Tag Archives: Stephen Frost

Tis the season to be jolly – now comic Lewis Schaffer converts to Christianity?

Steve Frost caught in flagrante delicto with capitalist caviar

Frost caught in flagrante delicious with capitalist caviar

Yesterday, I went to the annual Christmas party thrown by comic Charmian Hughes and husband David Don’t. On reflection, ‘annual Christmas party’ might be tautology. Anyway, a good time was, as always, had by all the tight-packed throng including writer and troublemaker Mark Kelly who insisted I take a photo of esteemed thespian Stephen Frost eating caviar and thus demonstrating he had given up his youthful ambitions to change the world and abolish elitism.

I should point out that the caviar was from Lidl, apparently retails for less than the cost of a Big Mac and comes not from sturgeon but from capelin, a small forage fish found in the Arctic.

I have no idea what a forage fish is, but its slimy bits can apparently legitimately be classed as caviar.

Charmian Hughes offers me her bras

Charmian Hughes shows me her bras last night

As I left the party, Charmian Hughes gave me a plastic bag filled with bras which, I was told, I had to give to comedy critic Kate Copstick for her Mama Biashara charity. I asked no questions, but I can only assume they are destined for some bemused and heavily bosomed Kenyan women.

Tomorrow, with Kate Copstick chairing, the last live Grouchy Club meeting of this year (all welcome) involves comedy industry chat + some OTTness from Ada Campe + mulled cider + nibbles provided by the aforementioned Copstick. Usually, she bites.

There is an oft-used but admittedly here irrelevant Scots saying: “Many a mickle maks a muckle”.

“Many people make mulled wine,” Copstick tells me, “but I’m Scottish, therefore I’m cheap, therefore I make mulled cider, but it’s lovely and it’s still alcoholic and it is absolutely delicious. There will be nibbles and chocolate in almost every conceivable form, plus crispy things, possibly dippy things and cakey things.”

Lewis Schaffer’s flyer image for his Leicester Square shows

Lewis Schaffer in erstwhile  youth. Once seen, never forgotten

Tonight, I am off to see Lewis Schaffer’s final 2015 performance of a show at the Museum of Comedy – a show that was billed as Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, £10… until about five hours before the first performance when, with cavalier disregard for any rules of publicity – like what name is actually on the posters, flyers and listings – he changed it to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful… a title which could arguably see him in court charged with breach of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

Lewis Schaffer says there will be an after-show party and, as he does not care what is written about him provided the words ‘Lewis Schaffer’ are inserted at regular intervals, I can exclusively reveal that Lewis Schaffer will be at the party naked, draped in nothing but a Stars & Stripes flag and he will be singing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, having last week converted to Christianity.

LewisSchaffer_PinkHair

A Goy or a Doll? – Which is worse?

To consolidate this, in the New Year, Lewis Schaffer will be appearing in a stage production at the National Theatre of Goys and Dolls. He may be playing one of the female leads, judging by a photo of him in publicity for Martin Besserman’s Jewish Xmas Eve Matzo Ball Special in which he (Lewis Schaffer) sports pink hair.

We live in a time of flux and this morning I got a Christmas e-card from Arthur Smith comprising a giant picture of himself either as Scrooge or a mullah. If the latter, he – like Lewis Schaffer with his conversion to Christianity – may be hedging his New Year bets.

ArthurSmithChristmasCard

Arthur Smith – the ghost of Christmas Bahs?

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Comedy’s future in London and what is happening in Canada, Japan and Kenya

PTOO last night - Zuma Puma as ‘The Colonel’

PTOO last night – Zuma Puma as ‘The Colonel’

Last night, I got three interesting e-mails and saw the best potential TV series not yet on TV – Vivienne & Martin Soan’s monthly live comedy show Pull The Other One in South East London.

The PTOO format is bizarre acts plus one token stand-up comedian, which I think might be the next step in the future of comedy in the UK.

Call me obsessed but, with the apparent decline of straight comedy clubs and the rise of the Cabaret Section at the Edinburgh Fringe, something feels likely to change.

Lindsay Sharman compered last night

Lindsay Sharman did it by the book last night

Last night at PTOO, the ever-TV-friendly-faced Lindsay Sharman hosted Cheekykita, who harassed the audience in a crash-helmet, then turned into a black hole… wonderfully acerbic (OK – viciously bitter) musical comedian Kate Lucas (who, last month, was crowned Mercury Comedian of the Year at the Leicester Comedy Festival)… the always wonderfully intense Zuma Puma aka Nelly Scott as a wildly OTT Russian colonel… the Greatest Show on Legs with Martin Soan as a psychotic gay sergeant major… Simon Munnery being superbly funny as the token stand-up (You know, when Simon Munnery is the token normal comedian, everything else has to be SERIOUSLY weird!)… and Darren Walsh being extraordinarily punny (last month he won the first UK Pun Championhips) with lots of surreal visual and audio gags meaning he kept well to the bizarre variety act side of normal stand-up.

