Tag Archives: Up The Creek

UK comedy – Three deaths and a birth

DEATH ONE

Time Out listings from 1986 featuring an even-younger-than-now Arthur Smith

Time Out listings in 1986 with an even-younger Arthur Smith

Last week, the UK listings magazine Time Out ended its Comedy Section. When British alternative comedy started in the mid-1980s, one reason it flourished was that Time Out allowed people who lived in one part of London to know that gigs were happening in various other parts of London.

Now, with the internet, comedy gigs can be found instantly, though not with short, objective descriptions in one easy-to-use single list.

DEATH TWO

This daily blog, which I hope has had a tendency to publicise the fringe and less-publicised comedy acts – interesting people doing interesting things. – will end as a daily blog on 31st December.

BIRTH ONE

Up The Creek with new bar to left and Lord Hood pub to right

Up The Creek with new bar to left and Lord Hood pub to right

Last night, I went to Up the Creek comedy club in Greenwich where they have opened an adjoining bar and cafe. Well, that is rather understating what they have done.

A long strip of Creek Road is being re-developed into multi-storey, up-market flats. The two brothers who own Up The Creek fought a long battle against the knocking-down of their building. The developers’ plan had been to buy and knock down the entire interior of the building, retaining only the frontage (which is ‘listed’ and cannot be knocked down).

Now the club has lost its back section, which used to be the bar area, and the developers are turning that part into town houses costing, I understand, £750,000 each. But Up The Creek – still under its old owners – has survived.

New bar and box office area opened last night

New Up the Creek bar and box office area opened last night

A new bar and cafe area has been added at ground floor level to the left of the existing building above which the developers are building (I think three storeys of) luxury flats.

Over the last three months, a new bar and cafe have been built in this new area, extending into what used to be the entrance area and box office of the old Up The Creek club. Inside, the stage has been moved, there are new stairs to a new upstairs bar etc etc etc.

Weathered look to the cafe Up the Creek

A weathered look to the cafe/bar, with ceiling still incomplete

The building’s interior is spectacularly successful in a low-key way (if such a thing can be possible) because the new cafe and interior look as though they have been there forever.

Old wood has been extensively used, the bricks have been ‘weathered’ to make them look even older and nothing looks ‘new’.

All this has been done over the last three months without closing the club at any time.

The new Up The Creek cafe and bar opened last night, although a few minor bits-and-pieces of detailing are still to be done.

DEATH THREE

Up The Creek was started by now-dead comic Malcolm Hardee. He originally owned 25% of the club. Three brothers (one has since died) owned the other 75%.

Last night, outside the doomed Lord hood pub

Last night, I stood outside the now doomed Lord Hood pub (Photograph by MEUNF)

Malcolm had a routine (especially for his Sunday night shows) in which he used to go into the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek, drink, then walk next door to the club and start the show.

Up The Creek was at risk of being knocked down but has now been saved.

But the Lord Hood is going to be knocked down in the continuing redevelopment of that strip of Creek Road. The pub closes on 31st December. There is talk that the developers may replace it with a gastro-pub, but that might be five years away.

CODA

Shiva Najaraja dances the Tandava

Shiva becomes Najaraja, The Lord of The Dance

I used to own a company called Shivadance Services.

It was named after The Dance of Shiva in Hindu mythology.

When Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, dances the Tandava – the Dance of Eternity – the world and everything in it is destroyed.

But, out of the thin vapours, life and matter are re-created.

When you create something, you destroy what existed there before.

When you destroy something, you are creating something new in its place.

So it goes.

Punters outside the new Up the Creek extension last night

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Spencer Jones: only a bit of a Herbert

Spencer Jones - not a toilet act, despite the signs

Spencer Jones, The Herbert – not a toilet act, despite the signs

“Your comedy character is called The Herbert,” I said to Spencer Jones.

“Well,” he told me, “I wanted to call him The Dickhead. Dickhead to me is quite a nice term: He’s a dickhead – I like him. It feels like a warm character to me. But Northerners told me it was too strong.

“So then I messed-around with all sorts of names – The Idiot… The Herbert.

