Glasgow is set to celebrate its status as one of the world’s funniest cities with the return of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival

Over the course of three weeks in March and April, 37 venues will host over 380 events, featuring established favourites, up-and-coming Scottish talent and performers from around the world, with festival organisers promising “something for everyone”. 

Frankie Boyle will open the festival’s 20th year, with the comedy legend bringing his Lap of Shame show to the King’s Theatre on March 15. Scottish comedians Paul Black, Fern Brady, Marc Jennings and Susie McCabe will also be performing at the venue during the festival’s 19 days, along with the likes of Stewart Lee and BBC Radio’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. 

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Aside from stand-up, the festival will also feature improv, an ‘80s singalong, and wine tasting with drag queens, alongside numerous other attractions. 

“I’m beyond thrilled and excited for everyone to be part of the festival”, says Festival Director Krista MacDonald. “The idea that Glasgow is the funniest city in the world and wouldn’t have a comedy festival is just not one that we were willing to accept. 

“It was really vital to see the festival continue and it’s back with a real bang this year. It’s the first full festival since 2019, and we can’t wait for everyone to be part of it.”

Paul Black, who performs his Nostalgia show on March 31 and April 1, is delighted to see the festival back after a tough couple of years for the comedy industry. “I’m really glad it’s been saved. Arts and culture are so often overlooked when it comes to what’s a priority and worth saving. 

“Most of my audience are people who have found me online, and I’m excited for people to come and see me in person. There’s a big difference between just doing something online to your phone, and seeing that audience in front of you. It’s really helped me get a bit of a boost in the comedy scene.

“Glasgow deserves to have a comedy festival and a successful one at that. It’s one of the funniest places in the world, and obviously I’m biased, but it is true.”

HeraldScotland: Paul Black will be performing at the King's Theatre on March 31 and April 1Paul Black will be performing at the King's Theatre on March 31 and April 1 (Image: GICF, Gordon Terris, Newsquest)

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Why does Scotland punch above its weight in terms of comedy? “It’s the attitude of who we are as people”, says Susie McCabe, who will appear on March 25 and March 31 with her Femme Fatality show. “We’re a Northern European country and it can be quite bleak for at least six months of the year. We’ve obviously got our social problems, which have always been there, but I think we just find the humour in darkness. 

“It’s very much a Celtic thing as well. Irish and Welsh are pretty much the same. It’s also a working-class thing. That working-class grit gives a platform to people, and it also gives them a licence to say stuff.

“I’m absolutely delighted the festival’s back. I did my first ever show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival, in a 50-seater, and that was in 2013. In 10 years, I’m at the King’s Theatre. I’m a homegrown act, and the festival has allowed me to build up an audience year-on-year, become a better performer and become a better comedian.”

HeraldScotland: Susie McCabe performs at the King's Theatre on March 25 and March 31Susie McCabe performs at the King's Theatre on March 25 and March 31 (Image: GICF, Gordon Terris, Newsquest)

Marc Jennings, who will be performing solo at the King’s for the first time with his Original Sound show on March 24, says: “The festival is a big deal for comedians. We’ve got loads of great acts coming up and lots of great homegrown acts, so it’s a very exciting time and the fact that the festival is here to facilitate that is amazing. 

“The great thing about the festival is it gives you something to work towards. My first ever hour was at the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Sometimes when you’re on the circuit you’ll do a short spot on a bill of other comedians, but the Glasgow Comedy Festival means you’re allowed to have your own show and you’re the whole entertainment for the night. 

“When you do that and it goes well, it gives you a lot of confidence that you can become a proper comedian and go on to bigger and better things.”

HeraldScotland: Marc Jennings performs at the King's Theatre on March 24Marc Jennings performs at the King's Theatre on March 24 (Image: GICF, Gordon Terris, Newsquest)

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The festival’s closing gala on April 2 will see the first ever Sir Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow award presented to a winner who will be selected by an independent judging panel, and the Big Yin holds a special place in Festival Director MacDonald’s heart. 

“Billy Connolly means the world to me. He means my favourite uncle coming home from (Glasgow shipbuilding firm) Yarrows at four o’clock when I was little. He means the go-to present for every male in my family every year. Every conversation with every family member laced with sayings and re-hashing of routines. 

“Sir Billy is just hardwired into our DNA as Glaswegians. The esteem in which he’s held by me and I’m sure every other Glaswegian just can’t be calculated.”

“What do you say about a town that dances, sings, plays and jokes differently from everybody else?” asks Connolly. “The winner of this award will have to be a nutter like me…”

The Glasgow International Comedy Festival runs from March 15 to April 2. The Herald is a media partner of the festival.