Tag Archives: Steve Bennett

Feeling slightly happier with attractive comic, actor, conman Nathan Cassidy.

Nathan Cassidy: a man hungry for publicity

I organise the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Awards – for the most cunning publicity stunt to publicise a performer or show at the annual Edinburgh Fringe.

My last blog was about cunning stunts and people being origami-like with the truth in publicity for their shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. You can make up your own mind whether what follows is along the same lines or not.

When I talked to comedian Nathan Cassidy in a Haggerston cafe, he told me he had just been asked to audition for Puppetry of the Penis, the globe-trotting performance group who specialise in penile origami.

“I suppose it’s a different type of stand-up,” I mused. “Why are we meeting?”

“I want to ask you to be a judge,” Nathan told me. “The Rat Pack are producing this show in Edinburgh: The World’s Best MC Award Grand Final.”

Is this just leading me towards an empty room?

He put a poster for it on the table. It said: Cassidy is an attractive man (Fringe Guru 2012).

“Did you make that up?” I asked.

“Of course I didn’t make it up!”

At the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, Nathan was nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

“And is this bit true?” I asked. “Thousands entered. 6 MCs survived. £5,000 cash prize. Plus an amazing headline act.

“We have scoured the world,” Nathan told me. “As all comedy competitions do. The world. The whole world.”

“Qatar?” I asked.

“Yes, the Rat Pack have been there.”

“Syria?” I asked.

“Yes, everywhere. We have a spare slot on the judging panel. Are you free? Steve Bennett of Chortle has pencilled himself in. £5,000 cash prize. Thousands of auditions and this is the Grand Final. We can’t reveal the line-up at this stage.”

“How,” I asked, “do you prove you’re a good MC in a final? Will there be a physical line-up? Will they stand there and say: And now… some fake act who isn’t there?”

Comic Jo Burke, slightly happier with Nathan Cassidy in 2015

“There are no fake acts,” said Nathan. “It’s just the MCs. The MCs will introduce each other. They have 5-7 minutes each. I will introduce the first MC and then they introduce each other.”

“Who,” I asked, “does the last MC introduce?”

“There is not a last MC,” explained Nathan. “Read the poster. There is an amazing headline act.”

“So you are the headline act?” I asked, sceptically.

“No, I’m the MC. And we have one gap on the judging panel on 14th August. Are you free?”

(After consulting my Fringe Diary) “I can move things around a bit and do it,” I said. “So Steve Bennett is pencilled in? I think he is having building work done on his house. Turning it into a replica of Citizen Kane’s Xanadu.”

“Where does he live?” Nathan asked.

“I’m not grassing him up,” I said.

“There is,” said Nathan, “a quote from Steve Bennett on my other show’s poster: Nathan Cassidy: The Man in The Arena.

Nathan Cassidy’s sold-out O2 gigs on right

He put it on the table.

I read: The entire second row is pissed… and there are only two rows (Steve Bennett, Chortle)

“What do you think of this other quote?” Nathan asked me. “Having seen Bill Hicks, I can honestly say he’s as good as him. It’s an official quote from the Buxton Fringe.

“Did you write it yourself?” I asked.

“No! That’s what everyone thinks. It’s buxtonfringe.org.uk – The Buxton Fringe sends out about ten reviewers to review all the shows. It’s a real quote. But I want a better quote I can use. AS GOOD AS Bill Hicks doesn’t really do it for me.”

“This poster,” I said, “says the show is sold out on 14th August, but you’re not doing it on the 14th – You’re doing the MC Awards.”

“No, it’s sold out,” said Nathan. “There are other dates still available.”

“You appear to have sold out the O2 Arena in October and November,” I observed.

“Well, I’m doing the O2 Arena on 4th November, as you know.”

“Do I? Which bit of it? The main auditorium?”

“Yes. Yes.”

“Are you going to fill it? I got free tickets to see Rod Stewart because he couldn’t fill it. How much are you paying for it?”

“I can’t divulge that.”

“So this is another Cunning Stunt?”

“Of course not.”

Nathan’s 2017 was even more sold out in 2016

At the Edinburgh Fringe in August last year, Nathan put up a poster for a fake tour – Nathan Cassidy: The Man in The Arena – with all the dates sold out throughout October/November 2017, except for a performance at the O2 Arena on 4th November 2017.

