In 2023, we’re overcompensating for all the time we’ve spent cooped into our homes for the past couple of years. If you just haven’t touched grass in a while or feel the system’s forcing us into expensive little death boxes we call “homes” to work us down to the bone, this is for you! Break that FD, crack open that piggy bank and empty out your jeans pockets, here’s a comprehensive list of every international comedy festival worth attending in the first half of this year.
SF COMEDY SKETCH FEST, SAN FRANCISCO, USA (20 JAN – 5 FEB)
The Sketch Fest has already begun but we couldn’t get ourselves to drop it off the list, there’s still time to go! The festival promises some of the most interesting shows like a live reading of the animated comedy show Futurama with the show’s head writer and prominent cast members, and multiple sets by former SNL cast member Fred Armisen accompanied by a bass player. There’s more, but tickets are flying off the shelves, so if you’re around, you should get them right away!
HUBCAP COMEDY FESTIVAL, NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA (25 JAN – 4 FEB)
We’re not going to tell you a lot about HUBCAP other than that it has one of the most intriguing shows we’ve read about while making this list. Get this, an interactive hypnosis-improv show performed by Whose Line Is It Anyway legend Colin Mochrie and hypnotist Asad Mecci. The idea is that Mecci will hypnotise 20 audience members (who will apparently see “their inhibitions evaporated and their minds no longer their own”), the best of which will then be accompanied by Colin Mochrie on stage for a session of hilarious improv exercises. Someone bootleg this?
30 DAYS 30 PLAYS, LUCKNOW, INDIA (3 FEB – 3 MAR)
This is an interesting segue from the conventional standup comedy space, but hey, why not? Starting early next month, Lucknow’s Sangeet Natak Academy will be hosting a month-long comedy theatre festival featuring 30 comedy plays by the same director, Sangam Bahuguna. Why does this make an entry to a list of international comedy festivals? Event organisers are making a bid for the Guinness Book Of World Records with this one, so if you’re looking for a cool way to make it to the history books, this might be your chance!
LEICESTER COMEDY FESTIVAL, LEICESTERSHIRE, UK (8 FEB – 26 FEB)
Tickets for the 30th edition of the Leicester Comedy Festival are out, with the comedy festival set to begin in 2 weeks-time. The festival has an exciting mix of events to check out including The UK Pun Championship hosted by James Byrne, a comedy fundraiser headlined by brilliant one-liner comic Milton Jones, and sets by the likes of Nish Kumar, Fatiha El-Ghorri, Tim Vine and more. It’s easy to underestimate the size of this one, but for context, last year’s edition featured over 800 performances across 64 venues. Only for serious festival-goers, okay?
SLAPSTICK 2023, BRISTOL, UK (14 FEB – 19 FEB)
Slapstick 2023 is an interesting addition to the list because they’ve decided to pay special attention to musical comedy this year. The festival will present 32 events at venues across Bristol. Monty Python member Sir Michael Palin will be the artist in focus, and he’ll be ably accompanied by other comedy stalwarts like Rob Brydon, The Office co-writer Stephen Merchant, Graeme Garden, Harry Hill, Robin Ince and Stephen Mangan.
JUST FOR LAUGHS VANCOUVER, VANCOUVER, CANADA (16 FEB – 25 FEB)
JFL Vancouver looks to be a VERY exciting prospect in terms of the shows already confirmed. If you’re a fan of The Office, this one’s for you! Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey will sit down and have a chat, reliving stories from the sets of the show. JFL Vancouver’s ever-growing lineup already includes Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Bad Friends’ Bobby Lee and Andrew Santino, Tim Dillon, Jack Whitehall, Margaret Cho, Nick Thune, Adam Pally and many, many more!
THE ADELAIDE FRINGE, ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA (17 FEB – 19 MAR)
The Adelaide Fringe is an Australian festival that’s strength is in its (relatively) smaller size. Since the month-long bonanza isn’t in the middle of a large and bustling city, the atmosphere really takes over and you’ll feel totally immersed in the festival vibes! This one isn’t purely a standup comedy festival, featuring everything from improv to cabaret to magic. Keep an eye out for a special show by The Umbilicals, a duo that performs an eclectic physical comedy set that relies heavily on their experience with theatre and cinema.
JUST FOR LAUGHS LONDON, LONDON, UK (2 MAR – 5 MAR)
JFL is bringing is extending its franchise to London this year with a 3-day comedy festival to take place in the O2 Arena. Ryan Reynolds (?!) is headlining this one, and although he won’t be performing standup, he will be talking attendees through his career and experience as a writer, producer and football team owner. Festival attendees will also get to watch a live version of The Graham Norton Variety Show and standup sets by Katherine Ryan, Michelle Wolf, Reggie Watts, Joe Lycett, Aisling Bea, Craig Robinson and James Acaster.
