Tag Archives: Steve Bowditch

How comedian & artist Martin Soan destroyed Marilyn Monroe’s image

Marto Soan - a man I look up to (Photo by my eternally-un-named friend)

Martin Soan (right) – an artist I look up to (iPhoned by my eternally-un-named friend)

On Sunday, I asked occasional prop creator Martin Soan: “How many vaginas have you made for comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe?”

“I think four,” replied Martin. “Three or four.”

“Including a singing and dancing one.”

“Yes. Not my finest work, to be honest.”

My blog yesterday was about a visit to artist DRB’s exhibition at the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich. I went with Martin and Vivienne Soan. They run Pull The Other One comedy club.

Vivienne told me about a now-deceased club called DeVille’s, based in the Royal Albert pub on New Cross Road, South East London. It used to feature such legendary odd acts as The Iceman.

Martin at the Ben Oakley Gallery on Sunday

Martin Soan at the Ben Oakley Gallery on Sunday.

“In 1982 or 1983,” she told me, “it was run by Martin, Steve Bowditch and Kelvin Vanbeeny. They used to wear white suits and, as people came in, they were given raffle tickets and, at the end of the show, they used to have this game called Don’t Be Fucking Greedy where they had a whole line of shots – whisky and so on – up at the back and people had to answer questions and the winners got a shot of whatever it was.”

“The shots,” explained Martin, “were whisky, tea and pee, all in optics, all looking like whisky.”

Vivienne Soan in Greenwich on Sunday

Vivienne Soan sits in Greenwich on Sunday

“At that time,” Vivienne continued, “we had just bought a video camera so, every week, people would win a prize – which might be Martin, Steve and Kelvin will do your ironing for a week or They’ll give you breakfast in bed for the weekend. And they used to film it and then, the next week, screen it at the club. It was great. They did all sorts of things. A day at the races; a day at the bowling alley.”

One of the other things they screened at the club was a video which Martin had previously made.

“I used to work with this genuine artist called Surrealist Ron,” said Martin. “So we got this tray measuring a yard by maybe two and a half feet and, in that, we made a picture of the classic Andy Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe. Then – it was almost like paint-by-numbers – we divided up with cardboard where each colour went.

The iconic Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe

Maggoted: the iconic Andy Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe

“Then we got a load of maggots and used food dye to colour them – yellow, blue, red, black, flesh tones and all the rest – and put the relevant colours into the different compartments. So we had this picture of Marilyn Monroe, but it was writhing around, because all the maggots were alive. Then we suspended a Sony Video 8 camera above it and removed all the cardboard dividers.

“So we had started off with this pretty crystal-clear image of Marilyn Monroe with the colours writhing and then, when we withdrew the cardboard dividers, as the maggots wriggled, it gradually went out of focus and diffused and the colours started mixing and it just ended up a writhing mess.”

So it went.

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A video of comedian Malcolm Hardee paralytically drunk twelve years ago

Twelve years ago tonight – on 28th April 2002 – the BBC Choice TV channel (later re-branded as BBC3) transmitted an episode of their eavesdropping reality series Diners which included comedians Malcolm Hardee and Steve Bowditch, both seemingly a little the worse for alcoholic wear.

Well, Malcolm was paralytically drunk – something he had only started to be (in my opinion) in the previous six months.

There is a 5min 41sec clip on YouTube.

MalcolmHardee_Diners

The next day, I went down to Malcolm’s Wibbley Wobbley floating pub in Rotherhithe. His insurance broker had stolen £1,000 instead of passing it on to the insurance company, so the pub was not insured. Both Malcolm and his girlfriend Andrée had wide, desperate eyes, but this could have been for any number of reasons.

Malcolm and I took his other boat out in windy conditions.

“When the lock keeper throws you a rope,” Malcolm told me, “just hold on to it.”

The lock keeper threw me a rope. I held on to it.

The lock keeper, his voice barely audible in the wind, started shouting: “The turn! The turn!”

I kept holding the rope. The lock keeper dropped his end of the rope in the water.

It transpired that I had been supposed to tie the rope to the ‘turn’ (a metal thing) on the deck. If the lock keeper had kept holding the rope, he would have been pulled into the water. He was neither a happy nor a forgiving man.

