The Leicester Comedy Festival Preview Show is one of our favourite nights of the year. Just as January blues settle in we get a glimpse of some of the hottest new acts in advance of the main February festival. Past performers at the Preview Show include Lee Mack, Jenny Eclair, James Acaster, Frankie Boyle, Rhod Gilbert, Joe Lycett, Ed Gamble and plenty more, so you never know which new star you might spot.
This year’s hosts were the brilliant Tom Allen and Suzi Ruffell. We’ve been fans of Suzi’s for a number of years, ever since we saw her deal fabulously with a group of disruptive audience members at a gig at The Criterion many years ago. Her style of observation and quick witted audience interaction has led her to become one of the hottest female names on the comedy circuit and we can only hope this continues for years to come. Her co-host, Tom Allen, will be familiar to many from his appearance on Mock The Week, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and The Great British Bake Off’s Extra Slice, as well as being a long time friend of Leicester Comedy Festival. Despite all of that, somehow, this was the first time we’d ever managed to see him live. What a treat! His hilarious audience interaction quickly endeared him to the crowd (maybe not the front row) and he and Suzi gelled brilliantly together to bring the show together. Tom and Suzi present a weekly podcast together called “Like Minded Friends” and after seeing them together on stage we’ll certainly be downloading a few episodes.
Now, onto the line-up. 8 comedians each took to the stage for a 10 minute set each, which gives a wonderful snapshot of the shows they’ll be brining to the festival. In the first half we saw Catherine Bohart take on the tough role of being the first performer on stage. It took the crowd a while to warm up, but towards the end of Catherine’s set the crowd were on side with her Irish stories of bisexuality and difficult parents. Starting the show with a joke around hating men was perhaps always going to split the crowd, but she’d won them round by the end of her set and undoubtedly has a big career ahead of her. Then Leicester’s Alex Hylton got his 10 minutes on the big stage. You know what gets everyone laughing on a Friday night? Jokes about dogging. Alex has a distinctive voice and warm appeal, which no doubt won him a fair few new fans following this performance. He made time at the end of his set to remind people that last year he was outside the venue flyering for his show, which then just 15 people came to, giving everyone a reminder of the quality of the upcoming comedy scene in the city. Having also taken his show to Edinburgh last summer he’ll be enjoying much bigger audiences from now on, we hope.
As Jack Gleadow walked onto the stage, his scooter hung round his neck, braces and flat cap, I admit I immediately judged him as a character performer I wouldn’t enjoy. How wrong I was! Jack was last year’s Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year and packed huge laughs into his short set. Getting audience members on stage for a little physical comedy, and then running us through his take on modern online dating, his set was varied, charming and a brilliant surprise. His award at last year’s event sees him play The Y Theatre this time around and we can only hope he gets a brilliant turn out. Definitely a star of the future.
Finally for the first half we were treated to the fabulous Myra DuBois. Outspoken, ridiculous, hilarious. On paper perhaps not a performer I’d have picked out to go and see, but on stage, brilliant (shows what I know!) You might recognise Myra from her appearances as a panellist on Big Brother’s Bit on the Side and we can only image there’s more tv stardom to come. Myra DuBois, the creation of Gareth Joyner, is perhaps not one for the easily offended, but performing on a Saturday night (16 Feb) at Brewdog for her festival show, you can be guaranteed a hilarious night.
The star of the second half for me was Rosie Jones. Rosie suffers from Cerebral Palsy but certainly doesn’t let that get in the way of the humour. Making jokes throughout relating to her disability, the set is hilarious and heart-warming. Last year she was a finalist in the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year and we can only imagine this year she will be just as popular. Darren Harriott has also been making waves with appearance on Live at the Apollo, Stand up Central and taking his debut show to Edinburgh. His tales of working as a bouncer, black culture and his love of Kanye West, perfectly demonstrated why he’s had such a successful couple of years so far, which look set to continue.
As we got towards the end of the evening, passing the watershed, Stephen Bailey took to the stage for his 10 minutes of hilariously filthy humour. It’s not hard to see why we had a sold out run at Edinburgh in 2018, as he gives his views on stag and hen dos and the perils of holidaying with his parents. Not one to be pigeonholed for camp comedy, Stephen has already toured with Katherine Ryan and Jenny Eclair, as well as appearing on Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, and will no doubt be a big name in years to come. Stephen was followed by the final act of the evening, Dan Nightingale. Dan is billed as “one of the funniest comedians you’ve probably never heard of”, but we’re sure that won’t be the case for much longer. Having been a professional for over 15 years, he brought the show to a close perfectly. From his brother in law’s stag do to his non-religious views, which mean he’s perfectly happy to swear on his life because “nobody’s watching!”, this provided just a snapshot of what is sure to be a great full length show as part of the festival.
As always the Preview Show offered the chance to see a range of comedians that you may otherwise miss during the festival, but now you have no excuse. Leicester Comedy Festival is set to run from 6 – 24 February at venues across the city and county and if the acts at the Preview Show are anything to go by you’re in for a bloody brilliant treat! Take a chance on someone you’ve never seen before, you might just stumble across your new favourite act.
You can catch the acts listed above on the following dates”
Tom Allen – Saturday 17 February, Curve
Suzi Ruffell – Tuesday 12 February, Chuckle Busters at Queen of Bradgate
Catherine Bohart – Wednesday 13 February, Exchange Bar
Alex Hylton – Sunday 17 February, Exchange Bar
Jack Gleadow – Thursday 21 February, The Y
Myra DuBois – Saturday 16 February, Just the Tonic at Brewdog
Darren Harriott – Saturday 9 February, Manhattan 34 AND Friday 22 February Peter Pizzeria
Rosie Jones – Thursday 21 February, The Cookie
Stephen Bailey – Saturday 9 February, Just the Tonic at Brewdog