YOU might expect on meeting Paul Riley that the actor would mention the severe bruising on his backside, the result of being thrown off the carousel that was Still Game. The iconic sitcom is certainly gone, forever (unless writers Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill decide that Jack and Victor should Lazarus back to life) and the curtain closed on the stage shows.

However, Riley has not, he insists, been applying Arnica (figuratively) to his 53-year-old nether regions at all.

Why, Paul? Your history with the show goes back 25 years. The role of one-legged Winston most certainly brought in a very decent amount of wedge (mortgages were paid off thanks to the Hydro earnings), it guaranteed a nice seat in the Glasgow restaurant of your choice and any amount

of selfie attention.

Surely the show’s demise has left you feeling at least a little forlorn? “Nah,” he shrugs, sipping a mid-morning lager in Oran Mor in Glasgow’s west end.

“If the world came crashing down on my head I never felt it. And when something’s over you move to the next thing.”

Really? “Aye. And it’s interesting you use the word ‘actor’. You see, I’ve been self-employed all my life. I can do whatever I want.”

Well, yes. We’ve seen examples of Riley’s talent outside of acting in the past. He has proven himself a Bafta-winning writing talent with sitcom Dear Green Place.

And his direction of the delightful panto, Weans in the Wood, was masterful.

But surely you must miss the Craiglang adventures? The bickering with Isa and Navid? The chance to become hopping mad when the script called for it?

“The truth is, I’m actually plate-spinning at the moment,” he says.

“I’ve got so much on.”

Not half. He goes on to chat about An Evening with Paul Riley, a new Audience With-type show he is set to tour with.

Riley has also written a three-part TV series based around two real-life Scots counterfeit masterminds (a tale so powerful you can’t understand why it hasn’t made it onto the screen already).

Oh, and there’s a children’s book about a man made of marmalade, which features The Beatles.

And just for good measure, he’s written 70,000 words of his autobiography.

“A lot of that was down to lockdown,” he explains of his output, with a pleased expression on his face. “I had to be keeping busy.”

Well, what about this touring show? The Still Game Hydro shows, he says, revealed the widespread love for the characters, including bunnet-headed Winston.

HeraldScotland: Still Game live show at the HydroStill Game live show at the Hydro (Image: BBC)

“People love to meet the actors who play the characters. The interaction, the chat, the idea that ‘Winston’ is there amongst them.” He laughs. “You feel a bit like Elvis.”

If Elvis were from Milton? “Exactly,” he grins.

There is little doubt that Paul Riley has had the life experience from which to create a chat show. And he’s prepared to tell great tales, often against himself.

Growing up in the north Glasgow housing scheme of the late 1970s, an era beset by gang violence and drug abuse, the son of a shipbuilder and a Tennent’s worker harboured the dream of becoming an actor. On leaving school at 16 however Riley had to kill time before being eligible for drama school.

He worked at the Pavilion theatre as part of the stage crew.

“I worked during the time of Robert Halpern, the stage hypnotist, who could be a very difficult man,” he says. It seems there was little love lost between the crew and Halpern, who was reputedly a bad-tempered eccentric.

“Halpern would hypnotise the audience at the side of the stage, and they’d collapse near the [theatre curtain] blacks,” continues Riley.

“But one of the crew, Big Wullie from Possil, carried a knitting needle with which he’d jab the punters through the blacks, on their backsides. Halpern couldn’t understand why some of his ‘sleeping’ punters would suddenly jump back to life, yelling.”

He laughs aloud in recall: “And I remember once Big Wullie waking up someone who was hypnotised by slapping them lightly on the face and saying, ‘When you awake, you will smack the hypnotist on the face. Hard.’ And he did. And Halpern was beside himself.”

Riley’s cache of personal stories is enormous. But what of his new TV series, which he reveals is attracting major attention from several companies?

“It’s the story of Hologram Tam and Yanko,” he explains of the 1990s crime partners who operated a counterfeiting scheme so prolific that police claimed it could have destabilised the British and Danish economies. “Hologram Tam was a master printer called Thomas McAnea and he worked with Yanko [Riley won’t reveal the sidekick’s real name] whom I know from growing up in the Milton.”

He continues: “Hologram Tam began by printing fake Underground cards from a wee unit in Partick, renting premises from the Orange Lodge, pretending to be joiners.”

Hologram Tam was so successful he moved on from MOT certificates and postage stamps to printing almost perfect £20 notes, complete with watermark and hologram, producing up to £1m every two hours – and flooding the UK. He went on to produce foreign currency.

During lockdown, Riley and Yanko met over a period of months. “He gave me chapter and verse, all about this international scam, involving Indian rupees, Danish krone, the lot.”

The story is not without pathos. Criminal gangs pressurised Hologram Tam, a former union official and Yanko into producing more and more fakes.

Getting caught was an inevitability. (McAnea died in August 2013 due to lung cancer caused by years of exposure to print and solvent fumes.)

Sounds like a great tale. So, will Riley appear in it? Star, perhaps? “No, not interested,” he says in emphatic voice.

“I’m happy to hand it over, and I’ve been talking to David Hayman, who’s interested in it.” What? Actors always write themselves into parts, Paul.

“This goes back to what I said before. I like acting. But I don’t need to be daein’ it.”

He smiles: “I went to London recently for a day to film one scene for a new David Ireland rom-com The Lovers. Only because I love his writing. But usually I don’t need the hassle.”

Is this why you don’t do panto? “Well, aye. It’s a long slog and you end up getting cabin fever.” He grins. “I may be too old for it.” What? You’re 53. Sir Ian McKellen does it – and he’s 30 years older. You’re hardly Methuselah, Paul.

