Tag Archives: Robert White

Edinburgh Fringe Day 1: Good shows, a questionable director and a late disaster

Mark Borkowski is looking for originality

In the afternoon, with Kate Copstick, I recorded the first in a revived series of Grouchy Club Podcasts with stunt-loving PR guru Mark Borkowski who is up here partly to find right-wing comedians who may appear in a series of TV shows on RT (Russia Today). Well, that is my spin on it. Really he is looking for anyone who is so original and different that they are unlikely to get onto the currently bland and unoriginal British TV channels. Mark, in performance terms, has a taste for the bizarre and the original. He is well worth a listen.

After that, I went to see Robert White’s show billed as a comedy opera InstraMENTAL which was – rather dauntingly for the first Fringe show I have seen this year – utterly brilliant. Robert won the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality in 2010 so can he be nominated again? Who knows? This unified show is so different it is not what he won for before and, unexpectedly, Kate Copstick’s voice turns up about ¾ of the way through. When I texted her about being in his show, it was news to her.

Narin Oz, budgerigar & Brunström belly paint

I had forgotten to take a photo of Mark Borkowski during the podcast recording, something I did not fail to do at Fringe Central when I was accosted by Narin Oz, who showed me a photo on her phone of her blue budgerigar in front of a blue painting created by Malcolm Hardee Award winning Michael Brunström’s belly.

Anyone present at the relevant Brunström shows will be aware this is not a joke.

Narin also showed me a photo of herself covered in mud and pointed out that her show #DirtyWoman includes copious amounts of real mud. She told me all her #DirtyWoman shows are being billed as ‘work-in-progress’ shows and, after the Edinburgh shows are finished, she will do previews in London of the already-performed shows. She said she reckons she may end up performing back in her mother’s womb. You maybe had to be there.

Elf Lyons – colourful Swan

Later, I saw that infinitely-rare thing, an act that has arguably been made even better by going to see that Gaulier man in France. Admittedly, we are talking about the already-highly-talented Elf Lyons. In her show Swan, she is telling and acting out the story of Swan Lake in eccentric costumes with dancing and mime and ongoing spiel in a form of Franglais. It is difficult to do justice to it all in a written description but, in parts, it is a sort-of disguised stand-up show with a Gaulier veneer, a lot of movement and her personality making it sparkle. She was justifiably playing to a full room.

In the audience watching her was Juliette Burton, whose Butterfly Effect show was today and will in future be (it is getting heavily booked-up ahead) playing to full houses.

All of the above titbits are part of the joy of the Fringe.

But I also received an email today from an act telling me about their show’s director:

The cobbles of Edinburgh have seen some blood flow in the last 70 years of the Fringe.

“I have paid (the named person) more than £2,000 over the last year to be director for my show and (the person) just told me TODAY that they won’t be coming up to the Fringe this year as if that’s the norm. They say their other clients who have shows here don’t mind. And I am even expected to pay an invoice for August because (the person) says they can direct my performance from London. It has really knocked me for six. This same person was here for my first few shows last year. I thought a director’s job was to sit in the audience early on to take notes. I worked really really hard doing various jobs to pay the director’s fees.”

Then, as I was about to post this blog online, Kate Copstick turned up at 1.00am (we are sharing a flat) saying she is due to review highly-esteemed musical act Die Roten Punkte for the Scotsman tomorrow night (well, tonight, in fact) – their opening night – but British Airways have lost all their musical equipment collected over many years and a very, very specifically-designed drum kit.

“British Airways,” Copstick told me, “don’t seem very concerned”.

Meanwhile, Die Roten Punkte are trying to borrow equipment and have arranged an emergency technical run-through at 07.00am.

The Edinburgh Fringe. Home of dreams and nightmares.

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Going Pear Shaped: the last night of London’s second worst comedy club

(from left) Brian Damage, Vicky de Lacy & Anthony Miller last night

(L-R) Brian Damage, Vicky de Lacy, Anthony Miller last night

Last night, for the very last time, I went to Pear Shaped in Fitzrovia, the always fascinating (note the careful use of word there) weekly comedy club run, for the last 15 years by Brian Damage & Kryssstal (Vicky de Lacy) with Anthony Miller.

