The winner of the 2016 Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer is back with an honest and frank insight into the men who have influenced and impacted his life. The good, the bad and the indifferent.
An unexpected reunion with his father, along with the death of his grandfather in late 2014 forced Scott to look at the men in his family, and to ask the question: is there truth in the old saying, ‘like father, like son’?
We caught up with Scott for a chat about his upcoming show:
It’s that time of year again where everyone is gearing up and getting ready for The Fringe. Are we safe to assume that a lot has changed for you since this time last year?
Well I don’t want to destroy the idea of what it means to be returning to the Fringe after winning an award, but in truth, no. Not much has changed. Well, I don’t feel like anything has changed. Yes, I’ve been very lucky the last few months to do some great gigs, some amazing festivals and my first wee UK Tour. But honestly I don’t feel any different as an act, or any different about the Fringe. I’m approaching it the exact same way as I did before.
So many people keep asking me if I feel pressured returning this year with my second show, and I don’t at all. I think a lot of comics put themselves under immense pressure with the Fringe and it’s not healthy. If you work hard on writing a show that you are proud of then nothing else will matter. Reviews, Industry chat, even awards. None of that is really for us, for comedians. It’s for the business side of it, for the industry to keep them close to the action. It’s best to blank all that out.
The only thing that has changed is that I feel more confident with my writing. Certainly last year’s Fringe and the Tour confirmed that. You question if you can write an hour of comedy in the first place. Well not just an hour of comedy, as probably anyone could do that given enough time. It’s about writing a show that will hold their attention for the time you have. Then you question wHether that show will work out of your home town, on the road, across the country. So after going through that experience it certainly gave me confidence that yes I can write a decent comedy show that can travel. Also, if I’ve done it once maybe I can do it again. We will find out in August.
You’ve developed a following from some fellow comedians in the industry, one of which being Frankie Boyle, who you joined during his Frankie Boyle and Friends show at The Glasgow Comedy Festival earlier this year, can you tell us how that developed?
Pretty simple really, I’ve known the Gaffer now for about 4 years. I was at a gig with him a few years ago when he was trying out new material. He asked me if I wanted to come back on the Sunday and do some support for him, I said yes I’d love to and its gone from there. He has been an incredible source of information and inspiration for me. His work ethic is unbelievable and a great example that you get nothing without hard work. The shows we did this year in Glasgow were wonderful and I never thought I’d have the chance to play 4 nights at a Sold Out Kings Theatre in Glasgow.
Your Fringe debut show last year, ‘Life After Death’, talked about experiences throughout your life, more specifically your near-death experience caused by a brain haemorrhage. You’re returning this year with your show ‘Like Father Like Son’, can you tell us about the influences behind this show?
The new show is another storytelling show, looking at the relationship between my father and myself, also as I’m at the stage where I’m ready to start a family, what it means to be a father. I suppose it’s another serious subject and maybe one that some people may think comedy doesn’t jump from, but I think the best comedy comes from real life and the difficulty that life can bring us.
I’ve always had a strange relationship with my father. My mum and dad divorced when I was very young, my Dad then moved about a lot. Down south when I was about 11 and finally to America when I was 18. So there was a large period in my life where I felt like I never really had a father. The relationship was never a bad one, never broken, just not there. I have no idea if that has affected me in any way growing up. One thing is for sure I don’t know what it means to be a father, a good father.
A few years back, maybe late 2014. My dad returned home to Scotland out of the blue. Within 6 months of being home he became very ill, suffering a large stroke, which has led to a number of health issues. As his condition decreased he was finally admitted to a full time residential care home. In the show I try to talk about our relationship, how it has affected me. How I feel about being forced back in to this relationship and try to understand a man I know very little about. Doesn’t sound funny but trust me there are some cracking stories in there.
Both shows seem to have a dark, serious subject matter to them, and you’ve also mentioned previously that you’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. How did comedy end up fitting into the equation?
I always had a feeling that I was meant to do something with my life, something a bit different. Honestly I had no clue it was going to be comedy, I didn’t even know that clubs existed across the country, across the world. I certainly had no idea that you could be a working comic and make a living. I used to think acting was the best thing to do but again no idea how to do that. Everything just fell in to place and I suppose at the right time. I found out about a comedy course in Glasgow and went along. Although the course itself didn’t really teach you anything it gave you the chance to do a 5-minute set, your first gig. Everything went from there. The MC on the night ran a gig and asked me to come down that Friday night. I went along and then it went from there. That was November 2010.
I didn’t start doing stand up till I was 26 so I had a good chunk of life experience before me. I think I also had a good idea of what I found funny. Long form, long stories were always the style I enjoyed. I can appreciate the craft of the one line comic but it’s not my cup of tea. I wish I could put into words how I write my comedy but all I can say is I find what I do easy enough. Trying to write in a different style is difficult so one liners for example. But stories come easy to me, the ideas maybe don’t but the story itself can come together pretty quickly. You need to find confidence I suppose and say right this is the style of comedy I do, this is the style I enjoy, now just work on being the best you can be.
With the nature of the stories in your shows being pretty serious, and usually categorised as subjects that are difficult to talk about, have you ever found yourself in a situation where the audience just haven’t got it?
Honestly no I haven’t. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me on this but I think you can talk about anything in comedy. As long as it is funny. If you can make light of a subject it becomes far easier to discuss, it takes the fear even the hate away from it and makes a wider audience open to it and understand it. I think so anyway.
I don’t find any of my subject choices particularly dark or difficult. I mean we have all been sick at some point, we all know someone who has been in hospital or died. We all have a dad whether absent or present. We’ve all had fears or questions over starting a family, about our own life, we’ve all had these thoughts. I just choose to put them in a comedy show. The only area where my shows may differ is that I try to be as honest as I can be in them. You shouldn’t be painting yourself as this wonderful person, this comedy saint, because no-one is that person. If you can be honest and open up, an audience learn about you, maybe they can understand where some of the comedy comes from or understand a story a little better. In the new show no-one comes off well. My dad is a terrible Dad and I’m a pretty terrible son. But that honesty gives the audience a look into the truth of the characters in the story and I think only adds to the show.
No-one can sit and laugh for an hour, no-one. You need to give the audience a show, I think. Something to remember. If you can get them laughing and they are on board do something with that attention, with that trust. Trust from an audience is harder to get than laughs. But do something with that trust and hold their attention for an hour. That’s it, that’s all you have to do. It’s as simple as that.
You had a run of ‘Like Father Like Son’ at the Glasgow Comedy Festival earlier this year. How was the response back then?
Response was good, I was happy with how the two shows went. First night the first half went well and the second half was a shift. Then on the Second night the first half was a shift and the second half went well, so I think that means there is a show in there somewhere. I enjoy running the shows out at The Glasgow Festival, it’s a home gig, safe room. It’s great to run out all the material, all the ideas, really push the bits and test them. From what comes out of those gigs, I will work down to get the hour version ready for Edinburgh. Once I’ve got an idea of what the show is I’ll run one more longer 90-minute version, before working it down to the hour. Then run the hour two to three times to get it in my head and I’m good to go.
Finally, are there any newcomers on the bill at this year’s Fringe you would recommend we check out?
I’m sure there are loads of wonderful acts heading to the Fringe for the first time this year. Two who I would look out for are Rosco McClelland and Eshann Akbar. Both wonderful comics and great talents. So I’d recommend you see both of their shows as soon as you can.
Scott Gibson’s Like Father Like Son will play at the Gilded Balloon Teviot from 2-28 August. You can purchase tickets here.