Stand Comedy Club's famous cowboy backdrop to be replaced to remove gun

It has provided the memorable backdrop to performances by the likes of Kevin Bridges, Frankie Boyle, Phil Kay, Stewart Lee and Johnny Vegas.

But now the celebrated cowboy, which has been a fixture of Edinburgh's Stand Comedy Club since it opened almost a quarter of a century ago, is to be removed.

Bosses at the venue have decided the image of the cowboy with his gun pointed at his head is no longer appropriate.

But they have decided to honour “a piece of comedy history” by creating a special Fringe event which will see the oil painting, which is 9ft tall and 8ft wide, auctioned off.

Proceeds from the event, to be hosted by The Stand favourite Fred MacAulay, will go towards a new initiative to encourage a new generation of comics.

Primary school pupils will get the chance to write their own routines and perform them on the same stage as the one where hundreds of comics have cut their teeth since the club opened its doors in 1998.


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The Stand favourite Jay Lafferty will be leading a project aimed at “opening young people’s eyes to comedy, whatever their background.”

The artist behind the original backdrop, Thomas MacGregor, who has had his work displayed throughout the venue since it opened, was involved in the launch of the York Place club, set up by Tommy Sheppard and Jane Mackay, while he was studying at Edinburgh College of Art.

Jay Lafferty performing in front of The Stand Comedy Club's famous cowboy backdrop.

MacGregor, who based his image on an old family photo of his brother Dave, has been asked to reproduce the club’s classic image, “just without the gun,” by the venue’s management.

MacGregor, recent finalist in the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year contest, said: “The first was a small 1ft square with the face blanked out and some cigarettes. Johnny Vegas bought that one. Then I made a series of paintings with me and the cowboy.

"The backdrop was lurking in the back of the club for a few months before Jane and Tommy asked if it could be used for publicity. Dave and his dimple probably deserve more of the credit.”


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An official announcement from The Stand said: “The cowboy is going nowhere but after a quarter-century he’s earned the right to lower his arms.

Frankie Boyle is among the many comics to have cut their teeth performing at The Stand Comedy Club. Picture: Robert Perry

“A piece of comedy history, it’s only right that the famous stage backdrop gets its own show- an unprecedented Stand auction slap-bang in the middle of the Fringe."Hosted by Fred MacAulay, legendary Scottish comedian and one of The Stand’s directors, the auction will be a chance for the highest bidder to walk away with the dismounted backdrop and do a whole lot of good in the process.”

Mike Jones, managing director at The Stand, said: “We’re keeping our iconic cowboy, but it’s time for him to lay down his gun.”

The Stand was launched by Sheppard and Mackay in 1995 at WJ Christie's, a bar off the Grassmarket. After several years using city centre different pubs, the New Town venue was secured.

The Stand later expanded to Glasgow and Newcastle, where its clubs will also be getting new backdrops.


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The Stand Comedy Club has been running in Edinburgh since 1998.

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