Not the Edinburgh Festival: Our Top 4 North West comedy picks

John Stansfield
Cartoon saying Sidekick Comedy, with a black mask and speech bubbles

The Edinburgh Festival is admittedly a comedy drain – but there are still some fantastic shows to be caught in the North West. Here are our top picks.

It’s that time of year again: the comedy world is either in Edinburgh, or wishing it was there. Or at least the audiences are. The population of the Scottish capital doubles in the month of August and, in turn, the number of comedy shows in the North West more than halves. Though there is still some gold, should you choose to venture out for a night of yuks and yarns. We have found four such grand occasions (though two of them technically fall outside the Fringe date parameters) that you should happen along to with a merry smile on your face. Who needs Edinburgh? (Lifts hand gingerly, is slapped down.) Not us.

Paul Tonkinson

Emerging on the stand up scene over twenty years ago, Paul Tonkinson shows no sign of letting up. When someone has been around for a certain period of time they can grow quite lazy with their act and be surrounded by the kind of “yes men” that won’t tell them when their material is tired and hackneyed. Thankfully, Tonkinson is not that kind of act. He still approaches the stage with the fresh verve and vigour of a comic just starting out. His subjects may have changed as he has grown older, but his love of the craft is still there – he delights in an observational tone that all can appreciate. Also on the bill is David Longley, a risqué master of close-to-the-bone comedy. Not one for the squeamish. A great weekend evening of comedy. 15-16 August at Comedy Central, Liverpool. Advance tickets £15.

Sidekick Comedy

Kate McCabe’s nerdy stand up night Sidekick Comedy is usually a delightful affair – it’s always good fun for a stupidly low price (it’s tuppounds a gag) but for this Pride special McCabe’s coaxed in a few great acts, which, considering that this is the month of the Fringe, is no mean feat. Headlining is the dark genius of Bethany Black, who draws on her unique position as a goth, lesbian, trans stand up and roller derby-er to really connect with the crowd on a relatable level. Catch her now before she’s trapped behind a television screen. Also on the bill is the impossibly lovable Kerry Leigh, the regular MC of Laughing Cows Comedy, here performing a more straight set that will no doubt include her special brand of honest and hilarious humour. Rounding out the bill is Salford’s “Sketch Limousine” The Rusty Sheriffs, which, if half as good as their name, should be one heck of an act. Monday 18 August at Via, Manchester. Advance tickets £2.

Neil Hamburger

The last time that Neil Hamburger was on stage in Manchester he was booed off it again at a Tenacious D gig. This, for no greater reason than intimating it was okay to urinate on Courtney Love. That was, perhaps, not the only contributing factor to the harsh reception granted to the “hardest working comedian in existence”; Hamburger is notoriously foul mouthed and not to everyone’s taste. Especially not those waiting for comedy rockers The D. He is however a breathtakingly good comic, a master of the awkward pause, and drunken belligerence. If you didn’t know it was an act you might feel sorry for the guy. It might actually not even be an act – but it is fascinating to watch. This is the only date he’s doing outside of London and Edinburgh, so make sure you get down to XS Malarkey’s new haunt for a night you won’t soon forget. Monday 25 August at The Pub/Zoo, Manchester. Advance tickets £10.

Tom Stade

Currently confusing the Fringe with his intentionally terrible talk show Come Fringe Yourself as well as performing his nightly show Decisions Decisions at The Assembly Rooms Tom Stade will then bring boundless anger and righteous indignation to The Lowry for two nights. One of a current spate of amazing Canadian émigrés conquering the British comedy scene, Stade is a whirlwind of great storytelling, manic physicality and sweary consternation. Observing the downright weirdness of UK culture with suspicion, but also a great deal of warmth, he has made a name for himself on the UK scene and is sure to be one to watch for years to come. 6-7 September at The Lowry, Manchester. Advance tickets £19.

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