Throwback: Paul Black makes the leap from online sensation to stand-up hit

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

April 1, 2023


When will we stop thinking of Paul Black as an “internet sensation”?

There are plenty of people who have amassed a sizable following on Instagram and TikTok over the past few years, but how many of them have sold out consecutive nights at the King’s Theatre?

The 26-year-old has gone from being a word of mouth hit in your group chat to the kind of comedian your aunt might have heard of. In fact, she may have been present at the famous venue to witness Black perform his nostalgia show as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival.

It was the 2018 People Make Glass Cow video in which he fooled half of Scotland by pretending to be an American tourist in Glasgow that caught people’s attention. He has had numerous viral hits over the last five years and his profile in more traditional fields has increased through various appearances on BBC Scotland.

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Opening this year’s festival, Black told The Herald: “Most of my listeners are people who found me online and I’m happy for people to come and see me in person. There’s a big difference between just doing something online on your phone and seeing that audience in front of you.”

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Having brought his Self-Care Era show to the Edinburgh Fringe, Black has gained some stage experience, but two nights at King’s is another matter entirely.

While its online output is far more effective and widespread than that of far more established comedians, stand-up requires different skills. At the start of this year’s festival, I watched another social media star come straight in front of the camera, share a compilation of his sketches online and answer a few questions at the end. All perfectly entertaining, but it could hardly be called stand-up comedy.

HeraldScotland: Paul Black at the launch of this year's Glasgow Comedy FestivalPaul Black at the launch of this year’s Glasgow Comedy Festival (Image: Herald Scotland)

Given the popularity of his videos and the goodwill of his home audience, Black could have done the same and satisfied audiences.

So credit for taking up this opportunity. With the exception of a short opening sketch in a taxi, there were no videos. Just a guy in his twenties doing 70 minutes of comedy in front of 1,800 people.

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The show isn’t called Nostalgia for nothing. From the start it feels like you’re sitting in the pub swapping stories with a friend who shares the same cultural credentials as you. When he’s not lamenting “The Great Ned Drought,” he’s perfectly skewering a very specific type of young middle-class Glasgow hipster.

Granted, it’s unlikely that a Tunbridge Wells audience would respond so instinctively to the words “Blair Drummond Safari Park,” but the themes that run through his set are relatable, no matter how familiar you are with the Time Capsule are in Coatbridge.

Touching on class, sexuality, shame, family, weight and Lady Gaga, this show could easily be a hit outside of Scotland, with the odd reference to Chessington World of Adventures.

The material clearly resonates with this crowd, but Black isn’t just swimming with obvious Glaswegian shouts. There are real insights, and you’re never far from a big laugh. Among the many highlights are a spot on Facebook from a recently engaged woman and a surreal but cutting insult from one of the aforementioned Neds.

There’s no real venom aimed at his targets – with the possible exception of Coldplay – and the Corkerhill comedian is a likable presence throughout.

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Speaking to The National in 2021, Black said: “I really just think Limmy is the funniest person in the world. To see him transition from creating online content to a TV show to streaming, he’s an absolute icon of Scottish comedy.”

Just like his idol, Black has transcended his online origins. He feels comfortable in front of a large audience and his star will surely continue to rise.

Judging by the enthusiastic reception from his home crowd, Paul Black’s Nostalgia show is one we’ll all look back on fondly. Throwback: Paul Black makes the leap from online sensation to stand-up hit

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