“I settled on The Herbert – He’s a Herbert He’s really clever at one thing. But also Check out this Herbert: quite a London phrase for He’s a bit of a prat. And Herbert Spencer wrote theories on comedy. The name just seemed to fit well.”

“How did the character start?”

“About three years ago, I did a Doctor Brown course for five days and I was awful for the whole week. I loved it but I was awful. I was the worst. But I found it really interesting.”

“Why do a clown course?”

“I don’t know.”

“Because it was trendy?”

“It wasn’t trendy to me.”

“You were no good at it, but you loved it.”

“What I loved about it was realising the magic that goes on in the audience’s head. When you do a clown class with 30 people and they’ve each got to walk on stage within the group three times, you see 90 entrances. It’s a crucial moment when you walk out on stage. Every person in the audience makes up their mind about you in different ways.

Audiences make assumptions about acts

Audiences make assumptions about acts

“Someone walks on stage and you can think: Ooh. He looks like a builder. Or Ooh. He looks like he’s got issues. Or Ooh. He looks like he thinks he’s a dancer… All these little things. When you are doing stand-up in little clubs, it’s about how you walk on stage and your opening gag: the audience make their mind up about you.”

“So,” I suggested, “like most ‘silly’ acts, you are analytical.”

“I try to be. Maybe. A little bit.”

“What is the elevator pitch for your act?”

“Oh God. I don’t know.”

“When you decided to be a comedian, were you the Herbert immediately?”

“No. Before that, I was a stand-up for a little while. I’m a kind of private person, so I found it kind-of difficult to do good stand-up. Then I did sketch comedy: I put together a little troupe called Broken Biscuits. Then I did characters – builders, Foley artists…”

“Foley artists?”

“Foley Phil. I had seen Chris Luby at the Glastonbury Festival, doing marching sounds. My Phil Foley was a bit like him.”

“The cliché is that performers hide behind characters.”

“Definitely. Though there’s a little part of myself in there. The kid in me.”

“So, getting back to the elevator pitch again…”

“The Herbert is basically physical comedy and props. And some weird music. You know what, John? I really don’t know yet.”

“How long have you been doing it?”

“Three-and-a-bit years. I just take stuff on stage that I think will make people laugh. I never thought of myself as a physical comedian or wanted to be a prop comic, but I found something to take on stage and then something else and suddenly I had props. The key thing is to go on, smile, be nice and make sure I am the biggest prat in the room.”

“Did you study drama at university?”

“I didn’t go to university. My mum always used to encourage me when I sang and when I acted and, when bullies used to bully me, I fought back and she used to say: You’re doing the right thing. But the rest of it – school – she wasn’t bothered about that. I kind of fannied around until I was 30 and then I thought: I’ve got to stop being a dick. And now I’m a professional dickhead.”

“What had you been before you were 30?”

Spencer Jones, a man of many occupations & props

Spencer Jones, a man of many occupations & props

“All sorts, I’d worked in a pastie factory. I was a teaboy and then a producer for TV commercials. I worked for the council in West Ham and Plaistow.”

“As what?”

“It was called New Deal for Communities: I used to teach kids things like radio presenting. I’ve done lots of things. Bar manager. Wedding DJ. Wedding singer.”

“So why choose to go into comedy at 30?”

“I’d done a double act when I was 16 or 17 – three gigs and we got booed off stage on the third gig by all my friends. I wanted to entertain. When I was 18 or 19, I went to Malcolm Hardee’s club Up The Creek and saw some acts get absolutely annihilated and I didn’t have the balls to touch comedy again until I was 24.

“I used to play in a junk band – gas pipes, shopping trollies, kitchen sinks and we used to open the cabaret stage at the Glastonbury Festival for a few years.”

So there you have it.

Spencer Jones is the Herbert.

A surreal, absurdist physical comedy act with lots of props.

“The act is all mumbling,” he told me. “I’m trying to get it down to just mumbling and noises. The occasional well-chosen word.”

Spencer’s preparations for the Edinburgh Fringe

Spencer’s preparations for Edinburgh Fringe are going well

“Has your Edinburgh Fringe show next month got a theme?” I asked.

