Tag Archives: stunt

Two Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winners plan Magikal Mystery Tours

So yesterday I met comedian Ellis in the basement bar of The Toucan pub off Soho Square in London. He did not have a black eye.

Ellis says he does not want to be forever remembered as the man who got his stage partner Rose to punch him in the face so Ellis & Rose could claim Ellis had got beaten up by an irate objector to their Edinburgh Fringe show last year (Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show), get some publicity in the press and win a highly coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

The video excerpt of him being repeatedly punched in the face is still on YouTube. He should be proud of how he suffered for his art. But, for some reason, he seems unwilling to milk it.

Now Ellis & Rose have come up with another new idea.

Over the summer, they intend to run monthly Magikal Mystery Tours.

Potential mystery and mayhem coach masters Ellis (left) & Rose

Potential mystery & mayhem coachmasters Ellis (left) & Rose

“We will get a luxury coach,” Ellis told me, “fill it with people and a few acts and drive out of London to weird, random towns and do bizarre town tours and scavenger hunts for weird items and the audience will be split into two teams. It will be like me and Rose taking a bunch of people on a school trip gone wrong.

“Before the people get to the bus, they will have filled out an online survey and we will split them into Red and Blue teams and they will have to come wearing predominantly one colour.

“We’ll stop off at weird museums and things and end up in the evening at a weird small venue where the headline act will do a show.

“Essentially, it’s going to be a very strange but fun full-day comedy show. We’ll stop off at a few places, acts will do bits and pieces but, if they’ve got a stage persona, the acts won’t necessarily be in that persona the whole day; they’ll be themselves, just part of the group. There will be about 45 people – the number we can get on the coach.”

“How are you going to sell tickets?” I asked.

The Kickstarter page through which tickets are bought

Magikal Kickstarter page

“Through a Kickstarter page,” said Ellis. “People will pledge money to get a ticket, so we will know how many people want to come and we will hire the right-sized coach for that number of people. It also means our audience knows exactly what they are letting themselves in for and they are invested in the whole experience. We need to get the right audience for the trip: a comedy-savvy audience, the Soho Theatre audience.

“I think this is the perfect antidote to our Jimmy Savile show – another string to our bow – showing that we can do something big and organised.

“We’re thinking of doing it monthly over the summer. We could do it at the Edinburgh Fringe as a one-off.”

Their Kickstarter campaign has just gone online. It ends on 25th April, with the first coach trip exactly one month later, on Sunday 25th May. Tickets cost £40, leaving London at 10.00am and arriving back no later than 10.00pm.

Gareth Ellis, coach master, at the Toucan bar yesterday

Ellis, at the Toucan bar yesterday, has a Speedy idea

For the first Magikal Mystery Tour, Phil Kay will be ‘Chief Tour Guide Extraordinaire’ and Miles Lloyd, billed as ‘the most accident-prone Welsh comedian ever’ will be the coach’s ‘House Band’.

“How are you going to publicise this?” I asked. “Apart, obviously, from having it mentioned in my increasing-prestigious blog?”

“Maybe,” mused Ellis, “me and Rich should go on a bus and say we’ve put a bomb on there so the driver can’t slow down below 31 miles an hour otherwise the bomb will go off unless 45 people buy tickets for our own coach trip.”

“It’s a thought.” I said. “A good thought.”

Ellis & Rose’s appeal is on Kickstarter and on YouTube:

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The Edinburgh Freestival comedian whose relative pulled cunning stunts involving Virginia Woolf and bottoms

Al Cowie, not aristocrat, but part of hydra-headed Freestival

Al Cowie, not aristocrat, but part of hydra-headed Freestival

Yesterday, my blog was about the new Freestival events at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Comedian Dan Adams was one of the four-headed hydra who explained to me what was planned but seemed to take a lot of interest in the highly coveted annual Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

It is for the best cunning stunt publicising a show or act at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Before we chatted, fellow Freestival hydra-head Sean Brightman had talked with me about the Cunning Stunt award too – and how funny it would be if the whole long genesis of the Freestival with its well-publicised bust-ups with the Free Fringe were simply the most complicated ever publicity stunt for a clutch of shows in an attempt to win the highly coveted Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

Of course, the Freestival is not a cunning stunt.

