At the Stand Comedy Club this Festive Season, take your seats for the best laughs in town.
By Louis Cammell
Jay Lafferty on Bona Fide
The critically-acclaimed comedian and regular club compere on her self-built ‘playground for professional comedians’ at The Stand.
Seven years ago, Jay Lafferty sensed there was something missing in Edinburgh’s comedy scene. She observed that the circuit was made up largely of two types of night. On one end, you had pro nights. Guaranteed laughs by legends of the Scottish clubs, delivering sure-fire material. On the other, there were new material nights such as The Stand’s legendary Red Raw, a weekly open-mic style night (albeit with a six-month waiting list to perform) where newcomers – some performing for the very first time – take to the stage alongside the occasional established act either perfecting a routine or jumping on at the end to close with a bang.
But between the poles was relatively barren land. ‘When you are a professional comedian, you have less of a licence to fail,’ is how Lafferty puts it. ‘[Red Raw]is not really a space for professionals, because it’s where the newer acts are developing their stuff. You might steal a spot for five minutes but that’s not really long enough to develop anything [you might take to The Fringe]. But at the same time, pro nights are where performers are expected to bring their A game; it’s not necessarily the right platform for risky creative choices that might not pay off.
‘I wanted to create this playground for professional comedians, where they were allowed to fail, and they were allowed to try things that they hadn’t done before. But it still had the structure of a stand up comedy night. And obviously, because they’re professionals, it’s always a great night.
And so I came up with idea for Bona Fide [where] I come up with a theme that the comics have to write brand-new material around. Some of it, they may have never said before and some of it, they may never say again.’
From there, its extra arms and legs have grown pretty organically. Now happening monthly at The Stand in Glasgow as well as its birthplace of The Stand Edinburgh, the demand for Bona Fide to happen in both cities came directly from the acts themselves. ‘There’ve been people who’ve come and developed their sets for Live at the Apollo at it,’ says Jay. Others have attributed the random theme aspect with ‘trigger[ing] an avalanche of comedy in their brain’, which has led to whole hour-long solo shows or routines they have performed on the radio.
‘So it’s just now this little amazing space where you know you’re in safe hands, but you might see the inception of something and get a kind of insight into how a comedian’s brain works.’
Raymond Mearns, Scott Agnew, Susan Riddell and Des Clarke are just some of the local legends that have appeared on past line-ups. In fact, a Bona Fide night in Glasgow was Mearn’s first night back on stage after a high-profile stroke that he suffered in August of this year, forcing him to cancel his Edinburgh Fringe run. It led to an outpouring of love for the long-beloved comic that manifested itself in a kickstarter campaign and a sold-out benefit gig from The Stand, featuring the likes of legends Frankie Boyle and Susie McCabe. Lafferty jokes that after his comeback performance, they were skeptical of his ill health. ‘He had come up with all this hilarious betting material, based on the theme “What Are The Odds?” We were all like, “You’ve not had a stroke!”‘ she says.
Marc Jennings is also a regular. Jennings sold out the King’s Theatre earlier this year with his one-man show and who Lafferty affectionately nicknames ‘king of the podcasts’, alluding to his recent success with Some Laugh (a podcast he hosts alongside friends Stephen Buchanan and Stuart McPherson). He and Lafferty will be sharing the stage again for The Stand’s Christmas shows mid-December. ‘I really love Christmas so I get into the Christmas spirit from, like, the first of December. I’m like yes, tree up. Let’s do this,’ says Lafferty. ‘What’s better during the season of joy than having a laugh? The stand’s lineup is always really great, it’s always packed full of local talent as well as some visitors.’
Kevin P. Gilday on Spam Valley
The Glasgow-based poet and performer talks about bringing his previously sold-out class satire to The Stand in Glasgow.
The work of proud Glasgow resident Kevin P. Gilday perfectly captures the ambivalence we often feel towards our hometowns. How do we reckon with wanting to belong to a place that we simultaneously want to escape? A tale of class, told with wit from a working-class poet in a middle-class world.
