Tag Archives: Stompy

The Grotto of Comedy, blood in Bahrain and a British comic who might not exist

Bob at the bar of his Grotto last night

Bob Slayer at the bar of his merry Christmas Grotto last night

Last night I went to the media launch for promoter Bob Slayer’s December pop-up venue Heroes Grotto of Comedy in the City of London, just round the corner from the Bank of England.

It is in a building which apparently used to be one of the flagships of J.Lyons restaurants. In the course of the evening, I discovered I am the only person in Britain who did not know late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to work for J.Lyons as a research chemist and came up with a new process for storing Lyons Maid ice cream. “And she invented the Mr Whippy ice cream,” added comic Lindsay Sharman.

The pop-up venue came about because Bob Slayer and Weirdos Comedy chap Adam Larter were trying to find somewhere to stage the annual Weirdos’ panto.

A busy list of comedy acts at the nightly Grotto

A busy list of comedy acts at the nightly Grotto

Having found a temporary venue, they then decided to add more shows. So now there are nightly shows 3rd-18th December, including charity shows in aid of Shelter and the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

“In the first week,” said Bob Slayer, “we will be having Stompy, The Half-Naked Chef cooking up a festive show out in the street. You’ve seen the police out there. I think a man running around in his pants accosting City workers from 5.00pm is going to be…”

The assembled throng for the media evening included comedian Joz Norris pretending to be a reporter for the Horse & Hound magazine. No, I have no idea either.

Bob Slayer asked the assembled throng: “What did Adam Larter say to get you all here?”

“I told different people different things,” said Adam. “Some people were told it’s a party.”

John Robertson tied his wife Joe Marsh into her corset at theGrotto of Comedy last night

John Robertson tied his wife Jo Marsh into a corset before the Grotto of Comedy last night

I got talking to various people who will be performing at the Heroes Grotto, including performer John Robertson, recently returned from Australia, who told me he had met a man in the Middle East who asked him: “How are things in Brighton?”

“But I don’t live in Brighton,” John told the man.

“Yes you do,” the other man replied. “I read it in John Fleming’s blog.”

“Oh lord,” I said. “I should have recorded you saying that. It will sound good in my blog tomorrow. International readers.”

So I tried to get John repeat the story. But he got sidetracked.

Firstly by magician David Don’t (who will be appearing on the fringe of the Grotto shows most nights). He told me he had submitted a video to Objective Productions which may possibly be appearing on a TV show in January. It involves a trick that went wrong and burst into flames when he performed it at Pull The Other One comedy club. There is a clip of it online:

“And my house just caught fire last night,” he added.

“What?” I asked.

David Don’t checking nothing else has caught fire

David checking nothing else has caught fire

“We went away for the weekend and left the children in charge of the house,” he told me. “Florence, our daughter, phoned us and said: Don’t worry, dad, everything’s OK, but there’s been a fire in the house. The dishwasher burst into flames, but I put it out by pouring water all over it. The fire engines have come and taken it away and Clifford (the family dog) bit the firemen because he saw people rushing into the house with axes and big helmets and got frightened. But they had protective clothing on, so he didn’t manage to damage them too much.

“I was in Bahrain recently,” said John Robertson. “The promoters who booked me quite desperately tried to play down the fact it is a war zone.”

“A war zone?” I asked.

“Well,” admitted John, “Civil unrest… But ‘civil unrest’ is where only one side has an army and the other side is made up entirely of civilians who are being murdered routinely.”

Placid John Robertson at the launch last night

Placid John Robertson at the launch last night

“Are you sure you want to be quoted saying that?” I asked.

“I do. Well, they’re having me back in May.”

Inshallah,” said David Don’t.

“Yeah, Inshallah,” said John Robertson. “God willing. We were in a 5-star hotel. We were completely insulated from the entire world and then me and comic Liam Malone were walking down the street just trying to get anywhere that wasn’t a car park, because no-one walks in Bahrain, mostly because they’re being murdered…”

“Are you sure about saying this?” I asked.

“Yes. All we were told was: Don’t insult the King. Don’t insult the government. And we didn’t on stage. But I found their internet filter doesn’t filter out articles about dissidents being kidnapped and beaten. So I just hung out in the 5-star hotel room. I do want to go back to Bahrain.”

Brighton in England is probably safer than Bahrain

Brighton is safer than Bahrain but has considerably less sand

“Someone thought you lived in Brighton,” I prompted him. “You did used to.”

“Yeah,” said John. “And I also got in trouble last year because of your blog.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Last year,” said John, “I was on at Spank! at the Edinburgh Fringe and I was getting ready to completely die because my motormouth screaming was not quite endearing me to this audience of pissed-up scumbags and I found a little person actor – a dwarf – who wanted to crowd surf and we crowd surfed him around the room and he was told that, when he landed, his girlfriend would then remove one item of clothing to her comfort level. So she took off a sock. And, as they surfed him round the crowd, they chanted: Positive body image! Positive body image! and then I mentioned this to you in passing and you put it in your blog:

The blog that caused the aggro

A very offensive blog

“So then I got a text at 3.00am from a really gung-ho, socially-aware guy from Sydney saying: John! You can’t use the word dwarf! And I thought: But we’ve already thrown him! He really wanted to do it! Why are you so upset?