Peter Morey drawing as Simon Munnery performed

Peter Morey drew; Simon Munnery performed

While all this went on, artist Peter Morey was drawing his live visual interpretation of the show on the door of the venue as he listened to the acts perform.

The audience included Comedy Store improviser Stephen Frost and new comedy entrepreneur and showman Adam Taffler.

For once in my life, I felt trendy.

Then I went home.

I have no idea who this man is

This man is in Vancouver. I do not know him.

There was an unexplained e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She is currently working in a bookshop in Vancouver. There was no text in the e-mail, just an attached picture. The e-mail was titled Finns and Doukabors have visited the shop. I have no idea what this means.

According to Wikipedia, the Doukabors were a Russian religious sect who emigrated to Canada in the 19th century to escape persecution by the Tsarist authorities. And, according to the 2001 census, over 131,040 Canadians claim Finnish ancestry.

I have no idea what relevance either of these facts may or may not actually have to anything else.

Then I opened an e-mail from British comedian Bob Slayer who, among many other things, used to be a horse jockey (unlikely but true) and managed Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock (who are descending on Britain next month).

They provided some of the music for the movie Killer Bitch, in which one of them got killed by having a fish rammed down his throat. One of the movie’s online samplers uses their music. (Do not view this adult material if you can ever be offended by anything and – really – NB do not buy from the website named at the end, only from reputable retailers.)

A week ago, Bob Slayer flew to Japan. I had no idea why. Last night’s e-mail explained:

The reason why we are here is our friends Kaori and Jamie are getting married. Kaori was in a London-based Japanese two-piece band called Yumi Yumi. They both helped me out lots in the early days of managing Electric Eel Shock. After that band, Kaori joined Mercury Award nominated The Go Team as guitarist, keyboardist and occasional vocalist. Jamie was the bass player.

DAY 1 – We arrive in Kumamoto after 24 hours travelling. We took a flight from London to Tokyo then several bullet trains. Some of them were even the right ones. The highlight of the wedding food is a plate of raw horse meat, a local delicacy. I will never watch the Grand National in the same way again.

Day 3 – Where did day 2 disappear? A booze and a jetlag fug?

Day 5 – Today we are in Settsu-shi, near Osaka, at the house of Aki Morimoto otherwise known as front man of Electric Eel Shock. He has produced a little boy since I saw him last and Taira (3 years old) and I bond over sword fighting and cartoons of Anpanman, Japan’s most popular anime for kids, where all the characters have heads made out of different flavoured breads. I also build a 7 foot Lego tower.

Day 6 – Osaka’s speciality food is takoyaki and okonimaki – octopus batter balls and a savoury pancake made with chopped cabbage. Both are covered in mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. It seems that, although Japan spent a lot of its history closed off from the outside world, some imports had a big influence 150 years ago. Barbershop poles are red and white and the Japanese word for suit is ‘Savillrow’.

After this, I opened an e-mail from comedy critic Kate Copstick, currently in Kenya. She told me:

Hoping to be boarding a plane to Britain this time next week, barring any intervening ghastliness.

I am on one crutch and reasonably mobile.

All in all it could be worse.

I think – unusually – she may be under-stating the case.

But that is another story.

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Steve Bowditch on music, The Gits, the Greatest Show on Legs and performing comedy at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe

Steve in Rotherhithe docks, London

Steve after surviving The Gits – in Rotherhithe docks, London

This is a blog, partly, about how people’s memories fail them.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned The Gits in a blog.

I had been listening to an unreleased 9-song CD by the punk band from around 1990 which comprised English comedy performers Steve Bowditch, Stephen Frost and Canadian Alan Marriott. (These UK-based Gits are not to be confused with the Seattle band The Gits.)

One of my favourite tracks on the album is Albert Einstein. Part of the song is posted on YouTube.

I phoned up ex-Git Steve Bowditch to talk about their unreleased album.

“Could you do me a copy?” Steve asked. “I don’t have it. I used to have copies. I dunno what happened to them.”

Steve Bowditch was and is a member of The Greatest Show On Legs, the comedy troupe whose claim to fame is the Naked Balloon Dance. Performer Martin Soan started the Greatest Show On Legs as an adult Punch & Judy show. Then he was joined by the late legend Malcolm Hardee. And Steve Bowditch joined later.

“How did The Gits start?” I asked Steve.

