thu 14/12/2017

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Margaret Cho, Hen & Chickens Bristol review - sex and drugs, no holds barred

Veronica Lee

Margaret Cho takes no prisoners: if you don’t like good honest filth or feel uncomfortable around matters of feminism, sex and race, then this Korean-American comic is not for you.

The Elvis Dead, Soho Theatre review - schlock horror told through Elvis songs

Veronica Lee

A fair few Edinburgh Fringe shows are just that – things that work perfectly in the “let's do the show right here” spirit that permeates the festival, in a tiny (and often grotty) venue that adds hugely to the vibe. That's all well and good during August, of course, but come later in the year when a show moves beyond the festival confines it can lose much of its spark.

Natalie Palamides, Soho Theatre review -...

Veronica Lee

It's not often the publicity material for a comedy show has a health advisory attached. If you are allergic to eggs you may have to give Natalie...

John Bishop, O2 review - Everyman comedy with a...

Veronica Lee

John Bishop was last on tour three years ago and he tells us that this show, Winging It, was inspired by two things that happened in the intervening...

Kerry Godliman, Touring review - affable and down...

Veronica Lee

Kerry Godliman is such an affable and down-to-earth onstage presence that when she talks about whether she should move now that her area has upped...

Mat Ewins, Soho Theatre review - multimedia show with twists in the tale

Veronica Lee

Not just an entertaining Indiana Jones spoof

Ahir Shah, Soho Theatre - a bravura response to Brexit vote

Veronica Lee

Angry, passionate and political

Mae Martin, Soho Theatre review - life is a drug

Veronica Lee

Dry storytelling about an obsessional life

Edinburgh Festival and Fringe 2017 reviews round-up

Theartsdesk

theartsdesk recommends the shows to catch this August

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Ingrid Oliver / Darren Harriott / Jayde Adams

Veronica Lee

An excellent mimic, a strong debut, and a dynamic entertainer

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Hannah Gadsby / Suzi Ruffell / Ivo Graham / Athena Kugblenu

Veronica Lee

A possible valediction, class concerns, feeling the privilege, and millennial politics

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Tom Allen / Cally Beaton / Lauren Pattison / Trumpageddon

Veronica Lee

A happy anniversary, neural pathways, an assured debut, and a deflated Trump

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Kiri Pritchard-McLean / Dad's Army Radio Hour / Elliot Steel

Veronica Lee

Unlikely subject matter for gags, an old favourite revived, and one for the millennials

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Tiff Stevenson / Jarlath Regan / Urzila Carlson

Veronica Lee

The politics of beauty, the comedy of organ donation and big laughs from the southern hemisphere

Enter theartsdesk's Young Reviewer of the Year Award

Theartsdesk

In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club 100 Awards, we're launching a new competition to find a brilliant young critic

Russell Brand, Touring review - grandiloquent performer in reflective mood

Veronica Lee

Fatherhood prompts a look back at earlier misdemeanours

Jeremy Hardy, Brighton Festival review - expert raconteur shows political bite

Thomas H Green

Radio 4 regular's conversational style masks a passionate pin-sharp topicality

Ricky Gervais, Touring review - chatty and relaxed riffing

Veronica Lee

Some very personal material among the edgy content

Ayesha Hazarika, Soho Theatre review - 'politics is her patch'

Veronica Lee

Former Labour adviser finds the funny in politics

Our Friend Victoria review – ‘Victoria Wood’s genius is irreplaceable’

Jasper Rees

Julie Walters presents the first part of BBC One's series celebrating a comedian without equal

Russell Howard, Touring - 'the passion and anger are real'

Veronica Lee

An amiable mix of sex and politics

Peter Kay's Dance for Life, Ricoh Arena Coventry

Veronica Lee

School disco with lots of laughs

Miles Jupp, London Palladium

Veronica Lee

A gentle meander through life's vicissitudes

The UK Pun Championships, Leicester Comedy Festival

Veronica Lee

Wordplay galore as jokesmiths battle for title

Suzi Ruffell, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Amusing take on how class defines us

Chris Gethard, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

US comic tackles his mental-health problems

Mr Swallow - Houdini, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Daft escapist fun from bumbling spoof performer

The Great Indoors, ITV2

Veronica Lee

Limp US inter-generational sitcom starring an out-of-place Stephen Fry

Scott Gibson, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Award-winning show about a medical calamity

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.

Close Footnote

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Albums of the Year 2017: Nick Mulvey - Wake Up Now

For the past few years my Album of the Year has leapt out at me, craved attention, stood out from the competition. With no disrespect to Nick...

Bancroft, ITV review - Sarah Parish's very cold case

This week we were all meant to be gripped by a bunch of ancient geezers nicking diamonds in Hatton Gardens. The postponement of...

The Twilight Zone, Almeida Theatre review - from hokum to hu...

Director Richard Jones watched all 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone as research for this...

Schumann Street, Spitalfields Festival review - illumination...

An icy, wet wind snuck under the door of house number 8 in Fournier Street, where Uri Caine, bundled in coat and woolly hat, conjured...

Antony and Cleopatra, RSC, Barbican review - rising grandeur

Is there a key to “infinite variety”? The challenge of Cleopatra is to convey the sheer fullness of the role, the sense that it defines,...

theartsdesk on Vinyl 35: Christmas 2017 Special with Pink Fl...

The music business is about to disappear on holiday wholesale and we won’t see hide nor hair of it until mid-January. There’s just time for one...

Albums of the Year 2017: Idles - Brutalism

In March, Bristol’s Idles drove up and down the country, leaving painfully small quantities of their debut album Brutalism in each...

The Prince of Nothingwood review - come for the man, stay fo...

In the most unlikely of places, there is one of the world’s most prolific...