Tag Archives: Shaggers

Comic capers and calamities on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Eric with “Tales of the Sea” - and now Adelaide

Two days ago, I got an e-mail from Bob Slayer – the day before his comedy show opened at the Adelaide Fringe:

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I am in Adelaide stopping at the house of a man called Matthew who I met on couchsurfing.org.

I have stopped at many random people’s homes in my life but never one I met through an online service that did not involve the prospect of sex. I once topped-and-tailed with singer-songwriter Beth Ditto – the big girl in The Gossip – in Portland, Oregon, when they supported Japanese band Electric Eel Shock, which I was managing. Did I tell you this recently? I also have an early demo I was sent by a band called the Arctic Monkeys who were, at the time, looking for a manager… Anyway I digress…

Matthew seems cool. He took me straight to the bottle shop and we bought beers. Jimbo came around to introduce Gary the Goat.

Oh! How I have missed Gary the Goat in the last few days!

Jimbo and he stayed in Port Kenny on the Eyre Peninsula with a girl while I went to visit an old tour manager friend of mine in McLaren Vale and ended up shoveling grapes and making wine for a couple of days. They paid me in my weight in wine.

I have lots of new things to talk about in tomorrow’s gigs like killing and eating the Australian national emblem but I might also pop into the hospital and see if I can visit strangers just to add their story to the mix.

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I got that e-mail from Bob two days ago. Then, yesterday, I received this e-mail from comedian Eric about his (Eric’s) show on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe.

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As last year, I am doing my show at the Tuxedo Cat venue. Last year it was ‘Adelaide Fringe venue of the year’. It is run by super cool Cass & Bryan who, every year, take over a derelict building and make it into something wonderful.

As with all refurbishment projects, it takes time to complete and, as Bryan & Cass are presented with just a shell every year, the build is coming from a long way back. Time is the old enemy and, when I ask about doing a technical rehearsal on the day of my first show, I am somewhat taken aback to be told that my room has not been built yet – but a blitz is about to take place that will turn three walls and a pile of old pallets into a performance space in time for my first show at 6.00pm.

I discover that there is no projector either. Last year I borrowed Dan Willis’ projector, so I drop him a quick text. He tells he now lives in Melbourne but has left his magic lantern with a mutual friend who lives in Adelaide. Our mutual friend Alex is at work and cannot leave. I go to his place of work (30 minute drive), pick up his keys, drive to his house (20 minute drive) pick up the projector, drive back to my house (20 minute drive) pick up my family (wife Helen and baby ‘Little E’), drive back to his place of work (30 minute drive) drop his keys back to him, then drive to the venue (30 minute drive).

I eventually emerge triumphant with projector and family at the venue. We park outside and unload everything we need for the show, which now includes pram, change bag, bottles and assorted toys.

I discover that the Blue Room where I am due to perform in an hour’s time is nowhere near ready and my heart sinks. Fifty minutes later, little has changed. There is no lighting, no sound, we have done no tech rehearsal at all. There seems little or no prospect of putting on a show. And the room is now filling with punters clutching their tickets.

I inform them that the room is not ready and invite them to return to the bar. No sooner have these people vacated than another wave of punters arrive. I give these people the same advice and, as the third wave arrive, I decide this is hopeless and locate the ushers and tell them the room is not ready and ask them to hold the audience in the bar until we are ready. I obtain the customary Australian “No worries, mate” response, return to the room and do what I can.

Five minutes later, there appears to have been a shift change with the ushers as the room again starts to fill with punters.

We finally kick off nearly half an hour late. I ask if any of the audience need to be anywhere before 7:30 and offer anyone who does their money back – No-one moves and we crack on with the show.

Ten minutes into the show, we lose all power. The light that we belatedly got onto the stage extinguishes. The projector’s whirring fan falls eerily silent and we lose both sound and picture, like a faulty TV.

Then the audience, who have been so tolerant up to now, really come into their own. Many of them take out their mobile phones and light the room up with their screens. It is a joy to behold… almost literally ‘people power’.