“People thought it was a fake show,” he told me, “but it was just pre-advertising for this year’s Fringe show… Bruce Dessau (comedy critic and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge) covered it a couple of times but, when I asked if he wanted to come to the O2 show, he didn’t reply.”

“His loss, I’m sure,” I said. “So, basically, I am going to turn up at the Three Sisters to judge this MC Awards show and there will be an empty room as you attempt to win a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award…”

“No,” said Nathan. “It’s legitimate. The Rat Pack are spending £250 on a massive poster. We are not going to do that for nothing. It’s totally real. Genuinely, I swear on my… I swear on your life and Steve Bennett’s life that a £5,000 cash prize will be given to the winner on the day. I am totally gimmick-free this year.”

“Is there more?” I asked.

“Is that not enough for you?”

“I would prefer £250 in a brown envelope,” I said.

“I am doing a third show in Edinburgh,” said Nathan, “but it’s a theatre show.”

Love & the winner of Sir Michael Caine’s Award

He put the flyer on the table. The title of the show is Nathan Cassidy: Watch This. Love Me. It’s Deep.

The headline pitch read: FOR THE PERFECT LOVE STORY YOU HAVE TO GO TO RIDICULOUS LENGTHS.

I turned over the flyer and read out loud:

“ONE-MAN THEATRE SHOW FROM THE WINNER OF THE SIR MICHAEL CAINE NEW WRITING AWARD.”

“Who won that?” I asked.

“Me,” said Nathan. “You are very sceptical, John. You think everything is a ruse to get you along to an empty room.”

“When did you win the Michael Caine Award?” I asked.

“About ten years ago now. I did theatre before I did stand-up. I won it for a play called A Cure For The Common Cold at the Leatherhead Theatre.”

“It says here,” I said, “that you have a distinctive stand-up style. What’s that?”

“Well,” replied Nathan, “last year Steve Bennet said: Nathan Cassidy will make you slightly happier for an hour or so… So I am ‘an attractive man’ who will ‘make you slightly happier’…”

“What’s the theatre show about?”

“Something happened in the last year which reminded me of a story that happened to me starting when I was 15 and it’s a perfect love story and it would not fit within stand-up but it would fit within theatre. People think that perfect love is impossible but I am telling you a true story from my life to show it is possible. There may be a happy or a sad ending; you will have to come to the show to see which.”

“You are very persistent,” I said.

Chubby had a female agent…

“In 2010,” said Nathan, “when I first did the Edinburgh Fringe, I performed to two ladies and Roy Chubby Brown’s agent. She never got back to me.”

“His agent was a she?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes. I first met Chubby Brown when I was 12 years-old. For a 12-year-old kid, it was fun. Do you remember his song He’s a Cunt?”

“Sadly not.”

“But those two ladies have come back every year to see me and, the last couple of years, they have even given out flyers for me.”

“Is that the smallest audience you have played to?”

“No. Once at Buxton Fringe, I performed to two people in a fridge. It had a capacity of three, so it was only two-thirds full. I was gutted I had not filled it.”

“What reaction did you get?”

“A standing ovation. They loved it. Admittedly there were no seats.”

The fridge story I believed. The Roy Chubby Brown story I believed. The Puppetry of the Penis story I believed. But I was unsure about the Michael Caine story.

I Googled it afterwards. There were pieces about it online. And a photo of a young Nathan Cassidy with Michael Caine.

Who knows what truth is at the Edinburgh Fringe or anywhere? I look forward to a tranquil night alone at the Three Sisters/Free Sisters venue at 7.45pm on 14th August.

The award-winning young Nathan with Sir Michael Caine

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Comedian and comedy critic in fist fight at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday

CopstickGodleyFight2

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian’s show about early comic days

Comedians and critics tend to have a love-hate relationship. Critics tend to love comedy and comics tend to hate critics.

Yesterday morning, I bumped into comic Charmian Hughes. She told me she gets nervous when critic Steve Bennett of the influential Chortle comedy website comes to see her shows, but not for the reason you might think.

“My show (When Comedy Was Alternative) has been going well and getting huge laughs,” she told me, but I’ve always had a phobia about Chortle, because Steve Bennett reminds me of my dead mother. She used to wear a big hat and gatecrash my gigs when I was seven.”

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

“But Steve,” I pointed out, “does not wear a big hat – or any hat.”

