Improv veteran Stuart Murphy talks dirty fumbles and curing cancer
"I arrived in the back of a thresher’s van, with a knapsack upon my back, a pocket full of dreams and a head full of miracles. And 17 disappointed women in hot pursuit."
Apparently, this is how a young Stuart Murphy turned up in Edinburgh from his home town of Blairgowrie in 1993. Inspired by a single improvised comedy workshop, he joined the Bedlam Improverts as an enthusiastic whippersnapper and started a career which would see him lodged in the heart of the Scottish comedy scene like a witty pacemaker. I, like most Scottish comedians, have had respect for Murphy drilled into me from my very first forays. He's half of Stu & Garry, the improv wizards behind Whose Lunch Is it Anyway?, entertaining hungover audiences every Sunday at The Stand since Take That were cool the first time. He also writes sketches, has done stand-up and is a regular compere at the club’s Red Raw night. But it’s the improvised stuff which really lies at the heart of his work. "Improv is the one I get the most enjoyment and satisfaction from. I like to think that Whose Lunch is it Anyway? is the underground show that the management have no idea is happening. People come in for free, leave and no-one knows it happened. Improv will always be my first love, compering will always be my dirty fumble in the back row of the cinema."
While spending his formative funny years at the Bedlam Theatre, Stu helped set up a comedy night with some other young, inexperienced Improverts which now make up a pretty impressive roll-call: Mark Dolan (Balls of Steel), Ewan Macintosch (The Office) and Mitch Benn. "They’ve all gone off, and I’m here watching you eat a sandwich I couldn’t possibly afford." (I did offer him a sandwich. He’s nothing if not dramatic). This first foray into stand-up drew him to the attention of Tommy Sheppard and Jane Mackay who would soon set up The Stand, changing the face of Scottish comedy forever. "I was incredibly lucky," explains Stu. "You decide you’re going to do comedy, move to Edinburgh and see the scene blossom before your very eyes...that was very exciting." Whose Lunch...? was born in 2000, with Stu performing weekly with ex-Bedlamite Paul Graham, replacing Jack Weatherall. Paul left in 2006, Garry Dobson stepped in and the rest is history.
And now things are shifting forward again. As well as compering The Stand's new talent evening more regularly, Stu and Garry have joined Billy Kirkwood in Improv Wars: improvised comedy battles where special guests take part in the show. A regular night at the Glasgow Stand, the show has been warmly received and, apparently, "can cure cancer, give your kids superhero powers and do everything which we can’t possibly back up."
Or it'll do as Murphy does best and just make audiences laugh their wee socks off.
See Stu this month Whose Lunch Is It Anyway? The Stand, Edinburgh, every Sunday, 1.30pm, free
Joe Heenan's Movie Madness The Stand, Glasgow, 7 February, 8.30pm, £2
You can also see the Improv Wars Festival Special at the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival on 28 Mar