Tag Archives: working class

Teaching the Germans British humour?

Martin promoting tonight's show in Leipzig

Martin promoting a previous Leipzig show

Last night, before this month’s ever-original Pull The Other One comedy show in South London, I talked to Martin Soan who organises both it and the Pull The Other One shows in Germany. He and his wife Vivienne have so far staged three in Leipzig this year.

“What’s next?” I asked.

“A lecture in Leipzig,” Martin told me.

“On what?” I asked.

“British comedy.”

“To whom?” I asked.

“Leipzigians,” said Martin.

“In general?” I asked.

“What we’re going to aim for,” explained Martin, “is the working class. The history of comedy in Germany is very interesting.”

“Is it?” I asked. “The British cliché is that the Germans have no sense of humour.”

“Yeah, but that’s total bollocks,” said Martin. “What IS true is that, traditionally, they have not had anybody entertaining the working class. Traditionally, the working classes were just supposed to work. Their thing was sausages and beer not comedy and cabaret, which was for the middle class.

“Before the First World War, Leipzig had about 20 dedicated cabaret and comedy theatres – variety, kabaret and comedy – which were frequented by the intelligentsia and the middle classes. Some of them still exist today – there are two or three in the middle of town. The acts they have are very skilled and crafted acts – magicians and stuff like that.

“Me and Vivienne met some elderly Leipzigians and they told us that, traditionally, the working class have never had their version of music halls or comedy clubs.”

“They didn’t,” I asked, “have any equivalent of our music halls in the late-19th century?”

“No,” said Martin. “Now, obviously they have television, but their heritage was not live entertainment. So we are going to try and reinvent ourselves for the working classes of Leipzig.”

“How?” I asked.

Vivienne Soan even promoted the show to statues

Vivienne Soan promoting a previous comedy show in Leipzig

“We’ve opened up a show in the Louisiana bar, which is a working class bar and we are going to do our next Pull The Other One show there in December. We’re going to go away from all the students, away from all the middle classes.”

“And,” I asked, “you are going to do a lecture on British comedy in the pub?”

“An education in British humour,” said Martin. “Yes. Just me and Vivienne. We are basically just going to do a show, but Vivienne is going to have a lectern, notes and it starts off with her talking about how we have always had to import everything into Britain and we did actually, at one point, import humour.”

“We did?” I asked.

“Well, Mr Punch came from Italy. That’s where we start and then we’ll go through gags, a description of each different genre of comedy and I’ll upstage her, then I’ll do a bit at the lectern and she’ll upstage me. That’s the show, basically, but it’s gonna be very low-key because we don’t wanna put on a show-show because we don’t want to frighten them off.”

“It sounds like an excuse for a piss-up,” I said.

“Yes,” said Martin, “but with entertainment. Even the working classes over there are very, very academic. And, for me, it will be a break from the comedy scene here, which is getting a bit claggy.”

“Claggy?” I asked.

Soiree in a Cemetery

After the success of cemetery comedy, underground comedy

“It’s stagnating a bit. There must be something different out there. That’s why I enjoyed doing our Soirée in a Cemetery the other week. It was different. The next one’s at the end of November.”

“In a cemetery again?” I asked.

“No.”

“Where’s the next one?’

“Subterranean.”

“Where?” I asked.

“It’s a secret,” said Martin. “It’s underground.”

“It certainly is,” I said.

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Would Malcolm Hardee have HATED the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show?

I don’t know exactly what the etiquette is for exposing the identities of people on social media, but let us hope I am not breaching it in this blog.

This morning, the normally infallible mind-reader Doug Segal made an error when he re-Tweeted a message from itinerant comedian Matt Roper to me. The re-Tweet read:

@johnfleming RT @MrMattRoper: Too late for a Hardee Award? > “@doug_segal: Ian Cognito did 20 mins. Got his cock out then stormed off stage”

Ian Cognito - nothing is unexpected

Ian Cognito – comic originality comes as standard

My initial reaction was that, if Ian Cognito did NOT get his cock out and storm off stage then THAT would – for him – be comic originality.

But then I received another Tweet from Doug Segal. It read:

@MrMattRoper @johnfleming Whoops! Wrong @thejohnfleming

My Twitter address is @thejohnfleming NOT @johnfleming and Doug had accidentally Tweeted about Ian Cognito getting his cock out to a completely innocent other John Fleming who lives in Florida and who apparently is a “company builder, marketing and social media practitioner, clean tech advocate, country music fan and stumbling but dedicated parent”

Media people and performers – especially people in the comedy industry – do not live in the normal world as other people know it. So I do not even want to think what the other John Fleming made of the unsolicited Tweet about a cock.

Nudity, farting and sticking fingers up people’s bottoms (I refer you to yesterday’s blog) are perhaps not everyday occurrences in the world of entertainment, but they do not raise an eyebrow. Standards are different.

Anal entertainment: Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart

Arty anal entertainment? Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

For example, the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe last Friday had farting from Mr Methane and a man with bacon draped on his head and a singer who looked like Adolf Hitler crooning Frank Sinatra songs and giving the Nazi salute.

There was, as far as I am aware, only one complaint – which was that the show was too middle class.

On Facebook, just a few hours after the show finished, Bob Walsh posted:

The Awards Show was a rally for the middle classes

The Malcolm Hardee Awards Show was a middle class rally? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

I hope y’all enjoyed the MH awards whilst the people that actually worked with him DIDNT GET INVITED! The people that headlined his shows ARE NOT INVITED! And his whole ethos has been ignored by middle class cunts who he would have HATED enjoyed yourselves. Goodnight!

Comedian Keara Murphy replied: What you on about? It wasn’t an ‘invite’ situation. Janey, who hosted it, did work with him.

