A couple of days ago, I mentioned going to see a screening of The Tunnel documentary about the late Malcolm Hardee’s legendary comedy club. The screening was followed by a comedy show which included the wonderful Tiernan Douieb who remembered, when he was (even) younger performing at Malcolm’s Wibbley Wobbley floating pub.
“I didn’t have any jokes,” Tiernan told the audience this week.
“I sort-of knew who Malcolm was and I was quite nervous. I turned up and he was very nice to me. He asked my name. I said Tiernan Douieb and he asked how to pronounce it and he wrote it down, made sure he got it all right and he explained how the evening was going to go. I was going to be on first and it all seemed lovely until the gig started.
“There were only about eight people there. Five of them were tattooed skinhead builders on a break and the others were teenagers who had snuck on the boat somehow. Malcolm walked on and went:
“This is a new act night. It’s either gonna be good or it’s gonna be shit and, to be honest, it’ll probably all be shit. Anyway, now here’s some cunt whose name I can’t pronounce…
“And I walked on to that. I lasted two minutes, then all the builders started singing – it’s not even a song, but – When the fuck are you goin’ home? When the fuck are you singin’ the song? – They knew all the words and sang in unison, so I very quickly left and all I could hear behind me was Henning Wehn walk on and all of them Sieg Heil! at him because he’s a German.”
Yesterday, I chatted to comedian Matt Price about being threatened by gangsters and getting a stab vest through the post. The blog may well appear tomorrow. But, inevitably, Matt too had a Malcolm Hardee story.
“I met Malcolm years ago,” Matt told me, “when he was running Up The Creek in Greenwich. I was just starting and I didn’t really know what was going on but he said: You’ll be alright. I’ll sort you out.
“He decided to introduce the acts in order of size and he introduced me with the fairly standard He might be good. He might be shit. All the way from over there, that big bloke.
“I walked out, did my thing, got about two minutes in and a guy who used to be a street performer mime artist in Covent Garden shouted out: Why don’t you kill yourself! I thought it was a bit ironic I was getting heckled by a mime artist.
“It might have been 12 years ago and my West Country accent was quite thick then, so I’m stood on stage in Greenwich with a blinding light and I can only see the outline of the hostility and, in my thick Cornish brogue, I hear myself saying: You Cockney bastards!
“But I stood my ground and managed to walk off to shouts of Taxi! – Malcolm! – Please, please, Malcolm! – and then he walks out on stage and says: He was alright, wasn’t he? He was alright. Nah, nah. OK. He was shit.
“And that was it. That was the end of my Open Mic appearance at Up The Creek and my one-and-only Malcolm Hardee memory. It’s easy to get all dewy-eyed about it, but…”
“Jewy-eyed?” I asked. “I think that’s Lewis Schaffer’s new show.”
“I love Lewis Schaffer,” said Matt. “I was on his radio show recently.
“I remember when he came to Cardiff years ago. They’d seen him before and he was saying: Lewis Schaffer does this thing and Lewis Schaffer was walking down the street… and my friend said: Oh! It’s Lewis Schaffer! Let’s play the Lewis Schaffer drinking game!
“You’ve got to drink two fingers of your beer every time he says the words Lewis Schaffer. He did a 25-minute set and, halfway through, I was well on my way to being hammered because he had said Lewis Schaffer so many times.
“I said to him the other day: You know, you’re like a cross between Johnny Vegas and Jackie Mason.
“Oh! I like that! he said. Ya gotta Tweet that, Matt! Ya gotta Tweet that about me! Ya think so? Am I more Vegas than Mason? Am I more Vegas? Is that good or bad? What an extraordinary man.
“The last time I saw him, there were 40 people in the room – There are only 40 of you! he said. The room’s too big! Have you got no friends?
“They were roaring with laughter for the first ten minutes – the funniest thing ever – then he offended someone and this couple got up and walked out, but he managed to talk them back into the room and then he sat down on this guy’s lap and said: Look, should I do the Holocaust material or not? and the couple got up and walked out again.
“It was brilliant.
“At the Edinburgh Fringe, Lewis Schaffer is like the comedy equivalent of Arthur’s Seat. You have to see it and do it and it hurts a bit but you go along anyway and you get a view of something spectacular. You think God! That’s how comedy should be!”