Free comedy is known as a double-edged sword in the industry. On the one hand it provides accessible comedy for fans, and gives new comics the chance to dip their toe in the stand up waters, whilst more established comedians can use these nights as a place to try new things. Detractors say this cheapens the art form and drives business away from more established gigs, but we believe seeing live comedy at any level will only inspire more people to go to the other gigs. It’s hardly as if a music fans would be accused of swerving a night at The Deaf Institute when they go to catch a local open mic. So with that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best and free-est comedy gigs happening in Manchester.

Sidekick Comedy at Via
Super nerds combine for this mix of new acts and more established names with geek provocateur Kate McCabe leading this merry band. Situated in the heart of Canal Street, Kate creates an easy-going atmosphere with games & prizes as well as her own brand of inoffensive offensiveness. Just £2 (free for students) a throw, the shows attract some of the best acts in town and is a must for those that work weekends and miss out on the bigger clubs.
4th Monday of the month,

Gein’s Family Giftshop’s Bargain Basement at Kosmonaut
It’s a sad fact that comedy nights are a little more unwilling to book sketch groups to perform unless the night is a cabaret or mixed bill event. The good news is that this injustice led one of the country’s best sketch groups, Gein’s Family Giftshop, to create their own night where they can air new material and perfect some of the old. They also invite some of the their pals down to try some new things too, with top acts such as Goose, Brennan Reece, Lolly Adefope, Jonny Pelham and loads more all appearing.
1st Monday of the month,

Beat the Frog at The Frog and Bucket
Gong show are as much maligned in comedy circles as free shows, so why not kill two birds with one stone and head to the Frog and Bucket’s weekly comedy competition to see some of the young hopefuls that Manchester and beyond has to offer. Fans of schadenfreude can also enjoy the cruel nature of being voted off if you’re not funny enough/have crippling anxiety problems. Often it is the MC that saves the day with a revolving roster of the city’s best in Phil Ellis, Dan Nightingale and Kiri Pritchard-Mclean.
Every Monday,

Comedy Balloon at The Ape and Apple
This longest running free open mic comedy night in the city has been going for over 16 years. Jason Cooke (pictured) has created a night that nurtures young talent and gives a platform to those trying things that wouldn’t survive at a gong show, but are worth sticking with for longer than the whims of an audience baying for blood. Come Edinburgh preview time, the community spirit that envelopes the upstairs at The Ape and Apple comes full circle as acts return to test their new works in front of a comedy-savvy audience.
Every Wednesday,

Guinea Pigs at Sandbar
As indicated by the name, Guinea Pigs is another night of testing new material and new acts. Though only in its infancy itself, Red Redmond has numerous successful club nights under his belt in the Dead Cat Comedy stable, and is keen to see new acts go far. A monthly affair, it features a showcase of fresh talent paired with a couple more assured heads trying out a new bits and bobs. A friendly atmosphere in the back room of a great pub, there’s not much more you could want from a comedy night.
2nd Wed of the month,

The Delightful Sausage at The Castle
A newcomer this one, but only a few months in Amy Gledhill and Chris Cantrill’s baby has fast marked itself out as a comedy vehicle to keep a very close eye on. With headliners opening and comedy folks given a three minute countdown to try out anything they want it has all the fast paced action and fun of a gong but without any of the nastiness. It’s free for students and just £3 for norms, which is pretty delightful indeed.
Monthly (usually 2nd/3rd Wednesday)

John Stansfield
Published on:
Thu 31 Mar 2016