Rosco McClelland is a long-standing favourite of the Scottish comedy scene. He’s a previous winner of Scottish Comedian of the Year and was this year nominated for the Sir Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow award. Ahead of his new Edinburgh fringe show ‘Sudden Death’ we spoke to Rosco about performing with a heart condition, metaphorically dying on stage, and the ‘prison buff’ rude health of the Scottish scene.

Can you tell us a bit about ‘Sudden Death’?

I’m still very much at the wait and see what happens phase of it. But I always am at this point, you know? I’m not going to try and pretend this isn’t how I do things, and I’ve always ended up with something where I’ve gone, ‘That was good!’ It’s going partly be about an old friend. I did my first hour stand-up special recording in December and an old friend messaged me and said, ‘I’m gonna be there!’ and I’m like, ‘Anybody but you!” He’s not built for this world! We were are so similar but so different at the same time. It was nearly a nightmare, he nearly fucked everything up.

He brought a random Danish guy along with him because his mom was sick. And then I had to go and talk to him and tell him to stop chatting during the interval, because he was chatting through the opener. I was like, ‘What’s the deal with this guy?’ He said, ‘Oh, he’s wanting translations.’ I was like, ‘Well, don’t. Please! I need this to go well and I’ve put a lot of money into it.’ And then after, he messaged me; ‘Oh, sorry about that guy. He was genuinely Danish.’ I was like, ‘That’s not the issue!’ So there was him being an old friend and [the producers] wanting to kick him out, and me being like, ‘I can’t. If I kick him out, I’m kicking out a part of me that still exists.’

And I tie it all in with the fact that I have this condition. It’s called Long QT syndrome. I’ve since found the other name for it is Sudden Death Syndrome, when people die unexpectedly. It’ll happen to sports stars as well. When Fabrice Muamba went down? That’s that’s essentially what he’s got. I’m quite happy that I know about it. But a lot of people don’t know about it and then it happens to them. The basic idea is, if I push myself to my physical limits, my heart will go into an arrythmia, an irregular rhythm and it will turn itself off and on again, to reset the beat. There’s also the chance that it turns itself off and doesn’t turn itself back on again.

So that’s the sudden death aspect. And apart for that, I’ve also got an eight minute long video of holiday photos from New York, which I’m honestly saying could be the funniest bit in the whole show. There’s something funny about showing people something that they do not want to see! Last year I started my show by showing them a video of a man who invented a flight suit [Franz Reichel in 1912], and he tried to see if it would work off the Eiffel Tower. I showed them a man falling to his death. A wee puff of dust comes out! It’s very cartoonish. At the end they carry him out and then they measure how far he went into the hole. It was amazing. Literally at the start of that show last year, I was like, dig a hole and then spend 50 minutes trying to get out of it, and it was fun. It was incredible. No one else is showing you that sort of stuff here at the Edinburgh Fringe!

Has the heart condition changed how you approach you performance at all? I saw you at the Monkey Barrel a month or so ago and you you didn’t seem to have eased up any.

No, I’ve never let it control me. I’m always the one driving this flesh prison. I will never let anything or anyone to dictate how fast I go. That’s that’s all me, baby!

For anyone who’s who’s not familiar with you, how would you describe your approach to comedy and performance?

Yeah, well I like to go fast. I like punk music. That’s my jam. So I feel like I take stylistically a lot of inspiration for that. I like to go fast. I like to go loud. But I think I there’s also the room for a nice melodic chorus in there; some introspective lyrics, maybe even a breakdown now and again.

It must be coming up for about a decade since you gave up your day job as a plumber. How do you think you’ve developed and progressed since then? And what’s been your greatest achievement since you became a full time comedian?

I’ve got a lot better. Now I can tell if a bit is going to be good or not. I don’t necessarily need to take out in front of an audience and try it. I just know when it’s gonna work now. I’ve learned to trim a lot of needless fat from things before I even try them out. Usually I would have a point A and point B, sometimes at point C, and I’d go out and just go, ‘We’ll see how we get between them’. But now I know how to do that through force of habit, and the distance between point A and point B is a lot shorter. And I think that’s a good thing to know. I mean, I’ve always been self-critical, which is I think another thing that you need as well.

Now I just think that I’m good. Nothing fazes me. I did a corporate [gig] recently. I knew I was gonna die and that it was all against me. It was an old friend of my sister who had messaged me about it. It was the Greenock Juniors’ football team dinner. And the slot was 20 minutes. I was like, ‘Well, that sounds like I’m gonna ignore that!’ And then they got in touch with my agent. And I was like, Oh, now they’ve got involved I have to do it to look like a good boy. I’m going to die on my arse. And you know what? I went and died on my arse! For the first time in ages . It was almost quite refreshing. At the end I finished my ‘set’ – that’s set in finger quotes! – and I said to the audience, who really weren’t paying attention at all, ‘I just want to let you know what going forward this won’t affect me. I will forget about this as soon as I hit the M8.’

