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23rd Feb 2013 1:09pm | By Kelly Griffin
It’s a Saturday night in Glasgow and the busy, neon-lit streets are pulsating with weekend revellers.
My cohorts – a bunch of Londoners up for the weekend – and I make our way through the ‘smirr’ (which I learn is a Scottish term for mist-like rain, not to be confused with mizzle, which is mist-like drizzle) to the door of what was once an abandoned high school basement, now one of the city’s most popular venues: cult comedy club, The Stand.
Now in its 13th year, The Stand is an institution on the Scottish comedy scene where homegrown success stories such as Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges cut their teeth.
Inside its cavernous, candle-lit space, we make our way past the rowdy crowd gathered around the bar, and grab what are the only remaining seats.
Living up to the stereotype of Glaswegians as friendly, hospitable folk with a terrific sense of humour, it’s not long before renowned local comedian and actor Raymond Mearns stops by for a quick hello – soon he’ll be hitting the stage to compere tonight’s show.
The thing about Glaswegian audiences is, Mearns leans in and reveals: “They know when you’re not giving everything, and they’ll tell you. So you’ve always got to bring your best.”
A little later Mearns begins flexing his quick-witted improv muscles, bantering with those who’ve braved the front row.
The first guy admits his job is a risk assessor at a hospital for the criminally insane.
“Well, that must be an easy job, they’re all a risk!” Mearns shoots back.
But it’s obvious the crowd do give as good as they get.
When headliner Bennett Arron, a Jewish-Welsh comedian, asks who has been arrested, about a quarter of the crowd raise their hand, to which he sheepishly responds, “Oh well, that’s quite a bit more than I expected.”
It’s no surprise that Glaswegians make discerning audiences, as the vibrant, trendy city has a reputation for a rich creative scene that dates back centuries.
For starters, it boasts one of the UK’s leading independent art schools, The Glasgow School of Art, from which almost 30 per cent of past Turner Prize nominees have graduated.
In the Forties, Glasgow was nicknamed ‘Cinema City’ for boasting more than 130 cinemas which, back in the day, was more cinemas per capita than any other city in the world outside of the US.
Plus there’s the legendary music scene, with bands including Belle and Sebastian, Arab Strap, Mogwai, Primal Scream and Franz Ferdinand all calling the Clyde-side city home.
Back at The Stand, the venue’s owner and Scottish comedy stalwart Tommy Sheppard has pulled up a chair to tell us this is the tip of the iceberg, with the city set to become Europe’s laugh capital in March when the Glasgow Comedy Festival kicks off.