WHILE some comedians have proved to be nothing more than a humourous flash in the pan, the man arriving at The Maltings on Wednesday can boast nearly 25 years in the business, and has no intentions of throwing the towel in any time soon.
Not content with hosting his own daily show on BBC Radio Scotland, Fred MacAulay has found the time to embark on a UK-wide tour which has taken him everywhere from Ilfracombe to Londonderry via Brighton, Bristol, Durham and many other places. The Maltings is the final calling point on his ‘Legally Bald’ jaunt on December 19 but he has already begun to draw up touring plans for the next two years.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing the tour and I’ve been getting some really good crowds,” he told ‘The Guide’ not long after coming off air from ‘MacAulay & Co’.
“I haven’t done it all in one go; I’ve dipped in and out of it but I’ve been all over the UK and there’s been a really broad audience.
“The show debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe this year and I was lucky enough to be completely sold out for my entire run.
“For people doing stand-up there really isn’t a better place to ply your trade. If you come up through the club circuit you’re used to doing 20-minute sets but at the Fringe you get a full hour so you have to up your game.
“It feels weird to then do a gig like The Comedy Store in London and have to go back to doing a short set.”
Although Fred has been a massive hit on the airwaves since first appearing on Radio Scotland in 1997 and has enjoyed being at the helm of his own show, he admitted there was nothing quite like the feeling of being on stage in front of a packed house.
“Doing stand-up is like having your own domain,” he explained.
“One comedian called his stand up show ‘My House, My Rules’ and that totally sums it up.
“I prefer stand-up to anything else I do as part of my work.
“Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy doing the radio show and I had no idea it would have lasted so long. When I started hosting it in 1997, the station said they were keen for it to run into the start of the new millennium; I’m still there well over a decade later.”
Hosting a mid-morning BBC radio show is of course an entirely different kettle of comedic fish to doing stand-up but Fred said that he just about manages to avoid blurring the lines between the two. “There are people who come along to my stand-up shows having heard me on the radio and I think it proves a bit of an eye-opener for them,” he joked.
“They’re both entirely different and when it comes to radio I’ve been doing the show 15 years now so I’m fully aware of the parameters. I’ve managed not to say the ‘f’ word on air so far and I’ve only toed the line a bit too closely on a few occasions.
“My comedy is generally about things that have happened to me. My wife Aileen, or ‘Mrs Fred’ as I refer to her on stage, is used to being mentioned in the show, having been so for nearly 25 years.
“I did 22 nights at the Fringe this year and she came along to 21 of them although I don’t know if I’d class her as a fan; more a supporter.
“My kids also feature quite a bit in my material but they’ve grown up with dad being a comedian so they’re neither up nor down about me using anecdotes about them.
“Hosting ‘MacAulay & Co’ and Radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz’ I do have to take an interest in current affairs and I mention the Referendum in my shows.
“There’s not many of us doing that at the moment but I guarantee that at next year’s Fringe there’ll be a plethora of shows about it!”
Come May, Fred will have notched up a quarter of a century in comedy although he admits that starting out at a time when there weren’t too many Scottish laughmongers in the limelight, he wasn’t sure what path his career would take him on.
“There was only really Arnold Brown, Craig Ferguson and Billy Connolly about, as far as Scottish comics were concerned.
“I didn’t have any definite idea of where I’d like to see my career go. I’d always had a keen interest in TV and knew I wanted to be involved in that in some way.
“I got my first experience of that with a chat show I did with Ally McCoist in the 90s and I really enjoy doing panel shows. I’ve appeared on ‘QI’ a few times, ‘The Apprentice: You’re Fired’ and I’d do ‘Have I Got News For You’ again in a shot.
“In terms of my future plans I just want to keep going. This tour has been great and I want to build on it by doing some dates in the Highlands next year before the Fringe and then hopefully get down to England again in 2014.
“I feel really fortunate to have been going for as long as I have been and to see what was just a happy hobby turn into a means of making an income and then a long standing career.
“There’s people who I was on the circuit with in the 90s who have gone on to become teachers – you can never tell which way things are going to go!
“My advice to any young comedians is that there really is no substitute for hard work; you’ve got to keep refreshing your material.
“I might touch about Christmas for my Berwick show but jokes about certain times of year have a limited shelf life – I couldn’t do a gig at the end of January and still be talking about having the family round for Christmas dinner!”
Fred will take to the stage at 8pm on Wednesday, with tickets for the show close to selling out.