Highlands & Islands

The stand-up who is laughing all the way from the bank

Stuart Mitchell Image copyright Steve Ullathorne
Image caption Stuart Mitchell worked at HM Treasury and in a London bank before turning to comedy

What makes someone give up a well-paid job for a potentially uncertain career in comedy? Ahead of his performance next month in Inverness, Stuart Mitchell explains why he did just that.

Mitchell, who was born in Uddingston and grew up in Linlithgow, found out he could make people chuckle early on in his life.

"I was always the one at school who tried and make others laugh. The teachers liked me so I got away with murder," he says.

"However, it wasn't until I gave a speech aged 19 at my dad's 50th birthday celebrations that I noticed I was witty.

"I wasn't intending to make people laugh but they did. It threw me off and made me very nervous, however, at the same time I got a real buzz."

But he adds: "I never knew then how you could become a comedian. If I did I would have got into comedy a lot sooner."

'I wasn't happy'

Mitchell, now 34, was the first member of his family to go to university.

He studied Economics at University of Stirling before getting a job at HM Treasury where he found himself working for then chancellor and later prime minister, Gordon Brown.

Mitchell was one of 10 students picked to support Brown when he was chancellor.

They worked with him as part of his public expenditure team in Whitehall.

East Kilbride-based Mitchell said: "It was funny. Everyone else was from Oxford and Cambridge and I was from Stirling. They looked on me as a bit of a dark horse."

After Whitehall he went on to work for the Clydesdale Bank.

"I had the nice salary, sports car and fancy flat, but I wasn't happy," says Mitchell.

"I gave all three up and worked for the end-of-life charity Sue Ryder, and become a comedian."

He signed up to a stand-up comedy writing class in early 2009.

"My dad and step-mum supported me in every decision. I am happy. That's the most important thing," says Mitchell, whose mother died when he was seven years old and who lost his father in later life.

Mitchell adds: "If you don't give your job everything you need to find another career."

Image copyright Stuart Mitchell/Anya Scott-Rodgers
Image caption Stuart Mitchell and his wife Hannah, who is a star of children's entertainment group Fun Box

Like all comedians Mitchell, whose comedy heroes include Frank Skinner, Lee Mack and Scotland's Fred MacAulay and Raymond Mearns, has had his highs and lows in the stand-up scene.

"My worst gig? HMP Barlinnie," he says.

"A prison at 3pm in the afternoon with a completely sober audience. I talk about this experience on stage. It was brutal."

And his best gig so far?

"Paisley Arts Centre on 9 June this year. It was the first time - and probably the last - I received a standing ovation for my tour show.

"It was truly emotional and was the day before the anniversary of my father's death. Everything went right and it was an experience I will never forget."

"Hannah's funnier'

Mitchell is looking forward to coming back to perform in the Highlands. His gig in July is at Inverness' Eden Court where he has previously performed at a comedy festival.

"I performed short spots at the Happyness Comedy Festival, which I must say is the best name for a festival ever," he says.

"The short spots always went well and the audiences are always so appreciative you have made the journey to perform for them."

Mitchell's wife Hannah, also known by her stage name Anya Scott-Rodgers, is a familiar face with Highlands audiences, and more widely across Scotland.

She is one of the stars of children's touring entertainment group FunBox, which in the Highlands has performed at Eden Court and the 20,000-crowd Belladrum Tartan Heart Music Festival near Beauly.

But who is funnier at home?

"Hannah. Sadly," says Mitchell, who knows all the songs and moves of his wife's act.

"Lots of comedians say their partners are funnier and in my case is it very true. It can be mentally exhausting after a gig so its always nice to have someone make you laugh once in a while."

He adds: "She always jokingly teases me about playing to a larger audience, but maybe that will come back to bite her in the future. Hehehe."