“THAT’S a tricky one because they’re two sides of the same coin,” says comedian Tudur Owen when asked to pick the best of mid Wales’ two comedy festivals. 

“I love both,” says Tudur of the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, in pandemic enforced hibernation since May 2019, and the Aberystwyth Comedy Festival which returns this weekend for the first time since in two years. 

Both are organised by promoters Little Wander who have helped bring some of the best new comedy acts, from across the UK, out west for their festivals which stage shows in venues as diverse as the local bowls club to the town theatre. 

Aberystwyth, of course, has some larger venues and the Ynys Mon-based comic will be hosting events at the pier for Radio Wales, as well as his own Welsh language show during the festival. 

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“At Machynlleth, in May, people’s shows are normally fully formed and ready for the festival season but this October one, normally all the festivals have been done, and people are looking to start with a blank piece of paper and for me the Aberystwyth one is much more experimental. 

“That’s what’s happened this year, for my shows, I’ve just got a blank piece of paper. Both Machynlleth and Aberystwyth are really good for performers because they’re places where you can just have a go. There are no reviewers, it’s a really good place to have a go and push the boundaries a little bit and I love both festivals.” 

Also appearing at Aberystwyth during the festival, which runs from Friday, October 1 through to Sunday October 3 are Rhod Gilbert, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Josh Widdicombe and Joe Lycett who is one of serval acts that will be performing shows described as work in progress. 

For a self-described “comedy geek” such as Tudur the nature of the festival and the performances offer an insight into the craft – which he says is unique in that it is dependent on prompting a physical reaction from an audience. 

However he doesn’t think seeing what can be the rough workings out of a routine places any duty on the audience to lower their expectations – or even be kind and laugh politely. 

“They’re paying good money to see an act, so they should expect to be entertained at least. You are talking about mostly seasoned professionals, there’s going to be an element of quality control, it’s not just a stream of thoughts, though some people are really clever and can do that. I can’t. 

“I think it’s just that caveat that when you say it’s work in progress it just helps us as performers, just so you know, there may be some bits of paper about, some routines might not be fully formed and also you may hear these routines or this material a little bit further down the line, maybe six months, or 12 months away you may hear them again. As well as being entertained they can also see how we go about doing what we do, really, and developing stuff.  

 

“I like doing that, I like watching other acts, I don’t nick stuff, but I do like figuring out how they do things because, for me, the best acts are the ones where I can’t figure out how they did that. 

“For me, a comedy geek, I just love watching people drawing stuff out in Aberyswyth and then maybe going to see them in Edinburgh and seeing a fully formed, polished routine and then realising, ‘ah okay that’s how they did it’. That’s fascinating for me. 

“If you’re in the audience, just go with your gut feeling you don’t have to be polite about it. If you don’t think it’s funny don’t laugh. If you do think it’s funny give them that energy and make noise because comedy is the only form of entertainment where we ask, we implore the audience to actually have a physical reaction to what you’re doing.” 

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Though not marked as a ‘work in progress’ Tudur’s Saturday night show ‘Dim Pwysa’ (No Pressure) may still have some wrinkles in it. 

“Given I’ve had 18 months of not doing very much you’d think I’d have a fully formed stand up show but I’ve been procrastinating and not doing very much, it’s about that actually the past experience of the 18 months and the weirdness of it all.  

“But it’s a bit of an introspective on Wales as well and where we’re at and the fact that, I talk about politics a little bit, and the fact that it got quite exciting for the first time that I can remember during lockdown. 

“Mark Drakeford became a household name, unexpectedly, from obscurity nobody knew who he was before lockdown and next thing he’s on News at Ten and people know his name. It's been interesting watching things develop and watching the UK go through these weird, kind of convulsions I suppose through the lockdown period.” 

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Tudur’s Twitter profile describes him as a “raging Welsh nationalist and simmering European” so he says he finds himself quite happy in a UK where food is no longer delivered to the supermarket shelves and the ability to fill up your car depends on luck. 

“I’m sitting back and enjoying the ride at the moment because as a staunch remainer I was a very proud citizen of Europe and all that was taken away so I’m kind of sitting back at the moment and enjoying the schadenfreude and as a Welsh nationalist the silver lining for me is that it’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting, all this mess, is doing the good work of showing there’s a different future for Wales. 

“The whole conversation about independence needs to change it needs to be taken away from the old kind of emotional side of things, Yma O Hyd and all that kind of things, and the rugby and the chest thumping, and the language as well, it needs to be taken away from that, and we need to look at things much more rationally, much more logically and with a cool head. 

“I think the arguments for independence, for me, it's easier to make that argument now without going down the road of being emotional and talking about the language and ‘us and them’, I think it’s an exciting time.” 

The National Wales: Tudur OwenTudur Owen

As a touring comedian Tudur feels he has first-hand experience of how Wales, and the other British nations, are “intertwined culturally” and some of the differences between them. 

“That’s what I love about these islands, the complexities and nuances, of not just the different countries but all these areas. The north east of England is as different from the south east of England as south Wales is from the south of England. It’s so tribal I think it’s fascinating, you could easily split England up into three or four different nations if you wanted to.  

“But we have this shared history and shared culture and all the references people will get. I can talk about music, and television, and we all know what we’re talking about and I love that but that doesn’t mean to say we should be classed as, kind of, Western England here in Wales, because we’re not, we’re a different country, we’re a different tribe.” 

This weekend will demonstrate how Aberystwyth fits into that jigsaw as it welcomes performers from across Britain who will road test material they hope will make people across the United Kingdom laugh over the next 12 months. 

For more information on Aberystwyth Comedy Festival visit its website

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