“Well, even without the Brighton story, there’s a blog there,” I said.

“You write a blog?” asked John. “I always thought that was not a phone in your hand. I thought it was a taser you liked to hold while people assaulted you with information.”

“All I wanted,” I told John, “was a little story about someone thinking you lived in Brighton. It wasn’t much to ask.”

“Well, you’ve got that,” said John, “and the future and, if we come over to this bar and order a drink, I will eventually de-materialise and we will never know if I was here or not.”

“I have saved so much money,” I said, “by not taking drugs and just hanging around comedians.”

Joz Norris having a reality check last night

Joz, with a cinnamon stick, having a reality check last night

A little later, I was talking with 25-year-old comic Joz Norris who said:

“I went to Cambodia and I had an epiphany that, if it turned out I was imaginary and everybody I knew had collectively imagined me 25 years ago, I think a lot of them would accept that. Which is not to say that I think they wouldn’t be sad. I do think they would be sad that I was not real. But I do think they would very quickly go: Yeah. It figures. The signs were there. That’s an interesting thing to think and to try to deal with in your head. Ooh! What if I AM imaginary?

“Maybe,” I suggested, “you just imagined you thought that.”

“What?” asked Joz. “The holiday in Cambodia?”

“Everything,” I said.

“Exactly,” said Joz. “It is difficult to prove any of this. The only place you really exist is in your own mind. Except possibly not.”

“Where else could you be?” I asked.

“Well,” said Joz, “if you are imaginary, then you don’t have a mind, so you can’t exist there. Maybe I only exist in your mind. Maybe people only exist in the pages of your blog.”

I imagine Bob’s Grotto will be ready in time for the first show

I imagine Bob’s Grotto will be ready in time for the first show

“But,” I said, “if you are imaginary, some person must be imagining you.”

“And that does imply it is you,” said Joz, “seeing that you are the person recording this.”

“But what if my blog does not exist?” I asked.

And perhaps it does not. It could be all in your fevered imagination, dear reader. Try to remember if you woke up this morning. Did you really awaken? Can you remember that exact moment when you regained consciousness?

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Edinburgh Fringe: an audience member urinates on a bag – & other extreme acts

Thoughts on performing at the Edinburgh Fringe

Thoughts of horses and fish tails perplex me

I woke at 6.10am this morning, dreaming of a horse with a fish tail.

My brain had not yet worked how the fish tail was physically connected to the horse.

It was not where the horse’s tail should be. And it was not where the horse’s legs should be.

I have no idea how this connects to events at the Edinburgh Fringe. Perhaps in its lack of any context or normal concepts of common sense. Odd things seem normal in August in Edinburgh.

Ian Fox and Spring Day in Edinburgh

Ian Fox & Spring Day shared Unsearchable laughs yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, I went to see Ian Fox’s show The Unsearchables – a ridiculously enjoyable hotch potch of bizarre photos and facts which you CANNOT find by searching on Google… in the format of an audience involvement gameshow.

It did not seem strange that someone in the audience said they knew a couple who had named all of their five sons Mark. No other forenames. All five were called Mark. And American comedian Spring Day (her real name), who lives in Japan, said that one line she wished she had never heard was when she was having an operation in a Tokyo hospital where they did not realise she understood Japanese. As the anaesthetist injected Spring just before she was about to be cut open, he said: I wonder if this will be enough?

Harriet & Miss Behave last night

Harriet & Miss Behave were game last night

Yesterday evening, I saw the Miss Behave Gameshow which involves a lovely male assistant called Harriet and which climaxed with the audience winner going into the street outside Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop and smashing a mobile phone to bits with a mallet.

This is a perfectly acceptable and normal thing to see on an Edinburgh street in August.

But are there any limits to what anyone can say or do at the Fringe?

At yesterday afternoon’s increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club, doyenne of comedy reviewers Kate Copstick told Billy Watson (the former Nob Stewart) and surreal act Mr Twonkey:

Billy Watson (left) & Mr Townkey (right) (Photograph by Kate Copstick, courtesy of Billy Watson)

Billy Watson (left) & Mr Twonkey (right) at The Grouchy Club (Photograph by Kate Copstick, courtesy of Billy Watson)

“My boundaries for what is unacceptable in comedy are pretty low. I didn’t even know I had any. The only time I have ever felt like walking out when someone told a joke that I felt was totally unacceptable was maybe 20 years ago, when I was working with Bobby Davro and I was trapped in a studio with him. One of his jokes was What turns fruit into vegetables?… AIDs.”

“That’s a great joke,” I said.

“I think it was because,” Copstick replied, “at the time, I had quite a lot of friends who were nearing the vegetative state. But, since then, I’ve not seen anything at all where I thought: Mmm. That’s not really on.