“It was Stephen Frost,” he told me. “Stephen phoned me up and said Do you want to be the bass player in this punk band? and that was it. We practised in Alan Marriott’s flat in Mitchum. Steve was a punk fan and one of our first gigs was supporting the UK Subs at the Amersham Arms.”

“I thought I saw The Gits perform at the Astoria (since demolished) in Charing Cross Road in central London,” I said, “when Malcolm and I worked for Noel Gay TV.”

“No,” Steve told me. “But I remember we did perform at the Astoria, supporting John Otway. It was great to be playing to a packed Astoria.”

“I thought,” I said, “that we must have booked you to play on Jools Holland’s The Happening for BSB.”

“No,” said Steve. “The Greatest Show On Legs performed on that, but not The Gits.”

“What was the idea?” I asked. “A semi-comic punk band that might catch on and you might become millionaires?”

“I don’t know about being millionaires,” laughed Steve. “It was just really for the punk ethics. Stephen Frost wanted to have a punk band and that was that. He quite liked the Ramones. The first few gigs, we did the Ramones’ Suzy Is A Headbanger.

“I had always written comic songs for my act, so we started writing our own songs. Stephen wanted to write something about how you never see the drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band. So he wrote a song about that. I had a thing about Albert Einstein and Stephen was keen on pub quizzes. So we wrote songs about them. Alan came up with God Squad because he couldn’t stand people banging on his door on Sunday mornings selling God.

“And, years ago when you got a packet of tea, you used to get a picture card in it showing animals and butterflies. I found this card in a drawer with a warthog on it, so just decided to write a song based on the back of a teabag card.”

“And what a fine song Warthog is,” I said.”

“Hog!” sang Steve, impressively remembering the lyrics from all those years ago.

“We played Glastonbury,” remembered Steve, “and at the Hope Festival a couple of times – and St Ives. We stayed in Taunton. Stephen’s parents lived in Penzance at the time.”

Comedian Stephen Frost’s father was Sir Terence Ernest Manitou Frost – Sir Terry Frost – a very highly-regarded artist and Royal Academician.

“His brother’s a famous artist, too,” said Steve. “Anthony – He lives on the edge of a cliff.”

“Don’t we all,” I said. “You’ve always been musical. You usually have a guitar in your act.”

“Right,” said Steve. “I play the violin now.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

“On stage?”

“Well, I bought the violin to do a sort of Jack Benny with it: always promising to play it but never doing it. But then I realised I quite enjoyed playing it. I practise about 2-3 hours a day now. Mainly Irish folk songs – The Irish Washerwoman, Jackie Tar, Chicken Reel, stuff like that.”

Steve at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1993

Steve performs with guitar & strawberry at the Fringe – 1993

“You were always guitar-based,” I said. “Was that because you wanted to be a musician or was it just another prop?”

“Just a way of getting through the act,” said Steve. “I was never really a stand-up comedian. I’ve always mucked around with props and music. Stand-ups have a certain something.”

“Madness,” I suggested. “Your musical career’s going even further at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.”

The Dickie Richards and Steve Bowditch Comedy Show,” said Steve. “The idea is to write a new ukelele song every day, using suggestions from the audience, featuring The Two Yuris.”

“Your act as two Russian generals?”

“Of course.”

“How long is your show’s run?” I asked.

“The 3rd to the 24th of August,” said Steve.

“So,” I said, “at the end, you’re going to have written 22 songs?”

“Hopefully.”

“As an album?” I asked.

“If someone can explain this iTunes malarkey to us,” said Steve. “You told me we can’t talk to Steve Jobs because he’s dead.”

“Don’t let that stop you,” I said. “After Edinburgh, are you and Dickie being a duo?”

“No,” said Steve, “we’re just going up there for the Fringe and, after Edinburgh, it’s hopefully full steam ahead with a Greatest Show On Legs tour and we’ll get work. We’re at the Spiegeltent on the South Bank in London again this coming Saturday – at Wonderground – supporting Al Murray. That’s what we want to do. The high profile things. Well, we want to do ANY shows, really.

“The Greatest Show On Legs was really just… One minute you were on stage at the Astoria or the Montreal comedy festival and it’s a big, packed theatre and the next week you were performing in the fireplace at some pub in somewhere like Ramsgate with 30 or 40 drunk people and afterwards you were at the bar and you’d made friends with everybody. It was always a big variety from top to bottom. That was what Malcolm thrived on. We all enjoyed that.”

Steve Bowditch pays homage to the late Malcolm Hardee

Steve Bowditch pays homage to the late Malcolm Hardee

“Is the story in Malcolm’s autobiography true?” I asked. “that you joined the Greatest Show On Legs in a sound recording studio.”