“It’s about my daughter being in hospital,” Spencer told me. “About having no money. Being skint.”

“Autobiograpical?” I asked.

“Absolutely. If you spend five days in hospital with a kid, as a clown, you’ve gotta start messing around with the equipment.”

“What was wrong with her?”

“Meningitis.”

“How old?”

“She’s four months old now. It was full-on for a month. You’ve got to perform what you know and what’s honest to you. I try to do silly stuff, but it always gets informed by what’s going on around me.”

“What’s next?”

“I dunno. I just want to carry on trying to make people laugh. Just pay the bills. I’ve go a roof that needs fixing. There’s a short film coming out called Showtime, directed by Anthony Dickenson who is a commercials director looking into longer narrative stuff. I play a bit of a cocky stand-up comedian who’s in a bit of a pickle. In the film, I am the Daily Mail Comedian of the Year.

“I’m an actor, really. One of the main reason I started doing comedy was I figured it was a good way to get acting jobs, because I saw it as a meritocracy where, if you’re a good comedian, you get work.”

I told Spencer: “You didn’t say: I ALSO act. You said: I’m an actor. Which implies you see yourself as an actor first.”

“Yes. I’m an actor, yeah. I do quite a few commercials. I’m the current face of Barclaycard. I like an easy life. I would love it if someone just gave me a script and I learn the lines, do the thing, go home and hang out with the missus and kids. That would be the easy life… But…”

There is a clip of The Herbert’s 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show on YouTube.

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Show celebrated 10th anniversary of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s death

A massed Balloon Dance last night

A massed Balloon Dance climaxed the UTC show last night

Malcolm Hardee, the godfather of British alternative comedy, drowned ten years ago – on 31st January – and I think his body was found three days later. I have a shit memory, I can’t remember exactly and I think it would be lacking in respect to him to check the actual facts.

Claire Hardee (extreme right) with her Can’t Can’t Girls

Clare Hardee (extreme right) danced with Can’t Can’t Girls

Anyway, let us assume it was three days later. That would have been 2nd February. So yesterday – 2nd February – was an appropriate night to have a tribute show in his honour at his old club Up The Creek in Greenwich.

All the usual suspects were there, including Malcolm’s sister Clare who reprised her always rousing version of the can-can with her Can’t-Can’t Girls… and Malcolm’s daughter Poppy, who has just returned from Sierra Leone without (she claimed) contracting ebola.

Unfortunately, last night’s show started with a failure.

Martin Soan attempts to piss on a member of the audience with help from Dan Lees

Martin Soan last night attempted to piss on a member of the audience with auditory water-based help from Dan Lees

Malcolm’s comedy mate Martin Soan (entirely naked, of course), attempted to urinate on a random member of the audience sitting in the front row. This had the effect of emptying the front row of everyone other than that lucky, plucky punter.

Alas, Martin was unable to summon up the piss, even when fellow performer Dan Lees attempted to help by pouring water from one pint glass into another next to Martin’s ear.

Hattie Hayridge and Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Hattie Hayridge & Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Fortunately, the rest of the show was successfully staged with bizarre acts too numerous to list and a final naked balloon dance by massed naked performers.

Oh, all right – Jayde Adams, Annie Bashford, Cheekykita, Candy Gigi, the Greatest Show on Legs, Liberty Hodes, Spencer Jones, Dan Lees, Darren Maskell, Joz Norris, Owen O’Neill, Nick Revell, John Robertson and Bob Slayer.

The show was hosted by the dead Malcolm himself – well, Terry Alderton in a wig and suit.

Terry Aldertin had a ball (well two) last night

Terry Alderton had a ball (well two) last night

It is quite easy to do a cartoon imitation of Malcolm – you just mumble and shamble a bit. But Terry succeeded in doing a masterly, spot-on impression. He managed to get in all of Malcolm’s gags (well, to be truthful, Malcolm didn’t have many), his asides, habits and physical tics. You could almost say it was an admirably subtle and successful impersonation. But ‘subtle’ is not a word to use in relation to anything Hardee-esque.

I congratulated Terry in the second interval.

“I’m trying to remember all the Malcolmisms,” he told me, “but the great thing is, if I repeat anything, it doesn’t matter, cos that’s what Malcolm did anyway.”

