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Fitting & confused: pursued by a naked man at the end of the Edinburgh Fringe

A comedian, a bird and a fish in Perth this afternoon

Martin Soan, creator of the Greatest Show on Legs has been staying in the spare bedroom of my rented Edinburgh flat for a few days.

“I tell you what,” he said this morning, “let’s have a really nice breakfast. What do you fancy?”

“Black caviar,” I replied.

So he went out and got some from a local Turkish shop.

Yes, it surprised me too.

Then we went up the Blackford Hill to see my favourite view of Edinburgh.

“What shall we do next?” I asked.

“Let’s go to Poundland,” he suggested.

“Let’s go to Poundland in Perth,” I said.

And that’s what we did. Not much was happening in Perth on a Sunday. But there was a statue of a bizarrely cartoony bird standing on a fish. Martin posed by it and then we drove back to Edinburgh for the Greatest Show on Legs’ final performance at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

There were two reviews of last Friday’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show waiting,

One was a 4-star review from Broadway Baby which, gratifyingly, called the Awards “increasingly influential” and said that “the weirdest and strangest acts of the festival came together for a bizarre evening… The two-hour variety show shocked as much as it entertained… it was undoubtedly an evening to remember… This deserves to be a staple of the Fringe.”

The other was a 5-star review from The Skinny which said:

The Spirit Of The Fringe’ is such an overused term that most people don’t even think it ever really existed, but it’s here tonight. The Malcolm Hardee Awards are the only gig of its type not to be polluted by lanyard-sporting industry people, air-kissing each other and looking for someone famous to talk to. Instead, these awards are a bunch of genuinely funny and creative people mucking about and having a laugh. What’s more, it’s open to the public who all seem to be passionate comedy fans, plus it’s free – which is probably the only element that Hardee wouldn’t have loved. Fun, passion, anarchy and a refusal to take oneself too seriously. This is what people come to Edinburgh for.

That review set things up for the Greatest Show on Legs’ final performance at The Hive venue. I arrived ten minutes before the show started and new Legs member Bob Slayer was still on stage performing his own show, looking a bit the worse for wear. His one-hour show had already run 1 hour 50 minutes. Eventually, he was persuaded off the stage by Martin Soan and the Greatest Show on Legs’ performance began.

Martin Soan rushes an audience member up to the stage

The Olympics Opening Ceremony re-created on-stage, Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands distorting faces, Afghan’s favourite Islamic ventriloquist, a polecat doing a sexy dance, the Naked Balloon Dance featuring Prince Harry and much more. The show was spectacularly anarchic.

The problem came in trying to get Bob Slayer off stage at the end. Eventually the other Legs – Martin Soan and Martin Clarke – simply dismantled the set around Bob while he sat and talked to the audience, naked apart from a Prince Harry mask held across his genitals.

“The show has ended,” Bob told the audience, “But you are now all officially in the after-show. I started comedy in 2008, and I was shit at it, but then I went to Martin Soan’s club in London and he said, Hey, Bob! I’ve got this idea. Why don’t you come out of a tent? So he put a pop-up tent on stage, I climbed in the back of it and came out the front. It was a stupid, ridiculous gag. The first three rows actually shit themselves and I thought This man is a comedy genius.

“Why did you start in comedy?” I shouted out.

“I started in comedy,” Bob answered, “because I’d been fired from every other job I’d ever had. Hands up who’s shit at their job!”

No hands went up.

“You’re all liars!” Bob shouted, then picked on a woman in the audience: “What do you do?”

“I’m a child minder,” she said.

“Don’t try to make me bloody believe,” Bob said, “that you’ve not battered one while the parents were out! You can’t like everyone’s children!…. And what do you do?” he asked a young man.

“I’m currently unemployed,” came back the reply.

“Yes,” Bob shouted at him, “and some days you’re even shit at that!… Look, what I’m teaching you here is the show is brilliant, but the after show is sometimes disappointing…. Big guy over there, what’s your question?”

“Mmmmm….” mused the big guy.

“Mmmmm….” mimicked Bob, “Do you want to eat me?”

There was a long pause.

Bob looked round the audience.

Bob Slayer talks as show is dismantled around him

“Why are you all still here?” he asked them gently, as Martin Soan and Martin Clarke, now clothed, started to dismantle the set and pack up the props around him. “Look,” he continued, “the good people are taking the stuff away. I was the shit one. I’m just sat here naked…”

“Not properly naked!” someone shouted out.