The boat – Malcolm insisted it should be called a ship – drifted sideways into the lock and the stern hit the side. It took some time to get out.

We sailed – or, rather, bounced on bumpy waves – down the River Thames to a floating diesel fuel station near Tower Bridge, but it was closed.

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (photo by Steve Taylor)

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (photo by Steve Taylor)

Malcolm got a call on his mobile phone from Andrée to tell him she had “pranged” his car in an accident.

Then we sailed back along the Thames to the Cutty Sark pub where Malcolm met, as pre-arranged, his previous girlfriend Faith and three of her friends.

Malcolm, like the River Thames, was never uninteresting and the best thing was to go with the flow. He drowned, drunk, in 2005.

This year, the three annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are being presented during a two-hour variety show at the Edinburgh Fringe on Friday 22nd August.

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Neil Mullarkey of The Comedy Store Players on 1980s alternative comedy

The Comedy Store in London last night

The Comedy Store, London, yesterday evening

I went to see The Comedy Store Players’ improvisation show last night. They perform twice weekly at The Comedy Store in London. Before the show, I chatted to Neil Mullarkey, one of the founding members, in the dressing room.

“In the old Comedy Store in Leicester Square,” said Neil, “there was no toilet in the dressing room. There was a sink you could pee in. Sometimes a woman would say: I’m going to have a pee; do you mind leaving the room? And we did. Otherwise they’d have had to go all round and queue up with the punters. But now we have a toilet.”

“Most comedians,” I said, “are barking mad, but you’re now a businessman, so you can’t be that mad.”

Neil runs improvisation workshops under the name Improv Your Biz – “using improvisational theatre to enhance people’s skills in communication, leadership and innovation.”

He told me last night: “I apply the skills and ethos of improv to business people, but I don’t consider myself a business person. I still do the Comedy Store Players, but that’s about the only showbiz I do these days. I really enjoy teaching people and looking at how organisations run. I have made my choices and I feel very pleased by them.

“The idea of getting in a car or a train and going to some distant place and doing a gig to some people who are drunk and not that interested and then coming home again does not appeal to me greatly. In how many professions do you want the customer to be inebriated? I can only think of two – gambling and prostitution.

“It drives me mad sometimes when I do a corporate gig and they tell me: It’s cabaret seating. And I say: No, what you mean is it’s catering seating. I tell them: I would like a theatre style, if possible, so the audience can be as close to one another as possible because laughter is social. You need to be near someone else laughing, facing the stage and not at a table where you’re half looking over your shoulder. And I also say: Can I go on before dinner?”

“Why?” I asked.

Because the audience then is not drunk and tired. A friend of mine says the audience loses interest exponentially every minute after 9.30pm. That’s at a corporate gig where they haven’t invested to come and see the show. In a club it’s slightly different because they have decided to come and watch a comedy show.”

“Which audience is more drunk, though?” I asked.

“In the 1980s,” said Neil, “when the Comedy Store Players did corporate gigs and asked for suggestions from the audience, I was shocked by the level of filth the audience would shout out. These were people in front of their boss! But those were the days when there was an unlimited bar, so all social convention went out the window.”

Neil used to be in a double act – Mullarkey & Myers – with Mike Myers, who went on to appear in Saturday Night Live on US TV and to write and star in the Austin Powers movies. There is a YouTube video of Mullarkey & Myers in their 1985 Edinburgh Fringe show.

“The Comedy Store Players started in 1985,” Neil told me, “and around that time I used to host the Tuesday night and Mike and I did a longer 40-minute version of our show. We were on the bill with people like The Brown Paper Bag Brothers (Otis Cannelloni and John Hegley) and then, starting at 10.00pm or 10.30pm was the Open Mike Night and, by 2.00am, it was very odd. You had people with musical instruments talking about their time in mental health institutions.

“An Open Mike night at a comedy club back then did attract a certain kind of strange person. Now they have social media and other places to say what they might want to say. But that’s what the alternative comedy circuit was like in the 1980s. You’d be in some dodgy pub, there would be three people in the audience and twelve people performing and you would split the door take of £3. It was great fun.”

“Sounds much like it is now,” I said. “but there was maybe more of a variety of different types of act back then.”

“There was The Iceman,” said Neil.

