Slapstick Festival

Various venues
Slapstick 2024- festival graphic -  a day without laughter is a day wasted - Charlie Chaplin Quote - 14 - 18 Feb 2024


Slapstick Festival, a celebration of silent and classic screen comedy, returns from February 14 to 18 with the help of an impressive line-up of celebrity guests. 

Please note: the details below are correct at 21.11.23 but as with all festivals of this type, changes to the programme, event times or the guest list cannot always be avoided and new events/guests are likely to be added.  For the latest info, please see


Leading Women: Exit Smiling Cert 15 

14:00 Watershed

Dir: Sam Taylor 1926 USA 77mins

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

Beatrice Lillie was already a stage superstar and billed as ‘the funniest woman in the world’ when she made her Hollywood debut in this film – her only silent and an early solo directing gig for longtime Harold Lloyd collaborator Sam Taylor. In it, she plays a maid working for a travelling theatre company who dreams of becoming a leading lady. But there’s a snag. Unlike Lillie, she can’t act. With an onscreen intro from film historian David Robinson and a live piano accompaniment from Daan van den Hurk.  


Barry Cryer: Same Time Tomorrow

16:15 Watershed 

£8.50 (concessions £5.00)

National treasure Barry Cryer rarely missed a Slapstick festival and was as beloved by our audiences as he was by showbiz colleagues and the UK public. In this event, Barry’s son, Bob Cryer draws on material from his highly-praised book -  Barry Cryer: Same Time Tomorrow - the lives and laughs of a comedy legend - to share his personal memories and favourite Cryer gags with Andrew Kelly.  

With a Q&A to finish, followed by a book signing.  

In collaboration with Bristol Festival of Ideas 


Silent Comedy Horror : The Cat & The Canary 12A

Hosted by Alasdair Beckett-King & Robin Ince  

19:00 Bristol Beacon: Lantern Hall 

£12.50 (£9.00 concs)

Dir: Paul Leni USA 1927 80mins 

Kicking off Slapstick’s Comedy Horror strand, a spine-tingling mix of laughter and suspense from the influential silent The Cat & The Canary (1927). Surviving relatives gather at a creepy mansion for a will reading but will anyone survive long enough to inherit? With a pre-screening chat from author/comedian Robin Ince and YouTuber/comedian Alasdair Beckett-King outlining the film’s significance to the genre and with the festival’s MD Guenter A. Buchwald providing a haunting live piano and violin soundtrack.  


Alasdair Beckett King’s Even Stranger Films 

21:30 Bristol Beacon: Lantern Hall

£12.50 (£9.00 concs)

Prepare to be both hilariously entertained and spooked as the award-winning comedian/ YouTube star and writer Alasdair Beckett-King introduces another helping of weird and wacky silent shorts by such pioneering filmmakers as Thomas Edison, Georges Méliès and more. Trust us –  films  don’t come much stranger than these. Age Advisory 15+



What Happened to Jones 12A

09.30 Watershed

Dir: William A Seiter USA 1926 70mins

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

This delightful comedy showcases the unique All American style of silent star Reginald Denny. Here he plays a bridegroom-to-be who escapes a police raid on a poker game by seeking refuge in a Turkish baths. But it's Ladies Night, forcing him to disguise himself as a woman so triggering a chain of complications.  With an introduction from broadcaster Chris Serle and a live piano accompaniment from Daan van den Hurk.


Keaton Speaks! 12A 

Hosted by Polly Rose

11.30 Watershed

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

Silent comedy superstar Buster Keaton continued working long after sound was added to pictures. Here Keaton researcher Polly Rose focuses on three films exemplifying the best of Keaton’s speaking roles – two in acclaimed comedy shorts from the 1930s, the third as the lead in a British television drama from 1954.  The choices include GRAND SLAM OPERA (1936), featuring Buster’s dance homage to Fred Astaire, described by Film Daily on its release as “a laugh riot – easily the best comedy Keaton has ever delivered!” 


Leading Women: Up In Mabel’s Room 12A 

Introduced by Lucy Porter

13:45 Watershed

Dir: E. Mason Hopper USA 1926  76mins

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs) 

Actor/comedian Lucy Porter introduces this silent romantic farce in which Marie Prevost meets, falls for and marries Harrison Ford (Hollywood’s first of that name) only to divorce him after she discovers he’s secretly bought some daring female underwear which she believes is for another woman. She is mistaken, of course,  but is it too late to win him back?  With Daan van den Hurk accompanying on piano.