“He wears a metaphorical hat,” said Charmian. “It’s a spirituality thing. I would see my mother in the school concert, making her notes. She was a very difficult woman. Steve reminds me of my first boyfriend too – He wore glasses.”

“Wasn’t your first boyfriend disgraced politician Chris Huhne?” I asked.

“You’re going to ruin my life with this blog,” said Charmian. “And everything’s been going so well so far. It’s a new show, but it’s getting better and better… except when I see my dead mother in the audience.”

Joz Norris in a freezer last night

Joz Norris in his inexplicable freezer last night

According to Alexander Bennett’s highly inventive late-night gameshow Hell To Play, all comedians end up in hell. Alexander – all hail to him – could be a wonderfully effortless, reassuring and self-assured mainstream TV gameshow host, but I suspect might not want to be.

Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunström

(From left) Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunstrom

Last night, Joz Norris and Archie Maddocks were competing, with Michael Brunström in a black, backless dress as Countess Elizabeth Báthory aka Countess Dracula. It was a role to rival Mary Quant on a whaling ship.

Inexplicably, when I arrived at the building early (it is the Cowgatehead, so you have to allow extra time to actually find any venue within it) Joz Norris was in what looked like a glass-and-metal coffin. In fact, it turned out to be a freezer. This had nothing whatever to do with the show. And it was not an attempt to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. I have no explanation that seems at all likely.

I had seen Joz earlier when he sat behind me at Michael Brunström’s unique and wonderfully absurdist The Golden Age of Steam. Later, we bumped into each other at the late-night ScotMid grocery store. It seems possible Joz Norris may be stalking me.

Last night, I also saw the Papa CJ: Naked show in which Papa CJ almost stripped physically and did strip psychologically. Voted Asia’s Best Stand-up Comedian last year, he is off back to India tomorrow with no immediate plans to return. Our loss. VERY smoothly professional, great audience control and, with stories of his marriage, divorce and child, very touching.

You may have noticed I have not mentioned yesterday’s Grouchy Club, the daily chat show I am co-hosting with comedy critic Kate Copstick.

Peter Michael Marino- Late With Lance

Peter Michael Marino in his showbiz romp Late With Lance!

Yesterday, I was not co-hosting it, because Michael Brunström’s Golden Age of Steam, here for a limited run, overlapped. But I turned up to see the show which precedes us – Peter Michael Marino’s Late With Lance, a staggeringly energetic showbizzy romp starring his OTT alter ego Lance. I saw it with my comedy chum Janey Godley.

Janey is not a woman to mess with. She was once arrested when the police found a whole cache of firearms hidden in her family home.

After Peter Michael Marino’s show, she and I went into the lounge bar of the Counting House where Kate Copstick was waiting to go in for The Grouchy Club. The two of them got into conversation and pretty soon a fist fight erupted. I took photographs. It seemed the right thing to do.

Copstick (left) and Godley face off to start the fight yesterday

Kate Copstick (left) and Janey Godley face off to start the fight in the Counting House bar yesterday

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of Bronston Jones

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of American comedian Bronston Jones

There are two things to be learned from this, both relating to my blog a couple of days ago when I discussed the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

One is that, of course, you should never believe the announced context of the pictures you see.

The other is that, as I have said before, during the Edinburgh Fringe, self-publicity is everything.

The Grouchy Club is at The Counting House, 3.45pm daily until next Saturday.

Janey’s show Honest To Godley! is at The Counting House, 7.45pm daily until next Sunday 30th August.

The increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show is in the Counting House on Friday 28th, 11.00pm-01.00am.

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“Most of the people in comedy have no honesty or integrity at all,” says a comic

This man had no important message in 2012

In yesterday’s blog, I posted a response I had received to a February 2012 blog of mine.

There must be something in the air.

Just after I posted it, I received another response to a totally different 2012 blog.

In May 2012, I blogged about a man I had bumped into in Leicester Square.

He had been holding a placard saying:

I HAVE NO MESSAGE. AND I’M NOT SELLING ANYTHING. I JUST HAVEN’T GOT ANYTHING BETTER TO DO.

Four days later, I found out the man was comedian Phil Klein and I posted another blog about him, in which I quoted a Chortle website review of his 2006 show The Growing Pains of Amos Phineas Klein Age 33 And A Third. The Chortle comedy website is run by Steve Bennett.

