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The list has been selected by Bruce Dessau, editor of Beyond the Joke; Bob Slayer, promoter and comedian and Corrie McGuire, founder of ROAR Comedy. The list includes Stuart Goldsmith, Mark Simmons, Bilal Zafar, Jordan Brookes, Adam Hess, Mr Twonkey, Abigoliah Schamaun, Becky Walker, Chris Betts & Abigoliah Schamaun.
All of the comedians chosen for the previous list, published last year, went on to greater success throughout this year. Representing the breadth of creativity and talent in British comedy, each act had something unique to offer, from clowning to musical comedy, confessional storytelling to character comedy and stand up. The full list of ‘Ones to watch 2016’ were: Sofie Hagen, Mat Ewins, Marny Godden, Spencer Jones, Adam Larter, James Loveridge, Elf Lyons, Tim Renkow, Sam Simmons and Jim Smallman.
The full list of ‘Ones to Watch 2017’:
Stuart Goldsmith is in danger of becoming best known for his The Comedian’s Comedian podcast in which he chats to fellow stand-ups and dissects the way they go about their work. In 2017 he should make amends for that with more live gigs in his own right that should see him move up the comedy rankings. Goldsmith is a relaxed, confident storyteller with a style that easily wins over any audience and he is getting better all the time. Maybe he is listening to his own podcast interviews and taking notes…
Pun-based humour has become a mainstay of the live scene in recent years and Leicester Comedy Festival has played its part by launching the annual UK Pun Championships. A leading exponent of this new wave of wordplay is Mark Simmons, who recently supported Seann Walsh on tour – at one gig quite literally, Walsh’s foot swelled up on the way to the venue and he couldn’t walk without Simmons’ help. Simmons doesn’t just fire out Tim Vine-style one liners, though of course there are plenty of those. His longer sets are cleverly structured – pay attention because a throwaway early line may become significant later. In fact pay attention to rising star Simmons, he may become significant in the comedy firmament later too.
Young Londoner Zafar picked up a lastminute.com 2016 Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nomination for his debut show Cakes, in which he charted the online kerfuffle after his brother playfully tweeted that Bilal was running a Muslims-only cake shop. The show, which smartly mixed stories and onscreen visual gags, was at turns hilarious and scary as it revealed the angry responses from people who could not see that this was a prank. Zafar is performing Cakes at Leicester Comedy Festival and also working on his eagerly anticipated sequel.
The comedy world sometimes seems full of youthful men in casual clothes standing at a microphone and thinking about getting booked for Live at the Apollo. Jordan Brookes is unlikely to be appearing on primetime TV in the near future, but if you like your comedy quirky and unconventional he is your man. His last show, The Making Of…, tackled issues with his father which is a fairly common comedy theme, but Brookes did it in a different way, by playing around with the timeline, pulling grotesque faces and generally breaking most of stand-up’s stage rules. He is definitely one of the most intriguing talents to emerge in recent years. The Making Of… is great, but the best may well be yet to come.
Comedians have an ambivalent relationship with Twitter. Some fear that their jokes might be squandered if they appear on social media, others use social media to try out gags. Super-nerd Hess falls clearly into the second category and in the process has made his name as one of the funniest people on Twitter, where he lays bare his inability to cope with modern life: “I was just so nervous while talking to a man that I shook his hand mid conversation.” Onstage he is the same only more, a must-see high-energy neurotic bouncing around like a child. Eccentric behaviour clearly runs in the family – his mother sends dried up teabags to companies who send her junk mail.
The last time Mr Twonkey performed at Leicester Comedy Festival only two people turned up in a 150 capacity venue. Promoter Bob Slayer blames myself. Like a true pro Mr Twonkey got up there and gave his all and those two people had the experience of their lives. He is an absolute beautiful wonderment. Did you know his band used to be a favourite of John Peel? Go see him for sure.
Becky has put up with promoter Bob Slayer for a number of years now running his bars and doing comedy doors. She makes him laugh more than most people he knows and is also his moral compass. She did her first shows at Leicester Comedy Festival last year, since then she has been gigging around the north and even did a short very successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Beautiful stories, ideas and tangents. Go see her for sure.
Fearless and at times shocking, Abigoliah Schamaun’s tendency to drop in explicit sexual references is softened by her tender stories about her background and family life. Raised in Ohio, she developed her comedy style in New York, a city that has brought us many of today’s American comedy heroes. Above all, Abigoliah is genuinely hilarious and a joy to watch.
Canadian Chris Betts honed his comedy style on the North American circuit for five years before moving to London in 2012. His comedy draws on personal experience, and with thirteen years as a bartender under his belt, he is adept at controlling a crowd. Chris is always the stand out on a mixed bill, so it’s very exciting that he is bringing three shows to the Leicester Comedy Festival 2017.
Tom Ward’s unique, idiosyncratic style makes him a truly exciting new voice on the comedy circuit. Looking like an indie kid but with solid jokes to back up his style, his relaxed interactions with audiences suggest a confident star of tomorrow. One of the funniest new acts in ages.