Daniel Sloss

Forget doing well at school - the stand-up comedian made it his mission to get his terrifying teachers to laugh

Julia Belgutay

I keep in contact with a few of my old teachers. I am not a massive nerd, I wasn't smart and I wasn't staying after school hanging out with the teachers. The reason they liked me was despite the fact that I did not work - I was always someone who made them laugh. And even though I was failing their exams and wasting their time, I could make them smile.

But if I had to pick a favourite, it's going to have to be Mr Letham. He was my maths teacher in fourth year. I only had him for one year, but then we were really good mates after that. He is a petrifying man when he needs to be, which is why he is such a brilliant teacher. He can have banter with you and still scare the living shit out of you. He has got the balance perfectly.

He is like six foot five or something ridiculously big, and I remember when I was in first year, I was running around being an idiot, and I ran straight into his belly - properly winded him - and he just stared down at me. And just him staring down at me was enough to pretty much reduce me to tears.

In class, he was the perfect, cool teacher. I was thick at maths - I am better at English and history and that sort of stuff - but he was great. I love his laugh. It's a big belly laugh, and that was always the best thing in high school - if you could ever make Mr Letham laugh, every classroom within a five-door distance knew, and it was quite an achievement.

It was a challenge - that's why I loved it. I would go in there and people would say, "Have you done your homework?" And I would be like, "I don't care about my homework - my mission today is to make Mr Letham laugh."

Then in fifth and sixth year, because I was no longer his pupil, I was more than happy to be a bit more cheeky to him. Most of the time he could easily outwit me and out-insult me and I was more than willing to accept that.

Now I sometimes go back and visit, and if he has a free period we just sit in one of my old classrooms and have a laugh. He even came to my fringe gig - he is one of my biggest fans and believed in me from the beginning.

I also have to give a mention to Mr Hughes, who I called Mr Huggs. He was my history teacher in first year, and then in sixth year I decided that I wanted to do Advanced Higher history. I had done Standard grade, but not the Higher. With him, it was the same thing: he was a very funny teacher and up for a laugh, but he knew when to discipline you, and he could be really intimidating. He was always very softly spoken, until he was angry. It was like the Hulk didn't get any bigger or greener; it was just a look in his eyes.

He let us drink hot chocolate and tea and coffee in class, which was always very cool, and sometimes he would have sweets, and if you did well, you would get one - which is always a bonus, especially when you are 17 years old and very excited about getting a lollipop.

Mr Letham - I remember nothing about maths at all, and Mr Hughes - I remember very little about my 3,000-word dissertation on Celtic houses, but what they did do was allow me to express myself. I wasn't a pupil; I wasn't a name on a list. I was one of their students; they spoke to me and treated me like a human being.

Daniel Sloss was talking to Julia Belgutay

Personal profile

Born: Kingston-upon-Thames, 1990

Education: East Wemyss Primary; Waid Academy, Anstruther

Career: Stand-up comedian, started his career in sixth year of school, and deferred university entry for a year to pursue that career, but has not looked back.

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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