It is real…

I think.

On the other hand, if I were trying to get a cheap blog out of this, I might bring up the interesting background of another of the Freestival’s hydra-heads, comedian Al Cowie.

“So you’re an aristocrat,” I said to him after my blog chat with the Freestival Four.

“No,” said Al. “I’m the smell left behind after the aristocrats have left the room. I have the accent but none of the cash.

Horace Cole was my grandmother’s cousin. He was the ultimate Cunning Stunter. He was peripheral to the Bloomsbury Set and he did the Dreadnought hoax. He hired a train to go down to HMS Dreadnought in Weymouth. He said he was a member of the Foreign Office and went there with other members of the Bloomsbury Set, all dressed up as Abyssinian royalty. Virginia Woolf was the Crown Prince of Abyssinia.”

The Abyssinians  - Virginia Woolf is on extreme left in beard

The Abyssinians – Virginia Woolf is on extreme left in a beard and Horace de Vere Cole is on the extreme right in a top hat

Cole went to Paddington station in London, claimed that he was ‘Herbert Cholmondeley’ of the Foreign Office and demanded a special train to Weymouth.

The stationmaster arranged a VIP coach.

In Weymouth, the Navy welcomed the Abyssinian princes with an honour guard but could not find an Abyssinian flag. So they flew the flag of Zanzibar and played Zanzibar’s national anthem.

The group inspected the fleet, had their own translator and talked in gibberish drawn from Latin and Greek.

“When the Navy found out…” said Al.

“How did they find out?” I asked.

“Because Horace Cole went and reported it to The Times, who would not print a photo, and the Daily Mirror, who did… When the Navy found out, they sent two young subalterns up to Cambridge to give him a good caning…”

“Literally?” I asked.

“Yeah. But they didn’t catch him. There’s been a book written about it: The Sultan of Zanzibar.”

The book about Horace Cole’s hoaxes

The book about Horace Cole’s hoaxes

“Did he do the party stunt with the bottoms?” I asked.

“Yes,” said. Al. “He organised a white-tie party and invited lots of people whose only connection with each other was that they had the word ‘bottom’ in their name and he had a man at the top of the stairs at the party announcing the arrivals as they walked down the stairs:

Mr and Mrs Bottomley… Mrs & Mrs Ramsbottom… and, because he didn’t have ‘bottom’ in his surname, he didn’t turn up.”

“Oh,” I said, “I hadn’t heard the bit about the announcing of the names. I read that all these people, none of whom knew each other, were invited to this party without any explanation of why and it was only after everyone started talking to each other that they eventually worked out it was a vast practical joke and why they had all been invited.”

“All of these stories.” said Al, “have been told to me and I don’t know which the accurate ones are. One of the best is that he bought out the entire first night – every seat – of a stage show in the West End of London and then gave the tickets out to various people with carefully allocated seating so that, when the lights went up, if you were looking down on the stalls from the circle, all the bald heads in the audience read out a rude word. But I’m not sure what the word was.”

“It must have cost a fortune,” I said.

“Yes,” said Al. “He wasted his entire fortune on practical jokes… He dug up Piccadilly. He got his mates dressed up in workmens’ clothing and they went and dug a trench all the way across Piccadilly. There was a policeman there, so they hauled him in to divert the traffic while they did it.

“When they had dug a trench all the way across Piccadilly, they went into The Ritz and just watched the chaos which ensued. It took London about four days to work out what on earth had gone wrong.

“Then, a few weeks later, he went up to a bunch of real workmen who were digging up the road and said: Look, I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but a group of my friends have dressed up as policemen and they’re going to try to stop you digging up the road.

“He then went up to a group of policemen and said: Look, I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but a group of my friends have dressed up as workmen and they’re digging up the road.

