Comedy Reviews

Standup Comedy in Glasgow

23 February 2010 | Comedy Reviews
Originally published at Visit Glasgow

If, like me, you’re a scowling misanthrope who hates all music, art and sport, you might want to try some standup comedy. The main joy of comedy is in the jazz-like poise of a performer’s delivery but, if you’re lucky, they might talk about cocks as well. Brilliant.

Glasgow is a good city in which to enjoy comedy, partly because of the great clubs and brilliant native comedians but also because of Glasgow’s unique combination of civic pride and self depreciation; and its historic local politics: fertile ground for standup comedy.

The Glasgow comedy “scene” (kill me) is overshadowed by two main forces: Jongleurs and The Stand. Jongleurs is a nightclub-style venue in the city centre where you can expect to see fairly mainstream acts followed by a disco and a midnight sense of loneliness and despair. Ideal for office, hen and stag parties.

If you prefer to see real comedy from comedians, both resident and touring, who work hard and don’t leave you feeling hollow and bereft, The Stand is probably the best bet.

Unlike the Wetherspoony Jongleurs, The Stand has only two clubs – one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh – so it maintains a degree of independence and the comedy experience doesn’t feel mass produced. As venues, they are dedicated exclusively to standup comedy, making the atmosphere conducive to only one thing. The result is a nurturing environment for the performers and the feeling amongst the audience that something unique and never-to-be-seen-again might unfold. Every Sunday, Michael Redmond compares a package show of local and imported acts: Michael himself is a hero of comedy (adored by Graham Linehan and Stewart Lee and plagiarised by the Pasquale family) and it is a great privilege to be able to see him, not just occasionally, but on any given Sunday at The Stand.

The Stand is undoubtedly the best venue for comedy in the city (and frankly one of the best in the whole UK), but there are other fringe venues worth exploring in Glasgow too. Many local bars and cafes run comedy nights: a particularly good one is the ‘Comedy Womb’ at The State bar on Holland Street. Although the club only runs once a week and doesn’t have the heritage of The Stand, the acts are usually pretty good and are angled unpatronisingly toward a comedy-literate audience. This is a good place to catch newer acts. Speaking of which, don’t be put off by the idea of a ‘new acts’ night. A person who has the guts to work a comedy room for the first time will have honed a very tight and intelligent ten minutes: beginners are too nervous to go out there with a half-baked set. Another great opportunity to see newer acts is to try The Stand’s Tuesday night cabaret of new acts, Red Raw.

If the beery atmosphere of a comedy club is not your bag, it’s worth keeping an eye on the programmes of arts centres such as The Arches beneath Central Station and the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on Sauchihall Street. Ian Macpherson’s “DiScomBoBuLaTe” is a monthly cabaret of comedians and writers, currently based at The Arches and previously at the CCA. You’ll not get any drunken heckling at this sort of event and you’ll get to see some of the country’s top writer-performers: past guests have included Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochead, A. L. Kennedy and Arnold Brown to name but a few. Further west, look out for the infrequent but excellent OMG! night at Gibson Street’s Offshore coffee shop at which a combo of seasoned performers and ‘real people’ read from their teenage diaries. Earnest performances and, instead of beer, you can have a nice cup of tea.

If you want to see a mainstream giant such as Peter Kay, The Mighty Boosh or Glasgow’s own Frankie Boyle, you’re most likely to catch them at the nearby SECC, a capacious venue famous for having the shape of a giant Dasypodidae. You can also try BBC Scotland where they film comedy pilots and require a studio audience. This often means free tickets to see very famous comedians and their less-famous but often talented warm-up acts.

The Glasgow Comedy Festival, though very fledgling compared to other comedy festivals, is an annual crossing of comedy leylines and a great opportunity to catch big names like Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery and Jerry Sadowitz, himself a Glaswegian whose act leaves you feeling as though you’ve had your brain snogged during open-skull surgery (a good thing). While some comedians trade on the mostly imagined rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the two cities can be of mutual benefit to one another as far as comedy is concerned: during the internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival, many London acts will take advantage of their being so far north and will also perform at Glasgow, especially at The Stand, for a mere sheckle.

It would be a shame to leave Glasgow without taking advantage of the diverse and brilliant standup it has to offer. Go and see Michael Redmond at The Stand on a Sunday evening and take it from there.