Interview: Rory McGrath – ‘I don’t think I could act the curmudgeon for too long’
Time at last for the live solo debut of a TV star who celebrates his 60th at Glasgow International Comedy Festival
Rory McGrath is not only gearing up for his debut solo live tour, he’s marking his 60th birthday on stage at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival. In Rory McGrath Remembers … (or is it forgets?), the star of shows such as They Think It’s All Over, Chelmsford 123 and Three Men in a Boat is drawing upon a wealth of experience of life and the comedy industry. ‘It’s stand-up with a sort-of memoir theme,’ he states. ‘I’ll use my personal and professional life as a skeleton to hang stuff on. I want it to be like a pair of very unpleasant, uncomfy, cynical slippers that people of a certain age can put on. I grew up through an age of very offensive humour to now where it’s all “well no, you can’t say that as it’ll offend everybody”. I still haven’t really worked out where I am in all that.’
As part of his research for writing and performing a live solo show, McGrath took in some 80 comedy shows during the last Edinburgh Fringe (including Twins, a double act featuring one Annie McGrath, his actor-comedian daughter) which opened his eyes to several things. ‘Comedy is so much more self-referential now because audiences understand the grammar of comedy. I’ve heard so many comedians talk about the gag’s construction or the high concept. They’ve educated the audience in the mechanics of stand-up but that’s very un-me. And everyone looks younger. When you get an older bloke coming on and telling us what he hates, I believe him more than I would when a 19-year-old talks about what’s hateable: yes, well, we all hate coffee bars that sell lattaccinos or whatever. Hate something else!!’
As McGrath prepares to launch himself upon live audiences, there’s another thing he’s taking time to consider: exactly how people see him and how he sees himself. ‘For some unknown reason which I can’t work out, even though I’m permanently doing grumpy material, people always think I’m jolly and cheery. On paper, the material may be 90 minutes of grumps but I just don’t think I could do it like that. I don’t think I could act the curmudgeon for too long because ultimately I want both myself and the audience to have a laugh.’
Rory McGrath Remembers … (or is it forgets?), Òran Mór, Glasgow, Thu 17 Mar, and touring.