4 shows you should not miss at this year’s Camden Fringe

Edinburgh is overflowing with stellar comedians right now. But there’s plenty of talent left around the rest of the country to keep those of us who can’t make it to the fringe entertained.

Of course, the very best are saving their strength for the next Blizzard show at the end of the month.

But the Camden Fringe has just kicked off with some truly amazing shows. While we recommend checking out the full listings for yourself, we’ve found a few that we think are unmissable.

Eryn Tett – Fantastic

When an act is this smart and cool, it’s a travesty whenever you can’t see them live. Luckily for you, Eryn Tett is performing her first ever solo show Fantastic at The Camden Fringe. Fantastic is the kind of show that really takes you on an adventure through the whimsical world that exists within Eryn’s mind.

See Eryn perform on August 7 at The Albany.

Find out more.

Tiernan Douieb – That’s Enough Now

Host of the Partly Political Broadcast, Tiernan Douieb’s sharp and piercing take on the day-to-day is addictive thanks to its insight and general hilarity. His new show at the Camden Fringe promises his usual biting take-down of the political situation, alongside some choice hot takes on everything from parenting to petrol stations.

See Tiernan perform on August 5 at Camden Comedy Club.

Find out more.

Siân Docksey – Canary

If the image of a little yellow bird with a woman’s head on it isn’t enough to convince you that a fringe show is absolutely worth seeing, then I’m not sure what will. All we’re saying is, if you’re still undecided, please just take our word for it that this is a show that guarantees a good time.

See Siân performing from August 7-10 at the Etcetera Theatre.

Find out more.

Benji Waterstones – A-Z Mental Health Atlas

In a world of impending climate change, rampant capitalism and an economy built against ever letting anyone having anything nice, it should be obvious why the collective mental health is falling into the gutter. NHS junior doctor, psychiatrist and comedian Benji Waterstones is raising awareness for mental health and dissecting it all in one excellent show at this year’s Camden fringe.

See Benji on 18-19 August at the Camden Comedy Club.

Find out more.

“We have a lot to be anxious about right now – but being able to laugh gets us through.” | John Porter on comedy and coping

Tell us about you/your act.

So I’m John Porter, I’m 29, I have cerebral palsy and I live in Manchester (alone, don’t tell ATOS). My act is mostly me talking about things that are going on in my life and inside my head – very anecdotal! It gets dark in places but that’s largely because I pretty much use the microphone as though it’s my diary.

How did you get into comedy?

I was 22 and a directionless, jobless, graduate. I’d spent my entire life not shooting for things I really wanted out of fear and the misguided idea that my disability would/could ‘hold me back’ – I’d decided I’d had enough of that. Then, for whatever reason – largely boredom – I started writing, as I had before, things I found funny – and decided I wanted to give stand-up a go. Then I found the Frog and Bucket in Preston, signed up for Beat The Frog, and never looked back.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever had?

One of three. 

1 – You’ve Been Nabbed 25 for Rick Hulse, where I got a standing ovation from 2000 people (I look at the picture on particularly bad days).

2 – My solo show in 2018, oddly enough at Gullivers Manchester, where I felt the love of some wonderful people in my life that I still love to this day.

Or 3 – The solo show just gone (July 20th) at Anthony Burgess, which was very similar to 2. 

What’s your favourite thing about working in comedy?

Performing it, and feeling the love throughout the room when I do.

Who is your favourite comedian we’ve never heard of? 

Neil Elston. Quite possibly the best MC I know and one of the nicest people too. If he gave it everything, he could be a superstar, and no comedian would deserve it more.

Your comedy has been described as “sweetly menacing”. How did you get that reputation?

God only knows! It’s one of my favourite quotes about me though, I love Bryan.  If I was trying to figure out where it came from, I think it’s that ‘using performance as a diary’ thing that makes it ‘menacing’ or ‘dark’ but (I like to think) that my real personality shines through on stage, and as such, it’s delivered with a gentle likability that makes it ‘sweet’.

How do you feel about being described that way?

Pretty good! It’s a quote I’ve used on purpose for a reason, I guess. I think it means a lot to me that I can say some things that might seem off or strange or dark, but that people still see the ‘real’ me underneath it – and that people find it funny too!