Live from New York – Hallowe’en in February Spooktacular 12A

16:00 Watershed

11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

Hallowe’en is past, but Ben Model and Steve Massa bring it back with a live from New York presentation of three surreal and scary shorts. First on the bill is A Fraternity Mixup (1926) where Alice Ardell and Gale Henry spend the night in a spooky girl’s school. In Local Showers (1916) poor Musty Suffer has a toothache and gets an appointment with the dentist from hell. Finally, The Haunted House (1921) sees Buster Keaton investigating the strange goings-on in the titular abode. 


Laurel & Hardy: Last Dance of The Cuckoos

With Marcus Brigstocke,  Andy Hollingworth & Matt Holt

£15.00 (£12.00/£8.00 concs) 

18:00 Lantern Hall at Bristol Beacon

Dir: Matt Holt UK  2023  35 mins 

Comedian, actor, broadcaster and writer Marcus Brigstocke introduces the South-West premiere of a truly charming film in which photographer Andy Hollingworth takes Stan Laurel’s touring hat from Stan’s birthplace in Cumbria to the County Cork harbour town which gave Laurel & Hardy such a joyous welcome in September 1953, both always recalled it as the greatest day of their lives. Plus a screening of Andy’s favourite Stan & Ollie short, followed by an ‘in conversation’ with him and Matt Holt, the film’s director/ cinematographer.   


The Thinking Woman’s Guide to The Goodies

With Samira Ahmed and Graeme Garden

20:30 Lantern Hall at Bristol Beacon

£16.00 (£12.00/£8.00 concs) 

Broadcaster Samira Ahmed quizzes Graeme Garden on whether it is time to re-appraise the hit 1970s/80s TV series The Goodies – co-created and performed by Graeme with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie. Back then, the series was often seen as ‘kids stuff’. But with the help of hand-picked extracts, Samira Ahmed argues that the series has been overlooked as a catalyst for social change -  making ground-breaking challenges to prevailing attitudes of the time by defying gender stereotypes and boldly addressing still topical issues, including censorship, apartheid and more.



Laurel & Hardy – Year One (1927)  PG

With Robin Ince and Marcus Brigstocke 

09:30 Watershed

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

Slapstick patrons Marcus Brigstocke and Robin Ince join an enthusiastic panel of Stan & Ollie admirers as they revel in the global effort which has gone into finding and restoring the films made by Stan and Ollie in 1927 - the first full year of a comedy partnership that would go on to enjoy enduring popularity.  This event will include screenings of DUCK SOUP (directed by Fred Guoil) and BATTLE OF THE CENTURY (Clyde Brookman/ Leo McCarey) with live piano accompaniment by Daan van den Hurk.


Lloyd Hamilton: The Comedians’ Comedian 12A 

With Graeme Garden

12:00 Watershed

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

Charlie Chaplin once confessed Lloyd Hamilton was the comedy film actor he most envied; Charley Chase confessed to handling difficult scenes by asking himself “How would Lloyd have done it?”; according to Buster Keaton, Hamilton was "one of the funniest men in pictures." So why is someone so admired by his peers virtually forgotten now, and is this deserved? Find out from Graeme Garden and an array of clips. With live piano accompaniment from John Sweeney. 


Leading Women: Kiki 12A 

Hosted by Lucy Porter

13:30 Watershed

Dir: Clarence Brown USA 1926  1hr 48m

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

Norma Talmadge is best-remembered now for silent melodramas but she was a fine comedy actor, too, as proved by this Paris-set romcom. In it, she plays a street waif angling for a singing and dancing job in a theatre and for the heart of its handsome manager (Ronald Colman). Her ruses involve sparky battles with his fiancée (Gertrude Astor), barricading herself into his bedroom and terrorising his valet (George K. Arthur). With an introduction from Lucy Porter and Daan van den Hurk accompanying on piano. 


Live from New York - Buster Keaton: Camera Man 12A

With Dana Stevens & Polly Rose

16:45 Watershed Cinema 3

 £11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)


Keaton researcher Polly Rose hosts a live conversation direct from New York with Dana Stevens, author of the best-selling, rave reviewed, book Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema and the Invention of the Twentieth Century’ about the dazzling new insights it offers into Keaton’s life and work by viewing his story alongside what was happening at the same time in entertainment, journalism, law, technology, social change, attitudes to addiction and more. 


Silent Comedy Gala  PG 

Hosted by Hugh Bonneville

19:30 Beacon Hall Bristol Beacon

DOWNTON ABBEY, THE GOLD and PADDINGTON films star Hugh Bonneville introduces a triple bill of laugh-out-loud silent comedy classics, back in the auditorium where Slapstick began and with each showing on a giant screen with live musical accompaniment.

Topping the film bill at the Slapstick’s 20th gala will be the double Oscar-nominated THE GOLD RUSH (1925), written and directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin as a lone Klondike prospector who discovers it is easier to find trouble than gold, and featuring a real bear and dancing bread rolls.

