sat 16/01/2021

Comedy Features

Best of 2017: Comedy

Veronica Lee

The Edinburgh Fringe is usually the high point of the year for comedy, but in truth it wasn't a solid five-star year – although there were some stand-out performers.

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Victoria Wood: 'Please could you repeat the question?'

Jasper Rees

Victoria Wood was a very private national treasure. Not for her the tawdry catwalk of Twitter nor the klaxon of the confessional memoir. She wasn't comfortable talking to journalists and when she found one whom she could just about trust, she stuck with them.

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Joan Rivers, 1933-2014

Fisun Güner

Age could not wither her, or so it appeared. Joan Rivers has died, aged 81. On her 80th birthday she told an interviewer she’d be celebrating with her eightieth face. Her caustic humour could leave your nerves jangling, but she was the butt of it as often as anyone was. And in the field of cosmetic surgery you could almost call her a lone pioneer, of sorts, for what other American celebrity has ever been as candid about going under the knife?

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Listed: The laughter and tears of Robin Williams

Jasper Rees

Robin Williams, who has died at the age of 63, was a very American comedian. The flow of invention that erupted from inside him had an unstoppable, domineering, emetic brilliance. In chat shows, performing stand-up, and in his greatest role as a DJ entertaining the troops in Vietnam, he was a not quite human force of nature.

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theartsdesk at Latitude: Damon Albarn/Booker T Jones

Matthew Wright

Booker T Jones seduced, his delivery a river of molasses, his beaming smile so suave it was difficult to believe he was, actually, singing the blues. Damon Albarn coaxed, like a well-meaning dad who’s taken his kids on a rainy picnic (a thunderstorm engulfed the end of his set) and wants them, in spite of everything, to have a good time. Lily Allen flounced and stropped; Kelis shook her booty, looking, in a gleaming golden dress, like a queen bee instructing the drones.

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Opinion: Today's BBC would have rejected Morecambe and Wise

Jasper Rees

A couple of weeks ago I was queueing to get into the BBC’s magnificently revamped HQ at Broadcasting House. Just behind me in the same queue were Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. Their faces are craggier, their hair less confident than when the two comedians became part of the national furniture 20 years ago. And here they were, lightly joshing about the indignity of signing in to enter the offices of the national broadcaster which owes them so much.

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Mel Smith, 1952-2013

Jasper Rees

Mel Smith, who has died at the age of 60, will be principally remembered as one quarter of the satirical sketch show Not the Nine O’Clock News and one half of its blokier spin-off Alas Smith and Jones. A natural and inclusive comedian, it’s less widely recalled that Smith also directed one of the most successful films in British movie history: Bean. As co-founder with Griff Rhys Jones of Talkback, he was also a pioneer in independent television production.

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theartsdesk at the London Comedy Film Festival 2013

Emma Simmonds

Proving that laughter is the only sure-fire cure for the January blues, this year's London Comedy Film Festival took place over four days from Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th January. Known commonly and affectionately as LOCO, it once again showcased the best of comedy filmmaking from around the world, lined-up alongside a range of imaginative events - a programme seemingly designed to give the most depressing month of the year a well deserved kick up the arse.

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The Glastonbury of the Mind: Hay turns 25

Jasper Rees

Apart from “I did not have sex with that woman” and maybe “It’s the economy, stupid”, Bill Clinton seems never to have said anything quite as memorable. Indeed, of all the phrases with his name attached, none is quoted quite so tremulously as Clinton's description of an event that takes place annually on the border between England and Wales as May makes way for June.

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Opinion: Comedy should be taken more seriously

Norma Burke

The first ever work of literary theory was Aristotle's Poetics, which was written on two separate papyruses - one on tragedy and the other on comedy. However, at some point the second was lost and along with it our most ancient understanding of the comedy genre.

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