Do you think there’s anything particular about the age we live in that is contributing to the popularity of gallows humour?

Sort of. I think gallows humour is quite British anyway, but we’ve always been strongest in the worst times because that’s what we do as a nation. We have a lot to be anxious and unhappy about right now – but I think being able to laugh at it is important, it gets us through. And I think laughing together with a comedian about that for an audience has a strong collective feeling – and we could all use that right now.

Your comedy sometimes address quite personal things. How does it feel talking about personal matters in front of rooms full of strangers?

Funny you mention this – it came up in a conversation with someone I care deeply for recently. I had been struggling to write and thinking about giving up. Their response to that was to say ‘I feel like you used comedy to deal with the bad stuff in your life. Now there’s not so much of it; so you don’t know what to do next!’ So yeah, pretty good. I think it allowed me to own my condition, own my life, and see the best in it. And she was right – it’s a struggle to write from a happy place!

What challenges have you faced working in comedy?

Other comedians. Most have been pretty good to me but Facebook arguments, pileons and peacocking all kind of do my head in.

How do you think that comedy as an industry can better address these issues?

Step away from the social media. You don’t need to have the biggest appendage in the room. Let your work speak for itself.

What appealed to you about being part of a show like Blizzard?

I’ve heard great things about it, and it’s in a wonderful venue, run by wonderful people. 

Aside from appearing at Blizzard, what have you got coming up that we should look out for?

I haven’t got tons of things coming up, but I have just put my show for 2019, ‘The Impossible Dream’ on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jp49er80/the-impossible-dream-full-show.


John is performing at Blizzard on Monday 26th August. Find out more about the show here.

You can keep up with John by following him on Facebook and Twitter.


6 shows bringing a touch of weirdness to the Edinburgh fringe

We’ve all seen stand-up on Live At The Apollo. It’s some probably quite neat-looking person with a microphone talking about normal things that happen to all of us in a way that makes us laugh because it’s so relatable. Right?

Wrong.

If you’re not familiar with comedians who aren’t afraid to let things get weird, then you are missing out. Luckily for you, there are plenty of options for you to get acquainted with some of our favourite weirdos at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Alasdair Beckett-King – The Interdimensional ABK

At the very least, make sure you watch the trailer for The Interdimensional ABK. It will tell you everything you need to know about the show and is an experience in and of itself. This is one of the very few comedy shows at the fringe this year with its own theme song. It deserves it. It’s wonderful. Go see the show.

The show runs from August 1-18 and 20-26 at the Pleasance Dome.

Find out more.

Harriet Dyer – The Dinosaur Show

There are few acts in the UK’s comedy scene today that are as wholesome and wonderful as Harriet Dyer. She goes out of her way to make sure everyone at her shows is having a good time, in terms of feeling safe as much as pissing themselves laughing. This year, she’s wearing a dinosaur costume at the fringe. She’s not just putting on a show. She’s going to take you on a journey.

The show runs from July 31-August 26 at the Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Find out more.

Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr. Fruit Salad

If you’ve never seen a show hosted by a veritable cryptid, then this is your chance to experience something truly unique. Much like the Abominable Snowman and the Loch Ness Monster, Mr Fruit Salad is a mystery that has only ever been glimpsed, but never effectively photographed. This might be your only chance to find out what the hell is really going on.

The show runs from August 1-8 and 11-25 at Heroes @ The Hive.

Find out more.

Rob Kemp – Moonraker 2 Moonrakerer

Creator of the smash hit rock-n-roll-horror mash up Rob Kemp is returning to the fringe with a show that promises to be just as bizarre and brilliant. While this is of course an entirely new and original thing, it is built on the same foundation of doing stuff to something that you expect to be familiar that makes it unique and surreal.

The show runs from August 2-13 and 15-26 at Monkey Barrel Comedy.

Find out more.

Tom Short’s Wheel Of Misfortune

If you haven’t seen Tom Short before then you are being deprived of one of the most innovative acts working today. Blizzard alumni and all round good dude, Tom is a master of physical comedy that makes you wonder why anyone even bothers with traditional stand-up.

