Tag Archives: Vivienne

Comedy news: Martin Soan is a fool; Viv Soan in court; Matt Roper mugged

BBC photo of Martin at the fool show

BBC photo of Martin the fool, but he is no fool on payment.

After my ongoing jury service yesterday, I went to the Pull The Other One comedy club run by Vivienne and Martin Soan only to find out that Vivienne has also been called up to do jury service next month.

Perhaps the court system was in awe of her husband Martin who, last weekend, was crowned “official fool” at the annual International Jesters’ Tournament at Muncaster Castle in the Lake District and who receives an annual salary in beer. (Martin is clearly no fool.)

Miss Behave showed her class last night

Miss Behave was showing her class last night

Last night, Pull The Other One had an even more extraordinarily varied bill than normal with the utterly brilliant Men In Coats doing their visual gagathon, the surreal Cheekykita doing whatever it was she was doing (that’s a compliment), Mr Susie getting bigger laughs than most comics by simply holding up one-word gags on cards and close harmony trio Totes Awes strutting their thing.

Topping the bill were Owen O’Neill and Miss Behave, the latter of whom confirmed, much to my relief, that she is hosting the increasingly prestigious annual Malcolm Hardee Awards at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, as well as staging her own Game Show and helping Bob Slayer run the new Bob’s Bookshop venue.

Owen O’Neill needed no redemtion

Owen O’Neill needed no redemption last night

I suspect the hottest show on the Fringe, though, will be The Shawshank Redemption which Owen adapted for the stage and which will star a cast including Omid Djalili, Phil Nichol and Ian Lavender (of Dad’s Army).

Throughout yesterday (when not in court) I was having a staggered e-conversation with comedian Matt Roper. It went along these edited lines:

Me: The last time my blog readers heard of you, you were in a wheelchair in Saigon… then you were getting wet in Burma and ultrasound scanned in a Bangkok hospital. So, for the sake of any future eBook readers if nothing else, what happened with the deep vein thrombosis you had?

Matt: It’s gone. Now we just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Drugs, drugs, drugs. (dribble).

Me: You mean by taking drugs in the future?

Matt: Yes, of course. To keep me from getting a recurring deep vein thrombosis. I don’t do drink, drugs or anything these days. Tucked up in bed at 11.00pm wearing my compression socks, sipping a glass of water. Thirty-six and waiting for God. My pee is so clean I could drink it.

Me: Too much information. What happened about the calcification in your flesh which they found in Bangkok?

Matt: Harmless, they now tell me.

Me: Where did you go and what did you do betwixt Bangkok and Blighty?

Mcleod Ganj in the Himalayas

Mcleod Ganj in the Himalayas – storms & mugging monkeys

Matt: Went to India… Delhi, then a train journey up to the foothills of the Himalayas and the town of McLeod Ganj. It’s an old British settlement given to the Tibetan community-in-exile when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959. Lovely place. I like being up by the mountains. We had some terrific storms. McLeod Ganj nestles about 5,000 feet above sea level. You have large eagles swooping down in the valleys BENEATH you and snowcapped peaks above. Magic. No bizarre people involved, but I did nearly get mugged by a monkey – all for a bag of samosas.

Me: Where are you at the moment?

Matt: I’m out the back of a pub in south London on the set of a short comedy film I’m making with Charlie Henniker and Susan Husband called Knock Knock. Then tomorrow (Saturday) I fly to Cape Town for the comedy festival there. As Wilfredo.

Me: What part are you playing in the film?

Matt: Ironically, a drinker in a pub.

Me: You had to cancel your own Edinburgh Fringe show because of your medical problems earlier in the year. Are you popping up to the Fringe at all in August?

Matt: I hope so…

Matt Roper in his Parkinson’s Disease teeshirt

Matt Roper in his Parkinson’s Disease teeshirt

Me: And are you going to do a show sooner or later about your worldwide exploits and medical mayhem?

Matt: Yes!

Me: Have you got any photos that cover the answers to any of the above?

Matt: No. But I have got one of me wearing a t-shirt to support (the American comic) Rick Shapiro in his Parkinson’s awareness campaign. But Rick Shapiro is another blog entirely…

Me: Yes it is.

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Comedian Malcolm Hardee’s legendary escapades: the real truth remembered…

Piratical comedian Malcolm Hardee (photograph by Vincent Lewis)

The legendary comedian Malcolm Hardee, man of mistake (photograph by Vincent Lewis)

Tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of the death of comedian Malcolm Hardee – he drowned in a dock in London’s Rotherhithe in 2005.

