Women in Comedy 2015: The best of the festival

John Stansfield

With Maxine Peake as its new patron, the Women in Comedy Festival returns, bigger and better than ever. Our highlights include Harriet Dyer, Sophie Willan and a Comedy Cocktail.

Entering its third year of operation, Manchester’s annual celebration of funny females is back this 15-25 October with a host of talent from around the country coming to the Northern Quarter. We’ve chosen our favourite five – but there’s a whole lot more over the 11 days of the festival to get to.

Evelyn Mok at The Whiskey Jar

There’s a new wave of Scandinavian comics coming to prominence in the UK, with Denmark’s Sofie Hagen nabbing the Best Newcomer at this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards, just like Norway’s Daniel Simonsen did in 2012. Simonsen’s compatriot Evelyn Mok is hoping to follow in these footsteps as she presents her first solo show. Quick-witted and unafraid of any subject matter, Mok is one to watch for many years to come. Mon 19 Oct, 8pm, free (email carol@womenincomedy.co.uk to reserve a space)

Harriet Dyer at The Whiskey Jar

October might seem a little early for a ‘Edinburgh preview’, seeing as 2015’s festival only ended a few weeks ago, but Harriet Dyer is worth catching at any stage of a ‘work in progress’ – such is her spontaneous wit and haphazardly placed material. A truly unique talent, Dyer is one of the most inventive comics currently on the circuit. Wed 21 Oct, 7.30pm, £3 adv.

Comedy Cocktail at Gullivers

There are several showcases during the festival, but the highest quality is arguably the ‘Comedy Cocktail’ taking place at Gullivers. The three acts on stage are a testament to how ridiculous it is for promoters and audiences alike to view ‘female’ as a style of comedy. Jana Kennedy brings character cabaret, Lesley Kershaw has been described by Janey Godley as “the filthy daughter of Thora Hird”, while recent recipient of the Magner’s New Act Award Sophie Willan offers up personal and political posturing with a rose-tinted glint. Thur 22 Oct, 8pm, £4 adv.

MACE featuring Mae Martin at Kosmonaut

Another diverse line-up at this year’s festival sees Mae Martin headline at Manchester’s Alternative Comedy Emporium (MACE for short, thankfully). Mae is a Canadian ex-pat and one of the most delightful comedians you might ever see, never losing her butter-wouldn’t-melt charm when speaking of even the most lurid of subject matter. She is joined by Funny Women 2014 finalist Lauren Pattison and Pesha Lily with Manchester’s favourite American Kate McCabe taking over from Red Redmond as the show’s MC. Thur 22 Oct, 8pm, £5 adv.

Birthday Girls at Gullivers

Last year the Birthday Girls took over Gullivers with their ‘Party Vibes’ and ran away as one of the most talked about experiences for the whole festival. After a brief stint of sell out performances at the Edinburgh Fringe, they are ready once more to put the fun in funny. With offbeat sketches, strange characters and a whole heap of awkward dancing this trio are one to definitely mark in your diary. Sat 24 Oct, 9.30pm, £8 adv.

actor with pig puppets The Three Little Pigs at Waterside Arts
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