This is the comment which I received yesterday from Phil Klein. It is addressed not just to Steve but, I think, more generally to other comedians.

These are Phil’s comments:


Phil Klein gives his opinion

Phil Klein reacts to a Chortle review and to comics

This is a communication to a Mr Steve Bennett, a Comedic Reporter from the land we know as Chortle land, where everyone has a good old chortle, when they aren’t acting like cunts to each other in a good, old-fashioned, English passive-aggressive, “Let’s pretend we’re friends while stabbing each other in the back” kind of way.

You were right, Mr Bennett, there was “a yawning gap” between me coming across “effortlessly as a nice enough bloke” and “the X-factor that will elevate him from the open mic circuit.”

You’re right there was a yawning gap, but here’s the thing, when people yawn it is because they are bored. What I just got, at the time, was that the gap between being an open mic comedian and a pro comedian was indeed yawning, i.e. very, very boring, and I wasn’t interested in it. Because the truth is that the world of comedy is fucking boring, and I want no part in it whatsoever. Because I want to be around interesting people who are up to stuff in life, and, frankly, most comedians aren’t.

And, yes, if you think that’s arrogant, fine, I’m arrogant. Which is actually a reflection of just how unbelievably arrogant so many of you are. Cos, you pretend you’re mates with other comedians, when the truth is you are trying to get one over each other all the time and you want them to fuck up and die on their arse so that you can feel better about yourselves. I know, cos I was as bad as anyone, but at least I’m honest about what I’m like, whereas most of the people in comedy have no honesty or integrity at all.

And that is why I have zero interest in doing comedy at all. Cos the world of comedy stinks. It pretends it’s different to the work place when, actually, it’s exactly the same. Boring and dull people (the comedians) being boring and dull, as other boring and dull people (the audience) watch them being boring and dull, while being jealous of the fact that at least the boring and dull people (comedians) have the cohones to show the world just how boring and dull they are.

I’m saying this, cos that is what you all really think, and you are all just pretending otherwise.

And, yes, of course, there are same great people in comedy, some amazing people who are very, very interesting and up to brilliant, fantastic, fabulous things (my kinda people). But, sadly, most of the people who either perform or watch or promote comedy are boring and dull with not a whole lot going on in their lives, and that is why I want nothing to do with it, after I finish the three remaining gigs I have left at the Cavendish and the Water Poet.

Oh, and Bennett, you saw me being naturally very funny twice at the London Comedy Festival in 2005, and it is shocking that you made no mention of that, though, on the whole, your review was fair based on that gig you saw at Hammersmith.


I would be interested to hear other people’s publishable views on Phil’s comments. You can contact me via SoItGoes@thejohnfleming.com – or just leave a Comment on this blog.

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Steve Bennett, editor of Chortle UK comedy website, says his criticism is fair

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

Steve Bennett thought about a music or movie site

The annual Chortle Awards are held tomorrow night at the Café de Paris in London’s West End.

The Chortle comedy website has been running since 2000.

I asked Chortle’s originator and editor Steve Bennett about the first Awards ceremony.

“It was basically just a piss-up in the Comedy Cafe’s bar,” he told me, “and I’d home-made them with the Chortle logo spectacles just nailed to a bit of wood.”

“And now they are…?”

“Better,” said Steve. “And the Chortle Awards are the only ones that cover live comedy nationally, really. The British Comedy Awards used to have a stand-up category but don’t any more.”

“When you started Chortle, you were a sub-editor for the Mail On Sunday...” I said.

“No,” he corrected me. “I was a local newspaper editor for the Informer free group in Surrey and West London. There was the Informer group and various other titles. We had the Surrey Herald for a bit.

“So I thought The internet is the way forward but the company weren’t that interested in websites. So then I thought What am I interested in? and I liked music and comedy and films and there were already music sites and IMDB and Empire but there was no site dedicated to comedy.”

“That was very smart of you,” I said, “That was about five years before other people twigged print was really dead.”

The Chortle website homepage this morning

The Chortle homepage today

“After I’d been going a couple of months,” Steve explained, “I got signed up by a ‘proper’ dotcom company – they had seed capital and all that – so I gave up my newspaper job and went to work for them in a trendy brewery in Brick Lane. They lasted two months. They took me to Edinburgh in August 2000 and then they went bust in September. They pissed away a lot of money because they had all these grand ambitions. They wanted to do everything; it was towards the end of the dotcom bubble.”

