Flying Pigs prepare for TV take-off

10th December 2010 at 00:00
Comedy group of teachers and lawyers get ready to spread their wings in pilot show

They met performing in the Aberdeen Students' Show and, more than 10 years on, they're about to have their first television comedy sketch show.

The Flying Pigs is a team of four teachers and three lawyers, already familiar to BBC Radio Scotland audiences with their popular sketch series Desperate Fishwives.

This afternoon, they're putting the finishing touches to their radio Hogmanay Special, which is being recorded tonight in front of an audience at the Aberdeen Arts Centre. Next week, a pilot TV programme will bring Desperate Fishwives into the homes of viewers across Scotland for the first time.

It's going to be a big day for the team. "We're excited. We have seen it ourselves and that was nerve-wracking. We all sat holding hands with each other," says Susan Gordon, who teaches at Ashley Road Primary in Aberdeen.

Before the curtain rises on this evening's performance, the educators from The Flying Pigs talk about the joys of combining Curriculum for Excellence with showbiz.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that in our group we are made up of teachers and lawyers, because there is definitely performance within our job. And I do bring comedy in sometimes in the classroom," says Susan, who teaches children in P1-2.

"And you have a captive audience, so they can't leave," says Elaine Clarke, who has a more mature audience in her class of P3 pupils at Albyn School in Aberdeen.

"We first started writing in 1996 and the first show was in 1998," says Susan's husband Greg Gordon, one of the show's writers and performers, who teaches law at Aberdeen University. "Twelve years to be an overnight success!" he laughs.

Steve and Susan joined for the second show and Elaine for the fourth. She performs and sings in a range of Aberdeen female roles alongside Susan.

But how well will popular greetings "fit like?" and "foos yer doos?" translate in other parts of Scotland?

"For me as an `inabootcomer', because I am from Leeds originally, it's a little bit difficult, I think," says Steve Rance, a religious education teacher at Cardinal Newman High in Glasgow, and pianist, performer and musical arranger here. "There are some words that will require an odd translation, but I think the feeling of the humour and the fact that it's funny comes across in itself."

"It's like any language - you can get the majority of it from the context," adds Greg.

Their material is not suitable for very young children, but older pupils and students occasionally take an interest in their teachers' other life.

"Occasionally at parents' evening, you will get people coming up and that can make it quite interesting," says Elaine Clarke. "But usually they like it, so that's quite handy."

Greg comes across law students showing off their familiarity with the material. "Sometimes in tutorials, I get students feeling that they are being clever by sleekitly putting lines of dialogue in, " he says. "Someone will start using a phrase I have been using recently up on stage. You just have a wee smile - I try to keep the two things quite apart."

Steve has so far managed to retain a degree of anonymity at his school in Glasgow, but all that is about to change. "A number of my colleagues have happened to mention the fact that there is a television show coming on, that Mr Rance is in, so I am now getting pestered by the weans who want to know when it's going to be on."

Mr Rance will be seen in a new light in Desperate Fishwives on Tuesday, December 14 at 10pm on BBC2 Scotland. The Hogmanay Special will be on BBC Radio Scotland at 8.30pm, December 31.


The Flying Pigs are often compared to Scotland The What?, Aberdeen's trio who performed hilarious songs and sketches in Doric to packed theatres for more than 30 years.

One of the Flying Pigs' legal eagles, John Hardie, is the son of Buff Hardie from Scotland The What? and has inherited his dad's ear for music and dialect and eye for the comedy in everyday life in the north east. (Scotland The What? also met performing in the Aberdeen Students' Show.)

The legacy of Scotland The What? is apparent in the Flying Pigs' musical parodies of pop songs and old Scottish favourites, and in the sketches, sending up familiar characters and local place names, which have the audience in hysterics. But there is much that is new - even experimental - in their humour.

All in their thirties, the group has built a loyal fan base and the audience for this radio recording are in uproar from the moment the Flying Pigs stride on stage until the moment they leave. It's a slick performance which brings a much-needed glow to a Scottish winter.

So will life change for the Flying Pigs' educators once they find television success? Will they give up the staffroom for the green room? Will they kiss CfE farewell? "Nae chunce," as they say in Aberdeen.

"I don't know if I could give up my day job," says Susan. "I would miss it."

Elaine says: "All I have ever wanted to do is teach. I had all my dollies laid out with their schoolbooks. So no, I don't think I would give it up."

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