“And then he left them to it.

“He was a fascinating character,” said Al. “Winston Churchill described him as a man who was dangerous to have as a friend. His sister married Neville Chamberlain. But, when he died, no-one turned up to his funeral because they thought it was a practical joke.”

Horace de Vere Cole (1881-1936) died in poverty in France.

So it goes.

The winner of the highly coveted 2014 Cunning Stunt Award will be announced during the Highly Coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on 22nd August in Edinburgh.

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Jimmy Savile comedy duo banned from Norwich pub. Now they plan an opera based on a murder maniac rampage…

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into a comedy venue…

Ellis & Rose revealed as Punch andPunch puncher

Ellis (left) and Rose revelling in Edinburgh

At the Edinburgh Fringe in August, comedy duo Ellis & Rose got more than a little attention by performing Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

The Chortle comedy website reviewed it with the words: “It’s an insult… It could have been a provocative show. It could have been a silly show. It could have been a satirical show. But it should surely at least have been a show.”

The other reviews were… equally interesting. The London Is Funny comedy website gave the show 1-star as “a steaming pile of horse shit”. Slightly better was The Skinny, which gave it 3-stars and said it was “good, knockabout fun done in a deliberately half-arsed way” and Outsider Comedy gave it 5-stars and said it was “a new style of comedy that is years ahead of its time”.

Admittedly, Outsider Comedy is actually just their fellow comedian Mike Belgrave, but Ellis & Rose know how to concoct good publicity from bad.

They won a highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Fringe when a member of the public hit Ellis in the face in the street and gave him a massive black eye for daring to perform Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

Well, they didn’t get the Award for that.

They got it when it was revealed in this blog that, in fact, it was a publicity stunt and Rose had repeatedly punched his comedy partner Ellis full-force in the face to get the required effect… all to publicise their show. They even videoed the beating and posted it on YouTube:

They know how to milk a show for publicity. So it came as no surprise to get a message from Ellis yesterday. It said:

The Norwich poster

Not normal even for Norwich – the poster

We are putting Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show on in Norwich for one night (next Monday 18th November) before we hit The Brixton Dogstar in London with it on the 28th. We had arranged a lovely Norwich venue, which was to be the Hog in Armour pub and we sent out all the listings information.

The day after that, I got a phone call from the manager telling me the pub owners had reacted badly to having a Jimmy Savile show in their venue – and could we change the title? If not, they told us, we would have to cancel.

The owners of the pub apparently also own a family holiday park and didn’t want Jimmy Savile in their pub and – of course – they wrongly thought that something called Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show is somehow going to be totally pro-Savile…

I suggested we change the title to Sir Uncle Jim’s Unwanted Spitroast, which didn’t go down well… but then it never does.

They said the show would have to be cancelled. I said OK. But I am not one to give up in the face of adversity so, the very same day, I made a lot of phone calls and arranged a new venue – Now we are going to perform the show in a lovely place called Olives Cafe Bar, who are very supportive of us and our Jimmy.

I have no idea if any of the above is true.

It sounds likely.

But, in Edinburgh, I saw Ellis’ very painful black eye and it never entered my head that he had been beaten up by his comedy partner. They know how to drum up shock and publicity.

Now to the future…

Could Gareth be cruising for another bruising?

Could Ellis be cruising for another bruising: a real one?

For readers who do not live in the UK, in 2010, a man recently released from prison – Raoul Moat – shot his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend and a policeman using a sawn-off shotgun.

The new boyfriend was killed, the ex-girlfriend wounded and the policeman permanently blinded. Moat then went on the run for six days and, when cornered by police for six hours, eventually shot himself.

Two years later, the blinded policeman was found hanged at his home.

