Comedian Campbell counts on big laughs at first Lerwick gig
He has been likened to a younger Billy Connolly, but a Shetland audience will next week make up its own mind on whether Canadian comic Craig Campbell should rightly be compared with the Big Yin.
Campbell will be making his debut appearance in the isles on Tuesday at the Garrison Theatre, part way through a busy UK tour which will last until mid-December.
It’s not just the long hair and beard that has been behind those Connolly-esque comparisons. Campbell finds humour in everyday, mundane events in a similar way that gave oor Billy his hard-earned reputation in the comedy circuit.
Like many of his country-folk Campbell is of Scottish descent, and claims to be a great fan of Scotland – to the point that he is whizzing between Scottish dates by motorbike, although time restrictions mean he won’t be booking a place for it on NorthLink’s Lerwick-bound ferry.
Previous stand-up events have found Campbell musing over motorway speed limits – and an unexplained reluctance to signpost what they are while cashing in with a proliferation of speed cameras.
Pizzas, too, have been on his mind – in particular how one automatically becomes “everyone’s pizza” if it’s bought at 2am in Glasgow.
But it’s Shetland, not Sauchiehall Street, that Campbell is coming to next. While he has been to Orkney before, he is not entirely sure what to make of it, although he is keen to form a long-lasting link with the isles.
Will he have time to make any witty observations about the place which can be shoehorned into his act?
“My schedule is just bananas. One of my great disappointments of the tour is a lack of time. What’s a tiny bit frustrating is how little time I’ll have in Shetland, so I’ll be doing very little actual reflections on Shetland.
“I know you have the Viking festival and burning the boat. But I don’t look on it as if I’m never going to come back to Shetland. I’m looking for it to be a way of establishing a link here.”
Dwelling on his own observations and giving them a comic twist is clearly Campbell’s bread and butter. He’s thoughtful enough to recognise “cross-politics” in any Scottish audience, and won’t deal in anything too big which might isolate people.
So, don’t expect him to launch into a witty monologue about Viking Energy or charitable trust reform, or any other Shetland-specific issue that has for long proved to be divisive, if worthy (and, whisper it, terminally dull).
“I deal more in specifics,” he said. “It’s like making fun of Americans’ experiences of being pulled over by their police department. I find much more safety in trying to explain our position than try to make any political opinion in what might be an audience with wide-ranging views.
“It’s a lot safer for me to say, ‘I was here, and this happened . . . hope you enjoy it’.”
He says he feels on safer ground talking about the generic Scottish mindset. He paints a bizarre picture of how his clan history can lead to suspicion among some (Ah, so you’re a Campbell, then) when he arrives in Scotland, and dwells on how Scots might spell the name “Stuart”.
Are there any nuggets of material he is willing to share, which might keep the audience in uproarious laughter next week. Campbell is reluctant to give anything away. He claims to have a natural reticence although maybe he just doesn’t want to tell his best gags before going on stage.
“I’m not, and never have been, a good cheerleader for myself.” He admits that may be down to his Scottish genes. Campbell may be known to some for his appearance on Michael Mcintyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Dave’s One Night Stand.
He has supported well-known characters such as Rich Hall and Frankie Boyle. But Campbell has also proved himself to be versatile. In 2008 he departed from his traditional stand-up, when he wrote and performed his own one-man play Mr Eyetwister.