As we have gone completely off-piste and are unable to continue with the show, we just spend the next ten minutes chatting. Cass dashes about in the shadows trying to fix the problem which, as expected, she does and we finally get on with the show – a show that, to be fair, I have actually enjoyed… And so, it seems, have the audience. Much of the credit must go to them. I resolve to have all of them come to all of my gigs.

Comic Juliet Meyers is doing the show following mine and she is none too pleased that she is starting over half an hour late (and to be honest neither am I). I tell her the only upside is that she now gets to see me change out of my seafaring show garb and into my civvies.

As I drop my trousers, she tells me that my buttocks are “surprisingly pert”. I am not entirely sure how I should take this information but eventually conclude that the only explanation is that Ms Meyers has been imagining my buttocks for some time and now – faced with the actuality of my derrière – has found them to be more pert than she had imagined…

I then go off to find the family.

As usual, Little E is found feeding on her mum and, after I get myself and Helen some of the fabulous Vietnamese salad with dumplings from the food counter, we sit and eat in quiet contemplation, until a queue unexpectedly forms beside us.

Unbeknown to us, the ‘quiet’ corner that Helen had positioned herself in to feed Little E was in fact right next to the entrance to the Yellow Room venue and, for the next five minutes, we become a living exhibit entitled ‘Feeding the Family’ for the entertainment of the waiting crowd….

I then dash across to the Austral venue to perform in Nik Coppin’s show Shaggers.

On arrival, I see Bob Slayer making his way from the bar with four jugs of beer, two in each hand.

“Oh” I innocently think, “He is getting a big round in… He must be with a large group of people.”

Then I see him go and sit at a table alone and conclude he must actually be continuing his mission to outdrink Australia and, having done battle with Perth, it is now Adelaide’s turn…

The crowd at Shaggers are also lovely and everyone has a lovely time talking filth with them.

I am second on and, as I finish my stint onstage, I get a text to say Little E has finally fallen asleep and Helen has come to the venue collect me but there is a fight in progress outside the Austral and she is sheltering around the corner.

With the time approaching midnight and the car park I abandoned our car in closing at midnight, I have no choice but to brave the crowd and the fight and collect my girls. We all go home, having had one very long day.

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…That was a heavily shortened version of what happened in Eric’s hectic day. And that was only Day One of the Adelaide Fringe.

I feel we may hear more anarchic tales from Down Under.

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The Malcolm Hardee Awards presentation + Arthur Smith’s tour of Edinburgh

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

The Malcolm Hardee Awards were presented late night on Friday and it was, at last, my first chance to meet the very charming, very very amiable Bo Burnham, who had had PR trouble earlier in the week.

In honour of the late Malcolm Hardee, everything was thrown together after the Award winners were decided at Friday lunchtime. Around 6.00pm, it was decided doyenne of Scotsman critics (and Malcolm Hardee judge) Kate Copstick would present the awards with comic Simon Munnery… and Nik Coppin, within whose Shaggers show it was happening fitted everything smoothly in with Arthur Smith coming along as a last-minute top of the bill.

Perhaps the most interesting act of the evening to me was Diane Spencer, who appeared at first to be a seemingly newish stand-up. She must be underestimated by many. Very very likeable. And very professional. I have seldom seen anyone play a post-performance room that smoothly or that effectively. I think she will go far.

After the show and a break to e-mail out press releases, at 2.00am I joined a growing and expectant crowd outside Edinburgh Castle for Arthur Smith’s legendary  tour of the Royal Mile.

This year, it involved a philosophical dissertation on the meaning of life and the existence or non-existence of God and… as we wandered down half The Mile… a mermaid sitting on a stone wall, a man in a white suit singing on a mini roundabout to the confusion of taxi drivers, the three Segue Sisters singing in rickshaws, a very lucky busker, soldiers singing from fourth floor windows, yellow-jacketed local council workers dancing in the street and Simon Munnery donning a German accent but, unlike in previous years, failing to get arrested by the local police.

