Welcome to the Stage... The Glee Club, Glasgow

The Scottish comedy circuit's in the midst of an explosion, and adding another spark to the scene is the opening of the Glee Club in Glasgow this month. We speak to the club’s founder, Mark Tughan

Feature by Polly Glynn | 30 Jan 2019

Looking past the heady August fug of the Edinburgh Fringe, Glasgow has always had Scotland’s lion's share of comedy clubs. Now the Glee Club is set to join its ranks, opening on the old site of the infamous Glasgow Jongleurs. It'll face stiff competition sitting alongside The Stand, The Rotunda and Yesbar, to name a few of the city’s popular comedy venues, but with the bleak wasteland of today’s current affairs, more people should be looking for a laugh. So why Glasgow for the next branch of Glee?

"As a lifelong fan of Scotland’s comedy scene, opening our first Scottish Glee Club is extremely exciting for me and the rest of the team," says Glee Club founder Mark Tughan. "Glasgow is such a vibrant cultural city, and there is a huge amount of fresh comedy talent coming through on the circuit here, so it was a no-brainer."

Helping it stand out (or should that be up) from the crowd, the Glasgow Glee aims to provide premier entertainment in a venue with a renowned rep. With this in mind, the new venture boasts that it will offer more than just comedy, with music and burlesque acts already booked. But how else will the offering differ from that of the already-established clubs like The Stand? "Well, we’re big fans of The Stand and have huge respect for what they’ve done for Scottish comedy. We hope Glaswegian comedy fans will come to us both. We’re a slightly larger venue (400-seater), with a focus on a complete night out, which includes an extensive dining offer. Our format is slightly different – three equal sets, one compere and two intervals."

As for the origins of the Glee Club, it all stemmed from work blues and a love for laughter. "I was working (unhappily) in corporate finance in the early 90s, but I’d first been introduced to the then-called ‘alternative’ comedy scene in 1986. I spotted that it was really exploding in London as I was a regular customer at clubs, and I noticed it hadn’t really happened much outside of the city. One day I just went into work and quit. I knew I had one shot at going it alone. I opened The Glee in Birmingham in September 1994."

After Brum in ’94, Tughan opened subsequent clubs in Nottingham, Cardiff and Oxford, making the Glasgow club the fifth of its kind. Amongst punters and promoters alike, the Glee brand has earned itself an excellent reputation. Acts love the venues too, because “the show comes first”.

"Nail that, for both the artist and the audience, and the rest follows," Tughan says. "A comic once gave me the compliment 'you make it almost impossible for us to die'. We put in place all the ingredients we have control over – now it’s up to the act to deliver. By all the ingredients, I mean a fantastic, well-run venue, nice staff, lovely settled-in audience who really want to listen and enjoy, and then some anticipation. Reputation really helps here – people come wanting and expecting to laugh."

The list of acts that the club has supported reads like a list of soon-to-be national treasures: Kevin Bridges, Sarah Millican and Michael McIntyre for starters. But who does Tughan regard as new and exciting? "Daniel Kitson is still the most innovative and exciting comic of his generation. As for newer acts coming through, I’m really impressed by Christopher MacArthur-Boyd."

And which acts would sit on his dream line-up list? "Our opening weekend of course! That’s Gary Little, Geoff Norcott, Jay Lafferty and our very special guest headliner, Sean Lock!"

The Glee Club, 11 Renfrew St, Glasgow http://glee.co.uk/comedy/glasgow