Tag Archives: sword swallowing

How did the chicken swallow the sword? German Humour in the 1980s

Martin the speech theraüist in Nurenberg last night

West Ham fan Martin in Nuremberg last night

Shortly after I got an iPhone – my first smartphone – I went to Kiev not quite understanding the concept of roaming charges. I did not use the phone. I was in Kiev for three days. On my return to the UK, got a bill for £170.

I am in Nuremberg at the moment with roaming and everything else apart from WiFi turned off.

I am staying with a very interesting man called Rudiger Schmidt, but there is a problem with his home WiFi and it is only now I am here that I find out Nuremberg is known for not having a lot of free WiFi.

I met a man in a bar last night – not a phrase you will often find in this blog.

He was – indeed, still is – a speech therapist called Martin (a German) from Hamburg who supports West Ham United football club and who visits the UK two or three times a year to see West Ham play. He told me not only that energy prices in Germany are rocketing (which is what UK newspapers are also currently obsessed with) but that bars, cafes and restaurants here (unlike in the UK) are increasingly wary of providing free WiFi for customers because of the unpredictable and increasing cost.

But enough of my cyber traumas.

This blog may well be eventually posted by pigeon.

My new chum Rudiger Schmidt’s main memory of coming to London in the 1980s is of a sword-swallowing chicken.

“Why did the chicken swallow the sword?” I asked.

“It was the 1980s,” Rudiger replied.

“Ah,” I said.

“It was a rubber chicken,” continued Rudiger.

“The performer,” I asked, “swallowed a sword which was inside a rubber chicken?” with vague memories of seeing this act surfacing in the back of my mind.

“No,” said Rudiger. “The chicken swallowed the sword.”

“That’s why it was so clever,” said my eternally-un-named friend, who had seen the act.

“A rubber chicken?” I asked.

Rudiger remembered the 1980s yesterday

Rudiger talked of DEBAKL last night

“Yes,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “Rudiger was so impressed with the chicken that he bought one himself… A rubber chicken… Did you then perform the act yourself in German?”

“I tried,” said Rudiger.

“Where?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“There’s a little children’s theatre nearby here ,” said Rudiger, “and we had a show in the 1980s called DEBAKL – as in ‘debacle’. It was an acronym for German Entertainment Needs Culture.

“I staged a show for adults every first Thursday in the month, when people who could do anything interesting for seven minutes could perform. They could do whatever they wanted to do. I moderated (compered) the shows. So I did the rubber chicken sword swallowing act there.”

“Were people impressed?” I asked.

“Yes, very much,” said Rudiger.

“But you’ve stopped doing it,” said my eternally-un-named friend, with a slight hint of sadness in her voice.

“It was in the 1980s,” explained Rudiger.

“Ah,” I said. “You did not want to be up-staged by a rubber chicken?”

“Yes,” said Rudiger.

“Do you still have the chicken?” I asked..

Not the actual sword-swallowing chicken

Sadly not the lost sword-swallowing chicken

“I have lost the chicken,” replied Rudiger. “We did the DEBAKL shows in the 1980s for about one year and then we stopped in about 1988 and then, maybe two years later, we did another two shows and stopped then, but we did another show in 2009 and I have a video. Do you want to see it?”

“For sure,” I said.

But sadly the chicken was not on the video, the video developed problems halfway through and, because of cyber problems, I cannot upload the footage.

Such is cyber life.

I feel cursed.

But the video did include a man dressed as a butcher who sang what appeared to be a traditional German song while wearing a blood-spattered white apron. He was standing by a small, furry toy pig and waved a meat cleaver as he sang. Rudiger told me that the lyrics were mostly Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop!

Another act had been videoed in the 1980s in a local underground station.

“You are not allowed to go in the tube without a ticket,” explained Rudiger.

The four man comedy group on the video danced to music for a DEBAKL audience of perhaps 20 people sitting on the steps inside the underground station.

“If the controller had come,” laughed Rudiger, “all of them would have had to pay!”

The four performers danced in a row. The first three had giant signs round their necks saying (in German) POTATO. The fourth had a sign saying HEAD. So, dancing, their signs read POTATO – POTATO – POTATO – HEAD. There was also a man dancing while wearing a vertical tube with a flat cardboard hat.