“…basically being sucked off by Prince Harry,” Bob added as an afterthought. He turned to Martin Soan, who was picking up the soft puppet of a pole cat. “You were wonderful,” Bob told Martin. “I’m sorry for me.”

“Encore!” someone shouted from the audience.

“Don’t you dare speak French to me,” Bob said.”If there’s one thing I hate more than people I hate, it’s French people. I love French people.” He paused. “I’m having an incoherent conversation with myself,” he continued.

“I’m off! Thanks!” someone yelled from the back of the audience.

“Once he’s left,” Bob said, “it’ll all make sense.”

The lights in the room flashed.

“Don’t you dare! Fuck off, Jamie!” Bob yelled at the booth at the back of the room. “I know they want to turn this into a nightclub at 10 o’clock! Look, I…”

The sound man started playing a throbbing disco tune as the stage lights darkened and the coloured disco lights flashed throughout the room.

“I started on the stage at 7 o’clock tonight!” Bob shouted over the music. “I shouldn’t be on this show! I just refused to get off. I shouldn’t be in the Greatest Show on Legs! I’m just an idiot! I’m sorry I ruined everything. You came here to see masters of comedy. We could have had an ending. It was brilliant. All I’ve done is crack on and on and on. Why are you still here? You can’t see me anyway!” he yelled above the rising music.

The music stopped and the stage lights went on.

“OK, you can see me,” Bob corrected himself as the audience roared. “I’m confused with the dark and the light.”

The throbbing disco music started up again, louder.

“I’m confused!” Bob shouted. “My life is over-done. But, I tell you what, I fucking love her,” he yelled, pointing at a random member of the audience. “And him!” pointing at a random man. “Why are you still here? Why are you all still here? Give it up! Give it up!”

The audience began to whoop and cheer.

“No!” Bob yelled. “Tell me to give it up!… I love you!… All!…”

The white house lights went fully up and the audience started to get up and leave.

Naked Bob leapt off the stage.

“Carry me! Carry me!” he yelled. “Carry me home!”

Martin Soan reads the 5-star show reviews

The throbbing disco music rose in volume. Bob started shouting incoherently. Two new members of the public came in and started shouting. The audience was leaving. Bob was pursuing them, staggering and still naked. He pushed through, naked, and got ahead of the audience and met them at the door as they left, shaking each person’s hand.

A naked man chasing members of a smiling, satisfied audience out of a venue that looks like the Cavern in Liverpool did in the early days of the Beatles.

A fitting end to an unsettled Edinburgh Fringe where everyone was confused by audience figures, income and the future. It will be the same next year, of course.  I hope.

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Perhaps the true spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe is not dead: comedy, anarchy and loose genitalia over the weekend

The Assembly Hall on The Mound

So, on Saturday, I went to see Australian comic John Robertson’s show The Old Whore, at the Assembly Hall venue on The Mound at the Edinburgh Fringe, but I only saw half of it.

It was a hot, sweaty and humid night and the room high up in Assembly Hall was like a sweat box. So John decided halfway through to take the show and the audience outside into the cool mid-evening air.

His narrative – the show is a fascinating, full-throttle dissection of his very odd family – soon   merged into a fully-fledged outdoor event involving passing pedestrians, rickshaw drivers, people in double decker buses and, with the audience sitting on the pavement, a virtual recreation of the galley sequence from Ben-Hur. Every time a significant number of people was spotted coming up the slope, the audience were under instructions from John to mime as if they were, en masse, rowing an invisible Roman galley on the pavement.

The admirable Assembly staff did not complain; they just came out on the pavement with the audience, donning dayglo safety jackets and made sure passing pedestrians and the traffic were not obstructed. They also laughed a lot and enjoyed John’s seat-of-your-pants show.

Topless entertainment at its best at the Edinburgh Fringe

It ended, suitably, with John taking off his shirt and getting his entire audience to stand up so he could be crowd-surfed with his audience carrying him halfway down the Mound and then addressing them standing on the top of the railings.

When this sort of thing happens, it makes you think maybe the spirit of the Fringe is not dead and the pay-to-enter festival has not been taken over by bland comedy clones only intent on finding TV producers to impress. There was a smell of sought-for anarchy in the air.

