sun 20/05/2018

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Sarah Kendall, Soho Theatre review - a superb storyteller

Veronica Lee

For her past few shows, Sarah Kendall's stock in trade has been intricately crafted stories that mix fact and fiction, drawing on her childhood in Newcastle, New South Wales, and observations about the world she now lives in.

Danny Baker, Touring review - boy, can he talk

Veronica Lee

The first thing that greets the audience in the foyer for Danny Baker's new show, Good Time Charlie's Back!, which I saw at Princes Hall in Aldershot, is the merchandise stall, selling various items; T-shirts for £20, programmes at £10 (pre-signed!), and mugs for £8.

Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to celebrate...

Theartsdesk

Brighton Festival is the UK’s leading annual celebration of the arts, with events taking place in venues both familiar and unusual across Brighton...

Shazia Mirza, Touring review - race and politics...

Veronica Lee

With Love from St Tropez was inspired by Shazia Mirza's visit to a beach in the south of France that had a nudist beach nearby – and it was just...

Flo and Joan, Soho Theatre review - sisters in...

Veronica Lee

Flo and Joan are sisters (Nicola and Rosie Dempsey: they have borrowed their stage names from their nan and her sister) and you may have...

Ed Byrne, Touring review - the perils of modern fatherhood

Veronica Lee

Personal but not self-indulgent

Angela Barnes, Soho Theatre review - history with great gags

Veronica Lee

Cold War buff with a weird obsession

Daliso Chaponda, Touring review - uneven but entertaining

Veronica Lee

Britain's Got Talent finalist on first UK tour

Score review - breathless dash through music and film

David Kettle

Fascinating but frenetic documentary celebrating movie composers

Simon Evans, Soho Theatre review - intellect examined

Veronica Lee

Modern politics laid bare

Craig Hill, Glasgow International Comedy Festival review - sweary and filthy fun

Veronica Lee

Festival gets off to a rousing start

Fern Brady, Soho Theatre review - opinions with raw edge

Veronica Lee

Young Scot with desert-dry delivery

Rose Matafeo, Soho Theatre review - sassy and she knows it

Veronica Lee

New Zealand comic with original takes on the big stuff

Hannah Gadsby, Soho Theatre review - misogyny explored

Veronica Lee

Straight-talking comic takes no prisoners

Andrew Maxwell, Soho Theatre - insightful political comedy

Veronica Lee

Brexit and beyond

Chris Rock, SSE Wembley Arena review - energetic and fast-moving performance

Veronica Lee

Controversial US comic on rare UK tour

Leicester Comedy Festival Gala Preview Show - going from strength to strength

Veronica Lee

The event's 25th incarnation

Best of 2017: Comedy

Veronica Lee

The shows that have stayed with me

Margaret Cho, Hen & Chickens Bristol review - sex and drugs, no holds barred

Veronica Lee

US comic tells it like it is

The Elvis Dead, Soho Theatre review - schlock horror told through Elvis songs

Veronica Lee

Excellent spoof tells the story of Evil Dead 2 through the oeuvre of the King

Natalie Palamides, Soho Theatre review - delightful and disturbing show about motherhood

Veronica Lee

Playful and knowing character lays an egg every day

John Bishop, O2 review - Everyman comedy with a hint of subversion

Veronica Lee

From Bono to Brexit and back again

Kerry Godliman, Touring review - affable and down-to-earth humour

Veronica Lee

A canny look at social mobility

Mat Ewins, Soho Theatre review - multimedia show with twists in the tale

Veronica Lee

Not just an entertaining Indiana Jones spoof

Ahir Shah, Soho Theatre - a bravura response to Brexit vote

Veronica Lee

Angry, passionate and political

Mae Martin, Soho Theatre review - life is a drug

Veronica Lee

Dry storytelling about an obsessional life

Edinburgh Festival and Fringe 2017 reviews round-up

Theartsdesk

theartsdesk recommends the shows to catch this August

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Ingrid Oliver / Darren Harriott / Jayde Adams

Veronica Lee

An excellent mimic, a strong debut, and a dynamic entertainer

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Hannah Gadsby / Suzi Ruffell / Ivo Graham / Athena Kugblenu

Veronica Lee

A possible valediction, class concerns, feeling the privilege, and millennial politics

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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