The club is closing because the Fitzroy Tavern pub and its basement are having a big refurbishment lasting, perhaps, a year. Well, OK, the story seems to be that, as part of the refurbishment, the club may be turned into a toilet. I pause while you make up your own joke.

“They’re closing down next month,” Brian Damage told me last night. “They do want us to come back, but that’s nine months away.”

“Have you got another venue?” I asked.

“We’ve found another one,” said Brian. “But nothing settled yet, so I’m saying nothing.”

“If you’re now free,” I said, “you can go to the Edinburgh Fringe in August.”

“I’d love – we’d love – to go up to the Fringe,” said Brian. “I miss it. But not running a venue – That’s a whole year of Read the first fucking e-mail I sent you!”

For years, Brian and Vicky used to run the Holyrood Tavern up at the Fringe, including the extraordinary Pear Shaped at Midnight shows where, whenever I went, there was no ‘real’ audience, merely acts watching other acts perform after their own shows had ended. Shows can often be better without an audience of punters. These shows were.

“You met Vicky at the Fringe, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Yes,” he told me, “I was asked to compere a show up there. We met and, one night, I was pissed and I said: We could run this fucking place, thinking it was easy. It wasn’t, of course. I didn’t know Vicky used to run theatres in Australia. I couldn’t run it, but she could.”

With Brian Damage & Vicky de Lacy in 2007

With Brian Damage and Vicky de Lacy in December 2007

“Where did you and I first meet?” I asked him. Memory is not my forte.

“On the Wibbley Wobbley,” he told me. “We ran the new act night there for Malcolm Hardee – we booked the acts.”

Look, it’s not my fault that conversation often turns to the late comic/ promoter/ club owner Malcolm Hardee. After running the infamous Tunnel club and the more respectable Up The Creek, he staged shows in Rotherhithe on a converted German barge, The Wibbley Wobbley.

“Malcolm was,” said Brian last night, “the opposite of all the bullshit and all the crap that enrages me. When I first started doing comedy, I loved a bit of bullshit.”

“And he didn’t?” I asked, surprised.

“Well now,” said Brian, “because of the fucking barrage of shit I have coming at me every single day on Facebook, all the arguing and the bollocks. I’ve got to the stage where I’m thinking I don’t care about any of it.”

“That’s age,” I suggested.

“Well, maybe it is,” said Brian. “But I just don’t care. The things that people are arguing about…  for fuck’s sake. They actually have discussions about Are women funny? Fuck off! I mean, Fuck off! It’s so rubbish.”

“Facebook somehow encourages it,” I said.

“I’m only on Facebook for business purposes,” said Brian. “Thank God I’m not on there as a human being. There’s so much shit coming at me, I’m fucked if I’m going to add to it. Fuck off!”

“The Queen,” I said, changing the subject, “may have to leave Buckingham Palace for six months while they refurbish it.”

“Yes, we could move in there for a few months,” Brian mused.

Last night, the Pear Shaped venue was full.

“Tonight is one of the few nights we’ve had an audience,” Brian told the audience. “I reckon what we should have done over the last 15 years was, every week, say CLOSING DOWN and I reckon that would’ve done the trick.”

Over the last 15 years, enormous numbers of starting-out comics have performed at Pear Shaped, which is billed as “London’s Second Worst Comedy Club”.

The worst one, Brian claims, was the one they ran before the current Pear Shaped. Well, current until last night.

Brian Damage & Anthony Miller read last rites

Brian Damage & Anthony Miller read last rites

One of the acts last night (I have tragically forgotten who) said that Brian & Krysstal’s next club will, by definition, be better because it will be London’s third worst comedy club.

Anthony Miller told the assembled throng: “You have to see it in perspective. The David Lean Cinema in Croydon has as many seats as this room and managed to lose half a million pounds in a year. So, compared to that, we’re slick.”

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Robert White apparently gave his first performance at Pear Shaped. He was there last night and gave Anthony Miller a farewell kiss. It seemed not to be appreciated.

As always, Brian Damage started the evening by singing the club’s theme song (to the tune of The Flintstones TV series):

Pear Shaped
This is Pear Shaped
Every Wednesday night at half past eight

Pear Shaped
This is Pear Shaped
Loads of comics you can love or hate

Pear Shaped
It’s just a fiver to come in
And we hope
You’ll both be coming back again
to
Pear Shaped
Up to Pear Shaped
Every Wednesday night at half past eight

At the end of the evening, he sang:

I don’t know where
I don’t know when
But it will
Happen again

Here’s hoping.

