fri 26/11/2021

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Alfie Brown, Soho Theatre review - a contrarian on great form

Veronica Lee

Well, this is a first: a comedy show with footnotes. Alfie Brown tells us at the top of the hour that he'll be stepping out of his routines from time to time to explain why the gag he's about to tell, or has just told, isn't offensive. It's a clever touch, one of several in Sensitive Man.

Ahir Shah, Soho Theatre review - lockdown laid bare

Veronica Lee

During lockdown most of us were caught in a Groundhog Day existence of sleep, eat, exercise with Joe Wicks, take part in a Zoom quiz, bake banana bread, repeat – or variations on that theme. So a comic doing a show talking about his lockdown experience is taking a risk that it might not be the most scintillating hour – and so it proves with Ahir Shah's Dress.

Milk and Gall, Theatre 503 review - motherhood in...

Gary Naylor

Tuesday, 8 November 2016. Vera is in a New York hospital room giving birth to a son. On anxiously checked phones, the votes are piling up for Hillary...

Iliza Shlesinger, Eventim Apollo review -...

Veronica Lee

Iliza Shlesinger is an American writer, performer and presenter whose film work includes roles in Pieces of a Woman and Good on Paper, the latter...

Dave Chappelle: The Closer, Netflix review - race...

Veronica Lee

Say what you like about Dave Chappelle, but if nothing else he's an equal-opportunities offender, as his latest Netflix special, The Closer, proves....

Jason Manford, London Palladium review - lockdown laughs and feelgood fun

Veronica Lee

Worth the wait for this Covid-affected tour

Blithe Spirit, Harold Pinter Theatre review - an amusing, if dated, revival of the Coward classic

Gary Naylor

Jennifer Saunders delivers a fine turn as the celebrated Madame Arcati

Anuvab Pal, Soho Theatre review - Empire and Bollywood collide

Veronica Lee

Shaggy dog story with some history thrown in

Olga Koch, Soho Theatre review - personal, political and playful

Veronica Lee

What nationality and belonging mean

Dead Ringers Live, London Wonderground review - impressionists on great form

Veronica Lee

Radio 4 show's cast in Underbelly residency

theartsdesk Q&A: writer and comedian Tom Davis

Adam Sweeting

From singing Disney songs in drag to 'Murder in Successville' and BBC One's 'King Gary'

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Comedy Allstars, Underbelly review - depleted festival kicks off

Veronica Lee

Garrett Millerick excellent compere for late-night show

Wonderville, Palace Theatre review - magic and illusion family show

Veronica Lee

Variety of variable quality

Bo Burnham: Inside, Netflix review - a masterpiece about lockdown angst

Veronica Lee

Tour de force of confessional comedy

Comedy Shindig, Melbourne Hall review - Jason Manford headlines opening night

Veronica Lee

Summer season of outdoor shows off to a terrific start

Jimmy Carr, Palace Theatre review - rape gags and risible claims

Veronica Lee

The jokes are relentless, but so is the misogyny

Mark Thomas, Soho Theatre review - new state-of-the-nation show

Veronica Lee

Post-Brexit Britain under the spotlight

Arthur Smith, Brighton Fringe review - touching memoir of his dad

Veronica Lee

Strong start to the festival

Josie Long, Brighton Festival 2021 review - giddy post-lockdown spin on pregnancy-based show

Thomas H Green

Delayed for a year, Long's 2019 Edinburgh Fringe success finally makes it to Brighton

Reclaim These Streets fundraiser, 21Soho review - entertaining mixed bill hosted by Sarah Keyworth

Veronica Lee

Comedy clubs reopen

Mark Watson's Carpool Comedy Club, Henley-Marlow review - Nish Kumar sticks it to the Tories

Veronica Lee

Passions run high with political gags

Mark Watson's Carpool Comedy Club, the Hop Farm review - strong kick-off to 2021 live comedy

Veronica Lee

Kent venue provided picturesque backdrop

Comedy podcasts round-up 5: politics, relationships and spoofery

Veronica Lee

Chatty women and happy couples

Loyiso Gola, Netflix review - South African muses on race, religion and friendship

Veronica Lee

Reflections that make you stop and think

Working From Home online review - Johnny Vegas and Jason Byrne in a strong line-up

Veronica Lee

Livestreamed variety evening is terrific fun

Comedy podcasts round-up 4: plus a vodcast and some retro audio

Veronica Lee

Anniversary release for Fawlty Towers vinyl

Chinese Arts Now Festival review - comedy of the diaspora

Veronica Lee

Clips and chat from comics of Chinese heritage

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

Veronica Lee

Lockdown fun has taken on a life of its own

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

Veronica Lee

Sikisa was a charming and ebullient host

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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