“That’s right,” said Steve. “I knew Jacki Cook who had a shop in Greenwich – she now has The Emporium. I had a cine camera and used to make little films and she and her friends starred in one.

“Malcolm used to pop into Jacki’s shop. You know what he was like: larger-than-life and getting to know everybody everywhere. He told her: We’re looking for someone else to join in cos I can’t do that skinhead gag any more cos I’ll have a heart attack if I do it one more time. Someone who’s young and up for it.

“She said: Oh, you gotta meet Steve. He’s up for most things. So Malcolm came round and said: Oh, Jackie sent me round. She said you might wanna be in the show. Do you wanna fag?

“I said: Alright.

“He said: Can you dance?

“I said: Erm. Yeah.

“He said: Go on, then.

“So I did two steps sideways, two steps forwards, two steps backwards.

OK, he said. Come round Saturday and meet the others.

“And that was my audition.”

This story is completely different to the one in Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. In that, he wrote:

Steve Bowditch was recruited when I was walking along the road by my house and saw this bloke sitting inside a recording studio, where he was making the tea. I just liked the look of his face. I went in and said to him: 

“Do you want to be in a show?” 

“Yes,” he said.

So he came round that afternoon, rehearsed about three numbers and next day he was in Rhyl, North Wales, performing with The Greatest Show on Legs.

Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005.

“So the Greatest Show on Legs now,” I said to Steve Bowditch, “is you and Dickie Richards and Martin Soan. Why aren’t you all performing as the Greatest Show on Legs during your show in Edinburgh next month?”

“Martin couldn’t do it,” explained Steve, “because he’s got his own thing happening in Peckham – The Village Hall Experience – on 17th August, right slap-bang in the middle of the Fringe dates.”

The GSOL as they are today (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

The GSOL today (from left) Dickie, Steve and Martin

“And then all three of you,” I said, “are performing in the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe…”

“Are we?” asked Steve.

“Oh dear,” I said. “Aren’t you?”

“Is Martin coming up for that?” Steve asked.

“Oh dear,” I said. “Yes, he’s travelling up specially to do that one night performance.”

“Right,” said Steve. “We’ll be there, then.”

“Oh good,” I said. “Do you have any photos of The Gits?”

“No,” said Steve.

“Have you got any publicity photos for your Edinburgh show with Dickie?” I asked.

“No,” said Steve.

“Or a Facebook page or anything?” I asked.

“No,” said Steve.

The Dickie Richards and Steve Bowditch Comedy Show is not listed in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme, but it runs 3rd-24th August at 2.10pm daily in Ciao Roma on South Bridge.

Steve still makes short films. Look for WeShouldGetABoat on YouTube. Here is one of Steve’s films, featuring comic Harriet Bowden: Internet Stalker.

This blog is posted later than normal, because I was interrupted by The Scottish Sun wanting naked photos of The Greatest Show On Legs as they will appear in the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – for the Women’s section of tomorrow’s newspaper.

It has had a terrible knock-on effect on the rest of my day but, for The Greatest Show On Legs, nude photos in the Sun is just an ordinary day for them.

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A great comedy show and scarcely-believable tales of Malcolm Hardee

The Greatest Show on multiple legs last night

The Greatest Show on many legs last night

It is a difficult blog to write if someone you know quite well does a really stonkingly good gig, because no-one is really going to believe you when you say how good it was.

Even moreso when it’s an entire comedy club evening.

All I can say is that last night’s Pull The Other One comedy show in Nunhead, South East London, was one of the best comedy nights I have been at. And I have been at a few.

Vivienne and Martin Soan’s Pull The Other One shows are always odd and always entertaining but – like all the very best comedy nights – there can be some ups and downs, much like a well-loved camel. Last night, there were no downs – it was more firm-peaked dromedary than lumpy Bactrian – and the very excitable audience had every right to be just that… excited.

New-ish Darren Maskell was fairly indescribable but, if I had to put words to it, I’d try ‘successfully surreal’ and audience member Phill Jupitus was roaring with laughter at many parts. I particularly liked the miniature-chainsawed ice sculpture Darren gave to a member of the audience.

Lindsay Sharman in full-flow as a rage-filled Scots poet was extremely funny, as perhaps only rage-filled Scots poets can be.

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan's hair

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan’s hair last night

And then Stephen Frost threw one of Martin Soan’s shoes out of the first floor window, grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off parts of Martin’s shirt and half his hair simply so Martin could deliver a gag about being “half-cut”.

Now that is true dedication to comedy. Especially as, if you throw a shoe out of a window into a South East London street, there is no guarantee it will still be there when you go to collect it ten minutes later. Fortunately the shoe was still there, though a shirt and jeans had been stolen.