SXSW 2023 AUSTIN, USA (10 MAR – 14 MAR)
The SXSW comedy lineup isn’t out yet (they’re leaving it pretty damn late, with the full list to be released only in the second week of February), but from what we’ve read about their previous editions, fans don’t need to worry. Previous instalments of the festival—where comedy meets tech, film and music—have been graced by the likes of John Cleese, Jim Gaffigan, Hannibal Buress, Kumail Nanjiani, Marc Maron, Aparna Nancherla, Bill Hader, Nick Offerman, Bob Odenkirk, Bill Burr, Bob Saget, Tig Notaro and Gary Gulman. The festival has also hosted interesting discussions with the cast of VEEP, What We Do In The Shadows co-creator Taika Waititi and Rick And Morty and Community creator Dan Harmon in the past.
GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL (15 MAR – 2 APR)
Glasgow International Comedy Festival will be celebrating 2 decades of laughs this year with sets by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, Ted Lasso’s Nick Mohammed and veteran comic Stewart Lee. With 380 events across 37 venues, this festival—which focuses on promoting homegrown talent (don’t worry all your favourites will be there too)—promises to be a lovely festival in a beautiful city!
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (29 MAR – 23 APR)
Australia’s largest ticketed cultural event and one of the top 3 biggest comedy festivals in the world, this 37-year-old comedy festival is not to miss. Considering its size, you can only imagine the kind of comics that are likely to show up for this one (with Daniel Sloss already featured in the lineup)! Indian comics Anirban Dasgupta and Sonali Thakker Desai are also set to perform at the festival. We’d also keep an eye out for shows like Shit-Faced Shakespeare (go figure), a Bert Kreischer standup set, and the 26-year-old festival mainstay called Whiplash which will feature some legendary female and non-binary comics.
JUST FOR LAUGHS MOON TOWER, TEXAS, US (12 APR – 23 APR)
Is JFL planning on taking over the world? Nothing we can’t get behind. This one’s in Austin and will feature our very own Kenny Sebastian and Vir Das who are headlining the festival (that’s right!) on 12 April and 14 April, respectively. The festival will also feature shows by Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, Chris Distefano, Maria Bamford, Brad Williams, Ben Schwartz and Friends, Adam Ray and Blair Socci.
SYDNEY COMEDY FESTIVAL, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (24 APR – 21 MAY)
The Sydney Comedy Festival will feature over 150 Australian comics and will also see Daniel Sloss and Bert Kreischer continue their tours of Australia. Lots of big names have already been added to the lineup! Some of the big ones on the roster right now are Ed Byrne, Ed Gamble, Emma Holland, Joe Lycett and Rhys Nicholson. But one name you should keep an eye out for is Sam Campbell, who won the Edinburgh Fringe’s best comedy show award last year.
BRISBANE COMEDY FESTIVAL (28 APR – 28 MAY)
The month-long comedy festival in Brisbane will consist of 350 shows featuring everything from sit-down live podcasts to comedy cabaret. Some of the big names to see here will be DannyBhoy, Micky Bartlett, Ed Byrne, Ed Gamble and Sara Pascoe. Want to try something alternative? Why not check out the show by the Dirty Fame Flash Candles Club, which performs a cabaret-style comedy quasi-musical.
JUST FOR LAUGHS MONTREAL, MONTREAL, CANADA (13 JUL – 31 JUL)
The crown jewel of the JFL franchise is its Montreal edition. Grab yourself a ticket, because this one is featuring the who’s-who of standup and the list promises to grow larger over the coming months. But for now you’ll have to content yourself with John Mulaney, Amy Schumer, Iliza Schlesinger, Ronny Chieng, Jerrod Carmichael, Marc Maron, Neal Brennan, Russell Peters, Ali Kolbert, Bill Burr, Dara O’Briain, Fortune Feimster, Hasan Minhaj, Hannah Gadsby, Jay Pharoah, James Acaster, Jimmy Carr, Jo Koy, Kevin Hart, Matteo Lane, Patton Oswald, Rosebud Baker, Sindhu Vee, Sam Jay, Taylor Tomlinson, Yannis Papas and Jessica Kirson amongst others! Our boys Anirban Dasgupta (who featured In Just For Laughs’ prestigious New Faces Of Comedy list last year) and Vir Das will be performing here as well.
On a side note, Just For Laughs plan for world domination is also extending to Bermuda, where they’ve set up a comedy festival between 15 February and 18 February.