The Iceman’s act – as previously blogged about – was simply to melt a block of ice. But he usually failed.

“I remember,” said Neil, “being at Banana Cabaret – a vast space – and there were three people howling with laughter at The Iceman – me, Mike Myers and Ian McPherson – all performers. All the ‘normal’ people were thinking: Where’s the entertainment in this? What’s going on? What’s the point? It was just brilliant, wonderful. It was such a riposte to showbiz smoothness and slickness that it was a joy to behold.”

“Did he have the repetitious music?” I asked.

I can’t realise you love me,” sang Neil enthusiastically. “And the sounds. Shhh-wssshhhhh. With the thunder and the rain. And then, after about 15 or 18 minutes it was I can’t realise you love me – But I don’t love you! – What?

“That was a joy to us. A joy. Because we had seen boring, hack performers.”

“Even then?” I asked.

“When I started in the 1980s with Mike Myers and Nick Hancock and occasionally on my own,” said Neil, “there would be a room above a pub and the other acts were weird non-professional stand-ups in their work clothes. Mike and I had rehearsed and put on different clothes to do the show. We did theatrical sketches that asked you to create the fourth wall.

“I remember one time in the mid-to-late 1980s seeing this very talented young guy – an open spot – who had incredible stage presence doing characters. He ran offstage between characters to change his costume and he had his manager with him. A manager! I had not heard this idea of having a manager. Surely you just turned up and took the cash? The act was a man called Steve Coogan.

Neil in the Comedy Store dressing room last night

Neil in the London Comedy Store’s dressing room last night

“Now there are people who were born after I started who leave university or college and say I want to be a comedian and they have a manager who will give them £50 a week and get them on the road and they can get better at their job and make a career. That was unheard-of in my day.

“When I started, there was The Comedy Store, Jongleurs, the Earth Exchange, a few student gigs and CAST New Variety. So there wasn’t much chance of making a career of it until, gradually, people like Off the Kerb and Avalon started opening up the idea of student shows and clubs outside London.”

“Aah! the Earth Exchange,” I said, “there’s the story of some act who threw meat at the audience and was not booked again.”

The Earth Exchange in Archway Road served only vegetarian food and the room was so tiny it felt as if the performers were almost sitting on your table.

“Steve Bowditch of The Greatest Show On Legs,” remembered Neil, “used to do a show called Naff Cabaret with a guy called Fred and the story is that, at the Earth Exchange, he pulled a top hat out of a rabbit.”

“Presumably a stuffed rabbit?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” said Neil. “It was one of those stories you hear.”

I think both of us hoped it was a real rabbit.

I asked Steve Bowditch about it this morning.

“Did you really pull a top hat out of a rabbit?” I asked him.

“Not that I remember,” said Steve. “But I might have done…”

Memory fades after a career in surrealism.

Neil also remembered: “They had a toilet onstage – Naff Cabaret – a toilet! and there would be showbiz music and – Ta-Daaah!! – they would pull a sausage out of the toilet as if it was a poo. Freud would have applauded this because comedy is We’re laughing at death and poo is death. Scatology is our escape from the inevitability of mortality.”

“I didn’t go to Cambridge University like you,” I said, “so I’ve not heard the idea that Comedy is laughing at death before.”

“Who knows?” said Neil. “Something like that. I haven’t read it myself, but I’m prepared to quote it. Why do we want laughter?… Is it to purge ourselves of the dark thoughts we have – and so the clown, the jester, the comedian brings out the darkness and makes it somehow acceptable?

Howard Jacobson writes wonderfully about how Comedy should be gritty and earthy and bring out all the snot and filth, because that’s its job. I dunno that I agree with that, but I can see there’s a role. You could say Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr are bringing out all the stuff that we dare not speak in regular discourse and making it entertainment, making the world somehow cleansed or purged.”

… CONTINUED HERE

ADDENDUM

Comedian Nick Revell tells me that the ‘Top Hat Out Of The Rabbit’ routine was done by Lumiere and Son in their 1980 show Circus Lumiere… and the act banned from the Earth Exchange for throwing meat was The Port Stanley Amateur Dramatic Society (Andy Linden and Cliff Parisi).