“What is he supposed to be?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“He is a tube of mustard,” explained Rudiger.

At the end of the act, through interference on the video picture, it appeared that objects were being thrown.

“The audience are throwing things at the performers?” I asked.

“Well,” explained Rudiger, “the acts could be extremely good or extremely bad but they had to be interesting. The audience could throw round metallic pot-cleaning sponges at the acts and we counted how many were thrown. The act which had most round metallic pot-cleaning sponges thrown at them won a prize.

“When the audience came into the theatre, each member of the audience was given five round metallic pot-cleaning sponges and you could throw one or two or more at an act, but you had to ration yourself because you only had five to last you for the entire show.”

“Did they,” I asked, “throw these sponges at acts they liked or at acts they hated?”

“It did not matter,” said Rudiger. “What mattered was if the act was interesting. One guy could make a cucumber glow. It was a really good act.”

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9 things I did not blog about this week

There are always stories and incidents which do not fit comfortably in my normal daily blogs and get lost like tears in rain, as Rutger Hauer might say.

This week, amongst other things:

Mat Ricardo - the gentleman juggler of comedy

Mat Ricardo – the man with a potential TV show

ONE

I went to the last ever Mat Ricardo’s London Varieties show at the Leicester Square Theatre which started with the unbilled Heather Holliday walking on stage with a stick and a plate. She used the stick to spin the plate.

Fair enough.

Then an assistant came on stage with a sword and a hula hoop.

Heather replaced the stick with the sword, spinning the plate on the sword’s hilt, then dropped the sword’s blade down her upturned throat – while still spinning the plate – and started hula hooping.

And THAT was just the start of an extraordinary show.

It should be a TV series.

The Dark Room - could be bound to please

John Robertson & wife Jo wake in a dark garage

TWO

On the same night at Leicester Square Theatre, I saw John Robertson’s The Dark Room again – a preview for his upcoming Edinburgh Fringe run. An amazing show based on his 2012 YouTube hit.

John recently got married in a chicken shed in Australia – I blogged about it – and he and his lovely wife Jo have now re-located from Perth in Australia to Brighton in England. Until they go up to the Fringe, they are living in Jo’s sister’s garage in Brighton.

When they return from Edinburgh, more conventional accommodation has been arranged.

Escaped kangaroo’s Bohemian rhapsody

Escaped kangaroo’s Bohemian rhapsody

THREE

Meanwhile, in surprise news from the Czech Republic, Scots ex-pat Alexander Frackleton, who currently lives there, sent me an e-mail:

“A kangaroo is on the loose in northern Bohemia,” he told me. “It escaped from the backyard of its owner on Tuesday night near the north Bohemian town of Lovosice. The owner found a hole in the fence and realised his pet kangaroo was missing on Wednesday morning after being alerted by the police that a kangaroo had been spotted in nearby villages. Although a number of people are reported to have seen the kangaroo (named Joey), no-one has yet re-captured him and the owner has recruited a friend with a private helicopter to help him look for the marsupial.”

“Keep me up-to-date on this,” I begged him.

“The kangaroo is still on the loose,” he told me the next day, “But two weeks ago, there was a wild boar running around the 10th, 11th & 12th districts of Prague… It took police three hours to catch him and eight policemen to pin him down. There is never a dull moment in the Czech Republic.”

Alex tells me he is looking forward to meeting comedian and So it Goes blog regular Matt Roper in mid August, when he passes through Prague.

“I’m going to take him on an alternative sight-seeing trip,” Alex tells me, “by visiting places and things connected to the old regime – including The Tunnel of Intelligence, which was constructed by political prisoners of the communists during the 1950s. Stuff like that. There is also a museum of Totalitarianism which will probably be the first port of call.”

The same day, back in London:

John Park 3

This man knows too much about Hellfire Club

FOUR

I had tea with former Fringe Report editor John Park. We had an interesting discussion about the Bible, theology and Roman Catholicism and he told me about a gay whipping club just off Trafalgar Square, merely a short blood-stained crawl from Whitehall.

John has no interest in such things himself but he did know an unhealthy amount about Sir Francis Dashwood’s 18th century Hellfire Club which was held in the caves near High Wycombe.

