Tag Archives: Trooping the Colour

What was heard and was not heard at comic Chris Luby’s funeral yesterday

Chris Luby R.I.P

Chris Luby R.I.P

I was asked to speak at comedian Chris Luby’s funeral yesterday.

Chris was… umm… an audio comic. He created sound effects with his mouth…. The Trooping The Colour ceremony… Aerial combat in the Battle of Britain, including the sound of Spitfires scrambling on the ground and an aerial battle with German bombers… Formula 1 motor races.

It was an interesting funeral service. While it was happening, there was the faint sound of bagpipes far in the distance outside – despite the fact the service took place in highly-built-up Brockley in South East London. At the climax of the service, there was the sound of an aeroplane flying overhead. And, during a reading by his brother, the brother’s mobile telephone rang – he could not find where the phone was for about 15 seconds and it kept ringing as he searched for it.

If I were of a less cynical disposition, I might have thought Chris was still lurking and larking about.

The theoretical duration of my speech was unknown until it happened – modern crematoria are a conveyor belt of farewells – so I wrote a 4-minute one assuming it might end up having to be cut to 2 minutes. The vicar had started looking at the clock by the time he got to me, so I cut the speech back to maybe 90 seconds on the day. This is the full 4-minute version:

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I’ve been asked to say something about what Chris was like as a comedy performer.

Usually, when you are a comedy performer, it is a bad thing to finish your act to complete silence and no laughter. But I saw this happen to Chris twice.

What happened was that he finished doing his act and the audience just stared at him in silence for about three seconds – which is a long time. But then there was a sudden eruption of clapping, cheers and whoops.

They had just been stunned into silence and could barely believe what they’d just seen – and heard.

And that’s what Chris did – he stunned people.

When news of his death got around, there was a Twitter exchange between the comedians Robin Ince and Omid Djalili.

Robin tweeted – “If comedians don’t make it onto TV or radio then, once they’re gone, that’s it.”

Omid replied – “Chris Luby has done no TV (that’s not actually true) but lives in my mind more vividly than most. But that’s not comedy” – Omid said – “It’s heroic lunacy.”

Apparently Chris was not a man to go on long car journeys with because, at every turn, you would get the sound of a Spitfire banking or diving as if it were attacking a Messerschmitt and every time you changed gear he would add in loud and slightly terrifying sound effects.

But, whenever people tell me of long car journeys with Chris and their urge to throttle him, they – oddly – tell it in a very warm-hearted way. They found it oddly endearing.

Arthur Smith told me:

“Chris was, as you know, incorrigible – I used to pay him a tenner on car journeys to shut up for ten minutes and then torture him by saying: I wish I knew what a Sopwith Camel sounded like…. But he always managed the ten minutes, at which point he would explode into an aerial bombardment… He was not entirely of this world” – Arthur Smith said – “and I hope he’s enjoying the molecules in the stars.”

Comedian Adam Wide said his favourite visual image was…

“when we were organising a treasure hunt for a computer firm all over the village of Beaulieu, Chris was dressed as a RAF pilot (with a sound system) standing at a bus-stop doing his full Battle of Britain routine while apparently waiting for a Spitfire to arrive at the bus stop.”

When Chris died, the actors’ trade union Equity Tweeted:

“We’re sorry to hear of the death of Chris Luby. His one-man Battle of Britain was a thing to behold.”

Indeed it was.

Like Chris. Once seen. Never forgotten.

I also got a message from a man called John Hawes. He said:

“I was 13 years old when I met Chris Luby. He was a cadet and I was treated to the first of many of Chris’s famous shows.

“That was in 1979.

“I haven’t seen him in 25 years and it brings a tear to my eye knowing he has been entertaining people over the years and to read the wonderful stories of Chris and his adventures. He was a special man and will be missed.”

I think he affected a lot of people like that.

I know Chris’s sound effects were unforgettable. But my main memory of Chris, oddly. is not the sounds he made but his eyes. His eyes always seemed to be sparkling. They were very bright and sparkly. And that’s bright in every sense. They lit up and he WAS bright. Very intelligent. And I guess very sensitive.