Brian Damage bids a fond farewell

Brian Damage bids a fond farewell

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The only gay, dyslexic, quarter-Welsh, Aspergic, webbed-toed comic in the UK

Robert White, award-winning comedian with a record

Robert White sitting in a small room

“Sometimes people have tried to blame things on me because it’s easier to blame someone who may be presumed to have a reputation,” comedian Robert White told me yesterday.

Today, the British Journal of Psychiatry published a research study by Oxford University and the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which suggests that “an unusual personality structure could be the secret to making other people laugh”.

Well Hump-de-dinki-doo!

I do not know how much this research study cost, but I could have done it cheaper for them.

Yesterday at London’s Soho Theatre, I bought one drink and got 44 minutes of similar insight from Robert White who is – correct me if I am wrong – the only gay, dyslexic, quarter-Welsh, Aspergic, webbed-toed comedian working on the UK comedy circuit. He also won the highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality in 2010.

“In 2001, I was initially diagnosed as having Asperger Syndome by a psychologist when I went for depression,” Robert told me, “and it was like a light shining. It was like Wow! This is what my mind is thinking! and it cleared up so many things and, over the last few years, I’ve gradually got better.”

He has been performing comedy for ten years.

“Before comedy,” he told me, “I’d misunderstand things and, one time, that led to a practical joke that the police mis-translated as a crime and, as such, I got three months in Wandsworth Prison.”

“What was the practical joke?” I asked.

“Dressing up in a ballgown and walking down the street with a music stand. I was going to go into the shop where my ex-boyfriend worked and I was going to say to him: Music stand and deliver!

“But I didn’t do it. I stopped in the street, walked home and, as I did so, I walked in front of a police car and they asked me what I was doing and told me past intent to do something was the same as present intent to do something and, just because I’d rescinded and hadn’t done it, I was still culpable.”

“What’s illegal,” I asked, “about saying Music stand and deliver to someone while holding a music stand?”

“Well,” said Robert, “initially they were going to charge me with armed robbery but, on a plea bargain, they brought it down to attempting to threaten with an imitation firearm.”

“Ah! You didn’t mention the imitation firearm,” I pointed out.

“Well,” replied Robert. “It wasn’t. It was a music stand.”

“How was that an imitation firearm?” I asked.

“Because,” explained Robert, “in the police interview, I called it a gun because – for the joke – I was a comedy armed robber. I had originally been going to say Hand over the notes – you know – it was a music stand – Hand over the notes – but then I decided I was going to say Music stand and deliver.

“When I was in Wandsworth Prison, I was in the remand wing. One of the ways I deal with depression is to write music and they didn’t have paper or pen. So, by spreading toothpaste on a piece of newspaper and pulling my finger through it, I was writing a symphony.

“A guard came up to me and said What are you doing? and I said I’m writing a symphony and they put me in the mental wing of Wandsworth Prison, which is where all the hard nutters are. My solicitor came to me and said Either we can try and explain this in front of a jury or we can take a plea bargain. If you explain it in front of a jury, you may get seven years because they won’t understand you. A plea bargain? Three months.

“Incidents like that used to happen but comedy has cured me – well, not cured me, but it has resolved many, many issues.”

Robert White with Kate Copstick in 2010, after he won the highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality

Robert White with Kate Copstick in 2010, after he won the highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality

This year, Robert intends to return to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time since he won the highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Award For Comic Originality in 2010. His new show will be about having Asperger Syndome.

“Last time I was at the Fringe,” he told me, “I won the Malcolm Hardee Award, I had one of the Top Ten jokes, I got loads of 4-star reviews and people were raving about me and I got one zero-star review which, at the time, I blamed on Asperger’s but the truth was it was a gig on the day of my father’s birthday a month after he died of cancer and I was feeling horrific.”

“This was the review on the Chortle website?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Robert. “Basically, I started, played the trumpet and – before I even said anything – I ran off, because my head was full of a million different things. Yes, it was wrong. Maybe other people would have cancelled the show.”

“And your new show is about having Asperger’s,” I asked.

