JACK Docherty has been tickling our funny bones for years. From his early days writing for Spitting Image and The World According to Smith & Jones to starring roles in self-penned comedy sketch show Absolutely and the sitcom Mr Don & Mr George.

If you’re not familiar with his work – er, where have you been? – Docherty cut his teeth in The Bodgers, a sketch group formed with his George Watson’s College school friends Moray Hunter, Gordon Kennedy and Peter Baikie in Edinburgh.

Together they made Channel 4 series Absolutely, which first aired in 1989. The show had a devoted following: Stoneybridge Town Council’s bid to host the Olympics has been voted one of the top 50 comedy sketches of all time.

Another cult favourite from Absolutely is McGlashan, a playwright and fervent Scottish nationalist. In one infamous skit the bold McGlashan cycles to the Scotland-England Border, steps across and hurls abuse before cycling away while anxiously looking over his shoulder.

More recent years have seen Docherty, 56, grace our screens as larger-than-life Chief Commissioner Cameron Miekelson in BBC Scotland comedy series Scot Squad.

Styled as a fly-on-the-wall mockumentary, it follows bumbling and gaff-prone Miekelson – who heads the fictional Scottish Police Force – alongside his beleaguered officers as they go about their daily business upholding law and order.

Miekelson has declared war on naughty number plates, began preparations for a zombie crisis, tried his hand at online gaming and been voluntarily Tasered – all in the line of duty.

As the fifth series begins on Thursday, a bombshell awaits. There’s a new chief in town: Miekelson has been suspended following an undercover tabloid sting.

Thankfully Docherty is somewhat more adept at dealing with the press. And good fun too. Here he talks about life, work and playing one of the best cops on TV.

The perks and perils of playing a police chief

“I get quite a lot of respect from the police. Every now and again I look up and see someone filming me from inside a police van. That is kind of weird. I was cycling during the Edinburgh Festival and there were about eight of them all filming me.

“Officers roll down the window and say, ‘How are you doing, boss?’ and I get secretly saluted going through the airport.

“I have yet to push it but I’m beginning to think, ‘How far could I take this? Could I get caught speeding and they would let me off?’ One would hope they wouldn’t turn a blind eye. I have never yet been drunk and disorderly or anything like that, so I haven’t really tested it.

“I regularly get asked, ‘Who is your insider?’ the idea being that someone must be feeding us information for the show and I’m thinking, ‘But my character is a lunatic …’

“The chief doesn’t get out of the office very often but when he does it’s interesting. The thing that has increased my respect for the police is whenever we do long-lens shooting where the camera is on the bridge and we are hundreds of yards away, so people don’t know we are being filmed.

“Particularly in the early days when people didn’t know the show, they thought I was a real policeman. The level of abuse you get is crazy. Little bams coming up and giving you mouthfuls. You think, ‘S***! I thought people would have had more respect.’

“The police we meet say, ‘Oh, that’s nothing …’ and you hear stories about things being thrown at them from passing cars. It is a tough job.

“I gave a speech at the Police Bravery Awards last year. If you ever feel like criticising the police, go along to one of these things. I did it in character as Miekelson. That was a great night. I was sitting beside [Iain] Livingstone, who is now Chief Constable of Police Scotland.”

Being McGlashan

“You never can tell what is going to take off. I knew he was an intriguing character because right from the first sketch in Absolutely there was a great response to McGlashan.

“I remember doing him live and the reaction was quite wild at times. At the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, I had a plant in the audience who was meant to be English. It was around the time Reservoir Dogs came out [in 1992] and I tortured him to the song Stuck in the Middle with You.

“I fed him haggis and poured Irn-Bru over him. It was great fun but as I was taking him up to the stage people would be standing up and shouting, ‘F****** kill him, big man’. I remember thinking, ‘Err, I’m trying to make a satirical point here …’

“I didn’t do the character for years but when the [Scottish independence] referendum happened in 2014 it seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so I revisited McGlashan with the show Scotland in a Day on Channel 4.

“I thought it would be fun to do him live again. After the referendum McGlashan is heartbroken and has formed his own party because ‘the SNP are f****** idiots and messed it all up’. He is one of those guys that camps outside the parliament living in a wee tent.”

Arresting musings

“My favourite TV cop is Columbo. As a kid I loved the fact that every week they couldn’t work out he wasn’t this shambling idiot. That is my era. I watched Kojak and all the American ones. I didn’t really watch British shows like Z-Cars.

“If I could pass any law it would be to make baldness illegal. I don’t know how we would enforce that or make all the bald people have hair. I think the idea would be to encourage scientists to find a way to cure baldness: that would be the object of that law.

“I would arrest Ricky Gervais for earning so much more than me and being too successful.”

