fri 06/05/2016

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Marcus Brigstocke, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

It's striking what a broken heart can do for a comic. Not least it can provide him with some new material, but also make him take a step back to reevaluate what he has. In Marcus Brigstocke's case it led him into a horrible depression but happily, via some other byways, to this new show, Why the Long Face?, which started life at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.It touches only tangentially on depression, but for longstanding Brigstocke fans the mention of it and the failed love affair (after...

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

Jasper Rees

Victoria Wood was a very private national treasure. Not for her the tawdry catwalk of Twitter nor the klaxon of the confessional memoir. She wasn't comfortable talking to journalists and when she found one whom she could just about trust, she stuck with them. That is how I found myself interviewing her many times over the years, and came to see past the carapace of jollity that was her performance persona. The first time I met her was, weirdly, for a supermarket magazine. She could barely...

10 Questions for Comedian Alexei Sayle

Thomas H Green

Alexei Sayle (b 1952) first came to fame at the birth of alternative comedy, as MC at the Comedy Store in London at the dawn of the 1980s. He...

Jena Friedman, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

“It's a really bad word,” Jena Friedman says as she opens her show, American C*nt. “...American.” And so begins an evening of ultra-dry, drawled-out...

Isy Suttie, Touring

Veronica Lee

Isy Suttie, an ever-smiling and engaging stand-up, may come across as a real-life version of Dobby, the perpetually nice character she played in Peep...

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

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

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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