FOR WRITERS' GUILD,
EDINBURGH FRINGE, 2005
1st August 2005
THE IMMORTAL MALCOLM HARDEE
irony of Malcolm Hardee is that, in death, he may become more famous
than in life and outlive almost all the currently famous comedians.
one BBC party in the 1990s, a Head of Television Comedy was heard to
say: Hes not going to get on television because he keeps
taking his willy out.
Oxbridge and Groucho Club sensibilities kept him off our screens for
most of his career and normally, if there are few or no recordings,
you are forgotten. Few remember Arthur Haynes, the biggest TV comedian
of his generation.
Malcolm may well be remembered 100 years from now simply because he
wrote his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercurys Birthday
Cake; the anecdotes in it appeared widely in his astonishing array
of lengthy obituaries there was our Malcolm among the Great and
the Good in the Times, Telegraph et al.
acts date. Visual recordings change format and flicker and fade. But
print outlives them all. It is the newspaper cuttings files and Malcolms
book which may well means he outlives the famous comedians
he helped in their early careers and who turned their backs on him when
they got big.
just looking forward to his sister Clare Hardee and her Can Can Girls
in Karen Korens tribute shows to Malcolm on 20th and 21st August.
Whats that all about?
2nd August 2005
the Fringe has not yet started and I dont get there for another
five days, I have as yet no jolly anecdotes of nubile students shagging,
nor of TV stars snorting. So youll have to make do with postings
like this in the meantime.)
of comedians who write their autobiographies
there is also the
unique Janey Godley, of course.
autobiography Handstands in the Dark is possibly one of
the most relentlessly violent and emotionally horrific books I have
ever read (and, like Malcolms autobiography, I edited it for publication).
But there are laughs in it. The libel lawyer, in particular, said he
found it very funny
and then passed it with few changes.
writing Handstands in the Dark 125,000 words
she necessarily had to choose to include certain characters and strands
and exclude others. Her life story includes being regularly raped as
a child for almost 8 years, the murder of her mother, sectarian violence,
gangland warfare, razor-slashings, a crucifixion, the decimation of
Glasgows East End by heroin and much more.
Malcolm Hardee, she has always attracted bizarre incidents throughout
her life. More happens to her on a simple walk to the post office than
happened to the entire population of Rome during the reign of the Emperor
Caligula her latest online blog talks of nude walks in the Scottish
she made different choices of stories from her life for a second book,
the result would be a very funny second autobiography featuring surreal
incidents, bizarre Dickensian characters and outright belly-laughs.
autobiographies would cover exactly the same period. Both would be totally
and utterly truthful. Yet both would be totally different and would
illuminate the fact that truth in biography is less to do with facts
and more to do with style.
truth that extracting both high tragedy and high comedy from the same
facts is possible is shown by Good Godley! Janeys
stand-up show at the Fringe last year which covered her life
rape, murder, heroin et al yet got rave comedy reviews
and 40 stars from the press. And by her Fringe stand-up show this year
Janey Godley Is Innocent which, in previews, managed to
alternately make audiences laugh uncontrollably and feel their blood
freeze (particularly in the climactic story).
is arguable that all the best TV sitcoms are, in fact, tragedies in
reality Hancock, Steptoe, Till Death, One Foot in The Grave,
even Fawlty Towers. Could it be that much of the best stand-up comedy
is also often rooted in tragedy? Perhaps young comics and failed comics
have problems because they try to write calculated gags out of fantastic
situations rather than create humour out of cruel reality.
was a guest on Radio 5 Lives serious discussion of paedophilia
on Sunday night and she spoke very movingly about her and others
sexual abuse. Yet she somehow managed to sneak in a mention of a talking
giraffe without lowering the seriousness of the discussion.
that is funny.
2nd August 2005
J Lederer is, indeed, a very interesting guy and bizarrely a
cousin of actor Lee J.Cobb.
thought his show about failure last year which suitably died
at the C venue was fascinating.
advised him against calling this years show Me and Hitler
(a) because I wasnt sure he deserved top billing over Hitler and
(b) because I told him Hitler had peaked commercially with The
Producers and then there was Spike Milligans book Hitler:
My Part in His Downfall and last years Boothby Graffoe show
Hitler Sells Tickets which the show did, but more
because of Boothby rather than because of Hitler.
shall be proved wrong, Im sure, because Andrew is a superb self-publicist
(nothing to do with being a Jewish New Yorker, Im sure). Despite
being a Yank living in Yankland, he managed to get two pieces about
his show into The Stage Online within one month both on the frailest
will have stiff opposition, though, from Janey Godley who is determined
to either set her leg alight at a bus stop or to get arrested to publicise
her show last week, her daughter Ashley was handing out flyers
saying only JANEY GODLEY IS INNOCENT at the Scottish Parliament, at
the law courts and at The Scotsman building.