During the first interval in the show, performer Joz Norris – a man desperate to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe – accosted me upstairs, by Malcolm’s giant painted pastiche mural of Leonardo’s Last Supper (with Malcolm as Jesus and various other comics as his disciples).

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee whiile Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks sensible

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee while Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks unusually sensible backstage.

“You remember that idea I told you about at Christmas?” Joz started. “For winning a Cunning Stunt Award?”

“Of course I don’t remember,” I told him. “I have a shit memory.”

“I suggested,” said Joz, “that I just bribe you and give you some money in a briefcase.”

“It’s a good thought,” I told him.

“Maybe £50?” said Joz.

“You said a briefcase,” I carped.

“Well, just for the stunt,” said Joz, “but maybe only like £20.”

“I am going off the idea,” I told him.

“I could get a tiny, novelty, palm-sized briefcase and put a £5 note in it,” suggested Joz. “If we filmed me giving you a tiny briefcase with a £5 note in it, it would be funny. A worthy cunning stunt.”

2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Candy Gigi was quite restrained last night

2014 Malcolm Hardee main Award winner Candy Gigi performed a restrained act at Up The Creek last night

“Funny, but not a winner,” I said.

“The specifics of how much,” he suggested, “can be sorted out later. It’s the quality of the stunt itself that’s important, isn’t it?”

“Of course not,” I said. “It’s the quantity of the money and we decide after you give it to me if you’re going to win the award.”

“That’s a gamble,” said Joz. “But, then, I suppose a cunning stunt WOULD be a gamble.”

“It would be,” I said encouragingly. “We should try this out.”

Darren Maskell

Darren Maskell – instantly recognisable

“But imagine,” said Joz, “if I bribed you and then I didn’t win.”

“I am imagining that,” I told him.

“There’s a risk factor,” said Joz.

“Not for me,” I said.

“No,” agreed Joz. “You can’t lose.”

“Which is fair enough,” I said.

“You’re not obliged to give me anything,” said Joz.

“I like the way you think,” I told him.

“So,” said Joz, “I either come up with a way round that or accept the situation.”

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

“Acceptance is the way to go,” I told him. “Positive thinking is always a good attitude.”

“Accepting,” mused Joz, “ that you might end up with the money and I might end up poorer with no award.”

“There are always winners and losers in award shows,” I said.

“What sort of sum might make it work for me?” asked Joz.

“I think we are talking five figures,” I said. “That’s one more than The Beatles.”

“That’s £10,000,” said Joz. “Or more.”

“Or more,” I agreed. “Think positive. Or more.”

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

“I don’t have that kind of money,” said Joz, sadly.

“You can get it,” I told him.

“I certainly can’t get £10,000 together between now and Edinburgh.”

“You work with children,” I reminded him.

“It’s not as well-paid as you think,” said Joz.

“You can get a good price for children nowadays,” I told him.

“I’m not going to sell them!” said Joz.

Adam Taffler (right) with Joz Norris under the Last Supper mural

Adam Taffler (right) & Joz Norris under Last Supper mural

“Why not?” I asked. “You have to think outside the box to get a Cunning Stunt Award. Think of the publicity. The tabloids would love it.”

The organiser of last night’s extravaganza, showman Adam Taffler, told me (and I think he was being serious) that he may organise an annual 10th Anniversary of Malcolm’s Death show.

Obviously, each year, it would continue to be the 10th anniversary. Malcolm would have wanted it that way.

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Comics Malcolm Hardee & Martin Soan adrift in an era before the iPhone

MartinSoan_11jan2015

Martin Soan yesterday, with keys to comedy

Martin Soan owns an iPhone and has just replaced his old iMac computer with a new one….

So I was sitting in Martin Soan’s living room yesterday afternoon and he was talking to showman Adam Taffler about the line-up for their 2nd February show at Up The Creek in memory of the 10th anniversary of the death of Malcolm Hardee. Tempus fuckit.

Malcolm was never a great fan of technology. But he used to, in effect, manage Martin’s comedy act The Greatest Show on Legs. In those long-gone days, acts could lose bookings if someone phoned and there was no-one there to answer the phone.

