Greenwich Comedy Festival queues not funny

Saw Arthur Smith last night at the Greenwich Comedy Festival – damn good stuff and always an odd experience to see a stand-up comic who’s so damn local, he does jokes about teachers at your old school. But not everyone had a good time – Steve at Wait Until Next Year couldn’t even get a ticket to see a show last night, despite queueing in the rain.

We’d decided against ordering tickets online. After navigating our way through the online ordering process we found we’d be charged £1.65 to print out each ticket (or £1.00 per ticket to have to collect them in person on the night), followed by a £1.85 ‘service fee’. We decided that £3.50 per ticket was a bit steep for an automated ticketing service, where we would be providing the paper and ink for the tickets ourselves.

So…we decided to head down on the night and see if we could buy tickets in person, with cold, hard, well-earned cash.

I was expecting a fun, buzzing atmosphere, even despite the rain. Instead, we were greeted by queues. Queues everywhere.

As the queue got ever longer and showtime got ever closer, we noticed one particular group at the front being looked after very closely, for quite some time, by the box office staff. And quite clearly at the expense of everyone else waiting behind. Ah, yes. That’ll be why. Press people.

Then, we reached the head of the queue.

“Could I buy two tickets please, with cash?”

The person serving us seemed unsure, so asked his superior. “Can I sell them two tickets?”

She looked at us. And then, without any apology or explanation, told us that she had decided she didn’t want to sell any more cash tickets. If we wanted to go and get a drink, then we could come back later and she might decide to sell us one then.

In the end, Steve turned around and went home. Admittedly, I was also on a press ticket, but I was in the same queue, and also saw that lucky group ushered to the front. The whole thing looked chaotic – especially with the Naval College lawn getting muddy after yesterday’s downpour. But despite all these queues, the tent for Arthur Smith’s show was only just over half-full.

I was away last year, so I don’t know how it compares with the first festival. But while Smith’s show was great, the whole thing seemed a bit of a mess – and maybe with a later start (7.30pm is a bit early for a one-hour show) and a couple of quid knocked off ticket prices (£14 + sundry fees for an hour’s entertainment), they might have sold a few more tickets. If, as Steve recounts, they could be arsed to sell them in the first place.


  1. We saw Russell Howard last year. Turned up at 6.00 (when ticket said doors opened) and were told in queue via megaphone to go away until 7.30 as they weren’t letting us in the tent until then! The warm up acts started at 8.00 and went on until 9.00 then we had a long interval – or was it 2 intervals between 2 warm ups? Sorry hazy memory but it was a long time, that I do remember! Howard’s actual set from 9.30 to 10.30 was good but we were seriously fed up by then at being sent away to sit in the grounds for an hour and a half then waiting 2 more hours for the act we came to see to come on. If we’d known we’d have strolled down much later. We have tickets for Jerry Sadowitz this year (I paid the premium to do it myself) and am hoping the 8.30 on the ticket is the start time and not another red herring.

  2. Went to see Ed Byrne on Thursday and while there were queues to be found outside the box office and the venues, they all moved quite swiftly.

    Food and drink was also promptly served with everyone (a good few hundred) managing to get their refreshments and back to their seats during the breaks without missing anything.

    The only downside was that the first act was cringingly unfunny who clearly believed his own genius meant he could improv his way through his 30mins (wrong, so very wrong!).

    A heckler made a brief fool of himself during the much better second act and then the brilliant Stu Francis and Ed Byrne lit the place up.

    Was back on Saturday for the Burlesque night which was also very good, albeit a little spoilt by some drunk girl who thought we all would want to hear her talk tedious drivel throughout the whole show.

    In summary, a well-organised event, in a superb venue, with mostly great acts, which entertained us all.

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