News: Comedians Unite In Support of Remain Campaign

A group of UK & European comedians and comedy organisations have announced their support of Remain - the campaign for the UK to stay in the European Union.

Led by Leicester Comedy Festival – the longest running comedy festival in Europe, the group includes Eddie Izzard, Johnny Vegas, Mick Perrin Worldwide, Get Comedy, The Centre for Comedy Studies Research, the International Comedy Conference, Latitude Festival, Lund Comedy Festival (Sweden) and Comedy Box Festival (Norway).  The UK comedy industry is starting to develop across Europe, with comedians from different countries gigging across borders, & fans travelling the globe for gigs or festivals.  This circuit has seen the development of the European Comedy Festival Network, led by Leicester Comedy Festivals and members include Lund Comedy Festival, Comedy Box Festival and Zulu Comedy Festival (Denmark).

Leicester Comedy Festival founder & Director, Geoff Rowe, said “it’s great that so many key comedians, agents and festivals have come together to state their support to remain in the EU.  Leicester Comedy Festival have been touring comedians to European festivals for the past 5 years and we have developed good networks which will be much more difficult to sustain if the leave campaign is successful.  We know there is huge demand from both UK based acts and those based across Europe to grow audiences and work collaboratively.  We are encouraging people to join this campaign and vote to remain.”

At the moment, touring around Europe is relatively simple for comedians, and this is because of the Schengen Area.  In recent years many UK based comedians have developed a touring circuit across Europe, visiting clubs and festivals across the European Union.  The Schengen Area is made up of twenty-six countries both in and out of the EU that have got rid of the border controls between them.  This means that comedians can enter the area in any country and move freely, without having to show your passport.  At the moment, comedians from the UK don't need a working visa to perform in an EU country.

If Brexit happens, that could all change – touring Europe could suddenly require a working visa for the Schengen Area. This is already the case in the US, and the added administrative burden means a lot more time and planning is needed before comedians can legally perform there.  Comedians can only tour if there is a promoter making them an offer to perform, and the additional paperwork needed could make European promoters less inclined to bother with smaller acts.

For the biggest comedy acts, with the money and management teams to just power through any new problems, it seems more than likely that it won't change much. The UK and Europe are massive markets – big acts won't avoid coming here or going there.  Things also probably won't change for big European acts coming into the UK.  The people who will be affected are the smaller acts who increasingly tour Europe or head to European festivals to gain exposure and cut their teeth outside of their home country for the first time. These smaller acts may be unable to afford the more expensive travel or the cost of visas, and may not have the resources to navigate the paperwork side quite so easily. 

Mick Perrin said “the language of comedy is Universal and is one of the last bastions of free speech. Comedy can help heal the wounds of the past and create empathy where misunderstanding once existed. In order for comedy to bloom and sustain requires free movement and trade, both in and out. The only borders in comedy is in the minds of dictators and xenophobes. Let’s hope the joke is on finally on them’.

Comedian Rainer Hersch said “last week I did a gig in Wuppertal Stadthalle with my 10 piece orchestra. The orchestra flew, the instruments all went in a van. Got there, did the gig, got paid, went home, end of story. That simplicity is mirrored by thousands of other industries for whom Europe is a potential market and would all be a thing of the past if Britain left the EU.” 

Other comedians supporting the Remain campaign include Kai Humphries, Matt Green, Wil Hodgson, Tony Jameson and Chris Mayo.



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