sat 13/04/2024

Comedy Reviews

Idiots of Ants, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee Idiots of Ants: (left to right) Spiers, Wrighton, Wilson and Tiney

The art of good sketch comedy is in the timing - not just in how gags are delivered, of course, but in realising that some jokes are best done as one-liners while others can be played out over several minutes before being punctuated with a killer punchline. The four-man sketch group Idiots of Ants are masters of knowing when to end one sketch and get on with another - and that, allied with smart writing and committed performances, makes them leaders in the field.

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Andy Hamilton, Blackheath Halls

Veronica Lee Andy Hamilton: watching his show feels like being down the pub with a witty and erudite mate

Most people know Andy Hamilton from his frequent (and very droll) appearances on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You and The News Quiz on television and radio, but he is also a prolific writer. His writing credits could take up the whole of this review, but a brief CV includes Not the Nine O’Clock News, Drop the Dead Donkey, Old Harry’s Game and, most recently, the equally excellent Outnumbered on BBC One, which he co-writes with Guy...

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Hans Teeuwen, Soho Theatre

Jasper Rees Hans Teeuwen offers a disjointed joy ride round his warped subconscious

“You pay money I be funny?” There are times in stand-up when it seems the wrong kind of transaction has taken place. A comedian brings a warped vision of the world to a paying public. He – and the weirder ones are always a he – parade neurosis, dysfunction and fixation that, in the normal scheme of things, they really ought to be working through every week with a psychotherapeutic professional at whatever the hourly rate over however many years. But if you fixed the warp, you’d kill the...

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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

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.

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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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