Oy! Oy! Malcolm Hardee A Tribute
Malcolm Hardee Tribute Evening- Hackney Empire February 5th 2006.
Malcolm Hardee had five jokes that he told on stage. He would wander on stage, usually pissed, tell the five jokes (all of which are too rude for here but if you want to know them e-mail me). Then he'd play the blues harmonica with his nuts hanging out the front of his trousers. Not much of an act, to be sure, but to many stand up fans Malcolm was the daddy.
Why was this? Well, he ran a number of comedy clubs in South-East London that set some of our best loved comedians on their way. Jo Brand, Jeremy Hardy, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Stewart Lee, Alan Davis, Dominic Holland and Harry Hill were all given gigs very early on in their careers along with countless others. His venues were always notorious. The Tunnel Club and Up The Creek were hotbeds of the heckle and the put down. If you survived you were on your way. Jim Taveré tells of the period in his life when the game was to get Taveré off in under thirty seconds. That was the type of place it was.
Malcolm sadly died last year, but in a way that only Malcolm could. Pissed, with a bottle of his favourite beer in his hand and the winnings from the bookies in his back pocket, he fell off his boat into the Thames and drowned. The autotopsy report alledgedly states that he still had the bottle of beer in his hand when they found him.
Tonights event was a tribute to the great man. It was held at The Hackney Empire (where, trivia fans my Granddad worked as an ASM in the thirties) and the line-up showed just how much Malcolm was loved.
First up was a truely shambolic opening, of which Malcolm would have been particularly proud by, Charlie Chuck. Charlie was one of Malcolm's favourites and if you were about in the late eighties or early nineties you would have undoubtedly seen his particularly bizzarre act at some comedy club or other. Our compare for the first third of the evening was the great Arthur Smith. He told many stories about Malcolm and told a few of his jokes, we then had a nice tribute from Frank and Poppy Hardee, Malcolm's children.
Over the next five hours (yes, five hours!!) we were treated to some great stuff. Jeremy Hardy (a Lady Bracknell favourite) told some old jokes from his early days on the circuit, Stewart Lee did some of the routine from his first gig at one of Malcolm's clubs, Ricky Grover, who reminisced about a truely crap show he did with Malcolm and the Bastard Son Of Tommy Cooper at Edinburgh in 1995, was very funny (it was crap too. I had the very great pleasure in seeing it). Jimmy Carr was booed on!! And you don't see that much. If a Tunnel crowd doesn't like you then no amount of TV glory will help you out. I'm not a fan of Carr but he took it well and almost revelled in the stick he got. Malcolm would have been proud.
There were loads of other acts too but I won't bore you with them all. However there were a few worth mentioning. Jools Holland a friend and neighbour played a couple of tunes, one of which was a blues number that Malcolm wrote and always finished his shows with. There was no full frontal nudity this time though. Glenn Tilbrook (ex of Squeeze) almost stole the show when his guitar pick-up wouldn't work on his first number. Unperturbed, he jumped down off of the stage and sang "Goodbye Girl" from the audience. As my mates and I were in the front row this meant he was standing about a foot away from me when he did this. Great stuff. Simon Day did a turn as Tommy Cockles (from the Fast Show) and was very funny, but surely the most bizarre act of the evening was Frank Sanazi. He is, as you may have guessed, a Frank Sinatra impersonator. A very good one at that. The twist is that he dresses up like Adolf Hitler and changes the lyrics of Sinatra's songs so that they are about the Third Reich. This is done completely dead pan. It was hysterical. The man is a genius.
The man that is Johnny Vegas closed the show and in the true spirit of Malcolm, was a complete disaster. He was very, very pissed (quelle surprise!!) and embarrassingly unfunny. He just stumbled about the stage ranting. The crowd turned on him very early on but he wouldn't go off. In the end Boothby Graffoe, another of the evenings compares, had to lead him stage.
I'm sure if Malcolm was lookng down he would have loved it. I saw him many times, but the one that sticks in my mind, was the time I saw him in Liverpool with Lady Bracknell and my then girlfriend and Malcolm was not going down well. There were about forty people in and 90% of the audience, including my girlfriend and Lady B were hating it. I LOVED it and shouted out to Malcolm as he kept ploughing on, that it was going a bit shit. He looked at me and said "yeah it is shit, but fuck it, I'm getting 300 quid for this" and carried on regardless.
That was Malcolm. A one off. Loved by many of the comedians he either acted as an agent for or put on at his clubs and worshipped by his adoring fans, even though he did the same act EVERY time you saw him.
It was a great night and a fitting tribute to this giant of London stand up.