When a conversation starts with East Kilbride’s most adored and adorable son crooning ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ at you, you know everything is going to be ok. And indeed, it is. Those of you of a certain age will remember the telly adverts featuring happy models wreathed in the golden ‘Ready Brek glow’. Spend more than a minute with Craig Hill and that is exactly how he makes you feel. It is like being tickled by the happiness pixie.
Winning a talent competition, age ten, impersonating Cleo Laine, the comedy genie who is Craig Hill comprehensively came out of the bottle. Craig took the scenic route to the stand-up mic’ – did a theatre degree at Queen Margaret College and enjoyed a short but successful career as a hairdresser.
“I absolutely loved being a hairdresser.” he says. “It’s not a kick in the arse away from doing comedy. You stand up on your feet all day and just don’t stop gassin’ away. Not a bad starting ground.”
The Fringe starting point came in 2000 with ‘Craig Hill’s Alive With The Sound of Music’ and he has filled Edinburgh Augusts with joy, jollity and some truly appallingly punny titles ever since. And he loves it, except that he doesn’t get to see many other shows. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to experience it all as a punter? I’d love to be just a guy from Edinburgh going to the Fringe”.
As always, Craig Hill looking on the bright side of life, there. Is there no mud on his peach pavlova?
“You’re never gonnae get that show from me.” says the comedian who is all the best kinds of gay. “I will never do that show. I see my job as doing the exact opposite of that. My job is to lift you up because life is a little bit shite sometimes.
“Just because I’m effervescent and fun it doesn’t mean I don’t KNOW that life is shite but you can talk to yer pals about that, you can talk to your therapist. Or your doctor. I’m here to distract you from that. I know people look at me and think ‘I wonder if that person is even smart or has an opinion’.
“I love having these kind of deep conversations in real life but for onstage? It is light entertainment so I keep it light and I keep it fun and I really relish this month.”
Something that might come as a surprise to anyone labouring under the gross misapprehension that Craig just skips onstage, camps about a bit and twirls off again after an hour, is that he is one of the most disciplined and focussed comedians you will ever see. “Your show is 100 per cent your whole month. I’m just fastidious.” he says. “It’s the actor in me that was trained to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and prepare, prepare, prepare. “I have this very strict schedule,” he continues, “I eat at a certain time, I warm up for a certain time and I have that Scottish ethos in me that says: ‘naebody’s paid tae see your shite, so get your shit in order and get onstage and do yer job, because yiv nae business being shite’”.
The fact that Craig is also blessed with bones that are funny through to the very marrow, and a deep, deep love of performing is utterly incidental. But it IS your great good fortune both that he is this good and that he is still here, right here, for you. “I am so fortunate that I really REALLY love being onstage” he enthuses. “I’m a live comic. That is what I do. I have never been hugely ambitious. I mean I did TV because someone asked me to be on TV and I thought, that sounds like fun. My friends have been my priority, me being happy, me being connected, having time for holidays.”
Being Craig Hill, he simply has a wee list of things of which he reminds himself each time he goes onstage. “The first one is – and I think it is the most important – that people have paid to be entertained. Naeb’dy’s interested in yer drama. So every drama that I’ve got gets dropped before I go on.” I genuinely have to restrain myself from giving a round of applause.
“The second thing is to try and remember – this is my Friday night as well so let’s ALL enjoy it.”
Just FYI, Craig applies this to any and every night of the week when he is performing.
“And I don’t think of it (this sounds really wanky) as MY show. I think of it as OUR show.”
Having spoken to many people who have enjoyed his comedy, they absolutely recognise that thought.
His gigglegenic tones have been part of the soundtrack to more Fringes than the one o’clock gun. He is, in the sweetest, loveliest and unexpectedly self-effacing like a very camp raven, whose departure from the Tower that is Edinburgh in August would occasion the fall of the entire Fringe.
Why is he so loyal to an event that doesn’t really put itself out for him?
“In my case, it’s really simple. I live here! If you live in Edinburgh, and you do stand-up comedy and the biggest Fringe Festival is on your doorstep every August. It would be strange not to do it.”
Strange? It would be just awful.
Craig Hill: This Gets Harder Every Year!
Just the Tonic
August 3 – 27