We are talking, here, of an era when everyone had land lines and mobile phones had not yet been invented. This is the story Martin Soan told yesterday:


I told Malcolm: “There’s things I’ve heard about like answer machines.”

He said: “What’s that?”

I said: “They answer your phone for you.”.

“Fuck off!” he says in disbelief.

“I said: “No, no, no. It’s true. Let’s just buy you one, Malcolm, then we’ll know when people have called up.”

So we got this answering machine that cost us something like £120 – something ridiculously expensive. It had a tape cassette which Malcolm kept fucking-up.

Years later, Malcolm gets one of the first mobile phones and we go down to the West Country.

I ask him: “What did you get one of them for?”

“Well,” he said, “you got that answering machine. I’m just trying to get more bookings, so I got a mobile phone, didn’t I? Is there a signal yet?”

We are travelling to the West Country in a car.

I tell him: “No there’s no signal.”

And we travel and travel and it’s No signal. No signal. No signal. And I tell him: “These mobile phone things are ridiculous.”

And he says: “Mart, you’ll have one of these one day.”

And I tell him: “Fuck off! It’s useless!”

So we go on and on in the car and it’s No signal… No signal… No signal… and we’re going through all these little villages on the A303 or whatever.

Eventually, we come into this little village and I tell him: “There’s a bit of a signal here, Malcolm, bit of a signal.” And he pulls up the car:

“Give us the phone!” he says. “Give us the phone!”

And he grabs this mobile phone with its huge aerial and he stands in the middle of this little village trying to get a signal on it…

… and he’s standing next to a telephone box.

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Malcolm Hardee, (deceased) patron sinner of British alternative comics

Malcolm Hardee, man of the River Thames, had contacts (photograph by Vincent Lewis)

(Photograph by Vincent Lewis)

– R.I.P. MALCOLM HARDEE
GODFATHER OF ALTERNATIVE COMEDY
BORN 65 YEARS AGO TODAY
DROWNED 10 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH
(5th January 1950 – 31st January 2005)


Time Out, London:
“One of the great characters in the comedy business… Promoter, comedian, loveable and, at times, exasperating rogue Malcolm Hardee played a huge part in putting what was once known as alternative comedy on the cultural map. … his scams, scrapes and escapades will be talked about for years to come.”

The Scotsman:
“Notoriously outrageous and a prize prankster…a genuine original. His career was anything but straightforward but he had, with reason, been dubbed the irreverent godfather of alternative comedy. Hardee delighted in scandal.”

BBC News Online:
“Hardee became a comedian after being jailed a number of times for crimes such as cheque fraud, burglary and escaping custody. In the introduction to the book he wrote with John Fleming, Sit-Down Comedy, he said: There are only two things you can do when you come out of prison and you want immediate employment. You can either be a minicab driver or you can go into show business.”

The Times:
“Shamelessly anarchic comedian. A journalist once said of Malcolm Hardee that: To say he has no shame is to drastically exaggerate the amount of shame he has… Throughout his life he maintained a fearlessness and an indifference to consequences that was both a wonder and a liability. His comedy career seemed, to many, to be conducted purely for the hell of it… A kind, garrulous man without a drop of malice, Hardee nevertheless had a boyish ebullience that upset the faint-hearted.”

Daily Telegraph:
”One of the founding fathers of the alternative comedy scene… a former jail-bird, stand-up comedian and impresario instrumental in launching the careers of the likes of Paul Merton, Jo Brand, Vic Reeves, Harry Enfield and Jerry Sadowitz. A Hardee performance usually involved the flourishing of genitalia and was not for the fainthearted. He was famous as part of The Greatest Show on Legs, a three-man act in which he performed a ‘balloon dance’ stark naked except for a pair of socks and Eric Morecambe specs, a steadily dwindling bunch of balloons usually failing to preserve his modesty… Hardee’s most notable contribution to comedy was as godfather to a generation of comic talent in the 1980s, as proprietor and compère of the indescribably seedy Tunnel Club, near Blackwall Tunnel, and later of Up the Creek at Greenwich, venues at which fledgling comedians could pit their wits against some of the most boisterous heckling on the circuit.”