The show runs from August 1-26 at Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters.

Find out more.

Tony law – Identifies

When it comes to masters of absurdist comedy, Tony Law is one of the first name that springs to mind. This is his sixteenth fringe show. At this point, you shouldn’t need to be told to go see Tony Law. It should be taken as a given that he’s going to do something amazing and that you are going to want to be there when it happens.

Find out more.

“He might be a cunt but at least he’s not a landlord” | Tom Ballard boils millennial angst about capitalism into a single excellent hour

There is a reason that Tom Ballard is a multi-award winning comedian and it simply because he is brilliant. Former host of topical comedy show Tonightly, Tom takes the chaos that has been inflicted on contemporary twenty-somethings and finds a way to make you laugh about it.

His new show Enough at the Edinburgh Fringe directly calls out Baby Boomers for their role is severely ruining the planet for us of all. He touches on climate change and property prices and the job market and manages to channel our shared raged into some genuinely enjoyable belly laughs.

He also has some solid fart and dick jokes in his hour, which are surprisingly charming.

Tom has definitely done his homework when it comes to UK hot topics. While acknowledging that his home country of Australia is just as messed up politically, Tom touches on Brexit in a way that is genuinely original and very funny. And this isn’t easy when it’s so prevalent in the news, and has been dragging on for so long, and every comedian and their mum has a tired hot take opinion on the matter.

He links everything he has to say effortlessly together. From gay saunas to dog walking to Boris Johnson to farting in a crowded tube carriage, somehow Tom manages to make it all flow seamlessly. His construction is excellent.

For an audience of millennials desperately attempting to navigate today’s mercurial economy, Tom is the relief that we need. He is angry but sweet and shows enough self-awareness about his own success that you don’t resent him for it.

Tom’s rage is infectious, but you leave the show feeling energised and almost optimistic. Not entirely like we can fix the shitty things we deal with on a daily basis, or that we won’t all come to a moist and miserable end because we can’t afford post-climate change real estate. But that we can at least embrace it with a bit of gallows humour.

5 stars

Tom is performing at Monkey Barrel Comedy from 1-12 and 14-25 August.

Find out more about Tom: http://tomballard.com.au/

Get your ticket here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/tom-ballard-enough


Ensembles, doubles acts, split bills: 7 Edinburgh fringe shows that give you more for your money

While everyone and their mum is plugging a solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe, there is genuine gold to be found in those shows that smash multiple talented people together on one stage.

We’ve picked seven of our favourites at this year’s festival that we cannot recommend highly enough.

About Time/Bully – Sian Davies/Thanyia Moore split

This split bill show features two multi-award winning comedians and is the kind of unmissable show that makes the Edinburgh Fringe such a damn special festival. Thanyia Moore’s Bully explores the complexities of childhood friendships with the aim of figuring out who the real bullies were. In About Time, which debuted earlier this year at the Manchester Fringe, Sian Davies acknowledges that it took 27 years for her to finally let go of her own childhood.

The show runs from August 1-25 at Laughing Horse @ City Cafe.

Find out more.

The Delightful Sausage – Ginsters’ Paradise

If you’re not familiar with The Delightful Sausage then there is a hole is your life that you may not yet realise needs filling. But trust us. It is there. And the double act that is Amy Gledhill and Chris Cantrill are ready and willing to satisfy your need for surreal sketches that will stay with your forever.

The show runs from August 2-12 and 14-25 at Monkey Barrel Comedy.

Find out more.

FOC IT UP: The Femmes Of Color Comedy Club

One of London’s fastest rising comedy shows, FOC IT UP Comedy Club exclusively features a line-up of women, trans and non-binary people of colour for those days when the overwhelming white cis-maleness of comedy gets a bit much. Their sell-out line-ups feature Kemah Bob, Sophie Duker, Aditi Mittal, Yuriko Kotani, Njambi McGrath, Isma Almas, Michelle De Swarte, Charlie George, Mary O’Connell and more.

The show is on Aug 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 25 at The Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Find out more.

The LOL Word

Another of London’s fiercely inclusive nights, The LOL Word regularly struggles to fit everyone in the room when their LGBTQ+ women and non-binary comedians take to the stage. After massively popular runs in previous, their return to the fringe in 2019 promises their best show yet.

