Graham Mackie

Graham Mackie

Finalist in Scottish comedian of the year 2008 and 2010
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Scottish Comedian Of The Year 2010

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

This wasn’t Scottish comedy’s finest hour (or four). Not because the man crowned Scottish Comedian Of The Year wasn’t a native – despite the audience jeers he was perfectly eligible – but because the whole final was a parade of technical competence, more than exciting, original voices. If this is grassroots comedy, what hope for the mainstream getting more interesting?

Newly moved to Glasgow’s large – and Baltically chilly – O2 Academy, this well-established barometer of the Scottish scene is not just for newbies, with relative rookies competing alongside performers who’ve been in the game more than a decade.

In the former camp was Eddie Cassidy, just 18 months into his career and given the tough opening slot. If he was nervous, he didn’t show it, but an assured delivery couldn’t compensate for pedestrian material – all porn, cannabis, and ‘what’s the deal with those health warnings on fag packets?’ If you’re going to base your routine on sex and drugs, you’re going to need a strong angle to stand apart from everyone who’s done it before – and Cassidy just doesn’t have that. A charming story about walking into the wrong flat by mistake was a welcome high point, but this was a newcomer with little new.

At the other end of the experience scale, Charlie Ross – 13 years a comedian who even runs courses at Glasgow Met. Hopefully he teaches his students to think beyond the dull formula of his opening line: ‘I know what you’re all thinking… John Terry’s looking a bit rough.’ His delivery was exemplary – so good he covered the muted response his unambitious material often received. Much of his material revolved around him being gay, but only towards the end did this go beyond dated stereotypical reference, when he spoke about playing in a gay football team, and the behaviour of straight men in gay bar that was actually worth listening to.

Edinburgh-based Liverpudlian Rick Molland was something of a rabble-rouser; getting cheers for his left-wing sloganeering without always backing it up with material. But although his targets were easy, he had nice lines on Jim Davidson and the BNP member who proved racism wasn’t his only boneheaded opinion. There was too much exposition on this last topic, as he simply read out a newspaper cutting while making outraged noises. But at least he had a point of view, which earned him the runners-up slot; though on a stronger night he would most likely have struggled.

Santa lookalike Graham Mackie was the audience favourite. He’s an inherently warm, likeable character who instinctively brought a spark of joy to the shivering auditorium. But there’s little evidence of original writing, right down to the age-old teachers’ joke: What do you teach? Bastards. Elsewhere he read out a few dumb answers to exam questions, that staple of newspaper stories, did a predictable ‘dad’s gag’ about memory loss, and had some unfocussed material about Josef Fritzl. Shame, because if his material was even half as strong as his presence, he’d be a real force. As it was, he finished third.

Newcomer Darren Connell learnt at the feet of Charlie Ross; and like his teacher spent half his set on undemanding material comprising largely smart-arse answers to questions and advertising slogans. If you remember the ‘Guinness cures all’ campaign, you can instantly imagine how he responds to it. A routine about an RSPCA ad is jumbled and unconvincing., though it leads in to a strange but distinctive routine involving a plastic bag – by no means taut or polished, but something a little different.

Ro Campbell, the eventual winner, was by far the most proficient comic on the bill, with an upbeat energy, control of the room, and witty take on Scottish life from an outsider’s point of view. There’s a nice routine about the Shetland ferry, while he even finds his own angle to the stereotype of Glasgow hardmen. A bit of politics, with a stinging line about David Cameron’s happiness poll was the icing on the cake.

At 22, Ray Bradshaw was the youngest finalist, and making his second appearance in this annual showcase. In the intervening 12 months, he’s reduced his reliance on Sikipedia-style one-liners to develop more of a personality, of a darkly cheeky type. There are some old-fashioned gags and stories in the set, some good, some bad, and although not yet consistent is showing promising development as a comic.

I wrote three words in my notes for 26-year-old Scott Forbes: Dull, dull, dull. He waffled through a tedious bingo-card of Star Wars, booze, dope-smoking, porn and inbred small towns. This sort of stuff doesn’t hold the attention for one minute, let alone ten, and lines like ‘I had sex last night… with a woman!’ don’t help. That must have been one hell of a terrible heat he won…

This is Wee Man’s fourth final in five years; and one of his worse. His ned/chav character is a YouTube hit, with a catalogue of impressive raps all with a distinctive working-class Glaswegian bent. Unfortunately, however, the comedy chav is a crowded space – with Lee Nelson having cornered the market – and this character doesn’t stand out on the stage. He came out with confidence, but singularly failed to engage the audience and performed to near-silence. Fair pay to the punter dragged up on stage to provide a backbeat to his weak rap about having a penis the size of a Malteser that couldn’t satisfy any woman. His set here suffered the same fate.

Forget what Bill Hicks said – what really demotes you off the artistic roll call forever isn’t doing adverts, but bringing a dildo on stage. It would be a cheap laugh – if it got one at all. But after a muddled set, Ancient Annie couldn’t use it to stimulate this tired audience. As you might guess from her name, this is a character act – though there’s not much character to it; I assume creator Anne Wilks thought that lazy comments about overgrown pubic hair and such like would be funnier coming from someone supposed to be a pensioner. She had a couple of nicely-written metaphors and one nice gag about a child’s name, but this long-winded and unfunny set needs to be pensioned off, and rethought from top to bottom.

Teddy’s another long-standing comic who’s regularly appeared in this final and another who struggled tonight – partly through the late hour and partly because of his own lack of focus, both in delivery and material. His baby-face looks are at odds with some of his nicely sick one-liners; but his persona isn’t consistent, so you’re never quite sure of his angle. Easy reliance on violent imagery sat alongside rather sweet gags to inconsistent effect. That said, he had probably the single best gag of the night, as well as several more to indicate he’s a decent comic writer.

But the overwhelming feeling from the night was a lack of ambition from the contestants, with so many peddling the same sort of stuff they see on the telly – rather than demonstrating their own voice.

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Published: 5 Dec 2010

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