Chortle.co.uk:
“The most colourful figure of alternative comedy. He used to do a unique impression of Charles De Gaulle, using his penis as the nose. He was a much-loved regular at both Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Festivals. On one occasion he daubed his genitals with fluorescent paint and performed a bizarre juggling act. Another year he wrote his own glowing review for The Scotsman, posing as critic William Cook, and they published it. He had a unique approach to hecklers – urinating on them on more than one occasion – but encouraging them when it came to new open mic comics he was introducing.”

The Guardian:
“Patron sinner of alternative comedy, renowned for his outrageous stunts… Hardee also had a sharp eye for comic talent. He managed Jerry Sadowitz, helped to nurture the careers of rising stars like Harry Enfield, and encouraged Jo Brand (a former girlfriend) to go on stage. He also worked as a tour manager for his friend and neighbour Jools Holland.”

The Independent:
“The greatest influence on British comedy over the last 25 years (piece written in 2005)… a Gandalf of the dark alchemy of the publicity stunt. He was a maverick and a risk-taker. As anyone who ever saw him perform will know – he had balls.”

The Stage:
“A larger than life character whose ribald behaviour and risqué pranks were legendary… He was well known for outrageous behaviour, sometimes urinating on hecklers…. He wrote his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake with John Fleming in 1996 – the title came from the incident in 1986 when Hardee pinched the cake from the Queen singer’s 40th birthday celebrations and gave it to a nearby retirement home.”

London Evening Standard:
“One of the most anarchic figures of his era… Hardee enjoyed some mainstream success in The Comic Strip movies alongside Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson and had a bit part in Blackadder, but lacked the dedication to be a star. Instead he relished a cultural limbo between jack-of-all-trades and renaissance man. An Edinburgh Fringe Award in his name would be a fitting memorial.”

___________________________________

THE ANNUAL INCREASINGLY PRESTIGIOUS
MALCOLM HARDEE COMEDY AWARDS
WILL BE PRESENTED ON FRIDAY 28th AUGUST 2015,
IN THE BALLROOM OF THE COUNTING HOUSE, EDINBURGH,
DURING A 2-HOUR VARIETY SHOW AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE
AS PART OF THE LAUGHING HORSE FREE FESTIVAL.

FREE ENTRY.

CONTRIBUTIONS WELCOME ON EXIT.
AS ALWAYS, 100% OF ALL DONATIONS RECEIVED
WILL GO TO THE MAMA BIASHARA CHARITY

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Life on the periphery of the godfather of alternative comedy Malcolm Hardee

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in Up The Creek office

Malcolm in the office at Up The Creek (note torn shoulder) (Photograph by M-E-U-F)

It is a Sunday today.

Now-dead Malcolm Hardee used to stage his comedy shows at his Up The Creek club on a Sunday. That was, of course, before he was dead.

There was one Sunday, fourteen years ago, in October 2000.

I went to Up The Creek to see Johnny Vegas perform.

Malcolm’s estranged wife Jane was there, looking very happy and younger, with all her teenage children. Just before the show started, Malcolm came in with his (female) friend Xxxx – whom I had not seen for years.

In the interval, I said hello to Malcolm who took me aside in the bar to tell me that present in the club were FMH the Former Mrs Hardee (Jane), FMH the Future Mrs Hardee, TMH the Temporary Mrs Hardee and OMH the one-time Mrs Hardee.

It transpired that a woman with a rather masculine face looking like Sixties softcore porn star Fiona Richmond was the object of his lust and they intended to spend the night together if they could get round the problem that FMH the Former Mrs Hardee was there.

I went to chat to Xxxx.

“I haven’t seen you for years,” I said.

“I just got out of the loony bin,” she explained.

It transpired she had actually come out two or three years ago, was living in a flat opposite Up The Creek found for her by the hospital but seldom went out. Malcolm had tried to get her a job with the three Brothers who owned Up The Creek, but one vetoed the idea saying: “She’s mad”.