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Two uses for a toilet in comedy routines

Sharney Emma Nougher as Sharnema Nougar plays her ukulele with audience support at Lost Cabaret

Sharney Emma Nougher as Sharnema Nougar plays her ukulele with audience support at Lost Cabaret

As I was saying in yesterday’s blog, before I got side-tracked by the aggro within the Free Fringe…

In the last two years at the Edinburgh Fringe, the most interesting comedy has been in shows not listed in the Comedy section of the programme but in the Cabaret section. Or shows listed in the Comedy section but which are not straight stand-up shows.

Another interesting change is the rise of ‘free’ shows: you do not pay in advance; you pay whatever you want (or nothing) having seen the show.

Marcus Whitfield as ‘Simon’ with fast-moving squirrel on horse at last Friday’s Lost Cabaret show

Marcus Whitfield as ‘Simon’ with fast-moving squirrel on horse at last Friday’s Lost Cabaret show

Lewis Schaffer has been performing his twice-a-week free stand-up show – Free Until Famous – in London for the past four years. Vivienne and Martin Soan have been running their Pull The Other One comedy club for the past nine years. Their shows feature bizarre variety acts plus one token stand-up – usually a ‘Name’ like Jo Brand, Omid Djalili or Arthur Smith.

On Friday, Martin Soan and I went to the charismatic Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s weekly ‘free’ Lost Cabaret show in Stockwell, where there is no traditional stand-up, just bizarre acts mostly trying out new material.

It would be wilfully silly to choose the oddest act of the night, but certainly Italian performer Diego Borella was unexpected.

His act involved two radio-controlled cardboard boxes marked A and B and, in the latter part of the act, an entire toilet bowl.

The cardboard boxes appeared to be controlled by a man in the audience later identified as ‘Reindeer’.

No-one appeared to be controlling the toilet bowl.

Afterwards, I talked to Diego.

Diego talks after his unexpected toilet act

Diego Borella found inspiration in a toilet

“You’re an Italian from Venice,” I said. “Why the name Diego?”

“My mother had a Spanish taste,” he told me.

“And does your name Borella mean anything?” I asked.

“In the centre and south of Italy, he told me, it means ‘playing bowls’…”

“Is that relevant to anything?”

“No.”

“So why the toilet bowl?” I asked.

“We were walking out of my flat,” explained Diego, “and we found a toilet on the stairs and I thought a toilet could always be useful on stage. From now on, I am always going to keep a couple of spare toilets in my flat.”

Those, arguably, are two of the golden rules of comedy.

Be prepared.

And keep your eyes open for abandoned toilets.

The Greatest Show On Legs once used a toilet we found,” Martin Soan told.

The toilet bowl leaves with the Lost Cabaret audience at the show’s end

The toilet bowl leaves with the Lost Cabaret audience at the show’s end

“We found it on the way to a gig, so we had Steve Bowditch dress as a magician with a top hat – we had all the gear with us – take his trousers down and sit on the toilet to some music by Mozart. We happened to have some music from Mozart with us at the time. On stage, Bowditch put his hand down the toilet and pulled out a rabbit (not alive) with a little turd between his ears.”

“Between Bowditch’s ears?” I asked.

“The rabbit’s,” said Martin.

“How long did you do that for?” I asked.

“A couple of years,” said Martin. “Bowditch did some very good facial expressions of straining to the music.”

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The Greatest Show on Legs wearing Clockwork Orange noses for Dave Lee Travis’ Manfred Mann clown video

A couple of days ago, comedian Martin Soan was staying at my home and showed me a 1985 BBC TV clip he had found on YouTube in which DJ Dave Lee Travis introduced a BBC-specially-shot video for Manfred Mann’s 1966 song Ha Ha Said The Clown featuring The Greatest Show on Legs – Martin Soan, Malcolm Hardee and (as the clown) Steve Bowditch. You can see it HERE.

Steve Bowditch told me “I remember the director saying to Malcolm We need someone to be the clown and Malcolm said Bowditch can laugh... so I laughed and he gave me the job!”

“We never met Dave Lee Travis,” Martin told me. “All three of us went up to Birmingham. It was done in-house by the BBC. They gave it to young… they weren’t producers… Maybe they were trainees. They all had to put in ideas for pop videos and then a director shot it with a crew of about 20.

