fri 21/10/2016

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Al Murray, Royal Albert Hall

Veronica Lee

You may have thought that the Brexit vote in June would have been manna from heaven for Al Murray as the Pub Landlord, his knucklehead xenophobe creation. But in this uneven and – at two-and-a-half hours – overlong show, the referendum result and what it means for this country is mentioned early on but is hardly the focus of the show.And that's an enormous shame, as Murray's recent shows have put politics front and centre of his act to great and rejuvenating effect for a character that had, for...

James Acaster, Touring

Veronica Lee

Five nominations for the Edinburgh Comedy Award are surely a recommendation for James Acaster – and with his intelligent, offbeat humour and a wry delivery, he has rightly built up an impressive following at the Fringe (where I saw this show), having improved his craft year on year. Now he embarks on his biggest tour yet and is certain to add to his rapidly growing fanbase.His latest show, Reset, is a gem, a beautifully crafted and performed essay about having one's time again. In Acaster's...

Tom Ballard

Veronica Lee

Australian stand-up Tom Ballard was nominated for best newcomer in last year's Edinburgh Comedy Awards for Taxis & Rainbows & Hatred; last...

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Zoë Coombs Marr/ Randy/...

Veronica Lee

Zoë Coombs Marr, Underbelly Cowgate ★★★Zoë Coombs Marr's debut show last year, Dave, gained a lot of attention, and rightly so. Dave is an old-school...

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Richard Gadd/ Kieran...

Veronica Lee

Richard Gadd, The Banshee Labyrinth ★★★★★Richard Gadd wryly tells us at the end of Monkey See Monkey Do that he thought it was a good idea to put...

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Bridget Christie/ Adam Kay/ Rachel Parris

Veronica Lee

Comedy highlights from the world's biggest and best arts festival

theartsdesk Q&A: Garrison Keillor

Jasper Rees

As he hosts 'A Prairie Home Companion' for the last time, its creator looks back

Whose Line Is It Anyway?, London Palladium

Veronica Lee

Terrific fun from an old favourite

David Baddiel - My Family: Not the Sitcom, Menier Chocolate Factory

Veronica Lee

Funny and challenging show about the comic's parents

Brighton Festival: Alexei Sayle, Corn Exchange

Nick Hasted

The Comedy Store legend reminisces, and sometimes sparks

Julian Clary, Touring

Veronica Lee

Filthy, funny chat from the 'renowned homosexual'

Marcus Brigstocke, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Observational comic gets some gripes off his chest

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

Jasper Rees

She was the most gifted comedian of her generation, male or female

10 Questions for Comedian Alexei Sayle

Thomas H Green

The Liverpudlian Surrealist talks film, music and imaginary sandwich bars

Jena Friedman, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Sparkling political comedy from the US stand-up

Isy Suttie, Touring

Veronica Lee

Laidback comedy about finding The One

Stewart Francis, Pavilion Theatre, Worthing

Thomas H Green

Canadian comedian demonstrates there's more to him than endless puns

Reeves & Mortimer, Leicester De Montfort Hall

Veronica Lee

The gloriously daft duo return

Dave Gorman, Touring

Veronica Lee

Likeable comic points out life's inanities

Eddie Izzard, Palace Theatre

Veronica Lee

Surreal comic kicks off his West End run

Anne Edmonds, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Australian character comic's suburban fantasy

Bill Bailey, Vaudeville Theatre

Veronica Lee

Comic at his poetic best

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

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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Two short plays by Strindberg, one entirely new to London, each focus on a vibrant female character based on one of his ex-wives. In THE STRONGER, wife number one tackles her rival with unforgettable energy and strength in the only play of its era with an all woman cast.


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