In among the crowd, there was also a placid man in an orange plastic vest jacket with the words (as I remember them) LEGAL OBSERVER on his back; he took occasional notes. I thought he must be part of the surreal festive frivolity and would become relevant later on but, it seems, he was the real thing. Quite what he was observing, I know not. Perhaps he was trying to gather evidence to grass up Simon Munnery to the Leith Police. Arthur, as always, encouraged the unusual along the way which, this time, involved synchronised rickshaw driving and paying £20 to anyone who would stand on their head in a full-to-the-brim smelly rubbish bin; one young man, of course, took up the challenge and got the money.

Among the crowd were London Evening Standard critic Bruce Dessau turning up on a bike after phoning Arthur to see where he was on the Royal Mile, Steve Bennett editor of comedy industry website Chortle apparently trying to merge anonymously into the stone walls in case an aggrieved comic spotted him,  comedienne Hattie Hayridge wearing a big black coat and hood saying she felt like she’d come as the Scottish Widow and a desolate Comedy Store Player Richard Vranch arriving 45 seconds after the tour ended.

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Comic Originality – not being interested in money

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

The Malcolm Hardee Awards – being given annually by me until 2017 to honour the memory of the “godfather of alternative comedy” and famous Edinburgh Fringe prankster – were thrown into temporary and rather surprised confusion after a rebuff to our nomination of American stand-up Bo Burnham for the Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award.

Burnham’s London PR company – whose clients include a wealth management and an insurance broking, risk assessment and financial services company – wrote to me saying of Bo: “making money is not what he’s driven by at all and (we) don’t think he’d be at all comfortable with receiving this award.”

As a result, the five Malcolm Hardee judges have now additionally nominated Bo Burnham for the main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality because “for a modern day stand-up comic not to be interested in money is entirely original”.

If you are a fan, Bo’s online store is currently selling his personalised teeshirts, CDs, posters, bumper stickers and koozies.

I’m not exactly clear what a koozie is – it appears to be some sort of Colonial cosy to keep beer cans warm. I don’t think Malcolm would have approved as he liked his beer cold. But he would have admired Bo’s disregard for money. So we have asked the PR if Bo would like to lend us £500 or £1,000, which we promise to pay back. We haven’t had a reply yet, but we live in hope.

The late, great Malcolm was famous or perhaps notorious for borrowing money from his friends and, when he drowned in the Thames on January 2005 left behind many debts.

Jo Brand refers to this in a 2-minute poem she read at Malcolm’s funeral which you can listen to here.

The three annual Malcolm Hardee Awards will be announced and presented around midnight this Friday 27th August during comic Nik Coppin‘s nightly Shaggers show, running as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Both Bo Burnham and our other ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ nominee Greg Davies are in the running for the former-Perrier-now-Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award. The prize there is £10,000. It’s a start.

There’s a recent 8 min 41 sec interview with me about the Malcolm Hardee Awards here – on Edinburgh’s student radio station Fresh Air.

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Of the Blue Lady, academic comedy and Shaggers

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

I’m organising the Malcolm Hardee Awards until 2017 although “organising” was an anathema to Malcolm. With luck, the ashes in his urn will forgive me.

We have now announced this year’s shortlist, but there were other acts I personally saw and wished I could have included but we couldn’t.

Prime among these was Tricity Vogue’s The Blue Lady Sings at The Three Sisters, which mixes kitsch theatricality, Freddie Mercury, torch songs, audience involvement, Blues medleys and a bright pink ukelele and which has more laughs than several alleged comedy shows I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. It’s highly original and almost indescribable because it falls into no existing genre. But it’s not comedy as such; more a music show.

All The King’s Men at Espionage (not to be confused with the totally different All The King’s Men at Surgeons Hall) brings together four highly promising young Scots comics including Richard Gadd who has aspirations to high levels of weirdness which, if developed, could easily bag him a Malcolm Hardee Award in the next couple of years.