To be able to let things wash over me is a good thing after 10 years. They say if you do something, you need to do it for 10 years to find out if you’re good at it, and luckily I’ve got to 10 years and thought, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty good at this. I feel good at this, so let’s see what we can we can do.’

What do you think are the best and the worst things about the Fringe?

Well, I think the best thing is… I don’t know if anyone else answers it this way. I think it’s like friends that I’ve made from across the world all turn up in my country. And I get to see them for a month. And I think that is so beautiful. It’s like inviting people into your home in a way, and having a big party. See, again to see people that I don’t see. Sometimes I’ll see them doing club gigs but when it’s the likes of David Correos. You know, if he comes to the Fringe, it’s like, ‘Ahh, Correos is here!’ I get to hang out with him.

I mean Ed Night lives in London, but this year, Ed Night’s on before me in the room. So every day I’m gonna get to do a changeover with Ed. I honestly couldn’t care less about the Fringe! I’m more excited about seeing Ed every day for a month.

Bad things… there’s not a lot that I don’t like about it, you know? I feel like the only bad thing about it is if you’re a Scottish act and you’re not doing it… if we’re calling ourselves artists  and the biggest arts festival in the western world turns up on your doorstep, and you’re not doing it, you’re crazy in my opinion.

I’d say that the Scottish scene is as good as I can remember it. 

Yeah. It seems like there was a strong group that came up in the last decade, and we’re all pushing each other, and we’re all doing slightly different stuff. We’re all using our skills for different platforms and all that, but it’s really strong and I think I’ve felt that way for years. Goddamn, we’re pretty good up here! You know, we can go down to English gigs and just tar it up. And I remember the first time some of us were going down there people would be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ And, no offence, but we would see some of the other acts and be, ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ he would see somebody I love it, Billy, what is going on here?

It’s slightly easier for us though, because it’s like we’ve been sent to prison, and we’ve just been lifting weights in the gym. And then we’d come out and we’re all buff and it was like, ‘Who’s that gorgeous buff creature that’s ready to row?’

Do you have any particularly memorable Fringe experiences; good bad or or mad?

I didn’t know about how important your debut show was at this point, right? I did my debut show where I broached the subject, halfway through the show, about having this Sudden Death thing. I was mostly talking from the experience of how I would like almost will it, like playing chicken with my heart. Who’s gonna give in first, you or me? It was a Tuesday and my show was in… if you remember the Gilded Balloon Rose Street Theatre? I was in the top floor there at 10:45pm. That was not an easy month! The weekends were great, but otherwise it was a bad time for a show, and a bad location for a show.

I’m talking about how I’ve been playing chicken with myself and there’s nine people there and for the first 25 minutes minutes I was killing it! Then I started talking about the Sudden Death stuff, the Long QT stuff, and the atmosphere completely changed. It was silent. After a few minutes this woman stood up and she was crying. She was like, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t! And she walked out. There were nine people there she was part of a group of seven. And then the other six of them got up and just silently filtered out the room, and it was just two tired looking young people up the back. A couple of minutes later, one of the group came back in and was like, ‘I just want you to know that she had two children who died of sudden death syndrome at age 16.’ And I was like, ‘Right. Right, that’ll be it.’ And I said to the two people, ‘Do you want me to keep going?’ And they were like, ‘Nah, it’s fine.’ So that was an experience.

Apart from your show are you performing elsewhere at the Fringe?

I think I’m the first act on at ‘Late ‘n Live’ and a couple of the ‘Best of the Fest‘ for the Assembly, and some other general stuff. I like to think last year or the year before was maybe the first year that I done paid work for every single one of the bigger companies. So that that was nice to finally feel like I have officially conquered the Fringe. This isn’t what the Fringe is like for most people you know? I’m at the Monkey Barrel, so I’m making money at my show. A lot of people don’t get that experience. So I feel very lucky and grateful for that.

Are there any other acts you think that people should check out that don’t get the attention they should?

Really I should say the people who are in my group chat, my friends. But they get enough attention, so fuck them! There is a really incredible new act in Scotland called Ayo Adenekan, who’s been going about a year and is far better than they should be a year in. Ayo is gonna be huge.

Sudden Death‘ is at Monkey Barrel Comedy – The Hive 2 from Wed 31 Jul to Sun 25 Aug 2024 (except Mon 12)