The Jack Docherty Show (TV Recording): Whitehall Hall Theatre, London,
1997 to 1999
Stop Start (Radio Recording): BBC Radio Theatre, London, 2015
Jack Docherty: Miekelson and McGlashan – Serious Men: Gilded Balloon at The Museum, Edinburgh, 2018
I have many a happy memory of being in the audience for the TV recordings of The Jack Docherty Show between 1997 and 1999. The show was presented by Scottish comedian Jack Docherty and featured a mixture of comedy, music and celebrity guest chat. It was recorded initially every evening at 6pm for a midnight transmission the same night for Channel 5 at the Whitehall Theatre (now Trafalgar Studios) in London. I cannot be precise as to all the shows I went to because I attended so many however the show ran for three years. I started to go on the recommendation of a friend at the start of the run. At the time, I was working across the road at Whitehall Place and would regularly invite anybody at work who wanted to go to the free recording.
I had always been a fan of Docherty’s since he became famous as one of the writers and performers on the cult Channel 4 comedy sketch show Absolutely! He appeared on the show with amongst others Gordon Kennedy, Moray Hunter and Gregor Fisher (who went onto star as Rab C Nesbitt).
I used to find the recordings of The Jack Docherty Show a pleasure to watch. Docherty was very funny, warm and enthusiastic with both guests and audience and I used to laugh very loudly at the interviews and fun on stage. This was so much so that my laugh can be heard very clearly in the audience if listened to a recording of a show. People used to ring me up after I had attended a recording recognising my laugh! On one occasion, I laughed so hard that a friend of mine who was attending the show with me had to go to the ear specialist to get her ears waxed!
To warm up the audience who could possibly appear on TV at the start of the show, Docherty would announce if there were any look-a-likes in the audience that the cameras could pick up. I was always amazed that he never realised that at the time I looked exactly like the ski-jumper Eddie Edwards and was never picked. However, for some reason I used to wear black jumpers and one night Docherty appeared with a black bucket and asked if I would put it on my head. With bucket on head, the recording started and Docherty pointed to me and said ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Darth Vadar!’ I can be seen on the recording making a resounding echoed laugh through a bucket!
My laugh was beginning to get noticed and one night after a recording I went to the Lord Moon on the Mall pub next door for a drink with a friend. As I queued up to buy a round, a woman came up to me. She said hello and did I recognise her. Her name was Melissa and she was the floor manager of the show and would I like to come and meet Jack. I did so and this first thing he asked me was is my laugh genuine?!
There were many other highlights of attending the show. One night at the time of recording, Scotland was playing in the football European Championships and a TV screen had been set up in the theatre bar. At the insistence of the host, there was no recording until the match was over. The audience all crowded around the screen to watch Scotland win and Docherty delivered a great show as a result. On another occasion, a friend of mine was having a difficult time so I invited him to come along to the show. He wasn’t keen but reluctantly came along. That night, for some reason, the audience were asked to stand up and dance which was embarrassing but very funny. My friend was cheered up no end as a result. Towards the end of the run, I missed quite a few recordings because I was rehearsing to appear in an amateur dramatic production of John Godber’s play The Office Party appearing typecast as a jovial Northerner. I mentioned this to Docherty one night in the pub after a TV recording and he promised he would do his best to attend the play I was in. This went on for some time promising to come along to the play. When the three performances were over, Docherty seemed genuinely gutted that he couldn’t make one of them.
The warm-up man for The Jack Docherty Show was comedian Gordon Southern. At the time, he was unknown and used to get me up on stage with him many a night acting as a foil to his jokes and routines. Southern performs every year at the Edinburgh Fringe and one year I saw him in the Pleasance Courtyard and he said to me ‘Hello Mr Laughter 1997!’
The final recording of The Jack Docherty Show was in 1999 and I had booked six tickets for the recording. I got to the theatre early and met my friends in the next door pub. By the time we staggered out of the pub worse for wear, the doors to the theatre were locked. I banged on the door and summoned an attendant begging to be allowed in and was told that they could only let two of the six into the show. Four of my friends were very gracious that night and whilst they went back to the pub, I felt very guilty and was let into the show with my other friend. As I walked somewhat inebriated to my audience seat, Docherty looked at me from the stage and said ‘I’m so glad you and your laugh could make my final show, have some Champagne!’ It was a great last show.
A year or so after The Jack Docherty Show had finished, I was walking through St Martins Lane in London. I walked past a pub and inside at the pub window was Jack Docherty who beckoned me into the pub and bought me a pint. I told him that I was still going to TV recordings and he told me that initially the producers of The Jack show thought that I was a plant in the audience with my laugh. I assured him that my laugh was genuine and we wished each other well.
In all the years that I have been lucky enough to go to the Edinburgh Fringe, I have always amazed that the city’s very own comic Docherty had apparently never played there. In 2018, it was announced that the comedian was to return to the Fringe after a period of twenty-five years with a brand-new show Miekelson and McGlashan – Serious Men.
I sat in the front row of the audience hoping in anticipation that his comeback would be triumphant. I was not disappointed as two of Docherty’s TV characters (from Scot Squad and Absolutely) were brought back to life. Police Chief Commissioner Miekelson delivered a lecture outlining new corporate messages and the future of the Scottish Police Force. The hour was shared by fiercely patriotic McLashan who wanted to call for a second independence referendum, but on terms he insisted on as head of a new political party.
Docherty delivered two very accurate, extremely funny and mocking performances that had a very enthusiastic audience in fits of laughter. It was really great to see the comedian again and when I met him after the show he instantly recognised me from the audience of The Jack Docherty Show some twenty years ago.