Scotsman review set Still Game on road to iconic status

Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill for Still Game feature. Picture: John Devlin
Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill for Still Game feature. Picture: John Devlin
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Still Game’s creators have recalled how a five-star review in The Scotsman kick-started the comedy phenomenon - as they vowed it will be going back to its theatrical roots when Jack and Victor take an extended bow in Glasgow over the next few weeks.

Speaking ahead of the final live show’s open night tonight, Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill paid tribute to the impact of a review which propelled them from performing to less than 10 people to full houses at the Gilded Balloon.

Kiernan said he could recall he and Greg Hemphill running down the Cowgate “like the Broons” to read the review pinned to a wall at the venue.

The Fringe show proved so successful that Karen Koren, Gilded Balloon’s artistic director offered them a tour, including to Ireland and Canada.

They went on to film the Fringe hit in Glasgow for a DVD which paved the way for the BBC to eventually commission a full TV series in 2002 - after Jack and Victor had appeared regularly in sketch show Chewin’ the Fat.

Kiernan and Hemphill have vowed that a few “old friends” from Chewin’ the Fat will be heading to the show they have created for the Hydro arena “retirement party.”

They have also pledged that the show’s stage swansong - Still Game’s third residency at the Hydro in the space of five years - will also honour the live roots of Jack and Victor.

Kiernan and Hemphill have kept the details of the final Hydro show under wraps, other than teasing the fact that it will follow on directly from the final television episode, when Jack and Victor were seen heading up Ben Lomond before fading from the screen.

Kiernan said: “We knew the way we wanted to finish the TV series. But we also know who our audience are. They made the show and they made us. What was needed was to stay goodbye on the TV and in the theatre, where Still Game started out.

“If people were sad about the way it ended on TV then the Hydro show is about doing one more big thing and making sure everybody is happy. That’s what we tried to do with Still Game in the first place - to make people happy. A live show is completely and utterly different from TV. Any performer will tell you there’s nothing quite like it.”

Hemphill recalled: “I would have been 10 times more nervous about performing at the Hydro if we hadn’t done the Fringe. We only had eight people in on our first night. But The Scotsman gave us a five-star review and we were full the next night. By the third week we were selling out every night.”

Kiernan said: “The Scotsman was definitely a big part of our early success story, that review really helped us.

“Don’t forget, there was no internet at the time. It was just us running down the Cowgate like The Broons to see the wall of reviews they had in the venue.

“We were like: ‘I wonder what that will turn into.?’ What it turned into was a big crowd in the venue, which must have had a capacity of around 150.

“When we started doing Still Game as a live show it was never in our minds to think of it as something for TV. But the Fringe helped us get the TV show. The recording we made sold 13,000 copies in the first week. You’d need to be an idiot not to work out there was something there.”