With the start of the first ever York Comedy Festival just a week away we had a little chat with festival organiser Dan Atkinson about how he did it, why he did it, the future, and how York is like a cheeky duck.

We put on our serious hat to ask some deep and probing questions of Mr. Atkindon.  He, however, wore a pink Sombrero, but we do think he enjoyed the probing.

 

Funny.co.uk - How has the comedy scene in York grown over the last few years?

Dan - I started "The Other Side" (my club) at City Screen about 2 years ago 'cos I was fed up of travelling the country to do gigs. It's fair to say that before I opened the club the comedy scene in York was little more than a creepy busker with PA and novelty dog. And I don't think he knew he had the niche cornered. So on a whimsy I set up the club, and it's still never not sold out.

 

Funny.co.uk - How and when did you first become involved in comedy events?

Dan - Gigging. Get fed up. Organised a comedy club. Then put on a festival based on nothing more than an idea. Anyone could do it. It's a piece of piss!

 

Funny.co.uk - So when did you realise that it had reached a stage where York could take an entire comedy festival?

Dan - I was in the bath one day, idly scrubbing myself, when I thought we could have a bit of a festival. For a while it was going to be called 'Grin up North', which I still think is ace. To be honest, this isn't a decision based upon whether or not York can 'take' a festival. I've got a narrow minded view that the world consists of little more than comedy, so what we've done is booked some of the best acts in the country, and put on a natty little festival. Now we let as many people know about it as possible, and if they don't want to come that's their decision. But as a kick off, we've put it out there if people want to do it.

Funny.co.uk - Based on your experience so far of organising this festival, what will you do differently in the future and how do you see the event growing and developing?

Dan - Given that we're still a week away from this festival and the fact that it's making me crosseyed and green through stress, to think about future years makes my hair come out in clumps. Um, we'll do it next year I suppose and try to keep our noses in front ie have the best acts for next year rather than being a year out of date. It's about keeping our ears to the ground and sussing who's going to be making waves in 12 months time. Some payment would be quite nice, too...

 

Funny.co.uk - Does the York Festival contain a broad mix of comedy styles, or do you find that certain styles are more prevalent?

Dan - What? Styles? Um, well, er.. we've got Jimmy Cricket who doesn't swear and then we've got Kitson who swears a lot. We've got musical acts, double acts, embracing all creeds sexes etc etc. Is this a question about discrimination? Are you trying to get me to say something incriminating? It won't work. I am sqeaky clean and legal.

 

Funny.co.uk - What is the YCF doing to help new, up-and-coming comedy talent?

Dan - Oh, just a competition involving 30 best new acts in the country battling it out over a week for a £750 prize. That's all!!! Up and coming talent is SO important. Most of the best comics in the country are folk that the public at large don't know about, cos they stay in the clubs. These people in our competition will not be ugly ducklings for much longer. They will become like swans but hopefully less agressive. I knew a man called dave who had his leg broken by a swan when he was in a canoe. They are deceptively dangerous - one of those facts that a lot of people know but don't heed.

 

Funny.co.uk - Based on your experience so far of organising this festival, what will you do differently in the future and how do you see the event growing and developing?

Dan - Given that we're still a week away from this festival and the fact that it's making me crosseyed and green through stress, to think about future years makes my hair come out in clumps. Um, we'll do it next year I suppose and try to keep our noses in front ie have the best acts for next year rather than being a year out of date. It's about keeping our ears to the ground and sussing who's going to be making waves in 12 months time. Some payment would be quite nice, too...

 

Funny.co.uk - So you're not planning on York becoming the new Edinburgh just yet then?

Dan - Edinburgh is a roaring beast of a festival!  It's like an alpha male swan in the pond of comedy. We are more like a cheeky duck. And everyone knows that ducks are funnier than swans.

 

The York Comedy Festival is running from the 23rd to the 29th of June, so if you're anywhere near York, or even if you're miles away,  then Funny.co.uk strongly suggests (think baseball bats) that you make the effort and support live comedy!  For a rundown of the festival's major attractions check out our feature here!

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