The GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL returns to the city for the sixteenth edition this week and once again features an abundance of quality and inevitable good times.
CHRIS McQUEER – author of the phenomenally received HINGS, is set to make his maiden appearance and it is no surprise considering the statistics behind his debut published release: the book has now reached over 4,000 sales, which is a figure McQueer can hardly believe: “When I first sat down with my publisher we were talking about our target being to sell 500 books. Now we’ve sold over 4,000 copies which is something none of us expected to happen.”
This feat has not slipped under the radar, and there are mixed feelings from McQueer going into the comedy festival. “This is the biggest and most daunting thing I’ve ever done, but at the same time it’s the most exciting! I’m absolutely bricking it and, even though I’m really nervous about it, I can’t wait.”
While on the subject of festivals, especially with the likes of Reading and Leeds being criticised massively, McQueer plays it safe and lists his ideal headliners as “Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice or Chvrches.” However, he explains “my music tastes are a bit weird, to be honest. I get constantly slagged off by my pals for the tunes I put on in the motor.” Strangely, though, his festival headliner “in reality would be Britney Spears.” Nothing at all wrong with that.
His set will blend tales from Hings with “showing a couple of brand new comedy sketches I’ve written with my pals, David Gray and Kris Cummins, on the big screen” and “talking about how I got published and the story of how Hings came to be,” his set is certainly not to be missed, both for critics and aspiring writers hoping to follow in his footsteps. Speaking of critics, the reviews of Hings have been interesting to say the least.
On one hand, Chris McQueer‘s work has been compared to Limmy and Irvine Welsh, but maybe more interesting is how the public have perceived it. One review in particular tickled both Chris and I: “My favourite review of Hings was on Amazon where a woman said ‘2 out of 5 stars – not for me but the neds will love it.'” Most notably is the comparison to Limmy, though. Being a Scottish writer, especially in this field, will always draw this likeliness so making a product similarly different was essential. “I realised that they’d be expecting something as funny as Limmy’s work with the quality of writing and surrealness of Irvine Welsh,” of course there are going to be similarities to Daft Wee Stories, but if you approach Hings with an open and fresh mind you can appreciate it as a stand alone book.
Alongside the invitation to the comedy festival, the success of Hings has allowed the publication of a ‘b-sides‘ edition – considering he produced “about 40 stories over the space of a year” and the “25 best ones” went in the book, it was a superb opportunity for fans to quench their Hings thirst. “I discarded the rest for a lot of different reasons – too short, too daft, too stupid, too weird or too shite, though I found 8 that I thought weren’t actually that bad.
“Luckily 404 Ink asked me if I’d like to put together a wee pamphlet to sell over Christmas and they loved the idea of releasing a book the equivalent of an album of B-sides.” Since Hings and the development of the B-sides, McQueer has began working on new material and it seems everyone wants a slice of the action. He reveals: “My pals and family have started telling me a lot of mad stories and things that happened to them that I’d never heard before,” but a lot of tales he documents in his work are overheard conversations from a sports shop. “I’d serve hundreds of people every day and I’d hear so many turns of phrases or snippets of conversation that I could use or that would spark off a wee idea in my head.”
The writing process then developed “when it was a quiet shift.” Naturally, as a method of curing boredom, stories were created for customers who innocently ventured into the shop. One in particular that McQueer recalls is: “One time an old guy came in, he must’ve been in his late 70s, looking to buy a weightlifting belt. Me and my pal came up with a story based on him entering a strongman competition to impress a woman he fancied down at his pensioners club.”
If you find yourself relating to Hings, don’t feel like McQueer has read your mind and noted your life story down like a Black Mirror plot, his tales are simply “just observing normal people then exaggerating them or placing them in daft situations.” This technique, combined with “recently listening to house and techno stuff which never used to be my thing, but it’s absolutely perfect for having on while I write,” is the backbone of a fantastic book. As with every profession, having music on in the background is vital, as McQueer now knows. “I think sitting writing these weird stories in total silence was starting to make me a wee bit unhinged.”
A healthy balance of being unhinged, nabbing tales from customers and holding out for Britney Spears to headline a festival are the perfect concoction for a crafting best-selling debut book.
CHRIS MCQUEER APPEARS AT THE GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL ON THURSDAY MARCH 15