It’s a good time to be a standup in Bristol, and an even better time to be an adventurous punter. There are several new and established open mics and new material nights around the city, and they offer a great way to pop out and see some comedy for free or just a few quid.
These nights run the gamut, from signup-on-the-night gigs where anyone who can write their name (doesn’t even have to be legible!) could decide to give it a go, to curated shows with national headliners and local support. You could see faces from the telly who’ve come out West just to run some new ideas to a real audience and see what’s working.
Comedy takes refinement, and the only way to craft those jokes is to try new ideas and slight tweaks with a live audience in the room. The social contract at an open mic is that it doesn’t cost much, but the comedians are free to play around a bit more than on a ‘Pro Night’. You’ll see notebooks in hand, and hear acknowledgements of ‘that was a new one’ when something doesn’t quite hit. But it’s all part of the fun. New faces squinting into the same lights as seasoned pros. These are all intimate and warm nights, more like a smoky jazz club than a stadium, and once you’ve been to a couple, you might find you prefer the flavour of a mic to refined and finished show. And if it’s dogshit, well, it’s usually only a few minutes until they ‘get the light’ and it’s another act’s turn―maybe yours!
In the past year, Bristol has seen several mics come and go. Do check the Kettle and follow the shows’ pages in order to keep up to date, since like the jokes, these things can change pretty quickly.
Here’s a list that will certainly be out of date before the pixels dry, but it’ll get you started.
Bunch of Japes, at Smoke and Mirrors. Weekly new material night, with a national headliner and several short spots from local acts. Curated and hosted by George Rigden.
Tilt at the Windmill, TheWindmill Pub in Bedminster. Weekly open mic with signup on the night.
Comedy at The Robin Hood. Every second Tuesday. Headliner and curated open spots.
Comedy at The White Harte. Every third Tuesday, curated show with local and national acts. Hosted and produced by David Hoare and Dorian Wainright.
Joke and Mirrors, open mic at the Smoke Mirrors. Monthly, third Weds. Same vibe as their weekly Monday show, only free and more local acts.
Oppo Comedy. A weekly loose and lovely curated show in Clifton, with national headliner and local openers trying new material.
Scratch Night at The Lazy Dog, weekly, following How Lazy Is He? A free nightcap, sign up in person for five-minute sets. Usually starts around 10pm, after the main show.
Open Stage at the Bristol Fringe. Monthly, last Thursdays. Hosted and curated by Stewart Gamble.
Inn Jokes, Inn on the Green (Fortnightly, check Kettle or show page for dates/deets).
Crofters Comedy (Last Sunday, curated and hosted by Sarah Slater)
Nova Comedy Showcase (Last Sunday, curated and hosted by the muppety duo of James Micic and Will Turner)
Jokewalk at the Ropewalk (2nd and Last sunday, curated mic)
This Next Act, Kingsdown Vaults (Weekly, curated and hosted by Alex Kitson)