Top comics come to county for annual comedy festival

Katherine Ryan
Katherine Ryan

A number of big names in laughter will be appearing as part of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival.

Johnny Vegas, Katherine Ryam, Hal Cruttenden and Gary Delaney are among the the big names appearing at the festival which runs until Sunday February 21.

Amadeus Martin - God Created Brixton

Amadeus Martin - God Created Brixton

The festival’s 23rd year is set to be its most diverse and inventive yet, making Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival the ideal destination for the seasoned comedy fan or someone just looking for a great night out.

Geoff Rowe, founder and director of the festival said: “February 2016 will see Leicester become the top UK destination for comedy and entertainment, as the festival brings together the huge variety of top British comedy talent, events, competitions and seminars.

“There is no better place for comedy fans to see their heroes live, discover fresh new talent and experience the thrill of live entertainment unique to the festival.”

Partnered for the fifth year by UKTV comedy channel Dave, Europe’s longest running comedy festival will include UK Pun Championships, performances from the cream of the UK comedy crop, seminars on how comedy tackles the big issues of the day,exclusive events, performances from award winners, nominees and about-to-break-through-to-the-big-time talented young (and old) newcomers, celebrated with the Leicester Mercury comedian of the year Award and the Silver Stand Up Award, the festivals acknowledgement that with age and wisdom comes wit.

Molland Sullivan

Molland Sullivan

Further highlights will include shows from 2015 Foster’s Best Comedy nominees James Acaster and Nish Kumar, Chris Ramsey, Dane Baptiste, David O’Doherty, Henning Wehn, Joe Lycett, Mitch Benn, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee Richard Herring, Rory McGrath and Shappi Khorsandi.

All of the shows take place at a variety of different times over the next two-and-a-half weeks.

For further information about the festival including a guide to all the performances visit www.comedy-festival.co.uk or call 0116 242 3595.

Many of the comedians appearing at the festival have been in touch with the Harborough Mail about their appearances. In their own words, here is a guide to some of the performers.

Zahra Barri - Walk Like an Egyptian

Zahra Barri - Walk Like an Egyptian

Sajeela Kershi - Shallow Halal, Immigrant Diaries and Sharia’s L.A.W, all shows at Grays@LCB Depot. Various dates.

Shallow Halal is hat happens when you spend your childhood looking for religious loopholes, like licking your way through Ramadan? A complacent-yet uneasy adulthood as an agnostic in agony - that’s what! Now that comedian Sajeela Kershi is all grown up, the identity crisis has not gone away and with column inches reserved for homogenised stereotypes, comedian Sajeela wonders if she has become a cartoon version of herself. She’s had enough of Koran-hijacking extremists, Dawkins-spouting atheists and finger pointing social media to last a lifetime! Can #hashtags really save humanity or just stoke up Armageddon? Are you struggling to understand your place in the 21st century? Keep Calm and Carry On to this critically acclaimed show that has sold out nights from Edinburgh, London, Buxton and Brighton.

The show is on Friday February 12 starting at 9pm.

Immigration Diaries is all about immigration, migrants, the refugee crisis; these are hot topics dividing Britain and the rest of Europe too. How many are there? Why are they coming here? What do they want? And who exactly are these ‘bloody foreigners’ anyway? Immigrant Diaries is a chance to come and hear some of those who chose to live and work on this marvellously multi-cultural island. Telling stories that are true, funny, moving and uplifting, guests from the world of entertainment and beyond (previous examples include Hollywood character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, actors Jing Lusi and Sanjeev Kohli and comedian and star of The Chase, Paul Sinha) provide a a much-needed positive antidote to negative anti immigration/refugee rhetoric. The creation of comedian/writer Sajeela Kershi, Immigrant Diaries is a multi award-winning show that has enjoyed acclaimed sell out runs at London’s Southbank, London Leicester Square Theatre, the Brighton Fringe, the Edinburgh Fringe, WOMAD and the House of Lords! The show was born of Sajeela’s frustration at being bombarded with anti-immigration rhetoric, her response was to bring audiences some balance with captivating true-life immigration stories from special guests. As part of her hosting role, Sajeela also tells her own story - of how her grandparents were refugees during the partition of India, migrating around what was the newly formed Pakistan, before settling briefly in Germany, and then ar- riving in the UK in the early hours of a cold winter’s morning with all their possessions, three children and 3000 cigarettes stuffed into a Scooby-Doo van!

Simon Schatzberger

Simon Schatzberger

The show starts at 6.30pm on Saturday February 13

Sharia’s L.A.W. celebrates all the little invisible unsung heroines in every family. Bigging up those little women - Sometimes you need to visit the past to understand why you are who you are today? Partician, Refugees, sibling rivalry, misogyny and what on earth happened to the women of colour in the film suffragette? Will the real heroines please stand up and be counted?

The show is on at 7.30pm on Friday February 19 at 7.30pm and 6.30pm on Saturday February 20.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company, Kayal, Leicester. Friday February 12 and Saturday February 20

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are the hilarious comedy double act who’ve been entertaining audiences around the world for nearly 10 years now. This year they tackle the works of Shakespeare, and unveil their new sketches for the first time in Leicester.

The Socks will be at The Kayal on Granby Street on Feb 12th and 20th as part of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, giving audiences an exclusive first glimpse at brand new material.

Henry Dawe

Henry Dawe

The Socks have been coming to Leicester every year since 2007.

The Socks say Leicester audiences are their favourites. “In the past they’ve let us do material about Richard the third, about the entire history of Leicester, and even let us take the mick out of the way they pronounce the ‘y’ at the end of Groby and Blaby, and still they keep coming back.”