Rumour has it some thought a line was crossed at Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop a couple of nights ago when, during the late night (00.20am) show, a member of the public came in with a Just For Laughs bag and (the details I have heard are a bit hazy, depending on who tells me) somehow this eventually ended (after encouragement from Bob Slayer) with the lady urinating on her own bag on the floor.

As a result, there was a philosophical falling-out between a couple of the other hosts and Bob Slayer about what was acceptable and unacceptable.

I bumped into comedian Alexander Bennett in the street yesterday. He knew someone who was there during the incident.

“I think pretty much anything is acceptable,” I said.

Alexander faces up to old age as a young man

Alexander Bennett: the face of a self fire starter…

“I remember,” said Alexander, “seeing Adam Riches‘ show years ago and one of the best bits was when he got an audience member to spit in his mouth. The thing about that is it’s all on the performer. Nobody is risking any harm apart from the performer. Venue staff don’t have to worry about it; the audience doesn’t have to worry about it. It’s all down to the performer. The audience reaction when that happened was priceless.

“I’m all for gross-out stuff. I like the reaction. The Euuaaaghhh! reaction is very close to Ha-ha-ha… But pissing on the floor at the Bookshop… Who is suffering there? It’s kind of the venue.”

“It is Bob’s venue, though,” I said. “His gaff; his rules. He’s the one who has to clean up afterwards.”

Alexander replied: “I remember Sean Lock telling a story years ago about Johnny Vegas vomiting while he was doing his pottery and making a vase out of the vomit and puke. I think you can make anything work if the circumstances are right. The only thing to consider is Who is the victim?

“You could get a lot of money now for a Johnny Vegas puke vase,” I suggested. “Last night comedy harpist Ursula Burns told me her local church was trying to sell her scrapings from St Someone’s bones.”

Malcolm Hardee outside Grover Court in 1995

Could grains of the Real Malcolm inspire young comedians?

“Well,” said Alexander, “there’s a massive relic industry all over the world selling shavings of the saints.”

“The increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee was cremated,” I said. “Perhaps we should start selling Grains of Malcolm Hardee to up-and-coming comedians.”

“Malcolm Hardee was burned?” asked Alexander. “I bet he went up fucking quickly. All that alcohol. I have always wanted to set myself on fire on stage. I want to sing Sweet Caroline and set myself on fire. There’s a bit in the lyrics about getting warm.”

“What about singing The Doors’ Light My Fire?” I asked.

“There is no art,” said Alexander, “in setting yourself on fire to a song that contains fire in the lyrics. There’s no art to that. I want to build up some romantic thing with an audience member and then have them set me on fire. I would then sing Sweet Caroline and fall backwards into a swimming pool. I like the idea of stunts being part of comedy shows. It’s that improv thing. I could set myself on fire, then get Bob Slayer to piss on me to put out the flames.”

“Too much alcohol in his blood, too,” I said. “It would be like a reverse flame thrower.”

Later, in the basement of Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop, I heard why the audience member had been encouraged to piss on her Just For Laughs bag a couple of nights ago.

One of the wonderful acts at Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop is Stompy aka The Half Naked Chef aka Richard Stamp. (There is a video of him on YouTube)

Last night, Stompy told me:

The entrance to Stompy’s maze

The entrance to Stompy’s amazing maze

“Two years ago, my company DotComedy took our maze Get Lost! to Montreal (where the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival is held). It’s an outdoor show with a 20 metre square maze with 13 performers in it. Interactive. Comedy. Fairy tale like. We did well – there were 2,000 people a day coming through the show.

“We talked about bringing the show back the next year. Just For Laughs said they couldn’t afford it. Fair enough. But then they said: We’re going to make our own one.

“I said: Well…That’s not really on, is it?

“They said: It’s not going to be anything like your maze. In fact, its just going to be an App on a phone. It won’t be a physical thing you go into.

“So I said: OK. That sounds fair enough.

“Last year, I didn’t have any friends who went to Just For Laughs, so I heard nothing more.

A pensive Stompy by the Bookshop toilets

A pensive Stompy by the Bookshop’s toilets

“This year, friends of mine started sending me pictures of this maze that’s been made. The copy is very similar. Obviously, I haven’t got the copyright on mazes. That was probably a feller in Crete. But the thing is the content of their maze is really similar to mine.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“Well,” said Stumpy, “they use a sort of card game to go round the maze. They have this spider web area. So I got in touch with them about it. I was pretty upset. I put stuff on Facebook and it got around and lots of people joined in.

“I was very annoyed with them. So then Just For Laughs got very annoyed with me and they have lots and lots of lawyers. So, a couple of weeks ago, they sent a letter to me saying they are going to sue me for Defamation of Character.”

“Can a company have a character?” I asked. “Maybe in Canada.”

“In Quebec,” said Stumpy. “Montreal. I just don’t want to go through the legal… About ten years ago, they ripped-off one of my other shows called The Misinformation Tent. They should call themselves Just For Lawyers.””

“I suggested: “The publicity you get and the bad publicity they would get… They would be damaging their own reputation far more than you ever could.”

Of such things, are Edinburgh Fringe incidents made. Like a woman pissing on a Just For Laughs bag in Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop in a late-night show.

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