Scottish comedian Gary Meikle, known internationally for his hilarious, open stand-up and observational viral videos is heading back out on the road across the UK in 2020 with a brand-new 44-date tour ‘Surreal’.
Meikle has had quite the year – having been on the stand-up circuit since 2014, one of his social media video rants about his daughter’s obsession with her eyebrows (link here), went viral in early 2019, and Gary rocketed to international fame, taking his stand-up comedy across the globe, also being named at the top of The List’s ‘Comedy Hot 100’ for 2019. His new stand-up show ‘Surreal’ tells this story, also drawing material from real-life, focusing heavily on his daughter Ainsley and granddaughter Gracie and his experiences as a live-in single dad and granddad.
Here we chat to Gary about his quick rise in popularity, his family, the revelation of Microsoft Word, performing to American audiences for the first time and what audiences can expect from him on his brand-new 2020 tour ‘Surreal’.
Let’s start with your brand new 2020 global tour, ‘Surreal’. What can audiences expect?
What they can expect is a lot more honesty in terms of my opinions. My previous tour The iBrow Guy was pretty much my life story, I thought what better story to tell in my first tour. 90% of The iBrow Guy tour was focused on my childhood, Ainsley (Gary’s daughter) and Gracie (Gary’s granddaughter). I think I will always talk about my girls and my family life in my shows, but I’ll definitely be more opinionated on this tour.
The tour is called Surreal, because that’s pretty much how my year’s been since my videos went viral, it just got a little crazy overnight. I’ve got a bit of imposter syndrome about it. I find it all very… well yeah, surreal.
Your most recent, debut worldwide tour The iBrow Guy was a sellout, how did it feel to see your audience grow so fast?
Again, surreal, it was just amazing! Because of my past, whatever happens to me in adult life, I just kind of take it, it’s like, not a lot phases me. I don’t overthink it, I accept it and I’m grateful for it. It’s just a lovely thing for me.
When did you start out in comedy? How did it all begin?
I was a debt collector for 9 years, but because I’m small and I smile too much, they wouldn’t let me out of the office. I was made a part of the social committee at work and that meant I had to send out an email bulletin about all sorts of boring work stuff. So in-between them to liven things up a bit, I used to write jokes. People would respond really well, I think that’s the first time in my life that I was told that I was funny.
I was always daft, and people would always laugh at me… but mainly for the stupid things I did. Like, I was in that job for 9 years, but it took me 7 years before I discovered that I had Microsoft Word! Honestly, I’m that much of a technophobe. I told everyone that I had it and they were like ‘Gary, we’ve all got it’… well nobody told me.
After that, I did open spots at comedy clubs and then it grew from there. It wasn’t intentional, I never dreamt of being a comedian, it just happened.
Alongside your live comedy, you’re known for your hilarious viral rants. How have your online fan base responded to your live shows?
Oh, it's unbelievable, I think what my following love is that they’ve seen me grow from the beginning, they feel like they’re on the journey with me, and they are! They have elevated me, it's been my fans, they’re all massively rooting for me, it’s beautiful.
So would you say your online videos are different from your live stand-up?
I would say the videos are very PC. At live shows, you can get away with a lot more than you can online. I always try to put out a few warnings first before my shows - if you’re coming along, it isn’t a show for snowflakes. I do swear, I do push the barriers a little bit. As far as I can tell the audiences absolutely love it.
I really love the guys that come along, as most of the guys that come to my shows are dragged along by women but they always come to my meet and greets at the end of the show and say: 'I wasn’t expecting to like you' or 'I don’t like your online stuff but that has completely changed my opinion'. That’s just the biggest compliment I get.
It seems you’re a very ambitious person and you’ve gained popularity and grown quickly in your career. How do you keep track of your career goals and aspirations?
Every single day I do a to-do list. I’ve done one every morning for the last, at least, 4 or 5 years. Then when I’m in bed at night, I write a list of things to do for the next day. It can be something as small as mailing a letter, I just get great pleasure in ticking them off. I’m massively into positive thinking, meditation and I watch a lot of motivational videos online. You see, all of the big things that happen in your life, god, I know this sounds like I’m preaching, but the big things that happen, they only happen because of all of the little things you do. So, every day it’s a small slow build towards my massive goals.
