I first met Greg Hemphill, new rector of the University of Glasgow and co-star (alongside his pal Ford Kiernan) of the prize winning comedy show Chewin the Fat, at the opening of The Stand Comedy Club last year. Jess and I toddled along to Woodlands and had a great night mainly because we were sitting at the next table to the Chewin the Fat crowd. As my mother would have said:’they laughed the bit out’and it was contagious. I had a brief chat with Greg, told him a wee bit about the Web site and got his email address.
A busy man, it has taken a wee while to catch up with him, however, I eventually managed to meet him briefly in Brel a couple of weeks back where he assured me that it was nice to make a wee break in his busy schedule from his hectic campaign for Rector of Glasgow University. Fresh from being heckled by the student population he still seemed to be enjoying himself – it is clear that he has a great capacity for fun and optimism. Greg expressed openly that he would love to be the winner but was happy to have been asked. He was delighted to be in the running and was highly impressed by his rivals for the position – particularly Alasdair Grey (who eventually came second). Karen Dunbar, also from Chewin the Fat was another candidate.
So here we have this outrageous comedian following in the footsteps of former Rectors: Jimmy Reid, Trade Unionist, Pat Kane, Journalist and Musician, Richard Wilson, Actor, Benjamin Disraeli and Johnny Ball (Zoe’s Dad). Will he rise to the challenge – I think so and he’ll probably have a great time too.
Mr Hemphill certainly seems to be at one with the world: spending lots of time working with his best buddies, Ford Kiernan and Rob Christie, the show’s script editor, married to Julie Nimmo, also an actress, who appears in Chewin the Fat. A lot seems to have happened since Greg returned to Glasgow 13 years ago – he was brought up in Montreal. At just 31 he has achieved a great deal, including realizing his ambition to work in stand up comedy:
‘there’s nothing like it when it’s going well and you are on a run – you just feel privileged to be part of it – however, the television shows are less stressful”
I was interested to find out how the show was put together – apparently this involves Greg and Ford meeting every day (office hours) for a few months to come up with the gags and comic scenarious and then refine and collate the material and decide “what’s in”.This is how they come up with all their hilarious characters, although they are not above listening to ideas put forward by others. This approach not only works very well but provides an opportunity for a bit of a laugh every day, which seems like a good presciption for well being – Greg exudes sparkle and enthusiasm. However, I got a wee glimpse of his organisation and discipline which have probably helped his career along – he had only an exact amount of time fitted in with me before going back to those heckling students for some last minute campaigning.
Seems strange to think that he was a Drama graduate at the University himself just eight years ago. Things are certainly going well for Greg: he has achieved his goal of becoming a comedian; works with a small team which includes friends; manages to fit in a few games of poker on a regular basis; lives in the delightful Dowanhill in Glasgow’s West End; and he and Julie are expecting their first baby this year. I was delighted for him when he won the race for Rector and can only see this being another success.
‘Chewin the Fat’ is still alive and well and you can look forward to a new series in November – with some new characters-. I hope they hang on to some of my favourites: the Banter Boys, the Daft Painters and Ronald Villiers the actor. Some of the pathos I can’t quite cope with – the lonely lady in the shop can be a bit upsetting and some of it is definitely rude! However, it is clever and imaginative and Greg and his gang have certainly brightened up the comedy scene in Scotland (and beyond – how will they understand it elsewhere?)
You can read the transcript from a recent On line interview with Greg and Ford at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/chewinfthefat/chat_transcript.shtml
Photograph by Ford Kiernan.
Greg Hemphill:West End Actor,Comedian and Rector Of Glasgow Univesity