Written by Rebecca Wensley.
Leicester Comedy Festival (LCF) is a fabulous place to be in what feels like the 112th week of lockdown, filled with live podcast records, stand-up (or sit-down-on-Zoom) comedy sets, and sketch shows. Since 1994, LCF has attracted wide audiences and showcased both unknown and famous faces in comedy to the public alongside poetry, theatre, and art exhibitions. Of course, this year, the festival had to change its approach to make sure the citizens of Leicester, and fans worldwide, could still attend the beloved 3-week event. Through Zoom, Teams, Twitch, and YouTube, the festival showcases incredible talent, providing light relief, and filling the gap left by the cancellation of live performances throughout the year.
This week, Mark Watson performed two shows in one evening, an event not to be missed, and Felicity Ward made Friday night feel like the weekend again. Week two also saw a continuation of previous online gigs from Tim Key (He Used Thought as a Wife), an inventive set covering the topics of truth and identity from Becky Fury, and interviews from Geoff Rowe with all our favourite comics, including Iain Stirling, Nina Conti and Tom Allen.
Mark Watson’s was the first gig of the week I had the pleasure of attending. His set covered two of his shows, How You Can Almost Win and This Can’t Be It, both of which helped us feel a little normality and forget that the washing up was lurking in the next room. How You Can Almost Win is a perfect pandemic watch, addressing Watson’s experience of Bear Grylls’ Celebrity Island, phobias, flesh-eating insects, and all. In an era of quite a lot of fear (and very little joy) Watson reminds us of what is important in a struggle, and through a hilariously warm motivational talk, forces introspection and provides an important perspective on difficult times. His discussions with audience members (even if he was calculating their life expectancy with an app) and self-taught PowerPoint skills brought Zoom into its own, recreating the live atmosphere so many of us are missing.
Mark Watson’s success and his variety of online events were only further elevated with his end-of-show announcement that No More Jockeys (a fabulously funny Zoom based game show featuring Watson alongside Tim Key and Alex Horne) would be heading to Leicester Comedy Festival on the 19th February. Five hundred tickets sold out within hours, and I cannot wait to see the chaos unfold.
Felicity Ward’s Work-In-Progress made for a fun-filled Friday at the festival. Her show, advertised as one-hour, continued well into the night, with her adding stories, and asking the audience if she could ‘just tell one more’, making it feel as though we were 150 friends, hanging out in her flat, having a glass of wine. The laughter from all the little squares on Zoom made Ward’s show feel like it had a crowd. The hilarious stories she told, about lockdown, becoming a new mother, and the tale of her son’s birth, all from her ‘baby brain’ were honest, personal, and exceedingly funny. Again, proving that Zoom can be much more fun than a morning meeting, or an extra-long quiz night. Once she has chosen a name for the show, from the selection she discussed with the audience, each one wittier than the last, I will be heading back for more of Felicity Ward, at a proper venue, where her husband doesn’t have to crawl under the desk to reach his bedroom, and panic doesn’t set in when the laptop hits 5%.
Next week at LCF is well worth looking into, and buying tickets for, if you are looking for a new virtual activity to fill the evenings with. A work in progress from Adele Cliff, a live podcast record from Birthday Girls, and some more storytelling from Tim Key in case you missed him this week (and that’s just Monday!). Laura Lexx is up, with a work-in-progress and some content from her book about the biggest heartthrob in football Klopp, Actually. Nish Kumar, Tez Ilyas and Jamie D’Souza are all bringing their comic wisdom to the festival on Wednesday night, and Friday’s plans are sorted with a show from Sikisa to start the evening, and, of course, the No More Jockeys live show at 10pm to finish off the week.
Head to comedy-festival.co.uk for the week’s full line-up and available tickets!