The show runs from July 31st-August 11th and August 11th-25th.

Find out more.

(No) Money In The Bank – Nobody Likes You When You’re 33

Blizzard alumni (No) Money In The Bank are returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with their new pop punk themed show, Nobody Likes You When You’re 33. An exploration of self, as much as a labour of love for the music that shaped this double act, Andrew and Thom invite you to join them as they come to terms with the fact that they are grown ups now.

The show is on Aug 2-6, 8-13, 15-20, 22-25 at Sweet Novotel.

Read our interview with No Money In The Bank here.

Find out more.

Best in Class

The comedy revolution that showcases the voices of working class comedians, Best In Class has a line-up to die for at this year’s fringe. Hosted by the incredible Sian Davis, you’ll find Ash Preston, Jordan Gray, William Stone, Kimi Loughton, Hannah Platt, Charlie George, Wilson Milton and Fran Garrity taking to the stage in this crowd-funded, profit-sharing, wholesome hell of a show.

The show runs from August 1-25 at The Laughing Horse @ The Counting House.

Find out more.

Secret Dinosaur Cult Live

There are few podcasts as uniquely addictive as Secret Dinosaur Cult. Through the medium of dinosaurs, Sofie Hagen and Jodie Mitchell explore their trauma, ranging from the things that make them feel like terrible people to their long troublesome daddy issues. It is the kind of absurd and wonderful show that always comes with a happy ending and is a genuine gift to this year’s fringe.

The show is on August 5-6, 13, 20 at the Bedlam Theatre.

Find out more.

Do you like our cool shirts?

Some of the more eagle-eyed among you at last night’s show might have noticed Scarlett at the door and Jonny on stage wearing some snazzy limited edition T shirts.

We made these specially to commemorate the news this week that Boris Johnson is now officially the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In case that wasn’t clear. We’re not too pleased by this.

Arguably, there was no way this decision could’ve gone that would have pleased us. The choice was between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, who is just as bad but at least he is quiet, which means he’s less of a public embarrassment.

We made a limited run of just 15 shirts. Some of them went to our Patrons. They’re a tad pricier than the things we usually get for our Patrons, but we decided that we wanted to make the statement more than we wanted the money right now.

The rest will soon be available to buy from our merch store on Facebook.

There are tons of anti-Boris shirts floating around on the internet. We saw a ton of “Boris is a dick” T shirt ads the day the news was announced.

But just saying “Boris is a dick” is an understatement. It trivialises the impact that his actions have on real human beings, the direct consequences on human life caused by politics that some people choose to just shrug off.

Boris Johnson voted against measures to prevent climate change in 2016. 79 million acres of primary or recovering forest disappeared between 2010 and 2015. Within a year the Tory party received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from oil bosses.

It has been reported that 130,000 unnecessary deaths have been caused by austerity.

Politicians need to be held accountable. Not treated like your mate who’s a bit of a twat. But like someone in a position of privilege and power whose actions – or inactions – cause other people to suffer.

At Blizzard, we want things to be better.

So we do a cosy comedy night once a month that we try to make as inclusive and wholesome as possible. And we try to call people out when the consequences of their actions are heinous.

So we’re going to wear our angry T shirts and tell our wholesome jokes. And we hope that the impact that we have on the world is a net positive.

Watch this space.

Introducing your line up for Monday 26th August

A Comedy night? At this time of year? At this part of the country? When all the comedians are knackered from the worlds largest arts festival? Localized entirely within Gullivers NQ? Yes.

Can you see it?

Oh go on then.

Despite all odds we’ve managed to put together another awesome line-up at Blizzard Comedy – Manchester’s finest* inclusive safe space comedy club.

Book your ticket here!

Our aim is to provide a comedy space that is safe for all, and as such we have a strict content policy on: No Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Classism, Ablism, Fatphobia etc. And we make every effort to content warn any potentially triggering material that may take place.

Afraid of audience interaction? At Blizzard there is no unsolicited or forced audience participation – if you agree to take part in audience participation, you may get a sticker at the door, otherwise, you can rest assured knowing that no one is going to pressure you into getting directly involved.

