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The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show gets thrown together – much like spaghetti – at the Edinburgh Fringe

Like Malcolm, a unique one-off

The Awards Show poster at the 2012 Fringe

I always tell people that staging the annual two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe is a win-win situation.

If the show goes smoothly, that is good.

If the show turns a bit shambolic, then it is a true tribute to Malcolm and just as good.

The trick is really to book a good MC. Last year I struck gold with the excellent Miss Behave, who was and is on the right wavelength of Bizarre and knows all the best odd acts. This allowed the show to comprise even more speciality acts and less straight stand-ups. I hope she will present the Awards Show again this year but her availability is still uncertain – as is always the case with all acts at the Fringe.

I am not going to approach most acts until after the Fringe Programme is published on May 30th and I know who is actually in town, but I have some building blocks.

Last year, we had a very successful celebrity Russian Egg Roulette contest – instead of holding guns to the head, two people face each other across a table and smash hard-boiled eggs on their foreheads BUT one of the eggs is not hard-boiled – it is raw. The result is messy and that person loses.

Last year, contestants included comedians Richard Herring and Arthur Smith as well as eventual winner Lewis Schaffer.

This year, the World Egg Throwing Federation’s esteemed president Andy Dunlop will again be supervising a contest and has agreed our event will be the official Scottish Russian Egg Roulette Championship.

I feel honoured and humbled. And somewhat soiled.

Even British Mensa member Noel Burger had trouble juggling spaghetti in 2011

Even British Mensa member Noel Burger had trouble juggling spaghetti in Edinburgh in 2011

The two-hour Awards Show will also (I hope) include the return of uncooked spaghetti juggling.

Several Fringe performers and passers-by tried this a couple of years ago outside the Beehive Inn in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. The only one who managed it truly successfully was juggler supreme Mat Ricardo who (unless he gets a better offer) will recreate his triumph on the show.

It is also likely that the farter of Alternative Comedy, the world’s only performing professional flatulist Mr Methane (after a run of his own show earlier in the Fringe), will make a special trip back up to Edinburgh to perform on the Comedy Awards Show.

As for publicity, I will be hosting five daily chat shows in the week of the Awards Show, titled Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! So It Goes – John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show. Book early to avoid disappointment – it’s only a fiver.

Malcolm Hardee pioneered the use of Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! in Fringe show titles as a way to get first listing in the Fringe Programme. One can but pray no-one else has added more letter ‘A’s this year. The Awards Show itself is titled Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! Free! It’s the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

Details of who is appearing in the show will be posted on my website www.thejohnfleming.com and on the long-due-for-a-re-design Malcolm Hardee website www.malcolmhardee.co.uk/award

But also, in keeping with the title of the show, I have bought the domain name www.increasinglyprestigious.co.uk as well as www.fringecomedyawards.co.uk and, as the current newish sponsors of what used to be the Perrier Awards keep misleadingly implying that they have been sponsoring their awards for the last 30+ years, you can also find details of the Malcolm Hardee Awards at www.fosterscomedyawards.co.uk

This is in a general hope that they may try to sue me for misleading punters – something that is, I would argue strongly, at the heart of the Fringe experience. We do, after all, have an annual award for the best Cunning Stunt.

Our two hour charity variety show will, of course, include the presentation of the three annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards (even I would not be THAT misleading). These are:

– The Malcolm Hardee Award For Comic Originality

– The Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award (for best Fringe publicity stunt)

and, hopefully self-explanatory…

– The Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award

The Malcolm Hardee Awards by the Forth Bridge

The Malcolm Hardee Awards await collection by Forth Bridge

Obviously, there are no rules, no forms and no application processes. The winners emerge, much like a new Pope, after obscure consultation in small rooms and modest tea-drinking by the judges who are more talent spotters than Simon Cowell type judges.

We hope to stumble on the winners. We do not particularly encourage people to suggest themselves.

The winner of the main Comic Originality award has to have a truly original act, show or persona. Anyone who thinks their show is “zany” is on the wrong wavelength. We have no idea what we are looking for – if we knew what to look for, it would not be truly original – but we recognise it when we see it.

If anyone has to tell us they have pulled a cunning publicity stunt, then they are not going to win by definition – If they have to tell us because we have not heard about it, then the stunt has failed to get publicity.

As for the ‘Million Quid’ award, the number of people likely to pretend to think they are going to make a million quid is too high to even begin to think about. Even if they do make a million quid, it will probably be squandered on drink, drugs, sex and agents they can’t afford, so it is usually a hollow success. But it sounds good as an Award title.

Last year, Ireland’s Rubberbandits won the Award For Comic Originality… England’s Stuart Goldsmith won the Cunning Stunt Award… and South Africa’s Trevor Noah won the ‘Act Most Likely To Make a Million Quid’ Award.

