London's summer comedy festivals: head-to-head

The festival season is upon us, but which one is the best?

The line-up

Balham Comedy Festival

Balham’s doubled in size for its second year and features a ton of big names – Milton Jones, Ed Byrne, Al Murray etc – alongside circuit stalwarts, including Lucy Porter and Terry Alderton. All safe bets here, but not much in the way of new talent.

8/10

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Ealing Comedy Festival

It’s the ECF's twentieth anniversary, and the big headliners include ‘Not Going Out’ star Lee Mack and silent comedy sensation The Boy with Tape on His Face. Support comes from, again, well-established circuit talent rather than rising stars.

7/10

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British Summer Time

This four-night sister fest to Hyde Park’s massive music gigs features improv troupe the Comedy Store Players, ‘It’s Kevin’ star Kevin Eldon, mega-quiffed Russell Kane and more. The Eldon-headlined night is a humdinger. The rest are good, if not spectacular.

6/10

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Phoenix Fringe

While most comics head up to the Edinburgh Fringe for August, virtually every act who’s left in London plays the Phoenix Fringe, and there are some cracking stay-at-homes: Alan Davies, Mark Watson and sketch troupe Pappy’s, to name a few.

9/10

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Comedians to the pound

Balham Comedy Festival

Apart from some ‘Best of Banana Cabaret’ galas, it’s mostly solo shows at Balham. So, taking into account the discount for a double bill, it works out at £9.60 per comic. 

6/10

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Ealing Comedy Festival

It’s all line-up shows in Walpole Park – you can catch a whopping 16 acts on the twentieth anniversary galas alone (July 12 and 13). So, overall: £2.89 per comedian.

9/10

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British Summer Time

Tickets are a reasonable £12.50 at BST, and even counting the Comedy Store Players as one ‘act’, we make it £3.85 per comic.

8/10

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Phoenix Fringe

Almost entirely solo shows here, at £10 a pop, or a day’s worth (three hour-long shows) for £20. So, across the festival, that’s £6.43 per stand-up.

7/10

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The crowd

Balham Comedy Festival

Regulars at Banana Cabaret (The Bedford’s weekly comedy club) and Balham locals. They know their stuff: expect good-quality heckles.

9/10

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British Summer Time

‘Live at the Apollo’ fans (a lot of them live comedy virgins, we suspect), plus most of Kevin Eldon’s committed fanbase.

6/10

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Phoenix Fringe

Comedy nerds and students in search of the atmosphere of the Edinburgh Fringe without saying goodbye to their life savings.

8/10

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