*I haven’t done a survey or anything, maybe there’s another one, but it doesn’t have Jonny involved, therefore it’s inferior by definition.

Headlining our August show is the Incredible RANDOLPH TEMPEST

The creation of award winning Bolton comic Peter Slater, who’s appeared in Phoenix Nights, Ideal, Saxondale, The Detectorists and had his own comedy lab pilot for Channel 4 ‘Slaterwood’.

‘Very funny – a very enjoyable night out’. Number9Reviews

Supporting we have:

HANNAH PLATT

Hannah Platt has a frank and acerbic approach to stand up, never shying away from sensitive topics with brutal honesty and quick wit.

Nominated for BBC New Comedian of the Year 2019

‘Dark, damaged and hilarious’ Josie Long

‘Voice of a new generation’ The Skinny

CHRIS HARLEY

Queer, feminist, and occasionally filthy. Chris shares stories about gender, sexuality, and being a broke ass bitch so the audience can share a laugh at their (mis)adventures

MARIE GOLDBOURNE

Marie Goulbourne is a comedian and actor. Marie enjoys trains, science fiction and talking about herself in the third person.

JOHN PORTER

John Porter is a 29 year old comedian from Preston, Lancashire, who has been gigging for around 7 years. John is a former Manchester XS Comedian Of The Year runner-up and has been described as a ‘Charmingly dark, refreshingly honest crowd pleaser’ (Laughter Factory), with ‘sweet, darkly menacing humour’ (The Ha Ha Club), and ‘timing beyond his years’ (Woofers Comedy Club)

Book your ticket here!

“I look like shit but my heart is full of love.” | Josie Long’s Tender gives you hope for the future

While Josie Long has certainly been busy in recent years, it has been some time since she brought a new show to the fringe. This year, she’ll be performing Tender in Edinburgh for almost all of August.

Without beating around the bush, the show is bloody wonderful. It is wholesome and heartfelt and leaves you leaving with the kind of hope for humanity that is frankly a rare experience these days.

Josie blends an infectious euphoria of new motherhood with a serious concern for the environment.

She jumps effortlessly between critiques of the state of the world and personal anecdotes. When it comes to pregnancy and giving birth and dealing with having a newborn baby, the show is charmingly graphic. Her approach to environmental issues highlight the seriousness of them, but via a celebration of the people fighting for positive change. Side by side, these create a wonderful sense of perspective.

Josie doesn’t shy away from the world’s problems, but has managed to address them directly through the medium of a joyful and lovely show.

There are obviously going to be people (a term here used loosely) who will complain about female comedians talking about babies and periods and pregnancy. But, with all due respect, those people can fuck off. Those things have as much potential to be funny as anything else. When the punchlines are good enough, the topic shouldn’t matter.

And every joke Josie tells is pure gold. If the idea of trying to tolerate three minutes of small talk with a human head hanging out of your vagina doesn’t make you laugh, then Josie long deserves a better audience than you.

You shouldn’t need to be told to go see Josie Long’s show. She has been an award-winning comedian since she was 17 and she is consistently crushing it to this day. But we’re telling you anyway. Go see Josie Long.

5 stars

Josie’s show Tender is at The Stand from August 1st-25th at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

More info here: https://www.josielong.com/josies-shows/tender/

Tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/josie-long-tender

Jonny Collins on the struggles and successes of launching a safe space comedy show in 2019

Tell us about you/your act.

My act is a shouty mess of genderqueer social politics with occasional bursts of absurdism. I talk about dicks a lot too.

How did you get into comedy?

I’d always been interested in sitcoms and sketch based comedy. My early stand-up gigs I was mainly using as a way to (unsuccessfully) promote my YouTube channel of short films and sketches.

My first interest in performing live comedy occurred in my early teens when I discovered the big acts of the time, like Lee Evans, Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard. Channel 4 used to broadcast stand-up specials every Thursday evening, I never missed one. Many of the acts who sparked my interest in comedy aren’t people I’d cite as influences now, but my exposure to them made me aware of stand-up as an art form.