On Ellis’ Facebook page, there is currently a posting which says:

Turning the Raoul Moat Saga into an opera. Need a composer to do the music. Anyone?… Raoul Moat really is a great name for the tragic protagonist of an opera… Don Giovanni, Figaro, Raoul Moat…

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‘American’ comedian Lewis Schaffer revealed to be English character actor Brian Simpson

Mark Watson - Englishman with fake Welsh accent

Welsh comedian Mark Watson was not all he seemed

One night a few years ago, I went with comedy character act Charlie Chuck to The Cockpit Theatre in London. Also on the bill was comedian Mark Watson who had successfully performed for several years using a Welsh accent, despite the fact he came from Bristol and had an English accent. The problem Mark had, he told me, was how could he now drop the Welsh accent he had originally adopted to differentiate him from other comedians playing the circuit?

That night, about 28 minutes into his 30 minute set, he said in his Welsh accent (I paraphrase):

“…but, in fact, I don’t speak like this at all (then switching to his real English voice) I actually speak like this…”

There was (this is true) an audible gasp from the audience. It was an extraordinary coup de théâtre.

And Mark got away with it.

Similarly, this year at the Edinburgh Fringe, a well-known English comedian performed as a fake Canadian comedian, disguising his face with a clever mask. Most critics never mentioned his real name though their reviews had knowing ‘winks’ for those in-the-know. He would have been nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award except that it was widely known by the media who he was (at least one publication named him) and, in fact, he admitted it in an interview.

To my mind, though, the best ‘fake’ comedian – revealed here for the first time – is ‘American’ comedian Lewis Schaffer, who has kept up the pretence for nigh on ten years without anyone realising.

‘Lewis Schaffer’ is actually English character actor Brian Simpson who hails from Brownhills in the West Midlands.

The real face of ‘Lewis Schaffer'

Real face of talented English actor Brian Simpson

“Frankly, it’s relief to admit it,” Simpson told me last night over a very English meal of seared fillet of sea bream with Devon crab and crushed new potatoes at Langan’s restaurant in London’s Mayfair.

“I thought I had gone as far as I could with the Lewis Schaffer character and it was beginning to become a parody of itself.”

“Why did you start it?” I asked.

“I was an actor in my mid-forties, struggling like most,” Simpson told me in his own soft English voice which has a slight twang of a Birmingham accent. “The comedy club circuit was still at its height and I thought I’d try that, but I needed a USP – a Unique Selling Proposition. So I thought of this character.

“The Lewis Schaffer character was a New York Jew set adrift in an alien environment – England – on which he could give insights as a supposed outsider. I remember as a kid watching the BBC TV series Adam Adamant Lives! which was about a Victorian James Bond type character frozen in ice who is revived in Swinging Sixties London. So he looked OK – his Victorian cape did not look out of place in the King’s Road – but ‘normal’ things like light bulbs, cars and TV were all new to him.

Crocodile Dundee inspired Lewis Schaffer

Inspirational Crocodile Dundee movie

“They used the same idea in the original Crocodile Dundee film – a figure set down in an alien environment. So, to be honest, I nicked that idea and I gave him a back story – He had married a British woman whom he calls English, but actually she’s Scottish because, as an American, he doesn’t know the difference. And I gave him two children because that widened the terms of reference for his stories. So he’s a divorced, neurotic Jewish New Yorker trapped in the UK by love of his children. In fact, I’m gay and have a partner who is not in showbusiness, which I think is what keeps me sane.”

“So why,” I asked, “have you decided to ‘come out’ now as Brian Simpson?”

“I guess,” said Simpson, “I was getting tired of the ‘Lewis Schaffer’ character. I’ve played him for over ten years now and, for an actor, that’s… well, it’s not what I want. It’s like performing in The Mousetrap every night. Not that The Mousetrap is not a very fine play. It is. But only playing Lewis Schaffer is very limiting for an actor. It’s not what I came into the business to do.

Comedy hero Andy Kaufman

American comedy hero Andy Kaufman

“Also meeting the American comedian Laura Levites at the Edinburgh Fringe last year had a big effect on me. I had always claimed that Lewis Schaffer was brought up in Great Neck, New York because that was where one of my great comedy heroes – Andy Kaufman – was born. But, by coincidence, Laura was from Great Neck too.

