Taking on a name like
Vladimir McTavish is a way of providing shorthand for a number of things.
Firstly, it’s unlikely that anyone in the audience is going to be
unaware of your nationality. Secondly, of course, it is immediately clear
that the name is fake, and that therefore what you are going to see is
essentially a character created by the performer rather than a
straightforward act. Although one suspects that McTavish is closer in
character to the real Paul Sneddon than his other act, drunken football
pundit Bob Doolally, you still can’t help wondering how much is Sneddon
and how much is an act.
character is something of a “street philosopher,” a Glaswegian schemie
railing at society. His delivery is aggressive and often coarse, but
Sneddon is a seasoned performer and he knows exactly how far he can push
and when to rein himself in so as not to alienate his audience.
Whilst creating a
character on stage can often free a comic to explore areas that he might
otherwise be reticent about, it can also be restrictive. In the case of
McTavish, the name limits the range of topics that can be covered. There
is an audience expectation that the humour is going to be very much based
in the Scots experience, and that is exactly what he delivers.
The problem with
this, of course, is that Scots comedians have been covering these topics
since time immemorial, and there really are very few new avenues to
explore. And so we get routines about how much the Scots enjoy seeing the
English lose at sports, about the national propensity for drinking, about
the stuffy attitudes of the middle-class Presbyterians, and the new
favourite of Scots comics everywhere, about the smoking ban. And while
McTavish does have some good observations and some very funny lines, none
of this is terribly fresh or original.
So the result is that watching McTavish perform is a bit like going to
the latest Bond movie. You know you’re going to enjoy it, but you’ve
also got a pretty fair idea what’s going to happen even before it
begins. And I come away wondering what might happen if Sneddon were one
day to drop the characters, step out of his comfort zone and really let