“You know, you’re right,” he laughs, before slipping into Winston Ingram vernacular. “I’m a pure ride.”

The life of Riley has long been defined by a casual approach to the business. For example, he certainly didn’t go seeking a role in Still Game in the first place.

Riley knew Greg Hemphill from touring community theatre days, but landing the role of Winston was a stroke of luck, as if gifted by the goddess Fortuna herself. He explains: “Gavin [Mitchell, who would go on to play Boaby in the TV series] had played Winston in the original old men sketch for Pulp Video on the BBC, and then when Ford and Greg wrote the play [for the Edinburgh Festival in 1997] Gavin wasn’t available. So, I was the super-sub.”

He adds: “It was while we were travelling back and forward to Edinburgh that the boys got the green light for Chewin’ the Fat to go on the telly. And they asked me to be in that as well.”

There has to be a story involving community theatre? “Lots,” he grins. “For example, Greg and me, just out of drama school, agreed to do a profit-share tour of the Highlands. It was a really bad idea. One night, our wages were only a fiver a head and then the company manager announced that we owed the company four quid for expenses, so we were left with a pound. A f****** pound.

“I remember Greg saying, ‘What are you gonna dae with it fella?’ And I grinned and put it in the puggy.” He performs sad face. “And you know, I never even got a hold.”

And what of the Still Game stage show? There has to be a tale in that? “Oh, aye. After Edinburgh, we took the show to Canada.

That’s when those two workers [not the actual word used in describing Kiernan and Hemphill] told me I had to bring a Hoover [an integral part of the plot], telling me it was a ‘voltage thing’.

“And being a clown I accepted this, took the Hoover out of my cupboard and there it was, on the carousel with the duffle bags and cases, carried all the way to Toronto.”

The original Still Game theatre play was more than 25 years ago. Could he ever have imagined the longevity?

“I don’t wander the earth thinking that way,” he says with a shrug. “The only feeling I had about it was that the public wanted it, and that’s why it ran.”

What of his other venture, a children’s book? “Yes, The Marmalade Man.” He laughs: “That’s what lockdown does to you, you go aff your heid and you come up with a story of a man made entirely of marmalade who has a [flatulent] dog, Dweezil, whose wind transports them around the world. And there are lots of Beatles references, clues to the journey, along the way.”

He adds: “I’ve focus-grouped it to people who have nurseries and they feel it works so I’ll be offering it up to publishers soon.”

So, he’s a Beatles fan? “No’ really,” he smiles. “I’m a prog rock man, but I once shared a flat with a bloke who was, and I stole his CDs.”

The Evening With show, the crime drama-comedy and the children’s book aren’t the only results of Paul Riley’s creative endeavours these past two years. He’s also been working on his autobiography.

“It’s almost done. It will be two books long, and I’ve still got lots to say. It’s been cathartic.”

It will be funny. Riley can laugh at himself as hard as audiences laughed at Winston Ingram. He grins as he recalls another tale from early acting years.

“Once, we did a production of The Caretaker, a three-hander, at the Arches Theatre in Glasgow. But right across the lane was a rock club.

HeraldScotland: Paul Riley with his dog French bulldog Dweezil. Paul Riley with his dog French bulldog Dweezil. (Image: Gordon Terris)

“One night the noise of death metal got too much for me. Here we were, supposed to be doing a subtle, clever Harold Pinter play and 10 minutes before going on stage I’d just had enough. So, I marched across the lane this warm summer night, saw the club’s fire door open and shouted to the two bouncers outside ‘Shut those f****** doors, we can’t hear ourselves on stage!’ And before I knew it they’d dragged me right inside the club and then shut the doors.

“So, I’m now inside the club being grappled by these big guys, and realising the clock is ticking and I’m due to be inside the theatre.

“At this point, the club manager came up and yelled at me, ‘Don’t you ever speak to my bouncers like that again!’ So I tried to apologise, but the pair of brutes opened the fire doors and booted me out into the lane, where I landed like Bart Simpson on a puddle.”

He shakes his head at his own stupidity. “When I did get on stage I was so stunned by what had happened I could barely speak.”

Let’s go back to his new stage show. It will involve an audience Q&A. Is he expecting some difficult questions? “Oh, aye,” he says, relishing the challenge.

“I did a similar show once when one bloke said to me, ‘In Episode Seven of Still Game, Jack and Victor talk about having their h*** [having sex] in faraway parts of the world. Where is the furthest place in the world that Paul Riley has had his h***?’ ‘Well, I met this penguin one time . . . “

What’s clear is Riley won’t be revealing details of relationships outside of any possible connection with aquatic flightless birds.

He makes occasional reference to his ex-wife, but won’t speak of his current personal life. What he will speak of his busyness; another stage show for next year, completing current projects.

But what of River City? Doesn’t everyone end up in the show eventually?

Could be see himself following Still Game pal Sanjeev Kohli into Shieldinch any time soon?

HeraldScotland: Still GameStill Game (Image: BBC)

“I had a talk about it at one point, not a meeting, just a blether with the producer. If the opportunity presents itself someday, then fine. But I’m happy just to paddle my own canoe.”

Yes, he’s happy. But if he’s been writing about his life for a stage show, and delving backwards for biography material, has it resulted in regrets, any bruising to the backside at all, apart from the Arches puddle escapade?

“Nah I don’t see life that way at all. I prefer to use the word ‘experiences’. I may have made some mistakes on the business side of it. But it is what it is.”

He’s so calm, so Zen. “Exactly,” he says, laughing.

“I’m on walkabout. I know actors are supposed to be out there chasing work, always looking around, but you know that’s never been me.”

An Evening with Paul Riley tours Scotland from March 4. For details visit