“It’s not a big place and she almost caught me out on details a couple of times, though I was able to bullshit my way through chatting with her. But it kind of made me feel like the fraud I was. It took the edge off the ‘game’ of playing Lewis Schaffer. I thought I have been doing this for ten years and still don’t have a TV series or vast amounts of money flowing in from the character, so why keep up the pretence?

“I do OK. I have always said Lewis Schaffer lives in Nunhead, Peckham, but actually my partner and I live in West Hampstead and we’ve got a couple of properties we rent out in Swiss Cottage. So we get by.

“But something happened to me this year; I don’t know what it was. I let my hair go grey and I got a bit tired of being Lewis Schaffer not Brian Simpson and I started feeling broody or something. I might move back to the West Midlands, to Brownhills.”

“So where do you go now professionally?” I asked.

The Fringe has reduced comedian Lewis Schaffer to this

Simpson had grown tired of keeping the Lewis Schaffer secret

“Well,” said Simpson, “I’ll keep doing the Lewis Schaffer character in my current shows in London – Free Until Famous is every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Source Below in Soho and American in London is at the Leicester Square Theatre every Sunday. I might even do another mini-tour of arts centres with Lewis Schaffer. I tried that out earlier this year and it went OK.

“Next year, I’m thinking of staging an Edinburgh Fringe show called Lewis Schaffer Is Not Feeling Himself or possibly Lewis Schaffer Is Not Lewis Schaffer. And I have a new character I’m working on. She’s a schoolteacher character from Ulster and she was once a…”

“She?” I asked.

“Yes,” explained Brian Simpson. “I need a complete break from Lewis Schaffer.”

“Are you actually Jewish?” I asked.

“No,” Simpson laughed. “Catholic… non-practising but, once a Catholic, always a Catholic…”

“Did you think of killing off the Lewis Schaffer character?” I asked. “Giving him a Reichenbach Falls ending?”

“You mean like Malcolm Hardee?” Simpson asked me.

“Well, it worked for him,” I said. “Derek has put the Malcolm Hardee years behind him and has carved out quite a good career for himself in South Africa.”

“I prefer to leave it open-ended,” replied Simpson. “I can keep the Lewis Schaffer schtick going for a few more years yet. It’s like plate-spinning. You have to keep everything up in the air.”

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Screaming Blue Murder – dead comic Malcolm Hardee & the missing money

The documentary about “godfather of British alternative comedy” Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There (nothing to do with me) still ambles along in its production. I understand they will be looking for crowd funding soon.

One of the interesting clips from the work-in-progress is an  interview with comedian Brendon Burns, who remembers Malcolm at the Screaming Blue Murder comedy club in 1995.

Malcolm asked Brendon if he had £20 he could lend him and, when he didn’t, Malcolm decided to do a 5-minute spot on stage.

He told the audience: “Oy! Oy! I’m gonna make £20 disappear.”

He got a member of the audience to give him a £20 note, said “Watch this! Oy! Oy!” palmed it and then just walked off stage and out of the club.

Like many of the stories surrounding Malcolm, this one sounds like an urban myth but the more unlikely Malcolm stories sound, the more likely they are to be true. The details can vary, but the stories are true.

Pete Harris started the Screaming Blue Murder comedy club. Yesterday, his brother Phil Harris confirmed the story told by Brendon actually happened though, he says, it was actually £10 not £20. Phil carefully added “…if that’s the night Brendon’s talking about here,” because it is entirely possible Malcolm pulled the same gag/theft on more than one occasion.

“He only got away with it,” said Phil yesterday, “because my girlfriend didn’t know him at all and was helping me out on the door. She didn’t realise he would just fuck off and not come back, so she just laughed as he left. I was sat stuck by the side of the stage doing the sound so I couldn’t stop him.

