I love comedy. I love working out the different niches that comedians use to market themselves and also ruminating on how their stories join up and often come full circle. I love losing my stomach to laughter just like when you drive down a hill at high speed. If you love comedy too, for whatever reason, you should check out the Aberdeen International Comedy Festival in Scotland. Here are five more reasons why and also a review some shows.
Aberdeen International Comedy Festival
Aberdeen’s Comedy International Festival – 10 days, 50 shows in a variety of different venues from vintage theatres to wee atmospheric dark pubs in this northeastern city of Scotland.It takes places this October from the 3rd until the 13th 2019. The Comedy Festival is not the only festival that takes place in Aberdeen, there are many other events which run throughout the city.
The Eclectic Mix of Comedians
From local (Wray Thomson) to international (Christina Bianco), headliners (Reginald D. Hunter) to up and coming (President Obonjo), adult humour (Tanyalee Davis) to family-friendly (Allans Magic), comedy musicals (Rob Kemp) to good clean (?) stand up (Graham Mackie) and of course, the guy that just went viral (Gary Meikle). There really is a show for everyone at the Aberdeen Comedy International Festival as well as the chance for you to step away from your comedy comfort zone and explore other niches!
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2019 Comedy Acts
There is already an exciting bill of comedy acts that you can book. The list includes
- Ben Elton
- Fern Brady
- Sindhu Vee
- Daniel Sloss
- Craig Hill
- John Finnemore
- Hal Cruttenden
- Count Arthur Strong
The Variety of Venues
Every nook and cranny of the city is crammed with laughs during the Aberdeen Comedy International Festival. From the stunning restored Tivoli Theatre (34-48 Guild Street) with its pink and grey walls, red velvet seats and royal boxes to the permanent house of comedy at The Lemon Tree, and all the pubs and tunnels in between.
The great thing about these venues is that since Aberdeen is a small city, you are never more than twenty minutes walk away from the next. The best way to get around is on foot. Remember to look out for the street art murals and painted doors too.
Comedy is About Community
If you follow the Aberdeen International Comedy Festival and Aberdeen Festival’s social media channels you will see the acts getting in and ‘aboot’ the local life in Aberdeen. Eleanor Conway was out doing the #walkofshame on Belmont Street while President Obonjo of Lafta Republic was snapped meeting his third wife and trying Irn Bru for the first time (his rider demand!) You also get a sneak peek backstage through the eyes of Instagram Stories.
With the existence of social media, we live in a tiny world. Be sure to follow the above channels and also the comedians you fancy (literally, some of them are hot) to see what they are up to in the Granite City. Did you catch a comedian? Tag your own Tweets with @abdncomedyfest to be featured.
Image by Aberdeen Comedy Festival/Chalk messages by Worship The Ground
Us Scots are very good at complaining that nothing ever happens in our own towns and cities so let’s put our money where our mouths are and see the talent organised in our cities. With shows starting at £free and capping at £22 (2018 prices), it’s accessible economically and some of the shows even have two acts. BOGOF!
Aberdeenshire is a Playground
Enjoy the shows, pack the electrolytes for the hangovers, set the alarm, get up and get out to explore Aberdeen city, Aberdeenshire and the Royal Deeside attractions.
Castles, beaches, distilleries, breweries, golf, Go Ape, fishing villages and food, the northeast is a region ‘beyond words but not beyond reach’. Do like we did hit the shows but explore the shores. Over four days we saw four castles, visited one brewery, did a free city walking tour, swung in the trees and even had lunch on a double-decker bus!
» You may also like our guide to things to do in beautiful Aberdeenshire
Aberdeen Comedy International Festival Review
Reginald D Hunter (Sold Out)
If you watch British comedy TV shows, you’ll be familiar with the award-winning comedian, Reginald D Hunter. He’s a North American (born in Georgia) who moved to the UK 21 years ago and the move has changed his outlook on life. His standup content is based around stories from trips back home, race, poverty, family, his surprise new, not so young, daughter ‘sperm comes back to you’ and how his life in Britain has made him more ‘objective’ – the result of this newly found objectivity? Funny and mocking material! Warning, Hunter uses the ‘n’ word casually. He also said the ‘f’ word – thanks for the Fife shutout, that’s my home region!
Hunter’s warm-up was an unusual act, President Obonjo of Lafta Republic.
President Obonjo of Lafta Republic
How would you react to a guy calmly strolling on stage, kitted out in a general’s outfit and belting out what sounds like a national anthem? Amused? Confused? No, proud and supportive. If you don’t feel proud then President Obonjo of Lafta Republic will have his ‘people make sure you feel proud.’
Normally living in exile in St Albans, President Obonjo not only graced us with a state visit to Aberdeen’s gorgeous Tivoli Theatre but also breached his bodyguard’s advice by meeting festival goers (as well as potential wife number three) and trying our national drink, Irn Bru.
It was a privilege (genuinely, not just because someone is pointing a gun at me) to watch Obojno’s performance. You’ll recognise other world leaders in his act through his use of repetition (Blair), fear (Trump) and deflection – every politician. If you don’t get his jokes then you can blame the British education system.
Like other leaders, Obonjo enjoys the occasional Tweet so you can follow the progress of his great nation, Lafta Republic on Twitter at @obonjocomedy.
