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‘Get it up ye!’ How 17-year-old Kevin Bridges conquered the world

It's exactly 20 years since Kevin Bridges, a teenager from Clydebank, walked into a comedy club for the very first time.

Within seconds of taking to the stage at The Stand in Glasgow, his audience buckled with laughter.

It was the 17-year-old's first gig but many who were there knew he had the talent needed to make a career from comedy.

Now he is one of the biggest stars on the circuit, performing around the world and in 2022 he sold out 16 nights at the Glasgow's Hydro.

BBC Scotland News has spoken to some of the comedians who shared the stage with Bridges when he made his debut.

Nominees for the Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2009
Four years after his first gig, Bridges received a best newcomer nominee at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards in 2009

Jojo Sutherland compered the show where Bridges began his career on 10 February 2004.

He had been given a five-minute open mic spot at Red Raw - a Tuesday evening showcase of comedians looking to hone their skills.

"I remember it really, really clearly," Sutherland said.

"I remember this lad sat in the green room looking unfeasibly nervous. He was 17. I couldn't get two words out of him.

"I thought this is going to be dreadful. He's going to die on his arse."

He was the first of nine acts she introduced to the stage that night.

"When I came off stage I stayed right behind the curtain because I thought he's going to go out there and die... and panic and run off stage," she added.

"He told that first joke - I don't remember it but I've been told what it was since - and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up," Sutherland said.

"A huge laugh went up. I got a tingly feeling. I've never seen anything like that before or since."

Bridges recalled his nervousness on that first night in his 2014 autobiography We Need to Talk About...Kevin Bridges.

But when his name was announced, he put it to the back of his mind, walked on stage and grabbed the microphone.

"It's good to be here...I'm only 17 and I just got sold a pint at that bar, so get it up ye!"

He followed that with the "'get it up ye' gesture, left hand across the bicep of the right arm," he wrote.

"The audience burst into a huge laugh, like a real... belly laugh. It surprised me how loud it was, like I'd really said something funny."

Quentin Reynolds, a 26-year-old who had been gigging for almost a year, was also on the bill that night.

When Bridges told his first joke "the whole room absolutely erupted", he said.

"I was pishing myself too, but also breathed a sigh of relief as the new lad had got a huge laugh and I knew he'd probably be OK."

Bridges went on to talk about the "trials and tribulations" of being 17.

"Most of it was quite clever stuff, rather than the hack material you might expect from someone so young, and every single gag got a big laugh (again, also highly unusual for a debutant)."

As he walked off to a huge round of applause, Sutherland took him back on stage and told the crowd: "That was his first gig - ever."

Cue more cheers from the audience, which included Bridges' father and chaperone, Andy.

"He was an incredibly proud dad," said Reynolds, who met him during the interval.

"Like a dad watching his son winning a medal at school. But I think we can all agree this was far cooler than any school medal or book token prize."

Kevin Bridges performed at the Assembly Rooms as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010
Bridges performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010
Kevin Bridges at HMV
He met fans at the launch of a DVD of his stand-up show in 2015

Others on the line-up included Robert Parker, a 25-year-old who had a day job at Next.

"I remember thinking 'what am I doing here?' If you'd said this guy is going to be famous, I wouldn't have predicted that.

"But we knew we'd seen something special because it was a crazy gig."

Another comic, Derek Lightfoot - who worked as a software engineer by day - doesn't remember much about the night.

"But I do remember Kevin because he was just head and shoulders above everyone else," he said.

"He didn't seem nervous at all. It wasn't like an act, it was just him being a funny guy.

"We knew straight away that he had the potential to be a really good comedian, you know he was definitely a natural."

Bridges has said he was inspired to do stand-up after reading Frank Skinner's autobiography and watching a VHS of an Oasis gig with a friend.

At the time he was enrolled on a college course in Glasgow and working part-time in the Co-op in Clydebank

"Oasis made being a big star and standing in front of all those people sound accessible and the only thing that's maybe holding me back is just going for it, right?" he told Vernon Kay on BBC Radio 2 last year.

He went home that night and emailed The Stand. A month later they phoned and offered him the open mic spot.

However, that first gig was not a springboard to immediate success.

Bridges spent years touring at clubs - first in Scotland, then the rest of the UK - before finding mainstream success.

He succeeded through "sheer hard work", according to Reynolds.

Parker agreed: "I remember seeing him backstage with a script, cutting sentences, there would be nothing spare in there, everything would be thought about.

"He works hard to learn material but sculpts it as spare as he can so nothing is wasted."

Sutherland said Bridges has had to tone down his accent to appeal to audiences beyond the west coast of Scotland - but he remains a firm favourite in his hometown.

"Glasgow particularly - like Liverpool - Glasgow loves its own. He's their son - a suitable successor to Billy Connolly," she said.

In the two decades since that first gig, Bridges has taken his stand-up all over the world, released his latest show in cinemas, written his autobiography and a novel - and moved to Glasgow's leafy west end.

So what has happened to the comedians he met for the first time that night at The Stand?

The headliner, a New Zealander called Mike Boon, moved back home with his Dundee-born wife and became a teacher who dabbles in comedy for children.

Derek Lightfoot pursued comedy for about 18 months before the travelling started getting him down.

"It turned out I wasn't as funny as I thought I was," he joked. "I never looked at it as a career, it was always a bit of fun, a hobby."

Robert Parker spent 13 years working for a technology company once he gave up comedy to settle down with his wife and three children.

But last year he gave up his job to pursue another creative passion - he's writing a book and making YouTube videos about Scottish history.

Quentin Reynolds' comedy career peaked with a one-man show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival but he announced his retirement a month after watching an "absolute masterclass in comedy" by Michael McIntyre in 2008.

"At this point I realised I was a division or two lower than the other comedians...I bowed out on my terms on a high," he said.

He now runs his own traffic data collection business.

Meanwhile, Jojo Sutherland is now an established comedian, a regular on BBC Radio panel shows such as Breaking The News, and a podcast host.