Festival Time!

Posted on 16 November 2011

Festivals are an important part of establishing yourself as a professional comedian. Festivals give you public exposure, audience development, experience, networking, and importantly, reviews. Unless you are already established in the public eye, reviewers tend to not give you a second look until such time as you pop up at a festival. And you NEED those reviews to convince people you are worthy of their attention.

The difficulty with festivals is that they can be so large that you get lost in the crowd, or so expensive that you can only afford to produce your own show once in awhile. I had a cup of tea with Tim Ferguson of The Doug Anthony All Stars the other day, and he said that emerging comedians would do better by starting out at smaller festivals and bypassing Edinburgh and Melbourne Comedy Festivals, until such time as they have a guaranteed audience. In a different conversation Claire Hooper said the same thing about beginning her career. She felt it worked best to start small, be nice to your pocketbook, then work your way up.

Starting small may sound like the slow path to fame, but you would be underestimating the power of small. More than one smash-hit of Melbourne Fringe has ended up a headliner the next year at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Once you have established yourself, festivals can become an important part of touring. These are events where you may be able to draw a larger and better paying audience than a simple comedy club. This of course depends upon the festival. However, comedy festivals are becoming a popular source of live entertainment and appearing all over the world. It’s possible to plan a circuit through major and minor festivals such that you have the semblance of regular work.

Below is a short list of major and minor festivals worth noting. You can easily find more and in your particular field of comedy: sketches, improvisation, theatrical, musical, physical, as well as standup. (some of the dates are best guess)

Australia / New Zealand

Adelaide Fringe Festival
24 February—18 March

Brisbane Comedy Festival
01–27 March

Coffs Harbour International Buskers & Comedy Festival
22 September—01 October

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
28 March—22 April

Melbourne Fringe Festival
19 September—07 October

New Zealand International Comedy Festival
21 November—18 December

Perth International Comedy Festival
02–20 May

Sydney Comedy Festival
24 April—12 May


Brighton Comedy Festival
05–19 October

The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival
31 May—04 June

Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival
03–19 February

Edinburgh Comedy Festival
03–27 August

The London Comedy Writers Festival
03–04 March

Canada / US

Chicago Improv Festival
April 23—April 29

Just for Laughs
20–26 November

LAughter Comedy Fest
08–18 November

New York Comedy Festival
07–11 November

New York International Fringe Festival
10&mnash;26 August

SF Sketchfest
19 January—04 February

Women in Comedy Festival
21–25 March

Peace and kindness,


2 responses to Festival Time!

  • Liz McKeon says:

    Thanks for listing us! We actually just extended our application deadline to this Friday evening — hope some of your readers can join us!

    Liz – from the Women in Comedy Festival

  • Katherine says:

    No probs! My Australian funny females are quite excited hearing about your festival and are interested in forming a link.

    I also think I owe you guys an article.

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