Noel Faulkner was, at one time, thinking of paying for ads on the sides
of buses and asked me if I knew anyone who could fly over Edinburgh
in a hot air balloon with a bed suspended underneath in which he would
be either sleeping or throwing flyers for his autobiographical show
down on the throngs in Princes Street.
Godley, Lederer and Faulkner on the loose, perhaps this will be the
year of the autobiographical show. Or the return of the stunt.
is sad that Malcolm Hardee is dead and PR man Mark Borkowski has forsaken
the Fringe. I long for those days when Malcolm would announce the death
of Glenda Jackson to packed press conferences and when newspapers would
announce Archaos were going to be banned by the local Council for juggling
chainsaws (something they never did, but Borkowski got enormous publicity
for it not once but twice).
think you should get kidnapped and murdered, I said three weeks
ago. Think of the publicity.
Janey Godley said sharply.
get publicity, the show gets publicity and you go down in Fringe history.
no getting murdered. Its no happening.
I said, You get kidnapped in public on the Saturday night before
your show starts by an unknown but very disgruntled East Glasgow gangster
who has read you autobiography and taken offence. So the book gets plugged
kidnapping would has to be in public with lots of witnesses, I
tried. If it happens mid-evening or late on Saturday, it will
miss the Sunday papers but it will hit the Monday papers.
1140 on Monday morning, Ashley announces with a photo of your
bloodied corpse sent in by the kidnapper that her beloved mother
Janey Godley has been killed. She can do tears and hysteria and everything.
It will show off her acting skills. This will hit the lunchtime TV bulletins
but not give them time to check facts in detail and it will get into
the late editions of the Glasgow and Edinburgh evening papers. COMEDIAN
KIDNAPPED AND KILLED AT EDINBURGH FRINGE.
on that same day Monday afternoon around 1715, you re-appear
and announce it is a stunt just in time to make the later editions of
the Wednesday morning papers. And the early evening TV bulletins if
they carried your death in their lunchtime bulletins. Your show opens
on Thursday night and, as part of the show the climactic story
you explains how you are innocent of this tacky stunt
You were persuaded into it against your better judgement by your beloved
daughter whom you indulge too much So
Janey Godley Is Innocent!
off, said Janey Godley.
important thing here, I continued, is the timings. It all
happens between late-night Saturday and teatime Monday. It has to be
fast so that, at each point, you give the journalists just enough time
to report the story but not-quite-enough time to fully check the background
if it gets exposed midway through as a stunt, provided the media report
it as a stunt, you get the press publicity for the show that you would
have got anyway. You cant lose. You could get prosecuted for wasting
police time, but itd be worth that in publicity terms and you
could argue any fine would be tax-deductible for professional publicity.
NONONONOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooo Janey Godley shouted at me.
a crazy fucking nutter! Ya fanny!... And dont encourage my daughter
to plot my murder
you know what the familys like.
she gets to show her acting ability as the distraught daughter
will hunt you down and kill you like an animal
GODLEY IS INNOCENT opens at the Smirnoff Underbelly tonight and runs
to 28th August. Janey is still alive and kicking.
August 5th 2005
the Pleasance, of all places, is claiming its not making money,
it must be having its accounts run by Salvador Dalis ghost. Their
bar takings alone must rival the annual income of Liechtenstein. Venues
have a guaranteed basic income which they know in advance something
which the poor performers dont.
has been talk of the less high-profile shows and performers, so can
I stick my oar in with two shows that are not considerable for a WGGB/List
prize but are worth a punt anyway?
