Review in The Times, 7th February 2006
Hardee Memorial Show
THERE are a few rules that a star-speckled benefit
show must follow. It must raise money for a blue-chip charity
Amnesty, or something to do with some unimpeachably awful illness.
It must overrun horribly, the blather of obscure comics at the start
forcing the big names to hare through their material as midnight comes
and goes. And the audience must be gracious about every act, who are
here out of the goodness of their hearts, not for the exposure, no
In breaking all these rules, the Malcolm Hardee Memorial
Show honoured its self-styled subject a treat. Hardee died a year
ago, aged 55, after falling drunkenly off his boat into the Thames
a premature end to three decades as a comic, agent, talent-spotter
and full-time character.
A generation of comics was weaned at Hardees
Greenwich club, Up the Creek. He was, in the words of the excellent
East End comic Ricky Grover, the most naturally funny man Ive
Hardees children, Frank and Poppy, introduced
a film that explained why Hardee was a grassroots comedy kingpin.
There followed five hours as scheduled of the sort of
variety this venue was built for, from the well-known (Jools Holland,
Jeremy Hardy, Arthur Smith, John Hegley, The Fast Shows Simon
Day) to the bizarre (sister Clare Hardees seven-strong can-can
combo Cant Can t, the Third Reich-loving crooner Frank
There were few flops from the 40-odd acts. The surprise
guest, Jimmy Carr, host of eight out of ten Channel 4 shows, coped
smoothly with a welter of harsh, sweary heckles. In his defence Carr
pointed out that whereas he was known for his jokes, Hardee was known
for his outsized testicles. Heckler: His b******* were popular!
Carr: I dont know if you watch Channel 4, but my b*******
is popular too.
A victory on points.
Other highlights included Stewart Lee, reworking a
routine he first performed for Hardee 16 years ago; the former Squeeze
singer Glenn Tilbrook heading into the stalls to perform his early
hit, Goodbye Girl, unamplified; and Johnny Vegas, raging at the audience.
Yes, his dyspepsia is predictable by now, as is his
refusal to get off the stage, but theres still something compelling
about the way he wastes an audiences time with quite such fervour.
After five hours, this terrific evening climaxed, bang on time, with a reprise of Hardees most famous act The Greatest Show on Legs three naked men dancing around protecting their modesty with nothing but balloons. A rude, pointless, precarious, hilarious routine. There are worse legacies to have.