Late Night Laughs (Spin)
If you are Scottish, active on social media and I say the word ‘eyebrows’ to you, you’ll get what I mean, aye? Well, the man ranting in his car about his daughter’s eyebrow obsession is actually a stand-up comedian from the East End of Glasgow. I was really excited about seeing Gary Meikle perform but also anxious that he wouldn’t live up to his three minutes of viral fame.
Meikle smashed it from the start to end, glossing over the bangin’ brows bit in what looked like a strategic attempt to show that he is more than just two (or one in my case) furry friends that sit on top on your eyes. Although the Instagram brows will only get a small look in during future shows, you will hear lots more about his daughter, Ainsley, and love of his life, granddaughter, Gracie. These two are the source of his material drawn from being a single dad in Scotland.
When I was choosing which acts to see at the Aberdeen Comedy International Festival I was like meh, he’s Scottish, folk from Glasgow are usually funny. Fortunately, I was right. Happy to say I’ve witnessed Meikle in action in a small venue just before the Comedy gods got their hands on him.
» Love comedy? Check out our guide to the Edinburgh Fringe
Second up at Spin (10 Littlejohn Street), was Scottish Santa who swears a lot, Graham Mackie. I was now worried that Mackie wouldn’t be able to follow up Meikle (I’m an anxious comedy audience member) but where Meikle is on fire, Mackie is a spitfire. Nothing gets by Mackie as he opens up the floor to hecklers and smacks each one of them down in between jokes about teaching, prison and his daughter.
Admittedly, we’d had quite a few drinks by this point but Mackie’s persona makes you feel like you are sitting at a party and listening to the funny guy in the room. No pretence, no uniform but definitely a few props up his shirt and in his pockets.
Canadian comedian Tanyalee Davis is a little person/dwarf/midget – her words, not mine and the first half of her act predominantly focuses on life growing up with diastrophic dysplasia or ‘comedy gold’ as she calls it. The second half of the show diverges into other territories including travel, her partner, Kevin, and the differences between life in North America and the UK.
Think you’ve seen Davis before but not sure where? It could be the news. The UK transport system has been an absolute joke to Davis who is a frequent train user. She has been “harassed and humiliated” by Great Western Railways, neglected by York Railway Station and fobbed off by a bus driver in Edinburgh. Always one to see the positive in situations, Davis has created the Scooter Girl Campaign to support scooter/wheelchair users and is rolling with the experience for her next tour working titles: Tanyalee Davis Access Denied or Tanyalee Davis is Against Health and Safety.
Disclaimer: I wouldn’t take my Mum to see Tanyalee Davis – that’s my barometer of how sexually explicit jokes get during a show!
- Venue: Breakneck Comedy 22-24 King Street
Last but not least, Wray Thomson. When I was researching who to see, Google told me that Thomson was the author of Fifty Shades of Fraserburgh and Georgie WW said on YouTube that ‘He amazing and very hot for a comedian,’ (direct quote) so that consolidated his position on my comedy bucket list.
Thomson performed ‘with’ a packed out crowd at O’Neills (9-10 Back Wynd), I say ‘with’ instead of ‘to’ because if you are in the audience, you are very much part of the show. Like it or not! Thomson likes to get amongst it and will interview you – front row, back row, hiding at the bar – nowhere is safe!
Although do not fear, it’s all friendly banter, he likes you really. In fact, he might even ask you, and the other 99 punters to go ‘out out’ and hit the pubs with him.
Aberdeen – Know Before You Go
Since Aberdeen is a small city it is easy to get around by foot, you are never more than twenty minutes away from the next venue and there is always something to look at around the city on your travels.
Hotels are actually very economical in Aberdeen. We stayed at the Skene House Hotel Suites (apartments) on Rosemont which is a 10-minute walk from Union Street, Aberdeen’s main drag. Craig warns that weekday hotel rooms can book up fast because there are many workers in the city.
The Aberdonian accent can be quite strong so can take a wee bit of tuning in. The locals are super friendly, never ones to see you lost and always happy to recommend their favourite watering holes. If leaving the city on an Aberdeenshire road trip (definitely do this – striking landscapes and castles with hardly any tourists, crazy!) you will experience a stronger dialect called Doric.
Aberdeen has every type of restaurant going. We dined at an Italian, ate Turkish food, pub grub and even had lunch on a bus by the North Sea! There is a local bakery food item you should try though, it’s called a buttery (or a rowie), I won’t describe it, just try it!
The craft beer, Brew Dog has its flagship shop in Aberdeen and you can visit the brewery in Ellon, approximately 30-minutes away from the city. Fierce is also a really neat bar to drink in, even if you don’t like craft beer there are other types of alcohol and soft drinks on sale. Finally, Six Degrees North is one of Craig’s new favourites. I recommend the beer cooked stew in the edible bowl for lunch too.
Aberdeen is historically important. Many Jacobites were imprisoned at Tolbooth Prison, which is now a museum, and there are just under 300 castles in the Aberdeenshire area so if you want to go castle bagging, check out this trail! We managed to see five over the four days. If you like history and architecture, don’t miss Old Aberdeen too.
Getting to Aberdeen is easy – there are direct trains from all major Scottish cities as well as bus routes.
» Read next: your Aberdeen city bucket list
You have probably heard about Aberdeen’s oil industry and the impact of its collapse. You might know Aberdeen for its granite buildings or shipbuilding. However, Aberdeen is so much more than money and material, it’s a fun city packed with festivals nearly every month of the year from dance to music, street art to light so even if comedy doesn’t tickle your fancy (you can’t sit here) then there will be one genre out of the list to entertain!