Scott Agnew lands debut Radio 4 series Dead Man Talking

ExclusiveThursday 8th February 2024, 9:39am by Jay Richardson

  • Three-part series Dead Man Talking will feature Scott Agnew reflecting upon being close to death, living with being HIV positive and suffering a heart attack
  • The "punchdrunk auld veteran" secured the commission after staging a "big comeback show" post-Covid, playing "the sympathy card"
  • He also praised Radio 4 for showcasing an unsigned act, "looking at someone that might not normally hover into view as they're not signed to one of the big agencies"
Scott Agnew

Scott Agnew is recording his debut Radio 4 series about his brushes with mortality, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

In Dead Man Talking, the Glaswegian stand-up and former journalist, who is HIV positive and suffered a heart attack and three cardiac arrests during the coronavirus pandemic, will share his story, "a tabloid dream of hedonistic excess featuring all the biggies: drugs, sex, mental illness, alcohol and a lifelong love affair with Greggs".

The comic is recording three 28-minute episodes at Websters Theatre in Glasgow on 27th February, with free tickets available

He told BCG that the aim for Dead Man Talking is "to not sound like too much of a tit. And I'm now going to fall short of that measure in this next sentence. It'd be nice to deliver something funny and beautiful.

"But mainly not to fuck up this kind of opportunity for other acts in a similar position to myself - unsigned and unknown. It's so good that Radio 4 is now looking outside the usual avenues for their output."

Agnew had his heart attack in 2021 and subsequently found that, "annoyingly for me just as the world was opening back up again and the stand-up circuit was getting into its stride once more, I was marooned and left behind as all the other comics got match-fit again and I just tried to get physically fit."

With money tight and not having the time for 10 and 15-minute comedy club spots "to get back up to speed", he organised "a big comeback show, played the sympathy card with my audience to come support a punchdrunk auld veteran to see if he could still do it".

Intending to perform just two half-hours with an interval, he ended up remaining on stage for two hours and 20 minutes, describing the gig as "possibly one of the most touching and emotional nights of my career, feeling so supported".

Scott Agnew

Lauren Mackay and Chris Quilietti, producers of BBC Radio Scotland's Breaking The News were at the show and persuaded their colleague, Dave Flynn, and Radio 4's comedy commissioning editor, Julia McKenzie, to see a truncated version, Recovering Dead Guy, at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival last year, before she commissioned the series.

"It is such a breath of fresh air having a commissioning editor that's got out of London to go and look at acts on their home turf, also looking at someone that might not normally hover into view as they're not signed to one of the big agencies" said Agnew. "So I'm hugely grateful".

He recalls that "the heart attack stuff had become quite clubby over the course of the year I'd been back on stage" and having to strip it back for a longer, more theatrical narrative arc.

And with his HIV, "I'd kind of more or less put to bed and wasn't really talking or thinking about it anymore. Frankly, it had been the least of my worries on stage and off.

"But going back to that material eight years after it was written, literally in the year I was diagnosed, I found quite troubling. I felt really sorry for whoever that guy was. It didn't feel like me anymore. So that had to be reworked and presented differently. It was a prime example of comedy written as self-defence. It's a bit more self-reflective and less in-your-face now."

Agnew is also returning to the [f]Glasgow International Comedy Festival[f] with Scott Agnew's Scottish Square Sausage Show - Sunday Social on 24th March at Drygate.

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