I didn’t do my first gig until I was 16. Some of my mates were doing comedy performances and took me to an open mic night. I wasn’t planning on performing, but I had been working on stuff for about a year. I’d already started doing that annoying thing comedians do where they engineer conversations in directions where we can drop new lines to test the waters. I knew that my jokes were at least slightly funny in a social context. My mates convinced me to put my name down and the reception was really positive.

In hindsight the set wasn’t good. There’s nothing from my early sets I still use. I didn’t know what I was doing. There were a few one liners, mostly revolving around the fact that I was a socially awkward virgin (original), and a few anecdotes from school that wouldn’t have resonated with anyone over 18. But everyone was nice and seemed to enjoy it for what it was, a teenager trying stand-up for the first time.

It’s worth noting that for the first two years of my stand-up career I was underage. Only one venue took the time to ID me and refused to let me in. I wasn’t buying booze, but none of them noticed or cared that the comedy clubs were sneaking in a teenager. I am very grateful for that. My first years of stand-up were objectively bad, but it gave me a headstart by the time I actually started finding my voice and honing my act.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever had?

I can actually answer this as I keep record of every gig I do and work out percentages of jokes that landed vs those that didn’t! It’s not a fool-proof method. I’ve noticed the longer I’ve been doing stand-up the higher my standards for what constitutes “landing” are. In the early days, the average percentages are a lot higher, purely because I considered any amount of audience reaction a win.

The best gig I’ve done recently is definitely the Blizzard Comedy opening night – both on a personal level and on a gig level.

The night itself was wonderful with a great line-up, and me as a compère of this new safe space night went really well. I had some new stuff which killed and is now a staple of my set. Very rarely does a new bit work so well first time. It’s polished more now, but it was in a good state of finished at Blizzard. It was such a fun night, and I think that is in part due to how aggressively we marketed it as a safe space, queer friendly, alternative gig. I got the exact audience I wanted to perform to, and they all got the exact comedians they wanted.

Other gigs that have successfully done that are Quantum Leopard, XS Malarkey and Trapdoor Comedy. And I’m so happy that on our first attempt, I managed to run a gig that I felt was on par with these absolute veterans.

What’s your favourite thing about working in comedy?

I guess my favourite thing is the great people I get to perform with and meet and the new comedians I get to discover! If I wasn’t performing, I’d still spend most of my time at comedy clubs. I love the atmosphere. I love seeing all this superb talent you wouldn’t get on TV.

What challenges have you faced working in comedy?

I’ve been lucky. I haven’t struggled much. I like doing alternative clubs because they’re my kind of audiences, but also there’s something intensely satisfying about winning over a mainstream audience who was apprehensive when they first saw you.

Since I’ve become more politically aware and outspoken, I am far more picky with gigs. Partly because I don’t think they’d like me, but mostly because I don’t want to. I could tone down my act or adjust it to suit different audiences. Many comedians like me do. I don’t want to.

I make a point of keeping my set adjustments to a minimum regardless. The only real changes are certain language I use when talking to largely queer audiences and those who are less knowledgeable on terms and context. I don’t change points I make or soften the political bits, just alter the language so everyone can follow. That doesn’t always work, and there are plenty of high-paying gigs I know I’ll never break into without compromise, which I’m not willing to do.

It’s entirely on me, but I’m okay with that. I have no issue with acts like me who do play to those gigs. It’s an incredibly difficult skill, and max respect to acts who can kill at both mainstream clubs and alternative nights. But it’s not a thing I can do or really want to. It’s not ideal from a career perspective, but for my own personal satisfaction it’s doing me a lot of good.

How do you think that comedy as an industry can better address these issues?

This is all on me. There are plenty of issues the industry needs to work on, but my personal challenges are almost entirely self-made.

The industry needs to work on how whitewashed it is, outside of London, at any rate. Gender balance is improving but still needs a lot of work. Gay male representation is pretty high, although the rest of the LGBTQIA+ community is vastly under-represented. It’s all well and good nights going “Oh I book funny people, regardless of gender/sexuality/race”. Fine, but all of the big comedy clubs are incredibly white and cismale. Just because one of them likes bumming, or you booked a woman of colour six months ago, doesn’t mean you’re helping the problem of under-platforming and -representation.

