Stand alone comedy

When the Scottish comedy world falls out laughter becomes a serious business. But, as another round of allegations fly, who‘ll have the last laugh? Words: Jason Hall

As weekend compere of The Stand Comedy Clubs, Jane Mackay is more proficient than most at dealing with unruly audience members. Yet the co-director of the Glasgow and Edinburgh clubs now finds herself having to deal with heckles of a different kind from Stand stalwart and co—founder, Bill Dewar, following a recent row over performance contracts.

This is far from the first time a comedian has found cause to complain about The Stand’s restrictive booking terms, the most controversial of which is its unpopular exclusivity clause. This states that no comedian can appear at a rival club within two weeks either side of playing The Stand; or at least not without consent.

In the past, complaints have always been raised by the same few comics, primarily those who ply their trade outside the club because, as Mackay claims in typically uncompromising style, ’they are too incompetent and disaffected to have ever earned a place inside it’. This time, however, the enemy is within. As one half of The Stand’s flagship sketch show, The Useless Guide To Scotland, and regular weekly host of The World Of Comedy Quiz Show, Bill Dewar’s ’resignation’ from the club is more difficult for lvlackay to ignore.

While the initial bust-up was over the relatively trivial issue of Bill’s lack of punctuality for a Sunday night appearance, both sides seem to be treating the fall-out all too seriously. The Stand has issued an eleven-page document to all its regular acts outlining the club’s expectations and re-iterating the importance of strict adherence to all booking conditions. Dewar, meanwhile, has publicly proclaimed that ’the revolution has begun’, promising to open a rival permanent comedy venue with support from scores of disaffected comics and financial backing from mystery money men.

In the past, rival clubs have had a notoriously rough time trying to get established in the capital and The Stand's hold over the comedy fraternity via the exclusivity clause certainly doesn’t help. There is little doubt that The Stand has worked wonders in finding and establishing new Scottish talent. But if this new breed of comics are to move up to the next level and fully turn pro, they must

8 THE lIST 21 Sep—S Oct 2000

Bill Dewar has parted company with The Stand, claiming 'the revolution has begun‘

be free to work as often as possible and in a wider

variety of comedy venues.

In the vibrant London comedy scene, for example, it is common for comics to ’doubIe-up' and play two separate gigs in the same night, maximising their earning potential and gaining valuable experience of different crowds and different venues. It’s tempting to think this could never be possible with so few clubs in Scotland, yet the Joke Box at Mr.P's once offered just such an opportunity to acts playing in Glasgow, simply by virtue of its late night start. When The Stand opened its West Coast club, however, the Joke Box struggled to book acts

and has subsequently folded.

With free comedy workshops and no shortage of open spots, there are a hell of lot of Scottish based comics who can thank The Stand for giving them a start. Yet, the sad reality is that if they want to further their careers to a more professional level, they have to move to where the gigs are; which means London. The Stand has already lost the prodigal son of Scottish comedy, Allan Miller, to the big smoke. Unless a more relaxed attitude towards the freedom to perform is taken then more will

surely follow.

Jason Hall is a stand-up comedian and the publisher of the Scottish Comedy website at wwwScottishComedy. com

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