie Drake, Rod Hull, Bob Hope & the Queen Mum

The Queen Mother was 101 years old when she died and she had cost the BBC a fortune by not dying earlier. Her death – codenamed ‘Blackbird’ at ITV where the Transmission Controllers had envelopes containing details of what to do when she did eventually die – was clearly going to be a big news story and her funeral a complicatedly large state event so, to my knowledge, the BBC ran a full rehearsal of her death and coverage of her funeral three times. It cost a fortune.

She must have been well-pissed off when Princess Diana died because everyone was unprepared. There were certainly no plans for Diana to have a big funeral because, at that point, she was not a member of the Royal Family and had no constitutional position. So, when the Royal Family were, in effect, forced by the press and – to my mind – surreal public opinion to give Diana a big fuck-me funeral, they used the plans for the Queen Mother’s funeral.

As a result, the Queen Mother’s funeral itself was a less big-scale anti-climax.

Dying can be difficult at the best of times, but pity the poor celebrity.

Elizabeth Taylor sadly mis-timed her death on Wednesday. On a normal slow news days, she could have expected to be the lead item on TV News bulletins. But it was Budget Day in the UK – economic pundits and bullshitting politicians stretched as far as the eye could see and there were expensive Outside Broadcast and studio links nationwide – plus there was lots of news coming in from Libya and still news report aftershocks from the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear story in Japan, where TV companies had, by now, flown expensive reporters into place and were paying for on-the-spot film crews.

So poor Elizabeth Taylor’s death did not quite get the level of coverage she could have otherwise expected.

This morning, TV scriptwriter Nigel Crowle pointed out to me two slightly bizarre angles to her death.

One was that one of her rivals for the key role in 1944 movie National Velvet – which made her a star – was future Baroness Shirley Williams.

Shirley was pipped at the post by Elizabeth and went on to found the Social Democrat Party while Liz went on to marry Richard Burton twice.

It’s unlikely that, if Shirley had got the role, she would have gone on to marry Richard Burton and Elizabeth would have founded the SDP, but stranger things have happened.

The other odd fact Nigel mentioned is that Elizabeth Taylor’s obituary in the New York Times was written by Mel Gussow who died six years ago.

This is no great surprise – Associated Press wrote the template for Britney Spears’ obituary in 2008.

What does surprise me is that British newspapers seem to have discovered a tone of reverence for Elizabeth Taylor which they never quite gave her in life. Something of a reverse on the situation for dead UK comedian Charlie Drake, who was much cherished during his life.

After his death, veteran TV producer Michael Hurll let rip about Charlie in an interview on the Chortle comedy industry website

Hurll worked with Charlie when he was a holiday camp redcoat: “He was a nasty man then,” Hurll said, “and he stayed a nasty man – a horrible, horrible man”.

Hurll, old enough not to care, went on to call Jerry Lewis (still alive) “a nasty piece of work” and Bob Hope (dead) “the nastiest man I’ve ever worked with”. As for Rod Hull: “He was the most miserable, nastiest man you ever met… Just a horrible, horrible man.”

Dying can be difficult at the best of times, but pity the poor celebrity facing the uncertainties of posthumous reviews.

I still retain memories of reading an Andy Warhol obituary (I can’t remember where) which ended with the climactic words: “He was a short man who wore a wig”.

Ex-gangster ’Mad’ Frank Fraser – not a man to meddle with in life – once told me over a cup of tea that he wasn’t “really frightened of anything but I’m a bit worried what they’ll say about me after I die.”

He seems a very nice chap. He offered me free dental work.

Just don’t ask me about Cilla Black…


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A funny thing happened at comedian Malcolm Hardee’s birthday show in January 1999

The comedian Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005. His birthday was on 5th January. Every year at his Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich, he used to put on a show and post-show party on the nearest Sunday to 5th January.  This is an extract from my 1999 diary…



In the evening, I went to Malcolm Hardee’s birthday show and party.

Before the show started, we were in the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek and, for some reason, I asked him: “Who are those people sitting over there?”

He nodded at one of the group: “That’s the stripper I used to go out with.”

She was a middle-aged woman.

“She hasn’t done it for a while,” he added.

Malcolm started his show by saying lots of people in the audience had seen him so many times he was just going to tell the set-up for each of his jokes and they could complete the punch-line… Which they did.

There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe
She had so many children…

…Her cunt fell off.

What goes in-out, in-out, in-out and smells of piss?…

…The Queen Mother doing the Hokey Cokey.

And so on.

The first act on was Chris Luby, performing his traditional imitations of Trooping The Colour and wartime spitfires with his mouth. Apparently, on Malcolm’s Christmas Eve show, Chris’ act had gone badly and, in the middle of his Battle of Britain impression, a heckler had yelled out: “Do a glider!”

Tonight’s acts also included The Bastard Son of Tommy Cooper who did a couple of sword-swallowing routines I hadn’t seen before. He bent a wire coat-hanger flat, put it down his throat as normal – his head bent back to let the metal go down his throat in a straight line – and then he brought his head 90 degrees forward to its normal position and pulled out the bent coat-hanger. He also put a red neon strip light down his throat while the house lights were dimmed and we could see his throat illuminated through the thin skin.

Charlie Chuck performed as only Charlie Chuck can. A drum kit was destroyed. Then someone I didn’t recognise came on and imitated Malcolm as host and, after Boothby Graffoe performed, the stand-in came on again and impersonated Malcolm hosting the show.

Where is Malcolm? I wondered.

So I went to the bar and it turned out he had collapsed by the toilets. I met his mother who said she had thought he was dead: his face had been grey and they had almost called an ambulance. Both she and I were surprised because he hadn’t really been drunk earlier. And, as I had seen him paralytically drunk a few months ago, I was especially surprised.

Malcolm told me: “I just went straight down – unconscious. I think someone spiked my drink.”

When he returned to the stage to continue the show, he still didn’t seem particularly drunk either, so maybe someone did indeed spike his drink.

He took it in his stride – as he takes any unique, bizarre event – as if it’s a perfectly normal thing to happen.

If they built a Malcolm Hardee theme park it would be in the style of Magritte and/or Salvador Dali.



This year’s annual Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy will be presented during a special two-hour tribute show at the Edinburgh Fringe – starting at 10.00pm on the evening of Friday 26th August 2011.

There is a Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society group on Facebook.

Malcolm’s friend Deke is holding his annual remembrance celebration of Malcolm this Sunday (9th January 2011) from 7.00pm at the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek in Greenwich. The event will include a screening of The Tunnel the award-nominated short film about Malcolm’s notorious comedy club The Tunnel Palladium. Deke’s e-mail is dekedecore@hotmail.com

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