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.”

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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.

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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.

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Sheppard says the festival’s the “biggest event of its kind in Europe”, with a range of acts to suit all ages and tastes, from 75-year-old Dorothy Paul, who’s cracking up packed theatres, to more experimental shows, such as the late night comedy in the underground subway station at St Enoch. 

Double Bafta-winning comic Billy Kirkwood will this year perform his gags in a tattoo parlour, which I joke could have permanent ramifications. 

“Well, the guy doing that show in the tattoo parlour is threatening to get the Comedy Festival logo permanently tattooed on him,” Sheppard laughs.

Sheppard says there’s also a strong American showcase at this year’s fest, featuring Liza Treyger, Kyle Kinane and Dwayne Kennedy, backing up big-name headliners such as Jimmy Carr, Paul Merton, Sean Lock and Al Murray.

Judging by the hilarity on stage and off it tonight, the Glasgow Comedy Festival looks set to be one hell of an event, and what better way to get a glimpse into the city’s creative culture – and certainly its wicked sense of humour.

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Eat, drink, sleep

For a mix of old-world charm and affordable decadence, head to Glasgow’s oldest bar and restaurant, The Sloan.Afternoon tea from £10.95.  

Open for breakfast, lunch and tea, trendy joint The Left Bank is your go-to place for hearty burgers, tapas-style dishes and breakfasts. Mains from £7.75. 

The Arches is one of the leading cultural venues in Europe, and hosts everything from Britain’s biggest club nights and bands to new theatre shows and art exhibitions. Pints from £3.50. 

Hip live music joint Nice N Sleazy offers a good range of beers and cheap spirits. It’s a haunt for well-known Glaswegian musos. Go there for some famous face spotting. Drinks from £2.  

McLay’s Guest House offers simple, cosy budget accommodation in the heart of the city. Single rooms from £21pn.  

For a treat, Blythswood Square Hotel is Glasgow’s ultimate five-star luxury spa hotel. Rooms start at £120pn.  

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Getting there

Fly from London Gatwick to Glasgow from £59 return with easyJet.  

The 2013 Glasgow Comedy Festival runs March 14-31  

The Stand hosts events seven nights a week  


Photos: Alan Robertson (See Glasgow); Getty; TNT