Greg McHugh (aka Gary: Tank Commander) on Writing and Class Act

Posted: February 1, 2011 in Article
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Greg McHugh aka Gary: Tank Commander

Greg McHugh, the writer and performer of the hit BBC comedy show ‘Gary: Tank Commander‘ gave a revealing interview prior to the Traverse Theatre’s Gala performance and party for Class Act 21.

You first got involved in The Traverse Theatre‘s Class Act while at school. Was it fun?

At first I couldn’t believe it.

I was at at St Thomas’ and the drama teacher, Lucy Dalgleish announced to the Drama Higher class that we were going to write our own play with a famous playwright and have it produced at the Traverse. It blew me away!

I’d already seen David Harrower‘s ‘Knives in Hens‘, at the Traverse, one of the best shows ever, still is,  and it blew my mind at that age.  Then to learn that David was going to be giving us feedback on our ideas was incredible.

Do we have to thank Lucy Dalgleish and David Harrower for ‘Gary: Tank Commander’?

Yes and No.  They helped but writing comes through different experiences.  You learn from everyday experiences.  I’d been writing loads throughout my school time, then at Uni, then at Drama school, then as a stand-up so I’ve been writing for years. You could say they were more like a catalyst.

When I first asked David what it was like to be a full time Scottish playwright, he said it was a very lonely job and nobody should do it. At the time I thought it was a joke but more recently I’ve realised how true. I’ve just finished 6 months alone writing another series of ‘Gary’ and his words have really hit me.  I need to get to the gym.  No more ‘chups’ for me.

On the other hand, maybe they helped more than I realise.

Some people describe you as a comedian, playwright and actor. How about you?

Actor first, then writer, then comedian.  But I don’t really consider myself to be a playwright. That will probably take years.  A writer, yes but I’m not ready for playwright.

What was your inspiration for ‘Gary: Tank Commander’?

People in Edinburgh, a guy from school. I used the voice once in stand-up and the character just grew from there. I’ve been working with ‘Gary’ for many years now, since 2005, and he’s very different from when he started.

You do amazing home-movie, lip-synch takes on Lady Gaga and Beyonce, which one is your favourite and is it hard to learn the choreography?

Storm is our choreographer and certainly puts us through our paces.  I can’t decide which ones are my favourites. They’re both pretty good.  It takes ages to learn the steps but when you’re working with such a great bunch of guys it doesn’t feel like work.  Journey is also one of my favourites but it wasn’t choreographed. That was just me mucking about.

You are obviously a connoisseur of fake tans.  Can you recommend a particular brand?

Well I can’t really advertise a brand cos it’s the BBC and all that.  But we do have to go for a full spray job once a week.  Stripped to our pants in the van we manage to raise a couple of chuckles from ladies in the production team. I can’t imagine why.  Sometimes we have to go very dark depending on the timeline of the story.

What advice would you give young people thinking of getting into the writing game?

Do it, do it, do it!  Keep believing.  And have patience.  Not like me.  I don’t have any.  It took me a long time to get here.  You have to believe in yourself.  And get feedback from people you trust.

If you want to write, then write even if you think it’s bad.  Keep going.  I wrote for years.  Mostly rubbish.  But you keep going and you eventually get better.  You begin to watch TV and plays with a different point of view, looking at the quality of the writing more.

And if your Drama Teacher asks if you’d like to get involved with Class Act, bite their hand off!

© Fin Wycherley

Watch ‘Gary: Tank Commander’ Series 2 on Mondays on BBC One at 22:25 and on Saturdays on BBC Two at 21:00 – Scotland only!  Or have a look on BBC’s I-Player

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fin Wycherley, traversetheatre. traversetheatre said: Greg McHugh (aka Gary: Tank Commander) on Writing and Class Act: […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s