When he died, Time Out wrote that he was “one of the great characters in the comedy business…his scams, scrapes and escapades will be talked about for years to come.” And they have been. The many stories about him have become legendary, sometimes confused and embellished upon. As the saying goes When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

In his many newspaper obituaries and since then, many stories were re-hashed from his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cakewhich I wrote with him. So I know that a few of these re-hashed true stories, even though they were taken from an original, first-hand source, were mangled and embellished upon in the re-telling. And now, because the embellished versions were printed in reputable newspapers, they have become fact. History is whatever is written down.

Malcolm was part of Martin Soan’s Greatest Show on Legs troupe. Martin and his wife Vivienne Soan knew Malcolm well and one or both of them were around when many of the stories actually happened. I was round at their home a few days ago and Martin was telling me the full ‘Service Station’ story which does not appear in Malcolm’s autobiography. I had heard the story before – first from Malcolm – but never in detail before.

Martin Soan in his living room this week

Martin Soan in his living room this week

It all happened after a comedy gig at Cheltenham Town Hall when The Greatest Show on Legs – Malcolm Hardee, Martin Soan and Steve Bowditch – were travelling back to London in Malcolm’s dodgy car of the time… a second-hand London black taxi cab with a noisy engine.

“So we left the gig in Cheltenham,” Martin told me. “It was a taxi, so the back half was a sectioned-off compartment for the passengers. Malcolm was driving, Bowditch was in the front with Malcolm… and I was lying down in the back, trying to get some sleep.

“After a roundabout on an ‘A’ road just before Oxford, we pulled in to a small service station. I got up and said to Malcolm: I’m going for a piss, which I did – in a building separated from the main building. Meanwhile, Malcolm got out, filled the cab up with diesel, paid for it and I heard the throb of the taxi starting up.

“I thought, No… and it did flash through my mind… all those times that we threatened to leave each other at motorway services… I’d left my jacket, my money, everything in the taxi cab… and then I heard it move off.”

“This was in the day before mobile phones?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin, “There were mobile phones. Malcolm had his very first mobile phone. But I didn’t have one.

“When Malcolm and Steve shot off, I was running after them, waving my arms in the air. Then I heard them going round the roundabout and I saw Malcolm’s face only about a metre from me as I waved my arms. I was shouting Malcolm! Malcolm! Malcolm!, but he didn’t see or hear me.

“I couldn’t believe it. They shot off. I was in a shirt and it was mid-winter, around one o’clock in the morning. So I went back into the Services – it was just one of these small A-road ones – and said Is there a phone? Is there a phone!

“I got on the phone, rang Malcolm’s mobile and he told me later it had rung, but the battery went dead. So I rang up Vivienne, explained what had happened and she said Oh God-God-God-God! So then I was cold and I didn’t know what to do, so I started hitching.

“Later, Vivienne told me she was sitting at home (in Nunhead/Peckham in South East London) when the taxi cab pulled up outside our house. Malcolm got out of the cab, opened the back door and realised I wasn’t in there. Apparently he said to Steve in a calm voice: Martin’s not there.

“So Malcolm closed the door and Vivienne presumed he was going to knock on the door and say: We haven’t got Martin. But he gets back into the taxi and starts shooting off. Vivienne then runs downstairs and runs along the road after the cab shouting Stop! Stop! Stop! – This is now about three o’clock in the morning.

“She said: Where’s Martin?

“Malcolm mumbled: Dunno.

“Coincidentally, at this point, I ring up our house’s landline, Vivienne hears it, rushes back in and I say I’m cold! I’m cold! I’m very cold! How am I going to get back to London? and she says It’s alright, I’ve got Malcolm here.

“I’d got no money, no coat; I was just in my shirt and trousers. And Malcolm says on the phone to me: It’s alright. I won’t charge you for half the petrol.

“He was speaking to me from inside my house, where I should have been!

“I got home about 9.00am or 9.30am in the morning. I got to Oxford Circus in the West End, then walked home to Peckham.”

At this point, Martin’s wife Vivienne came into the room where we were talking and realised which Malcolm incident we had been talking about.

“I always thought,” I said to her, “that they’d driven maybe ten minutes down the road, realised Martin wasn’t there in the cab, turned round and gone back to collect him. I didn’t realise he’d had to make his own way home.”

“I heard the taxi pull up outside the house,” Vivienne told me. “I saw Malcolm open the taxi’s door, so I came downstairs to open the front door of our house for Martin and left the door on the latch for him, then went back upstairs and, through the window, saw the taxi drive off and thought Where’s Martin? I went downstairs again. Nothing. Nobody. Malcolm had just driven off.”

“No,” said Martin, “I remember I spoke to Malcolm when he was inside the house.”

“I think he just went off,” said Vivienne.

“Oh no,” said Martin. “Is this me inventing part of a Malcolm story? Jesus!”