“After that, every time he saw my brother Pete, Malcolm would say: ‘ere, I owe you ten quid, sorry about that… Though, of course, he never actually paid him back…

“It happened down at a gig we used to have at the Mitre Hotel at the foot of Hampton Court Bridge. I seem to remember Malcolm brought Brendon down on his boat so, by the time they were gone, there really was no way I was going to catch up with him.”

Malcolm drowned in 2005. The way he remembered the incident in I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cakehis autobiography, written in 1995, was like this:

I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

Malcolm Hardee’s 1996 autobiography

I am happy when I’m out on my boat. The River is part of my family tradition and I love a bit of tradition.

Recently, I was taking my boat from Greenwich to Runnymede for repair. It was going to take two days because the engine was only firing on two instead of three cylinders.

At Hampton Court bridge, I was passing a pub which fronts onto the River Thames. As I passed, I heard the voice of comedian ‘Nobby Shanks’.

It turned out to be a comedy club called Screaming Blue Murder. So I stopped, moored-up for the night and went in. The bloke running the club seemed to know who I was, so I said:

“Can I do five minutes at the end?”

He said I could.

Unfortunately, during the course of the evening I got a bit drunk. I went on stage at the end, did about 4 or 5 minutes of my normal stuff and it went very well. Then I decided to do a magic trick and said,

“I need two volunteers from the audience”.

One of them had a £5 note and the other a £10 note, so I got them to sign the notes and put them in an envelope.

“Thankyou very much.” I said, “Goodnight”.

I walked out of the pub, got in my boat and fucked off.

The bloke who runs the club, Pete Harris, later demanded the £15 back when I saw him at the Edinburgh Fringe, because he had to give the money back to the punters. I didn’t give it to him. The incident was reported in Time Out magazine and got him more publicity for his club.

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Edinburgh Fringe act reveals he was beaten up by his partner to get publicity and wins early Malcolm Hardee Award

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

John Ward with some Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy

John Ward, designer of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

The shortlist has been announced at the Edinburgh Fringe for the increasingly prestigious annual  Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in memory of the late ‘godfather of British alternative comedy’ who drowned in London in 2005. As normal, there are three awards, but the third is more than a bit of a surprise.

The shortlisted nominees are:

THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY

– Red Bastard

– Ursula Burns (unbilled in the main Fringe Programme)

– Adrienne Truscott

THE MALCOLM HARDEE CUNNING STUNT AWARD

(for best publicity stunt promoting a Fringe performer or show)

– Barry Ferns – for printing 2,000 fake Broadway Baby and Three Weeks review sheets and distributing them round Edinburgh. They gave his own show a 6-star review.

– Richard Herring – for deciding that expensive Fringe posters are pointless and, instead, giving members of his current show’s audience free DVDs of his past performances.

– Lewis Schaffer – for (having heard about Richard’s stunt) also giving away allegedly free DVDs at his shows – but free Richard Herring DVDs because Richard is more famous than Lewis (and you have to donate £5 to Lewis).

– Gareth Morinan – for listing his show 11 times in the Fringe Programme because this gave him more space (and was cheaper) than buying a quarter page ad in the Programme.

THE MALCOLM HARDEE ‘ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID’ AWARD

This will not be awarded this year because, frankly, we do not think anyone is worth it.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

However, the £-sign trophy has already been made and (in the spirit of Malcolm Hardee) we are not about to waste it.

So we are awarding it as a special one-off MALCOLM HARDEE ‘POUND OF FLESH’ AWARD to Ellis of the Ellis & Rose comedy duo for “the kind of publicity money can’t buy”.

Gareth Ellis suffers for his art (photo by Lewis Schaffer)

Ellis displays his vividly genuine black eye (photograph by Lewis Schaffer)

On August 14th, Ellis was attacked in the street by an unknown, irate member of the public who was annoyed by Ellis & Rose’s appearance in Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show. Ellis received a very bad black eye. This followed a Chortle comedy website review which revealed Ellis & Rose’s names as the show’s performers – They had asked not to be named. I blogged about the incident at the time.

EXCEPT – it was revealed to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee judges late last night that the attack never happened. It was a publicity stunt.

