A KEIGHLEY comedy club is part of a rising stand-up scene across the county .

The town’s Exchange Arts Centre recently began hosting a monthly night organised by rising stand-up star SJ Cooke to give breakthrough acts a venue.

Comedy at the Exchange follows in the footsteps of the Keighley Comedy Club which has run successfully for several years at town centre venues.

Meanwhile former Keighley man recently Nick Ahad recently diversified into stand-up comedy in addition to his BBC Radio Leeds show and a successful playwriting career.

Nick, former arts editor of the Yorkshire Post, recently ran Salty Laffs at Tallulah’s in Saltaire with fellow comic Melanie Judson. He said: “The hardest thing was fitting everyone in. For every spot we had, there were at least a dozen applicants. Everyone who went along will tell you it was an absolutely joyful night!’

SJ Cooke set up Comedy at the Exchange, in Russell Street, about three months ago to hone his MC skills as host while promoting fellow fledgling comedians.

SJ said: “When I first set up comedy at The Exchange I did not know how it would go. The Exchange is usually used for tribute bands and local artists so setting up a comedy night there was a joint venture that both I and the venue were excited and nervous about.

“The crowd has grown each month and rave reviews pile in on Facebook. Not only has the audience increased to the point that in August people were stood at the back because the room was so full, but interest from comedians wanting to come to Keighley to perform is phenomenal.”

Comedy at the Exchange is usually the last Wednesday or Thursday of the month, and each one supports a different local charity. Check out facebook.com/exchangearts.

Nick and SJ were name-checked by Jane Doe, organiser of the new Halifax comedy night Laffers at Loafers central figures in an ever-expanding comedy scene across West Yorkshire.

Jane said that in addition to the recent Bradford Fringe Festival, which came out of the Women’s Comedy Workshop, there has been an explosion of comedy events, festivals, open mics and stand-up courses making the region a hotspot for new comic talent.

“When I started out in comedy 12 years ago I was tagging on to music open mics and playing as the last act to half empty rooms. After a seven-year hiatus I’ve returned to find a bustling comedy scene, with new nights popping up in Idle, Bradford, Keighley, Batley, Halifax and beyond. There’s a surge of new comedians setting up events in their own towns attracting talent from across the North.”

Sophie Powell, co-founder of the Bradford Fringe, said: “We love being funny on stage but struggled to find spaces that were accessible. Bradford Fringe was created to fulfil that need. Once word was out that we were looking for comedy from people identifying as women, trans and non-binary we found it hard to keep up. We put on seven stand up shows and three quarters of the people on stage were women, trans and non- binary performers. It’s important to create spaces where identities not usually seen in mainstream media are normalised without being tokenistic.”

Idle comedy club The Laughing Llama goes from strength to strength, taking place on the first Saturday of each month. The venue is Idle and Thackley Little Theatre, and the nights are hosted by Nick Crooks. Tickets are on ticketsource.co.uk or the Facebook page.

It’s not just up-and-coming comics who are playing for regional crowds. Jon Richardson, team captain on Channel 4’s 8 Out of 10 Cats and a regular on comedy shows such as Have I Got News For You, and Lucy Beaumont, writer and star of Radio 4’s To Hull and Back recently filmed their new comedy sitcom for the Dave channel in Hebden Bridge.

“As I was preparing for Edinburgh this year I was able to practice my material at many of the open mics and comedy events in West Yorkshire,” said Lucy. “I even hosted my own preview events at Mytholmroyd Community Centre, with great turn-outs.”