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Prepare to laugh
Birmingham Comedy Festival 2019 launches on October 4 and continues for 10 laughter-packed days till October 13. Headline acts include James Acaster (Oct 4, Birmingham Town Hall), whose previous shows have earned him five Best Comedy Show nominations at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Last Leg's Josh Widdicombe (Oct 13, Birmingham Hippodrome), 'German Comedy Ambassador' Henning Wehn (Oct 11-12, Birmingham Town Hall) and Reginald D Hunter (Oct 10, Old Joint Stock Theatre). They are joined by Comedy Central's Impractical Jokers (Oct 11, Arena Birmingham), food critic Jay Rayner (Oct 6, The Glee Club) and poet Pam Ayres (Oct 6, Birmingham Town Hall).
The Birmingham Comedy Festival Free Half-Dayers are back by popular demand (Oct 6 and 13, Cherry Reds and The Victoria). Featuring 16 free shows in Birmingham city centre on successive Sunday afternoons, the line-up includes Susan Murray, James Cook's Board Game Smackdown, a new show from the multi-award-winning Rob Kemp, UK Pun Champion 2017 Lovdev Barpaga and Sarah Johnson.
Pun champ: Lovdev Barpaga (pic: Dave Freak)
The current improv explosion is reflected in appearances from Jumprov (Oct 9, Serve) and Foghorn Unscripted (Oct 13, The Victoria), while Fat Penguin's Birmingham Comedy Festival Improvised Comedy All-Dayer (Oct 12, Patrick Kavanagh) unveils eight troupes from around the UK, culminating in a never-to-be-repeated Improv Jam.
The festival opens on Friday October 4 with the prestigious Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award 2019 at The Glee Club. The nominated acts are Celya AB, Jay Droch, Adam Elmi, Doug Carter and Mary Flanigan.
Nominated: Celya AB
Originally from the outskirts of Paris, Celya AB now calls Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter home. Performing since February 2017, she cites Dylan Moran, David Mitchell and Maria Bamford, as well as Les inconnus and Desproges, as comedy influences. Combining work in customer service with stand-up, she recently made it through to the Funny Women 2019 finals.
Improv': Jay Droch
Having made his stand-up debut at Stirling's Bar, in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, just 18 months ago, Erdington's Jay Droch has gone on to open for Guz Khan and perform at a BBC Asian Network Comedy Night. Working in logistics, he's also a member of improv' troupe Jumprov, and cites Robin Williams as his number one comedy idol.
Self-depreciating: Adam Elmi
From tentative steps back in 2015, Adam Elmi started focusing more heavily on stand-up during 2017, developing a "dark and self-depreciating" style. With three part-time jobs (including one as "a bouncer"), he lives in Edgbaston, Birmingham, and recently opened for Tom Stade on his UK tour.
Building a fanbase: Doug Carter
Born in Coventry, and now living in Bedworth, Doug Carter made his debut at Birmingham's The Roadhouse in the spring of 2017, though it was it was nearly nine months later before he decided to continue pursuing stand-up. He works in the construction industry, and his comedy combines observational humour with real-life stories.
Inspired: Mary Flanigan
A TV researcher and member of BBC Northern Ireland's Comedy Writers Room, Mary Flanigan started doing stand-up in her native Belfast, and has continued since moving to Kings Heath, Birmingham, at the beginning of the year. Name-checking Tina Fey, Josie Long, Ross Noble and Maria Bamford as key inspirations, she says her approach to comedy is "constantly changing."
A festival spokesman said: "We've got another packed line-up this year with over 80 performances featuring not only stand-up comedy, but also improv', theatre, music, game shows, fine art, a murder mystery, and loads more. There are plenty of well-known names, but also some great emerging talent, particularly from across the region."