As usual, the three Awards this year will be presented by The Scotsman’s legendary comedy reviewer Kate Copstick and the evening will end, I hope, with The Greatest Show On Legs performing their traditional naked balloon dance. I certainly hope this is going to happen, because central ‘Leg’ Martin Soan is coming up to Edinburgh solely for this show and is stealing my bed in my Edinburgh flat on the basis he will get his kit off and wave some inflated rubber spheres around in a balletic manner.

Other performers will be announced nearer the date. Previous Malcolm Hardee tribute shows have included Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Jools Holland, Stewart Lee, Johnny Vegas et al. Do not expect Justin Bieber.

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show is part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival – free entry, but with the audience encouraged to donate money as they leave. A full 100% of all money collected (with no deductions of any kind) goes to the Mama Biashara charity run by Kate Copstick.

As Malcolm Hardee’s reputation on money was not angelic, I feel obliged to spell out the exact details.

Especially as this year, for the first time, the Awards Show will be sponsored.

Just The Greatest sponsors

Just The Greatest sponsors the 2013 Comedy Awards

The new Just The Greatest comedy audio label is kindly donating a lump sum to cover the cost of designing, printing and distributing flyers and posters… and the cost of the Fringe Programme fee, the sound teching of the show and the cost of engraving the trophies. A full 100% of any money left over from this lump sum will be donated to the Mama Biashara charity.

I have always been a bit wary of sponsorship for the Awards because of the risk of anything too corporate being connected with an anarchic-imaged set of awards. Also, I do not want to make or to be misinterpreted as making money out of giving awards in memory of dead Malcolm. And I would have trouble getting top acts to perform for free if the few pennies donated were not going to charity or if I were making anything out of it. So I have never covered any of my costs before.

Because of Malcolm’s rather dodgy reputation, just to be clear… None of my personal costs are being covered. No transport; no accommodation costs; no personal costs. Nowt is being covered except show costs – the Fringe Programme entry, flyers, posters, engraving and sound teching. To save money, the flyers and posters will probably advertise both the Awards Show and the five days of my chat shows. In that case, only 50% of their costs will be taken from the sponsorship money (to cover the Awards Show element) and I will pay for the other 50% (to cover the chat shows’ advertising) out of my own pocket.

100% of any sponsorship money not spent on specific show costs will go to the Mama Biashara charity. As will 100% of all money given by the audience on the night of the Awards Show – Friday 23rd August, the final Friday of the Fringe.

Jesus! The hoops I have to make sure I am seen to jump through just because Malcolm might have been a bit creative with money. And I will still be losing money on the show. All this for some dead bloke with big bollocks!

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Britain’s Got Talent? Well, let me tell you – you ain’t heard the half of it…

Yesterday, I went to see my chum, the professional farteur Mr Methane, being filmed in the basement bedroom of a hotel near Primrose Hill in London – for a TV show which, alas, I am not allowed to describe until late next month at the earliest.

Apparently the series gets around 20 million viewers worldwide – more than the almost 14 million hits his Britain’s Got Talent clip currently has on YouTube.

While sitting around during the filming, I did have a chance to meet for the first time Paul ‘Burper King’ Hunn, the man who holds the record for the loudest burp in the world.

These two great audio entertainment legends had not met in the flesh until yesterday, so it was a historic day in bodily function circles. I felt privileged to be there.

Paul Hunn has held his distinguished Guinness Book of Records title since 2000 and still does but, he tells me, he is not in this year’s printed book because Guinness do not print every record every year – something which I had not realised.

How strange, I thought.

But the logic, it seems, is that if they printed every record every year then, with some records standing unchallenged over long periods, the book might seem too ‘samey’ every year. So not every record is printed every year.

Paul’s friend Steve Taylor holds the record for having the world’s longest tongue but, this year, he tells me, the Guinness Book of Records only includes the girl with the longest tongue.

According to The People newspaper in 2007, Steve Taylor can “fit five ring doughnuts on his monster. And he is only millimetres away from licking his own elbow – a feat always thought impossible.”

The full abilities of the girl with the longest tongue in the world remain strangely unreported.

I felt a slight tremble of trauma when Paul, the Burper King, mentioned the Guinness Book of Records to me, as I am still recovering from the emotional turmoil of them rejecting spaghetti juggling as a legitimate activity for their records during Malcolm Hardee Week at his year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

At the time, I felt spurned and strangely soiled.

They said spaghetti-juggling was “a little too specialised”.

Now, having recovered a little from the worst of my grief, I feel they simply did not show fitting respect to the sense of adventure and exploration of the unknown which made Britain great.

After leaving the hotel yesterday, with the sounds of Mr Methane and the Burper King still ringing in my ears, wistful memories came into my mind of booking Adrian ‘Nosey’ Wigley, a man from the West Midlands who could play the tune Spanish Eyes on an electric organ with only his nose.

