Edinburgh Scot Squad star Jack Docherty takes a trip down memory lane
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From The Bodgers to award-winning sketch troupe Absolutely, Spitting Image to Alas Smith and Jones, The Lenny Henry Show and Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out... the problem when talking to the 60-year-old from Edinburgh is deciding where to start.
That being the case, let's start at the very beginning, which brings us to the Capital where Docherty was born in 1962.
A pupil at Carrick Knowe Primary, it was when he reached secondary that Docherty not only discovered his love of writing and performing but also met the three school pals with who he would go on to form comedy group, The Bodgers.
Docherty, who will shortly embark on a Scottish tour of his one-man show, Nothing But, which brings him to Musselburgh's Brunton Theatre on March 7 and 8, takes up the story,
“I grew up in Tyler Acre's Avenue, right by the primary school, and then we moved, when I was about 10, to Corstorphine and went to Watson's, that's where I met all the guys who became The Bodgers and then Absolutely.”
The Bodgers - Docherty, Moray Hunter, Peter Baikie and Gordon Kennedy - began writing and performing together at the 1980 Edinburgh Fringe, later adding Morwena Banks and John Sparkes to the mix for four series of the Channel 4 sketch show Absolutely, which ran from 1989 to 1993 and was picked up for radio after a ‘one-off’ reunion in 2013.
Despite his success as a performer, Docherty admits it's writing that remains his passion, even if a career penning skits, sketches and gags for other people can leave you invisible to audiences as the performers receive all the adulation.
“Writing was probably my first love,” confirms Docherty. “I was always interested in who had written comedy shows rather than just who was doing them, which was unusual for a young guy; even at 11 or 12 I knew Eddie Braben wrote Morecambe and Wise and was fascinated by that but I enjoyed performing as well.
“However, growing up in the Seventies there wasn't really a route to doing it so we never really considered we would do it as a career, but being in a city that had this incredible festival gave us the opportunity and from there we just kept doing it and slowly but surely, almost by accident, we became professionals.”
After a moment, he continues, “But I know what you mean, you would see performers who had done your stuff signing autographs, then someone would bring them a nice lunch, then they'd be picked up in a nice car while we were all schlepping home on the Tube. That's what led us back to performance.”
He explains, “There's a real thrill when you've written something for a great performer and it comes to life, but there are also occasions when you get stuff turned down because it doesn't fit that performer. There was also stuff we knew that only Murray, Pete, Gordon and I could do. You can't always sell the stuff that's completely in your voice, so you end up doing it yourself.
“Sometimes it's just better to go out and do it yourself, obviously you have to be a performer to do that, luckily we were. I guess we wanted a little bit of the glory ourselves."
As he returns home, Docherty will be able to claim all the glory as Nothing But is a solo show that has been described as ‘a love letter to Edinburgh’.
“It's a show about me doing a show. I sell it as a true story but is it really true? I like the fact that audiences go, 'This can't be true, can it?' And maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I never say which bits are true and which aren't.
“It's about me putting on a show at the Festival in 2018 to try and reconnect with a woman I had a brief romance with in the late-80s, but then it evolves into a show about my character and his daughter coming back together.
“So it's about a show on the Fringe, about Edinburgh, about fatherhood, about getting old and about missed opportunities.”
When the play premiered at the Fringe last year, it was first time Docherty had performed a piece that mixed serious moments with laughs and he admits, “Doing the bits that might touch an audience was the challenge for me. It was terrifying at first because, after a lifetime as a comedian, you live by laugh. Unless you're hearing the laughter, the piece isn't working. When you are doing serious bits it takes a while to get used to the fact that it's good that it's quiet and would be bad if they were laughing at that point.”
Walking around the Capital as he was writing Nothing But allowed Docherty to reconnect with the streets he knew as a young man and he reflects, “I moved out of Edinburgh when I was 20 in 1982. When I was writing, I went for big walks around Edinburgh to refamiliarise myself with the city.
“To have that slight distance and then see your hometown afresh is kind of nice but, of course, I'm always keen to emphasise that although it's set in Edinburgh it's not really about Edinburgh, if you are in Aberdeen you are still going to get it.”
At the heart of the piece, he says, lies a universal truth, “As I say in the show, on every street corner there are the ghosts of your former self. On every single street you have a memory of when you were young, that's what this show is about, trying to recapture that before coming to the understanding that you can't... and that you don't get another go.”
Jack Docherty: Nothing But is on tour throughout Scotland in March
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