Tag Archives: The Short Man With Long Socks

In London soon: a little-seen Saxon comedian with a chicken on his head

Martin Soan, master maker of stage genitalia

Martin Soan – long stalked a Saxon comedian

I was in bed all of yesterday, trying to throw off the remnants of a cold which had turned my voice into a rivett-rivetting impression of a frog.

The only real interruption to my sleep was a Skype video call from comic Martin Soan, who was wondering if I was going to his Pull The Other One comedy club show in Nunhead on 29th January.

Wild hoarseness would not stop me, because it is my first chance to see live The Short Man In Long Socks – I always thought he was called The Short Man With Long Socks, but I stand – or, given my cold, lie – corrected. I presume it is a variable translation from his actual German stage name: Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken.

Martin tells me it is Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken’s first live UK appearance. I think I may have seen him back in the 1980s when London Weekend Television’s Entertainment Dept had a tape with video excerpts of Vier gegen Willi a German peaktime TV show which was co-presented by a hamster. I think LWT was considering doing a British TV version but might have been put off by the fear of complaints by animal lovers. In Germany, they had to have multiple Willi doppelgängers on standby because the eponymous hamster tended to die under the hot studio lights.

There is currently a clip of Vier gegen Willi on YouTube, though the star rodent does not appear until 26 mins 16 secs into the clip.

Martin told me yesterday: “I first saw Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken 15 years ago in Leipzig, at Jim Whiting’s club Bimbo Town – the best club I’ve ever been to. It’s full of automata, installations, art, music and performance and is what us Londoners call ‘immersive’ – everything is out of this world and challenging. It’s a funfair of surreal proportions in a disused factory and it is VAST… Jim is a magnetic force and artists of all descriptions gravitate to him. Some aren’t even artists but genius just the same.

“Anyway one such act featured that night I went to Bimbo Town was Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken, I really, really was impressed, It was the most pointless and ridiculous act I have ever seen, but one of the best. There are three sections to the routine. Him getting ready to ‘go out’… Him ready to go out… And then him out. That doesn’t really explain his act, but… “

“I seem to remember,” I told Martin, “that, in Vier gegen Willi, he had a live chicken on his head.”

...a chicken...

…a chicken…

“Oh yes,” said Martin. “I forgot about that.”

“Is he possibly,” I suggested, “ever-so slightly bonkers?”

“Depends how you define it,” said Martin. “When I met him, he didn’t think any of it was mad at all. I had the feeling it was maybe a little cathartic for him.”

“Why cathartic?” I asked.

“No idea, “replied Martin. “He told me he very rarely did the act.”

“Possibly,” I suggested, “because of a lack of willing or well-balanced chickens.”

“It was just a thing he felt he had to do,” Martin explained.

“And they say,” I mused, “that Germans have no sense of humour…”

“He is fiercely not German,” Martin told me. “He is very definite that he is a Saxon not a German. Apparently he earns a very good living as an optician in Plagwitz (a suburb of Leipzig). He told me Saxons love designer glasses. He invited me around to his flat for kuchen (cake). We got on really well and he showed me his etchings. Very dark, they were – the subjects. Lots of eagles and women wearing horns. Angst is a good word isn’t it?”

“I do,” I agreed, “always enjoy hearing it said out loud.”

Too poster - Phil Kay

Kay fan: Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken

“When I was back in England,” Martin continued, “I contacted him regularly to try and entice him over. I have actually booked him three times and three times he has cancelled and I got resigned to never getting him over for the club. But he’s making it on the 29th of this month because there is some opticians’ convention in London and because Phil Kay is on the bill at Pull The Other One. He has seen Phil Kay perform abroad and he’s a big fan. So he wants to perform with him.”

“Who else is on the bill?” I asked.

“Darren Walsh and a nun.”

“I’m not going to ask,” I told Martin. “Some things are best left to the imagination.”

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Terry Wogan, James Bond, Superman and The Short Man With Long Socks

Terry Wogan and Jo Burke

Terry Wogan and performer Jo Burke at yesterday’s launch

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the book launch for Terry Wogan’s first novel Those Were the Days.

In passing, he mentioned that, at one point, he had been considered for the part of James Bond. But producer Cubby Broccoli thought his ears were too big and chose Roger Moore instead.

I took this as a joke, but one never can tell.

Terry Wogan novel

Terry Wogan’s first novel – autobiographical?

I seem to remember that movie producers the Salkinds seriously considered the younger Salkind’s wife’s dentist for the role of Superman and screen-tested him at least twice.

Yesterday evening, I went to see the Comedy International Showcase at the Pleasance in Islington. Full of interesting acts and not just on stage.

In the audience, I bumped into The Short Man With Long Socks, who had come specifically to see the always excellent Men in Coats. I half expected to find a whole row of clothes-related acts.

Men in Coats

Men in Coats were seen by The Short Man With Long Socks

I have never seen The Short Man With Long Socks perform – few people in the UK have. I have only heard of his act by repute from the late Malcolm Hardee and Martin Soan (both non-clothes-related acts) who talked about him in an October 2013 blog.

