If you’ve been to a comedy gig in Inverness over the last few years, chances are you’ll have seen Kieran Lochore perform. The Inverness-based comedian – originally from Orkney – has been a fixture of the many local stand-up nights that have popped up in the city over the years – and has helped put a few on himself through the Comedy Bothy. Ahead of his next organised gig – the Tooth and Claw’s aptly-titled Never Mind the Festival on Friday night – Kieran talks through the evening’s line-up, the challenges of promoting local, and how he himself first got started in stand-up
Hey Kieran, thanks for answering these for me! So, Never Mind the Festival – can you run me through who’s playing, and what they’re all about?
It’s actually quite a decent sized lineup for this gig as far as they go. It’s almost an all-local bill also: Our host, or “ringmaster” for the evening is Mr. Grant MacIver. We have the affable and charming Zander McNally who’s been on the scene for about a year now and gets better and better with every gig. Halde Pottinger, who has been getting his Teuchter’s Comedy nights off to a great start will be lending his very fine comedic talents to the proceedings. There’s the ever grouchy but (somewhat) loveable Rob Ford, and a young cheeky chappy named Scott Crichton. We are hoping to get one or two more of the locals onstage that night too if time allows.
A real coup for us as well is that we’ve snagged the services of Derek Johnstone, who is a major player in the Scottish comedy scene. He happens to be staying in the Highlands for a few months and we are lucky that such a talent has fallen in our vicinity and wants to come and “jam” with us! The razor-tongued assault that I call Mike Hendry will be closing out the show. Oh, and there’s myself of course – your friendly neighbourhood Fat-man! I’ll be there to tell you all about my barren lovelife and eccentric dietary habits. In a funny way...I assure you.
For people in deep mourning over not being at Belladrum, or perhaps just people who aren’t keen on festivals, why should they drag themselves out of the house for this night of comedy? What can they expect?
I think – or hope – what they can expect is something different from a usual night out in Inverness. Belladrum is one of the biggest things that happens every year but it it mostly an event celebrating music. Music is obviously the cornerstone of live entertainment in Inverness but more and more these days I’m getting folks asking me “is there something on in town besides music?” We’re bringing that “something” to them. The audience can expect a very freewheelin’ comedy atmosphere that isn’t bound by the usual “comedy club” convention.
On a basic level we are presenting a night of stand-up, but the intention is to give it a little bit of a Highland twist to help Inverness find its foothold in the comedy world. Plus, it’s a “pay what you like” event so no money has to change hands if your funny bone hasn’t even been nudged, let alone tickled. It’s a no risk, no fuss funfest!
Highland comedy’s been in pretty rude health of late, between The Comedy Bothy’s efforts, the Upmarket Comedy nights at the Market, and the Teuchter’s Comedy Club at the Bar On Taylor’s Street. That must be a good thing, right? How have you noticed the comedy scene change over the years? And has there been any particular comedians on the local bills that you’ve been particularly impressed by?
It’s absolutely a good thing. In the past four years I have seen more and more folks actually wanting to get themselves onstage and start their potential comedy careers. When I first came to town seven years ago there was no regular comedy show that did anything to even find local talent. There were a few central belt promoters dabbling in bringing comedy here, but it wasn’t really an environment for new local acts to even get on the stage let alone hone their material.
My first gigs here I got by begging wonderful folks like Shirley Wyness from the Market Bar, and Steve Robertson from Hootenanny’s to take a risk let me put on a show for them.Luckily Steve and a few like minded folks founded the Comedy Bothy a few years later and established a room and a stage that new local acts could get up in front of a real live crowd and just do it.
I’ve seen a good dozen or so local acts do their first (and admittedly in some tragic cases last) sets there and there have definitely been a notable few who have gone from strength to strength. Firstly Mike Hendry. He did his first shows back in 2014 and since then has been fine-tuning his material into a well-oiled machine. He does very risky material that in the hands of someone else could go desperately wrong, but he has developed an onstage persona that not only services the material, but elevates it.
Then there’s Grant MacIver. He did his first Bothy show when he was just 17. Even at that stage it was very clear he was going to get better and better with every gig. And to illustrate my point he is easily the busiest of the Highland comedians, appearing on an almost weekly basis in venues all across Scotland and will be performing at the Aberdeen Comedy Festival this year. No mean feat let me tell you.
How has it been promoting and booking for the Comedy Bothy nights? What’s been the challenges of getting a good comedy bill together? And have there been any nights that you’ve been particularly proud of putting together (including, of course, this one!)?
The challenges are mostly location, finance and promotion. One of the drawbacks of being far away from the other comedy scenes in Scotland is that it’s hard to get bigger name acts up here. It’s not because they don’t want to do the shows, most of them love coming up here. It’s just that the trip has to be worth their while as they could just as easily get a gig for the same money – or a better paying gig – in Glasgow or Edinburgh and wouldn’t have to slog it out up the A9. This poses a potential big problem for me and Steve Robertson when booking the Comedy Bothy as it’s a free show and we want to keep it that way as long as possible. Luckily for me Steve always manages to pull something out the bag and get us a good headliner.
The Laugh Out Loud pop-up events like this one are essentially free as well. The “pay what you like” money goes directly to the performers and those who helped put on the show. Getting folks aware of the comedy events is the biggest challenge. As the notion is still very new to the town it’s hard to assure punters that they are seeing top quality performers. The lack of a famous face on the bill unfortunately puts many first-timers off. But that is slowly changing as the gigs go on.
As a comedian yourself, how did you first get into performing stand-up comedy? What, in your opinion, has been your most enjoyable show? And do you have a favourite bit of material you enjoy performing?
I’ve always been into performing. I’ve played in bands for more than 15 years and have a BA in Drama but it never occurred to me to even try stand-up until a semi-regular comedy night came up to the Orkney Islands, where I grew up. I wasn’t aware of the do’s and dont’s of a typical comedy club and I heckled the compere like mad - mostly because I thought he wasn’t all that funny. At the end of the show he sort of challenged me to put my money where my mouth was and try writing and performing a set for the following month. I obliged. It wasn’t the greatest piece of live comedy ever but I did surprisingly okay for my first gig ever. That was me off to the races after that.
I think the show that sticks out in my mind the most from recent times was a charity gig for Syria hosted by the Market Bar in 2016. I was pretty much the only comedian on a bill of musicians. It’s so hard to mix comedy in with a music event but I guess the planets had aligned at just the right time for me. I performed for fifteen minutes and the crowd were with me for the entire thing. The atmosphere was phenomenal and I got a great reception on and off stage that day. The cherry on top was that it was all for a great cause.
What are the plans for the Comedy Bothy going forward. Are there any upcoming shows you’re particularly excited about?
We have a few great headliners coming up in the next few months. In September we have the very talented Nik Coppin coming up to close the show. And I believe in October we have the amazing Christopher MacArthur Boyd who will be returning to the Bothy for his fourth time. These shows will be peppered with appearances from our own stable of performers. It’ll be business as usual for a while but We’re hopefully planning something big for our last show of the year in December. Watch this space!