Jonathan Trew: 'Like any stately home worth its upkeep, Kinneil House is rumoured to have a ghost'

When Newman and Baddiel played Wembley Stadium in 1993, the 12,000 tickets sold out, prompting commentators to muse that comedy was the new rock 'n' roll.

These days, looking at comics' ticket sales, most bands pray that rock'n'roll will become the new comedy.

Bolton's Peter Kay plays the SECC in Glasgow this weekend, in a five-night residency. The stint is part of a national tour that has sold three quarter of a million tickets – roughly one and a half times the population of Edinburgh.

One of Kay's better-known gags involves his family's sense of wonder at being introduced to such startling foodstuffs as garlic bread.

One rival, hearing how many tickets and DVDs Kay was shifting, was moved to remark: "How many? There is no way garlic bread is that f***ing funny."

Those with different comedy tastebuds might care to sample Tim Minchin's gigs at the Edinburgh Playhouse tonight and tomorrow night.

Assuming the stage persona of a thwarted, neurotic rock star, Minchin delivers anarchic, piano-based comedy with a cerebral bent and isn't afraid of occasionally swerving the gags and opting for pathos.

Minchin recently wrote the music and lyrics for a well-reviewed Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda, and in Edinburgh he'll be joined by the innovative Heritage Orchestra. Garlic bread probably won't be mentioned.

For a comedy triple-decker, the ongoing Science Festival aims to lab-test laughing matters when comedian Robin Ince conducts a series of experiments in Edinburgh's Jam House tomorrow afternoon.

One of the experiments will look into whether or not a computer can be funny. If you have ever played blackjack on an internet casino site then you will know that computers cannot be funny, but they are seemingly capable of vindictive cruelty.

Should comedy leave you cold, you might prefer to spend your time exploring Kinneil House near Bo'ness. Formerly the stately home of the Dukes of Hamilton, the house is closed to the public most of the year but Historic Scotland is running free open days this weekend.

The house is notable for many reasons; not least the fact that James Watt carried out some of the steam engine's early development in a cottage to the back of the main house.

Like any stately home worth its upkeep, Kinneil House is rumoured to have a ghost. Lady Alice Lilbourne is said to have thrown herself from one of the towers into the sea, a distance of some 300-400 yards.

This may sound improbable but, according to the Victorian writer Maria Edgeworth, it was "nothing for a well-bred ghost".

For more information go to www.peterkay.co.uk; www.timminchin.com; www.sciencefestival.co.uk; http://kinneil.wordpress.com

This article was first published in The Scotsman, 16 April, 2011