Gary brings Donald home for even more laughs

Gary McNair's show has been a hit at the Festival and touring

Gary McNair's show has been a hit at the Festival and touring

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This could get complicated. Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian is a show about not being funny, but, well, it happens to be very funny indeed.

In fact, it’s so funny it won a bunch of awards and played to houses packed out by word of mouth at the Edinburgh festival fringe in 2014; which in turn led to an English tour where it was every bit as well received.

That’s even more surprising when you discover the show is unapologetically Scottish. Indeed, writer and performer Gary McNair was amazed by how well it was received at the festival – where audiences come from all over the world – as well as down south.

Despite his work being in demand as far afield as Australia, where he’s just toured to great acclaim, the Glasgow-based actor refuses to change the language – because it sounds funnier with all the Scottish colloquialisms he loves.

“I’d rather have people not understand something and have to ask about it than change it – because it wouldn’t sound funny,” he says. “There’s a certain rhythm and alchemy to Scottish phrases – even to those who don’t know what they mean.”

Unfortunately, the example he gives of such a word is unprintable in a family newspaper. Let’s just say it starts with a j and rhymes with bobby. And leave it at that.

But it does mean that Gary is looking forward to touring in Scotland, where he won’t need to explain anything.

“Scottish audiences are funny,” he says. “I mean that they like a good laugh.

In Donald Robertson is Not A Stand-Up Comedian the darker edge of comedy is very much to the fore, despite the laughs.

“It’s a show that’s great fun to perform,” he says. “It’s funny but it’s about not being funny. Everybody knows that one guy who just isn’t funny. Well, it’s about a guy who’s desperate to be funny, but he’s not.”

The idea came after a period with the National Theatre of Scotland, whose support sent him to places such as New York (“That sounds fun, but I also had to read a lot of books”) to study something that had begun to intrigue him: the link between stand-up and theatre, or rather the difference between the two. He’s aware this doesn’t sound funny. But the reason he asked was because so many of his reviews compared his theatre performances to stand-up shows.

So, he isn’t a stand-up then?

“No, I’m not – though I had to try it out, because I’m very ‘method’ when I perform, and I’m playing the part of the comedian.”

So, he got what he describes as “a baptism of fire” when he did a stand-up routine at T in the Park.

“It was brutal – but I love a situation that can turn dark very quickly,” he says. “I loved all the drunk hecklers.

“I did get the better of them, I think. It was really good experience to stand in front of them.”

Anyway, three years since the first performance of Donald Robertson is not A Stand-Up, he has worked out the difference between stand-up and theatre: the drama takes you on a story, a journey where characters develop and change.

And it’s the story that excites him every bit as much as making people laugh.

Does that sound funny? Well, it is.

Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian tours Scotland from April 29-May 21. Dates include:

Dundee Rep, Wednesday, April 27

The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, Friday, April 29

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Wednesday, May 4

Cumbernauld Theatre, Friday, May 6

Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline, Wednesday, May 11

Traverse, Edinburgh

Thu 12 - Sat 14 May 8pm (12 May BSL interpreted)

Village Hall, Carlops, Wednesday, May 18

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 19 - Sat 21 May 7.30pm

To buy tickets visit www.garymcnair.co.uk/tour