“But you carried on with comedy because…?”

“Because, if you looked in the Comedy section of Time Out, you just saw a list of names with odd adjectives, but it didn’t really tell you what they were like; there wasn’t enough space. On a website, you could click on a link and get more information.”

“And also,” I suggested, “you can get comedy advertising from clubs, TV, video companies, movie releases, festivals, management, agents… it’s more than just one advertising stream.”

“I didn’t think that through at the time,” said Steve. “I wasn’t that commercially-minded at all.”

“It was presumably not financially viable from the start?” I asked. “It took – what? – three years?”

“No, a lot longer. Obviously, that was the advantage of being a journalist: you could pick up freelance work. So when the dotcom went bust, I was picking up freelance work at the Mirror and the Mail On Sunday.”

“And journalists have pretty thick skins.” I said. “People must slag you off over bad reviews on Chortle.”

“Not to my face so much,” explained Steve. “I know it goes on, but what can you do? The thing I get all the time is Oh, he’s a failed performer! They think everyone wants to do what they do, but I don’t.”

“You’ve never performed comedy?”

The Chortle Awards at the Cafe de Paris, London

Chortle Awards are tomorrow at the Cafe de Paris, London

“No. It would be a horrible car crash. I don’t really like it. I have to present Chortle Award winners at the end of the student heats, but I just look awkward and uncomfortable and it’s not my skillset. I do what I do. I get to work in comedy, I get to play to my strengths. Why put myself through it? And also the more you know about comedy, the more you know you can’t do it. If I thought I had an aptitude – which I don’t – it would still take four years before I could stand on stage and be OK. I like comedy, but I don’t like being in the spotlight.”

“So you must like to be hated for giving bad reviews?”

“It’s probably not very nice to be written about, especially if you get one star. But there’s no answer to that. You can’t go round being nice to everybody and giving them all 4-star reviews. You have to be honest about it and hope that, over 13 years, people know that I’m trying to give an honest reaction.

“I’m also quite happy that I’m not just a reviewer. The website is used as a resource and has news on it. That’s mine. I made that. I’m proud of that. It would be weirder if my whole job was just being a critic.”

“So you’re proud of being an editor rather than just a critic?”

“Yeah. I think I have created something.”

“So who reads Chortle? Just comedians?”

“It’s not just comics and the comedy industry. If they all used it, that would just be about 5%-10% of my audience. It’s comedy geeks as well. Just as the NME is read by all the up-and-coming musicians but also by all the people who are interested in up-and-coming and established musicians… so are we. We are the comedy industry’s version of the NME.”

“I’ve written film and comedy reviews in the past,” I told Steve. “But I tended to write features and interviews, not reviews, because then I didn’t have to say some things are shit.”

“The difference between writing film reviews and comedy reviews,” said Steve, “is that you’re not going to see Tom Cruise in the bar afterwards whereas, in comedy, you’re immersed in it. People are around the whole time and I’m on the circuit three or four times a week; you bump into people.”

“Have you had people attack you?”

Comedy critics face fragile egos and non-comedic reaction

Comedy critics face fragile egos and non-comedic reactions…

“Not for a while. A long time ago there were a couple of people. Verbally. But they tended to be people who were, for want of a better word, a Jongleurs act. They’re very good at crowd control; they’re very good at doing that specific comedy job, but they may be treading water. Especially when I first started, people would say Who’s this guy? Why’s he saying this isn’t very good? I’ve been doing comedy for twenty years!

“All I can write is whether I enjoyed it or not and explain to the best of my ability why I felt that way.”

“So when you write about an act, you don’t try to criticise it but to be constructively objective?”

“Ye-e-e-es…,” said Steve. “There are probably about 3% or 4% of shows I see that are just awful and appalling and I can’t think of a good word to say. But mostly you try and say… Well, it’s like being a director, I suppose. If you asked me my advice, this is what I would tell you, right or wrong.”

“So writing a review is not like being a heckler,” I suggested. “It’s like giving Director’s Notes to an actor… Objective insight into a performance after it has happened.”

“I would hope so,” replied Steve. “But you give the notes very publicly and everyone sees them. You also want to write entertainingly and write for a general audience.”

