With the Glasgow International Comedy Festival now in full swing, we caught up Christopher Macarthur-Boyd for a chat about being at the forefront of the Scottish comedy scene. Entering into what is surely his formative years, at only 25, he is one to watch on the Scottish comedy circuit. As an ex-journalism student, his eye for the weird and wonderful is self-evident, and his astute powers of observation pervade his writing. His ability to critique social norms in powerful one-liners and throwaway lines isn’t all this boy-wonder has to offer; CMB has also created content for BBC’s Short
Scottish comedy seems to be going through a bit of a renaissance at the moment, with so many new talents rising to recognition. One of which is the wonderfully welcoming Christopher Macarthur-Boyd.
It is just after five, and we sit in a bar in Glasgow’s Merchant City, reflecting on the new BBC Scotland channel with enthusiasm, considering the impact this could have for the future of Scottish comedy. We get to talking about Christopher’s new show ‘Up For It’, and how novel it is that all the comics on the show reflect the familiar voices we know and love from our own lives.
“It’s interesting because me, I come from Bailieston, Rosco [McClelland] is originally from Blantyre – Bridgeton now – and Ashley [Storrie] grew up in the Calton. I really doubt there’s been a tv show with three people all from the East-end of Glasgow, so I do feel as though they are giving it a bash.
“I think people were worried there would be a Scottish channel but then they would just have acts who live in London, and ship them up, but the BBC is doing a lot with new talent, especially with the Short Stuff Videos, they are letting people find their voice.”
Christopher has certainly found his voice in the world of comedy. As we talk about his journey from student journalist to stand-up comedian, we discuss one of Scotland’s finest exports, Sir Billy Connolly, who has spoken about finding his voice, and his first audience, while working at the shipyards, and we ponder the possibility of a connection between manual labour and success.
“I try to avoid manual labour at all costs” he
“I think my voice probably developed – I used to do a zero hours contract job where I would dress up like a mascot and you need to spend three hours walking about with someone, dressed as a mascot – I’d say that was my shipyards.
“It’s also quite tragic that there aren’t any shipyards anymore. So now young people have to get jobs dressed as a mascot, cause there’s no manufacturing base in the country anymore.”
His tone seems serious for a second, before demonstrating more of that caustic wit for which he is receiving such praise
“What would Billy Connolly be like if he had a zero hours contract job? Probably…sh*t”
It doesn’t bare thinking about, we agree, before moving on to talk about the Scottish persona in a wider context.
I ask him if he happened to catch James McAvoy hosting SNL – Saturday Night Live. He nods in anticipation of my next question. We get to talking about the sketch in which McAvoy appears as an air traffic controller who is called upon by a distraught US pilot, with an ear unaccustomed to the Scottish vernacular
“Yeah, I got the jist of that. It seemed as if the whole joke was that Scottish people were unintelligible. I dunno how I felt about that. I felt like they should do better, you know, it’s an easy target.
“I don’t want to start a beef with James McAvoy, but I think he needs to have a long hard think about what he’s done. That was pretty tragic.”
As we continue discussing the finer points of televised Scottish personalities, I ask Christopher what he considers to be problematic about the way we are portrayed on- screen, and whether or not he thinks that the Scottish dialect is given a bad rap.
“It’s a common misconception that there is a Scottish dialect. Every part of Glasgow has its own wee version of one, you know. People in different neighbourhoods have different accents, so the idea that there’s just one Scottish, or British accent is ridiculous.”
James McAvoy’s performance aside, SNL is home to some of the most talented writers in comedy. Christopher speaks highly of the show, and about his vision for a Scottish take on the iconoclastic series for the people of Scotland
“I’d really like to have a sketch show in Scotland. SNL is cool, I feel like people always say it’s sh*t when it’s on, but then later think it’s really good. It must be hard writing a show every week. It’d be cool to have a Scottish version of that. There’s not much out there that’s sketchy. Oh, there’s ‘The State of It’, Robert Florence’s new show. That’s exciting for those guys, there are some good comedians in that; but, yeah, I’d like my own. Or at least one that would let me write for it.”
The people of Scotland would surely agree with Christopher’s assessment. We are known for our dry wit, after all.
I decide to probe Christopher on his connection to Edinburgh, where he performed last year at the Fringe Festival. He has in previous interviews spoken candidly about his love of, dare I say preference for, Glasgow over Edinburgh. Has much changed in a year?
“There is one thing that Edinburgh does better than Glasgow, and that’s ice cream. Mary’s Milk Bar is way better than any ice cream shop in Glasgow… that’s something I feel very strongly about. If Mary needed me in the Milk Bar, I’d try and make it my shipyards.
“There’s probably fewer open mics in Glasgow now than when I started, but Edinburgh is having grassroots [comedy] renaissance, which I’m kind of jealous of, because I like wee tiny places to go and try stuff out in front of ten people”
I think we can all agree that dark and dingy settings are conducive to great comedy – just look at The Stand, a comparatively smaller venue, but an iconic one for Christopher and many others. Christopher talks about his appreciation for another Glasgow icon, Neil Bratchpiece, or as most may know him, The Wee Man. He speaks fondly of the opportunity to work with Neil in his music videos
“I was really struggling to get into The Stand, because it’s hard, it’s a really good club, and they know people who are good already. I couldn’t really get a spot, and then he had the rap battles live at The Stand, and that was how The Stand staff saw me, and thought, he’s actually alright! I kinda owe my career to Bratchy.”
Despite having the youthful appearance of a spry teen, Christopher is wise beyond his years. I’m sure it won’t be long before he has his very own rising star to mentor. Go see him in action!
You can catch Christopher at The Glasgow International Comedy Festival:
The State Bar (Glasgow) 23 March 2019
The Stand (Glasgow) 30 March 2019
And on BBC Scotland in Up For It