wed 24/05/2017

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Jeremy Hardy, Brighton Festival review - expert raconteur shows political bite

Thomas H Green

Jeremy Hardy is very happy to mock his audience and they love it. One of the biggest laughs of the night is when a punchline refers to us as a collection of “middle class white people”. Being Brighton, he goes further, explaining how tolerant the city is but that everyone’s frustrated as they have no-one to tolerate. Any immigrants, he explains, take one look and head down to Devon “where they have cream teas”. His “demographic”, as he refers to them, are certainly an older crowd, mostly...

Ricky Gervais, Touring review - chatty and relaxed riffing

Veronica Lee

Ricky Gervais enters the stage after recordings of some the great (and not so great) men of history – including Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and Adolf Hitler. And then there's a portentous introduction – are we then going to hear some deep philosophical insights tonight? Well not so much, more chatty and relaxed riffing, with some of his most personal material yet.

Ayesha Hazarika, Soho Theatre review - '...

Veronica Lee

What a day to open your political stand-up show, entitled State of the Nation, a few hours after Theresa May had announced a snap election. If Ayesha...

Our Friend Victoria review – ‘Victoria Wood’s...

Jasper Rees

In the closing credits of Acorn Antiques, wobbling diagonally across the screen, it says the part of Berta was taken by “Victoria Woods”. Has there...

Russell Howard, Touring - 'the passion and...

Veronica Lee

Russell Howard is in typically chipper form, and so he should be. Dismissed by some at the start of his career as just one of the slew of beige...

Peter Kay's Dance for Life, Ricoh Arena Coventry

Veronica Lee

School disco with lots of laughs

Miles Jupp, London Palladium

Veronica Lee

A gentle meander through life's vicissitudes

The UK Pun Championships, Leicester Comedy Festival

Veronica Lee

Wordplay galore as jokesmiths battle for title

Suzi Ruffell, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Amusing take on how class defines us

Chris Gethard, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

US comic tackles his mental-health problems

Mr Swallow - Houdini, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Daft escapist fun from bumbling spoof performer

The Great Indoors, ITV2

Veronica Lee

Limp US inter-generational sitcom starring an out-of-place Stephen Fry

Scott Gibson, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Award-winning show about a medical calamity

Best of 2016: Comedy

Veronica Lee

We needed something to laugh at. Here's who helped...

Michelle Wolf, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

US comic mixes the personal and political

The best comedy DVDs of 2016

Veronica Lee

A few suggestions for funny stocking-fillers - from Billy Connolly to Sarah Millican

Tom Allen, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Intricately constructed tale about suburbia

The Catherine Tate Show Live, Eventim Apollo

Veronica Lee

Go on, have a guess. Terrific live tour of sketch show favourites

Susan Calman, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Feelgood stand-up with a political punch

Romesh Ranganathan, Touring

Veronica Lee

Slick stand-up from avowed curmudgeon

Al Murray, Royal Albert Hall

Veronica Lee

Pub Landlord fails to capitalise on Brexit

James Acaster, Touring

Veronica Lee

Beautifully crafted show of offbeat observations

Tom Ballard

Veronica Lee

Australian comic with a pleasingly original take on modern life

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Zoë Coombs Marr/ Randy/ Sarah Callaghan

Veronica Lee

Latest instalment of comedy from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Richard Gadd/ Kieran Hodgson/ Nazeem Hussain

Veronica Lee

Another batch of comedy highlights from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Bridget Christie/ Adam Kay/ Rachel Parris

Veronica Lee

Comedy highlights from the world's biggest and best arts festival

theartsdesk Q&A: Garrison Keillor

Jasper Rees

As he hosts 'A Prairie Home Companion' for the last time, its creator looks back

Whose Line Is It Anyway?, London Palladium

Veronica Lee

Terrific fun from an old favourite

David Baddiel - My Family: Not the Sitcom, Menier Chocolate Factory

Veronica Lee

Funny and challenging show about the comic's parents

Footnote: a brief history of British comedy

British comedy has a honourable history, dating back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, through Shakespeare’s and Restoration plays to Victorian and Edwardian music hall and its offspring variety, and on to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, working-men’s clubs, 1980s alternative comedy, and today's hugely popular stand-up acts in stadiums seating up to 20,000 people.

In broadcast media, the immediate decades after the Second World War marked radio’s golden age for comedy, with shows such as ITMA, The Goons, Round the Horne and Beyond Our Ken. Many radio comedy shows transferred to even greater acclaim on television - such as Hancock’s Half Hour, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Knowing Me, Knowing You, The Day Today, Red Dwarf, The League of Gentlemen, Goodness Gracious Me and Little Britain.

In television, the 1970s and 1980s were the great age of British sitcom, when shows such as Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, Rising Damp, Dad’s Army, Porridge, Yes, Minister, Only Fools and Horses, Fawlty Towers and Blackadder. They were marked by great writing, acting and directing, although the time should also be noted for great British dross such as On the Buses and Love Thy Neighbour.

By the 1990s, British sitcom had developed into intelligent über-comedy, with shows such as Absolutely Fabulous and The Office making dark or off-kilter (although some would say bad taste) shows such as Drop the Dead Donkey, Peep Show, Green Wing and The Inbetweeners possible. In film, British comedy has had three great ages - silent movies (Charlie Chaplin being their star), Ealing comedies (Passport to Pimlico perhaps the best ever) and Carry On films. The first are in a long tradition of daft physical humour, the second mark the dry sophistication of much British humour, and the last the bawdiness that goes back to Chaucer.

The 2000s marked the resurgence of live comedy, with acts (including Jimmy Carr, Peter Kay and Russell Howard) honing their talents at successive Edinburgh Fringes and their resulting TV, stadium tour and DVD sales making millionaires of dozens of UK comics. Comedians cross readily from TV to stand-up to film to West End comedy theatre. The British comedy industry is now a huge and growing commercial business, with star comics such as Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre grossing tens of millions of pounds from arena tours, and attendances of up to 20,000 at venues across the UK.

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