first is Ian Watts one-man performance JOHN LAURIE, FRAZER &
I which runs at the Hlll Street Theatre until 29th August. Its
a spot-on impersonation of Frazer from Dads
Army and a fascinating insight into the surprisingly interesting
actor John Laurie. Ian first staged this at the Fringe in 2002 to good-sized
audiences though little media attention for what reviews there
were, see www.ianblairwatt.co.uk/lauriereviews
is an occasional stand-up comic but, as the shows he has written and
performed at the Fringe over the last three years demonstrate, also
a very good actor and a potentially very interesting writer. His 2003
show Legend of the BBC was a rather subtle, bittersweet
story based loosely on Malcolm Hardee and Charlie Chuck the latter
of whom originally staged John Laurie, Frazer & I.
second show to catch at this years Fringe also involves Charlie
Chuck and is tucked away at Venue 45 from 21st-27th. It is called
with reason Dont Be Afraid To Try. This production,
performed by people from Leicestershire with learning disabilities,
Downs Syndrome etc was partly conceived by good old Charlie, who
also briefly performs on drums.
show is a very sincere attempt to showcase the performers abilities
and talents but is a very risky venture indeed at a Fringe filled with
cynics and, lets face it, airheads with degrees who work in the
Dave (aka Charlie Chuck) sent me a video of an early version of the
show, my first reaction was that he would get tarred and feathered and
lynched from a lamp post in the High Street. It looked in the most appalling
taste, although I knew it was sincerely meant to be inspirational.
when I went up to Leicestershire and saw a run-through of the show it
was, in fact, indeed, admirable, inspiring and entertaining. However,
I told Dave they had to be careful in choosing the title of the show
(they have) and to make it very clear in the Fringe Brochure exactly
what the show is (they havent).
end result, on stage in Edinburgh, is going to be at one extreme of
the spectrum or the other no in-betweens here, I fear. It will
either be an inspirational and triumphant experience or you will see
Charlie Chuck dangling from a lamp post while his Politically Correct
assassins prod the swinging body with the sharp end of their pens.
road to Edinburgh is paved with good intentions but, for three weeks
every year, the city is peopled by cynics.Pissing Around & Arson
August 7th 2005
Burns, alas has far to go in the Classic Fringe Stunt Stakes.
was once outside St Giles Cathedral with Malcolm Hardee when he tried
to extinguish a fire-eaters torch by pissing in an upwards arc.
was an unexpected moment, given Malcolms love of arson. All the
more unexpected for a middle-aged American matron in a blue hat.
August 15th 2005
met Dave Cohen outside the Gilded Balloon yesterday and had to apologise
for not blogging on this site. I have high hopes I may do on Friday.
have been sleeping on the floor of the hall in the Royal Mile flat rented
by Janey Godley, her daughter Ashley and Janeys forever un-named
husband (currently being accused of murder)
kept getting kicked in the head while asleep. I am not sure if this
was accidental or if it is a sign of affection in some parts of East
forgot to take the rubbish sack out yesterday morning. Janeys
husband was not happy. In his circle, for less, people have been nailed
to the wooden floors of flats and left overnight to ponder the error
of their ways. Crucifixion in Glasgow is not common but is not uncommon;
I think it is seen as a way of upholding traditional values. Or possibly
just as a piece of recreational fun.
a fucking retard, was his opinion of me.
last night, I decided to drive down to London for three days and drive
back up to Edinburgh on Friday morning. The next rubbish collection
by Lothian Council is on Monday.
slept in this morning at my home in Borehamwood. At lunchtime, I found
my mobile phone wasnt working.
Vodafone Helpline did not.
method to cure the problem is to switch to Orange, the Irish helpline
had to drive to a Vodafone shop in Watford. My phone was made to work.
then found a message had been left on my mobile at 0724 this morning
saying the ambulance had been called for my mother, who had fallen over
in her bedroom (again).
will drive out to see her in Clacton tomorrow morning. I have to be
at the dentist in Borehamwood at 0930. He has to stick back on the crown
that came off my tooth over a week ago when I drove UP to Edinburgh.
still havent done anything about the large black metal screw which
hit my knee in the car. It seemed to be from the steering column but
I cant find the hole from whence it came. The drive down from
Edinburgh was safe enough. Maybe the steering column will come off in
my hand on the drive out to Clacton tomorrow morning.
am trying to sell my life as a sitcom. I am told it is not incident-filled
enough. I must try harder. Brad Pitt is currently refusing to answer
look nothing like him, his agent spits down the phone at me. Who
are you? Do you know what time it is in Hollywood? And stop sending
us those JPEGs of yourself.
