My Comedy Hero: Simon Munnery on Malcolm Hardee, John Hegley and Mark Lamarr
- Brian Donaldson
- 8 March 2019
The man behind Alan Parker: Urban Warrior, Cluub Zarathustra and The League Against Tedium, has inspired plenty people down the years. Now, it's time for him to unveil his own trio of comic icons
Many years ago in The Guardian, they had a survey to find out the Comedians' Comedian and Malcolm Hardee was my choice. So he was the Comedian's Comedians' Comedian. He was a very funny man and utterly fearless. One time backstage at Glastonbury, Jane his wife at the time came up to a few of us and said 'have you seen the Hardee Leap? Come, come quick.' So we went round the corner and saw this huge pile of furniture; tables and chairs all stacked up in a mound, and Malcolm is about 200 yards away. And so he runs at this huge pile of furniture and jumps, well, falls on it.
There's that sort of thing. I had the honour of being part of The Greatest Show On Legs, again at Glastonbury. That year it was Malcolm, Vic his plumber and me. The stage was wet and I had no soles on my shoes, so immediately fell over to make it The Greatest Show On No Legs. Once we were in some BBC flat in Edinburgh and he had all this soap that he had stolen from the bathroom, and said 'I always steal from bathrooms, can't help it'. But he didn't. It wasn't true. And years later, he was round my flat, pretending to be drunker than he was which was something he'd often do, and he goes into the bathroom and he's banging around in there. When he came out I said 'OK, what have you nicked?' and he gets out this little bottle of essential oils, and eventually from his coat he takes out the entire contents of the bathroom. In a way, terribly offensive behaviour, but somehow he got away with it.
John Hegley is someone I love deeply. There's one joke that I remember him doing once in Princes Street Gardens at the start of a show where he goes up to passing shoppers saying 'there's no one in the front row, could you come down?' And he'll just get people to move around, with no laughs at all, until he gets them where he wants them and says 'I think I preferred you the way you were'. The beautiful thing about that joke is the longer it takes, the funnier the punchline. And he's got them where he wants them!
The bravest thing I've seen on stage was Mark Lamarr. It was Late 'n' Live down on the Cowgate, which was a real bearpit. He had just started wearing glasses and was on The Word so he was pretty famous. The atmosphere there wasn't 'oh, there's someone famous, how wonderful'; it was 'oh there's someone famous, let's kill him!' So he goes on, it's just a barrage and he's trying to deal with these heckles one at a time. He was on fire, he was so good. From the back, someone shouts 'I'm going to kick your fucking head in'. Mark says 'alright, then', takes his glasses off, puts them on the speaker and the guy comes up from the back with the entire room going 'fight fight fight'. Mark says 'you have to start it, I'm not starting a fight in front of 200 people' and he gently moves the bloke behind him and carries on taking the mickey out of him. The bloke was dazzled by the lights, didn't know what to do and obviously thought that the best way out was to stagedive. He smashed a table.
I had some good ones at Late 'n' Live: I ended up wrestling Ross Noble. I loved the atmosphere there. At Malcolm Hardee's Tunnel Club, they raised heckling to an artform. At most clubs where an act gets heckled off, that's a terrible night; but at the Tunnel, I've seen all the acts get heckled off within 20 minutes and that was a victory. That doesn't happen so much anymore, not at the clubs I go to. But the other week, I was in Oman and got heckled: he said 'this isn't going very well'. He was right, but it was a bit cruel.
Simon Munnery: The Wreath is on tour until Sat 27 Apr.