“I don’t,” said Vivienne, “I don’t think he even bothered to…”

“But he did turn up here,” interrupted Malcolm.

“He did turn up here,” confirmed Vivienne. “He thought you were in the back of the taxi.”

“But,” said Martin, “I talked to Malcolm on the phone in this house. On my life. I could not write a punchline like that. He said, It’s alright. I won’t charge you for half the petrol. That’s what Malcolm said to me.”

“Wow!” said Vivienne. “All I remember is that you weren’t in the taxi. How did we get you home? Because Malcolm didn’t go back.”

“I got myself back by hitching,” said Martin.

“You were picked up by a maniac,” remembered Vivienne.

Long ago, in a place far, far away…

Long ago, in a place far, far away…

“Yes,” said Martin. “He was going so fast. He was coming back to London from Wales and he was tired and had been drinking. He was driving so fast like a lunatic and drifting off, dozing off, that I was actually holding the wheel for him as we were overtaking lorries. I was thinking At this rate, I’ll overtake Malcolm! He dropped me off at the start of a slip road onto the M25 motorway.

“And the top act at Cheltenham Town Hall that night had been?” Martin asked me.

“Jo Brand,” I guessed.

“Lee Evans,” said Martin.

“When he was a relative unknown?” I asked.

“No, it wasn’t Lee Evans, actually,” said Martin, correcting himself. “No, it definitely wasn’t Lee Evans because, the time we did Lee Evans, he gave us a lift there, so,” he laughed, “It was probably us!”

Even with vivid, ‘unforgettable’ stories, people do forget and, over time, memories differ.

I can barely – and often don’t – remember what I did yesterday.

In this story, it is only a final detail that is uncertain. The agreed near-unbelievable story itself is true. But with Malcolm Hardee, even more than most, the rule-of-thumb should always be: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

It is what Malcolm would have wanted.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Nostalgia

Wannabe policeman is illegally ripping off London comedy show posters

(This piece also appeared in the Huffington Post)

The bike, after the attack by the representative of The Law

The bike, after the attack by the representative of ‘The Law’

In joke-telling, there is ‘The Rule of Three’.

Sometimes, this spills over into real life and overlaps with the saying ‘It never rains but it pours’.

In my blog three days ago, I mentioned that comedian Martin Soan had broken a rib in a bicycle accident and that a comedian who double-booked himself for two simultaneous shows had caused problems for Martin’s Pull The Other One comedy club in January.

In the last year, Pull The Other one has featured top comedy acts like Omid Djalili, Stewart Lee and Arthur Smith.

On Friday, as an end-of-year thankyou to locals, Pull The Other One staged a free comedy show in Nunhead, Peckham. As normal, Martin and Vivienne Soan publicised it widely locally – as they have done for over five years – with flyers and posters. Some of the posters were on bicycles which were ridden round the area.

The show was a success – despite what appear to be illegal actions by a local wanna policeman.

To save money on paying the police, England and Wales are now blessed with cheaper “Community Support Officers” to back-up the ‘real’ police. I suspect (with no evidence, m’lud) that these are often wanna policemen and wannabe policewomen with over-developed superiority complexes.

“It seems we now have a special constable,” Martin Soan told me yesterday, “who has taken it upon himself to tear down our posters and most disturbingly rip them off our bikes… I’m not sure that’s within his powers or even if it’s legal.”

I would have thought it was most definitely not legal. This guardian of ‘The Law’ appears to have decided to remove a piece of private property attached to a private vehicle without the owner’s permission which I would think, in legal terms, must be pure vandalism and damaging private property – perhaps even theft.

“This bloke,” says Martin, “rides around on a bike with a ‘Comunity Warden’ sticker on it…. Am I within my rights to rip that off?… Or deface a Sainsbury’s lorry?… Or paint over shop signs?… He also told me that he would remove my bike if I put a poster on it again.”

The offensive poster for free comedy show

The offensive poster for a free comedy show

Martin’s wife Vivienne, who co-runs Pull The Other One, says: “The community policeman has systematically taken down all our publicity, telling us that we are making money from free advertising at the council’s expense. He says we are no longer allowed to put our poster on local notice boards and even took down a poster from British Rail property on which we have placed posters over the last five years!”

To my mind, this seems to be, again, a case of the ‘Community’ wannabe policeman damaging private property which stands on private land and removing property without the owner’s permission.

An interesting mindset for a guardian of ‘The Law’.

“Mind you,” Vivienne told me yesterday, “it has saved Martin a job, as he usually takes down all the posters the day after the show. And Martin’s rib is obviously greatly improved, as he wants to punch the guy in the face !!!!!”


