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Chris Dangerfield: Odd BBC3 Welsh Sex Tourist gig – 3 views of it over 3 days

Trevor Lock preparing for a top comedy gig
(photograph by Chris Dangerfield)

I wrote a couple of blogs last week, based on a chat I had with comedian Chris Dangerfield – a former heroin addict who, at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, managed to get addicted to prescription drugs in vast quantities.

On Friday, he performed his Edinburgh Fringe show in Swansea. The show is about him being a sex tourist in Thailand.

In Edinburgh, it had been sponsored by an escort service.

“I’m going to a detox centre this weekend,” he told me last week, “because now I can’t sort this out on my own any more. So I’m in real trouble… I can’t control the drugs. Give me a week’s worth of narcotics and tell me to Taper yourself down and I will eat them all that night.”

In Swansea, Richard Griffiths (who had never put on a comedy gig before) had booked Chris Dangerfield and Trevor Lock for a part-charity gig at the Cwmfelin Steelworks Welfare and Social Club. “Usually,” Chris told me ominously, “they have bingo on… but this week they have my Sex Tourist show.”

So, after the Swansea gig on Friday night, I asked Chris how it had gone.

“It was a packed house in the backwaters of Swansea,” he told me. “A good proportion of the crowd decided to talk throughout. Trevor did quite well through the talking. I headlined and realised again that my particular brand of comedy doesn’t lend itself to non-comedy audience charity gigs. I ploughed through, like wading through shit in a suit of armour. Now I’m exhausted, looking forward Sunday when I’ll be in rehab which, right now, is where I belong.”

On Saturday, I asked Trevor Lock how he thought the gig had gone.

“It went rather strangely John,” he told me.

“I’m not sure I’ve done a gig like it before. Many people in the audience had come to see a charity gig to raise money for a two-year-old girl to go to the US to have an operation to help her walk. But a very small group of highly-vocal middle-aged men had come to see Chris talk about being a sex tourist in Thailand and were singing his name like a football chant.

“The BBC were filming it because the promoter of the event works at a call centre which BBC3 are making a documentary about and the whole call centre had been bought tickets to the show by their boss – so it also had an element of a Christmas office party about it.

“To my untrained eye, the whole thing seemed to be taking place in the early 1970s but actually it was the Cwmfelin Social Club, a rabbit warren of bingo rooms and bars, over-lit like a public library.

“It was not a unified audience – Different groups had come to see different things. It was extraordinary to watch people’s faces as Chris pretty much did his Sex Tourist routine to some people who had come to see him do just that AND to some people who had come to a charity comedy night to raise money for a little girl.

“Towards the end of Chris’s stint one woman, who was celebrating her birthday, approached me at the side of the stage and said: How much can I pay you to make him stop?

“A fair few people got up and left by the table-load, unable to stomach it. Others who stayed forgot they didn’t like it and found themselves laughing. Many just ignored what was happening on stage and just carried on with their Friday night but many also seemed to be only waiting for Chris to stop so they could start singing his name again.

“It was a lot of fun and a slice of life I’m not used to seeing. And personally I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

On Sunday, after Chris had gone into the detox centre, Richard Griffiths – the man who had organised the gig – told me what he thought.

“It was an experience, John,” he told me.

Had he been worried about Chris’ mental well-being because of his drug problem?

“That’s why I hired him,” Richard told me. “Though, until I heard he and Trevor were actually on the train to Swansea on Friday, I thought I might have AWOL comics on my hands.

“The night itself was a hoot, though hard work for Chris and Trevor. It had a bit of a Works’ Do vibe… Everyone involved had a good time… Chris and Trevor are special lads with special needs… Neither made my daughters’ beds when they left and all they left behind was a packet of Space Invaders… No note… But I love them both…

“BBC3 were filming it as part of a programme they are making about the call centre I work in, so that made it all the trippier. We raised about £2,000 for a charity and made about £450 each ourselves… defying the recession.”

So that sounds like a success, then.

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How to get publicity and become an award-winning comedian. With sex.

Chris Dangerfield – award winning comedian

I arranged to meet Chris Dangerfield yesterday on a street corner in Soho, London’s central sex district.

It was his idea and it seemed appropriate for a man who performed his Sex Tourist show at the recent Edinburgh Fringe and who almost won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for getting his flyers sponsored by an Edinburgh ‘escort agency’ – punters got 10% off the agency’s ‘services’ if they produced one of Chris’ Sex Tourist flyers.

We went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Soho. Chris knows the people who own it. He lives in Soho. We had prawn salad. The restaurant owner told us someone from the prestigious and very up-market Ivy restaurant had come and asked for the recipe to the seriously delicious prawn salad and they had given the person the recipe, but missed out one vital ingredient.