“I think it took three days to shoot. After two days, they’d done with Steve and Malcolm but I had to spend another day doing stuff in toilets and things like that.

“Toilets?” I asked.

“Toilets,” repeated Martin.

Clowning around on the sofa

Clowning around on the sofa – but Martin was being polite

“Steve and I had to get on top of the girl on the sofa. I did it very politely and got it out of the way within a couple of minutes. Bowditch then had to lie on top of her dressed as the clown and he took about three hours lying on top of her for that shot.”

“I was a bit dubious about the noses,” I said. “I seem to remember the rapists in Clockwork Orange wore those sort of noses.”

“I think President Reagan originally had Clockwork Orange eyebrows as well,” said Martin. “I’m not quite sure what they were trying to say. But the bit I remember most was where Steve, the girl and Malcolm marched across the screen.

“The director said: I just want you to go One-Two… One-Two… One-Two… Turn… One-Two… One-Two… One-Two…

Malcolm Hardee was completely out of step

Malcolm Hardee completely out of step with everyone

“When they did it, Malcolm was completely out of step. In the first direction, he was kicking the girl’s heels, then they turned round and he was treading on her feet. He was unintentionally completely out of kilter with absolutely everything. I was laughing and the director was looking horrified.

“They did it and Malcolm went: Alright! Oy! Oy! In the can! One-take Hardee! Stick a cheque in the post! and walked off, leaving everyone open-mouthed it was so bad… and then they all broke out laughing.

“I don’t think they attempted to do it again because I guess they thought: No… No… We could spend too much time on this.”

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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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About Sherlock Holmes and a show with sheep at the Edinburgh Fringe

Matin Soan (left) and Steve Bowditch converse

So, on Wednesday afternoon, after the interring of the ashes of Joan Hardee, mother of the late comedian Malcolm Hardee, there I was sitting in the kitchen of his sister Clare Hardee’s home with comedians Martin Soan and Steve Bowditch – members with Malcolm of The Greatest Show on Legs.

We had sung When The Saints Come Marching In to Steve’s guitar accompaniment by the graveside.

Martin Soan is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with a Greatest Show on Legs production co-written by Boothby Graffoe but without Steve Bowditch performing. Steve will be at the Fringe as part of another threesome called We Should Get a Boat. Their show is entitled Sherlock Holmes: The Return of the Hound.

A poster for the mysteriously unlisted show

It is not listed in the main Fringe Programme though it is listed in the Free Fringe programme. The Edinburgh Fringe listings are getting increasingly complicated.

“Who do you play?” I asked Steve Bowditch. “Sherlock Holmes or the hound?”

“Mrs Hudson,” he replied. “Dickie Richards, the most handsome man in showbusiness, plays Inspector Lestrade… Paul Norcross plays trombone and Professor Moriarty.”

“Trombone?” I asked.

“Well, Mrs Hudson plays guitar,” Steve explained patiently, “so, obviously, he plays the trombone.”

“And is there a hound involved?” I asked.

“We-e-e-l…” Steve prevaricated, “essentially not.

“Because?” I asked.

“Because it’s all an illusion of theatre,” Steve responded, putting on a posh voice. “For poetic licence, Johnny.”

“And who wrote it?” I asked.

“Me. Steve Bowditch, the actor.”

“Do you put on a Scottish accent as Mrs Hudson?” I asked.

“I don’t do accents, Johnny!” Steve replied, his voice rising to a thespian screech. “I am a character actor, Johnny! Haven’t you seen the Harry Hill bloody TV show where I did all those lovely characters?!”

“But what about Mrs Hudson’s Scottish accent?” I persisted.

“I don’t know what bloody accent Mrs Hudson had!” Steve screamed in an even higher-pitched voice. “It’s my interpretation of the character that matters, for Christ sake! I am an ac-tor! I am the…”

“Ah!” I said, interrupting, “I was getting Mrs Hudson the housekeeper in Sherlock Holmes confused with Mr Hudson the butler in Upstairs Downstairs. He had a Scottish accent. Gordon Jackson. I used to work with his son.”

“Well, you got it wrong,” said Steve. “I am Mrs Hudson. You’re a lovely lad, Johnny. A lovely lad.”

“Is it a comedy drama?” I asked.

