Cheers, Malcolm

Comics say their farewells

Malcolm Hardee’s final send-off was completed last night with a gig at the club he founded – ending with a stage full of dancing naked men, including one with a firework up his backside.

The tribute show at Greenwich’s Up The Creek was a fitting celebration of the unique ethos Hardee brought to comedy – featuring a mix of top comedians, unfortunate open spots ready to be sacrificed to the raucous hecklers, bizarre cabaret turns, and a drunk Shakespearean actress who slurred a toast to the comic.

Among the better-known names were Arthur Smith – one of those who did end up naked – Jools Holland, Jimmy Carr, Jeremy Hardy, John Hegley and the human firework-holder, Chris Lynam.

They recounted tales of their strange encounters with Hardee, who died earlier this month at the age of 55, when he fell from a dinghy crossing Greenland Dock from his floating pub, the Wibbley Wobbley, to his houseboat on the opposite bank.

Among the lesser-known memories of Malcolm's debauchery were:

  • Nick Wilty recounting the time they won a Fortnum & Mason’s hamper in a pub quiz and, after relieving it of its alcohol, passed caviar and other delicacies to the tramps of Greenwich
  • Andre Vincent telling of being asked to perform a gig in a Norfolk field for Malcolm, only find himself bizarrely bumped off the bill in favour of John Inman
  • Owen O’Neill remembering the night they imposed themselves on a bloke Malcolm had met only once before and convincing him to let them stay the night – and then taking a dump on the suede shoes of his disapproving wife
  • Simon Munnery telling of Malcolm stealing the contents of his bathroom – and emptying a bottle of perfume over his coat.

The gig was held to raise money for Hardee’s funeral, which took place on Thursday at St Alfege's Church in Greenwich  and attended by the likes of Johnny Vegas, Harry Hill, Jo Brand and Jenny Éclair – as well as most of the performers on Sunday night’s bill.

Among them was a Venetian opera singer known as Alessandro, who used to perform naked with Malcolm. For the service, he was more appropriately dressed… but not for the tribute gig.

One mourner at the funeral, which started with a rousing cheer as the coffin entered the church, said: “Iwould have paid good money to see that.”

During the service Arthur Smith joked: "Everything about him was original - apart from his stand-up act"; Owen O'Neill and Jo Brand read poems they had written, and Jools Holland played piano.

Malcolm’s 19-year-old son Frank, an Oxford student, said life with his dad was like a "crazy, mixed up episode of EastEnders."

While his daughter Poppy, 16, added: "It was really embarrassing always seeing him naked and in the coffin was about the first time I saw him with clothes on. It did scar you for life seeing your father's genitalia at Christmas dinner."

After the service the wreaths were thrown into the Thames – including one saying ‘Knob out’ in yellow flowers, and another, from Ricky Grover, with the words ‘Fuck It’ in red floral writing on a white background.

Vic Reeves later told the Daily Telegraph: "He lived his life for comedy. He was such a hedonist and everyone has their Malcolm story.

"He gave us a lot of help when we started out at the Tunnel Club. He would put me on then clear off, leaving me to deal with the crowd."

And Bill Bailey told the South London Press: "It was the best funeral I have ever been to. It was amazing... funny and touching. The vicar had to raise his game with a church full of comedians."

The funeral service was arranged by Malcolm's brother Alex – who is the Scissor Sisters' agent - with help from Arthur Smith and Martin Soan, Malcolm’s friend from The Greatest Show On Legs.

After last night's farewell, a bigger West End tribute is now being planned.

>> More on the funeral at


Published: 21 Feb 2005

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