Branding your debut solo comedy tour as a greatest hits-type offering may seem contradictory, but Mark Nelson is no rookie.
Best known these days as the cordial host of Radio Scotland’s quirky Saturday lunchtime staple The Good, The Bad And The Unexpected, the Dumfries-raised funnyman has been prominent on the Scottish stand-up scene for the best part of two decades.
It’s the success of his airwave antics coupled with an online buzz that have finally spurred him to go it alone on the road. “I think touring’s more of a thing now,” says Nelson, 42.
“It used to be the only way comics would be able to tour was if you’d been on one of the big TV shows, whereas social media now allows you to kind of make your own audience.
“For me, I think it’s just come at the right time. A lot of it’s to do with my personality and my unsureness about myself as well.
“I never thought I’d be big enough to headline a tour, but at some point you just need to take the plunge and see how it goes.”
‘A different kind of show’
After starting his 25-date UK and Ireland jaunt in Dundee last week, Mark brings his All The Best show to Aberdeen’s Tivoli Theatre on Friday, with new material featuring alongside choice offerings from previous live appearances including his acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe runs.
Fans who only know Nelson from radio will hear him at his most outspoken, and he confirms that he’s “a lot freer to say what I want to say, and do what I want to do” while on stage.
One recent review proclaimed that Mark “possesses a talent that is simply obscene”, which tickled him to such an extent that he used the line on his tour poster.
Another of the Glasgow-based music fan’s most treasured recommendations came from American popular culture bible Rolling Stone, which he describes as “hugely flattering”.
Regular listeners to fun panel favourite The Good, The Bad And The Unexpected, where he rates three celebrity guests’ often jaw-dropping anecdotes from their pasts, will recognise such humility.
“Not being allowed to record with an audience during the pandemic allowed it to become a different kind of show and allowed the guests to be a lot more relaxed,” he declares.
Keeping his feet on the ground
“Also, people didn’t have to fly up from London – they could do it in their kitchen – so we started getting some insane guests that I never thought I’d be talking to on the radio, like Don McLean.
“He didn’t have a clue what was going on but he was absolutely brilliant, and I’d say 99% of the people we’ve had on it have been brilliant.
“If they buy into the fact that it’s kind of chat show, podcast and game show at the same time that’s what nice, and it’s fascinating to see which trios all get on. We’ve been trying to get Ally McCoist for a while – I’d love to have him come on.”
The regard in which Mark is held by his fellow stand-ups was exemplified by his UK Comedian’s Comedian of the Year prize in 2021, during the dark days of lockdown.
However, with a wife and two young children to keep his feet firmly on the ground there’s little chance of such successes going to his head, and the ups and downs of family life will be taking their now customary place among his storytelling over the coming weeks.
‘I’ve found my audience up there’
“I’ve been thinking about this, and the fact that my wife has gone away for work for the first time since she gave birth to my daughter – she’s been away to London for the past three days – makes you realise what little faith your entire family have in you,” he laughs.
“This is the first time I’ve been left with the kids on my own for three days straight and the amount of instructions I’ve been given and the amount of people that have looked in on me just to check things are going okay – I honestly don’t know what they’re expecting to come back to, but it’s a bit of an eye-opener to see how useless everyone else thinks you are!”
Mark will likely, therefore, be hoping for a little ego boost in Aberdeen. He says he always enjoys heading north – and so it seems, with further dates lined up in Oban, Elgin and Inverness in February and March.
“I’ve found my audience up there,” he quips. “The last time I was up in Aberdeen, actually, I was there the day Jim Goodwin had been sacked.
“Our gig was at about eight o’clock so it was good to talk about that because I saw a lot of angry faces that night.”
Mark Nelson plays the Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen on November 17 – book via aberdeenperformingarts.com