Stuart McPherson on Cybercrime, Spuds & Coke Zero

Rising star Stuart McPherson talks about turning bad jobs into great stand-up

Feature by Jay Richardson | 09 Mar 2018
  • Stuart McPherson

It says something about Stuart McPherson that when he landed his first acting role, a guest spot as cybercrime officer Archie Pepper on the BBC Scotland cop mockumentary Scot Squad, he just assumed the character would be shit at his job.

"I don't think I was in front of the camera for more than like, 25 minutes, and didn't have an amazing handle on who he was," he reflects on Pepper, who nevertheless proved popular enough with viewers to be promoted to a regular on the hit series.

"I just thought he was this vaguely arrogant person who wasn't that great," the 24-year-old Fifer admits. “But it turned out he was amazing at it. It's just that it's an absolute piece of piss for him so he's not really bothered. Which I'm happy to play, that suits me down to the ground."

McPherson's assumption about the casually insouciant crimefighter could be linked to his own chequered professional history. He recently managed two and a half days as a barista before being "let go," having only just been made redundant when The Potato Shed in Glasgow's Central Station closed.

Fortunately, that line of employment and his dubious responsibility to check the concourse for terrorist activity wasn't merely £7.05 an hour for the comic, who began gigging in 2015. His recollections of extolling baked spuds to disinterested commuters is now a signature routine for this enjoyably dry, sardonic act, who reached the final of the prestigious So You Think You're Funny competition and was voted best newcomer at the 2016 Scottish Comedy Awards.

"It's weird isn't it?" he acknowledges. "I suppose I was thinking about this when I applied for it. I'm at a point where I'm only taking jobs that are inherently funny. Because why would you bother with anything else when you're trying to come up with stuff?

"I would stand in the shed just writing on sandwich bags constantly. And flyers too. We had these flyers that said: 'The best bacon rolls in Glasgow? You decide.' And the people did decide. Otherwise."

Also touching on a school trip he took to the Coca-Cola factory in East Kilbride – "not the Willy Wonka experience you might expect" – and a job he had handing out free cans of Coke Zero, McPherson's debut solo show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival is named Same Great Taste, Zero Sugar. That's partly a pointless plug for a huge brand, partly to challenge Bill Hicks' assertion that entertainers hawking commercial products must be dismissed from the artistic roll call forever.

More inspired by offbeat, 'otherworldly' stand-ups like James Acaster, Tim Key and John Kearns, McPherson attributes his offhand stage persona to the fact that "I really am that guy, I'm not very jazz hands." Indeed, whether tracking fictional criminals from a computer, or unlikely jihadis from behind a sightline of steaming potato, he gets the job done without putting himself out there. "Rather than the guy jumping on the table, I prefer being off to the side of a situation," he maintains. "Taking the piss."

Stuart McPherson: Same Great Taste, Zero Sugar, McPhabbs, 10 Mar, 7.30pm, £5 – tickets here