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Comedy man Steve Bennett talks about stalking women and losing his virginity

Chortle website owner and editor Steve Bennett

Steve Bennett, owner of the Chortle website

Since 2007, I have organised the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. They continue until 2017.

Steve Bennett started the Chortle comedy website in 2000.

In 2010, he looked back at The 50 Most Memorable Gigs of The Decade and, at Number 6, put the Malcolm Hardee Tribute Show staged at Up The Creek comedy club in February 2005.

He wrote:

“The funeral of this alternative comedy legend was probably one of the gigs of the decade, but this wake in the venue he founded must run it a close second. A suitably raucous celebration rich with reminiscences, gags – and, of course full-frontal male nudity, the line-up included Arthur Smith, Jools Holland, Jimmy Carr and Chris Lynam, with his traditional firework up the backside.”

So I was little surprised when, last week, I got an email from Steve Bennett headed Elegibility For Malcolm Hardee Award, saying:

“I am doing my first solo hour as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival this year. I was just wondering about the eligibility criteria for your awards. Do I need to apply anywhere or do you just come to my show and decide from there?”

I was even more surprised when I Skyped him yesterday in Bordeaux and he told me about the night he lost his virginity.

Obviously, the Steve Bennett of whom I write is the Irish comedian who shares his name and not the esteemed Chortle website supremo.

Still, losing your virginity is always interesting.

This other Steve Bennett – the Irish one – currently teaches English to kids in a primary school in Bordeaux. He has been a comedian since 2008, but he has only “treated it seriously” since 2011, when he finished four years of studying French and Psychology at college in Galway.

This August, he will be performing his one-man show In Bits at the Finnegan’s Wake venue during the Edinburgh Fringe..

“I do a lot of musical comedy with a ukelele or a guitar,” he told me yesterday. “This year, it’s been ukelele mostly because I couldn’t bring my guitar to France, so I bought a ukelele here  – it was cheaper and smaller.

Steve Bennett talks to me via Skype yesterday

Steve Bennett talks to me yesterday from Bordeaux via Skype.

“My Edinburgh show’s about the ‘breakup hangover’ – what happens post-breakup and comparing that to the drinking hangover, being Irish. One song’s about your ex finding you on Facebook all the time. The stalking thing that happens. So it’s written from her point of view – kind of crazy zany, which suits the ukelele because it kinda has a NING NING NING NING sound to it. The…”

“Erm…” I interrupted. “You said ‘the stalking thing that happens’ as if stalking is an everyday result of a relationship breaking up.”

“The stalking thing on Facebook,” explained Steve. “It’s done more by girls, I’m told, than by gentlemen. I don’t really do it too much, but it’s where you can go on Facebook when you’re Friends with your ex and take a look and see what they’re doing with their lives. That’s the thing the exes do now: they keep tabs on you.”

“You said I don’t really do it too much,” I said. “This implies that…”

“Oh, I’ve definitely taken a look see,” admitted Steve. “Who’s that guy? Is he your boyfriend?

“Does the ex-girlfriend know you’re doing this show about the breakup of your relationship with her?”

“Yeah, she’s aware of it. She’s not aware of all the intense details and I think I’d be happier if she didn’t see it. But she told me she’d be happy with it so long as it wasn’t baring all the details of our relationship. I’m fine with that too: I don’t want to get too personal about stuff. It’s more about general things and exaggerated things. A lot of it’s true, but not all of it’s true: the same way with most comedy.”

“When did you realise there was another Steve Bennett?” I asked.

Steve Bennett performs at the Róisín Dubh club in Galway (Photograph by WonderfulLife Productions 086 668 1375)

“Quite early,” replied Steve Bennett. “I started doing the Róisín Dubh club in Galway. The guy who runs the club introduced me to another more experienced comedian who went: Oh! You’re that asshole! It turned out Steve Bennett had given him a bad review at some point.

“Chortle actually ran a short piece about me and included a very early YouTube video of some of my stuff that I’m not very happy with. It’s from a talent show back in 2009. I won that, but it’s not really indicative of my stuff these days. I do a lot more high energy comedy these days.

“Back then I was a very subdued man standing at a microphone telling jokes. Now I’m a lot more getting into the crowd, having fun and the songs are snappy and fast, some done in characters like the Facebook one written from my ex’s point of view.”

“But you seem quite sane,” I said. “Why do you want to be a comedian? All comedians are mad.”