And joker in the pack is my comedy chum the elfin and highly talented Laura Lexx in Quiz in My Pants at Dragonfly. All three of this show’s team studied Stand-Up Comedy (yes they did) at the University of Kent at Canterbury… as did other Fringe participants Tiernan Douieb, Jimmy McGhie, The Noise Next Door and Pappy’s.

Malcolm Hardee’s ashes must be turning in that South East London urn of his at the thought of anyone studying Stand-Up Comedy but, on present evidence, this Kent course looks like it may turn into a comedy equivalent of Malcolm Bradbury’s legendary Creative Writing course at UEA.

Who has won this year’s three Malcolm Hardee Awards? We won’t know until around midnight on Friday during Nik Coppin’s nightly Shaggers show.

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MALCOLM HARDEE AWARDS 2010 – shortlist announced at the Edinburgh Fringe

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

After an ‘interesting’ discussion** this morning, the shortlist for the annual Malcolm Hardee Awards has been announced. The Awards are being presented until the year 2017 in memory of the late “godfather of British alternative comedy”.

The Malcolm Hardee Award winners will be announced around midnight on Friday 27th August during the nightly Shaggers show at the Three Sisters in Cowgate, Edinburgh as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.
Today, the shortlist for the three awards was announced as:

THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY

Dr BROWN is an act where ‘surreal’ does not quite do justice to what is or is not happening on stage – “Uncomfortable weirdness” was one attempt to categorise it.

LEWIS SCHAFFER for turning round his act Into a highly improvised and totally unpredictable event… and for being able to literally take his show Free Until Famous onto the streets.

BOB SLAYER for his continued services to anarchy in comedy, including his  gobsmackingly anarchic Punk Rock Chat Show (which usually has nothing to do with punk, rock or chat)

ROBERT WHITE for his enthusiastic unconventionality and for being (in his own words) “the only gay, Aspergers, quarter Welsh, webbed-toed dyslexic pianist debuting this Fringe”

THE MALCOLM HARDEE CUNNING STUNT AWARD

(for best Fringe publicity stunt)

STEWART LEE who, while complaining about the former Perrier Award incidentally, almost accidentally promoted Japanese act the Frank Chickens who were not performing at this year’s Fringe. As a result, they actually did come up to Edinburgh to perform at the Fringe for the first time in 25 years – at a show promoting Stewart Lee’s new book. The fact that Stewart did not intend to unleash publicity does not negate his success.

MANOS THE GREEK for claiming he will donate 10% of the total earnings from his Free Fringe show to rescue the Greek economy and by pushing his luck in a Hardee-esque way by, one hour before we decided on the shortlist, having a photocall wearing a langolia (Greek kilt) atop Calton Hill in front of the Doric columns of the National Monument.

ARTHUR SMITH for declaring that he would pay £100 to any journalist attending his show who would juggle fish. When his bluff was called by critic Bruce Dessau, Arthur neglected to buy the required kippers, but he still got publicity out of a silly idea: a pre-requisite for getting a Cunning Stunt nomination.

THE MALCOLM HARDEE ‘ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID’ AWARD
(first time this new annual award has been made)

BO BURNHAM certainly one of the hottest young comedians on the Fringe for several years. Might already have made a million in the US, which might or might not disqualify him.

GREG DAVIES for his sense of the absurb. Known as the psychotic head of sixth form, Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners and the most out-of-shape member of We are Klang.
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Separate from the Awards, The Malcolm Hardee Documentary Preview continues to screen daily at 1520 at the Newsroom venue in Leith Street (east end of Princes Street) until 28th August. The screening comprises a 32 minute documentary The Tunnel about Malcolm’s most notorious comedy club; and 17 minutes of clips from the currently-in-production 90-minute documentary Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There.
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** The’interesting’ discussion resulted in the shortlist for the ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award’ reduced from four to two nominees.

