FEATURE RAB C. NESBITF
incomprehensible south ofthe border were groundless. ‘The comment I get from London cab-drivers is ‘Yeah we understand it, not all of it but it don’t matter. we know what‘s going on or we‘d turn the fakkin‘ thing off.“ ‘
It‘s almost impossible to ascertain what exactly makes a TV show a success (the jury is still out on The Darling Buds OfMay but. in the case of Rab. it seems to come down to two vital and interlocking elements. Filth and Truth.
In the Filth stakes. Rab C. Nesbitt outstrips the competition. In a sitcom genre awash with insipid jokes about vicars. adultery and keeping up appearances. Nesbitt‘s preoccupation with bodily secretions and squalor is oddly refreshing. ‘Other people‘s discomforts are highly amusing.‘ explains Fisher. ‘One ofthe things that always makes me laugh is hearing that someone‘s got trouble with their burn. (‘all it infantile. call it student humour. call it what you will. I remember I was working in a bar once and a guy would come in on a Friday night and get a half bottle. stick it in his back pocket and stagger out the door. One night of course he falls and the bottle breaks. A couple ofthe guys took him into the gents and I looked in later and there he was. with his hands in the washing basin and his arse stuck out. picking glass out of his cheeks. There was a lot of blood and he was obviously in pain, but it was the funniest thing I‘ve ever seen. lfit‘s funny it‘s funny. And I‘ve never had one letter saying Rab is nasty or hateful or over the top.‘
As for Truth. well at least Rab isn‘t wading in cosy nostalgia like so much of the ‘working-class‘ drama coming out of
Glasgow (including, ironically, some ofthe stuff written by Tony Roper. who plays Rab‘s best mate in the series). Love him or loathe him. Nesbitt isn‘t a glorification ofthe miseries of poverty, he‘s merely attacking a few of the misconceptions. ‘He speaks the truth,‘ insists Fisher. ‘He‘s just making the point that people see themselves as being a cut above him. When it comes to it that‘s the only point he‘s making. As he says. there are people who are half-dead in a semi in Bearsden, just as there are people half-dead in a high-rise in Drumchapel. And four and a half million viewers are watching a guy who they would hurry past if they met him in the street. There must be something in that.‘
Fisher has mellowed enough by now to reckon I‘m probably not going to stitch him up. ‘I can see you‘ll make me out to be a reasonable ordinary boring sort ofchap. “the man behind the face“ of Rab C. Nesbitt.‘ he suggests. Well. maybe. The old-hat interview material about his love of gardening. his concern about getting back to see his family (wife Victoria. children Jamie, Alexandra and Cissie. in marked contrast to Rab‘s Mary. Gash and Burney), to ‘fling another log on the fire ofyour relationship’. his bit parts in his mate‘s films. all paint a picture of a decent. unassuming sort of bloke. but at the moment people are probably more interested in his fictional
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alter ego. How long can he continue being i Rab?
‘I‘m going to carry on doing it as long as it remains sensible so to do. I don‘t want to be doing it in twenty years‘ time, or five years time for that matter. just for the sake of doing it. I want to do it because it works and it‘s good and people still like it. I don‘t want it to be a case of turning the handle and out come the sausages.‘
While watching White Mischiefon video recently. the whole group of us shouted ‘Rab C.‘ on spotting Fisher in a cameo role. Isn‘t he worried about the dangers of having the sort of face that will never look quite right 1 without a bandage round the forehead? ‘That‘s a silly thing to think.‘ he replies. ‘The i great god television is like this lunch we‘re having: eat it up. have a shit. and it‘s gone. history. This idea of being typecast is a great misconception of this business. Sure if you do it for the next forty years people might stop calling you Gregor and start calling you Rab. People do that now ifthey see me in the street. but I don‘t take that as typecasting. that‘s a great compliment. That‘s fine. it makes me feel I‘ve made some connection. preople ignored you you‘d start to worry. wouldn‘t you‘?‘
Fisher is in no danger ofbeing ignored for a while yet. and Rab C. Nesbitt looks like keeping him in steady employment for the foreseeable future. ‘It‘s a bonus to be in work,‘ he says. ‘A lot ofout-of—work actors will be saying. “the lucky shit. I bet he got his lunch paid for him as well.“ I think that‘s
my cue to pick up the tab.
Rab C. Nesbitt thestage show is on tour. See theatre section for details. A second series of the TVshow goes into production in August.