History

The Leicester Comedy Festival started in 1994 with 40 events programmed into 23 venues over 7 days throughout Leicestershire. In 1994 it attracted an audience of 5,000 and enjoyed a modest amount of media attention and a high profile within the community.

Since then we have featured top stand-up names such as Roseanne Barr, Jo Brand, Paul Merton, Jack Dee, Dave Gorman, Tony Slattery, Rory Bremner, Barry Cryer, Alan Davies, Jeremy Hardy, Bill Bailey, Garth Marenghi, Rhona Cameron, Ross Noble, Lee Hurst, Johnny Vegas, Simon Day, John Shuttleworth, Daniel Kitson, Rich Hall, Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle, Russell Brand, The Mighty Boosh, Dara O’ Briain, Simon Pegg, Lee Mack, Dave Spikey and Harry Hill.

The festival also incorporates comedy film, poetry & spoken word, comic theatre, photographic and art exhibitions, and children’s shows.

Here’s a run down of some of the highlights:

1994

First Leicester Comedy Festival takes place featuring Matt Lucas, Harry Hill and John Shuttleworth.

1995

Leicester Comedy Festival features The Comedy Store Players, Felix Dexter and George Melly.  The programme also features a Disability Comic Workshop led by Johnny Crescendo and a performance by Khel Rangara.  First Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Competition takes place; Stevie Knuckles wins.

1996

Emergency Exit Arts launch festival with amazing pyrotechnic performance through the streets of Leicester.  Programme also includes Mark Lamarr, Linda Smith, Julian Clary, Jon Pertwee and Russell Peters.  A live production of Fever Pitch takes place in a conference room at Filbert Street stadium and an education programme tackles issues linked to racism and sexism in football.

1997

Craig Charles, Alan Davies, Barry Cryer, Bobby Davro, Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Graham Norton and Jack Dee perform at the festival whilst Johnny Vegas wins Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year.  A bumper year!  The Guardian said the community programme helped create “a pretty broad grin”.

1998

David Baddiel, The Deaf Comedians, Mark Little, Phil Jupitus, Ken Campbell and Bernie Clifton perform at the festival.  Vintage Theatre Company, set up for those aged over 50, perform The Spotted Chameleon.

1999

The Funjabis, Stephen K Amos, Andy Parsons, Heart n Soul Roadshow and Goodness Gracious Me perform at Leicester Comedy Festival.  Also featured are a special live tribute to Graham Chapman and an interview with Alan Birchenall by Alistair McGowan.

2000

Stewart Lee, Lee Hurst, Mighty Boosh, Jo Brand and Reginald D Hunter perform at Leicester Comedy Festival as well as the first Leicester charity gig in aid of Amnesty International, hosted by Jo Brand.  The creator of “The Weakest Link” Cathy Dunning performs at 27a Access Artspace.

2001

Paul Merton, The Philharmonia Orchestra, Daniel Kitson, Rich Hall, Ross Noble and John Hegley perform alongside Charnwood Community Theatre.  BBC Light Entertainment organise a writing comedy for radio workshop.

2002

Tim Vine, Brendon Burns, Pam Ann, Gervase Phinn and Men In Coats perform

2003

Tina C, Dave Spikey, Mark Thomas, Jimmy Carr, Omid Djalili perform alongside Doug Stanhope who flies in from the U.S especially for the festival.  The festival also hosts the first (& last) National Chortle Comedy Conference at Phoenix.  The first Summer Raspberry festival takes place in July featuring Jimmy Carr, Count Arthur Strong and Daniel Kitson.

2004

Dara O’Briain, Charles Collingwood, Barry Cryer perform and the first Festival Fringe takes place in pubs across Leicestershire. Crowds gather in Braunstone Park to watch the outdoor spectacle Blast!

2005

Jason Manford, Phil Cool, The Umbilical Brothers, Jason Byrne and John Otway perform.  The first Chortle Comedy Quiz takes place as well as the first festival performances by Gujarati Comedy Group.  BBC Radio 4 record The News Quiz and young people from Bosworth Community College perform sketches.

2006

Roseanne Barr makes her first ever UK stand-up performances at Leicester Comedy Festival.  Stewart Lee takes part in a debate about Jerry Springer the Opera in Leicester Cathedral.  Lee Mack, Jeremy Hardy and Ben Elton perform shows.  Performer Rob Gee was adopted into the welcoming arms of Eyres Monsell Primary, Sparkenhoe Community Primary and Mellor Primary School.  Soft Touch and Refugee Housing joined forces with Leicester Comedy Festival on a cartooning project for new arrivals to Leicester.

2007

Russell Brand, Paul Merton, Josie Long, Arthur Smith and Tim Minchin perform.  John Ryan performs his Hurt Until It Laughs show in 2 Leicestershire prisons, and some of the inmates move to the back row in case John picks on them……  A special event takes place to honour writer and Leicester lad Joe Orton, featuring Sue Townsend, Joe’s 2 sisters and Simon Fanshawe.

First Best of Leicester Comedy Festival tour visits Derby, Nottingham & Leicester.

2008

Pappy’s Fun Club, Michael McIntyre, Frankie Boyle, Mark Watson and Jon Richardson perform at Leicester Comedy Festival.  We develop the first Hotel D’Comedie performances in the beautiful Hotel Maiyango.  Captain Carrot performs to young people from schools from across Leicestershire, spreading a healthy eating message.  Hathi Productions perform The Rise and Fall of Chugenal Patel and we premier our Those YoungMinds performance focusing on issues connected with young people and emotional health.

