Review: Glasgow International Comedy Festival Round-Up: Micky Bartlett, Gareth Waugh, Jay Lafferty

The opening night of the Whyte & Mackay Glasgow International Comedy Festival made a splash last Thursday with big gigs from Katherine Ryan and Love Island’s Iain Stirling. By the time I made it to the city on the Saturday it made splash in another way. I don’t know what the festival did to upset the gods but the rain was coming down in biblical proportions. On the plus side this might have helped to shift some extra tickets. What better way to shelter than at a comedy gig?

First up in an early slot at the Yes Bar was Micky Bartlett, who is from Northern Ireland – not the Disney bit of Ireland but the grittier part, as he quickly pointed out in no uncertain terms. Bartlett has just hit his thirties and is at that age where he is deciding what to do with his life. Is it time to settle down and have kids like his friends? He thinks so, but then he recalls visiting his friends who have become parents and when he sees how little time they have for drinking and partying he suddenly becomes less broody.

Despite being from Northern Ireland there is an Ardal O’Hanlon-ish twinkle to Bartlett. His humour doesn’t necessarily break down barriers but he has an ear for a witty turn of phrase and an ability to find the funny in most situations. Having just returned from Australia he compares jet lag to the menopause and elsewhere confesses to a dislike of that most cuddly of animals, dolphins.

There is politics here too as he tells the story of a relative with questionable views on race (don't worry, we've all got one, haven't we?), but this isn’t anywhere near as unpleasant as his story of going to the doctor with an embarrassing abscess. You might not want to be eating while you listen to this part of his routine. 

Bartlett is currently making waves back in Ireland where he is notching up various TV appearances on his CV. He is not going to be winning any awards for originality but he is a good, strong gagsmith with a definite knack for making sure his audience has a good time. 


There were two reasons to stay in the Yes Bar after Micky Bartlett. First it was still chucking it down outside (I’m sure I saw the name of Noah on the guest list) and secondly Scotland’s Gareth Waugh was the next act on with his Edinburgh 2017 show, entitled Honestly, which promised to be a little different to your run of the mill stand-up gig.

Waugh’s conceit is that he performs with two microphones - when he is talking into one he is telling the truth, when he is talking into the other he is telling lies. The idea is presumably to make people think about authenticity in comedy. While, presumably laughing at his stories regardless of their authenticity. 

He was initially scuppered by the fact that one mic didn’t fit into its stand, preventing him from shuttling between mic stands, but this didn’t really matter. The main thing was that his yarns - well, most of them, were very funny, and he has an engaging, friendly onstage manner to go with them.

A couple of vivid stories stood out. One involving a drug-taking incident at a comedy gig, another involving life on the road with a well-known rock and roll comic. Were they true? Maybe. Or maybe they were true but happened to someone else. Waugh’s account of taking drugs to fit in with the big boys certainly echoes Mae Martin’s account of her drug years, but it is also a universal story of peer pressure with added jokes lobbed into the mix.

By one of those typical comedy coincidences, like Bartlett Waugh, though slightly younger, also had a story about seeing his friends change once they became parents. Again this could have been a universal story but Waugh added a nice personal twist and some convincing detail. Or maybe too much detail...And his story about trying to buy alcohol for teens and struggling to get served himself may well have been genuine even though it feels like a scenario played out in a number of sitcoms.

The truth-or-lies notion is an intriguing idea for a show even if at the end Waugh was slightly dismissive of it, while also pointing out that the rise of fake news had suddenly made it more topical. The main thing is that the show was very funny and showcased some impressive comic chops. Perhaps in a few years Waugh won’t need gimmicks to get attention. 


The rain was actually easing off by the time I arrived at Blackfriars to see Jay Lafferty, but just as I was drying out the comedy critic from the Scotsman spilt his coffee on me. Still at least it was warm and wet this time.

I'd not seen Lafferty before, so it was a surprise to hear that she has been a stand-up for over a decade. But you can tell she is experienced. She certainly knew how to handle a noisy, boisterous crowd and was very good at warming up the audience and also calming them down. Though I had to laugh when I discovered that the noisiest elements were friends or relatives of Lafferty.

Her show, Besom, explores that well-trodden path of how we tend to label people. Besom is an old Scottish word that people assume means something like  "cheeky wee thing", but Lafferty – good name for a comedian – points out that her research suggests it originally meant "prostitute". 

This idea of labels being misleading segues neatly into material that, while at times it felt like club sets stitched together Frankenstein-style, also worked as a complete show. There is a bit of #metoo material, bits about her husband, who is also a comedian. A bit about hating young people/hipsters/millennials – something of a theme among older comics lately. 

Lafferty did, however, tie it all up with a personal story about her plans to become a mother. Despite the sensitivity of the subject this was also told with humour and a touch of homespun, Stevie-Nicks-aided philosophy.

As with both Bartlett and Waugh it was a set which sent the crowd away smiling rather than having a serious rethink about their life choices. All three shows highlighted that even on a night when there are no big guns in town the Glasgow Comedy Festival has strength in depth. Major players lined up to gig there include Miles Jupp, Bridget Christie, David Baddiel and Tommy Tiernan, but pop into any show between now and March 25 and chances are you'll come out happier than when you went in. And hopefully also dryer. 

The Whyte & Mackay Glasgow International Comedy Festival Runs until March 25. Tickets and info here.


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