Then, back on stage, there was Phill Jupitus reprising his 1980s persona of Porky The Poet with old and new material performed with flawless comic timing, followed by Oram & Meeton wildly on-form.

Triumphant Martin Soan obscured by cheering audience member

Stephen Frost and triumphant Martin Soan partially obscured by rising, cheering audience members in London last night

It maybe sounds like an ordinary comedy night ‘bigged-up’. It was not. It was a wonderful, wonderful event. At the end, one of the performers asked me: “Was tonight as good as I think it was?”

“Yes it was,” I said.

The night was, in fact, as good as some of the best nights at the late Malcolm Hardee’s clubs The Tunnel Palladium and Up The Creek and, inevitably, Malcolm’s ghost made an appearance last night.

‘Porky The Poet’ had written new poems about Martin Soan, Stephen Frost and Malcolm Hardee (as well as one about touring with Madness).

And, at the beginning of the evening, a man approached me in the club’s darkness saying “I know your face.”

Crimewatch?” I asked.

“No. You do occasional Facebook postings on the Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society page and I recognise your face from there,” he said.

This I find slightly worrying, as there is only a tiny icon-type picture of me there and, although I have occasionally been ‘recognised’ by people in trains and at parties in the past, I have only been mis-recognised as a totally different person, because I have a very unexceptional face.

I have often been mistaken for a ‘Peter’. Whether this is one particular Peter or, more likely, a variety of different Peters nationwide, I know not.

But this guy who really did recognise me in the dark at Pull The Other One last night was one Nick Bernard.

“I used to live next door to Malcolm Hardee’s house in Fingal Street in the mid-1990s,” he told me. “Well, Malcolm wasn’t living there then – that bloke from Only Fools and Horses was – but I used to hang out a lot with Malcolm. Have you heard the story about his first date with Jane (his future wife)?”

“Try me,” I said.

“I think Malcolm had met Jane at Up The Creek,” said Nick.

“Yes,” I said, “the way she tells it, the first time she saw him, he was naked on stage…”

“It was Malcolm who told me this,” said Nick, “and then Jane who ‘affirmed the narrative’… He chatted her up after the show and arranged to go on a date the next day.

“So the next day he turns up in his Jaguar at her house all suited-and-booted to pick her up… but he is desperate to go to the loo. And, rather than knock on the door and say I’m really sorry, I’ve gotta go to the loo, he thinks the best thing is to go before he knocks on the door. Except he needs to do a shit not a wee.

“So he shits in her neighbour’s front garden but doesn’t have anything to wipe himself, so he pulls his suit back together, knocks on the door, takes her to the car, Jane gets into the car and becomes aware of this foul smell… but she still married him.

“There’s obviously some winning charm there.”

“I think,” I said, “women liked his innocence.”

“Well, he did have a huge charm,” said Nick. “I think it was the honesty. I mean he could be really quite cruel, but it wasn’t like mean or deliberate. He saw the line of humour and the eventual laugh and he thought: I’ll just go for the humorous line and fuck it!

“I think the definitive Malcolm story,” I said, “is the Matthew Hardy one where…”

“Oh! And his tax!” Nick said.

“His tax?” I asked.

“Well, you know Malcolm never paid his tax?” asked Nick.

I nodded, obviously.

“So, after Matthew Hardy moved in with him,” said Nick, “there was an M.Hardee and an M.Hardy sharing an address – same name but different spellings. So, after Malcolm was owing multiple years of tax… Well, he had written to the tax office and said he’d died and that hadn’t worked… Well, it did for a bit… Then he wrote to them saying You’ve been getting my name wrong and he told them he was M.Hardy not M.Hardee… Then the tax office started chasing Matthew Hardy…”

“After Malcolm died,” I told Nick, “his brother Alex was sitting sorting through the paperwork in Malcolm’s place and the phone rang. It was someone from the tax office asking: Can I speak to Mr Malcolm Hardee, please? So Alex says, I’m afraid he died and the taxman says, You tried that last year, Mr Hardee.

“But the definitive Malcolm story, I think, is the one Matthew Hardy tells on the anecdotes page of his website…”

THIS IS MATTHEW HARDY’S STORY:

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (photo by Steve Taylor)

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (photo by Steve Taylor)

He took my visiting elderly parents out in his boat. Goes up the Thames and on the right was some kind of rusted ship, pumping a powerful arc of bilgewater out of its hull, through a kind of high porthole, which saw the water arc across the river over fifty foot.

I’m on the front of the boat as Malcolm veers toward the arc and I assume he’s gonna go under it, between the ship and where the arc curves downward toward the river itself. For a laugh.