“Are you doing any London shows at some point?” I asked The Short Man With Long Socks.

“Well,” he said. “I… Well…”

Short Man with Long Socks

This appeared in my cyber In-Box this morning

“Could you send me a picture of you performing?” I asked.

“Well,” he said. “Well…”

“Here’s my e-mail,” I said.

“Well…” he said.

I thought: Well, I’ll never hear from him again… and don’t try talking to mime acts.

But, this morning, I got an e-mail picture of a sock.

Well, it’s a start.

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Comic Red Bastard and the KGB man who wants my Facebook Friends list

I would quite like to die on another planet.

As a way to go, it beats dying in the gloomy upstairs bedroom of a nursing home in Clacton-on-Sea, which is where I sat and watched my father die.

A step too far for the Evening Standard?

Is it rocket science to build pages with links?

So, two days ago, I lightheartedly tried to enter a London Evening Standard contest to win a trip into space. Well, OK, ‘trip’ might be a bit of an exaggeration. It seems the return flight takes 30 minutes overall but the time spent actually outside the earth’s atmosphere is only 4 minutes.

Still, if I want to die on another planet, it’s a start. One small step for a man…

The first problem I had was that the link to the Evening Standard’s competition’s page didn’t exist. Clicking the link just brought you back to the page you were already viewing. It took about a day to rectify this. Obviously creating a working weblink was a step too far in rocket science for the Evening Standard.

When the page was up and firing on all cylinders, I ploughed through the application form only to be told at the very very end of the process that I had to agree the Evening Standard could access my entire Facebook Friends list. Why? The only possible reason I could think of was that they wanted to spam the (at the time of writing) 4,854 people on my Friends list. And I would be responsible for that.

When I queried this, the Evening Standard Reader Offers department replied:

Will the Evening Standard’s explanation fly?

Maybe London Evening Standard’s explanation is groundless?

“Hi! The message you refer to is actually letting you know that the system we use to run the promotion will be able to access your friends list, which will allow you to share the promotion should you wish to. However we will not access or use that information for anything, so none of your friends will be effected (sic) because you have entered.”

Apart from my nagging worry that the Evening Standard people can’t spell ‘affected’, why would they need to have access to my Friends list in order to allow me to send a link for the Evening Standard’s offers page to any or all of my Facebook Friends? If I copied and pasted the web address into a message and posted it on my Facebook page, would that link somehow mysteriously not work unless the Evening Standard had on its computers each and every person on my list?

It is enough to make you paranoid.

I mean, it is surreal enough that the London Evening Standard (like the Independent newspaper) is now owned by an ex-KGB officer. Is this a case of old habits dying hard?

Not a woman in a burkha

Not a woman in a burka

Shortly afterwards, I went out to Holborn in central London and there I saw (I presume it was) a woman dressed in full burka standing next to a Post Office pillar box. It was like something out of a Magritte painting or an imagining of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels.

A medium-sized red-painted pillar with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could post letters beside which stood a medium-sized pillar of black cotton with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could see a pair of eyes staring out at me.

This oddness was not topped until a few hours later when I saw Red Bastard perform in the East End of London, strangely just round the corner from Vallance Road, where gangsters the Kray Twins used to live – and from the Repton Boxing Club where they… well… boxed as and with young men.

The showman Adam Taffler last night

Showman Adam Taffler celebrated last night

The Red Bastard event was staged by showman Adam Taffler aka Adam Oliver who had managed to successfully promote this off-West-End show at short notice so effectively that the original single show and single workshop by Red Bastard had been upped to two shows and three workshops. (The second show is tonight.)

The show last night seemed to have attracted whatever the collective noun is for a wide collection of some of the most cutting edge, potentially not-far-from-breakthrough acts in London including Holly Burn, Adam Larter, Lizzy Mace, Real McGuffin Dan March, Darren Maskell and Lindsay Sharman not to mention half of Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s new clown workshop.

Bob Slayer’s underpants were sponsored last night

Bob Slayer’s underpants were sponsored last night

One unexpected yet somehow not unexpected sight of the evening was comedian/promoter Bob Slayer acting as barman – obviously, occasionally without his trousers so he could display the underpants supplied by his Edinburgh Fringe sponsors Bawbags, purveyors of fine Scottish undergarments.

Bob’s presence was partly explained by the fact that, on 20th October, he and Adam are jointly promoting Malcolm Hardee Award winning Adrienne Truscott’s one-off show at the nearby Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

Who is Red Bastard; what is he?

Red Bastard – the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee

I saw Red Bastard at the Edinburgh Fringe – he was a nominee for the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality – and several people have asked me what he does.

I have never been able to find words with which to tell them.

Much like The Short Man With Long Socks, the act is uncategorisable.

That is, after all, a sign of true originality.

If you could include it in a single existing category – comedy, mime, therapy, actor training, psychology, performance art, voyeurism, drama, audience involvement – it would not be truly original. Perhaps the Red Bastard show is best described with that unfathomable 1960s word – an Event.

You cannot describe it; you have to experience it.

Please do.

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