“Yes. About fitting in. Most people might think I’m a bit odd. Before comedy, I’d fallen out with my family, I’d been in an abusive relationship, I couldn’t go into places on my own and I constantly got fired from jobs – 36 jobs in seven years. Everything from telesales through to being a music teacher.

“Once, I was at work and I was trying to do something clever with my pay and the manager said to me: Are you trying to be clever? and I said Yes and I got fired.

“Another time, there was this list of things you could not do at a call centre and it was such a specific list that I noticed it did not state that you couldn’t answer the phone wearing a Gareth Gates face mask. So I put on a Gareth Gates mask and got fired.

Comedy makes Robert feel he fits in

“Comedy makes me feel I fit in” says a reflective Robert White

“Performing comedy makes me feel I fit in. The problem is that, because I don’t understand social relationships, sometimes I can go a bit wobbly.

“Once, when I was sent to my room as a kid and I thought that was wrong, I sat in my room for ages, then dressed up my large cuddly toy panda in my own clothes and chucked it out the window. So, when it went plunging past the window where my mum was having dinner, she thought I had committed suicide. Which was quite funny but also quite horrific.”

“When you say you might go a bit wobbly, does that affect your performance?” I asked.

“Not any more,” said Robert. “But, because my mind is built up of facts – that’s the way I see the world – if my mind is thinking quickly and lots of facts present themselves, they just over-take my head because there’s too much to think about.”

“So your brain seizes up?” I asked.

“Not any more,” said Robert. “Because now I have various ways of overcoming it. The way you compensate for not having instinctive understanding is learned responses: a sort of cognitive behavioural therapy. That’s happened before, therefore this will happen now.

“Before I go on stage, I write various things on my hand. I write CAN DIE on my hand, because you don’t want to get complacent because that’s the time when you do die. I write YOU’RE BEST THIS GIG which makes me focus on how I do at this one gig.

“So I have certain rules written down. One of the rules is KEEP ON. JUST DO. I’ve got the word SWEAR written on one finger because, in some gigs, the C word is not appropriate and I’ve got NO MENTAL written on my hand to tell me not to go mental.

“I have to input facts into my head before I start the gig. Then I’ve got facts about the audience. All these facts are building up in my head before I go on and that is how I build up a picture of the world.

Robert White looks ahead to a hopefully brighter future

Robert White looks ahead to a hopefully even brighter future

“I’m also very good at improvisation. I can make up songs 1-5 minutes long about what’s happening in the moment. You can get riotous responses from making something that’s in the moment. I played the trumpet when I was a teenager, I was a jazz improviser, so I’ve got a memory for remembering little licks. I’ve got a mind that can remember little snippets, then repeat them in different orders as appropriate.

“My comedy over the last ten years has been filling-in the fuck-up of my life – the hole which the previous years have been. I feel I’ve now made a foundation and I’m building on that now. I still am autistic and occasionally my mind will be wobbly, but now I can deal with it much better. I think this year will be very positive. I’ve got my head together.”

__________________________________________________

In 2010, panel judge Kate Copstick interviewed Robert White after he won the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality, presented by Simon Munnery. There is a clip on YouTube.

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The Kray Twins have been replaced by a bunch of comedians in the East End

What is happening with Bethnal Green in the East End of London?

I think of Bethnal Green as being the home of the Kray Twins and the Museum of Childhood. Admittedly queer bedfellows to begin with. Now there appears to be a giggle gulag of recently-opened clubs featuring new and rising comedians.

On Mondays, David Mills and Maureen Younger run their Unusual Suspects comedy club at the Sebright Arms.

On Tuesdays, comedian Oli (son of comedian Janet) Bettesworth runs The Painted Grin at Benny’s Bar.

And another comedian I know is also thinking of starting a new monthly club in Bethnal Green.

In the sometimes bitchy world of comedy, it all seems surprisingly chummy down the East End.

Last week, I went to the Unusual Suspects to see 2010 Malcolm Hardee Award winner Robert White (whose comedy is so fast it must leave scorch marks on his brain) and David Mills & Scott Capurro (who hosted this year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe). In the audience, was Janet Bettesworth. Not only that, but she raved to me afterwards about the end chat between David and Scott.

