A Shirley Bassey impersonation turned actor ' 5 ‘3 into a prize-winning comedian. Now he's well on the road from gags to riches.

Words: Tracy Griffen Photograph: David N. McIntyre

'AN UNSUSPECTING COMEDIAN' might seem an incongruous phrase, but Craig Hill’s rise to comedy prominence is as unexpected asit is sudden.

Originally from East Kilbride, Hill trained as an actor at Edinburgh's Queen Margaret College, and has worked in Scottish theatre for the past four years, including last year's Edinburgh Festival revival of the Grassmarket Project hit M d. With a film role in still- , é to-be-released Lay Of The Land in the can,=._he A ~ . 'g ,. felt his acting career was taking off. i 7 f

Hill’s arrival on the _

_comedy scene was,"as 1 l ‘~ he puts it, accidental,

, after a friend put him forward for a guest ' spot at the Gilded galloon in Edinburgh. ‘I never really thought it would happen and nearly pulled-out," he admits now. 'l

eventually de'cide'dtpn doing some

_character pieces‘of-‘Julie Andrews and Shirley Bassey - I think they were jokes waiting to happen.’

Hill possesses an uncanny ability to sound like both singers, but instead of stan- dards, he has them performing rather unlikely songs. Imagine Julie Andrews doing The Prodigy's 'Firestarter' and you’ll get the picture.

His big break came when, with a set made up of this kind of material, Hill entered the Stand Up For Hooch Open Mic Award. After winning the Scottish ' heat at Glasgow's King's Theatre in May, he went on to the London final at the Comedy Theatre, winning £750 as runner-up. He had only performed five gigs, three of which were heats for the compe- tition.

'I knew my friends thought I was funny but I never knew if it would work on stage,‘ he gushes. 'I like to think of my humour as conver- sational, a bit camp but approachable.‘

Since the competition, Hill has performed at The Jongleurs in London, which led to a gig in Birm- ingham. He has also made it through the first heat of the So You Think You’re Funny? competition, and is hard at work on material for BBC Radio Scotland's new sketch and stand-up show Velvet Cabaret.

Suddenly, Hill leaps to his feet to demon- strate a dance audition he once unwittingly attended wearing work boots and you can see that entertaining comes naturally to him. His on-stage persona is not too different from how he behaves in everyday life. Perhaps just a little more structured and less chaotic.

Craig Hill appears at Christie's Comedy Cellar, Edinburgh, on Thursday 2 July.