I did find it a little suspicious, though, when John told me he had done this once before – on a similarly sweaty night.

Is John Robertson (left) schmoozing me?

“Yeah,” John told me, out of breath after his crowd surf. “It was the night reviewers from The Scotsman and The List were in. They ended up doing a review of the bit where we went outside instead of the show itself and this is a structurally sound narrative. It’s a really carefully-crafted monologue. So it made me a little unhappy they reviewed the going-outside bit. But, when a crowd is having a hard time because of the heat, I will take them outside and do whatever.”

Could he have reckoned there was a greater chance of me writing a blog – and a longer blog – if he went outside again. Who knows? Who cares? When in doubt, go with what makes a good story.

John Robertson in The Dark Room in Edinburgh

John is also performing a separate show, The Dark Room, as part of the Alternative Fringe/Laughing Horse Free Festival at Bob Slayer’s Hive venue. Bob is a wonderful publicist and so is John. So the two together are quite something.

The Dark Room – which I saw yesterday – is basically a video game, which John created, but performed as a live interactive show in Edinburgh. He put the original game on YouTube and, he says, “it went viral in February. Variety and Wired did feature articles on it and Kotaku covered it – they’re a big multi-platform video gaming anime thing.”

John Robertson after his Hive show yesterday

Comedian Brendon Burns has been coming daily to John’s shows at the Hive to play The Dark Room. And, John tells me, “Ron Gilbert, from LucasArts, who created the first two Monkey Island games played it. Ian Livingstone, co-creator of Fighting Fantasy and Games Workshop also came to play – and lost – and that was terrific.

“Here is a man who is responsible for people like me not getting laid in high school because we were indulging in his wonderful imagination, his wonderful flights of fantasy… and he turned up to play my game and lost! And he knew exactly what he was doing; we thought in a faintly similar way, though his games were made to be fun and my game was made to be fun to watch.”

John Robertson may do very well from The Dark Room because, as I say, like Bob Slayer, he knows how to promote and knows how to insert himself into situations which may get him publicity.

Bob Slayer (left) and John Robertson talk seriously (not)

So when, in the Hive bar after yesterday’s Dark Room show, hard-drinking and frequently drunk Bob Slayer ordered only a Coca Cola and I switched my iPhone audio recorder on, John leapt in as Bob’s interrogator and interlocutor – some people will do anything to get mentioned in this blog.

There was much talk of the fact that Bob had ordered a Coca Cola from the bar, but we will join the conversation at the point at which I said: “I enjoyed the wanking Jeff Leach story.”

“I didn’t enjoy wanking off Jeff Leach,” said Bob wearily.

“Yes you did,” said John.

“Jeff Leach was on stage at Espionage,” said Bob. “It’s not for me to assess another comedian’s performance, but the audience all hated him. So he turned his back on them and decided to talk to one man in the booth, off-mike.

“After about five minutes of this, I was sent on to go and pull him off and, unfortunately, that’s exactly what I did. I misunderstood them.”

“And did the crowd go wild?” asked John.

“Well,” said Bob, “I sold tickets for my show this morning on the back of wanking in a man’s wife’s face last night.”

Bob Slayer gets carried away during his storytelling spree

“In a man’s wife’s face?” I asked. “Don’t forget this is being recorded.”

“Well, she’s coming today,” Bob said with no sense of knowingness.

“Would you like to re-phrase that?” I asked.

“Today she is visiting his show,” suggested John.

“To be more precise,” said Bob. “I was wanking Jeff and Jeff was wanking me. There was a lot of coming and going. Well, there was no going. That was the whole point: he wouldn’t go so I had to make him come.”

“So you began to jerk the jerk?” John asked.

“You know how I won’t back down?” Bob asked me. “Well, we were playing that Who’s going to back down first? game and nobody was backing down.”

“Are we saying through the pants?” asked John.

“No,” said Bob.

“You put your hand in the pants?” asked John.

“No,” said Bob.

“You took him out of the pants?” asked John.

“The pants were down,” said Bob.

“The pants were down,” said John.

“Yes,” said Bob.

“The little Leach in full view?” asked John.

“The little Leach and big Bob.”

“Not too much detail,” I suggested.

“Was there engorging involved?” asked John.

