In the era of mega-venues and corporate sponsorship, it’s kind of surprising that there’s still a little of the anarchic comedy circuit.

spirit of mischief alive on The Fringe. In the same way that it’s said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London we’re in trouble, if ARTHUR SMITH or MALCOLM HARDEE ever decided not to show their less than pretty visages in Edinburgh during August, something would be lacking. Mostly bar takings, admittedly, but also that bravado that has made them the

N THE BLUE CORNER: Malcolm Hardee, sometime member of nude dancing troupe the Greatest Show On Legs, agent for such diverse talents as Gerry Sadowitz, Tommy Cockles and Charlie Chuck, former jailbird (cheque fraud ‘I would have finished my degree only they let me out . . .’) and owner of Up The Creek, London’s most innovative comedy venue. IN THE RED CORNER: Arthur Smith, failed thespian, successful alternative tour-guide, stand-up, TV host for BBC’s Paramount City, and award-winning West-End playwright (An Evening With Gary Lineker). Seconds out, drinks in.

Fringe roots.

Smith: ‘I came up in 1977 with a show called SwingalongaDante, 50p to get in, two hours long, four people in the audience, seven of us in the cast. I was in a band as well but never came to Edinburgh with them, The Results, a bit crap really, we never had the haircuts. But you’ve got to be in a band. I always distrust people who’ve never been in a band.’

Hardee: ‘I did three months in the Bonzo Dog Band, playing harmonica, but I didn’t come up to Edinburgh until 1981 when we were doing The Greatest Show On Legs. Haven’t missed a single year since.’

photograph5200uglas Robertson

most notorious figures on the already disreputable live

Each is present and politically incorrect this year, Hardee with a collection of salacious (‘but all true’) anecdotes performed in a flat in the New Town, and Smith with a new play, Sod, at The Pleasance. In the spirit of the alchemist who mixed two volatile elements together just to see what would happen, we stuck them around a table in the pub with a few pints. Tom Lappin referees.


Fringe nightmares.

Hardee: ‘Eric Bogosian was the worst character I ever met on the Fringe. We were performing in these tents in the Hole In The Ground, us on one side. Emma Thompson on the other and Bogosian in the middle. And you could hear everyone else’s show while you were doing your own. During a quiet bit of our show he’d be having all this heavy metal music blaring out, which after five days pissed us off a bit. So I thought, he’s up for a laugh, so I got this tractor and drove it around the path and right up into his show with the audience tagging along behind. And just afterwards, we were getting on with

10 The List 20—26 August 1993