sun 05/02/2023

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Lucy Porter, Cambridge Junction review - making light of a midlife crisis

Veronica Lee

A lot has been happening in Lucy Porter’s life since she last toured. The pandemic we all know about, so she doesn’t detain us to recount her lockdown woes; they get merely tangential mentions in Wake Up Call as she talks about more recent events which included a health scare leading to something of a midlife crisis.

Alex Edelman, Menier Chocolate Factory review - London run for unmissable off-Broadway hit

Helen Hawkins

At one point in this brilliantly constructed and performed set, Alex Edelman ponders on the catchment area for his comedy and figures it might be the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Nah: this is comedy that can talk to anybody with a brain. 

Best of 2022: Comedy

Veronica Lee

In 2022 we were finally able to welcome back the first “proper” Edinburgh Fringe since 2019. While I was disappointed that a few established comics...

10 Questions for comedian Alex Edelman

Veronica Lee

US comic Alex Edelman first came to the attention of British audiences in 2014, when he was named best newcomer in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards for...

A Christmas Carol-ish, Soho Theatre review - Mr...

Veronica Lee

At this time of year you can't move for productions of A Christmas Carol, Dickens' seasonal morality tale. Some are brilliant, some so-so, but this...

Tom Ward, Brighton Komedia review - offbeat observational gags

Veronica Lee

Debut UK tour is a hit

Sara Pascoe, Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells review - motherhood and the perils of fame

Veronica Lee

The comic's most personal show to date

Jerry Sadowitz, Eventim Apollo review - brilliantly dark

Veronica Lee

Edinburgh kerfuffle is behind him

Helen Bauer, Soho Theatre review - rollicking show about how to be a modern woman

Veronica Lee

Feminism from a different angle, as 'Madam Good Tit' flies in from the Fringe

Dave Gorman, Touring - comic in skittish mood

Veronica Lee

Master of PowerPoint back with his clicker

Dara Ó Briain, Touring review - a comic on tip-top form

Veronica Lee

The Irishman's most personal show yet

Harry Hill, touring review - uneven madcap show

Veronica Lee

Pedigree Fun is his first tour in nine years

Kim Noble, Soho Theatre review - final part of trilogy about loneliness

Veronica Lee

You'll need a strong stomach for the comedy-performance art overlap of 'Lullaby for Scavengers'

Rob Rouse, Rewind the Fringe review - unstructured but gleeful fun

Veronica Lee

From fart gags to gendered language

Dave Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2022

Veronica Lee

Australian and American stand-ups leave the Fringe victorious

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Joseph Parsons / Njambi McGrath / Josh Jones

Veronica Lee

A sporting life, colonial heritage, and a camp comic

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Jake Lambert / Bella Hull / Jack Harris

Veronica Lee

Searching for a friend, Gen Z laid bare, and teaching teachers

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Hal Cruttenden / Zach Zucker / The Delightful Sausage

Veronica Lee

Divorce the nice way, Las Vegas showtime, and an hour of silliness

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Randy Feltface / Sarah Keyworth / Andrew Maxwell

Veronica Lee

A puppet tells it like it is, an outbreak of silliness and political gags

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Ania Magliano / Leo Reich / Chloe Petts

Veronica Lee

Bisexuality, a stunning debut, and acting like a lad

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Sara Barron / Jayde Adams / Sophie Duker

Veronica Lee

Scathing judgments, expressive dance and lesbian cruises

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Kiri Pritchard-McLean / Lou Sanders / Snort

Veronica Lee

Exploring Welsh identity; rollerskating diaries; New Zealand improv

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Colin Hoult / Nick Helm / Susie McCabe

Veronica Lee

A sad adieu, a pandemic experience and the awfulness of hen dos

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Tiff Stevenson / Seann Walsh / Rosie Holt

Veronica Lee

The world's biggest and best arts festival begins

Sikisa, Soho Theatre review - a confident debut

Veronica Lee

Gags range from dick pics to feminism and immigration law

Joe Lycett, Eventim Apollo review - prankster goes long-form

Veronica Lee

Former Sewing Bee host tells a complicated tale

Ricky Gervais, SuperNature, Netflix review - a provocateur at work

Veronica Lee

An equal opportunities offender delivers a masterclass in meta comedy

Andy Zaltzman, Soho Theatre review - satire on the hoof

Veronica Lee

Setting the world to rights, one joke at a time

Brandon Wardell, Soho Theatre review - US comic wings it

Veronica Lee

UK debut show is disjointed and uneven

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.

Close Footnote


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Smoke, Southwark Playhouse review - dazzling Strindberg upda...

A play’s title can be an almost arbitrary matter - there’s no streetcar but plenty of desire in that one for example - and it might...

Music Reissues Weekly: The Senders - All Killer No Filler

The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Suicide, Television, Blondie, The Dictators, The Heartbreakers, The Shirts, Richard Hell and the Voidoids. From...

Fauda, Season 4, Netflix review - Israeli terrorism thriller...

Bald, barrel-shaped and pugnacious, Doron Kavillio (Lior Raz) could have been conceived as the anti-Bond or the un-Ethan Hunt. But as action...

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish review - thrilling adventure wi...

The Shrek universe expands a little more with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, another...

Album: Shania Twain - Queen of Me

Shania Twain describes her sixth studio album as “a song of gratitude and appreciation. I was inspired that I still had air in my lungs” – and it...

Titus Andronicus, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review - notorious...

If All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida have earned the sobriquet "‘problem plays...

The Whale review - Brendan Fraser stars in a fat suit

Yes, Brendan Fraser gives a fine, Oscar-nominated performance as a...

Philharmonia, Hrůša, RFH review - total brilliance in Bartók...

Salome was not to get her head on a silver platter: Jennifer Davis, due to sing the bloody final scene of Strauss’s opera, had been experiencing...

2:22 A Ghost Story, Lyric Theatre review - Cheryl makes an i...

The set of 2:22 A Ghost Story is open to the auditorium when we arrive and locates us at once in gentrification-land. We are...

EO review - lyrical tale of a donkey's odyssey

It’s been a good year for donkeys at the cinema. Not only did Martin McDonagh make a surprise star out of Jenny the miniature donkey in The...