OVER a dozen years on from their Edinburgh Festival debut, the "Lumberjacks" are back in Scotland and gearing up for their month long stint back at the Fringe with a warm up show in Inverness on Monday.
Appropriately the trio of internationally successful Canadian comedy heroes, "Mock the Week" favourite Stewart Francis, regular Highland visitor Craig Campbell and Vancouver’s Glenn Wool are coming together from points near and far.
Francis and Wool will be arriving in Scotland fresh from one of the world’s other great comedy festivals, Montreal’s Just For Laughs in their native Canada, while the ever busy Campbell will be Inverness bound straight from a festival in Newcastle.
"You’re getting a pretty dynamic bunch up there in Inverness," Campbell laughed.
"We can’t wait to come together in one place for a couple of weeks, though you won’t experience that in Inverness because we’ll still be in frantic dervish mode."
His compatriots will also get a good reminder about just how different the comedy festivals of Montreal and Edinburgh are.
"Totally different all together, though I say that boldly as someone who hasn’t been there for five years," Campbell said.
"Montreal is by invite only, so in that way it’s totally different, but it’s different by volume, by industry, by motivation, by cross-section of talent, by audience.
"With Edinburgh, anyone with any ability can do a show there. If you can drag yourself from whatever corner of the globe and find a corner of a pub and have the wherewithal to put your hat or bean can down when you’ve finished annoying everybody with your attempts at singing, dancing or otherwise, then you are welcome to the Edinburgh Comedy Festival!
"Montreal is a tiny bit more discerning than that, but it’s something that’s more commercially motivated. There’s a lot of provincial and government money behind it because Canada wears it like a broach.
"At the same time you have got Scotland surrounding an arts festival, which is itself a levelling element. There’s no shortage of famous stories of people arriving in Scotland with their dreams all packaged up in a bag and leave limping, broke and with a new outlook on life. Scottish audiences tend to be fairly discerning in their own way and not terribly forgiving of they are presented with pish."
That said, Campbell acknowledges the Edinburgh Festival crowd is atypical of Scottish comedy audiences and while Edinburgh outside of August is not so attractive to the comedy circuit as its Glasgow counterpart on the other end of the M8, Campbell and company are looking forward to entertaining a crowd which will have more of an international element than the usual.
While Montreal is a festival where international acts appear in front of a Canadian audience, Edinburgh has international acts appearing before an international audience and as something of a world traveller himself, that is something that appeals to the West Country based Campbell.
"It was an Irishman, Tommy Sheppard of the Stand Comedy Club, who came up with my favourite description of an Edinburgh audience," Campbell added.
"I came off stage and Tommy said: ‘That audience tonight was pretty heterogeneous.’ I’d never thought before about an audience being hetero or homogenous before, but I loved that. It’s an accurate description of an audience in Edinburgh."
However, the three are also looking forward to their Inverness visit.
"More than anything it will give us the opportunity to play to an enthusiastic real Scottish audience," he said.
It was back in 1998 that the Lumberjacks made their Edinburgh debut. At first a pairing of Campbell and Francis, they were joined by Wool as special guest and the following year returned to Scotland as a trio.
Since then all three have been embraced by the audience in the UK, which as one of the world centres of comedy opens the doors to audiences around the world.
Now based in the West Country, Campbell has recently returned from New Zealand, but also plays regularly to audiences in Scandinavia and ex-pats in the Alps where, like home gigs in the Rockies, he can also indulge his passionate for winter sports during the day.
Hailing from different parts of Canada — Campbell is from Calgary in Alberta, Francis from Toronto and Wool, who travelled around Canada with his Mountie father, partly raised in the Yukon and British Columbia — the trio also have different approaches to comedy.
While Francis is famed for his pithy deadpan one-liners, Campbell is a storyteller who has been known to go on stage and make up a whole routine on the spot.
"We’re from totally different ends of the comedy spectrum and at the same time we are all from different locations and backgrounds in Canada. That’s why we thought the show would work so well. You’re not getting just the same three comedians," Campbell said.
• The Return of the Lumberjacks tour brings Craig Campbell, Stewart Francis and Glenn Wool to The Ironworks, Inverness, on Monday