Two of the few joys in the ongoing Cowgatehead saga in Edinburgh have been videos put online by Stu Turner.
I talked to him yesterday at Soho Theatre in London.
His first video was a new parody of the Hitler-in-the-bunker scene from the movie Downfall. It appeared online the day after the Cowgatehead shenanigans blew up.
The second video – a parody of the front cover of the new Edinburgh Fringe Programme – appeared only about half a day after my copy appeared in the post direct from the Fringe Office. That is an impressively-quick turnaround.
“It’s such a shame I’ve got sod all to promote off the back of these videos,” Stu told me yesterday. “I have no show at the Fringe. I’m just going to be up there for a week doing open spots.”
“So why do the videos?” I asked.
“Just for fun,” he told me. “I just fancied doing the videos for a laugh. I had the Hitler video at home, just sitting waiting for something suitable and, when Cowgatehead kicked off, I thought: Perfect!”
“You are only doing open spots in Edinburgh?” I asked. “Why? Remind me who you’ve worked with.”
“In a former life,” said Stu, “I was part of a double act called Magic Incorporated and I’ve worked with Bob Monkhouse at the Lakeside club in Frimley Green and appeared on TV with Des O’Connor many moons ago on his awful talent show Pots of Gold on primetime ITV.
“The acts all got 30 seconds. For weeks and weeks, we rehearsed one of our big illusions, which normally took several minutes, down to 30 seconds and then we were told we couldn’t do it: Oh no: you’ve got to walk up and do a quick visual gag. You can’t do an illusion. We were a magic act! So we did a quick visual gag and the person who won played the piano. We were quite cross. We were not allowed to do an illusion because it had to be a visual gag, but this person could play the piano! We weren’t happy.”
“Was the magic act you and a lovely assistant?” I asked.
“We were a male double act. We did mainly comedy.”
“So why are you doing open spots in Edinburgh?” I asked.
“I’m sort-of starting again. The double act was quite a while ago – some years ago. We almost went full-time pro. We did a bit of TV. We did shows round the country and it got quite big. We had girls – dancers, assistants – on bigger shows. We did illusions, magic, juggling unicycling, fire-eating, all sorts of stuff. We did it for a few years and it just kind of petered-out after a while. Stopped it. I got a day job.
“So I had a few years’ break, but I missed performing, got back into it three or four years ago and have sort of got back into it as a solo stand-up act and it’s very different. Rather than touring with illusions and big stuff, it’s now just me and a bag of props. Back then we were doing cabaret and theatre and big stuff; now it’s all comedy clubs. Very different to back then.
“You have to start again. You can’t go round saying: I worked with Bob Monkhouse. At the moment, I’m doing open spots on pro nights, headlining smaller nights – doing half hour closing spots on some of the smaller out-of-town clubs. There’s no rush. I’m enjoying it. Doing it for fun and working towards an hour-long show at some point. Because of the magic background, instead of just comedy clubs, I can do cabaret, theatre, burlesque, the whole range of…”
“Burlesque shows?” I asked.
“Yes. They have a variety of acts.”
“Being a magician is almost a vocation,” I said.
“It was never serious,” said Stu. “I always did it with a comedy angle. I never did the cards and the doves and the rabbits. We once almost set fire to the studio on Bob Says Opportunity Knocks.”
“This is what the public wants,” I said.
“We had,” explained Stu, “a trick which involved a box which ‘accidentally’ caught fire. We would put the fire out and produce whatever out of the box. But, for Bob Monkhouse, we thought: Let’s make this a big one… So on went the lighter fluid, a bit more, a bit more, bit more. The box catches fire. We try to put it out and the lighter fluid goes everywhere.
“They had just put down an expensive new studio floor and the burning lighter fluid went all round the studio floor. Luckily, they thought it was part of the act. Everyone laughed. Almost a nasty disaster. We didn’t get through.”
“What is next on the video front?” I asked. “You have done two. Rule of Three. You have to do another one.”
“I think I need to do a video after the Fringe,” said Stu. “I’m going up the middle week. I need to see how it pans out.”
The Downfall Cowgatehead parody which Stu made is on YouTube.
This week’s Edinburgh Fringe cover parody is also on YouTube.
The original, rather over-arty poem on the front of the real Edinburgh Fringe Programme reads:
This may contain material that may shock or offend,
it’s not a stunt or some attempt at a trend.
There are no rules only exceptions,
and exceptional acts challenging perceptions.
Stand-ups standing up for what they believe,
uppercuts to the upper classes, quick jabs at the masses.
Shows without boundaries or even a stage,
crossing lines, becoming headlines on the front page.
The audience can become the cast of a show,
basking unexpectedly below a spotlight’s glow.
A song may have no words or even no rhythm,
nothing is certain, nothing’s a given.
Here anything goes, anything can happen,
the greatest show on earth, entertainment heaven,
the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, defying the norm since 1947.
Stu Turner’s parody words are arguably an improvement and even more realistic:
This may contain humour that may shock or may jar,
it’s not a stunt or some attempt at PR.
There is no compromise only pure frustration,
& pissed off acts challenging no concession.
Stand-ups standing up for what they booked,
spending a fortune to attend, and now they are fooked.
Shows without venues, rooms, or even a stage,
broken promises becoming headlines, they’re all full of rage.
The audience cannot find the advertised show,
seeking unexpectedly when the venue says no.
A show may have no room nor any address,
nothing is certain, it’s all a complete mess.
Here nothing’s allowed, nothing can happen,
the greatest fool on earth, entertainment hell.
The PBH Free Fringe, being totally draconian since, well…