Comedy can be about more than just getting laughs, which Scott and David proved in their Scott Capurro’s Position chat show in Edinburgh and at the Soho Theatre this year – and very much so in what appeared to be their totally improvised, highly libelous and astonishingly personal routine last Monday. In fact, it was more an extended riff than comedy routine – very insightful and very funny.

Janet Bettesworth reckons: “The hundreds of comedy nights around town are perhaps just a stress-release valve for overworked Londoners. However, take two seasoned gay American comedians, David Mills and Scott Capurro and you get some kind of magic.

“Some kind of magic is certainly what took place last Monday,” she says. “Suddenly mere stand up comedy (more specifically one-liner gags) seemed flat and one-dimensional in comparison. The tete-a-tete between the two of them was one of the rarest and best things I have ever seen. I wished it had gone on longer. No-one recorded it, so an ephemeral happening, perhaps born out of adversity (a scheduled act had been called elsewhere) and delivered to a small and privileged audience is lost forever. It is impossible to describe, except to suggest that together they are (even) more than the sum of their parts – they presented something extraordinarily real and multi-dimensional, full of rawness, pain, tenderness, love, wit and finely-distilled camp humour.”

It certainly was an astonishing public tete-a-tete.

And there is certainly some exceptional live comedy going on out there in small clubs – a lot of it, apparently, now oddly happening in Bethnal Green – all of it ephemeral, unrecorded and, like most of the best comedy, once performed lost forever.

In the Kray Twins’ era, it was criminal lawyers who reaped the benefit.

In modern-day Bethnal Green it might be comedy club audiences and libel lawyers.

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Has British comedy stagnated since Monty Python, Hardee and Tiswas?

Beware. This is my blog. These are my very highly personal opinions. You can object. Please do.

People have said Alternative Comedy is not dead, it has just ceased to be Alternative. It has become the Mainstream. But they seldom talk about the next new wave of British comedians who will replace the now mainstream Alternative Comedians.

I desperately want to spot any new wave for the annual Malcolm Hardee Awards, which I organise. Our avowed intent is to try to find “comic originality”.

We do find admirably quirky individuals to award the main annual Comic Originality prize to – last year, the one-off Robert White; this year, the one-off Johnny Sorrow.

And their one-offness is as it should be. You cannot have comic originality if 37 other people are doing something similar.

But where are the new style comedians performing a recognisable new type of comedy genre? There has not been anything overwhelmingly new since so-called Alternative Comedy arrived in the mid-1980s – over 25 years ago.

As far as I can see, there have been four very rough waves of post-War British comedy, most of them comprising overlapping double strands.

The first double wave of ‘new’ comics in the 1950s were reacting partly to stuffy mainstream 1930s Reithian radio comedy, partly to the necessary order of the 1940s wartime years and partly they were rebelling against the dying music hall circuit epitomised by John Osborne‘s fictional but iconic Archie Rice in The Entertainer (1957).

The Goon Show (1951-1960) on BBC Radio, at the height of its popularity in the mid 1950s, was the antithesis of the ‘old school’ of pre-War comedy. The Goons were a surreal comic equivalent to John Osborne’s own rebellious Look Back in Anger (1956) and the kitchen sink realism which surfaced in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Osborne was ultra-realistic; The Goons were ultra-surreal.

But Osborne’s plays and The Goons‘ radio comedy were both reactions to the rigidly ordered society in pre-War, wartime and immediately post-War Britain and The Goons‘ new anarchic style of comedy (although it owes some debt to the pre-War Crazy Gang and although the Wartime radio series ITMA was slightly surreal) really was like the new rock ‘n’ roll (which was not coincidentally happening simultaneously). It was startlingly new. They were consciously rebelling and revolting against a clear status quo which they saw as stuffy and restrictive.

Hot on the heels of The Goons came a different form of rebellion – the satirists of the 1960s – with Beyond the Fringe (1960) on stage and That Was The Week That Was (1962-1963) on TV. These two slightly overlapping Second Waves of new post-War British comedy were again reacting to a stuffy status quo.

The First Wave, the surrealist Goons wave, then reasserted that it was still rolling on when a Third Wave of influence – Monty Python’s Flying Circus – appeared on BBC TV 1969-1974 and – as satire declined in the 1970s – it was Monty Python‘s (and, ultimately, The Goons‘) comedic gene pool that held sway for a while – also epitomised, oddly, by the children’s TV show – Tiswas (1974-1982).