“I don’t think there was any engorging going on,” said Bob. “Certainly not on my part: I’d had a bottle of Jagermeister.”

“So you were wanking this…” started John.

“Pulling a flaccid member,” corrected Bob.

“It didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth?” I asked.

“No,” said Bob, “The man’s wife on the other hand…”

“And, faced with this chunky comedian porn, the crowd responded with…?” asked John.

“They seemed to quite like it,” said Bob. “I wouldn’t say all of them did, but the point is I sold some tickets today off the back of it, so some people liked it, therefore it’s entertainment and it should be done on a regular basis….” Bob paused and thought for a couple of seconds. “I’m never doing it again,” he added.”I’m disgusted with this hand. It’s the one I dislocated as well. We had already fallen out.”

Bob Slayer holds his hand, if not his head, high yesterday

He held his right hand up so I could photograph it. One of his fingers is missing a joint.

“You look like Dave Allen there,” I said. “Jeremy Beadle built an entire career based on this.”

“What?” asked Bob, “Pretending to be Dave Allen?”

“No,” I said, “you know he had…”

“…a shrunken hand,” said Bob. “Yes.”

James Doohan,” said John.

“Who?” I asked.

“Scotty, from Star Trek,” said John.

“Oh?” said Bob.

“Only four digits on one hand,” said John. “One of his fingers was shot off in the War…. And you know Radar from M*A*S*H?”

“Him too?” I asked, incredulous.

“He’s got a deformed left hand,” said John. “He’s always holding a clipboard.”

“Is any of this true?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” said John.

“Mickey Mouse – three fingers,” I said.

“What you’re saying,” said Bob, holding up his hand, “is that people with deformed hands are genii.”

“Genii?” asked John.

“I think genii is the plural of genius,” said Bob.

“I don’t think Mickey Mouse is a genius,” I said. “and I am going to have to transcribe all this.”

“You may regret it,” Bob said.

“We may all regret it,” I said.

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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


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?’.



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.


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:

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,


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‘Cockgate’ – the cunning stunt from Kunt and the Gang gathers momentum

It seems some people will do anything in an attempt to get a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. Who knows, in the swirling maelstrom of orgasmic lust for an award in Malcolm Hardee Week next week, exactly what may or not be true and the lengths to which people may or may not go to win one of the glittering prizes?

According to Bob Slayer, unofficial Kunt spokesman, it is day 3.5 in the ‘Cockgate’ saga in which Kunt and The Gang (who are one person) got sticky paper penises plastered on other people’s posters all over the Edinburgh Fringe.

Mild-mannered Kunt, as a result, has been issued with a £3,000 fine.

Last night, according to Bob – over beers in the Gilded Balloon’s exclusive Loft Bar and in front of witnesses – Tommy Sheppard, owner of the Stand comedy club, offered to pay for the defence of Kunt in any prosecution and/or pay the £3,000 fine.

Sheppard’s paraphrased reasoning, according to Bob, was: “The poster sites are an eyesore around Edinburgh. If I got my way they would all be removed. They are a rip-off for the shows that fund them and only exist to inflate promoter egos… Cocks are funny full stop and I would be happy to welcome them on any Stand posters…”

This may not be altogether altruistic as, of course, if the other venues’ posters were removed, it would be less competition for the Stand’s all-year-round profile in Edinburgh.

However, as I believe there are around 4,500 sticky paper penises left, it will be interesting to see if they do, indeed, appear on any Stand posters.

Kunt of Kunt and the Gang had this to say:

“I thought I was going to have to go back to Basildon and do something horrible on a building site in order to raise that kind of cash… But thanks to the support from nice Mr Tommy I can continue to pedal my filthy ditties to packed audiences every night…”

According to Bob Slayer – a Malcolm Hardee Award nominee last year who is clearly also trying to suck up to the judges this year – comic Stewart Lee (last year’s winner of the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award) has already reserved the front row for the remainder Kunt’s Fringe free shows at The Hive and (according to Bob) “is very interested in picking up stage and TV rights to Shannon Matthews: The Musical penned by Kunt.”

Bob asks: “What can you do to support the Basildon One and in turn uphold the very spirit of the Fringe?”

I think he’s doing very well on his own.

At least someone is trying to uphold the Malcolm Hardee legacy of cunning stunts…

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