thu 11/02/2016

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Reeves & Mortimer, Leicester De Montfort Hall

Veronica Lee

Even if the evening had turned out to be rubbish, there was always going to be a warm welcome for Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's return to live performance with 25 Years of Reeves & Mortimer: The Poignant Moments. Aside from the obvious room for nostalgia, Mortimer almost didn't make it; this tour could start only after he had emergency triple bypass surgery last year. Thankfully, it hasn't affected either his or Reeves' gift for utter silliness, as their appearance at Dave's...

Dave Gorman, Touring

Veronica Lee

Dave Gorman was probably the first comic to have embraced technology in his stand-up. Albeit, in the early days, it was using 35mm slides, hand-drawn graphs and an overhead projector, but then latterly a computer and the ever-more influential Internet and social media. And so, as is a feature at all his shows, there's a large screen on stage when I see him at the Royal Festival Hall and when he says: “I've put it on a graph” there's a loud cheer of recognition from the audience. But this isn't...

Eddie Izzard, Palace Theatre

Veronica Lee

Eddie Izzard tells us at the top of a show lasting two-and-a-half hours that he's on the home straight in a mammoth tour taking in 28 countries. He...

Anne Edmonds, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

When Anne Edmonds comes on stage I notice a banjo sitting ominously in a corner. She is full of Australian bonhomie and energy, instantly connecting...

Bill Bailey, Vaudeville Theatre

Veronica Lee

What a trouper Bill Bailey is. Just as he's introducing what is clearly meant to be a showstopper in which he and the audience would create a number...

Ed Byrne, Theatre Royal, Winchester

Veronica Lee

Observational comic with a cutting edge

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, Eventim Apollo

Jasper Rees

Oi! Time has not withered the two legends' characters or catchphrases

Dawn French, Vaudeville Theatre

Jasper Rees

Tears as well as laughter in a well-oiled stage memoir

Michael McIntyre, O2

Veronica Lee

The mega-popular stand-up's Happy & Glorious show is entertaining but not inspiring

Alan Carr, Touring

Veronica Lee

Businesslike show from the Chatty Man

Sam Simmons, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

London run for the Edinburgh Comedy Award winner

Kevin Bridges, Hammersmith Apollo

Veronica Lee

Otherwise polished young stand-up gets irritated with the audience and stomps off

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Kieran Hodgson/ Richard Gadd/ Trygve Wakenshaw

Veronica Lee

Into the final lap at the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Joseph Morpurgo/ Daphne/ Tom Parry

Veronica Lee

Counting down at the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Nish Kumar/ Adam Hess/ Dial Medicine for Murder/ Larry Dean

Veronica Lee

Counting down at the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Diane Chorley/ LetLuce/ Lazy Susan

Veronica Lee

A bogus duchess and talking fish at the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The Kinsey Sicks/ Minor Delays/ Rhys James

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Aisling Bea/ Funz and Gamez/ Chris Stokes

Veronica Lee

Still coming in from the world's biggest and best arts festival...

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Tom Allen/ Sarah Callaghan/ BEASTS

Veronica Lee

The world's biggest and best arts festival continues...

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Katherine Ryan/ Adrienne Truscott/ Gein's Family Giftshop

Veronica Lee

Comedy reigns at the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Bridget Christie/ Mark Steel/ Beth Vyse

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Rob Delaney, QEH

Veronica Lee

Filthy but funny hour from the US comic

Tommy Tiernan, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Delightful devilment from the Irishman

Nina Conti, Theatre Royal, Brighton

Thomas H Green

Wonderfully funny evening with a comedian-ventriloquist at the top of her game

Alex Horne: Monsieur Butterfly, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Playful show during which the comic builds his own set

Panti: High Heels in Low Places, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Drag artist tells her charming and funny story

James Freedman: Man of Steal, Menier Chocolate Factory

Veronica Lee

The art of pickpocketing explained, plus some corny patter

The Pub Landlord, Touring

Veronica Lee

Al Murray on terrific form with his appalling creation

Nina Conti Clowning Around, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

Ventriloquist fails to 'find' her clown, reduced to 'tears of...'

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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