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Funny times

Let the rib tickling commence as Liverpool's Comedy Festival rolls out in its sixth year. Paddy Hoey picks his highlights

Published on June 12th 2007.

Funny times

AS club comedy becomes ever more conservative, to appeal to the legions of inebriated stag and hen parties turning up at venues, only the comedy festival circuit can maintain the original renegade spirit of the art form.

Liverpool’s annual festival kicks off this week and at a time of self flagellation and uncertainty over what exactly Capital of Culture is going to entail (I bet there’s stilt walkers in there somewhere) its diverse bill of homegrown talent and imported Edinburgh-bound shows should be a source of civic pride.

Moved from the usual July slot, Liverpool’s annual festival kicks off this week with 99 shows taking place at 40 different venues over 18 days.

Like an all you can eat Chinese buffet there is something for everyone, the reverse is also true and not all of it will be to your taste. To pay the costs of putting on a festival, big names are required and the mass market appeal of Tom O’Connor (Royal Court, June 10) and Jimmy Carr (Empire, June 16) are surefire winners.

Other names that will be familiar are Charlie Chuck, Luton laureate John Hegley, Sue Perkins, and Jason Manford who was crowned Comedian of the Year at the North West Comedy Awards (incidentally, run by Liverpool Confidential's publisher).

Comedy festivals are about uncovering work that can challenge and excite. For those interested in the keepers of alternative cabaret’s original flame then the Unity Theatre is the place to be throughout the festival. Richard Herring’s ode to onanism Menage a Un (July 11), Rhod Gilbert (June 12), Simon Munnery (June 13), Daniel Kitson (June 20) and Stewart Lee (June 18) are among the highlights, but don’t try booking the latter – he sold out within minutes.

Mancunian surrealist Gary Morris, at Sefton Street’s Performance Room on June 21, is worth catching, for character names such as Dave Media, the PowerPoint Wizard, alone. He is joined by Marxist music hall act Ian Crazy and Wheatsheaf whose avowed aim is to free the proletariat from the chains of capitalism via ventriloquism. Morris also stars with the equally surreal Slaughterhouse Live at the Performance Room on June 23.

Liverpool comedians also flock home. London-based Simon Bligh and Steve Gribbin separately examine Liverpool on June 14, at the Performance Room, while Brendan Riley braves the Formby Bypass for a gig at the Unity on June 20.

The following day, June 21, is so scouse it could outdo Ken Dodd singing the Spinners wearing a shell suit.

Keith Carter’s scally ambassador, Nige, plays the Unity, before Radio City’s John Bishop takes over. Meanwhile Toxteth funnyman Chris Cairns tells the audience at the Performance Room his “Way to Enlightenment”.

The acerbic and clever Silky is back in town to play one of the smartest rooms in town, downstairs at the Royal Court (June 10).

If you are looking for a recommendation, then follow the advice of Festival Marketing Manager Iain Christie: “If you are going to see one act this year, go to see someone you have never seen or even heard of before. That’s the beauty of the festival it’s all great!”

Liverpool Comedy Festival June 7-June 24. Tel: 0870 787 1866

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