Amid the coronavirus crisis, grassroots comedy in Scotland faces potential ‘extinction’ without a lifeline from the government, writes Brian Ferguson.
Can you remember the first time you saw yourself reflected back from a television screen or at the cinema?
It’s quite vivid in my memory as an awkward, hapless schoolboy, watching Gregory’s Girl at home in the mid-1980s. I was agog at not how achingly funny it was, from almost the first frame to the last, but also how true to life it felt to the harsh realities of teenage years when almost everything feels like a total mystery.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Gregory’s Girl recently, partly because it is 40 years old next year. It is undoubtedly a touchstone for my generation, but is still seen as one of the greatest Scottish films of all-time. Director Bill Forsyth is revered as one of the nation’s leading filmmakers, not just for Gregory’s Girl, which was famously honoured in the opening ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012, but for his two other best-known movies, Local Hero and Comfort and Joy. All three comfortably fit into the category of comedy.
Yet 40 years on, the current crop of Scottish comics have had to go into battle to try to secure official recognition for their art form for the first time and a share of the £107m lifeline funding to secure the future of arts and culture north of the border. I’ve come across some bizarre scenarios, but the sight of Scottish stand-ups pleading for fair treatment from the government of a country of Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle, Still Game, Chewin’ the Fat, Elaine C Smith and Karen Dunbar is right up there.
Ncuti Gatwa stars as Eric Effiong in ‘Sex Education.’ Right now, he may be the hottest star on the hottest show on Netlix
Eric is Otis Milburn’s best friend and one of the show’s most beloved characters. He is gay, loves drag and his season 1 arc focuses on him growing more confident in his own skin. Season 2 finds Ncuti torn between two guys, his former bully Adam and new kid on the block Rahim.
He grew up in Edinburgh in Scotland and his parents are from Rwanda. In an interview with the Guardian, Ncuti said he was a toddler when he and his family moved from Rwanda as refugees, fleeing the genocide. Ncuti then grew up in Oxgangs and Fife in Scotland [ . . . ]
BBC Scotland and BBC One Scotland and BBC Two Scotland sketch show from Robert Florence and Iain Connell. 22 episodes 2009 – 2019.
Robert Florence and Iain Connell write and perform this sketch show set in a fictional Scottish location that somehow seems eerily familiar. Burnistoun has its own newspaper, furniture store, gym, pub and all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, radio station and even an ice-cream van.
Characters include Uncle Willie the man who insists on having his own funeral before he dies, wannabe girl-band singer Jackie McGlade who can make any tune sexy except football songs, and John and Terry two pub pals who insist they do not fantasize about each other sexually.
Other Burnistoun characters include disgruntled serial killer The Burnistoun Butcher, and snippy siblings, Paul and Walter, who share high drama inside their ice cream van.
No matter what happens in the referendum over Scottish independence this week, the wit, expressive depth and wisdom of the Scottish people is something to be cherished. They know a thing or two about stoicism in the face of poor fortune, and there’s a clear knack for cutting through airs and graces too.
So here are are few expressions and truisms that should come in handy when everything turns as black as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat.
Note: Where absolutely necessary we’ve also provided a brief translation from Scots dialect into English:
• Failing means you’re playing. Translation: It’s better to be doing badly than not taking part.
• Mony a mickle maks a muckle. (mickle = small thing, muckle = big thing) Translation: Look after the pennies and the dollars look after themselves.