Once, when performing at the Glasgow Stand, I riffed a little towards the end of my set on an impression of Glaswegian audiences as perceived by a hayseed such as myself who was born and bred in small-town Missouri, USA.
It was the close of a weekend run there, so I was a bit looser than I had been on the opening Thursday. Having only played Glasgow once before – a one-off the year prior, also at The Stand – I was more than eager to please the crowds on this end of Scotland and therefore had stuck extremely closely to my script; both on that earlier occasion and throughout the first part of that weekend run.
By the Sunday evening, however, I had received sufficient warmth, laughter, and genuinely astute and intelligent comedic appreciation from the Glaswegians that I felt comfortable enough to let fly what I felt was a valid, although perhaps optimistically generalised, observation.
I enthused to the crowd that Glasgow represented a rare manifestation of liberality; one that was free from postmodern liberality's usual trademark shackles of political correctness. Granted, I was basing this statement largely on the generous reaction my more provocative bits had received throughout the run. Although I went on to embellish my observation by noting that even though the cosmopolitan vibe of the city might make me comfortable walking around certain areas of Glasgow in a dress, that freedom wouldn't necessarily preclude local heroes from making proudly humorous statements such as “I kicked a terrorist so hard in the balls that I broke a tendon in my foot.”
Don't get me wrong. As an ex-pat with a penchant for all things British, I'm enamoured with a wide variety of regions across this nation. There is much love in my heart, to be sure, for Edinburgh as well as London. Yet unlike Glasgow, the audiences in those capitals can sometimes erect an impromptu barricade when they feel a certain topic is taboo for public discussion or that a gag has somehow transgressed the arbitrary strictures of political nicety. You can almost surmise in certain quarters that laughter turns to groans the moment an audience has collectively remembered they were taught in university not to laugh at selected topics.
But in my admittedly limited experience with Glaswegian audiences – and perhaps the same could be said of a good deal of the north of England – those fickle barricades are practically nonexistent. The cardinal rule therefore becomes the simple common-sense admonition: If it's funny, you can laugh. And thus Glasgow is rendered a paradoxical church wherein nothing is sacred.
It's the nexus point at which comedy meets rock-n-roll; rediscovering its true antiauthoritarian roots, proudly brandishing the two-finger salute that satire used to be. And could be still today.
The effete snobbery that presumes to separate intelligence, aesthetics, and wit from the working classes has no domain in Glasgow. For they are a salt of the earth with their own unique, individual, and uncompromising taste. A people of glorious extremes; passionate hearts too proud to indulge in obfuscation and subterfuge. It can be said that those who may shudder at Glasgow's reputation for violence can take no small measure of comfort at their equal, if not greater, reputation for warmth, friendliness, and, indeed, love. For the two extreme capacities are but the convex and concave of the same bowl from which many of its citizens sup from up there along the Clyde.
And if that philosophical repast leaves the belly aching for more – why then it's off to Maggie's Van for a late night Scooby Snack!