FROM Gregor Fisher’s string-vested philosopher to Rikki Fulton’s po-faced sermons, Scotland’s greatest comedy characters have wrung plenty of laughs from Scotland’s rich fabric of life
FOR a country occasionally mocked by others for being dour in its outlook, Scotland has produced a wealth of entertainers and comedians.
That comic talent has been well reflected in several hit sitcoms and comedy TV shows over the years, producing characters loved by generations of Scots.
From miserable ministers to effervescent soldiers, they’ve made us smile with their sharp one-liners and unlikely mishaps.
RAB C NESBITT
Perhaps the most famous fictional Scottish television character of them all - with the possible exception of Taggart - is the string-vested philosopher from Govan. We first met him in the late 1980s as a self-confessed unemployed alcoholic, navigating the deprived world of a once-great shipbuilding centre. Initial fears by critics that the show portrayed an unnecessarily negative view of working class Scots and Glasgow in general were allayed as the character, skilfully played by Gregor Fisher, revealed his sharp intelligence and an iron will to live life on his own terms - Nesbitt is nobody’s fool. The only person capable of reigning him in is his long-suffering wife, Mary. Created and written by Ian Pattison, Rab’s world has so far spanned 10 full series and six specials.
JACK AND VICTOR
Actors and comedy writing duo Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill enjoyed great success with their own BBC sketch-show Chewin’ the Fat, which ran for four series until 2000. Among its regular characters were two pals of pensionable age by the names Jack Jarvis and Victor McDade. Given a spin-off series, Still Game, in 2002, the double act blossomed in the fictional Glasgow estate of Craiglang as viewers got to know their eccentric friends and frequently incredible back stories. Such was Still Game’s success that several well-known actors have taken parts in the show, including Robbie Coltrane and Sylvestor McCoy. After more than 40 critically-acclaimed episodes, Still Game was broadcast for the final time in 2007. The cast reunited in 2014 for a wildly successful live show, and rumours abound that a new series will soon enter production.
THE REV IM JOLLY
In the long-gone days when television stations stopped broadcasting overnight, the final programme of the evening was Last Call, in which a glum-faced minister or priest would deliver a short sermon, while usually seated in a leather armchair. This format, last seen in the mid-1990s, was brilliantly sent-up by Rikki Fulton as the Rev I.M. Jolly, an excessively dour Church of Scotland minister known for his world-weary manner. Jolly was first seen in the long-running sketch show Scotch and Wry, a staple of Hogmanay programming for more than a decade. The minister returned for several hit hour-long specials in the mid-1990s. First Minister Alex Salmond would even deliver his own tribute to Fulton’s character for BBC Children In Need.
GARY TANK COMMANDER
The military world has provided a perfect comic backdrop to a variety of hit sitcoms over the years. Among those to capture the inanities of army life is the permanently cheerful Gary McLintoch, a corporal from Fife in the fictional 104th Royal Tank Regiment of the British Army. Played by Greg McHugh, who also created the character, Gary undertakes a series of never-ending training exercises when not posted overseas or uploading a variety of comical YouTube videos.
FRANCIE AND JOSIE
Hullawrerr China! Glasgow’s most famous wideboys kept audiences entertained for four decades. Starring Jack Milroy as Francie and Rikki Fulton as Josie, this comedy double act first appeared in The Five Past Eight Show at Glasgow’s Alhambra Theatre in 1958. The duo proved so popular that they were offered their own series by STV, which proved a hit across not just Scotland but the north of England and Northern Ireland. Tragically, no copies of the original show survive. Fulton and Milroy would both enjoy success as solo performers but periodically reunited in their trademark blue and red suits. Their 1996 farewell show at then King’s Theatre was a fitting send-off.
Of the several memorable characters created by Brian Limond for his award-winning Limmy’s Show!, Dee Dee is perhaps the most loved. Derek ‘Dee Dee’ Dury spends his days doing little more than watching television in his small flat and smoking too much. Despite his dishevelled appearance, this mild-mannered waster still displays a keen intellect. Unfortunately for him, but to the delight of viewers, he uses it to fixate on trivial matters considered irrelevant by others around him. There’s his fascination with the jingle used to advertise yoghurt on television, or the time he convinced himself he once attended a party on top of the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow. His impromptu day out to Yoker is perhaps his finest moment.