Competition Essential Info


All showcases dates and locations for the 2020 So You Think You’re Funny? Competition are being rescheduled to 2021. Applicants who were offered a slot at one of our showcases in 2020, have now been offered a slot at one of our rescheduled heat dates in 2021. Find out more about the rescheduled heats here.

Since we are rolling over applicants to 2021, spaces will be extremely limited and we will sadly not be able to guarantee all new applicants a slot at one of the showcases.

Applications for the 2021 So You Think You’re Funny? Competition have now closed. If you would still like to apply or had issues applying, please contact us

Why enter?

So You Think You’re Funny? is the longest running and most established competition of its kind. Hosting showcases as far and wide as possible, winning it can change everything. Gilded Balloon are committed to nurturing young comic talent and will endeavour to support all winners and finalists with mentoring and touring possibilities in the year following the Grand Final. As well as this the winner will receive…

  • A cash prize of up to £2500 (the first and second runner up will also receive a cash prize)
  • A trip to perform at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival 
  • A run as part of the Gilded Balloon’s Fringe programme 
  • Complimentary head shot shoot by professional photographer to the stars, Steve Ullathorne
  • Complimentary filmed copy and professional photographs of their spot from the Final to use in their show-reel
  • Mentorship and support from Karen Koren and the So You Think You’re Funny? team

2021 Key Dates:

January: Applications open.

May – June: Regional Heats

August: Edinburgh Heats with the Grand Final held during August at the Gilded Balloon (this is being rescheduled for the 2020 competition currently)


  • The performer must not have performed more than 15 stand-up spots (including open spots) or gigged before 1 June 2019.
  • The performer must be unsigned from any comedy agent or management company.
  • The performer must not have performed or plan to perform a solo show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. If you have, you are probably too experienced.
  • The performer must not have taken part in any previous year’s showcases of So You Think You’re Funny?
  • The performer’s material must be completely original.
  • The performer must have 7 minutes of their own original material. You should use the same material throughout the competition, judges do not want yo to change it unless it is minor tweaks.
  • The organisers reserve the right to select all entrants. Decisions taken by the organisers and judges are final.

Gilded Balloon are adapting the competition as required due to the regional heats being hosted online in 2021. This may mean that the rules are different in this year due to the unprecedented circumstances. For clarification on this year’s competition, please contact us. 

Judging Process:

Regional Heats:

Regional Heats are held nationwide from May until June with selected applicants performing up to 7 minutes of original material. This year’s showcases will be held in: London, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh (additional dates may be added in each of the cities if demand requires it). 

Edinburgh Heats:

Contestants will be selected from the Regional Heats and invited to the heats held at the Gilded Balloon during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. A finalist is chosen at the end of each heat by a panel of judges. The judges also chose wild card finalists that will join the heat winners in the Final. 

Grand Final:

The So You Think You’re Funny? Grand Final will be held in August in the Gilded Balloon Debating Hall. Winners from each heat and wild card finalists will perform up to 7 minutes of original material. In 2019 the Grand Final was hosted by Zoe Lyons and Alan Davies was on the judging panel alongside Karen Koren, Artistic Director of the Gilded Balloon. Other regular judges at the Grand Final include Susan Provan from Melbourne International Comedy Festival; Zoe Rabnett from Just for Laughs, Montreal; Helen Hawkins, Sunday Times; and Bruce Dessau, Beyond a Joke/London Evening Standard.

Judges Tips / Tricks:

  • Make the audience laugh within the first 30 seconds of being on stage. Cut the waffle and get to the good stuff straight away.
  • The quality of your material is key. Write, edit and rehearse you material in advance. Do not risk winging it on the night, that is hardly ever funny.
  • Don’t do the compere’s job for them and ‘work the room’, perform your own material rather than chatting to the audience for 7 minutes.
  • Avoid lazy stereotypes, fat jokes, toilet jokes, ginger jokes, racism, sexism or any other isms… the judges have heard them all and probably won’t find it funny. Be clever, be different and you’ll stand out.
  • If you are going to do musical comedy, make sure your songs are funny. If it’s not funny without music, it won’t be funny with it.
  • This competition isn’t for sketch comedy, but for stand-up comedy. If you are a double act, or even a triple act, make sure you are twice or three times as funny together – don’t divide the wit between you.
  • Practice makes perfect. Practice before your set in front of the judges, get comfortable holding a mic, be comfortable in what you are wearing and how to stand on stage.
  • Don’t make SYTYF? your first gig. You can only do it once, so don’t squander the opportunity. At least find out if you get stage fright by doing one gig beforehand.
  • Enjoy it! What’s the worst that could happen?

Previous Winners/Finalists Testimonials:

“From the bottom of my heart, nothing has been as exciting as that moment when they said, “The winner is Lee Mack.” In terms of excitement, that was the pinnacle of my career.” Lee Mack 

“The final was the biggest gig I had ever done. Peter Kay hosted it and Russell Howard, Jimmy Carr, Andy Zaltzman and Josie Long were in the final. Winning it definitely gave me the confidence to keep writing the sort of stupid crappy jokes and songs I still do today” David O’Doherty

“For me it was the single most important thing I did in my career, it helped me leap from a lot of the crap in the business and gave me the extra push I needed but it also changed my life forever, in that, whenever I get a TV deal, radio deal, or big live gig these days, Karen Koren emails me and says ‘You got that because of me, and my competition, and don’t you forget it!’. We won’t Karen and that is why we love you…” Jason Byrne

“I was only 21 when I got into the final of So You Think You’re Funny?, and it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Even though I didn’t win, I got to meet Eddie Izzard and make full use of the free bar at the after party so I felt like a winner anyway.” Lucy Porter

So You Think You’re Funny? was the first competition I entered. I’d been doing stand up for about six months.  Getting to the final was probably the most exciting moment of my life.  It was the moment when I thought, “I’m not as bad at this as I thought.  Bill Bailey was compering.  Six years later we’re on the same bill again and I can’t wait” Rhod Gilbert

“Winning So You Think You’re Funny? was a great experience. Being part of a final like that gave me a lot of confidence. Looking back it seems ridiculous that I won that year, but hey ho” Miles Jupp

Got a question?

However, we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions. Although we hope that all applicants are honest in their applications, we can’t do as much research on applicants backgrounds as we’d like. 

The SYTYF? competition is produced and funded solely by the Gilded Balloon meaning it is not always possible for us to hold heats in as many cities across the country as we’d like. If there are applicants that cannot make the London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds or Brighton heats, we may be able to arrange an additional heat if acts cannot travel to the initial round of heats.

There is a maximum of 14 slots per heat, once they are full they are full. Apply early in order to secure your place!

If you have any further questions or information you’d like to share with the SYTYF? team – get in touch here.