Funnyman Fred MacAulay on his love of laughter

Fred MacAulay has been keeping us entertained for well over 20 years, as a comedian, radio presenter and chat show host.

Originally from Perth, he began as an accountant before moving into stand-up, and for 18 years, until March 2015, he presented a daily BBC Scotland radio programme MacAulay and Co.

He also co-hosted McCoist and MacAulay, a chat show, with former Scotland and Rangers footballer Ally McCoist.

The funniest thing about Scotland is the people. And the good thing is that they know they’re funny. They like a laugh, and there’s nothing we like more in Scotland than having a laugh at ourselves.

I prefer stand-up to radio. It gives you the freedom to express yourself. The feedback is instantaneous. It’s the laughter – there are no breathing places – so you generally know you’re doing alright in stand-up if people are laughing. You really put yourself on the line, the parameters are wider. Unless anyone reading this is from BBC management, in which case it’s radio every time.

My favourite person to interview is Paul Merton. He must have done my radio show at least 12 times and he always comes up with the goods. My least favourite interviewee has been footballer Vinnie Jones. I didn’t expect much of him and I wasn’t disappointed. The real tell-tale sign in our business is how people treat researchers and runners on a programme and he was abjectly rude to ours.

I was never one of those kids who was filled with dread at the thought of going to school. I was one of these annoying wee boys who would get up bright and sharp in the morning, do my paper round and then head off to school. I was probably whistling on my way there. I’m definitely a morning person.

I love going up to Perthshire. I love the River Ericht and the hills around Dunkeld. There are so many places in Scotland that I enjoy but I’m very fond of Perthshire. Glasgow, though, is still very much my home.

I’m not keen on wasps. And I suffer from vertigo. So if I am attacked by a wasp on the fifth fl oor, I’m in big trouble.

My perfect weekend would involve a bit of golf and maybe some skiing. I’m not athletic but I try to keep myself in reasonable shape. And of course it would involve spending time with my family – when my kids are home it’s a happy place. But if I’m honest, I’d have to squeeze in a gig there somewhere as well.

I’m listening to KT Tunstall’s new album, which is great. And Amy Macdonald too. I’m a big fan of Scottish singer-songwriters.

The line-up for my dream night of comedy would be Eddie Izzard, John Maloney and Billy Connolly, and since this is my dream night I’m going to be in there too.

I was an accountant and company secretary before I got into stand-up. It’s useful as it gets me gigs with financial institutions. They think, ‘Oh, there’s an accountant who thinks he’s funny, let’s book him.’

I guess the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done was becoming a comedian. I think a lot of people would like to do something different but, whether from fear of failing or personal circumstances, they don’t allow themselves. I’m so glad I gave it a go. I also once did a big gig for Coca-Cola that paid an awful lot of money. That was a different kind of rewarding.

My advice to young comedians would be to get on stage as much as you possibly can. Nothing beats stage time for stand-up. When I started I was in my 30s and I took any gig that was going. You can’t practise in a mirror in your bedroom; you only get better by standing in front of people.

I think maybe money can buy you happiness. Anyone facing a huge tax bill will tell you that they’re happier that they can pay it than that they can’t.

I’m not superstitious and I don’t believe in fairies. I’m not sure about ghosts, mind you. I’ve never actually seen a ghost but sometimes I’ve thought, what the…!

  • This feature was originally published in 2013.