WHEN  Zara Gladman embarked on her career as a marine biologist, a headline show at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival wasn’t on her radar.

However, next spring she’ll begin the next phase of her metamorphosis from scientist to comedian with a show at the city’s Oran Mor.

Zara has become an online phenomenon best-known for her take-down of Glasgow’s posh mums of the city’s West End on TikTok and Twitter/X.

And she owes her funny-girl success to an unlikely source of inspiration: the critters in the River Clyde.

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She says: “I’m ridiculously excited about being a part of the festival. GICF have been super-encouraging, which means a lot.

“They genuinely care about supporting new acts. Oran Mor is the perfect venue to bring West End Mum to the stage, along with some of my other characters. I’ve a few surprises in store.”

The 38 year old’s West End Mum videos have seen her become one of the most-shared names in Scottish comedy in the past 12 months, with her skits garnering hundreds of thousands of views.

Last month the Glasgow-born comedian was nominated for a UK-wide Funny Woman Award.

“It was a huge boost to my confidence to be nominated,” she admits. “And the local support was amazing. The prize went to the very deserving TikTok superstar Serena Terry, aka Mammy Banter, who’s a bit of a pioneer for bringing online comedy to the stage.

“Let’s hope I can do the same without dying on my arse.”

The Herald:

It was while studying for a PhD in the impact of non-native North American signal crayfish, which pose a growing threat to wildlife in Scotland’s waterways, that Zara took her first steps into comedy at a special gig for science academics.

The 2011 stand up show gave her a taste for laughs and after gaining her doctorate in the study of the ruthless critters known to academics as Pacifastacus leniusculus.

She says: “The very first time I did any kind of comedy was when I was doing the PhD on crayfish. I was writing up my thesis and got an email asking if I wanted to do a stand up comedy night for scientists doing comedy about their research for a night called Bright Club.

“I gave it a go and enjoyed it and started running a Bright Club night in Glasgow.”

Zara began posting videos on TikTok during the Covid pandemic, coming up with the character of Aileen, a wine-quaffing, latte-loving, pilates-going Hyndland mum.

The videos went viral and her musical pastiche of the Pet Shop Boys’ hit West End Girls has been her biggest hit yet, with more than 1 million views on TikTok and Twitter/X.

The skit’s popularity has led to Zara – who was raised in Jordanhill and now lives in Thornwood, both in the city’s West End –  being recognised in the street.

“I was walking down Hyndland Road last week and a van beeped me, and I thought the guy was going to ask me for directions, but he shouted: ‘Did you hear about Sylvia’s divorce?’

“When I was in Partick Morrisons someone came up to me and said: ‘Excuse me is this pastel del nata organic?’

“I don’t have a problem punching up in comedy, if you’re making fun of people with a privileged life; it would be a different thing if I was punching down at people who were struggling.

“I think you’ll find these women anywhere you can find an oak milk latte and a pilates class in Scotland.

“I work at Glasgow Uni and my parents live in the West End as well. I hear things from them about the local dramas about parking spaces, things that are hilarious because the wider world has more problems than whether someone has parked their car in your space again. It’s maybe not too much of a leap to think how I came up with West End Mum because I’m constantly surrounded by these characters.”

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 Zara has also teamed up with Edinburgh comedian Sophie Rose McCabe, who plays a Morningside mum in a hilarious east versus west posh-off.

And a recent video taking pot shots at the cadence of speech used by many Scottish broadcast news reporters has become her latest hilarious viral sketch.

She says: “There’s something about that voice that’s weirdly nostalgic. It evokes mid-weekdays after school, doing homework, waiting for mince and tatties for tea. There’s something very depressing about it. I’d love to know who started it.”

Zara Gladman is at Glasgow’s Old Hairdresser’s on November 1 and the Glad Cafe on November 4. Her new show for the Glasgow International Comedy Festival is on March 28, 2024, at Oran Mor.