Also, while not specifically the comedy industry’s problem, the Manchester circuit needs to work on venue accessibility. Purpose-built clubs aside, there are almost no venues in Manchester with decent access for wheelchair or walking aid users. Most venues are either up or downstairs, with no alternative access. This is an issue of the service industry rather than comedy, although disabled comedians are another group who are under-represented and often don’t have their access needs met.

I’m attempting to rectify this with Blizzard, but the most accessible venue we found still isn’t great. There is a ramp, but it’s steep and not sturdy, and the corridors aren’t wide enough for most power/wheelchairs. They try harder than most affordable venues, but the building is not accessible to a large percentage of disabled people, both acts and audience.

Apart from maybe in London, comedy clubs in the UK are more often than not inaccessible. Promoters can only work with the buildings available, but people are not being nearly vocal enough about this issue.

The least we can do is draw attention to this. It doesn’t help that the government doesn’t give two shits about disabled people living, let alone going out and enjoy life.

This is an issue bigger than comedy, but we can play our part.

What made you want to launch Blizzard?

Basically – to help diversify line-ups, give platforms to acts that struggle in comedy, and to provide a more anxiety-friendly space for audiences and acts alike.

One of my favourite comedy clubs in the country is Quantum Leopard. It inspired many aspects of Blizzard, including the content ethos and audience interaction consent policy.

I’m trialling a content warning system where potential triggers in the show are declared beforehand. So far I don’t think anyone has made use of it, but I’d rather have it and not use it than need it and not have it. It’s in the early stages, so I’m sure it’ll evolve and hopefully work better in future, but as far as I know no other clubs have implemented this. I’d love to get it working and become more of a standard, at least for safe space clubs, if not the wider circuit.

My long term goals are to improve accessibility, and disabled representation – which will unfortunately require a new venue. The management and staff at Gullivers are ace, but the building is too limited accessibility-wise. I’d love to get BSL interpreters for every show once we can afford it too, but these things require a lot of money, so aren’t feasible yet.

Take us through the key values at the core of the show?

I want audiences to feel safe at our gigs, whether that’s by having a strict content ban on material that victimises marginalized groups, having a consent system for direct audience participation, or by having content warnings so that anyone who has a trigger can prepare themselves or leave the room if need be. These aren’t unique policies – most clubs don’t tolerate explicit bigotry – however they will have a differently defined line than we do.

The last thing I want to create is just another comedy club for the same audiences as every other club. From a purely business point of view it makes sense to appeal to people who like comedy but don’t feel safe in comedy clubs, rather than competing with other clubs. Although I don’t want to sound like a capitalist, so that’s where the next value comes in:

Pay What You Want/Crowdfunding: Part of having an accessible comedy night is having an affordable one. Poverty is rife, with most people on full-time, minimum wage jobs being significantly below the poverty line. There’s a culture of people slightly over the poverty line being really shitty about people on the other side when they spend money on something that isn’t essential, like a game or a phone, or even just going out. I call bullshit – there’s more to living than surviving. As someone below the poverty line technically myself, I know how important it is to be able to go out. Putting a price tag on that wouldn’t be fair.

There are plenty of cheap comedy nights out there. But a lot of free ones don’t vet their acts whatsoever, which would absolutely not be conducive to the safe space I’m trying to create. I needed to make Blizzard free. Obviously we still need to fund it, and people donate what they can. We even have a few Patrons who pledge between $5-20 a month, for access to exclusive merch and video content, but mostly because they like what we do and want it to carry on.

We also think it’s important that all our acts get paid. Particularly in the case of middle spots which are often unpaid. It’s easy to get stuck doing those spots without much hope of progression. We’re all doing our best to survive, and I don’t want to pay our artists in “exposure” or “opportunity”.

We make a point to platform under-represented acts. We do not need another comedy club with four interchangeable middle-aged white dudes on the poster. It’s better for everyone if there’s a variety of acts from different cultures, backgrounds, etc. Sometimes we struggle with this one, but we always do our best to have a mixed line-up.

