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Alternative Comedy Now

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 fee of £35 includes conference attendance and refreshments, admission to the exhibition and a ticket for Alexei Sayle in Conversation with Dr Oliver Double. An optional conference dinner for delegates will be held on the evening of Thursday, 2nd May: the fee for attendance of both the conference and the dinner is £60. Booking is available via the 'Book Now' link below.

Access requirements & dietary needs

If you have any access requirements that you wish to inform us of, please contact us via altcomnow@kent.ac.uk. If you have dietary needs, or issues concerning allergens, please let us know. 


If you require accommodation for the conference, a number of rooms are available on campus. These rooms are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and can be booked here. When booking, please enter the following promotional code: alt19 Alternatively, we can provide you with a list of local hotels and B&Bs on request.

Please note, if you are vacating campus accommodation on Friday, 3rd May, you will need to empty your room of luggage at the start of the day. A secure space will be available for storing luggage for the remainder of the conference. 


The Canterbury campus of the University of Kent is under two miles from the centre of Canterbury. Please see the link below for information on how to get to the campus, regardless of where you are travelling from. Maps of the campus itself are also available.

Alternative Comedy Now Festival

The conference coincides with a festival of alternative comedy at the Gulbenkian, the University of Kent's arts centre. Events include some of the best-known veterans of the 1980s scene as well as some of today’s best alternative comedians. A ticket for Alexei Sayle in Conversation with Dr. Oliver Double on the evening of Thursday, 2nd May, is provided for conference delegates. If you would like to attend other festival events, tickets can be booked here.

Alternative Comedy Now Exhibition

The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (BSUCA), held at the University of Kent, has an unrivalled collection of material relating to the early alternative comedy movement, including publicity materials, photographs, press coverage, scripts, LPs, unpublished recordings, etc. This material will be arranged in seven different themes: the Comedy Store; Alternative Cabaret; the Comic Strip; the spread of the circuit; the Edinburgh Fringe; the small comedy club; and politics. Together these themes will tell the story of how alternative comedy grew into a rich and vibrant scene throughout the 1980s, and sowed the seeds for today’s comedy circuit.

If you have any questions, or any other queries, please email us.