A quick flick through the list of UK comedy greats sees one city loom large. No prizes for guessing which – the number of stars who cut their teeth in Manchester is endless.
Steve Coogan, Victoria Wood, Johnny Vegas, Les Dawson, Dave Gorman and Caroline Aherne are just a handful of comedians who blossomed in the rainy city. Must be something in the water.
The current comedy scene is stronger than ever. On a typical night out you can find anything from audience-baiting rowdy stand-ups to ludicrous variety acts, with everything in between.
Here’s our guide to the best of the best.
Fast-becoming the most exciting comedy event in the UK, let alone Manchester, Quippodrome is more a nightmarish cabaret than a traditional stand-up gig. An entirely new show is produced each month by a misfit team of the city’s finest comedians – and it’s never to be repeated. At the helm is twisted genius Jack Evans, the only stand-up in town with the ability to flit from a horribly believable portrayal of ‘The World’s Greatest Pick-Up Artist’ to wisecracks about Stalin’s policy of dekulakization. Probably best not to invite your mum.
Second Thursday of the month, various venues – more info
Held monthly at one of the city’s finest performance venues, Gorilla, Group Therapy caters for the more discerning comedy fan; those who want their humour eclectic, intelligent and not held in a dingy basement that smells of damp. Group Therapy is also currently the Manchester host of the stomach-achingly funny Found Footage Festival tour, always a highlight of the comedy year.
First Saturday of the month, Gorilla, 54-56 Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5WW, 0161 407 0301 – more info
The daddy of the city’s mainstream stand-up scene, The Comedy Store has been the leading big-room comedy club for 15 years. With quality food and plush surroundings you won’t see the next Lenny Bruce here, but it’s perfect for a big night out with work colleagues. Thursdays are our top pick, with three first-rate comedians bringing the most raucous anything-goes atmosphere this side of a Big Brother wrap party.
Thurs, Fri, Sat weekly, Arches 3 and 4 Deansgate Locks, Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5LH, 0161 839 9595 – more info
As with anything involving the most likeable compère on the circuit, the latest addition to Red Redmond’s Dead Cat Comedy empire feels more like a gathering of friends than an old-school shoutfest. But that’s not to say it’s a gentle ride. Red’s remarkable contact book means a typical event involves everyone from magicians and sketch troupes to Edinburgh comedy award winners and TV comics testing out new material. Reliably brilliant, and all for less than the price of a bag of ethically-sourced pumpkin seeds.
Various nights, Kosmonaut, 10 Tariff Street, Manchester M1 2FF – more info
Dominating Manchester’s alternative comedy scene since 1997, XS Malarkey has won countless awards – and for good reason. Boasting a not-for-profit ethos and strong support for local talent, they regularly host secret gigs by major names such as Richard Herring and Josie Long, at a fraction of the price charged at other venues. You don’t reach that level of goodwill without doing something right.
Every Tuesday, Zoo, 126 Grosvenor Street, Manchester M1 7HL, 0161 273 1471 – more info
BONUS: Worst Comedy Night in Salford
And here’s one that didn’t quite make the list. Not only is it far from one of the best, it’s not even in Manchester. The Worst Comedy Night In Salford is exactly what it says on the tin. If you like shifting uncomfortably in your seat while a procession of crackpots are let loose onstage, this is the one for you. You sick puppy.
Fortnightly Tuesdays, The Kings Arms, 11 Bloom St, Salford M3 6AN – more info
Main image: MACE
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