Festival Fringe Reviews
- Johnny Beattie, From Broadway to Cowdenbeath

Johnny Beattie Stand-up comics of every colour, creed and genre, at the Assembly Rooms, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and the Tron are currently strutting their stuff in search of a laugh. But on the official Festival last night at the Kings Theatre, Mr. Topicality himself, the one and only Johnny Beattie, was performing a bright and breezy one-man show to celebrate an astonishing fifty years in show business. We were taken on a nostalgic journey through the ups and downs of his days on and off the stage. The title of the show comes from his humbling experience in 1959 when he returned to Scotland after a fabulous time performing at the Waldorf Astoria, New York to be told his next gig was the Miners' Club, Cowdenbeath.

With a pianist to accompany him in a couple of songs and a red velvet backdrop, the stage was all for Beattie, "on a cultural exchange from Glasgow". Rather than an analysis on the meaning of Scottish comedy, he began, he just wanted a bit of a blether. And for 90 minutes he reminisced on the old days, the famous names and faces he has loved working with over half a century. Many are no longer with us. The great, late Jimmy Logan, Jack Milroy, Chic Murray and Robert Wilson. He described the early days at the Palladium, Edinburgh, Queen's Glasgow, Gaiety, Ayr and stories of cupboard dressing rooms with a tap out the back to wash off the makeup at the end of the show.

"Remember those great comics Wee John Mulvaney and Sammy Murray?" he shouts out to the audience, most of whom certainly do and relish his quick-change impersonations.

Originally working in the Clydeside Fairfield shipyard, this was the comedy workshop for Beattie and other stars including Lex McLean, Tommy Morgan and Billy Connolly. The comic patter was flying all day long and you had to be quick witted if you wanted to survive.

Johnny Beattie's first summer season as lead comic was in 1955 with the Pierrots at the Harbour Pavilion, North Berwick. He recalls two shows a night, which they changed twice a week, for fourteen weeks. That's a tough apprenticeship - and a lot of jokes.

Despite today's era of technology and artificiality, the key to traditional Scottish comedy, believes Beattie, lies in homeliness, The gags about B&B landladies, "I hope ye've a memory for faces, the mirror's broken" or "You don't need an alarm call, ye'll hear me scraping the toast". Humour is a mirror on life, its eccentricities, marriage, the working class and the Toffs, "who go on holiday in June when the sheets are clean".

Yes, we've heard them all before, but King of parody and patter, Johnny Beattie still holds the audience in the palm of his hand with his quick wit, timeless jokes and sharp impersonations. Are nominations for this year's Perrier award still open?

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