If You Want To Write A Column, Don’t Have Kids: Comedy vs History & The Scottish Comedy Awards

Susan Calman

When desperately trying to work until 3am, and your best efforts are deftly dashed by a wily two-year old with an equal passion for The Blue Nile and bed-hopping, it’s safe to assume the following morning will be unpleasant. Awoken by an accusatory prod from a dishevelled-but-dressed seven year old, waving at the alarm clock and mumbling something about ‘toast’ and 08:23’, my powers of prediction were galvanised: we were horribly late. For everything.

The domino effect of my toddler’s stubbornness ensured that the morning commenced under an inverse Midas touch, with everything turning to pain and/or screaming. Until I arrived home sodden from the habitual dreichness of a Scottish Tuesday – clutching an Asda bag that had recently breached the terms of its agreement – and opened the door to something special. One of Bill Oddie’s rarest fancies; an envelope that was not a bill.

Equal parts excited and curious, the shopping was unceremoniously dumped by the stairs, in favour of my Goonie moment. Housed inside the brown paper carriage was a book. An awfy wee book by the eminently talented funny man Trevor Lock, who’s clearly been branching out into the world of portable whimsy. It’s a good direction for him. Without giving too much away, it’s something of a miscellany of peculiarity; a mixture of outrageously funny verses, poignant aphorisms and delightfully crap drawings. He’s very kindly given me permission to share one with you:

Life is Unfair – Trevor Lock

A beautiful actress

Wears a fur coat and it’s ok,

Because it’s vintage

And she’s a beautiful actress.


I wear the pelt of a mouse,

That probably died of old age,

On my little willy,

And they ask me to leave the pool.

A whisper on the wind tells me he’s making a beeline for Auld Reekie for a book launch soon – once he’s figured out how to snare an ISBN and hopped the other administrative hurdles – I have a feeling it’ll be deliciously left field and unabashedly silly; a must for comedy connoisseurs who like their laughs gnomic and bursting with home-made charm.  As soon as I have the co-ordinates, you’ll know about it.

Talking of home grown talent, legend has it that in response to our lot getting largely ignored at the British Comedy Awards, in comically stereotypical Scottish spirit we’re giving the Sassenachs the metaphorical finger, and establishing our very own Scottish Comedy Awards, giving us plenty of room to ignore them right back. I, for one, am entirely for this. Not because I feel the need to kick up a stink, or ignore our buddies down south, but because we’re on the cusp of historic possibility. Given that this wee town north of the border is the nebula housing the most important comedy event of the industry calendar, I’ve long lamented the dearth of recognition for the talent we grow. The Malcolm Hardee Awards are wonderful – and in memory of a legend – but it’s high time we had something with a little more international kudos, and it seems this cat, Alan Anderson – a disgruntled promoter, has the right amount of clout, stubbornness and resource to make it happen.

The plan is to run an Oscars-style ceremony in tandem with Glasgow International Comedy Festival, which is great for two reasons; it highlights the West as a credible destination for comedy acts and fans, and gives Scottish comics a fighting chance of gaining recognition, without the pressure of global competition.

But back to my point about historic change – comedy has always existed as a means of palatable social commentary. It’s a vehicle for flinging ideas and opinions around that the socio-political stiffness among pals prevents. As well as this, material is unendingly fuelled by the ebb and flow of political landscape (just look at the 80s alternative comedy boom – much of it dealing in anti-Thatcherite barbs). This September we have a chance to do something none of our predecessors have; a chance to reject the ordinary, unlovingly dispersed from a government we didn’t elect. Standing on the threshold is exciting, and will fuel the arts – not just comedy – in a way that we have never before experienced. Whatever the outcome, there will be enough joy and sorrow to spawn the second coming of the alternative comedy scene.

With the GCIF a mere eight weeks away, and the line up brimming with savvy Scots voices old and new, I can’t wait to see how the debate creeps in to the material display. With the likes of Susan Calman, Janey Godley, Vladimir McTavish, Kier McAllister and shape shifting satirical wizard Rory Bremner doing their bit, we’re set to see the debate imbued with a much needed sense of humour. Practically a public service for those turned cold at the prospect of engaging with politics.

Given that recent studies from the University of Haifa in Israel have demonstrated that comedy has more political influence than the news, maybe we’ll see a wee jump in the polls after the funny folk do their thing?

Well, a girl can dream, eh?

Vonny Moyes
National Collective

Photograph of Susan Calman by Edinburgh International Film Festival


About Vonny Moyes

Vonny Moyes is an arts journalist, Comedy Section Editor for The Skinny magazine and very occasional poet, based in Edinburgh. When she's not toiling in the word mill, she's moonlighting as a guitarist in Echo Arcadia.