AN honours graduate of the University of Life's Dennistoun School of Street-Wise Studies, Ford Kiernan typically lost no time yesterday in inventing a pithy new salute for Greg Hemphill, his writing and performing partner in TV comedy hit Chewin' The Fat. Kiernan conferred a matey degree of knockabout scepticism on overnight news of his best buddy's election as Glasgow University's student rector.

''We're officially changing his name to Hector Hemphill

. . . that's Hector the Rectum,'' Kiernan deadpanned. However, I can personally assure Hemphill's undergraduate supporters that their democratic choice won't be sitting on his bahookey doing nothing during his term of office, in marked contrast to his absentee predecessor from the land of telly stardom, ex-EastEnder Ross Kemp.

For, despite Greg's perennial easy-going air of reticent modesty, he's above all been a thoughtful hard worker throughout the 10 years I've been privileged to count him as a chum.

Ironically, we first began to get more closely acquainted when, in an unusual reversal of roles, Greg came to The Herald to interview me in my ongoing capacity as the paper's comedy critic. This was in 1992, Greg having chosen the topic of Scottish stand-up comedy for one of his two final dissertations as

an undergraduate on the Glasgow University Film And

Theatre Studies course.

Greg diligently posed a wide range of perceptive academic inquiries about the role of the comedy critic. The observant young pup favoured this old goat's replies with a flattering respect, despite the fact that Greg had won the Edinburgh Fringe's So You Think You're Funny award for new stand-up talent in 1989, and so undoubtedly knew far more about the workings of comedy than I did.

Greg wound up with a 2:1. I hope I didn't cost him a first. Incidentally, there was a fitting prescience about the topic of Greg's other final dissertation: great screen clowns. There can be little doubt about the elevated screen clowning status of Messrs Hemphill and Kiernan, two innately funny people.

In Greg's case, it's a subject that he began to study seriously during his decade-long exile from the heather-bedecked place of his birth - Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow. Raised in Bishopbriggs till the age of three, Greg spent his entire adolescence in Canada, in Montreal.

''As a teenager, living out there in temperatures 30 below freezing for six months of the year, and being too young to go out to bars, I'd spend all my time watching TV, particularly comedy,'' he says. ''I was a huge fan of Saturday Night Live, idolising the show's regular cast of Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, and Rich Hall.

''But there was never any doubt that I was first and foremost Scottish. My dad's an engineer, from Ruchill, and my mum's from St George's Cross. For me, Canada seemed to operate via a series of continual meetings between this underground network of expatriate Scots.''

Unsurprisingly, comedy helped cement Greg's notion of his national identity. ''There'd be endless playings of Billy Connolly tapes, sometimes to unwitting Canadians, too.''

Not unnaturally, the 18-year-old Greg wound up a student in Glasgow, having relocated to London with his parents two years earlier. ''Glasgow University appealed because of its course, and because there were

still lots of relatives up here. My Scottish grandparents were still alive then, and I was never short of a Sunday dinner.''

Greg apologetically admits that his own undergraduate years were blessedly free of trauma. ''The worst moment, as I recall, was once when my pal in the Officer Training Corps couldn't come on a night out with me as he had to stay in and clean his boots. I was very shy then and wouldn't dream of going out alone.''

Likewise, Greg was slow to get involved in student drama. When he did, comedy acting soon came to predominate. With a fellow student, Rab Christie, now Chewin' The Fat's script editor, Hemphill formed a musical comedy group, The Three Men Trio Brothers Troupe.

After just a year of gigging sporadically in pubs, they were the successors to Phil Kay in winning Edinburgh's most notable prize for emergent stand-up talent. Aside from a booking at London's prestigious Comedy Store, So You Think You're Funny didn't encourage Greg to think he was famous.

For the next eight years Greg scuffled around, living the penurious life of every jobbing Scots actor and aspirant comedy writer. Long before Greg attained nationwide celebrity by dressing up as a Victorian lighthouse-keeper, he once spent four sweltering and self-conscious days wandering around a major golf tournament at St Andrews dressed as a disconsolate outsized packet of cheese and onion crisps.

There were periods of writing on various short-lived Radio Scotland comedy shows (one of which brought Greg into contact with Ford Kiernan). Greg was the first host of Radio Scotland's satirical soccer fanzine On The Ball; a researcher on BBC TV sci-fi quiz show Space Cadets; a co-star in Only An Excuse and Pulp Video.

It's no coincidence that Greg's growing success in the years since 1997 has been shared by the woman who a

little over a year ago became his wife, actress Julie Nimmo, whom he met on Pulp Video. An occasional supporting player in Chewin' The Fat, Julie and her supportive no-nonsense manner - forged in no-nonsense East Kilbride - have evidently served to focus Greg's ambition to hone his comic craft.

Like every good life partner, Julie has had a stabilising effect on Greg. Kept the day-dreamy blighter's feet on the ground and his schoolboyish head out of the clouds. This is despite the consciously off-the-wall circumstances of the duo's wedding ceremony. It was conducted in a hot-air balloon tethered 100ft above the ground in America's sun-baked capital of trashy glitz, Las Vegas.

It had to be Vegas: the couple share a passion for kitsch Americana and Elvis Presley. Their home in Glasgow's west end is a riot of

leopardskin, neon signs, and battery-operated Elvis-shaped alarm clocks. Additionally, Greg is a keen devotee of the art and science of Vegas's leading sport, poker-playing.

Chums are confidently predicting one of two names - Elvis or Priscilla - when Julie fulfils her central role in the forthcoming maternal production of the couple's first child.

Greg is currently working hard to complete two TV pilot scripts, both featuring Chewin' The Fat characters: hapless thespian Ronald Villiers and Victor and Jack, the raucous old men.

And now there's the rectorship. ''It's a serious job, with a lot of responsibilities attached, plus a lot of hard work,'' acknowledges Greg. ''I'm prepared for it. I wouldn't have taken it on if I didn't intend doing it properly.

''I was fortunate in not having big problems as a Glasgow student myself. Similarly, I don't see the job of rector as primarily being about dealing with

students' problems. Rather, Glasgow students constitute a diverse body with a wide range of interests, interests I have insights into.

''I want to be available to people. I'll be quietly finding my feet at first, but I want to go about the job of rector on a working nuts-and-bolts level.'' Vote Greg. He works.