Poster for Meccano Club at the Camden Head in ‘every Friday & Saturday’

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR)

The early summer of 1979 saw the beginning of the alternative comedy movement. Precipitated by the opening of the Comedy Store in Soho on 19 May and the formation of the group Alternative Cabaret a few weeks later, alternative comedy would go on to revolutionize the style, subject matter and politics of British stand-up. The new comedians turned established joke structures inside out, rejected sexist and racist gags and became part of the left-wing anti-Thatcher culture. Moreover, the current UK comedy industry grew out of the 1980s alternative comedy scene.

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) at the University of Kent and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) at Brunel University London, Alternative Comedy Now will be the first major academic conference to look at this crucial cultural movement, forty years on from its inception. In addition to academic papers from a truly international range of speakers representing a range of academic disciplines (including theatre, media, philosophy, anthropology, and cultural studies), we will also have workshops and other contributions from performers. Our keynote speakers are Sophie Quirk, whose latest book, The Politics of British Stand-Up Comedy: The New Alternative, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in December 2018; and Oliver Double, whose next book, Alternative Comedy: 1979 and the Reinvention of British Stand-Up, will be published by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama in 2019.

The conference will coincide with a festival of alternative comedy at the Gulbenkian Theatre, and an exhibition of historical artefacts from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive at the University of Kent.

We are particularly excited that some of the key figures in alternative comedy will be taking part, including Alexei Sayle, Tony Allen, and Jo Brand – who will open the festival by giving the 2019 Linda Smith Lecture.