There was some incident involving her setting fire to Malcolm’s tie, which I did not fully understand. She told me she always associated me with a performing snake. I could only think this was connected with an excellent act I had liked when Malcolm and I worked together at Noel Gay Television. The act was called Dolores & The Snake but did not involve any snake.

Johnny Vegas at a tribute gig after Malcolm died

Johnny Vegas at a tribute gig to Malcolm Hardee in 2006

Johnny Vegas, with no apparent script, did a roughly 90 minute act simply talking at various members of the audience and ending, shirt off, his ample figure bouncing, arm-wrestling a member of the audience on stage – He won.

Martin Potter, the sound man at Up The Creek, played Fat Boy Slim’s Funk Soul Brother full volume. Johnny danced to it, stomach and rolls of fat bouncing, and the audience rose, roaring in applause.

Afterwards, I talked to comedian Boothby Graffoe, Malcolm’s current flatmate, who said he (Boothby) was keeping a diary. I said this was a good idea because, over time, you forget details.

“Not with Malcolm,” Boothby said, “Everything’s vividly engrained in your mind.”

Boothby had not heard until this week that female ventriloquist Terri Rogers had died the previous year. He remembered staying with her, Malcolm, Charlie Chuck and another performer at the Edinburgh Fringe and, each night, the other performer would return with a new way of killing Terri, whom he vehemently disliked.

This surprised me, as she/he had always seemed very amiable. I say she/he because it was uncertain if Terri had, at one time, been a man. Or not.

After she died, it turned out she/he had been. A man. Before she became a woman. Her name had been Ivan Southgate.

There is a video on YouTube of Terri Rogers paying tribute to Malcolm for a long-forgotten one-off TV show I produced for Noel Gay/BSB called Malcolm Hardee: 25 Years in Showbusiness.

Terri Rogers (left) pays tribute to Malcolm Hardee

Terri Rogers (left) recording a tribute for Malcolm Hardee: 25 Years in Showbusiness in 1990.

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A comedy night in 1998 with Malcolm Hardee, Phil Nichol – not about Islam

Up The Creek comedy club in 2009

Up The Creek comedy club – still running in 2009

I had no blog ready today.

My eternally-un-named friend suggested I should post one about the origins of Shia and Sunni Islam.

Instead of that, here is an old diary entry about a visit to Malcolm Hardee’s Up The Creek comedy club in South East London – on Sunday 4th October 1998.


A very small audience of about 50. Terrible start with a non-comedian and would-be surrealist who might go down well at retro-Sixties rock festivals to an audience of heavily-stoned revellers but who went down to total silence at Up The Creek.

In the second half, the show perked up with an extraordinary Open Spot from a man who strode the stage talking about Jesus, revealed a picture of a white stallion on an easel and a picture of a hedgehog which he said was “the people of Kosovo” – in the largely Albanian-populated Serbian province currently being attacked by Serbian forces. The act was screamed-at and yelled-at but not forced off the stage.

Phil Nichol (left) in Corky & The Juice Pigs in the 1990s

Phil Nichol (left) in Corky & The Juice Pigs in the 1990s

This was followed by Canadian (in fact, he was born in Scotland) comic Phil Nichol (of Corky & The Juice Pigs), whose act soared from good to brilliant as he ad-libbed and played off members of the audience. In particular, he spotted a drunken man who had tried a slight, amiable heckle and whom he decided to call Boris the Russian.

Phil Nichol in a recent performance

Phil Nichol in a more recent performance

He kept playing off this guy who eventually moved in embarrassment to another seat. Further into the act, Boris, drunkenly got up on stage without invitation and Nichol very bravely and – as it turned out – very sensibly kept him on, getting him to perform Elvis impressions while still retaining control of the act.

Boris could barely stand and was wobbling on his feet. On a yell from someone in the audience of “Do the Full Monty!” – taken up enthusiastically by the rest of the audience – he did a drunken attempt at a seductive lowering of the trousers, mooned, turned and then pulled them up again. Immensely funny.

Nichols eventually encored, had Malcolm up on stage playing his Blues harmonica and was able to ad-lib apparently genuinely made-up songs when Malcolm unexpectedly stopped and held the microphone to Nichols. An extraordinary example of someone at the peak of their abilities.

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