Actor and writer Jack Docherty’s one-man play set against the backdrop of a one-night stand in the 1980s was a Fringe hit last year. Now he’s taking the show on the road around Scotland.

IN many ways Jack Docherty is the quiet man of Scottish comedy. Even though he’s been at the heart of some of the most successful comedy shows of the past four decades – as a writer, performer and producer, we know very little about him.

That’s why his new one-man play Nothing But comes as something of a surprise. Or does it?

There we are again. How much of the seemingly autobiographical nature of the play that made critics’ top ten lists at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe is really true?

“It’s a play about me putting on a show,” he says. “I’m trying to reconnect with a woman I had a one-night stand with in Edinburgh in the 1980s. I find out via the internet that she’s coming to the festival again so I do this in the hope of bumping into her again.

“It’s chasing a lost romance, but there’s another story about a lost connection in there.”

If it’s not strictly autobiographical it certainly draws from the experience of life of anyone who is dancing around the big 6-0.

“Things like unrequited love, obsession over the years, how the Internet changed the world, fatherhood, distant fathers, divorce, marrying the wrong person. You know, it’s all those kinds of topics.”

The National:

Although the play is set in Edinburgh, the topics are universal. Jack will certainly see enough of Scotland as he heads off in March on a 17-date tour (with shows being added) before taking the show into the Soho Theatre in London at the end of April.

“The play did so well in Edinburgh that Karen (Koren, Artistic Director of Gilded Balloon) said why don’t we tour it?

“The Fringe experience last year was different. Instead of 160 in the Gilded Balloon Dining Room venue we could only have 80 and for ventilation we had the back door open so there was light flooding into a room that would normally be dark. I could see people!”

Standing solo on a stage isn’t something that Jack has done often. His long-running successful role as Chief Commissioner Cameron Miekelson came without the rest of the Scot Squad for a solo show at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow a few years ago.

“Miekelson is still a character – it was still a play rather than straight stand-up. It was an unusual moment. I would turn and wonder where Moray (Hunter – long term writing partner and fellow Absolutely cast member) was?

“Normally you would have a breather and someone else would be doing something, but suddenly it’s just you. But then of course you’re getting all the laughter and all the money,” he laughs.

He adds that he’s been asked why the Chief isn’t going on tour.

Clearly it would be a good earner but the idea of Nothing But and being himself, but not quite, excites him most.

There is definitely a little more light and shade in Nothing But and that ability to turn an audience’s emotions is another challenge for the writer and performer in Jack.

“There are a couple of serious bits that I haven’t tried before. That’s quite scary. Oh God, the audience have gone very quiet, and then you think, ‘Oh no, that’s a good thing. That’s good. They’re meant to be quiet. If they were laughing at this, we’d be in big trouble.’”

Jack recalls seeing a master in the craft of being able to turn an audience’s emotions seemingly effortlessly. “I was a really young man I saw Jim Broadbent live.

“He was riveting. You would be crying with laughter one moment and then in a moment, he’d be breaking your heart. It was amazing to experience.”

Another benefit of the one-man experience is a minimal crew. Travelling light gives greater flexibility and the chance to see places he hasn’t visited before.

“That’s one of the great things about this tour is getting to see Scotland. It’s a tiny crew, a minimal set and we can take that to the tiniest halls in the Highlands or the largest venues in the cities. I’ve never been to Ullapool – I’m really excited about that.”

Jack moved south when he was in his 20s. Along with writing partner Moray Hunter he remembers the days in Edinburgh typing out scripts, putting them in envelopes, sending them and then waiting for the response. “When I tell my kids that, they just can’t get their heads around it!”

There was writing successes with Spitting Image, Alas Smith and Jones, The Lenny Henry Show, Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out.

 Four series of Absolutely for Channel 4 followed. A sketch show that can rightly be described as influential in its slightly surreal outlook.

Jack decided not to take part when the rest of the cast brought Absolutely back for a Radio 4 revival a few years ago.

“It just really wasn’t for me. I was happy for them to use the characters I had created for the TV series but I didn’t go down and see it being recorded… ‘What are they doing with my legacy?!!.’ I’m joking of course but it shows the staying power of what we did back then. It was all quite innocent and childlike and it seems that, thanks to YouTube, another generation is enjoying it.”

As he points out, Jack has spent two-thirds of his life in England, but thanks to his involvement in Scot Squad, plus various specials, he has had even more excuses to head home.

“That connection never goes of course. I’ve been in England so long and this is where my kids were brought up but I’ve never felt any less Scottish. Now that they’re grown-ups my wife and I do discuss coming home.

“My mother and sister are still in Edinburgh too. With the amount of work for Scot Squad I do feel like I live in both places sometimes and this tour is a great opportunity to see so much of the country.

“I’ve never really done social media but an online tour video diary might be an idea this time. Even just to document it for myself. It’s another
wee challenge. I like those.”


In March, Jack brings Nothing But to the Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, on Friday 11, Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock, on Saturday 12, Eastgate Theatre, Peebles, on Thursday 17, Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen, on Friday 18, Perth Theatre on Saturday 19, and Oran Mor, Glasgow, on Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23.

For dates across Scotland in April, visit