The Goons, Beyond The Fringe and That Was The Week That Was had been rebelling against something; Monty Python was surreal and Tiswas was anarchic just for the sheer sake of it. Monty Python and Tiswas were one-offs, but they have pale imitations trundling on even to today.

After Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, a Fourth Wave of new comics arose in the early and mid-1980s – a generation influenced by the satire gene not by the Goons/Python gene. These mostly-university-educated young left wing things rebelled against Thatcherism with their often political-based humour which became known as Alternative Comedy.

But again, just as there had been a second overlapping wave of comedy in the previous generation, this mostly ‘serious’ comedy was paralleled by a different wave possibly more low-key but epitomised by the decidedly fringe appeal of the hugely influential Malcolm Hardee, whose release from prison and subsequent comedy career coincided with the start of and overlapped with the future stars of Alternative Comedy.

Malcolm’s strand of mostly non-political comedy was spread by the clubs he ran and the acts he managed, agented, booked and/or nurtured: acts including the young Paul Merton (performing as Paul Martin when Malcolm first managed him), Jenny Eclair and later Keith Allen, Harry Enfield, Harry Hill, Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Jim Tavaré and Johnny Vegas.

While London’s Comedy Store nurtured future mainstream acts (some progressing there from Malcolm’s clubs), the more bizarre and original new acts continued to flock to Malcolm’s gigs and clubs including his near-legendary Sunday Night at the Tunnel Palladium gigs and later his lower-key but just as influential Up The Creek club.

These two strands of 1980s comedy – the alternative political and the Hardee-esque – successfully came together in a Channel 4 programme – not, as is often cited, Saturday Live (1985-1987), a mostly failed hotch-potch with different presenters every week, but its long-remembered successor, Geoff Posner‘s Friday Night Live (1988) which supposedly firebrand political polemic comic Ben Elton presented every week in what was supposed to be an ironic sparkly showbiz jacket.

Political alternative stand-ups mixed with strange variety and character acts, oddball comics and cross-over acts like Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield and many others nurtured by Malcolm Hardee.

This was both the highpoint and the start of the decline of Alternative Comedy because serious money was spent on the relatively low-rating Saturday Live and Friday Night Live on Channel 4, both ultimately shepherded by Alan Boyd’s resolutely mainstream but highly influential Entertainment Department at LWT.

Since then, where has the next giant New Wave of British comedy been? There are random outbreaks of originality, but mostly there has been a barren mediocrity of pale imitations of previous waves – and the desolate, mostly laugh-free zone that is BBC3.

At this point, allow me an even more personal view.

I thought I spotted a change in Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows around 2003 when Janey Godley was barred from consideration for the Perrier Award (despite a very lively verbal fight among the judging the panel) because it was decided that her seminal show Caught in the Act of Being Myself did not fall within the remit of the Awards because it was not a single ‘show’ repeated every night: she was basically ad-libbing a different hour of comedy every performance for 28 consecutive nights.

That same year, Mike Gunn performed his confessional heroin-addict show Mike Gunn: Uncut at the Fringe although, unlike Janey, he lightened and held back some of the more serious details of his life story.

It seemed to me that, certainly after 2004, when Janey performed her confessional show Good Godley!,  Fringe shows started an increasing tendency towards often confessional autobiographical storytelling. Good Godley! was one of the first hour-long comedy shows at the Fringe (though not the only one) to use material that was not in any way funny – in that case, child abuse, rape, murder and extreme emotional damage. Janey did not tell funny stories; she told stories funny. Viewed objectively, almost nothing she actually talked about was funny but audiences fell about laughing because it truly was “the way she told ’em”.

Since then, too, there seems to have been a tendency towards improvisation, probably spurred by the financial success of Ross Noble and Eddie Izzard. The traditional 1980s Alternative Comics still mostly stay to a script. The 21st Century comics influenced by Janey Godley, Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble often do not (to varying degrees).

So it could be argued there has been a tendency in this decade away from gag-telling (apart from the brilliant Jimmy Carr, Milton Jones and Tim Vine) towards storytelling… and a tendency towards improvisational gigs (bastardised by the almost entirely scripted and prepared ad-libs on TV panel shows).

