From Phil Kay to Fred MacAulay, Bruce Morton to Jerry Sadowitz, a generation of Scottish stand-ups has made its mark. But who's next in line? As THE STAND opens in Glasgow, we check
OUT the talent. ‘.‘Vorcs: Steve Cramer
SO THERE YOU ARE, PACKED INTO A DIM,
cramped. overheated. smokey space full of
sweaty drunks. An authority figure makes his way through the gloom and hovers under a crude light where he begins to insult you. You might be in the back of a Black Maria. or on remand in a Turkish jail. but you‘re actually in a place of entertainment. Yes. a comedy club. (‘omedy is an aggressive business. Today‘s comedy club is the nearest we get to the
l-ili/abethan bearpit. It‘s the very sense of
danger that makes live comedy so compelling. And. naturally. a big part of the atmosphere comes from the discomfort of the place. (‘omedy clubs are smoke-filled. stuffy caverns. right'.’ Wrong. says Tommy Sheppard. The owner of The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh is opening a purpose-built (ilasgow branch which. he claims. will bring comfort to comedy watching. 'We're a comedy club with a bar. rather than a bar which happens to he a comedy club.‘ says the man who’s helped keep a smile on the capital for the past five years. ‘When Jane |.\Iackay. Sheppard‘s wife and frequent Stand comperel and I started out. we were beholden to publicans. having to negotiate with them to keep the bar staff quiet during the acts. stop
Craig Hill: Camp comic and regular guest
22 THE LIST ‘3 2/ »'«:;' 233’,
them collecting glasses while people were on. and so forth. We're in control here.~
Value for money is his prime concern. 'l’eople who pay. say. £7 for a seat have the right to expect a seat.~ he says. ‘This club will have a lel-person capacity. and all but about 40 should get seats. We‘ll tell people at the door if it‘s standing room only. People won‘t want to be ripped off at the bar. so we charge £2.05 fora pint.‘
But what about the comedy'.’ The Stand has a reputation for giving young comics their first break. mixing them into bills with seasoned professionals. The lidinburgh weekend
'If I had a situation where nobody walked out, I'd think I was doing something wrong.’ Tommy Sheppard
comperes are Susan Morrison and Jane Mackay. well known for their capacity to hype tip audiences. For (ilasgow. these two will play their roles ~ along with established acts of the calibre of l‘red .\1ac.-\ulay and up-and- coming guests including surrealist Allan Miller and camp comic (‘raig llill -— but what of the \Veegie new bloods'.’ Sheppard is placing his faith in John (iordon and l’rankie Boyle.
‘John‘s matured a lot as a comic over the last year or two.‘ says Sheppard. ‘lle‘s a kind of angry young man of a very distinctive. (ilaswegian type. llis material goes from drug abuse on council estates to the hypocrisy of boy bands. He‘s got a good. relaxed style. l‘rankie is another good comic with a young audience.’
To test out Sheppard‘s claims. I spent a long weekend at the lidinburgh Stand. On the liriday night. regular compare Susan Morrison warmed the packed and sweaty audience tip with some solid interaction. drawing on a small group of visiting Swedes in the audience for repartee. She introduced (ierard .\ladill. about whom the least said the better. l.et’s just say that on another night his material might have worked. After a break. and another incursion by Morrison. on came Jackie '.\lI' (iood Time~ \‘alentio. a kind of pocket .lonny \"egas. whose character. .1 ‘ an inadvertently tasteless northern club entertainer. " brought the audience increasingly to uproar. with his ('liff Richard in a vengeful mood at particular highlight. So to the headliner. London comic Robin lnce. whose recollections of an anatomically unusual family brought laughter from a
majority of his audience. though such was his excess that a dozen or so voted with their feet.
The weekend continued with a Sunday lunch show in which an agreeable all—day breakfast was chased down by an equally agreeable postprandial improvisation from two young comics. Jack and Paul. The evening show mainly fell flat. but was enlivened by local lad (‘olin Ramone whose reflections on city life from (iorgie to (ilasgow had them hooting. On Monday night. a difficult audience did at least appreciate the sexual insecurities of Teddy The Teenage Terrorist and Keara Murphy’s reflections on old movies and radio clairvoyants.
It was a mixed bag. but with a healthy ratio of hits to flops. and the club's capacity to produce something worthwhile in each show is not doubted by its regular. still growing audience. And what of the people who walked out on the Friday'.’ 'lt‘s a commercial business. but there are other considerations.’ says a philosophic Sheppard. ‘lfl had a situation where nobody walked out. I'd think I was doing something wrong.’
Comics. audiences -— even the promoters are aggressive.
The Stand opens at 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, Fri 14 Apr. See listings, page 67.
Jane MacKay: regular compere at The Stand