Who doesn’t like a laugh? In these morose times of Brexit uncertainty, it’s comedy that comes to the rescue once again. I’m very fortunate to live in Leicestershire, a county that is home to the largest comedy festival in England. The Leicester Comedy Festival.
Strangely enough, at the age of 32 i’m yet to attend my first Leicester Comedy Festival. The event, in all honesty, receives very muted press. A few flyers and the odd tweet are about the extent of the advertising that I have encountered down the years about this famous local event.
Many comedians have entertained audiences at this festival, some are very well known indeed. The likes of Harry Hill, Jimmy Carr and Johnny Vegas have all performed here at various stages of their career. When it comes to the calibre of comics, this event is no joke.
Buying tickets for the events is simple through The Leicester Comedy Festival website. The tickets can either be posted to you, for £1.50, or you can collect them free of charge. There is a handy hub office set up in Jubilee Square throughout the festival that stays open until 7pm.
We arrived for the ‘unofficial’ opening night gig starting later than 7pm with the need to pick up our tickets. Luckily, the organisers of the festival have set up automatic collection points around the city. Our choice to have our pre-show drinks at The Cosy Club was a deliberate one as we could use the automated machine in the bar area.
The machines require the payment card that you purchased the tickets with. Swipe the card and as if by magic the tickets come out of the machine. It’s worth noting that if you have ordered tickets for other shows later down the line, the tickets for those will print off automatically at the same time which saves another trip to the machine.
We decided to get a mix of comedians for our first show, rather than gamble on just one. Our tickets for ‘Proper Funny’s Festival Launch Party’ were just £5 each with a £1.60 booking fee attached. Many shows at the festival are within this price range or even free to enter. The larger venues such as The Curve will cost more in the region of £20.
Our venue for the ‘unofficial’ launch was The Criterion. A pub that, in all honesty, I would walk past on a bar crawl. This place gives no clue from a distance that comedy is being performed within it. Only when you get closer do the flyers in the window reveal themselves. This is a hotspot for comedy shows during the festival time.
Another concern was that we would be one of just a handful of people in the venue. Any notions of those thoughts quickly went as the bar filled up and the anticipation continued to rise as ‘technical problems’ put the starting time back by a few minutes.
The room set up for the gig was just perfect. In the shows that I had attended previously, albeit in large arenas, the attendances had been in the thousands and tickets had been ordered months in advance. This was a sweaty room with a low ceiling and a PA system that cut out every now and again. Proper comedy.
The raw feel to the gig was something that I really warmed to, not just because of the temperature in the room. A stage literally two feet away from our second row position made you feel very much part of the action. There were only 40-50 people in that room but it felt like a heck of a lot more when the noise went up.
So what’s the standard of comedians like for a £5 gig? Astoundingly good. The MC, a local comedian named Jason Neale, was superb and really got the crowd in the mood for the gig. The comedians were all individually different in style but all entertaining and a handful were just downright hilarious. I haven’t laughed that much in ages.
Regular intervals were a godsend as the combination of lager and being doubled up with laughter is bound to result in a much needed toilet trip. I mean, you wouldn’t dare while a comedian is in full flow on the stage would you?
Of the acts performing on the night, the standouts were Adam Beardsmore, a comedian from West Bromwich with a great take on real life situations. A gay comedian named Aaron Twitchen who has been attending the festival for over 6 years with a flowing, hilarious set of quick fire gags.
Last on the bill was Stevie Gray from Oldham, a comedian with a combined act of music and stand up. There’s always great quality coming from The North West when it comes to comics and Stevie was no exception, the highlight of his set was dressing an audience member up like a pirate for a ‘Heather Mills McCartney Tribute Pirate Dance’ on one leg to a kazoo solo.
Our night actually proved one of the most popular of the opening shows. The ‘official’ night at Peter Pizzeria only attracted a small number of punters and resulted in many of the acts coming over to our show to try their material out. This was value on an incredible scale with the show going past it’s intended finishing time.
Many of the shows in the festival are actually free or on a ‘pay what you want’ basis. For talent such as we had seen in the opening show this is an unbelievable opportunity for an evening out.
I had started to lose faith a little with the British comedy scene recently. Many comedians years ago dwarfed the number currently active selling out arenas. It’s a good feeling to have my faith reignited in comedy thanks to Leicester Comedy Festival – do not miss out!
Tickets and Line up: https://comedy-festival.co.uk/events/
Festival Dates: 6-24th February 2019