I always think that, if you die and just one person cries, you have done something right in your life. You have not lived in vain. And, I think when people heard Chris had died there were a good few tears being shed.

The other side of that is that I suspect there will be a lot of laughter in heaven tonight. The angels, quite frankly, are going to be pissing themselves over Trooping the Colour.

I don’t know what angels laughing sounds like. But I used to know a man who could have done a realistic impression of what they sound like. And I’m very sad he’s not still here to do that or to do the sound of the RAF fly-past he so richly deserves.

Rest in Peace, Chris – though it will probably be interrupted by the sound of the Queen reviewing Trooping The Colour.

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When comedian Malcolm Hardee died in 2005, Chris Luby spoke or, rather, made noises in his honour. He performed the sound of a flypast by an RAF jet. Here is a 53 second audio extract from that 2005 funeral service which is just as much of a tribute to Chris Luby himself.

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A funny thing happened at comedian Malcolm Hardee’s birthday show in January 1999

The comedian Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005. His birthday was on 5th January. Every year at his Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich, he used to put on a show and post-show party on the nearest Sunday to 5th January.  This is an extract from my 1999 diary…

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SUNDAY 3rd JANUARY 1999

In the evening, I went to Malcolm Hardee’s birthday show and party.

Before the show started, we were in the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek and, for some reason, I asked him: “Who are those people sitting over there?”

He nodded at one of the group: “That’s the stripper I used to go out with.”

She was a middle-aged woman.

“She hasn’t done it for a while,” he added.

Malcolm started his show by saying lots of people in the audience had seen him so many times he was just going to tell the set-up for each of his jokes and they could complete the punch-line… Which they did.

There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe
She had so many children…

…Her cunt fell off.

What goes in-out, in-out, in-out and smells of piss?…

…The Queen Mother doing the Hokey Cokey.

And so on.

The first act on was Chris Luby, performing his traditional imitations of Trooping The Colour and wartime spitfires with his mouth. Apparently, on Malcolm’s Christmas Eve show, Chris’ act had gone badly and, in the middle of his Battle of Britain impression, a heckler had yelled out: “Do a glider!”

Tonight’s acts also included The Bastard Son of Tommy Cooper who did a couple of sword-swallowing routines I hadn’t seen before. He bent a wire coat-hanger flat, put it down his throat as normal – his head bent back to let the metal go down his throat in a straight line – and then he brought his head 90 degrees forward to its normal position and pulled out the bent coat-hanger. He also put a red neon strip light down his throat while the house lights were dimmed and we could see his throat illuminated through the thin skin.

Charlie Chuck performed as only Charlie Chuck can. A drum kit was destroyed. Then someone I didn’t recognise came on and imitated Malcolm as host and, after Boothby Graffoe performed, the stand-in came on again and impersonated Malcolm hosting the show.

Where is Malcolm? I wondered.

So I went to the bar and it turned out he had collapsed by the toilets. I met his mother who said she had thought he was dead: his face had been grey and they had almost called an ambulance. Both she and I were surprised because he hadn’t really been drunk earlier. And, as I had seen him paralytically drunk a few months ago, I was especially surprised.

Malcolm told me: “I just went straight down – unconscious. I think someone spiked my drink.”

When he returned to the stage to continue the show, he still didn’t seem particularly drunk either, so maybe someone did indeed spike his drink.

He took it in his stride – as he takes any unique, bizarre event – as if it’s a perfectly normal thing to happen.

If they built a Malcolm Hardee theme park it would be in the style of Magritte and/or Salvador Dali.

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POSTSCRIPTS

This year’s annual Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy will be presented during a special two-hour tribute show at the Edinburgh Fringe – starting at 10.00pm on the evening of Friday 26th August 2011.

There is a Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society group on Facebook.

Malcolm’s friend Deke is holding his annual remembrance celebration of Malcolm this Sunday (9th January 2011) from 7.00pm at the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek in Greenwich. The event will include a screening of The Tunnel the award-nominated short film about Malcolm’s notorious comedy club The Tunnel Palladium. Deke’s e-mail is dekedecore@hotmail.com

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