Joining it in the line-up will be the 1922 short COPS which finds an impressively acrobatic Buster Keaton being chased by a city’s entire police force, and BIG BUSINESS (1929), starring Laurel & Hardy as hilariously incompetent Christmas tree salesmen. 

Providing the live musical accompaniment for THE GOLD RUSH will be the 16-piece Bristol Ensemble, conducted by Günter A. Buchwald, with pianist John Sweeney accompanying COPS and Günter and Frank Bockius playing for BIG BUSINESS. 

There will also be pre-interval entertainment from Cheryl Knight, giving excerpts from her Joyce Grenfell tribute show which proved such a hit at Slapstick 2023 and, in the foyer before curtain-up, the Bristol-based Shanghai Shuffle jazz band performing tunes from the silent film era.  



Painfully Funny! When Stunts Go Wrong 

With Christina Newland

09:30 Watershed

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

Whether it was Harold Lloyd accidentally blowing a few of his own fingers off, death by ostrich attack, or a chariot accident during Ben-Hur, the actors and stuntmen of early motion pictures had a lot to complain about when it came to 'health and safety' -- or lack thereof. Join Christina Newland, lead film critic at the i Newspaper and contributing editor at Empire, in an hour long story-telling session about the hijinx, dangers, and sometimes not-at-all death-defying adventures in the early days of silent comedy and beyond. If you've ever wondered about the old 'I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille' joke in Blazing Saddles, this one's for you. Age Advisory 15+


Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein PG

Hosted by Robin Ince 

09:45  Watershed 

Dir: Charles Barton USA 1948  1hr 28m

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)

A fun-for-all-the-family ‘relaxed screening’ of a comedy horror masterpiece in which one of the USA’s most popular double acts takes delivery of new items for a horror museum only to find themselves besieged by dangers from Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and a werewolf. Starring comic legends Bud Abbott and Lou Costello alongside some of the best known horror film actors including Lon Chaney Jnr, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. 



11:30 The Lantern at Bristol Beacon

Dir: Tim Vine UK 2016  82 mins 

£12.00 (£10.00/£7.00 concs) 

A giant moth begins to attack the small town of Hazelpocket and the manager of the local lightbulb shop is blamed. It doesn't help that he has a fear of the dark (the manager, not the moth) and that his son has only one functioning eye.  Adding an element of absurdity to Slapstick’s Comedy Horror strand,  Tim introduces the regional premiere of what he calls his passion project which co-stars John Archer and Mona Al-Habib Nmeir.  After the film Tim will be taking questions, many of which he’s confident he won’t be able to answer.


The Timeless Genius of Buster Keaton: Silent Comedy Meets Musical Mischief

With Mike McCartney 

14:15 The Lantern at Bristol Beacon 

£12.00 (£10.00/£7.00 concs) 

Join us for a laugh-out loud afternoon as Mike McCartney hand picks his favourite of the Keaton shorts he remembers watching with his family during his Liverpool childhood and discusses why he so admires the great Stone Face as well as sharing stories about comedy mischief from his time in chart topping band The Scaffold.  With live piano accompaniment from John Sweeney.


Tim Vine: The Physical Years 

16:30 The Lantern at Bristol Beacon

£16.00 (£12.00/£8.00 concs) 


Tim Vine shares video clips from his life and career where he falls over or does something physical in search of humour. As well as moments from Tim’s TV appearances this show includes previously unseen footage of Tim aged 18 being deliberately visual. Come along and enjoy an avalanche of joyous nonsense in a physical vein.


Harry Hill’s The Last Caveman

With Harry Hill 

17:45 The Lantern at Bristol Beacon

£12.00 (£10.00/£7.00 concs) 

Dir: Harry Hill UK 2023 52mins

It’s a lonely life being a caveman , especially if you believe you're the last one on Earth. Bear fights, love, death and the possibility that he’s not as alone as he thought. Harry Hill’s latest innovative screen project showcases both his comedic talent and his passion for silent comedy.  Co-starring Holly Burn, Doc Groom, Nick Helm and Jason Forbes. With an Introduced from Harry Hill and a post film chat and Q & A 


Sylvester McCoy : WHO’s Funny

19:45 The Lantern at Bristol Beacon

 £16.00 (£12.00/£8.00 concs) 

Celebrating Sylvester McCoy, an actor probably best known now as the darkly clown-like  7th incarnation of The Doctor in the BBC TV series DOCTOR WHO, a role he has returned to several times, including in the reboot’s  2022 The Power of The Doctor episode. But he made his screen debut in 1965 playing silent characters in the cast of the Bristol-made VISION ON (which also kickstarted the careers of Aardman Animations founders Peter Lord and Dave Sproxton) and has been displaying his flair for physical/ visual comedy ever since, including in stage portrayals of Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton. Join Matthew Sweet as he quizzes Sylvester about his career, comedy heroes and favourite stage and screen memories ahead of the handing over of the Slapstick Legacy Medal – honouring performers  who keep slapstick traditions alive.


