THERE is a double bill of comedy from opposits sides of the globe in Nairn on Saturday, thanks to two members of clan Campbell.
Australian Ro and Canadian Craig have both been building a strong following in their ancestral homeland over the past few years.
In fact, Adelaide-raised Ro has become such a part of the Scottish stand-up scene that he was even named Scottish Comedian of Year, but returned to his home country to open for Scottish comic superstar Kevin Bridges’s recent Australian shows.
Craig, who left behind his home city of Calgary to settle in Devon, has also made an impact on our television screens with appearances on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Russell Howard’s Good News.
You are both members of Clan Campbell: have you explored your Scottish family links at all, and if so, what have you discovered?
Ro: I descend from Campbells from the west coast in Argyllshire. My three-time great-grandfather was a weaver who moved to Glasgow in the 1840’s, a tough time for weavers. He turned to crime and robbed a lairds house in Helensburgh in 1849. At age 34 he was transported as a convict to Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania) where he met his wife, a young Irish woman from Edinburgh who was transported for trying to buy a bottle of whisky with a fake shilling coin — possibly the most Scottish crime in the book. Beat that story Craig!
Craig: After delving into the deepest chasms of antiquity (calling my mom) I discovered my grandma on my maws side and my grandpa on my paw’s were both as Scotchish as Nessie!
Australia and Canada have both produced plenty of internationally successful comedians. Who are your own comedy heroes from your home country and have they directly influenced your own style of comedy?
Craig: Have they? Oh yes.. Yes of course they have.. (Scans audience for a clue).. My grandpa (my only Canadian grandparent) was mine. He was always crackin’ jokes and leading me astray and looking back was clearly suffering from battle fatigue.
I like doing impressions of people I meet but they’re just normal "slice of life" type folks rather than "comedians". I’ve always found the idea that I might watch or must like comedians because it’s my occupation slightly odd. It’s rare I’m inspired by one as our industry’s promotion of mediocrity far outweighs genius because, of course, genius isn’t respectful of barriers and rules, and is very difficult to market to propagandised TV drones. My country’s (well Quebec’s... my misspent tax dollars anyway..) flagship global offering is the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival which, with its TV-prank programming, has done more to setback comedic development than the Dave channel has done by presenting awards to comedian/pub-joke-re-tellers for scraping puns off cave walls in Edinburgh every summer.
Ro: Jimeoin (he’s actually Irish originally, but has been a comedy legend in Australia for over 20 years). I met him at the Fringe in 2004 before I did comedy, I was working behind the scenes in production. He thought I was funny and told me I should try comedy. Every time he see’s me, he says "I gave you the notion" with a wee twinkle in his eye.
He also talked a guy called Eric Bana into doing stand up comedy 20 years ago, but I’m not sure what happened to that guy. I’m probably more influenced by UK based comics. Edinburgh based Canadian Tom Stade schooled me a lot (he was inspired into stand up as a teenager after seeing Craig Campbell perform! Crazy link there!) and Glaswegian Raymond Mearns is a guy who definitely inspired me to be funnier in my early days, very under rated.
Is there such a thing as Australian/Canadian humour and if so, how would you define it?
Craig: I’ve never found there was and I think to believe so would just be playing to nationalist biases. I do however think humour is better received where attitudes are more liberal and thought patterns aren’t stupefied with fluoride and patriotism.
Ro: Traditionally I think Australia had a very frontier style of humour, quite dark and gallows like mixed with a healthy lack of respect for authority.
I feel like that’s changing a bit, Australian audiences can be easily offended these days. I prefer Scottish audiences. They embrace darker material and are better at laughing at themselves.
As non-Scots, what strikes you as funny about your ancestral homeland and its people (in either or both senses of the word)?
Craig: "That you beg for...what’s already, what’s already, what’s already your’s.." Thanks Proclaimers!
Ro: If you tell an Australian crowd their town is a sh*thole, they will throw stuff at you and chase you from the venue. If you tell a Scottish crowd the same thing they will carry you through the streets on their shoulders singing "for he’s a jolly good fellow!" at the top of their lungs. That in a nutshell is why I like this country.
Any particular memories of Scottish gigs?
Ro: I’ve done around 1000 gigs in Scotland so I have the full gamut of memories, from amazing to horrendous. I’ve driven Frankie Boyle’s tour bus (causing £6000 damage in the process), I’ve opened for Kevin Bridges in Glasgow, I’ve been booed by 800 Glaswegians at the Carling Academy and I’ve been just about everywhere and played in every type of gig just about, from nightmare hooligan/gangster pubs where comedians have been headbutted onstage to lovely arts centres and theatres and comedy clubs packed full of delightful audiences
Craig: So many. It’s just immediately following the gigs where my memory plummets off the charts. I think I played Tiree once..?? (Burp!)
What advice would you have for your younger selves or someone just starting out in the comedy business?
Craig: Begin to believe the news, even the most ridiculous implausible bits, although it will fight against all of your instincts, really, really try as those around you whose promotions you’ll be dependent upon will. Pretend that you live in a democracy and that if you keep voting things will change for the better and react with wide eyed incredulity when anyone suggests that regardless of what you get up to we’re all likely to be royally-screwed by the death-cult currently running the show. Practice now sucking your thumb rolled in salt, then as the offerings become larger and more frequent so to should your tolerance. Or just drink excessively, believe whatever the U.S. State Department tells your media to print and keep watching football.
Ro: Make sure you’re not doing this because you want to be famous, because you probably aren’t going to be famous. But if you work hard, stick with it, very cool things will happen. And a lot of shit things too probably but lets keep it inspirational!
And finally : What’s next on the horizon for yourselves?
Ro: A lukewarm Ginsters pie at the A9 services.
Craig: I’m just slapping a final lick of paint on a time-machine, then it’s off to Nairn on the w’end! Ssshhh...
• Craig Campbell and Ro Campbell appear at Nairn Community Centre on Saturday 5th September at 8.45pm as part of the 12th Nairn Book & Arts Festival, in association with Wildnight Comedy.
Wildnight Comedy is also presenting a comedy and tapas night at The Clubhouse Hotel, Seabank Road, Nairn on Saturday 12th September with comedians Phil Kay, Raymond Mearns and Russell Hicks.