sun 23/01/2022

Comedy Reviews

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Veronica Lee Bill Hicks: his dark, subversive material was before its time

If I had a fiver for every time I have heard a comic described (usually by the comic himself) as “the new Bill Hicks”, I would be rather comfortably off. It’s tosh, of course, and, as his brother astutely says in American: The Bill Hicks Story, only Bill Hicks could be Bill Hicks, because what you saw on the outside was what was on the inside. Hicks himself is in no position to argue either way: he died, aged 32, from pancreatic cancer in 1994. Those who die at the height of their...

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Katy Brand, touring

Veronica Lee Katy Brand: her sketch comedy baits celebrities and spoofs pop music

The first time I saw Katy Brand was at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2005, where she was performing Celebrities Are Gods in a tiny, windowless basement late at night. Hers was the last show in the room, which by now was a fetid sweatbox, and only a few hardy souls had turned up. But it was a memorable evening, not only because Brand’s talent was plain to see, but also because, undaunted by the circs, she performed with the confidence of an old pro even though she was only 26.

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Ricky Gervais, Wembley Arena

Jasper Rees

Do look away now if you’re squeamish. Why? Because before the star turn has even made his entrance, a film is shown on the screen suspended above the stage. An earnest American advises that there is a global shortage. Jumbo jets have been spraying deliveries from the skies. Donations are coming in, but billions of gallons are simply not enough. He is drinking more than the world can supply. But what can this precious nectar possibly be?

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La La Land, BBC Three

graeme Thomson

“Marc Wootton is playing characters in real situations with real people” read the message that followed the opening credits of La La Land, as though Wootton were a comedic Archimedes unveiling his Eureka moment, rather than simply the latest “provocative” British wit to go panning for comedy gold in the murky waters of American embarrassment.

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Shappi Khorsandi, touring

Veronica Lee Shappi Khorsandi: the ever-smiling comic has some dark punchlines

It’s not a good thing to be at a comedy gig fit to punch the wall, but I must confess I entered the auditorium for Shappi Khorsandi’s show last night in a less than Zen state. Not that I had arrived up for it, mind; I may be a sarf London girl but prefer to conduct myself as if I am a true-born daughter of the Home Counties. I had arrived in good time, full of the joys of spring, looking forward to a well-earned first-of-the-day libation before I took my seat for a show I was looking forward to...

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Ken Dodd, Richmond Theatre

Veronica Lee Ken Dodd: at 82, the brilliant comic is celebrating 55 years in show business

This is the first gig I have attended where a sign at the door states: “First act - long. Second act - even longer”. So we have been warned, and as soon as Ken Dodd takes to the stage he refers to his (by now) legendary ultra-lengthy shows. “This evening will be a test of bladder strength,” he tells us, and proceeds to entertain almost non-stop for the next four hours (he has been known to do five or six).

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Sean Lock, touring

Veronica Lee Sean Lock: he has the inspired idea of audience Battleships in his show Lockipedia

Sean Lock, as well as being an acclaimed stand-up for many years, has also written for other comics, including Bill Bailey, Lee Evans and Mark Lamarr, and his profile has risen hugely through his stints as team captain on 8 Out of 10 Cats on Channel 4 and regular guest appearances on other panel shows, including QI and Mock the Week. His fans, including me, recall with fondness his sitcom 15 Storeys High, which ran for two series on BBC TV (and which was...

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Dara O Briain, touring

Veronica Lee

What a joy to welcome Dara O Briain back into the stand-up fold. The Irishman has been away from live performance for five years because he has been busy hosting the panel show Mock the Week and mucking about in boats on various Three Men... series, both on the BBC, and writing a travelogue, Tickling the English, which is about to be released in paperback. His hunger to interact with an audience is almost palpable as he strides to the front of the stage.

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Phil Nichol, Soho Theatre

Jasper Rees 'Don't spoil it with applause!': Phil Nichol as manic beat preacher Bobby Spade

How far is too far? That’s the question which underlies the nihilistic versifying of Bobby Spade, white-suited barfly bard, the laureate of oedipal self-loathing who swims in a miasma of misogyny. Spade is the deeply strange, deeply funny creation of Phil Nichol. In this show the no doubt decent Nichol doesn’t get a look in. Where Rich Hall brings on his alter-ego Otis Lee Crenshaw in...

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Dave Gorman, Hammersmith Apollo

Veronica Lee

Dave Gorman, it could be said, invented a genre of comedy. His reality-based documentary tales - about hunting down people with the same name or finding unique Google searches - were meticulously researched and generously illustrated; he was the king of PowerPoint. But here he has returned to his stand-up roots and while the show has a title - Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop and Stand Up- it has no central theme and is not, like those before, delivered almost as a lecture.

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