My Comedy Career: Stuart Mitchell

Stuart Mitchell

Ahead of his new Radio 4 series, comedian and writer Stuart Mitchell talks to us about his career.

Tell us what you do in your job.

In the first 5 years of starting out I was a "club comic" which I absolutely loved. I managed to get in with all the "big" clubs fairly early on and this help when I moved to London for 12 months. As time went on I was one of few Scots getting paid weekends at The Comedy Store.

I then started to diversify into writing for other comedians and also creating opening lines for many public speakers and CEOs so they could build real connections with their audience through humour. I've also spent time in Los Angeles over many years being coached (and now mentored) by current and past 'Late Night' TV writers. I also attended various comedy writing workshops in Las Vegas. It was the best investment I've ever made and although I had to jump in and out of the circuit it paid off in the long run.

In 2015 I did a read through for BBC Scotland's Breaking The News and put into practise everything I was skilled in - joke structures and crafting topical gags. I am now the longest running panellist nearly 10 years later and just about to debut on The News Quiz (as a panellist off the back of writing for the show).

Now I spend more time writing than I do performing as I want to watch my daughter grow up. I'd say in the last 2 years I've focussed more on formats. Ironically out of all my failed pitches the one that eventually got the green light came from outside of Scotland. My new Radio 4 series is due out this weekend and I've just launched a podcast Glesga Da I've co-created with comedian Raymond Mearns. It has done very well and it is going to be really exciting to see where we are with that this time next year.

Stuart Mitchell's Cost Of Living. Stuart Mitchell

How did you first get involved in the comedy industry?

I was in banking and started to hate it. I was always good at public speaking and I rose through the ranks less due to my intelligence but because my presentations where always funny and engaging.

I attended a comedy writing class taught by Charlie Ross way back in 2009. He gave me the confidence (and push) to keep at it. I made that big mistake of booking a full Fringe run after my comedy workshop class showcase. You can imagine how popular I was with my future peers. Anyway I made a few silly mistakes when starting out as a young comic but here I am 15 years later...

What key skills do you need to be able to do your job well?

Structure. Plan your days and weeks. Some people say live in the moment but I need to have a clear structure of what I'll be doing each day - social media clips and scheduling, planning podcast episodes, formats and then stand-up writing.

How have I changed in the last 5 years? You should never worry about how anyone else is doing. Don't think "how is he (or she) getting that". Don't get tied up in competitions. In my own personal circumstances don't stop. Learn to take "no" gracefully and know that you'll get knocked back lots and there are people that just don't rate you. That's fine. I've had over 30 formats rejected (one which would have literally changed my life overnight but it didn't get made in the end) but I keep going. And its paid off - emotionally and financially.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My very first Breaking The News recording in 2015 in front of a live audience. I'd never done any TV or radio in terms of panels.

Also I was paired with Phill Jupitus and I thought could I have anyone beside me more experienced? So I prepared. And prepared. And it paid off. It couldn't have gone better and what no one knew (apart from the producer) was that 10 days previous to the recording my dad passed away. I had his cufflinks in one pocket and a caramel wafer wrapper (the last thing I took off him) in the other. I'll never forget that day and I'll never forget the trust the Breaking The News team put in me to allow me to do it after such an emotional couple of weeks. I was having a tough few weeks but I was still prepared.

Stuart Mitchell

And what has been the biggest challenge/disappointment?

I wouldn't say I am disappointed in anything career wise. The biggest challenge for me I guess is really managing my social media accounts. I've tried bringing in editors however I think you just can't get the timing right or create that great final product unless you do it yourself. The clips really do pay off but its hard work. You need to take it seriously and social media is absolutely key. I joined TikTok less than a year ago and it's grown my profile massively. The amount of corporates I get from bookers saying, "the client saw you on TikTok...".

I do find preparing for recordings challenging, but I've got better. I am severely dyslexic so I need to do so much more prep learning my lines or remembering what to say than actually writing the material. I've started MC'ing a gig in my local town to try and get my mind to kick in quicker and its helping.

Talk us through a typical day.

Well today (Sunday)...

5am: I get up every day at 5am unless I've been out late. People find this crazy (including my wife) and I will have a coffee. I'll pull some clothes on from the day before.

5.15 till maybe 6.15am: I do some reading and always training of some sort. I watched a YouTube video this morning on growing subscribers via Facebook Live.

The Glasga Da Podcast. Image shows left to right: Stuart Mitchell, Raymond Mearns

6.15am to 8.15am: I write and create at least one idea/sketch for a social media post every day. I schedule clips for that day across many platforms for the Glesga Da Podcast and for my own accounts.

8.15am to 9.15: I get showered and changed.

9.15 - 1pm: Drive into Glasgow to record two back-to-back Glesga Da podcast episodes, picking Raymond Mearns up on the way.

1pm - 2pm:: Drive back to Raymond's to film some Glesga Da sketches (I've previously put together) in his living room.

3.00pm - 5pm: Look through the rough footage of the sketches and podcast recordings and exchange notes with the producer. I will then select the best 5-7 recorded sketches from maybe 20 we have recorded and they will make it to social media. The others go in a pile until I come up with a better setup, punchline or both.

5pm onwards: Writing this article now then I'll stop for dinner and family time.

Tell us a trick/secret/resource that you use to make your job quicker/easier.

CapCut for social media clips (and subtitles). And its free!

How are you paid?

All my comedy work goes through a Ltd company and I pay myself handsomely but also invest in my own development, future projects and, at the moment, the Glesga Da Podcast. I don't think you should ever reveal what you earn. Stay classy.

If you could change one thing about the comedy industry, what would it be?

Industry - give more straight answers. If you don't think someone will be a good fit for a show or if you just don't like the persons style of comedy. Tell them straight rather than just blank their emails or feed them some nonsense.

And as for us (fellow comics): Accept when a producer, commissioner or anyone says no... or blanks your email. Just because you aren't a good fit for the show (or channel) now doesn't mean you wont be in the future.

What tips would you give for anyone looking to work in your area of the industry?

Don't get disheartened by not winning competitions or being unsuccessful in gaining entry to any schemes. I applied (and was unsuccessful) in gaining a entry to the BBC Writers Room, BBC Comedy Collective, River City Writing Scheme, BBC Social, Nickelodeon Writers Scheme... the list is extensive. Literally loads... and despite this you can hear me making my Radio 4 debut in Stuart Mitchell's Cost Of Living starting on Sunday 25th February at 7.15pm and running for 6 weeks. I am also making my debut on The News Quiz on Friday 1st March 2024. Oh and be sure to tune in every Wednesday to the Glesga Da Podcast.

Stuart Mitchell's Cost Of Living is on Radio 4 on Sundays at 7:15pm.

Listen to Glesga Da Podcast

Published: Wednesday 21st February 2024
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