Every February thousands of comedy fans descend on bars, cafés, theatres and other venues to enjoy performances by both well-known and local stand-ups and sketch comedy acts during Leicester Comedy Festival. One person helping to keep Britain’s longest-running comedy festival exciting for audiences is Colin Bowles, founder of comedy promotion group Captain Colino’s Comedy Playhouse, aka CCCP).
“In summer 2016, someone suggested that I put together a line-up of comedy shows that would be hosted by Firebug during the Leicester Comedy Festival in February 2017, so I created CCCP to take advantage of that opportunity,” says Bowles. “My main role at CCCP is to find comedy acts that I think will work well, connect these comedians to venues and then promote the shows. I attend almost every show to welcome the audience and get the performances started, although crucially, I often have help from volunteers too.”
Finding a comedy act that will resonate well with Leicester audiences can be challenging, but it’s the part of the job that Bowles finds most enjoyable.
“I love seeing comedy shows, but I also really like the process of creating great comedy line-ups and finding the perfect spots to host shows,” he says. “Obviously, I need to consider the potential for ticket sales, but I usually look for an act that I think is both funny and a good fit for the venue in question. I always hope to pick an act that surprises audiences or an act whose popularity is on the rise because they often go on to become so big that they end up needing a much larger venue when they next return to Leicester.”
Bowles’ determination to find up-and-coming acts is particularly valuable when it comes to the Leicester Comedy Festival. “CCCP is able to organise some shows well in advance, but things often come together at the very last minute for the comedy festival so it’s always stressful to get everything sorted before the submission deadline,” he comments. “Sometimes I get in touch with specific comedy acts, other times I’m contacted by comedians who are looking for venues.”
Leicester has multiple venues capable of hosting larger comedy gigs – Curve and De Montfort Hall to name just two – but comedians and audiences alike also appreciate the city’s smaller and more intimate venues, such as Firebug and The Little Theatre.
“Firebug produces a really good atmosphere for shows – the high stage and the rectangular dimensions of the room mean that everyone gets to feel involved, so the laughter really builds,” Bowles explains. “Meanwhile, The Little Theatre has almost 350 seats, none of which have bad views of the stage, so there’s still a connection between the audience and the performer(s). I also used the Sue Townsend Theatre for the first time during the 2018 comedy festival and was really pleased with how well shows went.”
Bowles says that three acts stand out for the rest of 2018: Chris Ramsey and Gary Delaney, who will perform at The Little Theatre in May and November respectively, and Suspiciously Cheap Comedy at Sue Townsend Theatre on 10th June. The latter will be hosted by multi-award winning sketch groups Gein’s Family Giftshop and Goose, as well as resident compère and stand-up comedian Kiri Pritchard-McLean.
“Suspiciously Cheap Comedy will be the most exciting show for me, particularly because Gein’s Family Giftshop and Goose were two of the first comedy acts I ever booked in the Studio at The Little Theatre in 2015,” he says. “Some of the line-ups the group has created for previous shows have been incredible, so audiences should expect some of the biggest and best names in comedy – all for the staggeringly low price of £5. It’s one I’d recommend comedy fans to look out for.”