I think we can all agree that Leicester Comedy Festival is one of the very best things to happen in this city of ours. As the festival organisers begin to look ahead to 2021 they’ve also announced a series of comedian interviews called The Happy Hour Q&As, which are kicking off this week.

Tickets to the Happy Hour Q&As are on sale now, with funds going towards helping the festival plan ahead for 2021 and ensure the survival or fantastic comedy in Leicester. Taking part are some top names, including Al Murray, Ed Byrne, Paul Sinha, Lucy Beaumont and more. Festival Director, Geoff Rowe, will be interviewing them each about their careers and life in comedy and tickets are priced from just £5.

Of course Geoff is no stranger to interviewing comedians – even Glastonbury Festival booked him to do it! We caught up with him to find out more about the series.

Leicester comedy festival
Geoff interviewing Sarah Millican

How has life been for Leicester Comedy Festival during lockdown?

It’s been a bit weird really.  We started lockdown with an online version of our annual awards ceremony which attracted an audience of around 4,000 people which was fantastic but we know loads of comedians, venues, promoters and people in the live entertainment industry who are really struggling now lockdown has been going on for so long.  I’m delighted that we’ve announced we will be doing some kind of Leicester Comedy Festival in February and the support we’ve had for that so far has also been amazing.  It’s hard times but I think the whole team feel very supported.

You’re launching a series of comedian Q&A interview sessions this week, how did that come about?

So for a few weeks and months we have been thinking about what we might do online to support comedians and the festival.  I wanted to make sure anything we did was “right” and also was good enough quality.  The Q&As we have developed over the last few years with comedians including Jo Brand, Johnny Vegas, Romesh Ranganathan, Sara Pascoe and others have been incredibly popular as live events and I’m really lucky to have been able to speak to these amazing comedians on stage as part of the festival.  It gives our audience a chance to find out a bit more about the life of a comedian off stage.  So, at one point we weren’t going to do anything online and then one day I just thought we should and started to ask friends of the festival whether they would be up for it and we’ve had a wonderful response.  We’ve so far announced Paul Sinha, Al Murray, Ed Byrne, Zoe Lyons, Lucy Beaumont and Angela Barnes and we have some more that are almost confirmed so watch this space!

leicester comedy festival

What can people look forward to most about the series?

So, I think it’s an opportunity for people to find out more about the individuals, how they got into comedy, developed their careers and something about what makes them tick.  There seems to be a huge interest from people to hear a bit more from the comedians themselves.  Of course we will no doubt talk about lockdown and the impact that has had, and will continue to have on live comedy, but the Q&As are informal chances for me to chat with our friends for an hour or so.

Over the years with Leicester Comedy Festival you’ve interviewed some top comedy acts, which memories have stuck with you the most?

You are right, and I’m so lucky to have had these opportunities.  When we first started to do these Q&As I was fortunate enough to interview Alexei Sayle and that was pretty special.  He’s a genuinely lovely man, and an icon of British comedy so that was amazing.  I was almost told off by Nicholas Parsons live on stage which was a bit scary to be honest but we made up afterwards so that was fine.  I really didn’t know that Romesh Ranganathan almost gave up stand up comedy at the time he won our Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Competition and winning it gave him the push to carry on.  I only found out when we were sat on stage at Curve chatting in front of a sold out theatre.  All of them have been really special to be honest and I’m so grateful to the acts for giving up their time and supporting the festival.

leicester comedy festival

Who would be your absolute dream interview guest?

I don’t think I’ve ever said this in public before, but it would have to be Stephen Fry.  I’ve tried many, many times and I’m pretty confident one day it’ll happen but as you can imagine his schedule is so busy, so far it’s been impossible to sort out.

You recently announced that the Festival will definitely be back in 2021, how are plans going for that?

It’s early days and to be honest, it’s slightly odd as we don’t know what live events will or won’t be allowed.  However, we’re now working with as many of our partners as possible to figure out what we will do.  We’ll be making a full announcement about Leicester Comedy Festival, and our sister UK Kids’ Comedy Festival, later this autumn.  I really hope the programme, even if it’s mainly online, will be exciting and diverse and reflect the spirit of what we have developed since the thing started in 1994. 

Tickets are on sale now for all Happy Hour Q&A events. Book yours via the Leicester Comedy Festival website