Scotland

Gregor Fisher resurrects Scotch & Wry's Rev IM Jolly

Gregor Fisher
Image caption For one night only: Gregor Fisher becomes Rev IM Jolly

This Hogmanay will see a return to television screens of Scotland's most miserable minister, the Rev IM Jolly.

Actor Gregor Fisher is to pay homage to one of Rikki Fulton's most iconic characters to mark the 40th anniversary of Hogmanay favourite Scotch & Wry.

The Rab C Nesbitt star dons a clerical collar to become Fulton's comically morose clergyman for a one-off sketch.

It leads Monday's Hogmanay Live celebrations on BBC One Scotland.

Gregor Fisher, who was a close friend of Rikki Fulton who died in 2004, said he was delighted to take on the role.

He said: "I think there was a bit of Rikki that always saw me as the heir apparent - I'm sure he had many heirs apparent - and I think he'd like the idea of Jolly being back on screen again.

"It's not an impression of Rikki - there wasn't any way we would even attempt that, you just couldn't do it. He was absolutely unique."

'Great and funny and joyous'

He added: "The script is based on a lot of Rikki's stuff, though, and hopefully there's a flavour of his performances about it.

"I watched the last ever IM Jolly sketch that he did, just purely to get the timing of it, before I came in to film. It was great and funny and joyous. He was a one-off."

Image caption Becoming Jolly: Gregor dons the iconic dog collar as he gets into miserable character

The sketch sees Gregor Fisher sit in the familiar original wing-backed green leather armchair Fulton used in Scotch & Wry sketch Last Call - a send-up of the 1970s and 80s late-night TV sermon Late Call - where IM Jolly first appeared in 1978.

Fisher joined the show in 1979.

He added: "When I was told it was the 40th anniversary of Scotch & Wry, I thought it couldn't be right. But then I did the sums - I was about 25 when I started on it, and I'm now 65 so it adds up.

"It would be nice if a new generation of viewers were introduced to Jolly by seeing this sketch. I'm sure it would be quite easy for them to find old clips of Rikki on YouTube. It's of a different generation but it's still fun, in a gentle, slightly colloquial way, and it's none the worse for that.

"Rikki was a good friend. He was always nice to me. I hope nowadays when I come across youngsters, I'm as understanding and as kind to them and as encouraging as he was to me."

Image caption Rikki Fulton brought the Rev IM Jolly to Hogmanay TV screens

Hogmanay Live executive producer David Staite pulled the script together from some of the best-known IM Jolly sketches and called in original Scotch & Wry script editor Colin Gilbert to check for authenticity.

He said: "Scotch & Wry was, and still is, such a huge part of Hogmanay in Scotland. The writing was so clever and has very much stood the test of time. Going over old scripts, it struck me how the lines are still as funny today as they ever were.

"I think Gregor brings that ideal mix of deadpan droll and clever comic timing to Jolly - something I'm sure Rikki Fulton would have approved of. We hope the audience have as much fun watching it as we did making it."

Colin Gilbert said: "It's nice to be involved again all these years later. It's a sketch that has a real place in the hearts of Scotland and was such a fixture of Hogmanay.

"Inevitably, people will compare what Gregor's doing to what Rikki did, but it's not about that. Gregor is not doing an impersonation, it's more of an emulation. Rikki was a one-off in every sense of the word, and it's nice to pay tribute to him and the character.

"I know Rikki saw Gregor as his apprentice - if anyone is right to do this, it's Gregor."

Image caption Rikki Fulton and Gregor Fisher were great friends

Hogmanay Live is broadcast on Monday 31 December, at 23:30pm on BBC One Scotland.

Host Jackie Bird will be presenting from the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow and will hear from Bryan Burnett, who will be at The Mound in Edinburgh for BBC Radio Scotland.

Performances will come from Britain's Got Talent star Alesha Dixon, BBC Folk Singer of the Year Karine Polwart, and Hogmanay stalwarts Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain.

Des Clarke will also give his own comedy take on the events of the past 12 months.

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