In their Edinburgh flat, Ellis repeatedly hit himself in the face with the blunt end of a milk whisk. When this did not have the required effect, his comedy partner Rose punched him four times in the face to give him a black eye.

They videoed the creation of the black eye.

The video (only now uploaded to YouTube) shows Ellis being punched in the face. If you watch it, be sure to have the sound turned up high.

Last night (from left) Mills, Ellis, Rose, Levites, Copstick

Late last night (from left) Mills, Ellis, Rose, Levites, Copstick

Ellis showed the full video to me (including the preliminary milk whisk hits) – and to fellow increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Kate Copstick – in the cafe of the Gilded Balloon venue late last night. Also there in the cafe were his comedy partner Rose, their cohort in the stunt Paul Preston Mills and American comedian Laura Levites.

“When did you first decide to do this?” I asked Ellis.

“After Steve Bennett’s 1-star review of the Jimmy Savile show came out in Chortle,” Ellis told me. “We thought How can we turn this around?

“And did the reported attack increase the size of audiences for your Jimmy Savile and Ellis & Rose shows?” I asked.

“Probably by about 50% on average,” said Ellis. “It went up and down, but it was more consistently full. People love to see and read about people getting hurt.”

“It could,” said Kate Copstick, “become a new marketing tool for comedy shows: grievous bodily harm.”

“Why did you start out by hitting yourself in the face with a milk whisk?” I asked.

“I looked on the internet to find out how to get a black eye – how to give yourself a black eye – and it said Get yourself a blunt object like a broom handle, so you can control the amount of force yourself. We looked in the kitchen and a milk whisk was the best thing we could find. It had a blunt, plastic end.”

“But that didn’t do enough harm to your face?” I asked.

“Well, it did pretty well,” admitted Ellis.

“But you’re a perfectionist?” I asked.

“Well, Rose said That’s not enough,” explained Ellis. “ he said You’ve got to let me punch you.

Ellis (left) recovering last night from Rose’s punch

Ellis last night, his left eye recovering from Rose’s punch

“How many times did he punch you in the face?”

“Four times,” replied Ellis. “He punched me twice, but we forgot to record it, because we were quite drunk – So he had to do it twice again for the video.”

“What did you have to do with all this?” I asked Paul Preston Mills.

“Well,” he said, “I arrived on the Tuesday – all this happened on the Tuesday night – and we were talking about it. But we decided they weren’t quite drunk enough before I left them and went to bed and, at that point, they were still deciding whether Rose was going to hit him or they were going to prod him in the eye with a broom handle. I thought hitting him had to be the correct thing to do.”

“Did your venue manager Bob Slayer have anything to do with the stunt?” I asked.

“Well,” said Ellis. “before the Fringe started, we had ideas of getting publicity and, when Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show first came out in the Programme, the media jumped on it and it was in the national press and we were going to ramp it up by saying we had death threats and performers had dropped out  and Nick Awde, who wrote the original script, had been getting death threats and things like that. So it kind of stemmed from that idea. We found that being named in the Chortle review allowed us to play off that.”

“Any other result from the stunt?” I asked.

“The black eye has made me more appealing to the opposite sex,” replied Ellis.

“Is he,” I asked Laura Levites, “more appealing with or without his black eye?”

“Oh, I like him with,” said Laura. “It means he can take a punch. You want a man who can take a punch.”

“So,” I said, “when his skin recovers and the black eye disappears, he should do it again to be more appealing to the opposite sex?”

“Oh,” said Laura, “he should do the other eye. You’ve got to let one heal and then hit the other one.”

“You were hit by Rose,” I said to Ellis, “your comedy partner. Do you think there might be a homo-erotic element in this?”

“No,” said Ellis.

“Yeah,” laughed Rose. “It’s been a long Fringe and I’ve been quite frustrated a lot of the time.”

“He’s got a girlfriend who isn’t here,” said Ellis.

“So I had to release some tension,” enthused Rose, “and Ellis’ face is small and squishy, much like a breast.”

