From Ed Byrne to CSI, why this year's Leicester Comedy Festival was the best ever.

When this year's Leicester Comedy Festival kicked off back in January,  the clues were there from the outset that it was going to be a special year for the long-running event.

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Hosted brilliantly by Ed Byrne, the lineup was the best we can remember, with Matt Richardson, Flo & Joan and Tom Lucy all standing out as highlights.  The whole show felt warmer than ever, with an audience in extremely high spirits, loving every minute of the first rate entertainment.

From then on, when the festival itself began in February, the UK's finest cultural city enjoyed highlight after highlight. Celebritain managed to get to at least a dozen shows, whilst we've heard great things about many more.

 Love Island's Iain Sterling played a sold out show 

Love Island's Iain Sterling played a sold out show 

The sheer diversity and scale of the programme should be applauded.  Three whole weeks of simultaneous shows in venues all across the city gives it a similar feel to Edinburgh, but far less commercial and in a way, far more humble. This is a city that is clearly grateful to have the festival.

The big names included Harry Hill, Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, Russell Kane, Griff Rhys-Jones and a wonderful show from the legendary Barry Cryer, who proved the F word is not essential in every comedy show you see.

We loved 'Five Reasons Why (I quit Teaching), Shunted Again, Shappi Khorsandi and CSI Crime Scene Improvisation.   From back rooms in bars to some fantastic shows at the awesome Curve Theatre (Showstoppers!, Paul Foot...), the diversity of the venues and shows brought a real festival feel.

 Jason Byrne hosted the 2018 Pun Championships

Jason Byrne hosted the 2018 Pun Championships

Even the more obscure and smaller shows were sell-outs and the many comedians who used the festival to test out new material went away feeling very happy with the reactions.    The Leicester Comedy Festival does a beautiful thing, it brings out locals of all nationalities, ages and backgrounds night after night to enjoy some good old lols, many of which came for free.

25 years after Leicester Comedy Festival began as a De Montfort University student project, it has finally earned the full backing of the City for whom are right to feel privileged to have such a fantastic and unique event on their doorstep.

How they're going to better it next year we really don't know, but we'll certainly be there to find out.

Leicester Comedy Festival 2018? ***** The best yet.