The Irrepressible Craig Hill
The comedian and king of puns is back at the Fringe this year!
To whet your appetite, here’s what Craig had to say when we caught up with him in between his Australian tour and latest UK tour “Tartan Aboot!” in 2013.
“I’ve done it the mad way round,” says Craig, Scotland’s most famous kilt-wearing stand-up comedian, of his recent Australian adventure.
“If you’re touring in Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sidney, you stay there. I don’t do that. I come back because of the Glaswegian demand! I would have had to not do Glasgow if I’d wanted to stay in Australia, and I don’t really want to do that. Glasgow’s where I come from; they’re a very faithful audience.”
So, when Craig speaks with The Scots Magazine, he’s just recently finished three weeks in Australia and is getting ready to fly back out to Melbourne.
“It’s so good for you as a comedian to have the challenge, to go to another country and see how it goes,” he says, but there’s also a practical reason; the Melbourne comedy festival is the biggest comedy fest next to Edinburgh.
“It’s almost as important, certainly over that side of the world,” he says. “Basically it’s just Edinburgh with a wee bit of sun, so you can hardly blame us for wanting to do it, regardless of how many gigs we’re doing.”
It’s also an opportunity to catch up with other comedians.
“Sometimes you do comedy clubs, but a lot of the time you’re touring by yourself, so you’re not really getting the opportunity to meet as many other comedians as you might like,” he points out.
However, with week-long runs in Melbourne, Sidney and Perth—plus a couple of gigs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the Scottish Society while he’s “in the neighbourhood”, Craig’s Australasian tour is typical of his many years on the road.
“My shows have done really well in the last year or two, they’ve just got busier and busier which is fantastic,” he says, “but that’s just because you keep going back and touring theatres. People take a chance and enjoy the show and hopefully will come back the next year with their pals.”
Craig has quite an interesting following…
Like a lot of gay comedians, Craig admits he initially had a strong female following, not least because of his choice of clothes on stage.
“I’ve had lots of women in their 40s a wee bit excited by seeing somebody in a kilt. A lot of them think they can turn me. I just think that’s hysterical; like, ‘Oh come on love, it’s not happening.’ But my kilt goes up a little higher; I don’t mind giving them a wee thrill.”
And then there are the grannies.
“There’s something about gays and grannies; grannies love gays and gays love grannies, especially saucy grannies,” Craig laughs. “I had an 81 year old grannie in my audience in Australia. She said: ‘I’ve seen it all; nothing shocks me any more. You can say what you like.’
I love breaking that assumption that older people would have a problem with you being saucy; they absolutely don’t, they’re often the sauciest!”
He insists his audiences are very varied, but nowadays they do seem dominated by couples.
“Mainly couples in their 20s right up to their 60s. What I’ve found is that a lot of women come the first couple of years. I can imagine their husbands going ‘Och no, that’s not my sort of thing. It’s going to be gay,’ but then they’re dragged along and are gobsmacked by how much they’re enjoying it. They sometimes think gay comedy is about being gay; really, all it is is comedy by a gay person.”
Craig has never hidden his sexual orientation on stage.
“If you’re being open about your life, which I think you have to be to do comedy, then certainly being a gay man does play a part in your persona on stage, because otherwise you’d just be denying that part of you.”
“I don’t think people have a problem with it as much as they used to. Some people might think it’s not going to be their cup of tea and, when they come, are surprised how much I get their world. Because I flirt with the audience so much—a lot of my shows are very off the cuff—I can become quite laddish, become whom I’m speaking to. I think that they’re quite surprised that I can end up the hard Glaswegian men in the audience. But I grew up in that heterosexual world; the heterosexual world dominates everyone’s world.
“First and foremost, I’m a comedian.”
“There are a lot of people who are still a bit wary of gay people, of gay comedy; they’re always a bit frightened until they find out that ‘Actually, he was just like one of us’,” Craig admits. “What they don’t realise is that, first and foremost, I’m a comedian; second I’m a Scottish comedian. They can forget I’m a gay man because I can relate to their world. It’s really good for them to get their head round that, to realise that we have more in common than differences.”
It was not an obviously stand-up filled world in which Craig grew up, and he initially trained as an actor.
“I saw a lot of comedy on television,” he says. “Victoria Wood’s a brilliant writer; she makes it look like it’s easy.
“She can write these beautiful sketches that have these brilliant words that you just think are inherently funny.”
Was she an influence on him? “A lot of people said to me recently that they love my characters on stage: ‘You’re always going into accents, you go into characters, and the actor in you always comes out.’ I never really realised that until somebody pointed it out; maybe that’s down to those early days of falling in love with Julie Walters performing Victoria Wood’s writing. Maybe it does all creep in.”
Yet the comedians which inspire him today are arguably not quite so word-conscious.
“The comedians I like, that inspire me, are the ones who are really off the cuff, because that’s my favourite style of comedy,” he says. “My shows have become increasingly more spontaneous and very based on what i find in the audience.
“I like that challenge, I like being forced to think on my feet. Honestly, you can come up with amazing moments that you could not have planned if you didn’t open it up to the audience. If you can find an artificial pig inseminator in your audience—imagine if I’d just stuck to the script!”
Find Craig’s upcoming shows below!