Published Date: 08 May 2008
By Iain Macsween
FEW sections of island society have escaped the acerbic tongue of macanoonoo, the balaclava and boilersuit-clad Stornoway comedian.
But the man behind the mask, Billy Matheson, is now preparing to retire the orange jumpsuit for a while, as he concentrates on widening his arsenal of comic weaponry.
Billy is known to many throughout the country thanks to his hilarious 'macanoonoo presents' CDs, from which such gems as 'Shonny Cash' and 'I've Been Everywhere Man' have sprouted in PC inboxes across the land.
However, he says he has now finished with the CD route, and has set himself up with substantially bigger fish to fry.
"The CDs have come to a natural end," he says.
"They served me well and got me as far as I wanted to go. They are still on sale in Ceol, in Stornoway, although for me it was never about making money.
"I just wanted exposure and to get my stuff 'out there'.
"I don't want to go on and end up repeating myself."
So, 16 months ago, when the vision of a Gaelic Digital TV channel looked set to become a reality, Billy pounced on what he viewed as a great opportunity.
"Together with Muriel Ann Macleod, from Theatre Hebrides, I pitched an idea I had about a Gaelic comedy, and tried to get that to fruition," he said.
"At first things moved very slowly, but I'm pleased to say that the programme was commissioned, and I have now finished the script."
The comedy, entitled 'Lostbost', will be an entirely new concept in the medium of Gaelic television.
Based around the Macleod family in the fictional village of Lostbost, look forward to a rollercoaster ride of outrageous, and at times most definitely black, humour.
"Lostbost is typically Hebridean, and the series explores the every day machinations of a Hebridean village," says Billy.
"A lot of it is based on things I have seen myself. I don't really make anything up, the same with the stand up.
"It's all stuff I've seen before - you just have to keep your eyes open and keep the good ideas in your head.
"But of course you need a degree of creativity on top of that to make it work."
The Macleod family have just moved back to Lostbost from the mainland, having inherited a house from their auntie.
"She was killed by a rogue satellite," says Billy, utterly dead-pan.
"It's the kind of humour you won't expect. There's no balaclavas, sgadan or sheep.
"It's satellites killing people, very black humour and slapstick.
"I think it will be quite obvious to see where my influences come from – Father Ted, Basil Fawlty, and Homer Simpson."
While the commission is for six 30 minute shows, Billy had originally written hour-long episodes, meaning that there is a second series available before the first has been filmed.
Actors are currently being recruited, and shooting will start in June.
"I am delighted at how it is going," said Billy.
"It's a big break for me but to be honest I feel as if I have worked for it.
"I have heard people saying I have been handed the opportunities but that's just not the case.
"Although I will be striving to put out the best that I can, I am not interested in any run of the mill script. I'm hoping it will have subtitles, and I want to start with a blinder, I don't want to work up to something brilliant.
"There are lots of elements involved and it's a great challenge."
"I don't think there's ever been anything in Gaelic TV like it before.
"The humour conveys fine because it's very slapstick. I'm a great believer in custard pies and banana skins, so there's a lot of visual humour.
"Some of it is quite vicious, and it's been written in such a way that it should be just as funny in English. Of course sometimes there will be one or two jokes that don't come across as funny in English, but that's the medium we work in.
"People who watch solely in English can't complain as they have 200 other channels to choose from."
Having recently given up his offshore job in Africa, Billy now has an abundance of time to put to paper the multitude of ideas and projects he has in his head.
"I couldn't be true to the concept if I was working away in Africa," he said.
"It's not financially viable, but I felt that I had to be here to make it work."
But fans of macanoonoo should fear not, for while the boilersuit may gather dust for a while, he is still very much on the go.
"What I can't do with the TV stuff I do with the stand-up," says Billy.
"Macanoonoo is definitely not me, because I am actually quite a shy respectable person!
"But he gives me an outlet to enter another world. People come up and say to me that they can't believe I said this or that, but they relate to the backlash against the politically correct world we live in.
"I want a revolution. Petrol prices are going through the roof, food prices are going through the roof, house prices are static.
"Why are people whimpering without saying anything?
"No-one is standing up to this kind of thing.
"We live in a nanny-state where people are scared to say anything, and when macanoonoo goes on stage he says what people think but don't say."