Chris told me: “My brother’s name is Torren. He was named after the Torrey Canyon oil tanker, which ran aground in 1967. My parents were going to call me Cadiz – after the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker which ran aground in 1978. But the surname Dangerfield is a Romany name and they didn’t call me Cadiz because they decided ‘Cadiz Dangerfield’ would be too gypsy. So they called me Christopher. I think I would have been better off with Cadiz.

“Having lost the Cunning Stunt to a higher bidder this year,” Chris continued, “obviously I am very very bitter. I should’ve known to just stump up some cash. I’ll find some way of paying for it next year.”

“But almost everyone can say they’re an award winner,” I suggested. “When I was eleven, I won an award for handwriting. In 2010, Fringe Report gave me an award as ‘Best Awards Founder’ – so I got an award for awarding awards.”

“Well,” said Chris, “I got the 1989 Downs Comprehensive School Prize for Painting and Drawing.”

“So you’re an award-winner,” I said. “and therefore you can justifiably put on your posters and flyers that you are an award-winning comedian. I won a school prize for handwriting, so even more justifiably, I could bill myself as an award-winning writer. In fact, I may well start doing that.”

“I self-published a novel when I was 24,” revealed Chris, “and i-D magazine – cool in its day – referred to it as ‘genius’… They said This slight volume’s genius warms…

“What was the novel called?” I asked.

Tired etc,” shrugged Chris. “It was a rubbish novel about a couple of blokes who grew a lot of skunk and took a lot of speed. Autobiographical obviously. It was a vanity project, but it sold a lot and got a lovely review. i-D called it ‘genius’ so I have sometimes put on posters for my comedy gigs ‘Genius (i-D)’ because I think I am, really. Essentially.”

“You know the Jason Wood story, do you?” I asked. “Kate Copstick gave his Edinburgh Fringe show a one-star review in The Scotsman so, the next day, on all his posters, he had emblazoned ‘A STAR (The Scotsman)’. Copstick told me she was filled with admiration and wanted to give him extra stars just for that.”

Chris laughed. “This year,” he said, “Marie Claire magazine did Ten Top Tips to get the most out of the Fringe written by someone called Anna Saunders and, just in passing, she said I will not be attending Chris Dangerfield’s show ‘Sex Tourist’. That was it. That was all she said. But I actually thanked her for that. I said In your how-to-get-thin-and-fuck-men rag… I don’t really want any of those people in my show anyway. I offered to do Sex Tourist in her front room for free. She hasn’t got back to me.”

“Good publicity idea,” I said.

“But I would do the show in her front room,” insisted Chris. “I toured with Trevor Lock last year, performing in living rooms. We done 45 paid shows in people’s front rooms. It was the most amazing tour. We were doing two a week. We done Sadie Frost’s living room, which was bigger than a lot of venues I’ve done. We also done three women in Bath.”

“Did you advertise for people who wanted comedy shows in their living rooms?” I asked.

“Well,” explained Chris, “Trevor had a slightly bigger profile than I had – he just put it on Facebook and Twitter and, when we got booked by Sadie Frost, Kate Moss came so there was a bit of publicity around that and Boy George booked us, so that helped.

“There was one couple who lived in a house that used to belong to Madonna or Guy Ritchie up in Lancaster Gate and they were very, very posh so it was funny telling them whore stories. Halfway through my set, one woman very quietly said: You should be in a cage. Which was alright. That was fine. She’s probably right.

“We spent so long in people’s toilets on that tour,” said Chris. “Because there’s no Green Room in people’s houses. So, while they’re all shuffling chairs round in their front room and drinking vodka, where do you prepare? In the toilet. I have a selection of photographs of Trevor in people’s toilets and he’s always having a poo. Pre-match nerves from Trevor. I’ve actually had a pee between his legs while he had a poo. It was a tour of living rooms where our relationship blossomed in toilets. We were cottaging, essentially.”

“You told me Trevor Lock had been one of your comedy heroes,” I said.

“I don’t like to do that Who inspired you? business, but Doug Stanhope is up there, who I also stalk. He occasionally asks if he can stay in my lovely Soho flat when he’s performing at Leicester Square. I tell him No, because I don’t want you puking in my hand-made shoes.

“But Trevor was a comedy hero of mine. We ended up at a gig together and I was just blown away. I absolutely was. I think he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. A friend of mine used to work with Paul Foot and told me I’ve got that Trevor Lock’s phone number so I said Well, do the wrong thing and give it to me so he did.

“I remember I came out of this Chinese massage shop – and, by massage shop, I mean brothel – and I had a spring in my step and I texted Trevor. I was in such a good mood I said: You don’t know me, but I’ve been watching a lot of your gigs and I’ve just had my balls milked by a Chinese woman and what seemed to be her daughter.

“And he texted back… I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was a fear-based response. He had constructed a sentence in which he obviously wished in no way to provoke or encourage me to contact him ever again.