Well, rumour had it that his nose was not the only one of his bodily protuberances with which he could play the electric organ, but modesty and a presumed inability to actually screen anything else on national TV meant I questioned him no further on his other physical abilities.

Sometimes, in the lengthening twilight of my years, I think fondly of Adrian ‘Nosey’ Wigley and sigh a sigh of contentment that, after booking him on The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross, my life has perhaps not been totally in vain.

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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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The “Tiswas” recipe for attacking Rupert Murdoch and others with pies

Yesterday, a friend of mine was having an operation, so I was at Blackheath Hospital.

This meant I was hanging around in a room waiting for most of the day and saw most of the live coverage from the House of Commons where the Culture, Media and Sport Committee were questioning Rupert and James Murdoch.

But, inevitably – Sod’s Law – because my friend came out of the operating theatre at the same time, I missed Jonnie Marbles aka Jonathan May-Bowles trying to ‘flan’ Rupert with a shaving foam pie.

I saw it later.

My friend is fine.

I am not so sure about Jonnie Marbles.

This piece of desperate self-publicity would normally make him worthy of being nominated for – and possibly winning – the annual Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award but, alas, young Jonnie appears to have fallen at the first hurdle in the process. He does not seem have a show at the Edinburgh Fringe and, if he does, he failed to plug it.

Yesterday, the Free Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe suddenly had two cancellations, so my advice to him is Forget that free phone call to the lawyer. Get on the blower to the Free Festival, get a show booked at the Edinburgh Fringe sharpish and pray for a Cunning Stunt Award nomination/win.

Being imprisoned and unable to perform in Edinburgh might interfere with the show but might actually boost his chances of getting a Cunning Stunt Award.

Our House of Commons pie-flinger whom the Chortle comedy website calls “an occasional comic” seems to be a serial stunt-publicist and I can only presume he was jointly influenced by two things.

The first influence would obviously be self-proclaimed ‘comedy terrorist’ Aaron Barschak who gate-crashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle in 2003 dressed as Osama bin Laden in a pink dress. His subsequent Edinburgh Fringe show failed to live up to this pre-publicity boost and the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award had not yet started, so Aaron tragically failed to build his career on the stunt.

Jonnie’s second influence might well have been the cultural effect of large numbers of a previous generation of Brits watching the cult children’s TV show Tiswas, on which I worked as a researcher.

It was known for its slapstick outbreaks of gunge and custard pies.

In a selfless spirit of public service, I print below the ‘official’ recipe for a Tiswas custard pie, copied from an alleged official recipe sheet which I half-inched when the show ended. Tiswas ‘custard pies’ were made not of custard but of whipped shaving foam.

Custard would have slid down the target’s clothes, could have stained them and might have involved the programme in laundry costs and complaints. Shaving foam stuck where it hit and wiped off with no significant after-effects.

The main custard pie flinger on Tiswas was a Ninja-like character called The Phantom Flan Flinger.

Far be it from me to try and get blatant publicity out of the wanton, appalling and unprovoked attack on defenceless media tycoon Rupert Murdoch by saying that the Tiswas tradition continues this year at the Edinburgh Fringe with the first Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest.

But can I point out that the Tiswas tradition continues this year at the Edinburgh Fringe with the first Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest?

This is the somewhat vague Tiswas recipe:

________________________________________________________________________________

TISWAS CUSTARD PIE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

– Economy Size Gillette Shaving Foam **

– Vegetable dye. The Phantom Flan Flinger suggests green or blue dye but advises against red dye as this tends to cause irritation and blotches.

– Paper plate(s)

– Palette knife. – Mixing bowl or large bowl/bucket (depending on the amount needed)

********

Spray shaving foam into mixing bowl remembering to keep enough spare for decoration.

Add vegetable dye and mix together.

Smooth over paper plate(s) with palette knife.

Finally decorate around the edges with white shaving foam.

Before use, this should be left for a few hours to eliminate the sting that the shaving foam has.

Then proceed with flanning!

Old T-shirts and such like to be worn during flan matches in case of stains. Clothes washed afterwards to be soaked in cold water first.

HAPPY CUSTARD PIES!

** Alternative: Crazy Foam from local joke shop. Or Instant Whip available from most supermarkets.

________________________________________________________________________________

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Could spaghetti-juggling have a future?

There are going to be two spaghetti-juggling events held as part of Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and, last week, Alan from Johnstone got in touch with Tom Morton’s afternoon show on BBC Radio Scotland to say “Many years ago I discovered a unique talent while seated at the kitchen dining table…”

Yup.

It was spaghetti-juggling.