The Socks have done Shakespeare before: “We’ve done the one where Mr The Scottish Play murders all those people, and the one where Mr One With Two Daughters, er, has two daughters. Oh and the one with the Montagues and the Catapults. So we’re pretty much the experts.”

When we asked if they were going to show us their Coriolanus they told us to mind our own business.

You can see videos of the Socks previous Leicester appearances on Youtube. And if you want your laughter to feature on the next videos they make, see them at the Kayal on Feb 12th or the 20th doing Shakespeare.

Simon Schatzberger, Hansom Hall, Leicester. Saturday February 13 and Sunday February 14, 6.15pm

Simon Schatzberger, who was chosen by Sue Townsend to play the original Adrian Mole at Leicester Pheonix Arts Theatre and in the West End, brings his Woody Allen show to Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, uncannily performing his legendary 1960s stand-up comedy (including ‘The Moose’). Following fantastically reviewed, sell-out London and Edinburgh Festival performances, and before a series of shows in New York and LA,this is a must see for fans of Woody and classic American comedy.

Karren Sherrard - A Fete Worse than Death, Kayal, Leicester, Saturday February 13, 10.30pm

Welcome to the village fête in Llanfairchwaraesboncen, nestled in the South Wales Valleys. Join your host, 76 year old village busybody Iris Evans, in a fun-filled romp complete with competitions, slide shows and audience participation. Also featuring guest speaker, Esme de Flange, a lascivious TV gardener providing advice on sowing seed, trimming your shrubbery and producing a prize marrow. But will you be able to contain yourself for the grand finale? THE RAFFLE!

This one-woman show, written and performed by Karen Sherrard (winner of Last Mic Standing 2014), debuts at the festival this year.

Henry Dawe - Beyond the Pail, The Western Leicester, Sunday February 14, 3.30pm, Monday February 15, 7.30pm

After a sell-out run in Uppingham in January, February will see the festival premiere of a one-act comic play inspired by one local young man’s experience of founding the world’s first Punning Society at Cambridge University.

Beyond The Pail: A Plotless Play of Pun and Pottiness has been written by 32-year-old Uppingham resident Henry Dawe and will be performed by Uppingham Theatre Company.

As the home of the UK Pun Championships, Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival could not be a more fitting place for the piece to be staged.

In the early 1960s Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore took the theatre world by storm with the groundbreaking revue Beyond The Fringe.

Now, over half a century later, writer Henry Dawe, with support from Uppingham Theatre Company, will be looking to whip up at least a strong breeze with Beyond The Pail, a sequel – of sorts.

The play is full to the brim with pun and pottiness. If wordplay and nonsense are your cup of tea, you’ll love drinking it in.

Beyond The Pail is a vehicle for a rat-a-tat-tat exchange of quips and gags between two working thespians, who interact in goonish fashion with five other characters in a hotel. Where Beyond The Fringe succeeded with its satire, Beyond The Pail aims to do so with some comforting comparisons with Carry On comedy, its wealth of wacky one-liners and a selection of silly songs.

It was at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge that Henry founded the Punning Society. He quickly discovered a group of friends who shared his love of playing around with language, and they gathered once a term over dinner to try to come up with the best pun.

Since Cambridge, Henry has worked in the heritage sector, first with the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace and for the last three years in Oakham. Henry was accepted at East 15 Drama School while in London but did not take up the offer. Instead he decided to try his hand at writing in evenings and at weekends since changing jobs.

This is Henry’s first appearance at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival. He says, “I am delighted that Beyond The Pail is to be performed at my local comedy festival and I have been very grateful for the encouragement I have received from Gyles Brandreth and the festival office. It is a joy to be back with Uppingham Theatre Company after fifteen years.”

To celebrate UK Punday, the day when the festival hosts the UK Pun Championships, Henry will be joining a punel of experienced and distinguished pundits to discuss the history of puns and how (and why) they have become an essential part of the British sense of humour. The discussion will consider the key characteristics of puns. Why do we groan when a pun is told? ‘It’s A Punny Old World’ will feature comedians, academics and the odd special guest.

It will be chaired by Martin Ballard of BBC Radio Leicester on Punday 8 February 2016, 1-2pm at BBC Radio Leicester, 9 St Nicholas Place. Entry is free.

Zahra Barri - Talk Like An Egyptian, at The Exchange Bar, Leciester. Wednesday February 17 at 9:15 pm.

This show is about celebrating our differences and uniting our similarities with the Middle East. Many Westerners think Middle Eastern people are backward thinking. But that’s only because they write from right to left, and not left to right. If the West or the East changed it, we would all be on the same page.

This is a ‘silly’ show about a ‘serious’ topic. In this current climate, in particularly, there has never before been more segregation between the West and The Middle East. ‘Talk Like An Egyptian’ highlights the importance of ‘Integration, not Segregation’ whilst being ‘very funny’. (Cheeky Monkey Comedy Club). I feel I am the perfect person to negotiate the hostilities between the East and the West and convince society that the West and the Middle East are stronger together, than apart. I know this because my Dad is Middle Eastern and my Mum is Western and they were stronger together, right up until their divorce in 2007.

The show contains canned laughter, an actual Pyramid of Giza, my Dad teaching me Arabic and the second most powerful Arab Woman In The World 2015 (Amal Clooney). I do realise I should have got the woman who won the First Most Powerful Arab Woman In The World, but because she didn’t marry George Clooney, I didn’t know who she was.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company taking over Leicester

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company taking over Leicester