Des (seated) hosts BBC Scotland topical quiz show Breaking the News
Des (seated) hosts BBC Scotland topical quiz show Breaking the News

The smiling Scots comic who’s now got the drive

Scots comedian Des Clarke is everywhere you look these days.

Having presented the breakfast show on Capital Scotland for a decade, he is about to start presenting the drivetime show on 8 April on Heart Scotland.

He also presents the BBC Scotland topical quiz show Breaking the News, which has just transferred to TV from radio.

Originally from King’s Park in Glasgow, Des has been performing since school, and regularly pops up to comment on amusing home video clips on various TV shows too. He also succeeded Ant and Dec as presenter of ITV’s SMTV Live.

I was a placid child. I wasn’t too much trouble, but I do remember getting up one night and pulling a mole off my sister’s face. I have no idea why I did it. She had to have the job finished off properly by a doctor. That was an awkward night.

My first comedy gig was when I was 19, though I’d been doing it at school, Holyrood Secondary on the south side of Glasgow, from the age of 12.

I was quiet and shy but at the school talent show my mate and I would put on these silly voices and do impressions of teachers and celebrities – Billy Connolly, Frank Spencer, John Motson. And we won it. That was the first time I’d experienced the feeling of the crowd – it was just a wave of positivity. I loved the acceptance of my peers, so when I was 19 I decided to do an open-mic gig in Glasgow. It all started from there.

When I first started gigging I’d talk at a hundred miles an hour. It was a style born out of necessity, because I was really nervous. I knew I’d get heckled so I thought if I went really fast they wouldn’t be able to interrupt me. But as the years went on I became less nervous. Speaking so quickly felt like an act, so I stopped it.

I’ve met Justin Timberlake and Kylie and I was fine. But I get starstruck when it’s somebody in comedy, because it means more to me. I met Bob Mortimer, from Vic & Bob, and Eddie Izzard and I got really starstruck. I grew up watching these guys – they influenced my decision to go into comedy.

Des (seated) hosts BBC Scotland topical quiz show Breaking the News

Glasgow is my favourite part of Scotland. It’s where I grew up and where my family and friends are. I feel a real connection with it. When I was young we’d go to Loch Lomond a lot. I have vivid memories of swimming in a stream at Luss and getting the worst sunburn ever – I can still feel it. Great days! I still go there now with my girlfriend – it’s so picturesque but it’s also lively.

I don’t have any hidden talents. I put everything I’ve got, which is limited, out there. I’ve got by on just being able to talk for a living. Having said that, I am quite good at pool; I could hold my own in a pub.

I once beat a cow in a race. I was on the radio, chatting away, saying cows weren’t fast movers and that I could probably run quicker. I soon realised I’d made a mistake: I ended up in a field in Dunfermline, where they’d recorded
how long it took a cow to run from one marker to another. I had to run the same distance – and I just managed to beat it. That really is a hidden talent.

The secret of success is to put yourself in the right place at the right time. I don’t think there’s much luck in this industry – you have to work at it. And try not to burn any bridges unless you really have to – in which case, torch them.

My perfect weekend would be a gig and an Italian meal with my girlfriend, then Sunday in my pyjamas, watching boxsets with my brain switched off.

This feature was first published in 2014.