Just as I turn back to say “Lookout, we’re gonna get hit by the filthy fucking water” – the filthy fucking water almost knocked my head off my shoulders and me off the boat. I looked back to see it hit Malcolm as he steered, then my Mum and then Dad.

I wanted to hit him, and my Dad said afterwards that he did too, but we were both unable to comprehend or calculate what had actually happened. Malcolm’s decision was beyond any previously known social conduct. He must have simply had the idea and acted upon it. Anarchy.

We laugh… NOW!”

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One UK comedian obsesses about a goat; another refuses to tell me a story

The last two days have been odd

The last two days have been odd… It all started with a goat in Oz

The last two days have been odd. I and my eternally-un-named friend have had colds and coughs for three weeks.

Yesterday morning in London, comedian Bob Slayer was trying to persuade me I should write a blog about Gary The Goat in Australia. As regular readers of this blog will know, earlier this year Bob traversed the Outback with Gary The Goat and his owner Australian comic Jimbo.

Now Jimbo has found himself in trouble with the law because Gary The Goat ate some grass and (the police allege) some flowers.

“This is Goatgate!” Bob tried to persuade me. It’s a must-do blog post!!!”

“I don’t know what the angle is,” I told him. “The story is basically Goat Eats Grass. That’s a Dog Bites Man story. It’s not interesting. Man Bites Dog and Then Eats Grass and Flowers would be a story. Goat Eats Grass and Flowers and Owner Gets Fined is like Dog Bites Man and Owner is Prosecuted. It’s not quirky. It’s normal.”

Gary the Goat in Australia with Jimbo

Gary the Goat (left) with Jimbo earlier this year in Australia

“This is Goatgate!” said Bob. “Gary The Goat’s Facebook page was on 400 likes at the start of this and it is now 8,500. The first post about this that went viral had 25,000 likes and it was seen by nearly half a million folks…”

“Gary The Goat has a Facebook page?” I asked.

“Yes, he does,” said Bob.

“It’s not unusual enough,” I told him, coughing.

Then I got a phone call from comedian Martin Soan.

“I’m running around putting the show together for tonight,” he told me. “I’ve a great blog for you, but I’ll forget it. I’ll tell you the title. Remind me tonight.”

“Y-e-e-e-s-s-s…” I said warily.

The Social Structure is Alive and Well in the NHS,” said Martin.

“Righto,” I said, coughing.

Last night, I went to Martin’s Pull The Other One comedy club Christmas show and party.

Bob Slayer on stage with a mop last night

Bob Slayer on stage with a hat & a mop last night

Bob Slayer was there. He told the audience a story about being employed to hang up dead Christmas turkeys which shat themselves. I think that was the story. He wore a Father Christmas hat and swept the stage a lot.

Afterwards, he told me: “Gary The Goat didn’t eat any flowers. Them coppers have invented that to try and justify their ridiculous actions. Anyway, the story is about the nanny state. And the fact that increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award winning comedian Bob Slayer is in the thick of it and making a documentary with Brown Eyed Boy…”

“If Australia really were a nanny state,” I argued, “it would welcome goats.”

“That is the line!” said Bob triumphantly. “Gary is a Billy! It is about sexism!”

“It’s not unusual enough,” I told him, coughing.

Then comedian Charmian Hughes showed me a video on her phone. It appeared to show her dancing ballet in the middle of a three-lane motorway.

The 1812 Overture performed on stage last night

The 1812 Overture performed with cannon on London stage last night

After that, Martin Soan performed the 1812 overture with a cannon on stage, his wife Vivienne on clarinet and comedian Stephen Prost on trumpet. It was quite messy.

Afterwards, I said to Martin: “What about that blog idea? The Social Structure is Alive and Well in the NHS.

“If you stick that iPhone in my face,” he said, shouting over the loud music from DJ Ratsmilk, “I’ll dry up. I talked to Steve Frost today and – this is absolutely true – absolutely fucking true – But I’m not going to tell you the story now, because I’ll fuck it up.”

“You won’t,” I said.

“I will!” he shouted.

“Go on,” I shouted.

“I told Steve Frost today in the car,” he shouted, “about anal exploratory surgery. And, in the sketch on The Frost Programme with John Cleese and The Two Ronnies, it was… I didn’t even realise it. I should’ve been a stand-up doing it on stage and I would have been up there with Michael McIntyre. Well, that’s a lie. But Steve made me remember.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s a genius story,” said Martin. “but I’m drunk.”

“So tell it,” I said.

“No, I can’t now, John!” shouted Martin over the music. “I’m drunk. I will fuck it up. It’s the rule of three, it’s comedy and it’s the National Health.”

“Tell me the story,” I insisted.

