Jamie MacDonald on starring in the campaign for David Beckham's new fragrance interview

Jamie MacDonald

"So there I was in London, at this Highgate mansion, meeting David Beckham for the shoot. Surrounded by 50 or so of the beautiful people, fashion people. Just trying to act cool. I walked onto the set and booted a light out."

Over the past six months, comedians haven't been able to gig. And many are diversifying into other work to sustain themselves. Nevertheless, Jamie MacDonald's fledgling modeling career is perhaps one of the more unusual tangents.

The Scottish stand-up appears in the advert for David Beckham's new fragrance, Bold Instinct, launching on 9th September, where he reflects upon his decision to quit banking for comedy. The moody, monochrome film has already received nearly 800,000 views on the former England footballer's Instagram alone.

While it's not unknown for comedians to have modeled - Ellie Taylor, Joe Sutherland and Michelle de Swarte traded on their looks before picking up a mic - the fragrance market hasn't tended to seek out blind, 40-year-old Glaswegian stand-ups who inadvertently "volley" their set to bits, a casual hoof that dead ball specialist Becks may or may not have appreciated.

Moreover, MacDonald has also spent the last few months making a podcast with fellow comics, 10 Lockdown Kilos And Friends, chronicling his efforts to shift a stone in weight. So kudos to Beckham for casting outside the box.

"He was a lovely guy" recalls MacDonald, who gradually went blind with Retinitus Pigmentosa in his late teens. "It was quite an odd meeting. We were surrounded by the clients, the agents, the TV people. And we had a quick chat about Glasgow. He knew about the Crabshakk [restaurant].

"I'm not massively into football. But you realise everyone knows who David Beckham is. He's global superstar but he was down to earth, just a genuinely charming guy. I really liked him. No idea what the thing smells like, I've not got a bottle yet."

It is, MacDonald chuckles, "bollocks" to suggest that just because he's blind, he might have a heightened, compensatory appreciation of perfume notes. "My hearing might be better" he clarifies. "But I'm not like a dog, sniffing my way around cities.

"I thought that what with being in the fashion industry now, they would send me a free sample though. Still, I can pick it up from Superdrug."

Jamie MacDonald

MacDonald's own sporting exploits, or at least how his school reckoned that he could be a hurdler, would have been the focus of his Edinburgh Fringe show 2020 Vision, sadly cancelled because of coronavirus. He's resisting the urge to repackage it next year as 2020 Hindsight, "because I just don't think people are going to want to be reminded of the pandemic".

It was shortly after shooting the advert that comedy gigs started to be pulled across the UK and "everything went from being pretty cool to pretty crap pretty quick".

Regardless, he's appearing as blowhard "Ronnie Scott" in BBC Scotland's forthcoming squabbling family sitcom The Scotts, from Burnistoun creators Iain Connell and Rab Florence. "That's good fun. I'm always cast as the blind guy, so it's nice to be cast as a blind bigot". And last month it was announced that MacDonald has landed his debut Radio 4 series, Life On The Blink.

"We're hopefully making it in January or February to come out in the spring" he says. "It'll be part-live and we want a live audience but who knows if we'll be able to get one?" he says. Blending his existing stand-up with new material, "it's just all the blind shite isn't it?" he deadpans modestly. "From denial to acceptance, to enjoyment, to blatant profiteering from a disability and all the quirks of that. It's just amazing to be on Radio 4.

"I don't know whether to be happy or not that when I'm not working, my profile's going through the roof. It's really quite odd."

With his first gig since March lined up for next month, MacDonald has become deeply frustrated with being "mothballed". Having recently moved to Sheffield for his paediatric surgeon wife's work, signing with the influential Manchester-based agency Gag Reflex, he's eager to get back on stage. Even if comics might have to deliver two shows a night to compensate for reduced capacity, socially distanced audiences.

"Missing out on the Fringe this year was awful" he says. "I've done a couple of online shows, everyone's done them and they're ok. But nobody is going to say that comes close to a packed out Stand [comedy club] in Glasgow.

Jamie MacDonald

"There's not going to be much sympathy for me working 40 minutes on a Saturday night instead of 20, it's not a massive stretch. I'm up for doing anything that gives people confidence to go into a basement. You have to be positive because it's so easy to put a negative spin on it."

Not least as "this new perspex world" really impacts upon people with disabilities.

"I have no idea where the holes are where you speak to shop staff. It's turned me into a ranting bastard. 'How do I pay, where do I pay?!' I can't see the one-way systems. Covid is really anti-disability.

"I've always been realistic. Kindness and thoughtfulness towards disabilities is always a luxury, it always comes when society's doing well. When shit like this happens, that stuff just fucks off and you go back to square one. And you have to start hacking away at it again. But it gives me more material, so it's fine."

10 Lockdown Kilos and Friends is available at jamiemacdonaldcomedian.com

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