I was able to tell him about the defence bunker at High Wycombe and the fact that the adorably wonderful but sadly being fast forgotten entertainer Marti Caine used to live there.

In High Wycombe, not in the bunker.

She once told me – truthfully – that she was perfectly happy just being a housewife and Hoovering the living room, but people kept phoning her up offering ludicrous amounts of money to do showbiz things. She was one of the sanest entertainers I ever met. And was dying from cancer. She died in 1995. So it goes.

Which brings us inevitably to:

Malcolm, Glastonbury 2003

Malcolm Hardee with prized sock

FIVE

Malcolm Hardee, who drowned in 2005. So it goes.

A couple of days ago, I blogged about Malcolm and fellow comedian Ricky Grover breaking into a zoo and encountering a silverback gorilla. Comedian John Moloney has now told me a story from many years ago when he was up at the Edinburgh Fringe with Malcolm.

“I was lying in my bed one afternoon with a lovely lady,” John told me, “when Malcolm knocks on the bedroom door and comes in – naked of course, apart from his socks.

“He’s got a tenner in his hand and says to my lady friend, as he waves the tenner in the air: Oy Oy – Show us your tits.

“She says (as she flashes her tits): You can have this one for free.

“Malcolm turns on his heels and says: Oy Oy I’m off for a wank. Sublime.”

“It’s the wearing of the socks that makes that story,” I told John.

“There were wooden floors,” he explained, “so Malcolm didn’t want to get cold – He was always very practical about his masturbation.”

Candy Gigi at last night’s Pull The Other One

Cereal offender Candy Gigi – last night’s Pull The Other One

SIX

At last night’s Pull The Other One comedy club show in South East London, Martin Soan said to me: “I must tell you the story about Malcolm and the kangaroo.”

“Not another one,” I said.

“You haven’t heard this one,” said Martin.

“I meant Not another kangaroo,” I said.

Martin looked at me, ignored the comment, then told me The Greatest Show On Legs will be performing in Switzerland in December.

“Have you been there before?” I asked, as I know Martin hates flying.

“Yes,” he told me. “I drove there and, at the border, we were stopped and questioned by a very serious-looking Swiss Border Guard. I thought Oh Jesus, we’re in for trouble here! But what he told us was: You will have to wash the car before you can come into the country. They are very clean, the Swiss.

SEVEN

Clean but with an occasional taste for filthy things, Kate Copstick, legendary comedy reviewer for The Scotsman newspaper and a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge since they started, this week got an e-mail from comedy group Late Night Gimp Fight, drawing her attention to their scantily-clad video attempt on YouTube to curry favour with her. See it HERE

I can only dream of such honey traps and not involving other men.

Jon on the final Friday of the Emporium, Greenwich

Jon on final Friday at the Emporium, Greenwich

EIGHT

Yesterday was a sad day in South East London. The Emporium vintage clothes shop in Greenwich – which supplied Malcolm Hardee with many of his clothes – is closing tomorrow, though it will continue online.

Co-owner Jonathan Hale was arranging everything – the shop has been there for 27 years.

But Greenwich’s loss may be Hollywood’s gain, as Jon and partner Jacki Cook can now turn their attention more to their successful movie costume business.

Ricky Grover amid the glamour of South Mimms service station

Ricky Grover was originally to be on BBC TV’s Secret Killers

NINE

Good news, though, came in the form of a section of that chat I had with Ricky Grover a couple of days ago. It was in a section which I did not include in my previous blog.

I had read that he had been diagnosed with diabetes.

“There’s a two-hour BBC TV show coming on called Long Live Britain,” he told me. “It was originally called Secret Killers but they changed the title.

“They had three of us so-called celebrities.

“We done a couple of tests and it showed up that I had Type 2 diabetes and I had a bit of scarring (fibrosis) on me liver. But they’re reversible things. I’m not on any medication.”

“You don’t need injections for the diabetes?” I asked.

“No, that’s more Type One,” Ricky told me. “If you get anyone who’s middle-aged and overweight like me and you do tests… I’m only a little borderline over.”

“I had a BUPA test two years ago,” I told Ricky, “and they found I had the lungs of a 38-year-old. I had another BUPA test a couple of months ago and they said I had the lungs of a 39-year-old. The bad news is he wants them back. But enough about me.”

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