thu 14/11/2019

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Jack Dee, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage review - now he really is a grumpy old man

Veronica Lee

Jack Dee has made a career out of being a grumpy old man, even though he started on the comedy circuit in 1986 when he was 25.

Tim Minchin, Eventim Apollo review - fabulous triumph of rhyme and reason

Jasper Rees

Is there anything Tim Minchin cannot do? He sings his own songs, plays hot bar-room piano and tells jokes about the existence of God. He composes musicals, performs in Lloyd Webber and Stoppard, writes a multimillion-dollar Hollywood cartoon which he is allowed to direct – until he isn’t.

Jonathan Pie, Eventim Apollo review - spoof...

Veronica Lee

Jonathan Pie is a YouTube star, a spoof television news reporter (created by actor and comic Tom Walker), who is prone to gaffes. It was one of those...

Lou Sanders, Soho Theatre review - feminism and...

Veronica Lee

Lou Sanders has named her latest show (which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe) Say Hello to Your New Step-Mummy. But, as she tells us in her opening...

Ben Elton, Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall review...

Veronica Lee

It has been 15 years since Ben Elton, known as Motormouth in his 1980s heyday – last toured. A decade-and-a-half ago, one of the instigators of...

Lenny Henry, Watford Colosseum review - enjoyable evening with genial host

Veronica Lee

Sir Lenny takes his autobiography on tour

Hannah Gadsby, Royal Festival Hall review - simply magnificent

Veronica Lee

Follow-up to breakthrough show shines a light on autism

Elf Lyons, Komedia, Brighton review - bonkers, brilliant and a bit of bare bum

Katie Colombus

An endearing personal journey into why guinea pigs hate their loving, attentive owners

Rob Beckett, St David's Hall, Cardiff review - a mixed bag of observations

Owen Richards

Scattergun approach yields both killer lines and tame misses

DVD: Do Not Adjust Your Set / At Last The 1948 Show

Graham Rickson

What the Pythons did first: the remnants of two iconic 1960s shows, restored with respect

Eddie Izzard, Brighton Dome review - splendidly surreal storytelling

Veronica Lee

Farewell tour hits the heights

Russell Howard, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena review - a return with bite

Owen Richards

Testing times call for some big targets and bigger laughs

Ed Byrne, Berry Theatre, Hedge End review - musing on middle-age angst

Veronica Lee

Cheery physicality in an entertaining hour

Count Arthur Strong, Leeds City Varieties review - stargazing and mangled syntax

Veronica Lee

Steve Delaney's meticulously created character

Brydon, Mack and Mitchell, Portsmouth Guildhall review - family-friendly fun

Veronica Lee

'Would I Lie to You?' team on the road

Romesh Ranganathan, Brighton Dome review - transgressive, edgy and very likeable

Thomas H Green

The TV favourite hits the ground running at the start of his Cynic's Mixtape tour

Sofie Hagen, Soho Theatre review - sex weekend in Swansea, anyone?

Veronica Lee

The tricks that memories play

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Jordan Brookes/ Catherine Cohen

Veronica Lee

Dave's Edinburgh Comedy Awards winners

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Alun Cochrane/ Sarah Keyworth/ Glenn Moore/ Sophie Duker

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: Arabella Weir - Does My Mum Loom Big In This?

David Kettle

Fringe debut on her overbearing mother feels too polite to confront its own darkness

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Catherine Bohart / Matt Parker / Nigel Ng / Zoë Coombs Marr

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Phil Wang/ London Hughes/ Jack Gleadow/ Mr. Thing

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Joanne McNally/ The Crown Dual/ Maisie Adam/ James McNicholas/ Titania McGrath

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Clive Anderson / Goodbear

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Nick Helm/ Just These Please/ Anna Drezen

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Josie Long / Snort / Sara Barron

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Ciaran Dowd/ Tom Parry/ Suzi Ruffell, Pleasance Courtyard

Veronica Lee

The world's biggest and best arts festival begins

Robin Ince, Soho Theatre review - fun among the chaos

Veronica Lee

Celebration of the complexities of the human mind

Jerry Seinfeld, Eventim Apollo review - slick and smart but curiously soulless

Veronica Lee

US star makes rare UK appearance

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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