Snog, marry, avoid: Juliet Bravo, Cagney and Lacey, Officer Karen from Scot Squad

“Marry Officer Karen without question. She’s just so perfectly long-suffering and would be able to put up with me. Snog Cagney and Lacey. Avoid Juliet Bravo.”

A life in comedy

“When Absolutely began on Channel 4, I was in my twenties. We had been writing for other people for a while then suddenly, we – this bunch of mates from school – had our own show on national television.

“I always compare it to being in the band that got a record deal. It seemed so implausible that would happen. Nothing quite matches that.

“It was a similar feeling when I saw my first writing credit on Spitting Image [in 1984]. I was only about 20 and had dropped out of university to pursue that. I had been watching Mel [Smith] and Griff [Rhys Jones] on Not the Nine O’Clock News when I was 16, then four years later, I was writing for them.

“There’s that huge excitement thinking, ‘I’m working for people I watched on the telly when I was a kid’. But you soon get blase. Within a week you’re thinking, ‘Oh, f****** hell, I need to go sit in another meeting with Griff Rhys Jones and f****** Mel ...’”

Spitting Image

“It’s a shame Spitting Image is not on TV at the moment because it would be such fun. You look at what is going on and think, ‘Wow, where would I start?’ You are spoiled for choice.

“When we were writing Spitting Image in the 1980s, the big sketch was The President’s Brain Is Missing with Ronald Reagan.

“Reagan is [Abraham] Lincoln compared to what is going on now. He’s like this incredible statesman and conservative intellectual compared to the extraordinary grifter and conman [President Donald Trump] who has managed to get himself into the White House.

“You see Theresa May dancing and wouldn’t even have to write anything, you would just get the puppet dancing. [Nigel] Farage would be perfect with a pint of beer growing out of his head. [Jacob] Rees-Mogg would probably be an animal or a talking asparagus.

“Then there’s House of Commons Speaker [John] Bercow, who has become a celebrity through all of this [ongoing Brexit debate]. Even some of the Europeans, the grey [Jean-Claude] Juncker and the likes of Michel Barnier, would all be great.”

Literary loves

“Someone gave me a first edition of a Vladimir Nabokov book. I now go round old book stores looking for first editions of Nabokov. It’s too grand to say I’m a collector. It is mainly Nabokov. It all started with a copy of Lolita I was given as a gift.

“I have thousands of books. That’s a lifetime’s worth because I never throw any out. It is a bone of contention with my wife because our house has books piled up in rooms everywhere because we have run out of shelves. I can’t bring myself to get rid of any.

“I love fiction. Someone asked why I write fiction and it is such a profound question, ‘Why do you invent these worlds?’ I think there is a certain truth in the idea that it gives you order because life is so random, weird and strange – you don’t know what is happening in the next five minutes.

“If you are writing stories, you are God and can control everything. Novels and stories are great for giving us order in a disorderly world.”

The worst advice I’ve been given

“Probably from my dad, who said, ‘Go and study law because there is always a good job at the end of a law degree.’

The best advice was also from him, ‘You aren’t enjoying law. Give it up, for goodness sake.’ So, my dad got me into it and he helped me get me out of it.”

What keeps me awake at night

“A serious answer to that one is the life of the freelancer. It is great when you are in your twenties because when your mates are getting up at 7am to go to their office jobs, you are just d****** around and writing jokes.

“Then you have kids and worry all the time about having enough money to look after them. That has always been the thing that wakes me at 4am, the panic about where the next job is coming from.

"As a freelancer you spend your entire life never quite sure what you are doing next. It has its great benefits but also slight drawbacks.”

The place I most like to call home

“Scotland. Even though I left when I was 20 and have lived in London for 36 years. If I live until I’m 90 and stay in England all that time, my home is Scotland.

“I still get that feeling when I get off the plane, ‘This is my home.’ It is so ingrained. Maybe I will end up moving back to Scotland when I retire.”

Something I wish I’d done earlier

“It is only recently that I have started writing what I would vaguely call ‘more serious stuff’. It is the early days of that and I’m looking to try to get some made because I have always been involved in comedy. I wish I had tried to diversify a bit earlier and do some straight stuff more.

“I also wish I had worked a bit harder. I dropped out of university and embarked on a weekend that has lasted about 35 years.”

The biggest adversity overcome

“I would paraphrase a Miekelson joke that it is incredible a white, middle-class, heterosexual, public school-educated boy should actually manage to get anywhere in life. I have managed to overcome all of those things. Because none of them are hip. I have fought my way to the middle.”

Scot Squad begins on BBC Scotland, Thursday, 10pm. It will be repeated on BBC1, Mondays, at 10.35pm