Glesga’s Gold: Joe Gardner

Maybe there’s something magically inspiring about the River Clyde, or is it simply the cider served in Glaswegian pubs. Any way, Glasgow is buzzing with young up-and-coming artists creating incredible things, either on stage or on fabric, with words or with paint. Every month or so we’ll chat with a Glasgow-based artist to see what they’re up to. Today: Joe Gardner, a comedian who also appears on radio and television sometimes. “People picking out moments and jokes they like after a gig is really good.”

Winner of the first Gilded Balloon’s Class Clown competition for high-school students at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Joe Gardner is quickly establishing himself as a name in the Glasgow comedy scene. In January he hosted the first Teenage Comedy Night, a night for aspiring under-18 comics who wouldn’t be able to do spots at the various open mics held in bars in town. I talked to him about the night, the role of young people in comedy, and himself as a comic.

So, how was the Teenage Comedy Night?

It was really good – I had invited people that I’d seen in other competitions and gigs that I knew were good and I also sourced a bit of my own talent. It got a lot of good coverage in newspapers and the media and in the end we got a really good audience, better than we were expecting. Young people can do music and drama but don’t really have a platform for comedy so I was really happy to provide that for them. They’ve got the same passion for it as any other comedians and it’s always exciting to see that. So there’s definitely plans for a second go at the night, maybe at the Fringe if we can adapt the format for that.

Do you ever find frequent references to your young age kind of patronising?

I don’t find it patronising, no. I was seventeen when I won the competition and I guess that’s the nature of the game. Personally I embrace it.


(Photo by Steve Ullathorne)

You said in another interview that older observational comics’ stuff about being older doesn’t stick, what influences your comedy?

Sort of just things that happen to me. I’ve been learning to drive, things from when I went on holiday and how it’s different being 18 after 17, and how I got chatted up after a gig, and people in my life. People sometimes say “Oh, don’t make a joke about me”, but I never make fun of anyone so that’s fine.

What else wouldn’t you do or write about?

Well, I don’t want to write anything I couldn’t hold my own if I was challenged on it. I wouldn’t speak about something I know nothing about, like the Greek economic crisis, so anything I might get challenged about I would be able to say “actually, I do think I’m right about this.” I wouldn’t write anything sexist or racist, that’s not really funny to me, or at least not coming from an 18-year-old University of Glasgow student, who’d sound like a bit of a prick. I wouldn’t push the boundaries of what I know I’m capable of. I saw Katharine Ryan and her topics were very political and quite brave, but it was done in a well-crafted way. I wouldn’t want to do anything controversial, but if you do, you should know what you’re talking about.

What is it about stand up you enjoy as a medium?

I got into it because I thought it would be fun to try. I didn’t expect to get as far as I’ve done. It’s just satisfying to write something you think is funny and then have it well received when you share it, have people think it’s funny too. I want to keep doing that for as long as I can and it seems to be going well. People picking out moments and jokes they like after a gig is really good.

What are your upcoming plans?

I’m doing So You Think You’re Funny? at the Fringe this year, doing the Stand in Glasgow in July, and I’m working on something very exciting for TV.

You’ve said in interviews that you think you might have to move south to do comedy writing, what do you think opportunities are like in Glasgow?

Comedy’s great in Glasgow. Plenty of open mics, a really strong Scottish comedy scene that would back you all the way if you play your cards right. I think if you want to get into comedy Scotland’s great. Maybe if you want to do something more diverse or work in TV or theatre Scotland isn’t perfect at the moment, but for comedy it’s brilliant.

Any advice for anyone wanting to try comedy?

I think everyone should try it if they’re thinking about it. I’d recommend just writing something you find funny and if people don’t respond the way you might want that’s just the nature of it. Somebody will find your stuff funny. It’s about finding the right venue or audience. And think a lot about what you want to do, always redrafting bits and things. It’s trial and error. And enjoy your five or ten minutes.

Anything else?

Facebook’s the best place to get to me, for advice and where you can see my gigs or TV and radio appearances. I’m happy to talk to anyone, especially younger people thinking about getting into comedy.

[Jimmy Donaghy – @JimmyDonagee]

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Cover photo by Jonathan Gardner

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