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|January 12, 2014 Interview With Bob Slayer|
|Interview With Bob Slayer|
|It's time for the second of an irregular series of comedian interviews for this site, and today we are chatting with Bob Slayer.|
Bob runs “Heroes of Fringe”, which grew out of his shows with Laughing Horse at the Free Festival in Edinburgh, and he’s now embarking on a big year, taking the Heroes to the Leicester Comedy Festival in February, as well as returning to Edinburgh in August.
We thought it was about time we had a chat with him, and it turned out to be a very interesting chat - you would expect no less with Bob Slayer - ranging from rock bands to Santa, and Festivals to on-stage prostate examinations….
LH: You have an interesting background, there’s not many ex-Jockey, band-tour-managers that have ended up as a comedian. What made you decide to give comedy a go?
BS: I was forced into it - quite literally. When I was on tour with the Bloodhound Gang in 2005? Maybe 2007? The smoking ban had just come in. The Bloodhound gang were pissed off they couldn’t smoke on stage and they bitched about it through the gig, bitched about the fact the audience couldn't get pass outs to go out for a cigarette. And they blamed it all on me. I was stood on the side of the stage to stop them smoking else the venue would fine us £1000. All of a sudden, mid song, they stopped and declared they were going for a cigarette break. The also announced that: "Our tour manager will entertain you" – so I was pushed out on stage and then Jimmy pop added "Feel free to throw stuff at him". Which 1500 Bloodhound Gang fans did. Ha, ha very funny.
The next night I knew they would do the same again so I planned something to entertain. If anything the audience threw harder that night. The third night I hid. But they found me, gaffer taped me to a chair and half way through the gig wheeled me out onto the stage, miced me up and went for their mid gig fag break. I simply exclaimed "I hate the Bloodhound Gang..." and it got a laugh. Things had changed, the sympathy was with me, so I continued: "Do you want to hear what pricks the Bloodhound Gang really are?" And they did. The audience listened to stories of the band pissing on each other and making people eat dog food etc. I had found something I loved doing. And I love the Bloodhound Gang for letting me do it.
Incidentally I did production on a Snoop Dogg tour a couple of years ago and at the O2 the venue manager was telling us what was what. He said there will be a £2000 fine for smoking on stage and the tour manager didn't blink an eye, he pulled out a wad of cash and said: "Can we get a discount if we pay it in advance?"
LH: And how long have you been doing it now?
BS: You made me google when the smoking ban was - it was 2007. And then I first started doing Comedy clubs in 2008. I brought the same high energy wild nonsense which I did to entertain people at a rock concert and it scared the shit out of most comedy clubs. I still have the wild side but I also have a more storytelling side as well so I can fit into more places. I was even Santa this Christmas doing storytelling for kids.
LH: Who’s your comedy hero?
BS: I saw Johnny Vegas about 13 or maybe 15 years ago. He was pretty much only known as the fella from the Monkey adverts at the time. He was absolutely amazing. It was impossible to see where reality ended and fantasy began. My girlfriend at the time hated it so I left her.
LH: What do you do when people say ‘Tell me a joke’?
BS: This is just one of a few standard responses people say when they find out you are a comedian. Others being "I like that Michael Macintyre, I do" although thankfully it has become "Micky Flanagan" more often now, and he is someone I can have a conversation about. It’s not that I don't like Macintyre but what is there to discuss? Another is they want to tell you a joke, which is invariably racist. And so when they ask me to tell a joke it is rather sweet and so I normally reel off an old cracker joke and then maybe just have a chat.
LH: What should a new comedian do today to make them stand out from the masses?
BS: Be really really funny!
LH: As well as performing, you are well known for creating ‘Heroes of Fringe’ in Edinburgh - What made you leap from Fringe Performer to Promoter to start this?
BS: Because my existing fringe promoter banned me from his venue so I had to take it over myself! That was you that was! actually you very nicely let me take over the venue.
LH: The Leicester Comedy Festival Is coming up, and you are taking Heroes there for the first time, what will some of the highlights for Heroes be?
BS: We are taking over an old Methodist chapel in the centre of town and putting in a pop up bar and venue. Heroes @ Hansom Hall. I have got a cracking line up. Brian Gittins, Phil Kay, Ivan Brackenbury, Mr Methane, Devvo, Ian D Montfort, The Weirdos pantomime, Stuart Goldsmith, Tim Fitzhigham and lots more - www.heroesoffringe.com
LH: Nice Plug, sounds like a great line-up! How is this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Heroes preparations going?
BS: We had such an amazing year last year that it will be difficult to top but we are lining up some brilliant acts. It's still a good few months off and it will be in more shape by March.
LH: You mentioned that this Christmas you had another side-line as Santa. How did that go?
BS: I loved being Santa, it was storytelling for kids with groups of 20 or so at a time. I told them all about how Reindeers fly. And what Santa and the Elves do the rest of the year. It was magical and really warming to do it and I now mirror Ronny Wood's sentiment and wish it could be Christmas everyday.
LH: How do you see the future of comedy in general?
