Being a stand-up’s not easy. It’s even harder when you’re liable to get ID’d at your own gig. Joe Gardner, winner of last year’s Class Clowns competition for young comics at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, isn’t letting that stop him. This month he launches Glasgow’s first Teenage Comedy Night at Café GRO to give a platform to others in his position. With a big 2016 in store, he tells us more…
Comedy and teenagers are two things which aren’t often connected, but when you think about it, why is this the case? Being a seventeen year old boy, I have Facebook and Twitter. Every day, tweets appear on my timeline of witty, funny and honest observations by young people growing up at the moment. I said to someone recently that growing up in 2016 is like being a part of two generations. I was born at the very end of the twentieth century which means my peer group comprises of ‘nineties kids’ and ‘noughties kids’. Some of my older pals can remember dancing to the Spice Girls, whereas others just know girl bands as Girls Aloud. I don’t know why I used girl bands as my example there because I don’t even like them. They are just a bunch of Wannabes (I couldn’t resist that one). However, there’s a definite generation melting pot going on where, eventually, 2 Become 1 (I have to apologise at this point).
So I started my stand-up career after my drama teachers encouraged me to enter the Class Clowns competition at the Gilded Balloon as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. I was doing it to try something new and satisfy a long love of comedy. It can’t have been too bad because I won. Six months on, and I am still in shock. I’m eternally grateful for the support Gilded Balloon continues to provide me. After three months of absorbing the madness, I was encouraged to set up a Facebook page for my comedy. I was beginning to pick up more gigs and the page resulted in me receiving an invite to appear on BBC Radio Scotland. One thing led to another and I received a very exciting message from Donna Campbell at Café GRO in Glasgow city centre. Donna was re-launching the café and wanted some events on. With a background in spoken word herself, Donna suggested a teenage comedy night for us to collaborate on. I was instantly hooked. After some excellent meetings, we began the search for our performers.
Being an alcohol-free zone, Café GRO is perfect for this under 18s event. It makes so much sense to have this format presented here. With that information made clear, I began to find our young comics. As I mentioned earlier, I think there’s probably many teenagers out there who would love to have a go at comedy. The problem is encouragement and support. Young people can join music clubs, drama clubs, art clubs, poetry groups etc. but comedy groups for young people are non-existent. There is no mention of comedy in schools. You might do a comedy piece in drama or study a comedy in English but it’s never covered to the extent of the other pastimes mentioned. I’d love to start a schools program to get more kids into comedy. Comedy doesn’t have to be rude and the jokes don’t have to be dirty, because I think that’s what teachers would worry about. The best comedy is simple and relatable. Nothing else.
Comedy and performing is daunting for anyone. Being a teenager is not an easy time. So, why would a young person want to make their life any more difficult by risking their credibility telling jokes? Well, I can’t speak for every teenager who does comedy because everyone’s different, and there aren’t a lot of us either, so it’s a tricky one. My answer is simply this: everyone needs to laugh. The world in which we live is daunting and scary and the events that can happen are tough. For example, I lost a sibling before I was sixteen; things aren’t easy for anyone. I think looking at things light-heartedly can make the darkest times seem that little bit better, I think laughter could be the best medicine.
So, we’re a week away from the big premiere of the Teenage Comedy Night. Our line up comprises Class Clowns finalists Adam Weir, aged thirteen, and Judith Scott, aged fifteen, but also a name you may already know. We have recruited the fantastic Ryan McGuigan – the Alex Salmond impressionist aged thirteen who went viral last year. It’s going to be a fantastic evening.
I’m very excited by what 2016 will bring for me. I’m playing The Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow’s Red Raw night, I have a number of charity fundraisers lined up and I am excited to return to the Gilded Balloon in August to take on the adults in So You Think You’re Funny?. I hope to see you at the Teenage Comedy Night on the 23rd. So, please Say You’ll Be There?
Teenage Comedy Night is @ Café GRO, Glasgow, on Sat 23 Jan @ 6.30pm
Find out more about Joe and the Teenage Comedy Night collaboration at www.facebook.com/joegardnercomedy
Find out more about Café GRO at www.glasgowrecoveryorganisation.com
Follow Joe on Twitter @joerobgardner