But long-form storytelling does not fit comfortably into TV formats which tend to require short-form, gag-based, almost sound-bite material – you cannot tell long involved stories on panel shows and on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow type programmes. So a tendency in live gigs and certainly at the Edinburgh Fringe – a tendency away from gag-based comedy to storytelling comedy – has been unable to transfer to television and has therefore not fully developed.

Occasionally, a Fifth Wave of British comedy is sighted on the horizon but, so far, all sightings have turned out to be tantalising mirages.

One possibility are the Kent Comics who all studied Stand Up Comedy as an academic subject in the University of Kent at Canterbury. They include Pappy’s aka Pappy’s Fun Club, Tiernan Douieb, Jimmy McGhie, Laura Lexx and The Noise Next Door. But they share an origin, not a style.

Whither British comedy?

Who knows?

Not me.

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Day Five of Malcolm Hardee Week – the perils of publicity stunts

Well, at last night’s Malcolm Hardee Award Show, there was a change of plan when we found out we had been successfully conned by Bob Slayer who masterminded the ‘Cockgate’ publicity stunt for Kunt and the Gang – in which Kunt’s penis stickers were put on other acts’ posters throughout Edinburgh…..

Personally, I never rated the basic stunt itself. If you are trying to raise awareness of an act called Kunt… really, do not spread penis stickers all over Edinburgh, especially if they do not have the name of the act/show on and just one of those little square things which smartphones can read but which, in fact, no-one noticed. It’s like promoting 101 Dalmatians by putting blank stickers of the outline of a cat all over the place.

Then there was the racing certainty that it would annoy all the other acts, promoters and venues which had paid for and put up the posters. I was told that one promoter has spent £36,000 on Edinburgh Fringe posters for a particular act. If you deface their posters, it ain’t surprising they are going to be a tad pissed-off.

To my mind, the whole concept of ‘Cockgate’ was cock-eyed and against the basic spirit of the Fringe. The acts (who ultimately pay for everything) are having a bad enough time at the Fringe already without some plonker coming along defacing their marketing tools.

There is much truth in the idea that the posters festooning Edinburgh are promoting promoters not acts but, ultimately, they are building awareness of acts even if they are not putting extra bums on seats; and every act – even one perceived to be successful – is struggling in some way. Showbiz careers are frail facades of mirrors and smoke.

So why did Kunt and The Gang get nominated for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt promoting a performer or show at the Fringe?

Basically, because – as the nomination said – Kunt (or, rather, Bob Slayer) managed to push the basic sticky penis stunt way beyond what seemed possible. There were tales about agents, managers and promoters threatening people legally, physically and financially; there were humorous quotes from Edinburgh Council officials about seizing and pulling off cocks; there were tales of the outrage caused; and there were photocalls with comedians far more famous than Kunt sporting the iconic penis stickers.

The stunt itself was a load of balls. The handling of and the spin put on the stunt was a work of art.

There was talk among the Malcolm Hardee Award judges of awarding the Cunning Stunt trophy to Bob Slayer instead of Kunt, but the’ Cockgate’ publicity stunt was no different to PR men Mark Borkowski or Max Clifford creating a buzz about an act. Any prize or box office credit goes to the performer not the PR man/woman.

So the nomination went to Kunt and was only slightly wobbled when Kunt sacked Bob Slayer as his PR man in this e-mail which Bob Slayer posted on his website and which I included in my blog yesterday:

Kunt has sacked me

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Dear Bob

Sorry to have to tell you by email but I don’t want you doing anything else on the cock sticker campaign. As much as I appreciate the other comedians turning out for the photocalls that you organised, I didn’t want to be in the photos and you convinced me against my better judgement that it would be a good idea. I’ve seen the resulting photos and I look more awkward than Jade Goody’s mum on a juggling course. Also I’m getting grief off my bird after you made me put that sticker on Kate Copstick’s jumper and some cunt took that photo which is now doing the rounds that looks like I’m titting her up.

I know you were doing what you thought best but the reason I don’t do any press releases is because I know who my audience is and they find us naturally through the internet or word of mouth. They are proper people like bricklayers, carpet fitters, shop workers, central heating engineers, students and drug dealers. Since you took it upon yourself to ‘help’ with my cock sticker campaign, coverage in po-faced luvvie mags like The Stage has meant the shows have been increasingly full of pompous, middle class, chin-stroking ponces. For fuck’s sake, the poxy Culture Show have even been in!

