Comedy takes centre stage at Latitude

How comedians took over the festivals

What do you go to a festival for? For the headline bands, the cider, the great muddy outdoors? Or for the comedy? Where once stand-up was a sideshow to the riffs and rockstar histrionics on the main stage, a tiny tent to have a snooze in somewhere between the crepe stall and the Portaloos, this year comedy has truly taken over.

At Latitude this weekend, comedians all but outnumber bands on the bill. The Suffolk weekender has always styled itself as an arts and music festival but even by its polymath standards 100 comedy acts (at a rough count) is extraordinary.

The Comedy tent, headlined by Dara O Briain, Simon Amstell, and Kevin Bridges this year, has 12 acts a day and screens rigged up outside for the many fans who will inevitably not fit in it.

The best comedians to see at Latitude

When Tim Minchin played there two years ago, his crowd rivalled that at the Obelisk stage.

This year’s is an all-round excellent line-up but Josh Widdicombe, Seann Walsh, Roisin Conaty, Tommy Tiernan, Doc Brown and Aisling Bea are a safe bet for high-energy crowd-pleasing.

More than at any other festival, the comedians get everywhere at Latitude.

There is a Cabaret tent but it is less burlesque than sketch and more stand-up with Cardinal Burns, Sara Pascoe, Al Murray, the Pajama Men, Mike Wozniak, John Kearns and the most un-cabaret-like Liam Williams on the bill. Elsewhere Tim Key and Jack Dee are appearing in the Theatre arena, Tom Basden is screening a new film, Nick Helm and Rob Auton will be in the Poetry tent and Alex Horne, Pappy’s and Arthur Smith pop up in the Literary Arena. Patrick Turpin, Twins and other festival stars will play mini-gigs in a garden shed for five people at a time. The only time you will stumble across more comedians in one place is Edinburgh in August.

 

Comedy has been a staple of the more arts-orientated festivals for some time now. Festival No 6 has a classy line-up including Henning Wehn, James Acaster and Robin Ince, while Bestival has a knock-out headliner in the shape of ventriloquist Nina Conti. The more traditional music festivals are building their comedy offerings, too. Reading and Leeds have 30 or so stand-ups on their Alternative Stage, including Bill Bailey, Katherine Ryan and Tiffany Stevenson while V Festival have Alan Carr and Adam Hills with more acts to be announced. They might even allow a female stand-up onto the stage come 16 August.

The rise of festival comedy makes perfect sense. It is ideal fare - an exhilarating form of communal entertainment just like music. Hearing a wave of laughter wash over a big crowd is every bit as enjoyable as joining the mosh pit, with the added advantage that it is socially acceptable to sit down, under cover to watch it. Unlike rock bands, comedians do not require a complicated set-up, just a mic, which means that the entertainment can run non-stop on stage. Moreover, stand-ups are adaptable creatures, happy to trim their sets to fit their slot, as at home in the literary tent or reciting poems as they are in the bearpit of the stand-up tent.

There are disadvantages, too. At Latitude the Comedy tent has become something of a victim of its own success – so popular you often can’t get near the stage. If you want to see a particular act, best to turn up a couple of acts beforehand.

You might just discover someone you like. Some of the best acts on the circuit struggle to cope with the constant flow of attention-challenged festival-goers and unpredictable family crowds which means some sets can become more an exercise in crowd control than comedy. But then some stand-ups thrive on that.

I won’t forget the sight of Mark Watson at Latitude a couple of years ago gently eviscerating a precocious seven-year old heckler who informed him “I’ve heard this before on Radio 4”. Truly, fun for all the family.

www.latitudefestival.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border