tue 02/03/2021

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Rachel Parris and Marcus Brigstocke's Tuesday Night Club review - daft and good-hearted

Veronica Lee

Lockdown has been mostly pants for live performers, comics included. There was that brief foray into open-air performances last summer, made even more fun by some lovely weather (although not always) – and I sincerely hope that promoters and comics will venture outdoors again this spring and summer.

First Night Funnies, Leicester Comedy Festival review - uneven start to 2021's online gathering

Veronica Lee

The Leicester Comedy Festival, always great fun, was one of the last to be able to run fully in 2020, but this year it's not so lucky. Instead of several hundred events in and around Leicester, the 2021 iteration is an online-only version with many fewer shows of Zoom gigs and interviews.

Comedy podcasts round-up 3: from home and abroad

Veronica Lee

There's something in the water, as no fewer than three comics are launching podcasts related to the one thing we can't do at the moment – travel....

Back, Channel 4 review - return of sibling-...

Veronica Lee

It has taken three years for the second series of Back to reach our screens (a combination of the creator being busy, a star being unwell and Covid...

Comedy podcasts round-up 2: from home and abroad

Veronica Lee

We're still some way off being able to see live performances in actual clubs and theatres, but here are some more comedy podcasts to keep your...

Best of 2020: Comedy

Veronica Lee

Outdoor venues and podcasts to the rescue

Comedy podcasts round-up 1: from home and abroad

Veronica Lee

Conversation, fun facts and jokes

Natalie Palamides: Nate: A One Man Show, Netflix review - deep dive into toxic masculinity still has power

Veronica Lee

'One-man' show about consent

Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine, Netflix review - star-studded special for Trump lip-syncer

Veronica Lee

Politics and race examined in sketch show

Dear Joan & Jericha review - glorious wrong advice from spoof agony aunts

Veronica Lee

Filthy and fun creation of Julia Davis and Vick Pepperdine

Adam Kay, Apollo Theatre review - former medic tells tales from NHS front line

Veronica Lee

Gala show to reopen West End theatre

Live From the Grand Hall, BAC review - strong mixed bill to start autumn season

Veronica Lee

Lockdown stories, personal woes and a bit of politics

Picnic at the Castle review - entertaining mixed bill

Veronica Lee

Warwick Castle provides striking backdrop

Mixed bill, 21Soho review - opening of new club is cause for celebration

Veronica Lee

Strong line-up with engaging MC

The Warren Outdoor Season, Brighton review - creatives take to the beach

Veronica Lee

Performances in a pop-up theatre

The New Normal, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building review - strong mixed bill

Veronica Lee

Pop-up arts festival in a lovely Gothic venue

John Cleese, livestream from Cadogan Hall review - abandon all hope, says the former Python

Veronica Lee

More of an erudite lecture than a show

Comedy in the Courtyard, BAC review - al fresco gags

Veronica Lee

Short season of outdoor gigs opens

Mark Watson's Carpool Comedy Club, Hever Castle review - mixed bill with gags and gourmet food

Veronica Lee

Classy outdoor entertainment

Car Park Comedy, Henley review - Comedy Store's mixed bill

Veronica Lee

Elegant surroundings for latest drive-in show

@TheDriveIn, Blackheath review - comedy and car-aoke

Veronica Lee

Pleasant summer entertainment

Dom Joly / Daniel Sloss, Brent Cross reviews - UK's first drive-in comedy shows

Veronica Lee

The Drive-In Club makes a little bit of history

Desiree Burch, Soho Theatre On Demand review - fantastical storytelling

Veronica Lee

California comic on Burning Man, sex, race – and LSD

Lockdown Comedy 2: where to get your laughs this week

Veronica Lee

Live stand-up recordings and podcasts

Jerry Seinfeld, Netflix review - not bad for a swansong

Veronica Lee

US comic says this may be his last stand-up show

Lockdown Comedy 1: where to get your laughs this week

Veronica Lee

Live stand-up, podcasts and not the Eurovision Song Contest

Aditi Mittal, Soho Theatre On Demand review - cows, mothers and fempowerment

Veronica Lee

Indian comic on how she discovered feminism

Simon Amstell, Netflix review - wisdom and wisecracks

Veronica Lee

Confessional existential angst

Blu-ray: Buster Keaton - Three Films, Vol. 2

Graham Rickson

Technical brilliance and belly laughs: three features from a great director at his peak

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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