Bristol is due to become sunnier whatever the winter weather thanks to the imminent arrival of the 18th annual Slapstick Festival of silent and classic screen comedy and an impressive rollcall of celebrity guests.

The festival’s organisers are promising to deliver more than 20 mood-brightening live events from Wednesday 26 to Sunday 30 January at three city centre venues: Watershed, Bristol Cathedral and St George’s Bristol.

Slapstick Festival 2022 promo image with Buster Keaton

Audience choices range from introductions to top silent comedy films by Ronni Ancona, Stephen Mangan, Lucy Porter and Sally Phillips (to name just a few) to chats & clips events in the company of Armando Iannucci, Robin Ince, Richard Herring, Peter Lord, David Mitchell, Bill Oddie and Matthew Sweet. 

Visit the Slapstick 2022 website for the full line-up, booking links and Covid-19 protocols. But first, here’s a taster of what to expect…

Ladies first

It’s often overlooked that women played a major role in the early film industry – as writers, directors, editors, studio heads and actors. Join stand-up comic Lucy Porter and others at Watershed (Jan 26, 27 and 28) for introductions to some of the female pioneers of comedy, or enjoy a gala celebration of Slapstick Divas at Bristol Cathedral (Jan 27) hosted by Ronni Ancona and Sally Phillips. 

Lucy Porter

Image - Lucy Porter

Laughter and live music

The stand-out feature of every Slapstick is its Silent Comedy Gala, when a celebrity host introduces some of their favourite films, showing as they were made to be seen - on a big screen, with an audience, and with a big band accompaniment. This year’s gala finds actor Stephen Mangan (Episodes, Green Wing, The Split) introducing his hero Buster Keaton in The Cameraman + shorts starring Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy (Bristol Cathedral, Jan 28). 

Buster Keaton with monkey and camera in The Cameraman

Image - Buster Keaton in The Cameraman

Comedy conversations 

Ever wanted to know what and who inspires today’s most successful entertainers? It’s all there to be discovered when the multi-talented David Mitchell shares the comedy moments he rates most highly with Matthew Sweet (Cathedral, Jan 27); when Robin Ince quizzes comedian Richard Herring about the 10 films he’d choose as Desert Island Comedy Flicks (Watershed, Jan 29) and when podcasting pioneer Richard interviews impressionist Jon Culshaw of BBC R4’s Dead Ringers fame about his life, work and influences (Jan 30, St George’s).

Richard Herring

Image - Richard Herring

Chaplin preview

All the best-known silent comedy stars will be honoured at Slapstick 2022, with screenings of films starring W.C. Fields, Max Linder Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton and Laurel & Hardy. There will also be rarities from Russia, the former Czechoslovakia and Japan. But a special treat will be the sneak premiere of a new documentary, The Real Charlie Chaplin, taking place in the presence of its two directors and followed by a Q&A (Watershed, Jan 29).

Laurel and Hardy

Image - Laurel and Hardy

Marching on

Miraculously, festival director Chris Daniels and his team have managed to stick to most of their plans for Slapstick 2022 despite the pandemic. But they have had to move three events to March and just added a new one to the mix. So the laughter will linger in Bristol even longer. Bookings already open for events featuring Barry Cryer, Andy Day, Lee Mack and Tim Vine at the Redgrave Theatre on Sunday 27.

Slapstick is a not-for-profit organisation. The festival’s principal funders are Aardman Animations and the British Film Institute.

Tim Vine

Image - Tim Vine

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Slapstick Festival

Slapstick Festival will be returning to Bristol venues for its 18th edition from 26 - 30 January 2022!