2009

Gilded Balloon set up camp at The City Rooms for duration of festival.  They feature over 30 shows in 3 venues.  Ed Byrne, Clive James, David O’Doherty, Hans Teeuwen, Mark Thomas and Shazia Mirza perform.

Young people from across the East Midlands perform as part of the Pieces project, a partnership with Nottingham Playhouse.  The Best of Leicester Comedy Festival tour has grown to 14 venues across the UK.

2010

The festival gets extended from 10 to 17 days! Festival acts included Adam Buxton, Julian Clary, Rhod Gilbert, Stewart Lee, Lee Mack, Shappi Khorsandi, Jimmy Carr, Sean Lock, Sarah Millican, Robin Ince, Tim Vine and Jenny Eclair.

Josh Widdicombe won the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year and special festival shows included Blind Tiger Meal, Charity Shop DJ, and Comedy in the Dark.

The Best of Leicester Comedy Festival tours to venues across the UK and we present Comedy in the Dark as part of the Edinburgh Fringe…

2011

The festival took place across 50 venues with 370 shows and boasted sell out shows from David Morgan, Asian Persuasion, Idiots of Ants, Jimmy Carr, Micky Flanagan, Mark Thomas, Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Competition, Kitty Cointreau’s BraHaHa, Jon Richardson, Sarah Millican, Milton Jones, Mark Steel, Ceri Dupree, Chris Boyd, Josh Widdicombe, Comedy In The Dark, Iain Stirling & Sean McLouglin, Foolhardy Comedy Showcase, Mark Smith & Rhys Jones, John Robins , Andi Osho, Isy Suttie, Alun Cochrane, Andy Zaltzman, Simon Evans & Bottle Rocket at Loughborough Town Hall.

We received a letter from The Queen wishing us luck.

2012

We renamed the festival as Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival as we enter into a partnership with TV channel Dave. The festival took place across 50 venues with 410 shows and performers included Sarah Millican, Arthur Smith, Greg Davies, Russell Howard, Pam Ayres and Shappi Khorsandi. The festival had a new venue in the form of Dave’s Curry House which hosted performances across the 17 days. The festival launched on 3rd February with a Guerrilla Knitting attack across the city centre and Shelly Bridgman won the first Silver Comedy Competition for comedians aged over 55.

2013

An enormous 530 events took place in around 50 venues across the city & county with appearances from Milton Jones, Arthur Smith, Russell Kane, Daniel Simonsen, Russell Howard, Jon Richardson, Josh Widdicombe and Johnny Vegas.  Special events included Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year (won by Romesh Ranganathan), Comedy in the Dark, Comedy Tourist, Dave’s Curry House (with a surprise visit from Al Murray), Comedy Cook Off and Hotel D’Comedie.  We also hosted a seminar focusing on the last 20 years of British Comedy with panellists Nica Burns, Kate Copstick, Don Ward and John Fleming.  Throughout the festival we hosted a photographic exhibition at Leicester train station featuring comedians who had performed in the festival over the past 20 years.  Our Silver Stand Up competition was won by Marc Lucero and we recognised Sir Norman Wisdom (patron of the festival since 1994) with the new Legend of Comedy award.

2014

Well, if we thought last year’s festival was huge, this year we had 627 events across the 17 days. Highlights included Russell Kane, The Inaugural UK Pun Championships (hosted by Lee Nelson & won by Darren Walsh), Alan Davies, Chris Ramsey, Dominic Holland, Gary Delaney, Hal Cruttenden, Robert Newman and Lucy Porter.  We opened up a load of venues not usually open to the public, including the incredible Hansom Hall, taken over by Heroes of Comedy.  We had loads of exclusives: Jasper Carrott hosted our Preview Show at De Montfort Hall, Alexei Sayle delivered the first “I Say” comedy conversation, Jason Manford was interviewed live on stage and Ken Dodd turned up at our Awards Ceremony to accept his Legend of Comedy Award.  Our Silver Stand Up competition was won by Peter Callaghan, and the winner of Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year competition was Kate Lucas.

2015

The Festival featured over 630 events in 47 venues across 19 days – yep, we extended the festival by 2 days and ran for the full period from 4-22 February.  Highlights included The UK Pun Championships, hosted once again by Lee Nelson and won by Leo Kearse, The Preview Show (hosted by Alan Davies), an exclusive live interview with Sarah Millican, and gigs by Johnny Vegas, John Thomson, Milton Jones, Nina Conti and Jimmy Carr.  Just the Tonic Comedy Club took over Hanson Hall for the full festival, and comedy legend arrived to collect the Legend of Comedy award on behalf of his friend Rik Mayall.  Our Silver Stand Up competition was won by Ed de Cantor, and Tom Little won the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year competition.  We were proud to host an exhibition celebrating the life of Festival Patron Sir Norman Wisdom, curated by his son Nick.

2016

The Festival featured over 780 events in 65 venues across the 19 days.  Our Gala Preview Show was hosted by Lee Nelson and featured acts including Jen Brister, The Boy With Tape On His Face and Nish Kumar.  Our UK Pun Championships was hosted by Lee Nelson and won by Masai Graham, and was supported by the first ever #UKPunDay campaign on twitter.  We hosted original comedy events including live Q&A’s with Johnny Vegas and Nicholas Parsons, Silver Stand Up Competition, Comedy in a Car, Hotel D’Comedie and new shows Odd Couples, Paul Foot’s Game of Dangers & Euroversity Challenge.  Tom Lucy won Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Competition.  We also hosted events across Leicester & Leicestershire as part of the Tiger Roar With Laughter Fringe and the BIG Weekends in Melton & Loughborough.

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