Behind the seemingly reserved and refined façade of a Georgian terrace in the New Town area of Edinburgh, you’ll find a raucous and irreverent comedy club known to all as The Stand. The name certainly reflects the raison d’etre of the club, to support and showcase stand-up comedy. But it could also be regarded as a warning to those who dare to turn up late for one of their extremely popular events. For this is an intimate performance space where seats are jealously guarded and initiates queue 'round the block to ensure they get the choice spots.
The Stand — Photo courtesy of The Stand
There is a delicious quandary for those who would venture into this effervescent venue: choose a table at the front and you may have a more comfortable evening and a welcome plinth for your beverage – but you will also be at the mercy of the comedians. The bar stools lined along the back wall offer a safer haven, but they are rather high and best avoided if you suffer from vertigo.
In the end, wherever you end up, you are guaranteed to have a lively and memorable night. Most evenings feature at least four comedians, and they regularly host big-name acts as well as local performers and touring professionals. They also have a great open mic night on Monday night (which occasionally draws some surprisingly famous names), and they host a free improvisation show every Sunday lunch time.
The venue itself is the perfect backdrop for comedy. The walls are plastered with posters for upcoming gigs and rather surreal paintings. The intimate nature of the space encourages a sense of camaraderie with the performers which is lacking in larger, impersonal venues. Despite its success, The Stand has very much stayed true to its roots.
The first incarnation of The Stand was in the cramped basement of WJ Christie’s, a traditional Scottish pub in the West Port at the edge of the Grassmarket. Colloquially known as the 'Comic Den,' this tiny venue was a temporary stage for local comedians who had nowhere else to ply their trade during the Edinburgh Festival.
Many years later, The Stand moved into its new home in York Place and sister venues have opened in Glasgow and Newcastle.
The formula has proved very popular in all three locations: promote and support local talent while offering a space for the more famous artists to tour their shows; create a lively and welcoming environment where the comedy (and not the décor) is the star; and provide reasonably priced food and drink for the punters to ensure that they are well satisfied.