Eyes on the prize - Roy Walker

This article is from 2008.

Roy Walker

Thanks to a fellow game show king, Roy Walker is finally making his Edinburgh debut. Marissa Burgess talks to the man who is hoping to woo the city’s youth

It’s easy to think of the Fringe as an overblown showcase for the new comic; the moist behind the lugholes act keenly eyeing the big venues and hoping to be spotted by a TV executive with a wad of notes riffling in the breeze. But in recent years some of the more seasoned acts have joined the throng. The comedy on show at the Fringe has widened to encompass those who have no need to prove themselves, acts who are in the city just to enjoy the experience and take the opportunity to play to a different audience.

The Krankies and Bernie Clifton have made one-off appearances while Jim Bowen has done two runs at the Fringe and is back again this year. And now Roy Walker, known to many as the soft-spoken host of the quiz show Catchphrase is coming up. Largely thanks to his old friend Jim. ‘I was surprised to be asked, but I think it was only through Jim Bowen that they inquired about me. It’s a celebration of comedy at the Fringe and so they want all different types of comedians.’ Though it’s all too often the case that anyone who started out before the early 80s alternative comedy ‘revolution’ is perceived to be an old style entertainer, Walker is dismissive of the notion. ‘I wouldn’t categorise myself as such. I’m a modern comedian, a working, everyday comedian, just the same as any young lad who’s just starting out. All that’s different are the subjects.’

But Walker’s no stranger to young audiences. His pre-recorded appearances in the Car Park Catchphrase quiz on the Chris Moyles breakfast show on Radio 1 have brought him to the attention of a new audience. ‘It’s the students in the universities that have made me do Edinburgh. I just hope they show up. I can entertain the mums and dads but it’s the students I want. That’s what my challenge is. I’ve done 60 universities in the last two years and when I go on there it’s half twelve or one in the morning and it’s like a rock concert. They don’t want you to talk, they don’t want you to do stand-up, they want you to play Catchphrase or get people up on the stage. It’s unbelievable.’

Plus an appearance in the second series of Phoenix Nights can’t have hindered his popularity with a new audience either. ‘Peter Kay and Philip [Walker’s two sons Phil and Mark are both comedians] were working together before Peter was famous and he said to Phil, “I’m doing this television series, would your dad come on it?” Phil said, “why don’t you ask him?” So he gave him my number and he rang a couple of times, then one day this battered old Honda Bluebird came over and this wee fat lad got out. Peter Kay came in and I didn’t know him from Adam.’

Alongside Peter Kay, some of his current favourite comedians are those that have been performing for little more than the last decade. ‘I think Jimmy Carr’s like a younger me, very straight faced and what have you. He’s very edgy, a lot edgier than me, I’m quite gentle; I wish I was as sarcastic as that in my delivery.’ Though Walker’s style is ordinarily a deceptively deadpan one, it wouldn’t be out of place at the Comedy Store. So are we to see a new Carr-inspired hard-edged Walker in Edinburgh? Probably not.

‘More or less what I’m going to try and do is a biography of me and comedy. Let them in on things, how I got Catchphrase and the things they want to know about the contestants. And play a bit of Catchphrase.’ Ultimately his presence at the Fringe will add to the wide variety of acts of varying experience that play there. ‘I’m not going to compete with any of the stalwarts like Jason Byrne and Ross Noble and what have you. There are people who go to Edinburgh to see people like Jim and Bernie Clifton and now me, so you’re catering for tastes.’ And there’s more than enough room for all of them.

Roy Walker, Assembly Rooms, George Street, 0131 623 3030, 1-25 Aug (not 16), 6pm, £12.50-£15 (£11.50-£14). Preview 31 Jul, £10.

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