It’s a very special year in 2023 as we mark 30 years of the Leicester Comedy Festival. Starting as a student project at De Montfort University, it is now the biggest comedy festival in Europe. You can read the amazing story of its founding here.

Shows like the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Competition, the UK Pun Championships and the UK Kids’ Comedy Festival have become some of the UK comedy scene’s most important events. And as it’s a special celebration, this year there are a few ultra-special events to mark 30 years of comedy in Leicester including exhibitions, a special online documentary about the history of the festival and the 30 Acts For £30 show, which does exactly what it says on the tin!

This is just a small selection of the more than 500 shows taking place between the 8 and 26 February. For the full line up and all the info, you’ll want to head to the Comedy Festival website.


Big names and bigger events

The Festival is trailed by the Gala Preview show on 6 January, hosted by former Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year and comedy superstar Seann Walsh. And there are no shortage of stars coming to the city in February, with master of comedic understatement Stewart Lee doing two nights at De Montfort Hall. He’ll be joined (kind of) by his former comedic partner in crime Richard Herring who will be recording an episode of his Sony Award winning podcast Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast at the Y on 26 February (though he could lose the Square from the title for this one).

Musical comedian (and Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 1998) Mitch Benn brings jokes and guitars to Firebug, DJ, comedian and football aficionado Danny Baker brings a mix of chat and comedy to De Montfort Hall on 17 Feb.

The Big Difference Comedy Fundraiser is a way to give back while having some awesome laughs. Held at De Montfort Hall on 16 February, the headline act is Milton Jones and also features the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 2021 Nina Gilligan, Dave’s Best Newcomer 2022 Emmanuel Sonubi and is hosted by Thanyia Moore of Mock the Week.


The women are taking over

And not before time! Leicester has long been home to the Tickled Pink comedy night, which aims to showcase the very best female comedians (but is open to absolutely everyone) and they will be hosting a special show for the festival at the Y on the Festival’s opening night 8 February.

Winner of the BBC’s Digital Comedian of the Year 2021, Holly Hall’s new character comedy show You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry comes to Wygston’s House on 20 February.

Aideen McQueen has been described as one of comedy’s undiscovered talents, and the hottest Irish comic for ages, and she will be doing a four night stand of her show Sugar Baby at the King Richard III pub. She’ll also be co-hosting their ‘Craic Den Comedy Club’.

Comedian and author Laura Lexx will be putting on an intimate reading of her debut novel Pivot at Fox Books in St Martin’s Square, which will also include a Q&A and signing. This one’s on Sunday 26 Feb.

Sara Barron has graced our screen on Live at the Apollo, Would I Lie to You and Frankie Boyle’s New World Order and she’ll be trying out some new material at the festival when she takes to Firebug’s stage on 26 February.


Exhibitions and one-off shows you won’t want to miss

Running throughout the festival at the Old Library on Belvoir Street, the Leicester Comedy Festival 30th anniversary exhibition is a unique opportunity to take a look at items from the Festival’s archive, including brochures, press, photos and gig posters.  

On Monday 13 February to celebrate national pun day the UK Pun Championship comes to De Montfort Hall. Set up like a boxing ring and with the sharpest wits in the country ready to battle, this hilarious event has been a sell out for the past 6 years  

Just the Tonic at Hansom Hall present the best value show of the festival on 18 February, with 30 Acts for £30 to celebrate 30 years of the Comedy Festival. Hosted by Eshaan Akbar (Mock the Week) and Dan Nightingale (Have a Word), this will be a non-stop gag fest!

BBC Radio 4’s award winning comedy panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue comes to De Montfort Hall on 22 February. Join Jack Dee, Marcus Brigstocke, Tony Hawks, Pippa Evans and Rory Bremner as they bring you with them on a night of inspired nonsense!

On 26 February at Curve, Edinburgh Festival nominee and Mash Report host Nish Kumar will be in conversation with the Festival’s founder Geoff Rowe and discussing his career so far! He has been described as “one of the best comedians we have” by The Times, and this is definitely one you won’t want to miss.


Festival Favourites

The comedy festival has so many fantastic events which have become part of its mystique. Since its inception, the festival has nurtured new voices in comedy, and offered Leicester audiences the chance to to spot the stars of tomorrow.

As such, the climax and highlight of the Festival is the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year show, which aims to find the best new comedian of the festival. Previous winners include Jason Manford, Jo Enright, Rhod Gilbert, Kate Lucas and Romesh Ranangathan. And the list of runners up is no less impressive, with Jimmy Carr (who performed a rap for his entry), Jack Whitehall, Greg Davies, Donna Spence, Nigel Ng all on the list of big names who just missed out.

Running alongside the festival in Leicester is the UK Kids Comedy Festival! This includes shows aimed at a younger audience, including former children’s laureate and festival patron Michael Rosen who will explore some of his best loved material on 22 Feb at the Y. There will also be loads of opportunities for kids to get on stage and perform, tell their favourite joke, learn how to perform comedy at Laugh Academy or even put their family and friends on trial for anything they might be guilty of! Check out the Kids Comedy Festival page for more.

But it’s not just about the young’uns. Silver Stand Up celebrates and highlights those who come to comedy later in life. This annual competition for stand-up comics aged over 55 is the perfect place to find new old talent, and allows those who might have given up on their dream one more chance at stardom! This one’s on 21 February, and as it’s at PETER Pizzeria, you can grab an amazing meal too!

Circuit Breakers is one that you’ll be telling your friends about as it’s where the stars of the future will be. Carefully selected acts mean the quality is high and in a few year’s time when they’re on the telly you’ll be telling your friends “I saw them at this tiny show in Leicester!” On the 17 and 18 February at PETER Pizzeria.


Your chance to win!

We're offering you the perfect comedy break in Leicester. Prizes include an overnight stay for two at the Holiday Inn Leicester, a meal at Wok Indo Highcross and a £50 voucher for the Leicester Comedy Festival show of your choice.

Enter here! 

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