Leeds Comedy Festival is now into its fourth year and is shaping up to be a major event on the comedy calendar, with dozens of acts, from established comics such as Sara Pascoe and Lucy Porter to names such as Ed Gamble and Pete Firman.
There’s also a certain Frenchman in the mix, in the shape of Marcel Lucont... more on him later.
Festival organiser Toby Jones spoke to us about his ambitions for the two-week comedy extravaganza, which will take place both at The Wardrobe and Leeds bar Mook.
“We started three years ago with 10 shows just to see if it was possible, if there was an appetite, if people would come out. We now have over 50 acts. We are going through the whole gamut of well known names to people who have just a good fifteen minutes of material who might in five years time be the household name.
“You get to see some of the big names up close, before they go to the Edinburgh Fringe. It used to be the case people would write their material on the way up to Edinburgh. Now you have the chance to see these early versions of the show.
“We notice the quality of the comedians is rising, the hope is eventually we will have over 100 shows across five or six venues and it will become a really important part of the comedy calendar. We’re heading there.
I notice a lot of your women have no eyebrows and have to draw them on. I don’t know if someone is stealing them in the night or they are disappearing due to lack of sunshine, it’s very bizarre.Comedian Marcel Lucont
“This is the first year that we noticed people were waiting for it and asking us when tickets were available for the shows. That’s what you want with a festival, people going to see well known names and also taking a punt on someone they don’t know and then being pleasantly surprised.
“The hope is we are creating something which will be of benefit to people and putting Leeds on the comedy map.”
Speaking of shows, French comic Marcel Lucont will be bringing his very particular brand of comedy to The Wardrobe on May 31 (starting 8pm, tickets £14).
The laconic Frenchman was gracious enough to lend us five minutes of his time to talk about his show and also give us an insight into the peculiarities of British people, Northerners and world politics.
Marcel said: “We are all in the middle of political turmoil. We are in election fever but it’s the kind of fever which makes you want to vomit. In my country, we had a choice between a woman who hates immigrants and an ex-banker, while in yours the decision is between a woman who hates immigrants and emigrating to Scotland.”
On Northerners, he quips: “I notice a lot of your women have no eyebrows and have to draw them on. I don’t know if someone is stealing them in the night or they are disappearing due to lack of sunshine, it’s very bizarre. It’s tragic.”
Marcel usually appears on stage with a healthy measure of red wine, so is it necessary for him to drink before a show?
“It’s essential. If you have a car, you feed it petrol, otherwise it won’t go.
“It’s a different show to my usual, this is my third national tour of the UK, I am trying to discover what irks the population.
“We know that politics is awful, that the world is about to be destroyed by an angry clown in America, we know all this, but I wish to know the minutia of what irks people... I am about half way through the tour and so far we have had some really fascinating, sometimes borderline criminal, admissions from people. It’s a different show every night, it will be interesting to see what Leeds provides.”
This year, acts include the highly acclaimed James Acaster bringing a trilogy of shows over three consecutive nights. Sara Pascoe, Andrew Maxwell and John Robins will all bring brand new solo shows and Daily Show correspondent, Gina Yashere is coming over directly from her New York base to play an exclusive date.
Acts also performing at the festival include the wonderfully daft Barbara Nice, Adam Kay, Sarah Kendall and a special double bill of award winners, John Kearns and Spencer Jones.
The intimate Mook will play host to a number of excellent comedians including Ellie Taylor, Rhys James, Ed Gamble, Alun Cochrane, Tom Stade and Lucy Porter who will all be performing previews of their upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show for a bargain price of just £8.
Leeds Comedy Festival runs from Tues May 30-Sun Juen 11.