An Interview with Daniel Downie

How funny was Mary Queen Of Scots?

Daniel Downie, it seems, has the answer

Hello Daniel, so how did you get into comedy in the first place?
I was actually in the pub after an Aberdeen game and got talking with one of the Scottish scene’s best acts and fellow Dons fan Chris Forbes. We got chatting and he said he was a stand-up comedian, I was like ‘I’d love to try that’ he gave me the email for Red Raw at the Stand. Six months later I went on stage for the first time and did 5 minutes at the Glasgow Stand, it was the first time I’d ever been in a comedy club! *Aberdeen won 4-0 by the way, a Jamie Smith hattrick.

Can you tell us about the Mountebank History of Scotland’ series and the ‘Mountebank Comedy Walk of Edinburgh’?
It’s basically Scottish history with jobby jokes! I love comedy and history and wanted to combine the two. I had the idea for a comedy walking tour of Edinburgh for ages but it actually took me three years to write, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the history of Scotland and Edinburgh before I even thought about writing any jokes. The ‘Mountebanks’ were one of the first things I read about Edinburgh. They were street performers but kind of bullshitters. They’d perform tricks, tell jokes and then sell homemade ointments and potions after their performance, an American term would be something like a ‘snake oil salesman’. I thought ‘that’s perfect!’ My tour is a kind of a slightly exaggerated bullshitter’s version of a regular tour, so that’s where Mountebank came from. The podcast and YouTube series I started as a means of occupying myself through lockdown. It would take me hours and hours to research and write each episode so it was a perfect way of staying focused and sane during the pandemic.

You’re currently ranked no. 1 of 534 walking tours in the city on TripAdvisor! How does that make you feel?
I left a teaching career in May 2019 – very well timed, few people were able to corner two dead industries during the pandemic, stand-up comedy and tourism, but this guy pulled it off! I had been doing the tour for about a year and a half before I left my job and it was going along nicely, but when the pandemic hit I thought I had lost everything. So, to now be ranked number one on TripAdvisor and selling out most tours is amazing, I’m very proud of myself. The best thing is being able to do something you love for a living, that’s what it’s all about.

Does the tripadvisor ranking outweigh the time when the Scotsman compared you to a cockburn’s haggis?
For me it does, but by mum doesn’t really understand what it is I actually do so when the Scotsman compared me to a Cockburn’s Haggis she was as proud as punch, that was a big moment for her! Dingwall haggis is amazing by the way if you haven’t tried it!

When it comes to comedy at the Fringe, what are the secret ingredients to a good show?
I think it has to be authentic. All my favourite Fringe shows I have ever seen I’ve always been blown away by how much work went into it and the person’s commitment to it, when that’s missing it’s always a bit meh. My secret ingredient isn’t really a secret at all, it is the support of Rick Molland and Sully O’ Sullivan who run the Scottish Comedy Festival. That, and my fellow performers and the staff at the Beehive, everyone embraces the Fringe there, there’s a great camaraderie. You’re paying a fair price to perform, we get great audiences, and you have the opportunity to actually profit off of your work. It’s the way the Fringe should be and we’re very lucky to have it.

What are you bringing to the Fringe this year?
My show ‘There’s Something About Mary’ is an hour of stand-up comedy about Mary Queen of Scots and it’s on 5th-28th August 2pm at the Beehive Inn. I will also be running my Comedy Walking tour, the ‘Mountebank Comedy Walk of Edinburgh’ leaving every day from Monkey Barrel at 11am.

Why Mary Queen of Scots, & is she funny?
She was undoubtedly charismatic, but her mother Mary of Guise was certainly funny. Henry VIII was interested in marrying Mary of Guise, when he complimented her figure Mary replied ‘aye I’ve a very thin neck’ which is frankly outstanding patter from her! Why Mary? I’m pretty boring, I don’t have any big life changing experiences or mad shit that has happened to me that I can write a Fringe show about so I thought ‘who has had the most remarkable, interesting life from Scottish history?’ And no one had a more spectacular and unfortunate life than Mary. We love glorious, romantic failure in Scotland and that’s essentially what Mary’s reign and life was – and that’s what this Fringe show promises to be, one great big, glorious, romantic failure!

Can you tell us about your dog?
Brahan, aka the ‘Bonnie Prince’, he’s the softest, friendliest dog in Scotland and is probably better known on the Scottish comedy scene than I am! Brahan comes on all my tours, or most of them at least, when he’s not there people get properly pissed off! He’ll be at the Beehive everyday if you want to come say hello!

You’ve 20 seconds to sell the show to someone in the Royal Mile – whaddaya say?
‘Mary was pasty-white, loved a round of golf, and a bevy, she had an adorable wee Skye terrier dog, was locked in a bitter dispute with her half-brother, and in a bitter dispute between Catholics and Protestants, she was married three times, was implicated in the murder of her second husband Lord Henry Darnley, spent most of her adult life in prison in England, and was eventually murdered by a family member – come see my Fringe show about the most Scottish person who ever existed!’


The Beehive Inn
Aug 5-28


Danny Deegan @ The Comedy Attic

The Late Show
The Beehive Inn, Edinburgh

I walked into the heart of Edinburgh and felt the low key buzz of pre-fringe vibes. The Grassmarket, warm with laughter, was lit up; the smell of ale and good food in the warm dusk air ignited my senses. I was greeted with a smile by the friendly doorman who showed me to the top floor of the Beehive Inn & into the famous Comedy Attic. The venue holds 50/60 seats neatly packed into a dark square room.

I waited for the sold-out seats to fill, enjoying the background music while periodically peering out the window to the fun streetside. The lights dimmed at 11pm and Rick Molland took to the stage. As comperes go he was a little nervous and his voice shook for the first few minutes, but I was enlightened to his abilities once I realised how tough the crowd were that he was dealing with.

Three stag-do’s were present and Rick set about firing questions at them. The front row could not have been more boring. A dull combination of accountants and project managers, Rick had his work cut out for him so he impressed me by receiving a good few laughs.

The warm-up act was Gus Lindberg. He entertained with the inevitable covid chat, childhood anecdotes, audience interaction and some great Scottish banter. He pumped the room up to almost boiling point, before ending on a rather dark joke which gave a little more context to his potential versatility. I would like to see him headline sometime.

After a twenty minute interval, Rick got us prepared for more of the show. Headlining was Danny Deegan. He took the stage and introduced himself by explaining he had driven 4 hours to get to Edinburgh from Manchester and to be honest, what followed made me wonder if he’d wasted a his petrol. Self-proclaimed working class scum, Danny was more versed in rants, rather than bants. His timing was studied and seemingly well practiced, but he only hit on average a 20/30 percent audience laughter rate and it didn’t particularly tickle me. A pretty dry story-teller, he reminded me of a guy spraffing his life story to you while waiting in the queue for red bull and a packet of Lambert and Butler at the corner shop; someone you’d like to walk away from but that you’re OK with tolerating for the sake of being able to buy your essentials.

As for the forthcoming Scottish Comedy festival – a part of the Fringe – I have faith that its organiser, tonight’s very own Rick, will smash it this festival and the venue is just what u want if you like intimacy. Watch out for Gus Lindberg though, he was the top talent tonight!

Bobbi McKenzie