The last 14 months have been a major challenge for everyone in the live comedy industry. With gigs and tours and club nights all rescheduled or cancelled altogether, those who made a living from making us laugh have been forced to take stock.
Chris Forbes (stand-up, actor, improviser, and the ‘third Murray brother’) was no different, but had a unique way of coping with Covid.
“I really got into dog agility,” he insists. “Because we couldn’t do anything or go anywhere, our Cavapoo, Ruby, was a huge saving grace.
“Once I had explored every single walk and path available to us, I had an impulse buy and got a dog tunnel which I set up in the local park. Then someone brought down a jump, and the other week a set of homemade hurdles appeared. It was a fun way of seeing people socially.”
A comedy gathering on Zoom
While we hope to be seeing people socially within the confines of a comedy room sometime soon, the Zoom gig is still the premier method of consuming live stand-up.
Alongside Raymond Mearns, Krystal Evans, and MC Hammersmith, Chris Forbes takes part in the latest digital gathering at the OnFife Comedy Café.
“We’ll all be in our own houses tuning in and doing a set one after another. I’ve done a few Zoom gigs, and when it works well it’s really nice. At the very least you’re getting a little connection again.
“People have become so used to doing Zoom calls that there’s no inhibition anymore, and comedians enjoy setting up things in the background, like having certain books out to look clever.”
So will they use the C-word?
For this particular show, Chris, like other comics over the coming weeks, months and possibly even years, have a clear choice to make: will they be using the C-word or avoiding it like, em, the plague?
“It’s becoming a tricky decision to make because every comic must have a decent ten to fifteen minutes on Covid.
“It’s hard to say anything that hasn’t been said already, so what I’ve been tending to do is to narrow it down to my one key Covid story and that’s about it. Otherwise, I think it’s fun to forget about it as a lot of people go to stand-up for some escapism.”
While many stand-ups have had to watch in horror as their entire livelihood has disappeared in front of their eyes, Chris feels lucky to have been able to continue his acting career when lockdown restrictions have allowed for on-set filming.
His TV CV includes comedy shows Badults, Mountain Goats, and Only An Excuse, while his next project, The Farm (alongside stand-up farmer Jim Smith) should receive an airing soon.
He has also performed his own comedy on BBC Scotland as a solo act on The Comedy Underground, and with sketch team How Do I Get Up There?.
But he is perhaps best known to small-screen viewers as the love-smitten PC Charlie MacIntosh in long-running mockumentary series Scot Squad. Curiously, he has also played a detective in an episode of Jonathan Creek.
“I think any job you get in TV where you can dress up and be in an authoritative role makes you feel quite good. I think my height fits the bill, no pun intended, and makes me look like a copper.
“At school, I filled in a multiple choice questionnaire and at the end you were told what your most likely profession would be: mine was actually a prison officer, so not a million miles away.”
Judy Murray is up for continuing the joke
Talking of authoritative figures, Chris has worked closely beside Judy Murray (mum of Scottish tennis heroes, Andy and Jamie) on a series of spoof videos in which he played that ‘third Murray brother’, the non-tennis playing Duncan.
“She was an absolute dream,” he recalls. “What made it so good was that I, like a lot of people, had preconceptions that she was the pushy mum and this hard character.
“Then you meet her and see her laughing and having a good time. We were nervous about how far she would throw herself into it, but then were taken aback by how much she enjoyed it.
“We’ve discussed doing something in Edinburgh, which would now be for 2022, as it’s always been a dream of hers to do the Fringe. She’s up for continuing the joke.”
- Chris Forbes is part of OnFife Comedy Café Online, Friday 28 May, 8pm; onfife.com.