Where to have a laugh in York: 10 comedy hotspots

Sarah Millican heads back to York Barbican
4 Jul 2016 @ 7.18 pm
| Entertainment

When the Hyena Lounge closed, promoter Toby Jones talked of a ‘huge void’ in York’s comedy scene.

He said: “If you look at how many comedy shows there are now in York compared to say five years ago, it’s pitiful. Once we’re gone it’s woefully small.”

Not so says Al Greaves, promotor for the Burning Duck comedy club at the Black Swan Inn. He said

Since we started in October 2014, we’ve booked lots of awesome performers like Seymour Mace who went on to be nominated for best show at the Edinburgh Fringe festival last year.

Although Al admits he isn’t yet able to match the fees comedians receive at bigger clubs, he is currently in negotiations with larger venues in York to put on more extensive mixed bills and touring shows.

Ultimately, he says there’s a bright future for comedy in York: “From small acorns, large oaks doth grow.”

And when you look around, York isn’t short on laughs…

Where to get your comedy kicks

The Great Yorkshire Fringe

Parliament Street

July 15 to August 1

Various prices

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Following on from last year’s successful debut (despite the bog-awful weather), this fab festival of comedy, theatre and music sets up its quirky venues in the heart of the city again.

Established names like Paul Foot and Henning Wehn are bringing their shows to town, alongside new talent like Jonny Pelham, runner-up in the Chortle Student Comedy Awards while still at university four years ago.

Burning Duck

The Black Swan, Peasholme Green

2nd Tues of the month


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Burning Duck hosts up-and-coming performers alongside well-established comedians in the charming 16th century surroundings of the Black Swan Inn.

It specialises in “silly, experimental and highbrow” alternative comedy and has a strong booking ethos, meaning they “don’t charge £16 entry and play Blurred Lines before the acts come on stage”.

For outrageous comedy, check out Burning Duck’s Woodsduck Comedy Festival on July 22-24.

Wozzon Comedy

Wozzon underneath City Screen? Comedy, that's what
Wozzon underneath City Screen? Comedy, that’s what

The Basement, Coney Street

Last Thurs of the month


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Situated underneath City Screen, Wozzon Comedy features stand-up and comedic plays from across the UK.

It promises to make you “laugh until your funny bone falls off in a lively, comfortable atmosphere that makes life a tad more bearable”.

The Sitting Room

Monkbar Hotel, St Maurice’s Road

Various dates

From £10

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These comedy nights are exclusively professional, established in 2011 to provide excellent comedy at affordable prices.

Jo Caulfield is coming to town on July 7. She’s a regular on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Mock The Week and was nominated as ‘Funniest Woman 2010’ in the Loaded magazine LAFTA awards.

Duke’s Comedy Night

The Duke of York is game for a laugh (apparently)
The Duke of York is game for a laugh (apparently)

The Duke of York, King’s Square

3rd Tues of the month


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These comedy nights were launched a year ago, giving mic time to amateur up-and-comers.

There are only 30 seats, so you can expect an intimate night of jokes, drinks and jostling for elbow room.

York Barbican

Paragon Street

Various dates

Various prices

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Not only does York Barbican deliver live music, family shows and community events, it also hosts professional comedy shows from the likes of Sarah Millican, Catherine Tate, Ross Noble, and Paul Foot.

Ms Millican is back again from September 2-4 with her Outsider show, in which she’ll discuss her fondness for her “outside slippers”.

Grand Opera House

Cumberland Street

Various dates

Various prices

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Big-name comedy stars regularly bring their national tours to the Opera House.

Next up on the bill is plumptious old favourite Ken Dodd (complete with tickling sticks) on July 10 and, at the other end of the comedy spectrum, Jimmy Carr on September 25.

York Theatre Royal

St Leonard’s Place, York YO1 7HD.

Tickets c£15-£16

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All of a sudden, York Theatre Royal has picked up the comedy baton.

Better known for Christmas slapstick than stand up, the current season at the theatre includes two subversive comedians from different sides of the Atlantic.

Grouchy US star Rich Hall brings his deadpan wit to the theatre in September.

And the following month you can enjoy the acerbically upbeat star of Radio 4 Mark Steel, with his very personal show about searching for his birth mother.

Right Here, Right Now

Watch out! She's got a bucket. Photograph: Right Here Right Now on Facebook
Watch out! She’s got a bucket. Photograph: Right Here Right Now on Facebook

Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate

Every two months (next, July 1)


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After selling out a number of performances, Friargate Theatre’s ad-hoc improvised comedy night is now a regular event.

A team of eight improvisers perform scenes, create characters and generate some off-the-cuff silliness, all based on suggestions from the audience.

Each night a winner is crowned based on a purely arbitrary points system also improvised by that evening’s master of ceremonies.

University of York Comedy Society

They're a funny bunch at the University of York. Photograph © Johnteslade on Wikipedia
They’re a funny bunch at the University of York. Photograph © Johnteslade on Wikipedia

Various venues on campus

Every Wednesday (during term time)

Various prices

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These amateur comedy events are run by, star and are generally loudly applauded by students.

There’s lots of stand-up, Have I Got News for York shows and performances by the in-house comedy troupe Stand up and the Shambles, which is taking its latest show to Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.