Martin Soan (left) introduces Vincent Figgins last night

Martin Soan (left) introduced Vincent Figgins, Edwardian animal impersonator, last night

“No!” said Martin. “I will not do it now!”

“I can blog about you not telling me the story,” I told him.

“In the sober light of day, I will tell you,” said Martin. “It is perfect, it’s the truth and it’s the rule of three. And it’s comedy. It happened to me in an exploratory anal situation.”

“In a hospital or in a toilet?” I asked.

“You’re just trying to wind me up and wind me in!” Martin shouted over the music. “You’re not going to get anywhere. It’s perfect. I do not want to fuck it up. Steve reminded me. He said it’s just genius, it’s true and it happened to me, but I’m not going to tell you now because I’ll just fuck it up. It was cool, though. Really cool. It’s perfect. And it’s true.”

“What is?” I shouted. “Have you seen the video of Charmian dancing in the middle of a three lane motorway?”

Then I had a coughing fit.

I went to bed at 3.45am.

At lunchtime today, my eternally-un-named friend suggested I put a cabbage leaf on my chest, to stop my coughing.

Crush the leaves with a rolling pin until the juice starts to appear,” she said, reading from a book called A Guide to Home Remedies. “Place three or four leaves over the chest area and cover with gauze. Then place a warm blanket over to keep in place…. So,” she added, “you could watch television while doing that.”

I looked at the page in the book.

“You can also,” I read out loud, “drink the juice of the cabbage sweetened with a teaspoon of honey.”

“We’ve got the juicer,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “so you can drink the juice.”

This is when the chest is tight with coughing,” I read out. “Cabbage has an extraordinary ability to draw out toxins.”

“There’s going to be a lot of onions,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “And garlic, maybe. And ginger. But you didn’t find a decent ginger the other day.”

“This means we are going to have to take a picture of a cabbage leaf on my chest,” I said.

CabbageOnChest

I am wary of the medicinal power of vegetables

“This means you might do it?” asked my eternally-un-named friend, with a surprising hint of hope in her voice.

“What’s the alternative?” I asked.

“A poultice of roasted onion, apparently,” she replied, “applied to the chest every two hours. Onions can also be drunk, it says.”

“They can’t be as drunk as Bob Slayer,” I said.

“Oh, John…” sighed my eternally-un-named friend reprovingly

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British comedians seem to be turning to electronic book publishing – maybe

I have blogged before about the galloping-blindly-towards-an-unknown-destination changes in book publishing.

In 2003, the late Malcolm Hardee and I put together Sit-Down Comedy for Random House. It was an anthology of original writing (some of it very dark) by comedians Ed Byrne, John Dowie, Jenny Eclair, Stephen Frost, Boothby Graffoe, Ricky Grover, Malcolm Hardee, Hattie Hayridge, John Hegley, Dominic Holland, Jeff Innocent, Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery, Owen O’Neill, Arthur Smith, Linda Smith, Jim Tavare, Dave Thompson and Tim Vine.

Sit-Down Comedy has just been issued in both iBook (for iPads) and Kindle downloadable electronic editions.

Apparently, in the US market, electronic books now account for 20% of total book sales. In the UK, it is still only 5%, but it is expected to double in the next year.

In the last week, two of the contributors to Sit-Down Comedy have mentioned to me that they are thinking of publishing electronic books, probably via lulu.com, the same print-on-demand (not to be confused with self-publishing) company which comedy writer Mark Kelly has used to publish his books Pleased as Punch, This Is Why We Are Going to Die and (free to download) Every Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated? Comic Shelley Cooper told me she is also looking into print-on-demand publishing.

A highly relevant factor is that print-on-demand publishers may take 20% of your book’s earnings to arrange print and electronic versions… while conventional print publishers doing the same thing normally give the author royalties of only 7.5% of paperback sales. With print-on-demand  you have to market the book yourself, but you also have to factor in that significant difference between getting 80% or getting the conventional 7.5%.

I have blogged before that am thinking of re-publishing Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (probably revised back to its original version) as an e-book… but that is only if I can actually pull my finger out – always a major factor in the production of any book.

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Variety is not dead in Britain – not with the Royal wedding of William and Kate AND Pull The Other One

I saw a repeat of The Story of Variety with Michael Grade on BBC TV recently. The argument was that variety is dead. Michael Grade (unusually) was wrong. Two things yesterday proved this to me: the Royal Wedding and a monthly Pull The Other One comedy show in Peckham, home of Only Fools and Horses – no connection with the Royal Wedding.

At school, I took British Constitution for ‘A’ Level so i am a very strong supporter of the institution of a constitutional monarchy, but I have absolutely no interest at all in the soap opera of the Royal Family. If left to my own devices yesterday, I might have switched on BBC1 to see the RAF fly-past at the Royal Wedding and perhaps I would have watched the drive back from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in case anyone got assassinated.