Bob Walsh responded: Wow there was one then… He would have hated it.

Patrick Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette

Pat Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

Keara argued: You don’t know what he would have hated. Fact! Loads of people who were there last night knew and worked with him. The organiser knew him personally. The performers were chosen for their reflection of his spirit – of who he was and the kind if acts he would have booked. Your rant is misinformed and misjudged.

Bob’s reaction was: I knew him well, he is the reason I am in comedy and I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT! An opinion not misinformed!

Keara replied: You said his ‘ethos was being ignored by middle class cunts’ – in what way, exactly? And exactly to whom are you referring? And who exactly are you calling ‘middle class’? John Fleming? Kate Copstick, Bob Slayer? Janey Godley? The audience?

Keara has something of a point here. I do not think former railwayman Mr Methane from Macclesfield would label himself middle class.

Do not call Janey Godley middle class

Janey Godley on a quiet day

And anyone calling Janey Godley middle class risks an unfortunate end, as she occasionally points out in her act that she can get someone killed for the price of a packet of chips. She is only joking, of course.

She could get someone killed for free, as a favour… and, indeed, she has half-joked in past shows that her uncle was killed one year as a birthday present to her.

But, by this point in the Facebook postings, I was a bit confused and I posted to Bob Walsh:

The GSOL as they are today (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

Greatest Show On Legs (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

I’d be interested to know who didn’t get invited. Martin Soan of the Greatest Show On Legs was booked to appear but, at the last minute, could not come up. Steve Bowditch and Dickie Richards, the other current two members of the Greatest Show on Legs, were invited to appear, decided to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller then decided they did not want to do it without Martin.

As for the middle class cunts in the audience, Malcolm discovered, when he was forced to turn the Tunnel Palladium into a members-only club, that a lot of his audience came from middle class areas. 

Malcolm ran his Tunnel comedy from 1984 to 1988. He told me that, to his surprise, a lot of his best hecklers worked in the City of London. I think (though I may be wrong) that his most legendary heckler – The Pirate – was a stockbroker who retired early on his mega-earnings to Spain.

Bob Walsh confused me even further, by saying: I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT and the whole middle class comedy industry and my drunken rant stands as my opinion. (Great line up tho Malcolm would have put some completely unknown acts on that HE liked)

The Silver Peevil from planet Venus

Would Malcolm have approved the Silver Peevil from Venus? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

It is, of course, impossible to know which unknown acts Malcolm would have liked because he drowned in 2005.

But I would lay bets that he would have liked The Silver Peevil in what I think (I could, again, be wrong here) was only his fourth performance.

And then there is the (in England, Scotland and Wales) unknown comedy harpist Ursula Burns, who performed her ditty I’m Your Fucking Harpist.

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, because of the sightlines in The Counting House ballroom, I did not ask her to perform her climactic opus in which she sings and plays the harp lying on her back, legs apart, with the harp on top of her. Trust me, Malcolm would certainly have appreciated that part of her talent.

With great respect to Ursula, I’m sure his outro to her act would have been: “I’d fuck her…”

On Facebook, though, I told Bob Walsh I was Still a bit vague. What would Malcolm have hated specifically and specifically why? I’m not arguing with your opinion, just interested in it.

Bob told me: Its just opinions of his regulars at Tunnel that I still associate with. They are NOT happy

I asked: Were they there?

Bob replied: I wasn’t but 2 were. The main gripe seems to be the lack of risks and how the show has become a cool thing for trendy comics to network at.

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring & Juliette Burton

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring and Juliette Burton? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

There are several points here.

One is that three acts did not appear on the show at the last moment. The act which had been going to climax the show phoned to cancel about 15 minutes before the show started. Two others (one a regular at Malcolm’s comedy clubs) simply did not turn up.

The other, more important point, is the incessant criticism of people being middle class.

Is that, in itself, a bad thing?

I think there is a worrying level of reverse snobbery going on here.

Yes, there is a comfortable Oxbridge elite of (especially BBC) producers who make programmes for audiences they do not understand. But there is no God-given rule of comedy that a so-called working class person from Liverpool can be funny and a middle class person from Surbiton cannot.

Tunnel Arts - Malcolm’s early management company

Malcolm’s early management business

If I booked a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show starring acts of which Bob Walsh’s ‘middle class cunts’ who read the Guardian and watch TV panel shows might approve, then Keith Allen, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Jules Holland, Stewart Lee, Sean Lock, Paul Merton, Vic Reeves and Johnny Vegas might appear on it. Malcolm booked, helped and sometimes even managed some of those acts.

He also booked bizarre odd acts and gave chances to new acts, which I always try to do.

As for “a cool thing for trendy comics to network at” – if only.

If only…

I would love that to be the case.

Those there last Friday – appearing on stage – if they hung around to see the show, that is not necessarily networking – included Baconface, Ursula Burns, Juliette Burton, Kate Copstick, Tim Fitzhigham, Janey Godley, Richard Herring, Lady Carol, Stewart Lee, Laura Levites, Mr Methane, Patrick Monahan, Frank Sanazi, Lewis Schaffer, Nelly Scott, Bob Slayer and Ewan Wardrop

Now, I am not specifying names, but I would not say all or even the majority of those names come into the liberal middle class elite of paranoid trendiness. And I may look like a fat, if shabbily-dressed, bank manager but, if forced to socially classify myself, I would say my upbringing was lower middle class and Malcolm Hardee’s was a step above me.

Malcolm was a grammar school boy who very nearly went to a public school. (American readers will have to translate that into their own native tongue.)

But, to steal Malcolm’s catchphrase – Fuck it!

Enough with all this class bollocks.

The so-called working class have no more right to own comedy than Oxbridge or the so-called middle class.

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