Susan Morrison: Jail comedy classes can be a Bar-L of laughs

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I get all the good jobs, me, including going into Barlinnie Prison to teach inmates the basics of stand-up comedy.

Now, before you go all tabloid on my head and start jumping up and down and demanding that all breakers of the law get sent to Rockall with nothing but a Mars Bar, a hunting knife and a box of matches and be forced to hunt to live, I should point out that there is nothing to hunt on Rockall, apart from kelp and puffins. In addition, you are all readers of a more intelligent publication than certain hang ’em, flog ’em newspapers.

Anyway, there is a school of thought that says being stuck in a room with me for two hours is punishment for a lifetime.

No doubt, the most secure prison in Scotland has been home to some desperate men. Peter Manuel spent his last days there and still lies within the prison walls, as he should. Jimmy Boyle learned that violence was a mug’s game and turned to sculpture – although, to be honest, modern art can reduce me to outbursts of irrational temper tantrums. And, lest we forget, Tommy Sheridan, but no 
matter how hard we try, we can’t forget Tommy Sheridan.

But within those grim walls there are also a lot of blokes who made terrible decisions, and those who came from a background which basically put them on a fast track to a prison cell. When you come from a family who regard state care, young offenders institutions and Barlinnie in roughly the same way as prep school, Fettes and St Andrews, then you don’t stand that much of a chance.

It’s to the credit of the people who work in the Scottish Prison Service that they try to give men stuck on an escalator going down a chance to change.

So, the idea is to use comedy to teach a few life skills.

We had decided to have a couple of inmates perform at a special show night. One skinny, nervous wee bloke is actually a crack little comedian, but his nerves were getting the better of him. Folk would know him, he said, could he perhaps do his set wearing a mask?

From the back of the class, Benji boomed: “Wear a mask? That’s how ye wound up in here, ya bam!”

Like I say, terrible choices.

All go at Gogar

I’VE been working in Glasgow at The Stand Comedy Club this week, so I’ve been thundering past the tram depot at Gogar fairly late at night on the way home – if a Rover 45 can be said to thunder. Now, I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but I am sure I saw movement. By jingo, I think I saw a tram move.

The toast of Christmas future

WE tend towards real Christmas trees in our family, and usually I get the task of sourcing said tree.

One year someone opened up one of those shops that only appear around yuletide flogging pine trees. Where do they get those trees? Is there a huge tree warehouse just off the M6 where freebooting entrepreneurs can set themselves up as independent tree sellers?

My son was six that year and we both went round to get the tree. The shop was close enough to walk round to, and like an idiot I hadn’t really thought through how I was going to get the tree back. It was a 5ft tree. I am a 5ft human. As a result, when I lifted the tree to get home, I couldn’t see a thing. I staggered along London Road looking like a one-woman Birnam Wood seeking a Macbeth. My son was delighted and took a branch to guide me along in the snow.

This year, we took the car, went to Dobbies and bought a 6ft tree. I opened the car to fiddle about with the seats and then turned around.

My 13-year-old son was standing behind me with the tree in his arms and said “I’ll put it in the car, mum”, and swept easily past me to fit the fir into the seat.

I told him my eyes were just watering because of the cold.

Something wrong with that pong, luv?

Quick question, I’m sure someone knows the answer. This is, of course, the season of mass panic perfume buying by the male of the species, adverts for smelly stuff swamp the airwaves.

Mini-movies for ridiculously expensive scents with names such as Poison, Excess and Expensive (I made one of those up – alright, two) clutter every ad break. All the scantily-clad ladies have their mouths open. What’s going on? Why are all their lusciously painted lips delicately parted? Have they all got colds, or does the product seriously ming?