Free comedy gigs: free for all?

With free clubs gaining popularity, are they putting other clubs out of business or introducing a new audience to live stand-up? We feed back some opinions

The best things in life are free, so they say. But then, ‘they’ also say you get what you pay for. A few years ago, the free comedy circuit was just a handful of open mic nights. Now, there are slickly run shows featuring line-ups of very good quality, where donations are often encouraged at the end of the gig.

Some industry members are worried about the impact of free shows on entry-charging clubs. We asked a variety of promoters, comedians and regular comedy-goers for their opinions. Click on the questions below for their answers.


© Nathan James Page

Audience members; is ticket price important when choosing which gig to attend?

Tasha Dhanraj (regular comedy-goer) ‘Ticket price is important if it is very expensive, but assuming it is in the £4 to £10 range then it will be one of many factors in my considerations, alongside location and venue. For a good enough line-up, ticket price is almost irrelevant.’

Craig Beadle ‘Not especially. Today there’s such a wealth of free comedy –from blogs, articles, podcasts, panel shows and the wealth of stand-up on TV – that when you’re choosing to see live comedy it’s because you want to be part of an audience, which is an experience worth paying for.’

Dale Platt (regular comedy-goer) ‘Yes, definitely. I’m sure a casual comedy fan would think nothing of paying £20 for a ticket to a weekend show, but if you’re attending shows frequently then it’s important to set limits.’

Emily Shipp ‘Ticket price is one of a number of factors, but if it’s too high it will quickly become the deciding factor, and you’ll decide not to go. This is especially true if you’re trying to arrange a night out with friends.’

Charlotte Lowey (regular comedy-goer) ‘To an extent, yes. If I’m really keen to see an act, it’s unlikely to stop me, but once the price goes over £15 or 20 I’ll put more thought into whether I’m going to buy the ticket. For some of my friends who are less familiar with the comedy scene, ticket price becomes a lot more important: it’s much harder to get them to come out with me to a more expensive show.’