Could you summarise your show Spam Valley for us?
It’s a one-man show about class, culture and belonging. At the centre of it is a question about who gets to claim the identity of ‘working class’ and who gets to decide. It combines theatrical monologue, spoken word poetry and stand-up comedy to explore my journey from my working class upbringing to my current middle class career in the arts. It’s a pretty funny and irreverent show, really accessible and perfect for those who don’t often go to see live theatre. It’s got a big message about working class life but I hope that at core it’s also a good night out.
Your last performance at The Glasgow Stand sold out. What do you think resonates with Glaswegians in particular about this show?
I think people can just really relate to what I’m talking about. I’m telling my story but it’s got a real universal resonance for loads of people, especially in Glasgow. They’ll remember some of the things I discuss about growing up but also that general feeling of being disconnected from working class culture because of your path in life. Obviously it references lots of areas that people will know well too. At heart it’s a hugely Glaswegian show. It feels like the story of the city as well as my own.
Could you break down the term ‘Spam Valley’ in your own words?
So Spam Valley is a place, a neighbourhood – usually a newly built estate – that thinks it’s a cut above, where the residents think they’re a bit special, basically. The insult behind it is that these are working class people with ideas above their station who have moved to a posh new estate but are struggling to maintain their big mortgage and new lifestyle and are forced to eat Spam for their dinner. Hence Spam Valley, a neighbourhood of working class people pretending to be middle class and suffering for it.
You stopped somewhere on your last tour that had an area the locals all called Spam Valley so they all came out as a result. Where was that?
So it turns out that loads of areas have their own version of Spam Valley. It’s a pretty widespread phenomenon right across the central belt. The show actually sold out in Irvine because they use the term to refer to a neighbourhood there and it’s sort of become part of their DNA. It’s been really fun hearing about people’s own stories of their particular Spam Valley after the show every night.
You use a lot of dramatic techniques that people might associate more with music or stand-up. How important is it to you that your poetry be accessible?
It’s honestly at the heart of my writing and performance. I want to open a door and allow people the chance to come enjoy poetry, something that they might have completely dismissed after school. The style of performance I use is what opens that door, they can see that this isn’t just someone reading a boring piece from the page – it’s about bringing the work to life and making it engaging. I think that the issue with poetry is often that it takes itself too seriously, that it doesn’t want to be accessible. My work is often funny, relatable and full of swearing and the day-to-day language of normal people. Poetry is an artform tailor made for sharing with large audiences, it can communicate complex ideas really succinctly – I feel strongly about taking it back from being a purely academic pursuit.
What conversations do you hope a show like Spam Valley might open up?
I’d honestly love for people to go away thinking about class in a different way. To be aware of the traps we’re falling into as a society that are pitting us against each other and making us police each other’s behaviour. But mostly I want people to walk out of the show with working class pride, to rediscover the joy of where they’ve come from. I think it’s something that’s missing from the narratives we’re being presented. I hope Spam Valley goes some way to restoring that pride.
As I understand it, this tour is a kind of send-off for this show in particular. So what’s next?
I’m working on a few new things that’ll hopefully come to fruition next year that I’m really excited about. I’m collaborating with the National Theatre of Scotland to create a new show which will explore ideas of death and rebirth in relation to post-industrial communities. I’ll be releasing a new album with my musical project Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross which I’m really buzzing to let everyone hear. Plus I’m working away writing loads of new poems and chipping away at a non-fiction book exploring some of the themes from Spam Valley in greater detail. Very excited to share these projects with everyone when the time comes.
Bona Fide takes place at The Stand in Glasgow on Thursday November 23rd & Thursday December 7th. The Stand’s Christmas Specials take place Thursday – Saturday, December 14th, 15th and 16th. All details and tickets at thestand.co.uk.
Kevin P. Gilday’s Spam Valley comes to The Stand in Glasgow on Wednesday, November 22nd. All details and tickets at thestand.co.uk.
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