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Cunning Stunts, Chainsaw-Jugglers and 8-Month-Old Babies

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

There’s been a distinct lack of publicity stunts in Edinburgh this year. The Fringe used to be full of bizarre events and admirably surreal attempts to steal a few column inches in The Scotsman. Where are the naked tractor rides, the motorcycle-riding chainsaw-jugglers and the men and women dressed as woodland creatures committing sex acts illegal in the majority of American states?

At the moment, front-runner for the annual Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award (for best Fringe publicity stunt) would seem to be Stewart Lee for his accidental promotion of the Frank Chickens who were not performing at the Fringe although, ironically, he was so successful in unintentionally raising their profile that they then made a one-off appearance (the first in 25 years) on his own Stewbilee book-promotion show.

People are at least starting to try now.

Always pro-active New York promoter Cal Wynter phoned me up to tell me Manos The Greek is going to offer to re-finance the ruined Greek economy.

Meanwhile, I bumped into Gill Smith, the 2008 recipient of (and, indeed, inspiration for) the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

In 2008, she sent me an e-mail nominating herself for the main Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis that she could then justifiably put on her posters MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD NOMINEE (because she had nominated herself). She reckoned Malcolm would have approved. I agreed he would.

So we gave her a Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt of the Fringe on the basis that, if we didn’t give her a Malcolm Hardee Award of some kind, she’d give herself one, thus diminishing our credibility.

This year, Gill is up here performing with her 8-month old daughter who does not take part in the stage show itself but who collects the money afterwards at Gill’s Free Festival show OCD: The Next Generation. Very difficult not to give money to an 8-month old smiling up at you expectantly.

The fact Gill is a new-ish mum is attracting other new-ish mums with small kids to her show and she reckons there might be some mileage in trying to get publicity on the basis that her show has had the largest number of audience members simultaneously breast-feeding.

Her husband has meanwhile been amusing himself by trying to (often successfully) persuade people that the baby long-pictured on the Gilded Balloon’s So You Think You’re Funny posters grew up to become the young woman bending over on the Spank! posters. Given that the Gilded Balloon is celebrating its 25th birthday this year, it is credible though deeply untrue.

Something of which Malcolm Hardee would have certainly approved: “credible though deeply untrue”.

The 2010 Malcolm Hardee Awards are announced next Friday 27th August during Shaggers.

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Of manic Americans, extra Fringe shows, smooth(ish) links and Malcolm Hardee’s thievery

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

Well, things are starting to move slightly faster. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but it’s certainly a Fringe thing.

Workaholic American comedian Lewis Schaffer has added 10 extra shows to the 25 he was already performing. As well as his hour-long Free Until Famous shows at 7.30pm every evening 5th-29th August… he will now be performing an additional ten 45-minute shows at 5.30pm every day 5th-14th August. With only an hour-and-a-quarter break between the two shows, it’ll be interesting to see how manic he will become. Even if he gets Steven Spielberg in the first row on the first night, he will convince himself it’s a disaster.

As far as extra shows are concerned, though, Lewis is beaten by the 21 extra screenings added for The Tunnel documentary short. Director Jody VandenBurg and producer Naomi de Pear had previously announced a modest three screenings of the 32-minute documentary. But it will now be screened additionally at The Newsroom 3.20pm daily, 8th-28th August. It features comedians Harry Enfield, Simon Munnery etc in the untold story of London’s most notorious comedy club. The Tunnel is a ‘teaser’ for a larger Malcolm Hardee documentary currently in production. The Laughing Horse Free Festival screening will include a trailer for and extracts from that longer Malcolm Hardee documentary. There is a trailer for The Tunnel here.

Which leads smoothly on to my annual Malcolm Hardee Awards which, this year, will be presented on Friday 27th August during Nik Coppin‘s nightly Shaggers show as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival. The Daily Dust obviously reads this blog, as it reports here on my nomination of Stewart Lee for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. While Stewart Lee writes about the origin of one of Malcolm’s standard lines here.

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