“Then I saw him at a couple of more gigs and let him know that was me who had sent the text.”

“So at what point after you became chums,” I asked, “did he realise that his first fear-based reaction towards you had actually been the correct one?”

“Every time we get together to this day.” said Chris. “But he helped turn me from an open mic comedian into someone who felt he could offer a bit more. He just taught me how to be a comedian.”

“And you ended up last year playing rich people’s living rooms together,” I said.

“Not all of them were rich,” Chris corrected me. “Some people who booked us were students who’d sold tickets. So we’d go from these lovely posh houses in Lancaster Gate and Primrose Hill one day to a house the next day in Southampton where we’d be performing in some students’ kitchen which, as everyone knows, is always an unpleasant place and you’ve got a smelly bin next to you and a sink full of beer cans. It was an amazing tour.”

“I’m amazed you didn’t get the Cunning Stunt Award,” I said.

“For so many things,” said Chris with a trace of bitterness.

“A career award, maybe?” I suggested.

“I’m going to be like that bloke who left The Beatles,” said Chris.

“Stuart Sutcliffe?” I suggested.

“Pete Best,” said Chris. “Stuart Sutcliffe died. Well, I will die too.”

“As a career move?” I asked.

“Dying?” asked Chris. “No, as a Cunning Stunt. Some people with heart attacks came close to getting nominated this year, didn’t they?”

“Yes they did,” I agreed.

“Every day in my Fringe show,” Chris told me, “about 36 minutes in, after a particularly violent re-enactment of something lustful and unholy, I thought I was going to die. Every day. Actual pains in my heart. So I nearly did die.”

“Perhaps it was God trying to strike you down for your lifestyle,” I suggested.

“There’s always next year,” said Chris.

“Dying young-ish is a good career move,” I said. “The Jim Morrison factor.”

“But he didn’t die on stage,” said Chris. “Now, Tommy Cooper…”

“Yes,” I said, “Tommy Cooper out-shone Eric Morecambe in death. In life, Eric was a bigger star. But he only died offstage in the wings after he had performed a show. Tommy Cooper had a better death because he died on stage on live television.”

“So what are my options?” asked Chris. “One died on stage. One died coming off stage. So all that’s left is to walk on stage and die immediately.”

“I’m sure you’ve done that before,” I said.

Chris laughed

It seems a churlish way to end a blog.

But Chris said I should do it.

Honest.

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Edinburgh Fringe: culture, crowds and bodily fluids plus British eccentricity

Bob Boyton at Scots book launch

After I eventually prised myself out of the clutches of sleep yesterday morning (I refer you to my previous blog), I ended up at the Scottish book launch of former stand-up comedian Bob Boyton’s novel Bomber Jackson Does Some, an extraordinary piece of work about which I’ve blogged before.

“I hope that one of the things I’ve covered in this book,” said Bob, “is the experience of being skint, which is often not reflected in literary fiction, although it’s almost always reflected in crime fiction. I think if there was a genre called ‘social realism’ any more, that’s probably where I’d place this book.”

I had no sooner left the cultural oasis of the Word Power Books shop, than I got brought back to earth with a bang by news from comedian Chris Dangerfield, whose Sex Tourist show is sponsored by a local Edinburgh escort agency.

A man fainted at the very thought of Chris Dangerfield’s show

“A man fainted halfway through my gig last night,” he told me, “just as I said This next bit is a tad gross – the joke being that the whole show had been a bit bleak up to that point. The story I almost told is actually about ‘a multiple bodily fluids accident’ but I had not even got into the details when this punter spasmed a little and fell off his chair. Commotion ensued, I quickly got help and he was revived with lots of fanning and lying down, which took about five minutes. He was then taken off and I continued with my show, making a point of getting everyone to agree what a rude and insensitive thing it was for him to do during my fantastic show, which still ended very well.

The queue for Chris Dangerfield’s comedy show at The Hive

“I’ve been turning people away every night due to too many people,” Chris continued.

Normally, I would treat any comedian telling me that with a gigantic pinch of salt, but I had seen his queues the previous day.

“I’ve had more than one management/agent,” Chris claimed, “ask me to recommend their paid shows at the end of my free show. I wonder if they would do the same for me?”

Phil Kay’s show, unbilled in the Fringe Programme, got ’em in

Chris Dangerfield’s show is on at the Hive, which is also where Phil Kay’s unbilled show has been running (it finished last night).

I failed to get in to see the show on its penultimate night, because it was so crowded by the time I arrived. Even Bob Slayer failed to get into the room that night – and he was staging the show!

“I rammed people in standing,” Bob told me, “then managed to sell four more tickets to sit in the sound booth. I called them ‘box seats’ and charged double.”