BS: We can already see where it is going, similar to the music Industry, where there is a massive chasm between the huge arena pop and X-Factor and then a large number of more independent alternative acts. In Comedy this is becoming a small number of big names from TV doing arena tours while club comedy continues to struggle. And then a growth of Comedy and Fringe festivals where acts perform solo shows. It's this last area which is where so much really interesting comedy is to be found.
LH: What is the strangest thing that has happened to you on stage?
BS: Oh man you know that some strange shit has happened. As well as touring with bands I have supported people like Steve O on tour... But how about this one:
A couple of years ago when I was doing “wild and crazy” Bob Slayer shows at Edinburgh Fringe I spotted a fresh young face smiling up at me from the audience… I found out that her name was Amanda and in an exchange which was perhaps designed to usher her out so that the adults could continue with their fun I said: “You should be shocked this…” but she didn’t seem to agree.
“You won’t shock me” she replied defiantly
Oh I see, she had just issued me with a challenge, a challenge that it would have been churlish to refuse. What followed was an off the cuff, un-prepared response designed to shock this supposedly un-shockable girl. The first notion I had was to ask her her age.
“17″ came the reply.
“Really? Well I am old enough to be your dad…” She nodded, still smiling
“Would you like me to be your dad?”
“OK, If you like.” she replied. I was committed now
“Does your real dad abuse you?” - Did I just say that?
“…Because that is the kind of dad I would like to be” - Oh dear it seems that I did.
Some people in the room immediately showed their disapproval. I apologised to them and told them that their reaction was the right one. I also pointing out the interesting thing was that they were in the minority in this crowd; their sharp intakes of breath were overshadowed by considerable laughter around the room. I pointed at the happy ones and told them:
“You are bad people”
And then, feeling a very bad person myself, I turned back to Amanda to make another apology. However I quickly realised my expected need for an apology was based on arrogance, of course she would be shocked by my quick and clever line… apparently not, it was evident by the big grin on Amanda’s face that she really meant her opening statement and was not bothered. This was going to be a tougher challenge than I thought. I was going to have to up my game and get freaky.
My next gambit opened with: “Now Amanda, I am approaching 40 and I have not had my prostate checked… Do you think you would be kind enough to stick your finger up my bum?”
I thought this was a simple masterstroke and that she would surely back down. However it seemed she was not quite ready to concede: “No problem” she replied and then with a cannily added condition “So long as you have a rubber glove for me…”
This was a smart move that was keeping her in the game but was also putting a barrier between her and the potentially shocking act that I am suggesting. Or so she thought: I had a bag of props on stage for these gigs, some of which I used regularly and then others amounted to a collection of tat that I thought might come in handy for random occasions such as these. It just so happened that not only did I have a rubber glove in there I even had the choice of three colours.
I put my hand into my bag and straight away pulled out a blue washing up glove. It was met by much applause and merriment from the crowd and I held it out to her. Surely she would back down now and reject it? But no! She took the glove without hesitation…
So now we were at a situation where it looked like she really might not back down at all… and of course there is no way I could back down (Some people have told me that I really could have backed down, but i don’t really understand that concept).
LH: No, not that concept you don’t!
BS: Clutching at straws I had the idea that maybe the audience could assist me here, if they didn’t want this to happen then I would be off the hook.
“Do you want this to happen?” was my simple question to the room
“Yes!” was their simple answer…
Or at least the only answer I heard, I am sure there were those that didn’t want it to happen but by now they were hiding behind their hands. I turned to Amanda, hoping that having had a bit of time to process what the next step was going to be she might have discarded the glove and the bet would be off. This is not what happened.
As I turned around I saw that not only was she wearing the glove…She was spitting on the finger!
There was no other option but to drop my trousers and let the deed happen. Again it has been pointed out that I did in fact have a number of other options, one of which was simply telling some jokes, but sadly none of these alternatives made much sense to me and so it was that my naught was double knuckled live on stage.
At the start of this story it seemed that poor young Amanda was the victim, but now it is not so clear is it? (It should be pointed out that Amanda was very gentle) I am sad to say that I have never experienced such a huge reaction on stage as I did during these moments of unexpected rectal examination.
“I wish I had proper jokes…” I told the audience who were shrieking, laughing and clapping.
Of course some still had their hands in front of their faces but not one of them could resist parting their fingers for a peek at what was happening…
The beautiful thing is that Amanda was not done yet, she went to pull her finger out and then pushed it back in again, which caused another wave of excitement from the audience.
Then she withdrew her finger altogether… as I had pointed out the reaction up until that point had been large but now people eclipsed even that and seriously lost their shit. Not only did Amanda possess perfect comic timing, but when she removed her finger she had the comedic fortitude to leave the glove inside. And to cap it all, as a final flourish, she did ‘Jazz hands’ and put on a huge happy smile.
Amanda was declared un-shockable and it was the start of a beautiful friendship which continues to this day and for those who are wondering she gave me the all clear, although I am not sure if she is actually medically trained?
(Incidentally in this gig were the people from a production company I am now making a documentary with… and their name is rather appropriately: Brown Eyed Boy)
LH: Bob, I think that’s certainly going to be one of the best stories we hear from these interviews!
Check Out Heroes of Fringe in Leicester, and also Heroes is now taking performers applications for Edinburgh - www.heroesoffringe.com