Every comedy fan worth their salt should know about The Stand Comedy Club. The chain has clubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle and has become a mecca for fans of alternative comedy.
Acts playing The Stand at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year include, Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery, Susan Calman, Tony Law, Lucy Porter, Mark Thomas, Bridget Christie, Richard Herring, The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society, Brendon Burns, Alexei Sayle and more.
We were lucky enough to have a chat to Dave McGuire from The Stand about the club’s preparations for August.
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Hello Dave, how is the Edinburgh fringe prep going?
Fringe prep going well, I could do with more hours in the day, but having too much to do as a result of having great shows with lots of interest from press and public alike can only be a good thing. Unlike every other comedy venue on the Fringe, The Stand is Edinburgh’s only 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, full time comedy club, so whilst others are planning their trip up to ‘do Edinburgh’ we’ve got shows on in the same room we have our primetime Fringe shows. In addition to that we’ve got our clubs in Glasgow and Newcastle which have shows on 7 nights a week, all year round. By the time people read this I’ll be starting in the morning and finishing slightly earlier the next morning. That being said, this is by far my favourite time of year.
Can you tell us how The Stand got started and how it’s evolved?
The Stand evolved from a group of comedy fans, including founders Tommy Sheppard and Jane Mackay, seeing the need for somewhere in Edinburgh that would put on the sort of comedy shows that they’d like to see. After a couple of year hosting shows in pubs (including our first 2 Fringes) we moved to our current full time home in 1998, and have moved from strength to strength. From the beginning the company was adamant that it would provide comedians and audiences with the respect that they deserve, and continue to treat comedians we believe as well as any comedy club in the world.
What’s the most difficult aspect of running 4 venues with hundreds of different acts between them?
From my point of view as the press guy, it’s finding time to do everything. In addition to my press and promo duties I also act as the sole PR for quite a few shows. Because we treat everyone as family The Stand go out of their way to make the Fringe as successful as we can for every single show, not just the big names. What makes things easier is that our core team work at The Stand year round, so we are a tight unit and don’t really have to re-acquaint ourselves with everything, and a lot of our temporary Fringe staff are returnees, so again that allows us to provide an efficient and personable service to both acts as well as the gig going public. Fatigue is certainly an issue as the Fringe moves into its latter stages, but we take huge pride in what we do, and it’s probably not PC to say, but even though I’m a bit of a one-man-band I fully believe that The Stand shows are of a quality that we deserve the same media coverage as the much bigger venues that have large teams of staff and corporate cash behind them, the only thing I struggle with is convincing some of the London based press to venture beyond the university.
You are crammed to the rafters with brilliant acts, how do you pick the acts you have on?
We’re extremely lucky that our reputation allows us to book some of the best acts in the business. Obviously there are bigger venues charging way more for tickets, and they’re fine for the acts keen to make big money, but star names that come to The Stand are the sort of people that appreciate what we do, and view quality over quantity. There’s no set way of us picking acts, but you’ll see that quite a few comedians come back year after year, or are acts that we have a long term relationship with (they might play the club during the rest of the year). A lot of acts also approach us, and with them we look to see what works best for them and the programme. We like to have a range of acts that reflect our approach to comedy rather than simply booking acts that we think will pack the place out, they can play somewhere else.
Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery, Richard Herring and loads of other shave expressed their fondness for The Stand. What is it about the club they like?
The main thing is the atmosphere of the room (especially Stand One, our year round room) and the fact that we attract an intelligent, comedy savvy audience and don’t allow big groups, stags and hens, and aren’t all about cramming the place and flogging lots of booze. For us, the comedy is the key. These acts appreciate our commitment to quality, to developing comedy, giving them the freedom to try something new and interesting.
People may recognise The Stand from Comedy Central’s “The Alternative Comedy Experience”, Do you feel the show captured the atmosphere of the club?
I’d like to think so, and the positive reaction from comedy fans seems to reflect this. Obviously Stand fans were disappointed not to see the famous Stand Cowboy backdrop (was felt that it was too visually distracting) but it captured the feel of the club, as well as the quality and variety of acts that we host all year round. The series was very different to any other ‘live’ comedy show on television, and to me was infinitely better. I saw several of the shows this year, and hope that with one series under their belt, this next series will be even better. Hopefully they’re able to get it to an even wider audience.
You recently hosted a fundraiser for the PBH free fringe in your venues. On paper that seems an odd thing to do for a supposed rival company, so how did it come about?
Some might question whether the venues like The Stand and the Free Fringe are in competition, Stand Comedy Club owner Tommy Sheppard, is a supporter of the PBH Free Fringe says “I’ve always been a strong supporter of the free fringe – it’s a refreshing alternative to the pay to play model that many of the big venues have, and despite being limited to small scale production the Free Fringe has now become a forum not just for beginners but for many seasoned acts too”.
Whereas some of the bigger Fringe venues have treated the Free Fringe as a threat, The Stand have opted for a supportive and symbiotic relationship that we hope can foster the intended positive creative energy at the Edinburgh Fringe, and part of that was the fundraiser, which they used the ticket sales to help fund the printing of their Fringe brochure.
Are there any particular acts are looking forward to hosting this year?
Aside from the obvious big name acts I’m excited about Lost Voice Guy, the only stand-up that needs a communication device in order to speak; David Kay is a Scottish legend and was one of the stand-out stars of Alternative Comedy Experience; The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society has piqued my interest; I saw Baconface do a preview and am intrigued to see how that show will develop, and last but not least will be the double header with Brendon Burns and the world’s leading indie wrestler Colt Cabana.
The Stand’s website