Filed under Comedy, Police

The most unexpected performers come out of Radnorshire

I tend to have a bit of a problem with character comedy, but any generalisation has its exceptions. Last night was one.

I went to an event called The Literary Cabaret: How to be a Bohemian, held as part of the Bloomsbury Festival at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel – that’s the new one inside the gloriously renovated OTT station building.

One of the performers was Ian Marchant, billed as “author of Something of the Night (to be published in January 2012) and six other books, and writer/presenter of several Radio 4 and TV series”.

This rang no bells.

He appeared as a rather shaky elderly gent called Lionel Spume, with a walking stick, and regaled us with autobiographical tales of his life, occasionally interrupted by forgetfulness. It was suitably highly sophisticated, very funny and, I suspected, required a not-yer-average comedy-club-going audience of a certain age, with its references to Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Set, Robert Graves, Burgess & Maclean and John Betjeman – whose wonderful statue in St Pancras station made Lionel Spume blubber with tears.

Lionel Spume’s performance also included some musique concrète he had allegedly written in the 1950s and he ended with a rap song which I think is called Elderly Rhymer. This would have brought the house down except that St Pancras station is so well-built. The soaring eccentricity of St Pancras perfectly matched Ian Merchant’s performance.

I wondered why I had never heard of him and, when I got home and Googled him, realised I actually had seen him a few months ago at Vivienne & Martin Soan’s monthly comedy event Pull The Other One, where he had performed in his other incarnation as half of comedy duo Your Dad – they have also performed at least seven times at the Glastonbury Festival, so that terminally scuppers any street cred I might aspire to.

I had actually talked to him at Pull The Other One and had been surprised he lived in Presteigne, Radnorshire.

Well, who would not be taken aback by that?

The moral to this blog is three-fold.

– Pull The Other One books some of the most interesting acts on the circuit

– there are astonishing hidden gems of comedy out there working mostly un-fêted by the media (except occasionally by Radio 4)

– interesting people can occasionally come out of Radnorshire

A version of Elderly Rhymer by Your Dad is on YouTube here:


Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Music, Theatre

Digressions in British comedy and acting and a sad death in Los Angeles

I went to Hastings on Friday for the first of Vivienne and Martin Soan’s monthly Pull the Other One comedy shows there. They now have monthly Pull The Other One shows in Peckham, Herne Hill and Hastings. One laughing audience member came out at the end saying:

“I haven’t seen so many naked men since… well, I don’t think I ever have…”

I guess that will inevitably happen when you have Martin Soan, Bob Slayer and Dr Brown in among fully-clothed Simon MunnerySol Bernstein and Charmian Hughes, who tells me she is not (as I thought) giving up her sand dance just at the very point when she is thinking of performing next year in Australia – a land not short of sand.

Australia has sand the way my blogs can sometimes have digressions.

Nay. Nay. Thrice nay. Charmian tells me she is not giving up her sand dance but will be “rationing it due to the erotic pandemonium in unleashes on unsuspecting audience ‘members’.”

She will instead occasionally replace it in her stage routine with the ‘dance of the seven cardigans’.

The real highlight for me of trekking through Friday night traffic to get to Pull The Other One, though, was chatting off-stage to actor and now film-maker Robin Hayter, a man of inexhaustible and fascinating anecdotes.

His ubiquitous father James Hayter starred in BBC TV’s first ever sitcom Pinwright’s Progress in 1946-1947, seemed to be in every British feature film of my childhood and is perhaps most fondly remembered as the definitive on-screen Mr Pickwick in The Pickwick Papers and as the original actor who declared in TV ad voice-overs that “Mr Kipling make exceedingly fine cakes”.

I had not known that James Hayter appeared in a regular role in BBC TV sitcom Are You Being Served? nor that the Mr Kipling cake people paid him a very large sum of money indeed to drop out of the show because they felt it was too down-market a series and his appearances in it might devalue his dignified voice-overs in what they saw as their up-market cakes’ ads.

It also turned out that Robin Hayter and I had both worked with the wonderful David Rappaport. Robin was a fan of ‘Green Nigel’, the character David performed as a piss-take of children’s TV show Blue Peter when I worked on the final series of anarchic TV show Tiswas.

David Rappaport was a very highly intelligent man; a friendly, kind person and a charismatic actor who appeared in Time Bandits and many other movies. I never saw his appearances in his own US TV series The Wizard but, apparently, he was wonderful.

Like Robin Hayter, I was very shocked and very sad, when I heard that he had shot himself, depressed, in Los Angeles in 1990.

Very sad.


Robin Hayter’s video ‘pitch’ for a proposed documentary movie is HERE.


Filed under Ad industry, Comedy, Movies, Television, Theatre