How to watch live comedy for free or cheaply (Part 1)

Things to do in Britain when you're broke skint no money free cheap comedy show tickets by Penny Golightly

Ready for another article in our ‘Things To Do In Britain When You’re Broke‘ series? This time around we’re getting out of the house once more and having a laugh in front of some live comedy, in particular looking for free comedy shows and cheap or discounted tickets.

Attend smaller venues early in the week

Most towns and cities have smaller venues where performances are free on one or more evenings of the week. These typically take place in upstairs or back rooms of pubs, or in smaller clubs, and they’re most likely to happen on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. There’s an unwritten rule at many of these places that you’re expected to buy a drink or two while you watch the show.

Sometimes these are ‘open mic’ nights where amateur comedians can get up and perform, so you never know quite who you’re going to be watching that evening but it can be good fun, especially if it’s run by an experienced compere. Other shows are more organised, with the comedians booked in advance.

Look out for local listings, flyers, or posters in nearby pubs. It’s also worth using the Live Comedy Search feature on the Chortle website to find out what’s free or cheap in the closest town or city to you. The site may also have news about the performers, who could be rising stars on the circuit.

Get free tickets for a comedy show recording

There are several distributors in our recent ‘Watch a TV or radio show being made’ article that can supply you with free tickets to be in the audience for professional comedy recordings. This could be for sit coms, cult and alternative comedy, pilot shows, funny quizzes, or upbeat chat shows. Take your pick. You might also be offered some free wine or beer before the show starts.

Watch smaller acts at a comedy festival

The larger comedy festivals around the UK nearly always have a few free shows on at the periphery, and plenty of acts with cheaper price tags, so it’s always worth having a good trawl through listings websites, your local press and brochures from the foyers of nearby venues. A bucket may be passed around at the end of some free shows so you can tip the performers if you liked them.

For example, the biggest UK comedy festival, The Edinburgh Fringe, has a free section run by Laughing Horse Cabaret and many of the shows listed on their website have star ratings to give a better idea of their quality. Follow @Freefringefest on Twitter during the festival for regular updates.

Track down a ‘work in progress’

If you want to watch an experienced comedy performer doing their thing for a snip of the usual price, keep an eye out for famous artists as they try out new material. This will often be titled as a work in progress or a pre-tour warm up. These sorts of shows are nearly always a safe bet, because well-known comedians are so skilled at creating jokes and sketches, and they know how to entertain a crowd.

While these performances can happen at any time of year, they’re most likely to be scheduled in small professional comedy or arts venues during June or July for the run up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Follow your favourite artists on social media and sign up to their website mailing lists for the best chance of a heads up. They’re most likely to do a gig near you if you live in or near their home town.

Make your own amusement…

If you’ve been bitten by the comedy bug, why not try writing some one-liners, sketches or monologues of your own? Topical BBC radio shows such as Newsjack regularly accept and pay for jokes, for example, or you might like to have a go at creating an act, group or script. You could also start your stand-up career by trying out your gags at an open mic night at a club or pub near you, if you’re feeling brave.

That’s it for the first part of this article about finding comedy shows for free or cheap, and there’ll be more ideas on this subject coming soon.

Do you have any tips of your own for watching live comedy for free, or very cheaply? Please share them.

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