Scotland boasts few comedians as energetic, irreverent and razor-sharp as Craig Hill. Fresh from making his New York Off-Broadway solo debut, Craig is in the pink this year, celebrating turning “50 shades of gay”. He’s also bringing us his 21st show, Bottoms Up!, touring Scotland until the end of March. We sat down with one of Scotland’s best-loved comedians and discussed his 21 years in the comedy industry, keeping your audience on- side, and Madonna (at length, of course!)
How does it feel to be touring your 21st show?
It’s very exciting and quite surreal. It’s funny, you just get on with things, don’t you? And it’s only
when someone says, “Wow, 20 years,” you take stock and realise that doing anything for 20 years is remarkable! It makes you stop and think, “My God, I would never have thought I would do this as a career and have such an interesting life.” It’s taken me all over and has been challenging, in a healthy, stimulating way.
What is the secret to sustaining such a career in comedy?
Being funny! And finding the enjoyment in what you’re doing. It must be joyful and stimulating. You must be someone who naturally enjoys performing in front of an audience. Someone asked me if I still enjoy all the travel and I really do. I don’t like wasting opportunities: if I’m performing inLiverpool, I do my research on good places to go for breakfast, I look up wee shops, a wee café… I could practically write a travel blog.
What can audiences expect in Bottoms Up? Is there a particular theme?
No, I never have a theme or idea, as I feel it restricts you too much. All I want to do is tell the stories from the last year that have really made me laugh. My shows are really improvised: the show is in two halves, and the first half is me getting to know the audience. That’s the part where I really have to fly by the seat of my pants! Often, I find things that are just amazing, that you could never have planned. There was a guy in the other day called Willy Hunter, and to think that’s what they call me! That’s what keeps the show exciting. But I’ve really enjoyed the writing of this show, more so than I have done in the last few years. You get better at editing your writing. And being a comedian, you should be out there doing stuff – popping over to Parma for a holiday, having adventures – because that’s where your comedy comes from.
I love how you roast an audience but keep them on-side; what’s the key to striking that balance?
As long as they believe that you’re a good person and they realise it’s all in good spirit. There’s a difference between that and being bitchy or unpleasant. There’s no point in making someone upset: I’m just sarcastic and fun.
“THERE WAS A GUY IN THE OTHER DAY CALLED WILLY HUNTER, AND TO THINK THAT’S WHAT THEY CALL ME!”
Do you find that translates well, particularly being Scottish, around the world?
Yes! I’m very lucky because I haven’t got too thick an accent, so it travels well to Australia and America. I was Off-Broadway in June, which I was really pleased with, and I was scared they would take me too literally; I was less concerned about the accent and more so the tone. But I found they were quite ballsy and always up for getting onstage stage and doing stuff. You find someone who turns out to be a cha cha teacher and goes, “I can show you!” You have to change some of the language, like you can’t use “wean.” The nice thing about touring Scotland is that you can indulge yourself in that language.
Music plays a huge role in your act: can you give any spoilers as to what we might expect to hear?
Well, there’s a Greatest Showman-Off, where me and an audience member compete to see who’s the greater showman. But a lot of my songs are spontaneous: I like to keep things mixed so the show has an energy about it. My favourite thing is when you don’t know where we’re going, or if we’re even going to come back to what we were talking about. It keeps the show alive and energetic!
I wouldn’t be doing my job as LGBT Editor if I didn’t ask: who is your favourite diva?
I am a huge fan of Madonna. But she didn’t do so well at Eurovision…you couldn’t say anything otherwise because it wasn’t brilliant! But I am a fan of what she represents and what she’s done. I like that she constantly tries to challenge herself. She’s not the greatest singer in the world but she is a great performer, provocative and interesting, and doesn’t play it safe.
Do you have a favourite Madonna record?
I think my favourite is her first album. That album reminds me of discovering and falling in love with her. And the songs are genuinely really good: “Borderline”, how could you not dance to that on the dancefloor?! “Lucky Star!”