Look Who's talking: So who am I? Nobody knows: The comedian Jack Docherty describes the perils of not making a name for yourself
Saturday 23 July 1994
I was originally from Edinburgh and went to Aberdeen University to study law, but it wasn't what I expected; a little too much about the common ownership of drainpipes for my liking. I should have read English: I guess the lesson is to do what you're interested in, not what you think you ought to do. But then, I'd probably be a teacher now, so, on second thoughts, the lesson has to be never do the thing you're interested in.
I dropped out of university after two years and I've never had a legitimate job since. Moray Hunter, a friend in Edinburgh, gave up his job as a lawyer to write sketches with me. In 1981 we got our first break with Chris Tarrant, writing for his series Saturday Setback.
Then we worked on the first five series of Spitting Image. For a while it was essential viewing; one of those shows people spoke about on Monday mornings. At first, I religiously went in to watch the series being made, but that's interesting for about five minutes. Once you've marvelled at the little wires controlling Prince Charles's ears, it's more fun to go to the pub instead. Puppets are a time-consuming business and anything that lasts as long as Spitting Image is bound to become part of the furniture. It's difficult to remain fresh and shocking.
Comedy has changed dramatically over the years. As a boy my hero was Eric Morecambe and I remember avidly looking forward to Morecambe and Wise Christmas Specials. In the Eighties, we had the 'alternative' comics, but Moray and I ploughed on regardless with our style of comedy: stupidity. Now the phase of thinking all young 'alternative' comics are terrific has passed and there's a real return to stupidity. It's all getting silly again and it's pure Vaudeville. So traditional, in fact, that
the likes of Lee Evans and Frank Skinner have almost become end- of-the-pier guys. Timelessness is the thing you've got to go for today.
Moray and I were in all four series of Absolutely for Channel 4, then got our own series, mr don and mr george. The latter was named after our characters, and it's been a problem - nobody knows who we are. So another vital lesson I've learnt is: always push your own name.
Moray and I have become the only double act with two straight men. Our style of writing has changed enormously. When we did mr don and mr george we wrote the script letter by letter. Now we're putting together a revue for the Edinburgh Festival next month and we increasingly improvise the ideas with our director.
The show, Hunter and Docherty, will run at the Church Hill Theatre. It's slightly out of town, but we're trying to keep the spirit of The Fringe alive - we also get a better cut of the box office returns by being there. It will be our first time back in Edinburgh since our television work. They say your home town is the last to like you, but I think we've got the answer: we're going back in an open-top bus. That's another invaluable piece of advice: only go back to your home town in an open-top bus.
I've just written a screenplay for a film set in Greece, but it's not going to be made. Apparently I've got to write about 13 before anyone will make one into a film. But after more than 10 years of writing sketches and short pieces, I find it more interesting to try writing something with a narrative; if you've got any ambition to write screenplays, you have just got to start writing them.
Perhaps the latest lesson I've learnt, appertaining to nothing, is: don't go bald young. People will laugh at you, so it's best to wait until you're 65.
The comedians Jack Docherty and Moray Hunter, better known as 'mr don and mr george', are currently rehearsing 'Hunter and Docherty', opening at Edinburgh's Church Hill Theatre on 12 August.
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