August 19th 2005
have returned to Edinburgh after a two-day visit to Clacton, where my
84-year-old mother has now fallen down so often that her right hand
and arm resemble a pizza with too many tomatoes and a few bits of black
pepper in it instead of bruising, her body bursts blood vessels
under the skin.
worth remembering life goes on outside the Fringe which exists only
in a surreal bubble of testosterone, primary colours and egotists trying
to undermine other egotists confidence.
passed a beggar in the Cowgate talking on her mobile phone while occasionally
breaking off to say: Any spare change, please? Any spare change?
got a phone call from Charlie Chuck, who was in a rickshaw in Edinburgh
with a blind girl from his show Dont Be Afraid To Try
(Venue 45). Knowing Dave, I suspect he was showing her the sights of
Steve Day, who is 70% deaf, is sharing a flat with blind comedian Chris
McCausland and two midgets (I cant bring myself to say Short People,
as it is PC gone mad). He says he is the only one tall enough to see
himself in the mirror. He swears blind it is true, watching BBC News,
that he heard Ann Widdicombe said, Let me give you an analogy
But the sub-titles for the deaf were printed as Let me give you
saw Steve perform off the Fringe in the tiny Rennie Macintosh (I cant
spell that in this Internet cafe) Cinema which is more like a tiny pink-painted
alcove in a brothel in a Fellini film. It is under the Nicol Edwards
pub in Niddry Street North and is one of the few basements where you
have to climb up steps to enter.
this same venue, writer Dave Cohen was performing stand-up heckled by
his own 2-year-old son: Do it again, Daddy! Again! The heckler
was eventually carried out mumbling.
then went to see American Craig Ricci Shaynacks show at Sweet
on The Grassmarket where, in the guise of a black-clad and bulky security
man, he frisks and security assesses the audience before they go in.
A rather bitter-looking black-clad and bulky man from the previous show
was standing to one side selling books. It was not until I saw the word
SPIES on the book cover that I recognised him as former-M15 agen David
always think Andy Warhol gets too much coverage for his 15 minutes
of fame remark. I prefer Ray Davies and The Kinks Everybodys
in Showbiz. Certainly in Edinburgh.
asked the rather bitter-looking black-clad David Shaylor where he lives
Its all I can afford.
member of Craig Ricci Shaynaks audience wore a bright pink wig.
She was not part of his show.
I saw the revue Folk Off Ulster at Southside, a member of
the audience was dressed as a cat with whiskers and ears. She was not
part of the show.
I came out of the venue, a seagull crapped on me.
have never taken drugs. In Edinburgh, no-one needs to.
August 20th 2005
night, the first Fringe tribute to the late Malcolm Hardee (second one
is tonight) seemed to run remarkably smoothly at the Gilded Balloon,
a tribute to Karen Korens perseverence and producorial ability.
were a couple of acts who didnt turn up which, in itself,
kept the tradition of Malcolm alive after a fashion
But Paul Merton
contributed a surprise reminisce amid contributions from Charlie Chuck,
Simon Munnery, Owen ONeill, Nick Wilty and compere Arthur Smith
(who also read Jo Brands funeral poem for Malcolm).
social historians should note the night was videoed by Clares
partner. All money raised went to Malcolms children Poppy and
Frank the latter a future British Prime Minister you heard
it first here.
and dangling genitalia seemed to be the order of the night with the
Underbellys late-night SPANK! show successfully continuing its
one-minute-nude-promo slot, where anyone can get on stage and blatantly
plug their show provided they are totally naked.
in all, a night which upheld the great Fringe tradition of turning up
at venues and seeing bollocks. In these two cases, though, welcome and
August 21st 2005
second Malcolm Hardee tribute was even better than the first, with Jerry
Sadowitz paying a fine tribute, Hattie Hayridge reading out Jo Brands
poem from Malcolms funeral and Chris Lynam rounding things off
with the banger-up-the-bum routine.
Malcolm Hardee Award for most Malcolm-friendly show (or whatever it
was for) went to rather bemused but grateful American Reggie Watts,
with performers of the also-nominated shows Desperately Seeking Sorrow,
Circus of The Future and Congress of The Oddities in attendance.
I left the Gilded Balloon, a balding tramp in Bristo Square said:
Give us some money. I cant even afford hair.