As for Bob’s own show Bob Slayer – He’s a Very Naughty Boy – well, he is not the sort of man who keeps to a pre-prepared script. So it came as no surprise when he told me: “I managed to get halfway through it today – the furthest I’ve managed by a long shot. Tomorrow I am going to start at the point I finished off today, as it’s an especially good bit.”

Ever the consummate professional, he added: “I am giddy with drink. Next week the real fun starts, though. Shall we burn down things?”

In Tim’s audience last night was Nicholas Parsons

Then I was off to see Tim FitzHigham’s Pleasance show Stop The Pigeon which, I guess, falls halfway between culture and anarchic English eccentricity. In his introduction, Tim said: “Other people just do shows. I get an idea and follow it through with the relentless commitment of a cartoon character.”

That pretty much sums him up.

You cannot not like Tim’s enthusiasm. His show is a romp and his facts near impossible to believe, even though they are all true. This year, it was about another unlikely adventurous bet he took on, this one involving pigeons, a very large cannon and a trampoline. But he also managed to admirably mention in passing the sadly-no-longer-with-us 18th century Farting Club of Cripplegate “whose avowed intention was to meet up once a week to poison the local atmosphere and, with their noisy crepitations, attempt to out-fart one another.

“But ask yourself who,” said Tim, “would want to live in the building next door to the Farting Club of Cripplegate? Let me tell you – this is true – the No Nose Club for gentlemen who had lost their noses in an heroical fashion.”

Tim, father to be, surprised by NHS

After the show, Tim told me he is to become a father again in October and he knows it will be a boy despite the fact the NHS is now barred from telling potential parents the sex of their future child.

“Well, that’s the explanation they gave to me, anyway,” said Tim. “The story goes that some woman – allegedly in Chelsea – was told the sex of her unborn child and decorated the nursery in either blue or pink – she spent an absolute fortune – and it turned out to be the wrong one so she sued the hospital for the cost of the nursery. As a result, the NHS are not allowed to tell you the sex of your unborn baby but, when they hovered the thing over my wife, my future son waved his dangly bits to the camera. So we do know.”

Tim was a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee last year and now (no connection, alas) has an up-coming ten-part TV series for CBBC.

“It’s tramsmitted in January,” he told me. “It’s called Superhumans and I fly all over the world meeting people with biological or genetic quirks which mean they can do extraordinarily weird stuff that the rest of us can’t do.

“So, for example, I flew to Iceland to meet a man who can withstand extreme cold. For some reason he is able to consciously control the hypothalamus in his brain.

“The hypothalamus regulates core body temperature and he can literally tell his core body temperature to go up and no-one’s quite sure how he’s doing it. So I challenged him to three challenges to try and prove how superhuman he is – or not. Because, if I can beat him, then the implication is he’s faking it.”

“Does this come under the heading of science?” I asked.

“It comes under the heading of a lot of fun,” said Tim.

And so does Tim.

When I woke up this morning, there was an e-mail from Bob Slayer sent at 3.03am. It simply said:

“Phil Kay was last seen in the Jazz Bar, killing time before his 5.00am flight back to civilisation, juggling chairs.”

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Unusual Edinburgh Fringe sponsorship deals for comedy coming your way soon

Bob Slayer – a comedian often plastered

This August at the Edinburgh Fringe, hard-drinking comedian Bob Slayer is running his Alternative Fringe venue The Hive in co-operation with the Free Festival.

It is going to be a complicated festival.

But Bob has got what I thought (for him) was the ultimate sponsorship deal – the Scottish Borders Brewery is sponsoring his venue for a six-figure sum in a five-year deal. (and supplying beer).

At least… I thought this was the ultimate piece of Fringe sponsorship…

Sex Tourist – coming with discount deals

…until Bob told me that Chris Dangerfield’s show Sex Tourist – also performing at The Hive – has gone one better and got sponsorship from an ‘escort’ agency called Escorts in Edinburgh.

According to Chris Dangerfield’s blurb: “I went to Thailand for a seven-week sex holiday. It didn’t go according to plan. Whores, drugs, guns, anal issues, ladyboys, occasional crying.”

In a legal quirk, according to Bob, “Chris Dangerfield can offer, via his sponsoring escort agency, discount deals on ‘escorts’ to publicise his show. That is perfectly legal in Edinburgh. But, due to the tight Scottish licensing laws, I cannot offer discounts on the lovely (already cheap) Scottish Borders beer which will be sold at The Hive.”

This, though, may not be the end of the odd sponsorship deals in Edinburgh this year.

Bob tells me that, at the weekend, he had news from Australia.

The Dark Room – could be bound to please

The basis of John Robertson’s show The Dark Room is… “You are trapped in a dark room. You must escape. Interactive and loud, this is the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure game… Get ready for pain, intrepid cretin!”

Bob tells me: “John sent me an e-mail saying he may have found a sponsor for his show – a bondage gear supplier!”

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