SCOTTISH comedian Zara Gladman says herself that she didn’t have the most conventional route into comedy. It’s something she’s always had a passion for but it was when she was writing her PhD that she first started to think it could be something more.

“I got an email inviting me to participate in this project called Bright Club – which was a comedy night where academics would do comedy about their research,” the Glaswegian, 38, told The National.

In an exclusive interview, she discussed her upcoming Glasgow Comedy Festival shows, her support for Scottish independence and the inspiration behind some of her most iconic characters.

Gladman – who has sold out two shows at next year’s Glasgow Comedy Festival – became interested in live comedy around 10 years ago. The Bright Club project originally started in London but did a trial run in Edinburgh around 2011 and Gladman decided to go along.

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“I’ve always loved comedy and sitcoms growing up. I was a huge consumer of comedy and looked up to comedians,” she said. “Bright Club was honestly a lovely process, going through all that with other people – there was a real camaraderie about it all.”

From there, the only way was up as the comic performed her first stand-up gig at the City Cafe in Edinburgh and then secured a show at the Fringe. Gladman said: “I really caught the bug. It was so much fun, I loved it. I took quite an unusual route into doing comedy through the science stuff so I didn’t go through the open mics and that kind of thing which can be challenging compared to some of the first sympathetic, geeky academics.”

As well as being a comedian, Gladman also has a PhD in ecology and now works in public engagement at the University of Glasgow alongside her comedy career.

She explained: “My job now is to enable researchers to engage the public with their work and make it accessible to everyone. Research is publicly funded so accountability-wise people need to know how that money is being spent and why funding research is a good thing.”

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Despite that early interest, Gladman admits it started to wane a little but one key event reignited the spark. During the lead-up to the 2014 independence referendum, Yes supporter Gladman created the now iconic Lady Alba (above) character.

Her viral parody songs, including the likes of Bad Romance (Gaga for Indy) picked up thousands of views online.

But after starting comedy in front of, as she puts it herself, “geeky academics”, she admits that there was a little bit of “pushback” when she first created the character.

“It’s something I’m passionate about though and that didn’t hold me back. I think humour can help diffuse tensions because it’s a gentle way of approaching a topic.”

Given there’s so much discussion around Scottish independence at the moment, is the character in line for a return? “I think I’ve moved on,” Gladman said. “I’ve still got some of the costumes but if it happens again, maybe we’ll see what the next generation can come up with.

“I’m tired, I’m in my late 30s. If we see another referendum, of course I will support it but I can’t commit the same amount of energy because it took over my life.”

Aside from the time commitment, Gladman also makes the point that comedy itself has moved on and that the format might no longer work.

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“Those videos were like three or four minutes long and how many people watch that now? How many videos like that go viral, it would need to be 30 seconds or so.”

Comedy has indeed moved on and that’s clear from Gladman’s recent content, with her shorter videos picking up hundreds of thousands of views. One of her most popular characters is the Glaswegian “west end mum” who navigates her way through the city encountering all kinds of drama – from dog sitting to university strikes.

“I work in Glasgow University, I live in the west end, so I’m immersed in that little bubble. My ear is always open – I’ll hear things in a coffee shop and store them up,” she says. “My mum is from Pollok but she and my dad live in the west end as well so she can feed me some material.

“Well, maybe inadvertently. I don’t want to take the piss. Honestly though, the things people get wound up about in the west end – parking seems to be a big one.”

Pressed on whether she can pick a highlight of the many snippets she’s heard, Gladman laughs and says she “doesn’t want to get in trouble”.

She adds: “If I tell you then it’ll be tied to someone so we’ll keep that under wraps. What I will say is if you’ve watched my videos, a lot of that is things I’ve heard, so there is a thread of truth to it all.”

As well as her mum, Gladman also has to credit her friends for her success, particularly after her recent impersonation of a Scottish newsreader went viral.

“That one was purely just from seeing reports and thinking it was wild how dour it was. I’m in a group chat with friends and we had a laugh about it, we leave each other voice notes about that phenomenon.

“My friends are the funniest people. They’re just not confident enough to do stand-up which is unfortunate because the world is really missing out.”