UK comedy festivals
The stand-up fests across the country that'll keep you chortling year-round
Tue Apr 30 2013
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.
Rest of the UK and Ireland comedy festivals
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where: Queen Square, Bristol
What: The team behind the excellent Greenwich Comedy Festival put together this weekend-long tent-based comedy extravaganza. Each night there's a huge gala show featuring a glitzy headliner and an ace supporting line-up.
When: Throughout August
Where: Hundreds of venues across Edinburgh
What: Undoubtedly the biggest and best comedy festival in the world, in August the entire comedy community decamps to Edinburgh for one month of laughter, lager and lack of sleep. Comedians spend thousands of pounds to take a show there, with many not even breaking even, let alone making a profit. But, as a comic, you have to do Edinburgh, at least once. Plus, a nomination for the prestigious Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards – the Oscars of the comedy world – could provide the big break they need to jump to the next level…
Where: Various venues in and around Nottingham
What: 2013 marks this week-long festival's fifth birthday, with previous acts including Alan Davies, Rhod Gilbert and Reginald D Hunter.
When: Late-September to early-October
Where: Various venues in Liverpool
What: For more than 10 years Liverpudlians have been treated to 10 days of laughter at the Liverpool Comedy Festival. Previous years have included shows from Jack Dee, Sarah Millican and Ross Noble plus, of course, a massive homecoming gig from Liverpudlian powerhouse John Bishop.
Where: Various venues in Newport
What: This week-long festival in Newport in South Wales brings in a big variety of performers, including big names, puppetry, free shows and more.
Where: Various venues in and around Birmingham
What: In the BCF's ten plus year history, the likes of Peter Kay, The Fast Show gang and Lee Evans have graced various Brummie stages. The ten-day programme here is always rib-tickling.
Where: Various venues in and around Brighton
What: Taking place in October, shortly after the Edinburgh Fringe, the Brighton Comedy Festival often features tons of acts performing their new solo shows down south for the first time since the Scottish shenanigans. Plus, of course, your usual telly names and gala shows. Always a great line-up.
© Mark Makin
Leamington Spa Comedy Festival
Where: Various venues in Leamington Spa
What: This week-long mini-fest offers two or three solo shows per day – from bigish names to circuit acts – plus a couple of blowout gala gigs.
Where: Various venues in Cheltenham
What: This relatively new week-long celebration has already pulled in some famous faces, including Rhod Gilbert, Frankie Boyle and Julian Clary. Expect exciting things in the future.
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