“We thought,” Kate Copstick interrupted, “that the milk whisk was doing rather a good job of damaging Ellis’ face. Why punch him?”

“Well,” said Paul Preston Mills, “FIST or MILK FROTHER? Which would you choose if you were putting a headline out for publicity?”

“I wanted to keep my ring on my finger,” said Rose, but Ellis wouldn’t let me. I got him really, really drunk. The only reason we decided it would be him not me was because he owed me quite a lot of money.”

“Only 40 quid for groceries!” said Ellis.

“What would have happened if he’d owed £90?” I asked.

“Anal rape,” said Copstick.

“At one point,” said Rose, “I was concerned he was bleeding and I almost felt bad… My hand was sore.”

“Do you expect to get more stars for revealing all this?” I asked.

“Well, we just want more bloody reviews,” said Ellis.

“Bloody is the word,” I said.

“You could say,” suggested Ellis, “that Ellis & Rose are not into punchlines, but we will take a hit for comedy.”

“I could,” I agreed.

______________________________________________________

MHAflyerA6flyer

The increasingly prestigious show 2013

THE OTHER WINNERS OF THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARDS… 

will be announced around midnight this Friday night (23rd August), during the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

For more details of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, see:

http://www.fosterscomedyawards.co.uk

(and read that web address again carefully).

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The real truth about UK magician Paul Zenon’s plot to kidnap David Blaine using scantily-clad girls and sausages

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Sporting my new Berlusconi style yesterday

Sporting my sexy new Silvio Berlusconi hairstyle yesterday

In my blog yesterday morning, I wrote about the tragedy of my forehead and slaphead – both burned at the World Egg Throwing Championships last Sunday and, by yesterday, flaking skin like a politician sheds promises after an election.

Yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend decided she had the cure and covered the top of my head with Rhassoul Mud.

This remained on my head, slowly drying for an hour, so I looked like I shared Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi’s dodgy hairstyle.

And it had no effect.

My skin is still flaking.

While my head was still caking, I received an e-mail from ace UK magician Paul Zenon, who appeared in last year’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. (Useful tip No 217: If you have a daily blog, relentlessly plug your own product.)

Janey Godley was under David Blaine in 2003

Janey Godley under David Blaine in 2003

In my blog three days ago, I mentioned that Malcolm Hardee had abandoned the idea of a stunt linked to American entertainer David Blaine‘s ‘sittting in a glass box suspended by the River Thames for days on end’ stunt.

I wrote that Malcolm lost interest after several plans fell through and the final nail-in-the-coffin was when “an intrepid British magician whom Malcolm knew (not Jerry Sadowitz) phoned him up wanting to borrow Malcolm’s boat because he wanted to kidnap Blaine (financed by a national paper) on 28th September 2003”

This detail – like a few of Malcolm’s other stories (but not the ones in his autobiography) – appears to have grown in the telling.

The UK magician I did not name three days ago was Paul Zenon and, when I asked him about the 2003 David Blaine kidnap plot yesterday, he told me:

“That wasn’t quite the plan. Originally, I was going to borrow Malcolm’s boat and hire in some giant inflatable (bouncy castle-style) food – burgers, sausage and chips, etc.

Paul in 2003 thinking outside the box

Paul Z in 2003 – thinking outside the box

“Then I was going to moor as close as we could get to David Blaine’s box, with me sat on a toilet in the middle of it, reading a newspaper – and with a scantily-clad girl band playing live.

“In other words, we would remind David Blaine of all the stuff he was abstaining from with his vainglorious stunt. We had interest from an alcohol company and a newspaper for sponsorship but sadly neither bit.”

Oh well… It’s still a good story.

When in doubt, I always say print the legend.

You read it first here.

THERE WAS A 2003 PLOT TO KIDNAP DAVID BLAINE USING SCANTILY-CLAD GIRLS AND SAUSAGES…

It may not be true. But it brightens up Britain without hurting anyone or risking sunburn.

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