Comedy Unleashed in Leeds

Comedy Unleashed is a comedy night that’s been taking place in London since 2018 hosting, according to its website, “free-thinking comedians who leave their self-censorship button at the door … and think outside the groupthink bubble”. Nothing is out of bounds, and its motto is “if it’s funny … it’s funny. The audience is the ultimate judge.”

Well, Comedy Unleashed is now in Leeds, taking place at the HiFi Club on the first Friday of every month. I went to the first night on 7th April, and caught up with co-founder and local lad, Andy Shaw:

ANDY, how did Comedy Unleashed come to Leeds?

Josh, the events manager at the HiFi Club, liked our YouTube channel and saw that we were regularly selling out gigs in London. He asked if we would like to run a monthly Comedy Unleashed night at his club. So, we’ll be there on the first Friday of every month (except August).

Are you going to mainly bring acts up from London, or is it a way to also find local talent?

There are some fantastic London comics, who use Comedy Unleashed to experiment and try out some edgier stuff, in front of an audience that’s up for it. So, we’re bringing the best of them up to Leeds each month. We also want to find local comedians and foster a bit of a counter-cultural scene. We need to bring some edginess back into comedy, but we support all sorts of comics from observational comedy to the utterly surreal. So, local comedians, get in touch.

The CU website says “we need a new comedy which upturns the status quo”. Why?

The status quo is dull and comedy should be kicking against it. Life is rich with experience, but too much comedy treads a well-trodden path. Many comedians play it safe and that is boring. Conversely, utterly bizarre ideologies are now mainstream, but where are the satirists picking them apart, playing with ideas and taking a few risks? We need a bit of counter-culture to make us feel alive again.

The website also says “a lot of what passes for satire is tired and predictable, with many comedians simply following the news and contemporary orthodoxies.” Can you explain what you mean.

We’re living in a bit of a monoculture. Some comedy feels like a BBC news report with a punch line attached. The targets are predictable, the worldview is singular, and it lacks originality. Mainstream comedians won’t go near thorny issues or challenge prevailing orthodoxies. Edgier comedians get accused of being ‘phobic’ and there is a real threat of being cancelled. It has a deadening effect on the imagination and many creative people just give up. We should explore all issues from different perspectives. Comedy should tackle real life, without fear.

It’s obviously not going to be to anyone’s tastes, but in this age of cancel culture has Comedy Unleashed faced any opposition?

Not really. People who come to Comedy Unleashed are open-minded and up for a good night out. We do help comedians who are ‘cancelled’ though. When someone is banned, we put them on, on principle, and let the audience decide. We think that comedians should be free to say whatever they think is funny, but equally as important is that the audience should have the right to watch what they want and make up their own minds. At the end of the day, the only judge of a comedian should be the audience. If it’s funny .. it’s funny.

Any plans for Comedy Unleashed anywhere else in the UK?

The opening night of Comedy Unleashed in Leeds sold out and there was a real buzz about the place. There is a thirst for what we do in every town in the country and we’d happily help people set up Comedy Unleashed nights in their own town. Manchester might be the next one.

Who do you have coming-up in Leeds over the next few months?

  • 5th May, we have un-cancelled Andrew Lawrence and he is joined by the brilliant Tania Edwards. Jay Mack is a Leeds comic who’ll be joining them and the evening will be hosted by the acerbic Bruce Devlin.
  • 2nd June, we have Scott Capurro – a man who does exactly what he’s not meant to. He’s joined by Josh Howie who is a wonderful story-teller.
  • 7th July, we have Dominic Frisby – a libertarian version of Billy Bragg and Alistair Williams who loves conspiracy theories.

    For Leeds gig line-ups and tickets visit:

AND … if you’re a comedian…

..who would like to perform at the club, or a journalist who’d like to find out more, or you’d like Comedy Unleashed in your town, please get in touch with us at

Paul Thomas, co-founder of public discussion forum Leeds Salon (pronoun The)