Bristol’s annual Slapstick festival of silent, classic and visual screen comedy – the UK’s largest of its kind – is going global in 2021. This live-streamed edition will be accessible online from anywhere in the world, with a more international line-up than ever before.

The new format Slapstick Live Online festival will take place from 1-7 March and while the switch to streaming has been forced by the pandemic, festival director Chris Daniels says there are advantages to the change. “Moving online means we can involve overseas speakers and celebrities whose location or packed diaries would make a trip to Bristol very difficult. It also means many more people worldwide will be able to join us virtually and learn about what Bristol festivals can offer.”

Visit the Slapstick website for a free guide to the 28 events in the Slapstick Live Online programme as well as booking links. Merch is also available online for the first time.

As a taster of what to expect, here are our top five highlights.

Doubles match

Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding will be reprising their Great British Bake Off double act on Thursday 4 March to share their passion for, and favourite clips of, one of the all-time great comedy duos: Laurel & Hardy.

Laurel & Hardy

Harold Lloyd speaks

In a break with tradition, Slapstick will screen a Harold Lloyd talkie for the very first time: the box office smash Movie Crazy (1937). Although Lloyd is best known for his silent comedies, it’s often forgotten that he went on to enjoy critical and commercial success with his sound films. This rare screening on Friday 5 March will be introduced by Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd Hayes, followed by her giving a talk and taking part in a Q&A.

Still from Movie Crazy starring Harold Lloyd

Girls on film

Women stars of cinema and TV will be celebrated in half a dozen separate events in which stand-up Lucy Porter, actor and author Jessica Martin and poet and theatre director Akulah Agbami will pay tribute to the dancer and French Resistance agent Josephine Baker; Clara Bow; Constance Talmadge; the black American comedian Moms Mabley, and CARRY ON films favourite Hattie Jacques.

The line-up includes a screening of Siren of the Tropics (1927) in which Josephine Baker made her screen debut and the rom-com which confirmed Clara Bow as the world’s best known flapper: It (also 1927).

Josephine Baker in Siren of the Tropics

Comedy conversations

As ever, throughout the festival Slapstick audiences are invited to join in conversations about the comedy heroes and influences of, among others, such popular modern entertainers as Rob Brydon, Bernie Clifton, Graeme Garden, Robin Ince, Henning Wehn and the man described as ‘the stand-ups’ stand-up, Stewart Lee.

Comedian Henning Wehn

Live from New York

Live music will feature heavily in the mix including when the noted US film historians Steve Massa and Ben Model round off day one on 1 March by presenting their Celluloid Music Hall direct from New York – a celebration of many of the variety show acts who followed Charlie Chaplin to screen fame.

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