The big read: Why grassroots comedy is booming in Sheffield with several new venues
Sheffield’s comedy scene has grown phenomenally in recent years and with lockdowns – hopefully – a thing of the past local comedians think we’ll be laughing for a while.
Just as you’re never more than three feet from a spider, in Sheffield the chances are you’re always within a few miles of a comedy club.
With comedy nights hosted in the city centre and further out in Kelham Island, Nether Edge and Hunters Bar, grassroots comedy is having a resurgence in Sheffield.
Oli J Clarke, a local comedian, told the Sheffield Telegraph: “A couple of years ago you would struggle to have any grassroots events.
“We have people travelling from Manchester and Leeds to Sheffield, before you had to travel there.
“The atmosphere is really good – Sheffield crowds are brilliant for comedy.
“We are definitely getting more and more of a reputation not just with the acts but with the public as well.
“If people know it’s on they will come and support it.”
Oli set up a comedy night at Toolmakers Brewery in Kelham Island in January 2020 and another at Yellow Arch Studios nearby this July.
While events were not held during much of the Covid-19 pandemic, now he often sees audiences of 90 people or more.
Oli added: “Quite a few acts are really great – there are six or seven that will be breaking through soon.
“To be able to compete with Manchester and Leeds is a good thing for Sheffield.
“A lot of the Covid rules – the rule of six, table service only – all that was ideal for comedy nights.
“The Sheffield public keep turning up and coming back.
“We have people from aged 18 up to people in their 60s and 70s in the audience.
“Everyone likes a laugh and you get that from putting a diverse lineup together – if you put on nine straight white men then it gets a bit boring.
“We have got professional groups but they need the grass roots to keep going.
“As you get new people coming through, I see it getting better and better.”
Suzy Frost is a Sheffield comedian who started performing just before the pandemic and has been on the bill at many comedy nights in the city including The Teller on Abbeydale Road and Yellow Arch Studios.
She describes her brand of comedy as ‘filthy’ with a lot of pop culture references, adding: “People love a bit of smut. It makes the world go round.”
Suzy said: “When I first wanted to get into comedy there was only one venue I could find that was open to newcomers.
“They opened the Millowners in Kelham Island and it spiralled from there.
“Now Sheffield is getting itself a lovely little comedy scene.
“Everyone says if you want to get into comedy you have to go to Manchester or London – I reckon Sheffield is next on that list.
“You can go from having an open spot to getting paid work.
“People need something to go out for, they needed a laugh – we’ve all had such a horrible year of it.
“People are more aware of stand up now.
“We are absolutely blessed in Sheffield to be such a diverse city.
“You can see in the audience when you have a diverse lineup – everyone is laughing at different things and understanding different experiences.
“One of my first jokes was calling out men for not laughing at women comedians – we’ve been laughing at d*ck jokes for years, now it’s your turn.
“Sheffield offers a good audience for a comic.
“People are so friendly and that doesn’t always translate in comedy but in Sheffield it is absolutely 100 per cent does translate.”
Oli explained that amateur comedians in Sheffield will try to co-ordinate their nights so that they don’t clash and split the audience.
The Yellow Arch comedy club runs monthly on Thursdays, Tell Em Again at The Teller is twice on month on Tuesdays, and the Kelham comedy club is on one Monday every month.
As previously reported by the Telegraph, Tom Douglas is behind the new event at The Teller bar on Abbeydale Road this August and hoped it will help to ‘revive’ the city’s comedy scene.
Toolmakers is on the first Thursday of the month but recently launched a ‘best of’ night on Saturday.
If in between all that you still feel in need of a midweek pick me up, a stand up night is held every other Wednesday at Sidney and Matilda n Sidney Street in Sheffield city centre.
Also in Sheffield city centre, South Yorkshire’s only purpose built comedy club also opened in the middle of the pandemic.
The ROFL Comedy Club is on Devonshire Street and regularly features well-known comedians with TV credits and has a different line up each week introduced by resident compere Harriet Dyer.