Phantom of The Paradise 15

Hosted by Harriet Taylor

21:45 The Lantern at Bristol Beacon

Dir: Brian De Palma USA 1974  1hr 32m

 £8.50 (£6.50/£5.00 concs) 

Step into a world where music, mystery, and mayhem collide in this genre-defying cult classic which references several classic horror stories and whose follow-up films include Carrie. Introduced by Harriet Taylor, producer, writer and director of SWITCH and presented in partnership with SWITCH and the Queer Vision Film Festival



Big Jim and The Figaro Club PG

With cast member Sylvester McCoy, David Beckett & producer Colin Rose

Hosted by Andrew Kelly

9.30am Watershed

£11.00 (£8.50/ £5.00 concs)


It’s been called ‘the lost great sit-com’, ‘an unsung masterpiece’, ‘a delight’ and ‘ahead of its time’ but now you can enter the world of this lamentably short-lived Made In Bristol series – set in a 1950s seaside town where a building firm foreman Big Jim and his team are forever finding new and hilarious ways to avoid doing any work! Cast members David Beckett, Sylvester McCoy, David Beckett and series producer Colin Rose share anecdotes and clips from the production, their memories of working with Bob Hoskins and Sir Tony Robinson, and explain why slapstick comedy played such an important role in every episode.


Alan Bleasdale’s G.B.H. Revisited

With Sir Michael Palin and Robert Lindsay

5.30pm main theatre, Bristol Old Vic

from £15 -£32 plus fees 

With a General Election looming,  cast leaders Sir Michael Palin and Robert Lindsay take a timely look back at Alan Bleasdale’s highly controversial dark comedy about political divisions and abuses of power. First shown in 1991 this acclaimed series attracted the attention of fraud police and threats of libel suits while also earning multiple Best Actor awards for Robert Lindsay and BAFTA nominations for Sir Michael and Lindsay Duncan. Others in the cast are Dame Julie Walters, Anna Friel and Coronation Street’s Jane Danson and a compelling Elvis Costello soundtrack. Illustrated with extracts and hosted by series superfan Robin Ince. 


Aardman/ Slapstick Comedy Award: Robert Lindsay

Hosted by Matthew Sweet

20:30 – 22:00  main theatre, Bristol Old Vic  

From £15-£35  plus fees 

He is feted as one of the UK’s most versatile actors – justly praised for his performances in dramas, thrillers, biopics, musicals and Shakespeare plays on stage, film and TV. But Robert Lindsay’s comedy credentials are equally impressive, thanks to long-running roles in acclaimed series’ such as My Family and Citizen Smith and cameo appearances in a wide range of sitcoms, including Absolutely Fabulous, Extras, The Office and in Victoria Wood Xmas special. Here, he shares favourite stories from his outstanding career in comedy before receiving the Aardman Slapstick Award for Comedy made especially for him by Aardman model-makers and inspired by his portrayal of Wolfie ‘Power To the People’ Smith.  Hosted by journalist/broadcaster Matthew Sweet.


Cult Figure: Kenneth Williams 

13:30 Studio, Bristol Old Vic

Actor/impressionist Colin Elmer, who has played the unique and much beloved Kenneth Williams in many touring stage productions, including of Round The Horne, brings his one-man show to Bristol – telling the star’s story, using Williams’s own writings, anecdotes about him and re-enactments of routines and catch-phrases.


The Laugheologists 

16:30 Studio, Bristol Old Vic

Taking Mark Twain’s advice “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story”, humourists Barnaby Eaton-Jones and Robert Hammond offer up an illustrated lecture delving into comedy’s history and introducing a hilarious cast of overlooked, and possibly spoof, comedians who never quite made it. 


The Laurel & Hardy Cabaret

19:30 Studio, Bristol Old Vic

Lucky Dog Theatre Productions return to Slapstick with a follow-up to their internationally loved and award-winning 'Hats Off To Laurel And Hardy' with a new show recreating favourite Stan and Olllie movie sequences plus sketches and song and dance routines performed by the duo during their 1940s/50s theatre tours, including on their visit to Bristol Hippodrome.


Slapstick is a not-for-profit organisation. The festival’s principal funders are Aardman Animations ( and BFI ( awarding funds from the National Lottery.


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