Gary Tank Commander: Mission STUDENT RAG INTERVIEW very possible

Four long years after Gary McLintoch was last seen on our screens, the nation’s favourite tank commander returns for a three-night run at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.
Expect a two-hour show revolving around Gary’s experiences with a camel somewhere in a Middle Eastern desert.
The mind boggles…
Gary’s alter ego –or is it the other way around – Greg McHugh tells SUSIE DANIELS about Fresh Meat, American politics and…table tennis with Doctor Who.

BATMAN VERSUS Superman, Godzilla versus King Kong and now….Doctor Who versus Gary Tank Commander!
You heard right. Gary Tank Commander took on the might of the unstoppable timelord and the effeminate Scottish soldier we love sniggering at was sorely defeated.
McHugh explains the unlikely pairing of The (ninth) Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston and Fresh Meat star Greg, famous for his cringeworthy role as his own comic creation Gary.
Greg reveals: “Christopher’s a good table tennis player. He beat me, we drew and them he beat me some more.
“We’re both very competitive and it made for some unhappy make-up artists who would say, ‘what have you been up to, you’re all sweaty and your make-up’s run!”


Unfortunately the two actors weren’t dressed up in Gary and Doctor garb for the rally.
Instead they were taking a break from filming ‘The A Word,’ a drama about a family coming to terms with their son’s autism diagnosis. Screened on the BBC earlier this year Greg has now begun filming the second series.
When they’re not going at it hammer and tongs on the ping pong table the former Heroes and Thor star has been a great mentor to comedy writer Greg during the challenging script rehearsals.

Greg enthuses: “Christopher’s a very open and generous individual. One day I was struggling with a massive speech my character Eddie was doing in which I had a go at Christopher’s character. 
“Christopher said, ‘have you thought about that as a way in’ suggesting something useful. He’s always been helpful and offers his advice just the right way.
“I’m now shooting another series of ‘The A Word’. The writer is a genius. It’s about autism, the family dynamic and has such a strong female character. Morven Christie put up with a lot of abuse as her main character, mum Alison and she’s ferocious in the lead role. 

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The programme’s done well and it’s just gone out in the States!”
Greg’s hoping that it’s not just his character Eddie who’ll soon be instantly recognisable in the US.
The Edinburgh-born star, who was unnerving as socially awkward Howard in Channel 4 comedy Fresh Meat, has set his sights on an interview as Gary Tank Commander with Donald Trump.
It follows his referendum interviews earlier this year where Gary comically quizzed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as well as the leaders of the other Scottish parties.
So, what would Gary ask infamous republican presidential nominee Trump, who, in a crazy reality, may be leader of the biggest super power in the world?
The Stirling University sports graduate says: “I’d say, ‘what are you all aboot?’ Are you related to Dougie Donnelly? (following Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s comment about the pair’s similar hairstyle). I’d like to genuinely find out what he was thinking. My role in the interview is not to stitch up politicians but to offer a little human insight.
“What I want to know is, are there any other sides to Donald Trump under his orange skin?”
But before that may happen, the comedian will star in what he’s described as a ‘massive theatre production’ on stage this October at the SSE Hydro in Gary: Tank Commander, Mission Quite Possible. The show is set in a Middle Eastern desert during a politically unstable time and the khaki- clad soldiers have been given a dubious mission by the Americans.
Greg says: “The live show is a never-ending process. I write it, design it, have discussions on lighting and sound.
“All I can reveal is that it revolves round Gary’s experience with a camel. It’s two hours long and is a big, big story. There’s lots of interaction and it’s like seeing a big theatrical production. In terms of preparation I get very nervous. I go over the lines and share my nerves with the rest of the cast in Gary Tank Commander – there are other actors around me. It’s so different from the days of stand-up where you can’t share those nerves. There’s a high octane buzz you only get from live work and it can be a fine line from going over the edge to take something to calm down afterwards.

Fresh Meat Series 4:  (Zawe Ashton as Vod, Greg McHugh as Howard, Kimberley Nixon as Josie, Charlotte Ritchie as Oregon, Joe Thomas as Kingsley, Jack Whitehall as J.P.)

“With my Fresh Meat character Howard you had to keep on the right side of grumpy but with Gary, he’s high energy and more funny than I am. It’s nice escaping into his world and after playing Gary I’ll just want a drink a glass of wine or beer.
“Next day I’ll go for a swim – if I don’t the live stage work can become too absorbing. Doing live work there is a danger you can think, ‘oh my god, the only way I can cope is with booze’. When I drove to gigs I wouldn’t drink so that was a good deterrent. The best stand-ups don’t drink – Kevin Bridges is healthy and super-fit.”
In his autobiography, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin,’ Kevin Bridges recalled some good advice from Greg during their early stand-up days .
Greg says: “Kevin and I gigged at The Stand for years. At almost every house I lived in he stayed on the sofa. The best advice is just sticking to stuff and try to stick to what you’re good at. I’m actually an actor when I’m on stage doing Gary Tank Commander rather than a stand-up.
“Kevin is far superior to me at that! I was never in love with it.
“If I was going to say what my happiest place is it’s probably doing other people’s work.
“The satisfaction from your work and putting it on is amazing but when someone else creates the character and you make it your own it’s a great feeling.When I was Howard in Fresh Meat and I read my character’s script I thought: ‘Oh my god, I see this guy!’
“Pure happiness is opening someone else’s script for the first time though that fulfilment you get from your own work is amazing too!”
Thankfully Greg didn’t listen to advice not to study drama after he graduated with a degree in sport and went on to study a post grad drama course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland then spent four years developing the BAFTA award-winning comedy soldier show.


“It was an interesting experience doing everything from stand-up to sketches,” he says. “After finishing the course I didn’t realise how many areas of acting I‘d been involved in.
“I did stand-up for a time and then moved to London. It was in 2006 that I began mucking about with the Gary character which had initially figured in a stand-up routine.”
The sitcom writer’s biggest influence were comedians such as Paul Whitehouse, Harry Enfield, Steve Coogan and Sasha Baron Cohen.
“My dad was obsessed with comedy so I grew up watching Reggie Perrin, Dad’s Army, Allo Allo and Harry Enfield and Chums – all the eighties and nineties sitcoms and sketch shows.
“When I do acting roles I try to create distinct individuals who are very specific. Paul Whitehouse is a genius at it! When I first did Gary Tank Commander I wanted people to think I was Gary.
“One night at The Stand in Edinburgh I was doing a routine with a character like Gary and a guy in the audience had seen me a few times. I said ‘hello’ and he said, ‘oh my god, you’re not him!’ I said, ‘no, I’m nothing like him!’”
Gary Tank Commander: Mission Quite Possible is on at the SSE Hydro on Oct 21st