“It’s a non-comedic straight part funny thriller…  that thing. Something like that. What I said. Yes.”

“You’ve done try-outs?”

“We’ve done five dress rehearsals in front of audiences.”

“Their reaction?”

“We got a one star award. On the Time Out website, a lady who saw it said she would have given it none if it weren’t for the electronic website media she was forced to use… but she walked out halfway through, the bloody cow. A bloody cow she is!”

“When was the last time you were at the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

“I dunno. The last time was when I went up with Charlie Chuck for Malcolm and Malcolm’s been dead seven years, so…”

“So maybe not this century?” I said. “Which venue were you at?”

“The old Gilded Balloon before it burnt down. We’re coming back to take our rightful place, Johnny,” Steve said, his voice rising. “We’re coming back to knock all those other young Turpins off their…”

“Turpins?” I asked.

“Turpins!” shouted Steve. “I can say Turpin if I like… For the money, Johnny. It’s for the money! Dickie wanted to go up, so we’re going to go up and see what happens.”

At this point, Martin Soan interrupted.

The Greatest Show On Legs back bar Steve

“He’s not appearing in my show with the Greatest Show on Legs. Why, I don’t know.”

“Because ours is a far superior show,” said Steve. “I left the Greatest Show on Legs not because of artistic differences but for artistic increases!”

“Increases?” I asked.

“Increases,” said Steve.

“Increases?” asked Martin.

“Definitely Increases,” said Steve.

“You can’t talk about what’s in the Greatest Show on Legs show, can you?” I asked Martin. “Because it gives it away too much if you say you…”

“I want to get back to the reason why Bowditch is not in my show…” said Martin.

“We can’t talk about that in print, can we?” I asked.

“I’m not in Edinburgh,” Martin persisted, “when Steve’s show is running and his show has finished by the time The Greatest Show on Legs’ show starts. But it’s The Greatest Show on Legs. You, Bowditch, should be in the fucking show!”

“I should be in the fucking show…” Steve started to say.

“Don’t swear in front of John,” Martin said, “because he writes the swearing down in his blog. Don’t fucking swear, because…”

“But when I…” started Steve.

“Fucking stop it!” said Martin. “He’ll just print it in his blog.”

“It’s in my contract with Peter Buckley Hill and the Free Fringe,” joked Steve, “that I’m not allowed to talk to Martin Soan while he’s in Edinburgh. If I see Martin Soan whilst I’m in Edinburgh, Peter Buckley Hill says I have to cross the street.”

“I’m more interested in the sheep,” I said to Steve. “Martin told me he was borrowing your sheep for the Greatest Show on Legs’ show in Edinburgh and I…”

“Bowditch gave me the sheep,” Martin interrupted, “and I’m very, very flattered.”

“How many sheep?” I asked.

“Six,” Martin replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“We are going to recreate the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games at The Hive venue in Edinburgh.”

“With sheep?”

“Yes, obviously. To make it as close to the real thing as we can.”

“It’s actually four sheep and one sheepdog,” Steve corrected.

“So what is the thing with Peter Buckley Hill?” Clare Hardee asked.

“Well,” said Martin. “PBH has banned Bowditch from performing in our show because he runs the Free Fringe and our show is in Bob Slayer’s Alternative Fringe which is linked to the Free Festival who PBH is at loggerheads with.”

“Am I actually allowed to say that in my blog?” I asked Steve Bowditch.

“I think you should just let things lie,” he said.

“Get as much publicity as fucking possible, John!” said Martin.

“Well, you gotta do what you wanna do,” said Steve. “As long as I win the Malcolm Hardee Award.”

“How much are you prepared to pay?” I asked.

“Look, John,” said Steve, “It’s in Malcolm’s memory. So you lend me £500 and let me win.”

“That’ll do for a blog,” I said. “That’s enough. This is the way to write blogs. Get other people to supply all the words.”

“You didn’t plug my show, though,” said Martin.

“Who’s fault is that?” I asked.

“No, that’s the end line,” said Martin. “You didn’t plug my show, though.

“Ah,” I said. “Did I tell you I used to work with Gordon Jackson’s son?”

“Now you’ve blown the end line,” Martin said.

“No-one will know,” I said. “People don’t know what hasn’t been written or what was said and cut out.”

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