UK comedy festivals

The stand-up fests across the country that'll keep you chortling year-round

Marcus Brigstocke at the 2011 Apple Cart Festival
We might be spoilt for comedy choice here in London town, but we're always up for more intense doses of stand-up mayhem. Good job London, and the rest of the UK, offers plenty of ace comedy festivals, from weekend-long jamborees, to month-long endurance fests. We've collated this list of UK comedy festivals, so you can pick and choose where to get your comedy fix.

London comedy festivals

Udderbelly Festival

When: April-July

Where: Jubliee Gardens, South Bank

What: This giant upturned purple cow settles in behind the London Eye every summer for three months of cabaret, theatre and music. Plus, it's effectively the biggest comedy festival in London, with a consistently impressive line-up of stand-up shows.

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Southbank

London Wonderground

When: May-September

Where: Jubilee Gardens, South Bank

What: This summer-long pop-up cabaret festival offers an embarrassment of riches, including its fair share of comedy delights. Previous acts include Barry & Stuart, Heath Franklin's Chopper and Frisky & Mannish, and for 2013 Al Murray, The Horne Section and Rob Delaney are all programmed in.

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Southbank

London Sketchfest

When: Last weekend in May

Where: The Victorian Vaults, Shoreditch

What: This brand new three-day fest hosts four shows each day from sketch troupes at the more up-and-coming end of the scale. All 12 shows are then judged by a panel with the best show awarded a gong at the end of the weekend.

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Balham Comedy Festival

When: Mid-July

Where: The Bedford, Balham

What: In SW12, the team behind regular weekend club Banana Cabaret host the Balham Comedy Festival, now in its second year. It takes place in various rooms of the Bedford pub and the promoters bring in an impressive list of big-name comedy mates (2012's line-up included Harry Hill, Al Murray and Ed Byrne).

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Brick Lane Comedy Festival

When: Mid-July

Where: Allen Gardens, off Brick Lane

What: After four glorious years in the surroundings of the Old Royal Naval College, the Greenwich Comedy Festival has now moved across the river to the Allen Gardens and becomes the Brick Lane Comedy Festival. As well as a massive big top hosting superb line-up shows each night, the festival site includes live music on a bandstand, bar and food stalls, which are all free to visit without a ticket.

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Ealing Comedy Festival

When: Mid-July

Where: Walpole Park, Ealing

What: As part of Ealing's summer festival line-up, a 1000-seater marquee is set up in Walpole Park for the long-running Ealing Comedy Festival. This fest features galas jam-packed with a mix of circuit favourites and the occasional superstar comic.

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Camden Fringe

When: Late July-late August

Where: Various venues in Camden

What: The Camden Fringe hosts comedy, theatre, music and more, for the entire month of August. It clashes with the Edinburgh Fringe, meaning the quality can be a little hit and miss, comedy-wise. Nevertheless, there are always some enjoyable names playing throughout the month.

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Rest of the UK and Ireland comedy festivals

Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival

When: Mid-February

Where: Various venues in and around Leicester

What: Apart from the Edinburgh Fringe, the Leicester Comedy Festival is arguably the biggest event in the UK comedy calendar. For two plus weeks, over 500 shows take place in more than 50 venues, with a mix of big-name touring comics and established circuit acts roadtesting material for their latest Edinburgh runs.

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Glasgow Comedy Festival

When: Mid-March

Where: Various venues in and around Glasgow

What: Legendary promoter Tommy Sheppard, the owner of The Stand comedy clubs in Scotland, curates this huge Glaswegian laughter fest, featuring over 350 shows in 40 venues. Expect the biggest names here, plus plenty of rising stars.

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Colchester Comedy Festival

When: Mid-April

Where: Various venues in and around Colchester

What: That's right, even the oldest town in Britain has its own comedy festival. Colchester's offering includes 12 days of solo shows from household names, comedy films and kids shows.

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Bath Comedy Festival

When: Late-March to mid-April

Where: Various venues in and around Bath

What: Now five years old, the Bath Comedy Festival is expanding year on year, offering a bigger variety of stand-up shows. As well as solo shows from circuit regulars, the BCF hosts a new act competition and Bath-based comic Noel Britten's 'Bizarre Bath' comedy walk.

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Machynlleth Comedy Festival

When: First weekend in May

Where: Various venues in Machynlleth

What: This delightful comedy festival in north Wales has quickly become one of the best in the country, and the one every comic wants to play. Over the May Day bank holiday weekend the tiny market town of Machynlleth is taken over by a mass of top-notch comedians, with all the venues within a short walk of one another.

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Comedy Hullabaloo – Stratford-upon-Avon

When: Last weekend in May

Where: Various venues in Stratford-upon-Avon

What: New for 2013, the team behind the Udderbelly on the South Bank curate this weekend-long festival in Shakespeare's country. With venues including the RSC and a specially pitched spiegeltent, most of the shows include line-ups of four comics (each with a huge-name headliner), plus the odd late night party. Sounds fun!

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Happyness – Inverness Comedy Festival

When: Last weekend in May

Where: Various venues in Inverness

What: A weekend of funny up in the Highlands, featuring a mix of Scottish and British acts on line-up shows, and TV regulars performing solo shows.

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The Sky Cat Laughs Comedy Festival – Kilkenny

When: Late-May/early-June

Where: Various venues in Kilkenny

What: Kilkenny is one of the most respected comedy festivals in the world. For a long weekend this tiny Irish town is riddled with top comedy talent. The Cat Laughs has scored some huge coups in the past – Bill Murray, Zach Galafianakis and Louis CK have all played the festival – and each year usually features some big-name American acts. It's heaps of fun.

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Tring Comedy Festival

When: Late-June to mid-July

Where: Various venues in Tring

What: Tring's unique selling point is that it's the 'seventh largest comedy festival in the world'. Quite a feat for a small Hertfordshire market town! Every night for three weeks two comics preview their new Edinburgh Fringe shows.

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Cambridge Comedy Festival

When: Mid-July

Where: Various venues in Cambridge

What: Cambridge Comedy Festival is relatively small – with just 30 shows in six days – but attracts some mega-famous comics to headline.

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