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My first encounter with 'Scotch & Wry' was in 1996 with a television compilation entitled 'The Best Of Rikki Fulton' in which the late star shared with us his favourite moments from working on the show. Unfortunately, as I was only a young boy at the time, the humour did not strike a chord with me. It was not until 2005, when I was well into my teens that I took to it after viewing highlights repeated by BBC1.
'Scotch & Wry' ( which followed on from STV's 'The Scotched Earth Show' ) ran from 1978 to 1992 on BBC1 Scotland and like most popular sketch shows gave birth to some memorable recurring characters such as T.V Chef 'Dirty Dicky Dandruff', whose knowledge of hygiene could be written on a small grain of rice. There was also 'The McGlincheys', a common as muck Glaswegian couple with a criminal record as long as The Great Wall Of China and the unbelievably idiotic police officer 'Supercop' ( ''Awright Stirling, oot the car!'' ) who was always seen confronting unlikely traffic offenders such as an extraterrestrial, 'Batman', the Pope and even on one occasion, 'D.C.I Jim Taggart'! The most popular character, however, was 'Reverend I.M. Jolly', a dour Presbyterian minister who closed each show with 'Last Call', a blatant spoof of STV's 'Late Call'. Jolly proved so popular he later went on to front a number of sitcom specials.
There were also many hilarious one-time characters such as brash funeral director 'S.W. Duff' who once asked a client: ''Is the funeral service to be smoking or non-smoking?''. ''I beg your pardon?'' asks the bemused client. ''Cremation or burial?'' replies Duff! 'Big Chief Swifthalf' was a Glaswegian Red Indian who tried to convince the D.W.P that he was an authentic Red Indian so that they would not suspend his benefit and, my favourite, 'Alky Broon', an odious barber who would take the bad look away from Sweeney Todd!
Apart from Northern Ireland, 'Scotch & Wry' has never been aired outside of Scotland ( excepting the 1982 special ), which is a great shame as 'Scotch & Wry' was one of the best sketch shows the BBC has ever made. Rikki Fulton had an unquestionable flair for comedy. He could take any situation ( even one that wasn't particularly funny ) and reduce people to hysterics. One sketch in particular was proof of this in which Fulton played a driving instructor whose senile pupil has great difficulty understanding The Highway Code ( ''Last week she overtook a motorbike! I wouldn't have minded but she was reversing at the time!'' ). In another sketch, Fulton took off Michael Jackson and Shirley Bassey ( in the same sketch! ), though the finest sketch saw Fulton as 'Reverend David Goodchild', a shy, unassuming minister whose water decanter is accidentally spiked with gin so with each sip he becomes more and more intoxicated and starts to deliver on air all the dark secrets of his parish.
Supporting Rikki excellently throughout the years were Claire Neilsen, Gregor Fisher, Tony Roper, John Bett, Juliet Cadzow and Judy Sweeney. Guest appearances included Miriam Margolyes, Gerard Kelly, Mark McManus, Barry McGuigan, Jim Watt, Archie McPherson and Sydney Devine. The gorgeous Barbara Dickson appeared several times for the show's musical numbers. Among the top scriptwriters were John Byrne ( later to script the brilliant 'Tutti Frutti' ), Colin Bostock Smith, Terry Ravenscroft, Bob Black ( creator of 'City Lights' ), Tam Cowan, Laurie Rowley and, of course, Fulton himself.
In 1999, following the news of Rikki Fulton's tragic diagnosis with Alzheimers, BBC Scotland screened as a tribute to the man's career, 'Rikki Fulton: The Time Of His Life' and in 2007 Tony Roper wrote and starred in, along with Gerard Kelly, a stage play entitled 'Rikki & Me', which toured theatres all over Scotland. Five compilations of the show have also subsequently been released on DVD so it seems unlikely that either the show, or Fulton himself come to that matter, will be forgotten, so on that happy note - farewell chinas!
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