“I don’t know,” Steve replied. “I’m probably trying to find some deep-seated emotional depression.”

“But,” I said, “You are too happy to be a comedian, surely?”

“I probably just like the attention. When I was about ten years old, a kid at school said to me You should be a comedian, because you’re funny and I just went Yeeaahhh! That only came back to me after I started doing the comedy. I only fell into it because… well, the first time I picked up a microphone at an Open Mic night was the night I lost my virginity. So that’s why I…”

“Say that again?”

“The first night I did a comedy Open Mic, I lost my virginity.”

There was a long pregnant pause.

“So that’s probably why I’m still doing it.”

“Perhaps you are hoping to lose it again,” I suggested.

“That’s maybe it,” said Steve. “I’m still trying to find what I was looking for.”

“But you’re going to be stuck in France for the foreseeable future,” I prompted.

“Oh no, I’m done here at the end of next month. So I’ll be back in Ireland from May 3rd and I’m booking comedy stuff now over the summer and then in August it’s Edinburgh.”

“And after that?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m going to pick up the odd job here and there, maybe tutoring people in French.”

“But you’d like to be a permanent, full-time millionaire comedian?”

“That would be the ultimate goal, wouldn’t it? But I’ve always liked the idea of having a day job to give me material. If I was only a comedian, I don’t know what I‘d talk about. I know there’s life and day-to-day stuff, but I’d like to have that other job I do at the same time. Which works, because there’s no money in comedy at my level.”

“And next?”

“At the moment, I’m running an internet thing. I campaigned on Facebook amongst my friends and fans to try and get as many words and descriptions of hangovers as possible. Sick as a parrot. Those kind of things. One of them became my show title – In Bits – and I took loads of suggestions and, when I was in Paris one weekend, I said the words to camera with loads of Parisian landmarks in the background. And now I’m trying to get people to send me videos of them saying In Bits and I was hoping to put together a promo video of loads of people saying the name of the show.”

“Do you read the Chortle website?” I asked.

“I don’t much. Not at all, no.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. Is that a good place to keep up-to-date? Is that what I should be doing?”

“You should be reading my blog every day,” I told him.

“Oh,” said Steve Bennett. He seemed surprised.

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For the third and last time – pity the poor comedian with a bad memory or an impish audience member

I am the ideal comedy audience because I have a shit memory.

I can watch a stand-up performance and love it and adore every gut-wrenchingly funny punchline and walk out at the end of the gig and ten minutes later… I cannot remember any of the jokes.

In that sense, I am the stand-up comic’s dream: that he/she could perform the same gags every day to the same Alzheimer’s audience and they wouldn’t realise it.

Alas for the poor comedian, audiences do remember if you have told them a gag, especially if you just told them that same gag ten minutes ago.

The last couple of days, I have blogged about stand-up comedians who have – either intentionally or unintentionally – repeated all of part of their routines within the same gig to increasingly bemused audiences.

After reading the blogs, Mark Hurst aka Mark Miwurdz contacted me on Facebook:

“Yikes! I did that at the Edinburgh Fringe once, must have been festival fatigue. Finished a routine and began it agin, as if on a loop. I pretended it was deliberate but I don’t think anyone believed me.”

There is also a problem, of course, if comics don’t watch the comedians who precede them at a club gig. Mark Hurst says:

“I saw two comics very recently, back to back, who both did routines on knife crime and using a spoon instead. The audience suddenly went quiet on the second one, much to his confusion.”

“Ah the topical comic’s nightmare,” Brian Mulligan of Skint Video told me yesterday: “We once had a joke about Frank Bough caught sniffing coke to which the punchline was Next we’ll find out Lord Denning is a rent boy! And Felix, who was on before us, had done the same gag.”

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned the occasion recalled by Ronnie Golden and Michael Redmond in which Lee Cornes intentionally re-told his jokes to confuse an audience at the Comedy Store in London. And Steve Bennett of the Chortle comedy website told me of an occasion which was the reverse of this:

“There’s a related story,” he told me yesterday, “that a comedian – I think it was Phill Jupitus – was once heckled by a voice from the front row which quietly told him: You’ve already said that… He hadn’t, but he had performed at four other gigs that night and couldn’t be sure what he’d done, so he was thrown completely.”

Comedians trying to confuse audiences… audience members trying to confuse comedians.

Pity the poor comedian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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