Preview: Leicester Comedy Festival Ones To Watch

The Leicester Comedy Festival asked some comedy people for their ones to watch out for in 2017's Festival. Here are the choices picked out by promoter and comedian Bob Slayer, founder of ROAR Comedy Corrie McGuire and yours truly. The Leicester Comedy Festival 2017 runs from the 8-26 February, with over 770 events across the 19 days. Full programme and ticket details here.


Stuart Goldsmith (pictured third down)

Stuart Goldsmith is in danger of becoming best known for his The Comedian’s Comedian podcast in which he chats to fellow stand-ups and dissects the way they go about their work. In 2017 he should make amends for that with more live gigs in his own right that should see him move up the comedy rankings. Goldsmith is a relaxed, confident storyteller with a style that easily wins over any audience and he is getting better all the time. Maybe he is listening to his own podcast interviews and taking notes…

Stuart Goldsmith: All the Time in the World, Sat 11 Feb, Heroes @ The Criterion, 1.15pm.

Stuart Goldsmith: Compared to What, Sat 11 Feb, Heroes @ The Criterion, 8.15pm.


Mark Simmons

Pun-based humour has become a mainstay of the live scene in recent years and Leicester Comedy Festival has played its part by launching the annual UK Pun Championships. A leading exponent of this new wave of wordplay is Mark Simmons, who recently supported Seann Walsh on tour – at one gig quite literally, Walsh’s foot swelled up on the way to the venue and he couldn’t walk without Simmons’ help. Simmons doesn’t just fire out Tim Vine-style one liners, though of course there are plenty of those. His longer sets are cleverly structured – pay attention because a throwaway early line may become significant later. In fact pay attention to rising star Simmons, he may become significant in the comedy firmament later too.

Mark Simmons: Whatever you want, I couldn’t give a toss, Wed 8 Feb, The Cookie, 6.30pm.


Bilal Zafar

Young Londoner Zafar picked up a 2016 Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nomination for his debut show Cakes, in which he charted the online kerfuffle after his brother playfully tweeted that Bilal was running a Muslims-only cake shop. The show, which smartly mixed stories and onscreen visual gags, was at turns hilarious and scary as it revealed the angry responses from people who could not see that this was a prank. Zafar is performing Cakes at Leicester Comedy Festival and also working on his eagerly anticipated sequel.

Bilal Zafar: Cakes, Sat 11 Feb, The Cookie, 6.30pm.

Bilal Zafar: Work in Progress, Thu 9 Feb, The Cookie Comedy Club @ The Globe – Upstairs, 7.30.


Jordan Brookes

The comedy world sometimes seems full of youthful men in casual clothes standing at a microphone and thinking about getting booked for Live at the Apollo. Jordan Brookes is unlikely to be appearing on primetime TV in the near future, but if you like your comedy quirky and unconventional he is your man. His last show, The Making Of…, tackled issues with his father which is a fairly common comedy theme, but Brookes did it in a different way, by playing around with the timeline, pulling grotesque faces and generally breaking most of stand-up’s stage rules. He is definitely one of the most intriguing talents to emerge in recent years. The Making Of… is great, but the best may well be yet to come.

Jordan Brookes: The Making Of, Sun 26 Feb, Attenborough Arts Centre – Main Hall, 8.30pm.


Adam Hess (pictured second down)

Comedians have an ambivalent relationship with Twitter. Some fear that their jokes might be squandered if they appear on social media, others use social media to try out gags. Super-nerd Hess falls clearly into the second category and in the process has made his name as one of the funniest people on Twitter, where he lays bare his inability to cope with modern life: “I was just so nervous while talking to a man that I shook his hand mid conversation.” Onstage he is the same only more, a must-see high-energy neurotic bouncing around like a child. Eccentric behaviour clearly runs in the family – his mother sends dried up teabags to companies who send her junk mail.

King Street Comedy with Adam Hess, Fri 17 Feb, 54a King Street (aka Nigel’s Cafe), 6.30pm.

Adam Hess New Show, The Cookie, £5 or PWYW – Fri 10 Feb, 8pm & Thu 16 Feb.


Mr Twonkey

The last time Mr Twonkey performed at Leicester Comedy Festival only two people turned up in a 150 capacity venue. Promoter Bob Slayer blames myself. Like a true pro Mr Twonkey got up there and gave his all and those two people had the experience of their lives. He is an absolute beautiful wonderment. Did you know his band used to be a favourite of John Peel? Go see him for sure. 
Twonkey’s Christmas in the Jungle, Thu 9 & Fri 10 Feb, Heroes @ The Criterion, 8.15pm.


Becky Walker (pictured fourth down) 

Becky has put up with promoter Bob Slayer for a number of years now running his bars and doing comedy doors. She makes him laugh more than most people he knows and is also his moral compass. She did her first shows at Leicester Comedy Festival last year, since then she has been gigging around the north and even did a short very successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Beautiful stories, ideas and tangents. Go see her for sure. 

Becky Walker’s Mandatory Rest Break, Sat 25 Feb, Heroes @ Bobs’ Blundabus, 8.30pm.


Abigoliah Schamaun (pictured top)

Fearless and at times shocking, Abigoliah Schamaun’s tendency to drop in explicit sexual references is softened by her tender stories about her background and family life. Raised in Ohio, she developed her comedy style in New York, a city that has brought us many of today’s American comedy heroes. Above all, Abigoliah is genuinely hilarious and a joy to watch. 

Abigoliah Schamaun, Wed 15 Feb, Heroes @ Criterion, 8.15pm.


Chris Betts

Canadian Chris Betts honed his comedy style on the North American circuit for five years before moving to London in 2012. His comedy draws on personal experience, and with thirteen years as a bartender under his belt, he is adept at controlling a crowd. Chris is always the stand out on a mixed bill, so it’s very exciting that he is bringing three shows to the Leicester Comedy Festival 2017.

Chris Betts: Social Animal, Thu 9 Feb, The Needle and Pin, 9pm.

Chris Betts: Bewilderbeest (WIP), Fri 17 & Sat 18 Feb, Grays @ LCB Depot – Lightbox, 8pm.

Chris Betts vs the Audience, Thu 9 & Fri 10 Feb, Heroes @ The Citerion, 7pm.


Tom Ward

Tom Ward’s unique, idiosyncratic style makes him a truly exciting new voice on the comedy circuit. Looking like an indie kid but with solid jokes to back up his style, his relaxed interactions with audiences suggest a confident star of tomorrow. One of the funniest new acts in ages.

Tom Ward: Work in Progress, Sat 11 & Sun 12 Feb, Heroes @ The Citerion, 4.50pm.


● The complete programme is available now



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