Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Interview: Fred MacAulay

Image by Alistair Devine

Fred MacAulay is one of Scotland’s most famous comedians who has performed nationally and internationally as well as worked extensively on radio and television. Fred is touring in 2012 with his latest show, ‘Legally Bald’.

You arrived in stand-up at a relatively late age, what was it that motivated you to give it a go? Was it a gradual build up, a moment of clarity or a mix of the two?

I’d always wanted to be a stand up comic. I just didn’t know how to go about it. There were two catalysts really..the first was passing my 30th birthday and realising that a whole decade had gone past and I’d done nothing about realising my dream. the other was hearing Billy Connolly on television saying that if you thought you had a talent, and wanted to use it, then you should really do something about it!

How do you develop new material? Is it a desk-bound writing process followed by club development, through improvising ideas live that develop stronger form through performance, or a mix of the two?

I’m not great at sitting at the desk and writing good stand up, although I’m getting better at it. It’s developed by just making notes of what I think might be funny and then running it out on stage, and as you say…..letting the routines develop through improvisation. having just finished a run at Edinburgh Fringe, my set list at the end is approximately half of what it was on the first night as the routines have grown.

Who are the comedians that have inspired you and why? 

The above named Billy Connolly but also some US Comedians whose albums I bought in my twenties as my interest in comedy grew…..Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Richard Pryor…and even Rodney Dangerfield!

Have any of them influenced your work or performance style? 

I don’t think you’d see much of any of them in what I do. I’ve been told that I have an easy and relaxed style on stage……but I’m sure my heart rate is as high as anyones.

Touring a solo show can be a tough experience, during the long tours how do you maintain your excitement and motivation after having performed a show multiple times?

Simple….I love gigging and would happily do it seven nights a week.

You perform live and on television regularly, how does your preparation vary for each? 

The preparation for tv shows varies a lot…Mock The Week which I guested on a few times was pretty full on with a lot of prep. QI (two appearances) give you no information about what’s coming up. I much preferred the latter. Preparation for the live gigs also varies depending on how much new material you’re trying out.

It’s been suggested that regional variance in audiences is a bit of a myth and that venue and the experience in that venue for the audience is key as to whether they’ll be reception or hostile, to what extent do you agree with this and for you, what makes the perfect stand-up venue?

I think there are regional variances in audiences…certainly in Scotland..there’s a difference for example between Glasgow, Aberdeen or the Outer Islands. I’ve very little experience of English regional audiences, having really only worked in London until now. Maybe I can chat again after the tour! You’ll struggle to find any comics who would go far from The Stand venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Newcastle for the perfect stand up gig. But I would say that….I’m a director of the company!! I’m also a huge fan of London’s Comedy Store.

Who are the upcoming stand-ups who’ve impressed you recently?

I saw excerpts from Lloyd Langford, James Acaster, Ellis James and Seann Walsh during the Fringe and they’re all on excellent form. I also really enjoyed Diane Spencer’s show.

Whenever anyone enters a career they start with a degree of naivety, is there anything you’d wish you’d known when starting out?

I got a lot of television work pretty early on and it was really intense…..I would much rather have done fewer shows per year, spread out over a number of years, but the comics have very little say over that.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I had a lot of ambitions when I started and have done very well having achieved a lot in my career. Now, as you’ll find with people my age, the ambitions are more personal. But professionally  I really want to show audiences that I’m as funny as I ever was and ……..hopefully even funnier!

Fred is touring throughout the UK including Dave’s Brighton Comedy Festival on October 7th at 8pm – Find out more at