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best people happen to be working the London circuit. it‘s important for local comics to measure up to their level. Parrot‘s new club in Greenock. Rico‘s Comedy Church. Glasgow‘s new Fool‘s Paradise and nearly-new Gas Station. and Karen Koren‘s various ventures are committed to staging quality acts. ‘When I put on a show I want it to be good.‘ says Koren. ‘I would rather not see comedy than cringe.‘ And Arnold Brown. who headlines at the opening of Fool‘s Paradise. emphasises that its important to stretch yourself. ‘()therwise it‘s like telling jokes to your own people in a pub.‘ he says. ‘I won‘t say Scotland‘s as a» minor as that. but you have to get out to people other than your neighbours. You become a big boy by moving in cosmopolitan circles.‘
Greater TV interest will also make a difference to the viability of Scottish comedy; BBC Scotland is working with Craig Ferguson and Norman Lovett. Jonathan Ross‘s Channel X has long-term plans for local comedy writers. and part of Scottish‘s franchise bid involves a commitment to creating network comedy. But whatever happens. there‘s little doubt that Scotland will remain a fertile ground for creating great comedians. ‘I think Scotland is a good home for people in transit ofsome sort.‘ says Arnold Brown philosophically. ‘Transit of the mind — how articulate at this time ofthe morning. you‘re not Iain lleggie are you? What was that phrase I said‘." Er. transit ofthe mind, Arnold. ‘It‘s to do with the outsider theory of comedy.‘ he continues on course. ‘Comedians are always outside of so-called straight society. I‘ve listened back to my act and I think I‘m more Scottish than I think. I suppose one has to talk about things like the poll tax and I‘ll probably bring my old joke back about the English thinking Ravenscraig is a pub that they‘re closing down. It‘s important to have a vantage point which being Scottish can give vou.
restaurant. ‘It was really lovely.‘ she recalls. still genuinely delighted with the operation‘s success. ‘That summer we had Lenny Henry. Dawn French. Billy Connolly. Pamela Stevenson. Rupert Everett. Iain Charleson. Joan Plowright. Larry‘s son . . . they all just came down there and drank. It was because ofthem I thought “Comedy”. That was the Festival and we opened the following January with Victor and Barry. Then I started doing comedy there every | Friday and Saturday night.‘ I
and waves an official invite from the annual Juste Pour Rire bash in Montreal. you don‘t doubt that the future ofcomedy is alive and well and living in West Nicolson Street. ‘Fred McAulay and Parrot and that lot believe in themselves enough to want to work.‘ she says. ‘I don‘t think they‘re going to move to London. I think they‘re going to stay in Scotland. And I‘m not going to move either. I think there is a future here in Scotland. I‘m going to make comedy happen in Scotland ifit‘s the last thing I do!‘
And with every sentence. Koren lets slip another project. another germinating idea. another long-term hope not just for herself. but for the success ofcomedians throughout Scotland. ‘1‘” always have the energy for it. because I care.‘ she says. ‘That‘s why I did it in the first place. There‘s nothing more admirable than somebody standing up for anything up to an hour and making people laugh.‘ To help them do so. her current projects include a series ofgigs at Marco‘s Leisure Centres and a Jim Beam-sponsored run at the Counting House and the Arches Theatre. She‘s organised a Burns‘ Night at London‘s Hackney Empire. has a plethora of plans for the Edinburgh Fringe and is constantly lobbying TV and radio bigwigs to get stand-ups and their scripts into the mass market. ‘I think there is a big gap in the market in comedy.‘ she says. ‘and I always have thought that since I started McNally‘s with Victor and Barry and Craig Ferguson. Arnold Brown. all these people. eight years ago.
Koren fell into comedy through an almost chance encounter with Oblivion Boys. Steve Frost and Mark Arden who were college friends of an ex-ﬂatmate. One drunken Easter Sunday boat-trip to Boulogne later and Koren. then working for Platform Jazz. had landed herselfthe task of finding them an all-important. make-or-break venue in the Edinburgh Fringe. When a friend suggested she should join him in setting up a gaming club. Koren turned the idea on its head and established McNally‘s in Palmerston Place as a theatre club and
‘The difference between Scottish comedians and South oi England comedians is that the English say “I know and you don’t know”. whereas the Scottish say “I don’t know and you don’t know and
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The list ofcomedians who have taken to the stage in Koren‘s various ventures since is formidable. ‘The Gilded Balloon was the best venue for me in Britain.‘ says Arnold Brown. ‘I love it. It was a great breeding ground. great atmosphere. She‘s definitely a pioneer.‘ But for all Koren‘s work. the success of local comedy depends on the creation of new venues. Ifthere is a circuit of clubs in an area. it makes financial sense for comedians to travel. while local comics have more chance to learn their craft. Parrot. for example. who despite being Greenock-based. earns only about five per cent ofhis income in Scotland. will get a gig in Newcastle. then tie it in with a series of gigs in places like Stockton and Berwick. ‘Britain becomes fairly small when you‘re travelling.‘ he says. believing that the only place to learn is before an audience. ‘lfyou want to be brilliant. the stage has got to be your home. so whatever happens won‘t throw you.‘
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