Fred MacAulay's getting on

As Fred MacAulay takes his show on the road, Emma Lennox finds he is in a nostalgic mood for his old school days

Feature by Emma Ainley-Walker | 20 May 2008
  • Fred MacAulay

Fred MacAulay is a hard man to catch up with. He may be on Radio Scotland every day, or appearing on comedy panel games as regular as clockwork, but in between shows the comedian is diving about like a mad man afraid of his own shadow. “I was out in Canada last week working, I've got an event tonight and tomorrow I fly to London for two nights...” It doesn’t sound like he’s left much time to prepare for his extensive Scottish tour. “You know, I'd love to say that I've had a two week holiday, but it's quite the opposite.”

As I talk to MacAulay, he is driving, presumably with appropriate hands-free equipment, on the east coast of the country, where the weather is “absolutely glorious”. In stark contrast, his adopted media homeland of Glasgow is being pulverised by sheets of ice, a reminder that this small country isn't so small. But for MacAulay whether it's Stornaway, Skye, Findhorn, or many other out of the way places on his two month tour, the radio personality will be sure to find audiences with high expectations. “I think after 20 years in the business people are starting to expect to laugh, and I half expect them to laugh as well - but there are no givens in comedy!” he warns in his typically cheery manner. “I could speak for 90 minutes and not be funny, in which case it's been a lecture, followed by a tutorial.”

Education, it turns out, has been playing on MacAulay’s mind and his latest show includes a 20 minute presentation of a primary school book he created aged five. “It was a great bit of foresight,” dead pans MacAulay, “I was obviously a very thoughtful child and figured many years from now, I'm going to be so stuck for material that I'm going to need to show a slide show of this.” It may sound self indulgent, but MacAulay's reminiscing has a philosophic quality to it, a style of humour that’s always at home in Scottish comedy. “It’s an indication of what I was like as a wee boy; I talk about how optimistic I was, and how optimistic I still am as a person. I think if you work hard, and you do your job right then rewards will come your way”.

It’s an ethos that’s worked well for the 51 year old who’s gone from warm up man on Have I Got News For You to panel guest, and gets regular gigs at London’s Comedy Store where he was the club’s first Scots compere. But what about the ambitions of wee five year old Fred - what did he want to be when he grew up? “I think I wanted to be in showbusiness” comes the slightly embarrassed reply, but he admits “in secondary school it all started to go pear shaped.” Perhaps this is why the future stand up landed a career in accountancy for 13 years. Can we expect a slide show set from those glory days too? “Can you imagine” he asks dryly “the hours of material there is for comedy in accountancy?”

MacAulay claims he still feels as youthful as his school boy days but adds “all you need is a groin strain to remember that you're not.” It seems MacAulay hasn’t recovered yet from a marathon he ran for Sports Relief back in March. A doctor would prescribe rest, but as I leave the gallivanting comedian to roam along the roads, I get the impression that’s the last thing on his mind.


Fred MacAulay Live, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, 28 Jun