In the last seven days since you helped ‘mastermind’ the cock campaign I have had more roll-necked twats in cuntish berets sat there with a glass of red wine and laughing ironically than in the previous seven years of gigs. Fuck knows how this has happened because I’d hardly call your act highbrow, I was there the night that bird stuck her finger up your arsehole and pulled it out leaving a rubber glove hanging out your brown eye.

I will buy you a beer when I see you to say thanks for helping us get nominated for the cunning stunt award. But I don’t want you doing anything else. At this rate it’s only a matter of time before Michael fucking MacIntyre turns up covered in cock stickers shouting ‘Where’s the party?’.

Cheers

Kunt

P.S. I seriously think you are liable for Daniel Sloss’s agent losing her sense of humour and invoicing us for 900 quid. I told you in confidence that I overheard someone saying that he didn’t have pubes yet, there was no need to go and blog it.

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When I first read this, I thought it might be another brilliant piece of spin to keep the ‘Cockgate’ saga spinning even longer but, no, I spoke to Bob Slayer and it was genuine; he was very upset.

Except that he was not.

None of it was true.

The e-mail was a fake and was, indeed, written just to stoke the spin on ‘Cockgate’ even more.

Malcolm Hardee judge Kate Copstick and I were totally taken in. We did not realise we had been conned until we were told by Bob immediately before the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show last night.

His reason for the fake e-mail?

“We wanted to confuse Daniel Sloss’s agent so she didn’t know which one of us to sue.”

What was our reaction?

We gave Kunt his Cunning Stunt Award, but we also gave another Cunning Stunt Award to Bob Slayer for fooling us.

This is a one-off extra award and only because somehow, by accident, I had an extra Cunning Stunt Award made. I do not know how this happened. Clearly senility has hit. I cannot count. I cannot spot PR cons.

Yesterday afternoon was also the deadline for bids on eBay from anyone wanting to buy last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award from winner Robert White, who could do with some hard cash. Yesterday morning, I got an e-mail from Robert:
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Dear John

Malcolm came to me in a dream last night and got me to stop this obvious sham of a self-promoting non-real auction and as such the item is no longer for sale. Although I believe you can acquire one of your own by doing the Edinburgh Festival and being mental enough.

Yours with best wishes and God’s blessings,

Robert

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Now you can buy yourself a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award

Last year at the Edinburgh Fringe, comedian Robert White won the increasingly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality. However, it did not make him any money. So he has issued the following press release:

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AWARD 4 U ?

Are you a comedian who’s spent shed loads on a show, but can’t even get a student reviewer from an online blog to return your ‘phone call?… Fancy an award for your efforts in 2011?!

Are you an audience member that thinks some of those comedians are getting too big for their boots and you could do better?… Well, sure darn as like your boat’s come in my friend!

Are you a reviewer, or other such industry person (but NOT a comedian), that’s somehow got above yourself and, thinking you’ve got what it takes to do a show, have stood with your over inflated ego farting into the silence of a dumb-struck audience’s disdain, whilst dying on your red-raw hole night after tedious night of banal non-funny un-witty trite anecdotal vomitage?… Well, look no further! I think I’ve got just the trick!

Are you a man made from cheese living in a house completely of pickle?… Well this is yours for keeps!!!

Are you any person? Are you reading this? Are you you? PLEASE! JUST TAKE IT!!

GET YOURSELF AN AWARD…

Comedian Robert White did really well in Edinburgh 2010, but got financially spanked. In order to fund next year, 2012 The Curious Incident, he is taking the drastic action of putting his Malcolm Hardee Award on eBay, at the more than generous starting price of 99p (or you can buy-it-now for £1,000,000)

On eBay 16th-26th August and daily video ads 22nd-26th August (Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe)

To bid and for adverts go to www.robertwhitecomedy.com

**** IT COULD BE YOURS !!!!!!****

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The direct eBay link until 4.16pm on 26th August 2011 is HERE.

I can’t help but feel Robert is angling for a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. Whether he is eligible without a show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, I have no idea… and I/we make up the rules as we go along.

Well, OK, there are no rules…

Or perhaps he is really trying to prove that, last year, we should have given him the annual Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award…

Watch this space.

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