WHEN it comes to having a laugh, wha’s like us? The unique Scottish sense of humour is one of our proudest exports. A land that gave the world Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges. Sadly the chances of finding the next comedy superstar are under threat.

Like every industry, live comedy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. With venues closed, most comedians haven’t worked for five months. An already anxious bunch of misfits, being made more anxious by not being allowed to do what they are good at: making people laugh.

Our industry will be one of the last to re-open and without help, it may never re-open. With punters not coming through on a nightly basis, venues like The Stand, Monkey Barrel and Rotunda are on an absolute knife edge to survive. So far, the help given has been non-existent.

Creative Scotland (CS), up until recently, hasn’t recognised stand up comedy as an art form. You can stand on stage and recite Wordsworth – art. You can express your inner monologue through dance – art. You can play Bohemian Rhapsody on the Norwegian nose flute – art. Standing solely on stage, with your own words, your own experiences, making an entire room of people laugh – not art.

CS claims it has never received funding applications from

stand-up comedians. This is simply not true. There are countless cases of comedians being denied because CS “doesn’t get stand up”. One example is a comedian who applied for funding to tour a show, the first of its kind, purely designed for the deaf community, a part of society which previously couldn’t enjoy live comedy. He was denied. Another sought to take a show on tour to educate people about his recent diagnosis with HIV. Another first. Another denial of funding.

They’re not the only ones dragging their feet. When Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a bailout package for the arts sector, £97 million was allocated to Scotland. Some £3.8m of that has already been given to the National Trust, £4m to museums, and £2.2m to grassroots live music venues. Live stand-up comedy hasn’t seen a penny.

I very much welcome Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop recognising the industry in the First Minister’s briefing. However, she needs to be made aware very few venues or individuals are eligible for the funding she has spoken about so far.

The idea that we should be grateful for what we have received doesn’t wash, because we have received nothing. We are not asking for special treatment, we are asking to be treated as fairly as every other industry. Rather than congratulating themselves on what they have done so far, I would hope the Government might provide clarity and a timetable rather than rhetoric.

Comedy represents over a third of all shows at the Fringe Festival and is far and away the most profitable. Stand up shows are consistently year-on-year the biggest sellers for arts centres, some of which wouldn’t survive without touring stand-up shows. Kevin Bridges’s residency at The Hydro was the best seller for the venue that year. This is not just about the ticket sales, it is about the amount of money spent by the audience. The hotels booked for the night, the meals bought in restaurants, the drinks bought in bars. All of this contributes a huge amount of money to Scotland.

Putting aside the financial benefits, the benefits to mental health are even more important. Having hosted a livestream for The Stand for more than 16 weeks now, I receive countless messages telling me how important this has been for people, to have some form of connectivity to the outside world and to be able to smile and laugh.

When we emerge from this horrible year, the country will need laughter. If comedy doesn’t get help, we won’t be there to provide it.