As it was, I was with a friend who is a feminist republican. (Note, if you are an American reader, a republican is almost the opposite of what you might think: more left wing than right wing).

Of course, like almost all British republicans, she is obsessed with reading about and watching the Royals and following the soap opera and I had to sit through the whole thing on TV.

We had recently sat through Lindsay Anderson’s surreal movie If…. together and yesterday, when it got to the marriage bit where camp-looking churchmen in kitsch golden dresses were intoning sleep-inducing words and the congregation was awash with politicians, Royals, the upper classes and Elton John, I half expected Malcolm McDowell to appear high up in the Abbey among the gargoyles desperately firing an AK-47 at the congregation who would flood out the doors of the Abbey into Parliament Square where mortar bombs would explode.

Perhaps my mind wandered a little.

But men intoning the word of God in funny costumes always stimulates the surreal nodes in my brain.

My friend did make the interesting point that, apart from Kate Middleton, the colourful service was an entirely male affair apart from two nuns sitting to one side dressed in drab grey among the men in bright colours and the presumably-repeatedly-buggered choirboys in white surplices. It looked to me like the two nuns had been hired from Central Casting. One was unnecessarily tall and the other was unnecessarily small. It was like watching that classic comedy sketch where John Cleese is upper class and Ronnie Corbett is working class.

I am Sister Superior; I am taller than her and nearer to God… and I am Sister Inferior; I know my place.

Even when they sat down, the tall one was twice the height as the small one – that never normally happens. I began to fantasise about special effects and trapdoors in the pews.

The real pisser for me, though, was that the BBC TV director managed to miss the shot of the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane flying down the length of The Mall. That was the only reason I was watching the thing – other than the possibility of visually interesting assassinations – and it was almost as bad as ITN missing the Royal Kiss on the balcony when Charles married Di.

Everything else was so impeccably stage-managed, I couldn’t understand why they missed the shot. I particularly loved the trees and random greenery inside Westminster Abbey though I found the chandeliers distracting. I don’t remember chandeliers inside the Abbey. Did they come with the trees as part of a special offer from B&Q?

The Royal Wedding guests included Elton John, an invisible Posh & Becks and the distractingly visible two nuns.

In the evening, I went to the monthly Pull The Other One comedy show in Peckham, which similarly attracts performers who come along to see the show but not to participate. This month it was writer Mark Kelly, actor Stephen Frost and surreal performer Chris Lynam. As I have said before, you know it is a good venue if other performers come to see the shows.

Pull The Other One is not a normal comedy show in that its performers are almost entirely speciality acts not stand-up comedians. If you need a break from reality, I recommend Pull The Other One as a good place to go. And the compering is usually as odd as the acts.

With Vivienne Soan on tour in Holland, the always energetic Holly Burn – the Miss Marmite of Comedy as I like to think of her – compered with Charmian Hughes and the latter performed an Egyptian sand dance in honour of the Royal wedding. Don’t ask, I don’t know, but it was very funny.

Martin Soan, Holly Burn and massed wind-up puppets performed Riverdance.

The extraordinarily larger-than-life Bob Slayer surprisingly did balloon modelling and unsurprisingly drank a pint of beer in one gulp.

Juggler Mat Ricardo (to be seen at the Edinburgh Fringe this August in the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show) still has some of the best spesh act patter around.

Magician David Don’t – who had variable success last month when he used blind-folded members of the audience throwing darts at each other – unusually succeeded in an escapology act involving a giant Royal Mail bag, although it’s the last time I want to see a banker with no clothes on and a Union flag coming out of his groin.

Earl Okin did wonderful musical things with his mouth.

And, to round off the evening Matthew Robins, with ukulele and accordion accompaniment, performed a shadow puppet story about murder and mutilation and a visit to the zoo. It is rare to see a shadow puppet show about someone getting his fingers cut off with pliers, his sister hanging from a rope and the audience spontaneously singing along to “I wanted you to love me, but a snake bit my hand…”

But it is more interesting than watching the Archbishop of Canterbury with his grey wild-man-of-the-desert hair wearing a gold dress and a funny pointy party hat in Westminster Abbey.

Pull the Other One – on the last Friday of every month – is never ever predictable and Stephen Frost, keen to appear, lamented to me the fact it is fully booked with performers until November.

Most interesting line of the evening – of the whole day, in fact – came from Earl Okin, who pointed out what a historic Wedding Day this was…

Because it was exactly 66 years ago to the day when Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun.

“It doesn’t bode well,” Earl said.

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