High Noon for The Stand's Cowboy | Club's backdrop loses his gun after causing offence

High Noon for The Stand's Cowboy

Club's backdrop loses his gun after causing offence

For 25 years it has been the iconic backdrop at the Stand comedy club.

But the familiar image of the baby-faced cowboy holding a gun to his head has been removed from the Edinburgh venue, after complaints it was offensive and inappropriate

A new work by the original painter was installed just before the start of the Fringe with the gun removed – below – and now the original set to be auctioned off for charity tomorrow. The backdrops will also be changed at The Stand’s Glasgow and Newcastle clubs.

New backdrop, a painting of child as a cowboy with his hands in front of him, palms outwards

General manager Mike Jones told Chortle: ‘Although the original cowboy image is a kid dressing up as a cowboy with a toy gun – and we’ve always said that the worst thing that would come out of the gun would be a sign saying BANG – we keep getting asked questions about why a gun features on our backdrop and in our logo.

‘Some people have found it offensive for different reasons and sometimes we’ve had to change the logo when we’ve done advertising campaigns. Not to mention the countless comedians who’ve made references to child suicide while standing in front of the backdrop.’

He added the decision to change it came in June when came when the club invited school pupils on to a new scheme to help develop their comedy writing and performance skills. 

‘We did the schools event that was the pilot for this exciting new initiative, we had to drape off part of the cowboy so that the primary kids didn’t see the full image,’ Jones said. ‘ So, all in all, we’ve decided that it’s time for a change. The cowboy still remains our iconic mascot but he won’t be playing with his toy gun anymore. Long live the Cowboy.’

The backdrop was painted by Thomas ‘Mac’ Macgregor, who was involved in setting up the club. His work, inspired by old family photos of his younger brother Dave in costume as a cowboy,  has been permanently on display in the Edinburgh venue since 1998.

The first was a 1ft square image  with the face blanked out and some cigarettes, subsequently bought by Johnny Vegas.

‘Then I made a series of paintings with me and the cowboy,’ he said. The one used as the backdrop was ‘lurking in the back of the club for a few months’ before founders Jane Mackay and Tommy Sheppard asked if it could be used for publicity.

‘Dave and his dimple probably deserve more of the credit,’ Mac said.

Tomorrow comedian Fred MacAulay, who is one of The Stand’s directors, will be hosting an auction of the 9ft by 8ft piece, which is painted on two and a half full size panels that will be dismounted and repaired with touch-ups from Macgregor.

Funds will go towards the initiative to get primary school children involved in comedy, helping developing creative skills and self-confidence, to be run by comedian Jay Lafferty.

The pilot was attended by pupils from Carnock Primary School from Dunfermline. Teacher Vicky McCauley said: ‘The children have grown so much from the start of the year.  They embraced the comedy writing block of work and I think they really surprised themselves that by the end they were performing in a real comedy club in front of an audience. The parents are still raving about the show.’

One parent, Ben Cook, said: ‘Seeing my 10-year-old daughter performing on the stage, the morning after Frankie Boyle had been on it was brilliant.

‘Watching my daughter overcome all her nerves to deliver a performance to be proud of is something I’ll never forget. The confidence she gained from presenting in front of quite a large group of people will do her a world of good in the future.’

And 11-year-old Angus, who took part, said: ‘I think that it was the best experience that I have had at school and I would go again. The Stand was awesome. I was shocked about how many famous comedians have been there. I will remember this experience forever.’

Junior, aged 10, added: ‘It was really scary doing comedy writing. I found it hard to write the script as I’m dyslexic but I enjoyed performing it. My teacher helped me with the script and my parents listened when I practised at home. The Stand was an experience I will remember because its not something we would usually do.’

The auction will take place start at 5pm tomorrow and is free to attend. MacAulay will be encouraging bids in the room. The club asks potential bidders to  register an interest by emailing mike@thestand.co.uk. There is a £1,000 reserve.

Published: 14 Aug 2022

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