Paul Black, 'Nostalgia'

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

April 1, 2023


At what point do we stop thinking of Paul Black as an ‘internet sensation’?

There are plenty of people who’ve built sizable followings on Instagram and TikTok in recent years, but how many of them are selling out consecutive nights at the King’s Theatre?

The 26-year-old has grown from a word-of-mouth hit in your group chat into the kind of comedian your auntie might have heard of. Indeed, she might well have been in attendance at the famous venue to witness Black performing his Nostalgia show as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival

It was 2018’s ‘People Make Glass Cow’ video, in which he fooled half of Scotland by pretending to be an American tourist in Glasgow, that first brought him to people’s attention. Over the last five years he’s had numerous viral hits, and his profile in more traditional areas has increased through various BBC Scotland appearances. 

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At the launch of this year’s festival, Black told The Herald: “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.”

Could Black step up?

Having taken his Self-Care Era show to the Edinburgh Fringe, Black has amassed some onstage experience, but two nights at the King’s is another proposition entirely.

While his online output is significantly more effective and widely-shared than that of far more established comedians, stand-up requires a different skillset. Earlier in this year’s festival, I watched another straight-to-camera social media star turn up, share a compilation of his online sketches and take a few questions at the end. All perfectly enjoyable, but it could hardly be considered stand-up comedy. 

HeraldScotland: Paul Black at the launch of this year's Glasgow Comedy FestivalPaul Black at the launch of this year's Glasgow Comedy Festival (Image: Herald Scotland)

Given the popularity of his videos and the goodwill from his home crowd, Black could have done the same and left the audience satisfied. 

Credit to him, then, for rising to the occasion. With the exception of a short opening skit set in a taxi, there were no videos. Just one guy in his mid-twenties performing 70 minutes of comedy for a crowd of 1,800. 

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The show is called Nostalgia for a reason. From the outset, it feels like you’re sitting in the pub swapping stories with a friend who shares the same cultural references as you. When he’s not bemoaning ‘The Great Ned Drought’, he’s perfectly skewering a very specific type of young middle-class Glaswegian hipster. 

Admittedly, it’s unlikely that a Tunbridge Wells audience will have such a visceral reaction to the words ‘Blair Drummond Safari Park’, but the themes running through his set are relatable regardless of how familiar you are with the Time Capsule in Coatbridge. 

Touching on class, sexuality, shame, family, weight and Lady Gaga, this show could easily be a success outside Scotland, with the odd reference amended to Chessington World of Adventures.

The material clearly resonates with this crowd, but Black doesn’t simply coast on obvious Glaswegian shoutouts. There’s genuine insight, and you’re never far away from a big laugh. Among the many highlights are a dead-on impression of a recently engaged woman on Facebook and a surreal yet cutting insult from one of the aforementioned neds. 

There is no real venom directed at his targets - with the possible exception of Coldplay - and the comedian from Corkerhill is a likeable presence throughout. 

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Speaking to The National in 2021, Black said: “I genuinely just think Limmy is the funniest person on earth. Seeing him go from making online content to a TV show to now streaming, he’s an absolute icon in Scottish comedy."

Just like his idol, Black has transcended his online origins. He looks comfortable in front of a large audience, and his star will surely continue to rise.

Judging by the rapturous reception from his home crowd, Paul Black’s Nostalgia show is one we’ll all be looking back on fondly.