You mentioned meditation there, is that something you do every day?
I do Transcendental Meditation every day, it’s where you repeat a mantra for about 20 minutes, and you block everything else out of your mind. If anything comes into your head, you just push it out and keep repeating the mantra. You’re meant to do that twice a day, but If I’m honest with myself I probably do it once a day, when I wake up. It’s good, it helps me. It helps to clear my mind, so there’s not as much cluster up there.
You have an extremely close relationship with your daughter; you brought her up as a single parent, becoming a dad at the young age of 17, and more recently she’s had a daughter and you’ve become a grandad, with them both living with you. How does your domestic life influence your material?
Oh massively, my life is hell, but I’ve got to put up with it for my material. Na, I’m only kidding. They influence it massively, you see the things I talk about on stage, they’re not made up, they’re all true stories. The audience resonate with that as well, I think they can tell that I’m being honest. I think if it’s real life, it tends to be funnier.
Taking one look at your social media, it’s clear to see your love for your family and your posts with your granddaughter Gracie melt hearts. How have they adapted to your growing popularity? Is it hard to leave them when touring?
Yes, massively. I was in America recently for 4 weeks, it was meant to be 5, but I cut it short because I couldn’t handle being away from them. 4 weeks away from them both was absolute torture. I think because it was so far away, that made it worse. When I came back, we made an agreement to never leave each other for that long again. I’m going over to Australia to do the fringe over there for around 2 – 3 months and I'm taking them with me, it’ll be brilliant for all of us.
You’ve been involved in some charitable work, including donating all of the profits from your recent homecoming show to Ronald McDonald House in Glasgow. How important is it for you to use your platform and dedicated fan base to give back?
It’s really important. I’ve always been someone who gives to charity, I’ve had a standing order with York Hill Children’s Hospital for the last 8 years. Ainsley had a bad time when she was younger, and she went to that hospital. I remember going in there for the first time and seeing the other children. We were blessed compared to what other people went through. It just really resonated with me, so children’s charities are something I’ll always raise money and awareness for.
Earlier this year you took your tour over to the US. How did the US audiences respond? Did you have to cut out any of your Scottish dialect for the US audience?
Yes, I did. In fact, it was pointed out to me on my first show out there in Boston. A guy came to the meet and greet at the end, pulled me aside and said ‘Listen, here are the words you need to change’. There were a lot of words I had to alter, I had to change ‘dummy’ to ‘pacifier’, ‘nappy’ to ‘diaper’, ‘biscuit’ to ‘cookie’ and ‘fire engine’ to ‘fire truck’.
You have a significant number of tattoos, including one of the Glasgow skyline on your forearm. How important are your tattoos to you? Do you use them to document your journey?
Yeah! Every single tattoo that I have means something, I’m not one of these guys that will get a sleeve just because it looks cool. I don’t care what they look like to anyone else, they all mean something to me. My right arm, which is where the Glasgow skyline is, is going to be a Glasgow themed arm. I’ve also got the original Karate Kid badge, which was my favourite film growing up and I've got the world atlas on my leg, I’m going to get a marker for everywhere I’ve been and performed. I've also got Gracie's name and I’ve got the sign 441B as that was the section I was put under when I was put into a children’s home. They're all things that mean something to me.
You’re covering a lot of dates across Scotland; do you notice a difference in the audiences across the country?
Not really, but it is growing so fast in Scotland, they come out in more numbers. I think it’s just everyone up here supporting a man of their own. The response I get tends to be the same whether it’s Scotland, England or America. It’s something I was worried about in America, was my material going to work? I thought I might have to change my entire set, but it just worked. None of my stuff is parochial and I don’t talk about being Scottish, Glaswegian and nothing postcode like Irn Bru or potato scones. Everything I talk about, people can relate to, it’s all family. It translates anywhere.
Are there any specific dates on your 2020 tour you’re really looking forward to?
I’m not going to lie, every single show I’ve done this year has been amazing, so I’m not looking forward to a specific date, I’m just looking forward to coming back in bigger venues! Don’t get me wrong the show at the Royal Concert Hall, that I did for charity, was the best night of my life… to get a standing ovation from 1900 people in my hometown... there’s a video of me in tears at the end.