Artworks Scotland When Alan Cumming Met Stanley Baxter

Vimeo

In his first BBC TV appearance for almost a decade, legendary Glaswegian entertainer Stanley Baxter chats to Scotland’s Broadway superstar Alan Cumming. There was something quite charming in this old-fashioned chat between showbiz chums, When Alan Cumming Met Stanley Baxter, even though it was an unashamed mutual admiration society. A more ruthless editor might have taken all this out, but it was kind of the point, a gentle encounter between an old ham and a younger one framed as his heir. The older comedian never seemed jealous, gracefully urging Cumming to name-drop. “I’m saying an awful lot about me, what about you?” And Baxter, it turns out, is a very good audience. When Cumming told an anecdote about the Citizens’ Theatre, cutting to Baxter’s face showed him not just listening avidly but expressing as pronounced a range of responsive emotions as you’ll see in any of his sketches. The programme did briefly sketch out Baxter’s long-running success in show business. His mother put him on the stage, trotting him around church halls with his impressions of personages of the day. Later he teamed up with Kenneth Williams in the Army’s entertainment unit, doing his national service. Baxter moved to London for his first TV show, which won the forerunner to a Bafta. But among his many voices on the show, he decided that there wouldn’t be any Scots ones, which caused some affront at home. When production moved to Scotland in 1962, that must have inspired his best-known running joke, Parliamo Glasgow, in which an academic switched between received pronunciation, as spoken by practically everyone on TV at the time, and an exaggerated version of local patter. Now 83 and retired, Baxter is still sharp. Though he likes Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Vicar of Dibley, Cumming’s suggestion of the stars of Little Britain as potential successors got short shrift. “It’s just not me … at one point when he was crapping on the floor of the supermarket, I thought, ‘Well, that’s me out, then.'”