Frappés And Funny People: Donald Alexander and Stuart McPherson on being a Dynamic Comedy Duo, Dream Gigs and Hurtful Heckles

Donald Alexander and Stuart McPherson are quickly becoming compelling comedians to see on the Scottish comedy circuit. Donald Alexander has earned his reputation as a dry and obtuse funny-man after winning the Best Newcomer Award at the Scottish Comedy Awards 2017, and then going on to support John Kearns on tour. Stuart McPherson is a fellow winner of the Best Newcomer Award, winning the year prior to Donald in 2016. His keenly written and dry, sarcastic tone has warranted his comedy to be sought out on the comedy circuit here in Scotland.

Friends since early on in their comedy careers, Scottish comedians Donald and Stuart started stand-up on the same circuit in Glasgow. “I could be wrong but I believe we met at a 48 Below, a gig we used to do a lot when we first started down Broughton Street. It was certainly at a gig pretty early on anyway,” according to Stuart. “I believe that was about two and a half or three years ago.” Donald agreed, although neither of them can seem to remember exactly, “Aye I’d go along with that”.

The two comics are complementary opposites both on- and off-stage, and they are well aware of it. “I’m far more upbeat than Stuart, he’s much grumpier than I am,” Donald jokes, and Stuart humorously retorts with “Aye, I am grumpier than Donald. I pretty much hate everything.” While they would both would technically classify themselves as alternative stand-up comics, they have very differing styles of stand-up which somewhat juxtapose their day-to-day personalities. Donald tends to be more slow-paced and brooding on stage, whereas Stuart is sarcastic and buoyant.

Differing in energy and brands of humour, the pattern continues through to their attitudes towards ambitions as well. When prompted as to what their individual ‘dream gigs’ would be, meaning what stage or audience they aim to one day perform on, their answers were radically contrasting. Donald took a more critical stance on comedic appetite, “It’s non-existent isn’t it? It doesn’t’ work like that. You build things up in your head and every milestone moves further away. Whatever you’re doing isn’t going to be as good as the next best thing in your head. If you’re doing five-minute spots and someone gives you a 10-minute spot then you’re excited, or if you’re doing your first paid spot then it’s exciting but you can just instantly see the next step. People performing in arenas are probably saying that they wish they had a television show.” Whereas Stuart has a defined aspiration, albeit with an ironic twist; “I’d like to perform at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, but only with people from Fife in the audience.”

It’s clear that these two live, eat and breathe stand-up. Although by day, Donald and Stuart have ‘normal’ jobs so that they can have the privilege to live, eat and breathe stand-up. That’s not to say that they don’t approach work with a sense of humor. “I guess my passion would be selling broadband, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. No but, I do a rubbishy office job of selling broadband, to pay the bills and pay the rent,” says Donald accompanied by a chuckle. Stuart on the other hand has had a variety of jobs, “I don’t do anything at the moment; I need to get a job in September when real life sets in again. I worked at Monkey Barrel Comedy for a bit, worked in a lame café for two and a half days and got sacked, but my real profession is being an actor.” Showcasing their friendship and his comic wit, Donald snaps back with “Oh I bet that two and a half day’s lame café money’s still piled up!”

The pair have been doing comedy for around three years, and in those years have collected a plethora of anecdotes of life as comics. The worst heckles, or the best heckles depending on the perspective taken, are a common topic of discussion amongst comics and entertainment journalists alike. However, Donald and Stuart’s answers demonstrate why exactly it is such a prompted topic. Donald’s preferred heckle was during this year’s Fringe Festival run, “I did my opening joke, and this man in the audience went ‘Is that a joke?’ which is the opposite reaction to what I wanted.”

Stuart’s worst heckle happened while he “was compering a gig and [a woman in the audience] said ‘I bet your favourite flavour of crisp is ready salted’ which is a weird heckle, but also a shame because I do actually really like ready salted crisps, but I believe she was trying to say I’m boring.”

The stand-up dynamic duo have just ended their second run of the Fringe Festival together at the Gilded Balloon Rose Theater, each doing a long club-set back to back in preparation for each having their own solo show in the years to come. Now that the Fringe has come to an end, the two have advice on how to survive the month of August in Edinburgh. Donald’s parting words: “Buy an umbrella, eat at Mosque Kitchen and have a girlfriend,” are echoed by Stuarts; “Yeah having someone who loves you makes everything better.”


Image: Gilded Balloon

By Addison Baker

Addison is an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and resident editor of the TV & radio section of The Student, winning the best writer prize in December 2017. She also writes for ShortCom publications specializing in interviews of Comedians. Addison is also a tech supervisor/production manager at Monkey Barrel Comedy and dabbles in stand-up comedy herself.

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