Fringe Classics 4: Malcolm Hardee [1996]

This post previously appeared on in Aug 2007.

Oy Oy! Knob out!

Malcolm Hardee has been described as the father of UK alternative comedy, yet few people outside the circuit have ever heard of him. His actual talents are difficult to define. Stealing was one. Notable thefts included a huge cheese, a Tory MP’s Rolls Royce, the entire contents of Simon Munnery’s medicine cabinet and Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake. He also played harmonica; a skill taught to him by his neighbour Val Doonican. His most consistent talent though was getting naked and flashing the “biggest bollocks in show business“. He didn’t do much TV.

He made a great compère but not a great stand up. He was just Malcolm and that was funny. After achieving success with ‘The greatest show on legs’ he went on to found three London comedy clubs: The infamous ‘Tunnel Palladium’ near the Blackwall Tunnel, ‘Up the creek’ in Greenwich and the ‘Wibbly Wobbly’ in Rotherhithe. His biggest talent though (besides those enormous bollocks) was an incredible ability to spot new acts. As a manager he launched the careers of such brilliant left field talents as Simon Munnery, Vic & Bob, Charlie Chuck, Jerry Sadowitz and Madame Edith & her singing chickens.

In 1996 he published his autobiography, ‘I stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake‘ and it still remains one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Although Malcolm put a show on every year (usually entitled ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAArrrrrrgh’ so as to be first in the Fringe guide) that years show was all about the book.

Malcolm Hardee 1

Malcolm came on stage with the obligatory “Oy Oy” then said, “Alright, what do you want?” He was serious. Brilliant. In the end he told a few anecdotes, played the harmonica and signed copies of the book. Although I lived in Greenwich for a few years and saw Malcolm compère quite a few times, this is the only chance I ever got to meet him. If you’ve been following along with my previous posts then you can probably guess where this show took place. Yup. Yet another gem from the Pleasance Cabaret bar. That place should have a blue plaque.

Malcolm Hardee 2

I’ve Seen Your Art…


The peerless Arthur Smith returns to Radio 4 this evening with the first in a three-part comedy series about the history of art.

Visitors to his triumphantly silly gallery/installation “Arturart” at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007/2008, or to his somewhat legendary “Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams” Fringe show, will have some idea what to expect.

1. Classical Civilisation & Arturantiquities

Radio 4, Tuesday 24th March 2009, 11pm (30 mins)

Arthur considers the beginnings of art with a visit to the oldest man-made image in Britain, reveals the truth about Van Gogh’s ear and presents a guide to the unfathomable world of Dada. With contributions from Miriam Elia, Phil Nice and Paul Bahn.

2. The High Summer Of The Arturart Renaissance

Radio 4, Tuesday 31st March 2009, 11pm (30 mins)

Arthur deconstructs the Renaissance and asks if it is time for a ‘Re-Renaissance’. The artist of the week is Caravaggio, who was not a very nice man. With contributions from Miriam Elia, Phil Nice, Leslie Primo and Jessica Hynes.

3. Modern Arturart – Post-Modern Then Email-Modern

Radio 4, Tuesday 7th April 2009, 11pm (30 mins)

Arthur continues his journey through the history of western representation and arrives at its most glorious flowering – his own work. With contributions from Miriam Elia, Phil Nice, Arnold Brown, Ian MacPherson and Simon Munnery.

Thrumblenose heroes 1: Andrew Sachs

Andrew Sachs

It’s been a sad spectacle to witness the hysteria and subsequent witchhunt over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’s misjudged and, let’s be honest, crass phone call to Andrew Sachs. Having a wayward granddaughter hardly makes him a deserving target for mockery, which is of course why the whole thing misfired so badly. (Well, that and the rabble-rousing Mail’s pathological hatred of the way the BBC is funded.) But throughout this lamentable episode Sachs has shown true class, accepting their belated apologies and dropping the whole matter without any needless fuss.

But enough about it, here at Thrumblenose Towers we prefer to concentrate on the good stuff. And so it was that John (m’colleague, if you will, and even if you won’t) reminded me of a wonderful but little-known gem from Sachs’ C.V.

Tales from the crypt

Tales From The Crypt was a delightfully silly radio comedy from around 1981 featuring Andrew Sachs, Rory McGrath, Griff Rhys Jones, Mel Smith and Chrissy Roberts. Sachs played the splendidly-monikered Professor Glompus Van de Hloed, a retired Belgian supernatural investigator who runs a mini-cab firm. That the bizarre plot makes little sense matters little as the cast are clearly having so much fun that the shambolically fun atmosphere is infectious.

Unfortunately reliable information about the show is sketchy at best, but it’s a lost classic and worthy of a comprehensive article of its own. So while we put that together let us tease you with a few choice lines from the show…

Sergeant Porno:
“I think he died of Dutch Elm disease, sir.”

Inspector Bribeeasy:
“Why sergeant? Well look sir, he’s got no leaves.”

“We ‘ave a lot of sayings in Cornwall. Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning. Minced beef and mashed potato, shepherd’s pie.”

Sergeant Porno:
“I found a little box of white pills. Thought it might be drugs, sir.”

Inspector Bribeeasy:
“Yeah, so what did you do with it?”

Sergeant Porno:
“Well I didn’t want to take any chances, obviously, so I immediately went to the bathroom and poured the whole lot down my throat.”

Inspector Bribeeasy:
“Then what did you do?”

Sergeant Porno:
“Then I flew to Neptune on a magic swan.”

Andrew Sachs’ work on Fawlty Towers and Tales From The Crypt make him a worthy inductee as our inaugural Thrumblenose Hero!

Stephen Fry and ‘Last Chance To See’

National Treasure

Stephen Fry is currently on location in Africa filming a follow up to Douglas Adams and Mark Cowardine’s ‘Last Chance To See‘. Stephen and Mark are returning to the same locations in search of the same animals so see how wildlife has fared over the last quarter century.

He has also launched a redesign of his website The new site promises more community features and some commercial content. If Stephen’s prolific output of blessays and podgrams isn’t enough for you, you can now follow his every move on Twitter.