So the momentum is building, something that is always useful in the art – or possibly it is the science – of spaghetti-juggling

The two Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contests on 24th/25th August also now have a sponsor. The far-sighted Blue Moon cafe/bar in trendy Broughton Street, Edinburgh, has offered to supply spaghetti for the event.

Juggler Mat Ricardo’s enterprising chum Julie-ann Laidlaw also suggested to me the bright idea (which I will, of course, pretend was mine) that, in the spirit of turning food wastage into art, I should donate the remnants of the contest to someone who can craft a piece of sculpture out of the mess left behind.

I did contact Edinburgh College of Art about this but, apparently, they feel spaghetti-juggling is a wee bit beneath them.

So I am now open to offers – an e-mail to john@thejohnfleming will get me – food sculpting with the late Malcolm Hardee freely providing the pasta-based raw materials – remnants of 45 minutes of spaghetti-juggling on 24th/25th August at the Edinburgh Fringe.

If Tracey Emin can make her name with an unmade bed and Damien Hirst can become a millionaire on the back of a shark in formaldehyde, then spaghetti-sculpting could be the next big trend in Art.

Quite what we would do with the resultant piece of high art I don’t know, but my tendency would be to try to auction it off in aid of Scots critic and polymath Kate Copstick’s Mama Bashiara charity which is already set to receive any profits from the delights that are Malcolm Hardee Week.

The two debates, the two spaghetti-juggling contests and the two-hour variety show are being staged in Edinburgh as part of  the too-too wonderful Free Festival, so there’s no charge for participants or punters but, if they like what they see, an appreciative audience can bung money – coins or preferably notes – into a bucket.

So long as one does not lose one’s dignity.

I think that’s so important.

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For comic Charlie Chuck, the Edinburgh Fringe is just like juggling spaghetti

One day is a long time in the run-up to the Edinburgh Fringe.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that cult comedian Charlie Chuck was thinking of staging a semi-serious show called Charlie Chuck’s Guide to the Universe at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

At this August’s Fringe, he is staging Charlie Chuck’s Laughter Lounge at SpaceCabaret @ 54.

Just a few hours after I posted that blog, a production cancelled their show at the Fringe and their six-day run became available in theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall. Because tickets for Charlie Chuck’s Laughter Lounge are already selling well, suave and ever efficient Charles Pamment, who runs the SpaceUK venues, offered those six days at Surgeons Hall to the esteemed Mr Chuck.

So now – pay attention – there will be a show called Dave Kear’s Guide to the Universe (Charlie Chuck’s real name is Dave Kear) running 15th-20th August the Fringe. It won’t be listed in the already-published main Edinburgh Fringe Programme, but it will appear in SpaceUK’s printed programme and their online webpages.

Ah! The Edinburgh Fringe!

It’s like juggling spaghetti in a high wind.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Who knows what today may bring?

Did I say juggling spaghetti?

That’s another story.

To be continued.

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Guinness Book of Records spurns spaghetti-juggling as “too specialised”

The ghost of late, great godfather of alternative comedy Malcolm Hardee must be turning in his urn.

The Edinburgh Fringe this August will host The Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest – Year One but, today, Guinness World Records cruelly dealt a bitter blow to spaghetti-juggling enthusiasts worldwide when they shockingly refused to recognise spaghetti-juggling as a legitimate event.

“While we certainly do not underestimate your proposal,” Guinness World Records write, “we do however think that this item is a little too specialised for a body of reference as general as ours. We receive many thousands of record claims every year and we think you will appreciate that we are bound to favour those which reflect the greatest interest.”

How can people not be fascinated or, indeed, be obsessed by spaghetti-juggling?

I am sure I read somewhere that Nero juggled spaghetti while Rome burned. He later spread the rumour he was playing the violin because he wanted to seem more cultured.

My lifelong hopes and dreams of spaghetti-juggling becoming a recognised, legitimate – perhaps even Olympic – sport may have been dented today, but they will not be so easily crushed.

Spaghetti-juggling may not be in the Olympics next year nor in 2016, but the stupidity and pointlessness of an idea should be no barrier to its acceptance as an event. This is Britain, where stupidity and pointlessness have been widely cherished for centuries. And still are.

Clay pigeon shooting.

Marmite.

I rest my case.

And spaghetti-juggling is an event in which Britain could take a decisive lead this August.

Throwing a javelin is a remarkably pointless thing to do in the 21st century, except possibly at Celtic v Rangers football matches. But people still get gold medals for it. Or arrested.

Spaghetti-juggling has the potential to rival javelin-throwing and curling – an Olympic sport which is basically just polishing ice as quickly as you can.

Spaghetti-juggling is the future for pointless sports. It has its days of glory ahead of it, starting this year at the Edinburgh Fringe Outside The Beehive Inn on 24th and 25th August.

Be there or risk missing the start of a cultural phenomenon.

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