Our ultimate goal is to provide an accessible night. Upsettingly Manchester does not have many accessible venues outside of big theatres and large music venues. But we are constantly looking for ways to make our shows more accessible to everyone – new venues, facilities and clear accessibility details. At the very least we’re providing accurate information about accessibility to those who need it.

Gullivers are excellent for making everyone aware of their accessibility. It’s not 100% accessible, but they try harder than most. It’s sad that that’s something that needs to be said, but it is unfortunately a rare gem.

How do you feel about the show now that you’ve done the first handful of shows?

Feedback from audience and acts has been overwhelmingly positive. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about it from a financial perspective. But all the responses I’ve got from audiences (including a handful of dedicated regulars!) and all the acts who’ve expressed support for the concept, and their desire to get involved is better than I could’ve ever hoped! It seems to me like this is something the circuit had been wanting for a while, and as long as people want nights like this, I’m going to keep providing them.

What are your hopes for Blizzard in the future?

Improved accessibility. That’s the big one, reliable wheelchair access, BSL interpreters, etc. These might be long term goals, but they’re the most important ones.

In the short term I want more people to hear about us and for people to continue enjoying us. I’d like to create a community hub of acts and fans to share similar things and to help our favourite acts film their full shows to release.

I want people to keep making use of what we do and enjoying it.


You can follow Jonny’s work by checking out their Facebook and Twitter.

You can help to support Blizzard by coming to a show or inviting your friends. We also accept donations via PayPal and anyone who wants to offer ongoing support can visit our Patreon page.

Introducing your line up for Monday 29th July

Manchester’s crowdfunded inclusive comedy club is back!

Book your ticket here.

Our July headliner is STEPH LAING

Stephanie started performing in April 2007 on the Scottish comedy circuit. She quickly established herself as one of the most promising acts of her generation on the circuit, and in 2015 appeared as a finalist in the prestigious Leicester Mercury Comedian Of The Year competition.

Stephanie is best described as goofy and peculiar, and her comedy is partway between the needy oddness of Maria Bamford and the upbeat affability of Josie Long. Her material is a mix of silliness, filth and unusual observations, underpinned by a disarming honesty which makes her seem charmingly vulnerable.

Now a regular on the circuit Stephanie has also become a stalwart of comedy festivals across the country having appeared at Brighton Fringe, Leicester Comedy Festival, York Comedy Festival, Bath Comedy Festival, Women in Comedy Festival as well as appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe every year since 2010.

‘Gloriously silly … wonderfully unpretentious’ (BroadwayBaby.com)

‘Definitely one to watch.’ Three Weeks

Supporting Steph we have:

MARK GRIMSHAW

Mark Grimshaw is an Autistic PowerPoint using comedian who takes a look at the darker side of a major aspect of modern life – the internet. Looking at everything from the self-centered lunacy of Facebook to some places that probably shouldn’t be featured on TripAdvisor, Mark will take you through the selection of his internet history he’s allowed to show on stage.

WINNER – Great Yorkshire Fringe New Comedian of The Year 2018

RUNNER UP – Beat The Frog World Series 2016

RUNNER UP – Harrogate Theatre Comedian of The Year 2016

BALTHAZAR DARK

Balthazar Dark is the greatest wrestler you’ve never heard of. Too dangerous to perform on the wrestling scene in this country he whiles away his time exposing the seedy underbelly of pro wrestling to UK comedy audiences.

‘Highlights the weird and bizarre elements of the glorious sport of professional wrestling’ Newsplex

TORI MILLARD

Tori Millard, new to comedy for the 4th time in 5 years. Will this be her last? Tori has fell on hard times in recent years. Maybe she’d be a bit steadier on her feet if she ever put down the wine. But no matter how many times she falls.. she never spills a drop! Voted 2019s most likely to become patsy stone. She’s Loud, she’s Proud and she’s truly terrified of rejection, which as a amateur stand up comedian has a bliss, beautiful irony to it.

& ROS BALLINGER

Ros Ballinger is a stalwart of the northern scene talking filth, feminism and fury – her first show The Idiot’s Guide to Kink taught audiences all about the weird and wonderful of S&M and her second show debuts at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. “Candid and intelligent comedy” (Theatre-T.co.uk)

Book your ticket here.