thu 26/11/2015

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Ed Byrne, Theatre Royal, Winchester

Veronica Lee

The show's title, Outside, Looking In, might suggest we're in for some philosophising from Ed Byrne – but then, after 22 years in the business, the Irish observational comic has earned the right. And indeed, he covers subjects such as feminism, slut-shaming and gender imbalance, but in the mix there is also some material about the perils of dating and a graphic description of food poisoning. Even the cleverest comics – and Byrne is assuredly one of those – can't resist the occasional...

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, Eventim Apollo

Jasper Rees

Loadsamoney stomps on clutching a wad of twenties. He hasn’t been seen since the Eighties, he advises, because he became irrelevant. In the strict sense Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse have never been relevant. Relevant comedy has a habit of becoming irrelevant, which is why their Legends! tour is such a treat for audiences over a certain age. It issues a gloriously defiant two-fingered salute to time and tide and political correctness (we are welcomed as “ladies and gentlemen and...

Dawn French, Vaudeville Theatre

Jasper Rees

When is a comedian not funny? Dawn French has spent so much of her life making audiences laugh that her debut as a one-woman performer requires some...

Michael McIntyre, O2

Veronica Lee

It may seem strange to begin a review of a comedy gig with a description of the Tube journey home. But it was noticeable that the crowds who left the...

Alan Carr, Touring

Veronica Lee

Alan Carr has titled his latest live show Yap, Yap, Yap! Because, he says as the show opens, everyone has too much to say these days, much of it -...

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...'

The 2,000 Year Old Man, JW3

Veronica Lee

Recreation of famous Brooks and Reiner skits

Dracula! (Mr Swallow - the Musical), Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Nick Mohammed's daft but entertaining spoof musical

Kim Noble, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Tender and playful show about love and loneliness

Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights, Manchester Arena

Veronica Lee

Live stage version of the hit sitcom is great fun

Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2015 launch

Veronica Lee

Starry line-up for Europe's biggest festival of its kind

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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The Hairy Ape at the Old Vic


The Old Vic

Limited Season until Sat 21 Nov 2015


Eugene O’Neill’s timeless story of class and identity.

Starring Olivier Award winner Bertie Carvel, directed by legendary and multi-award-winning director Richard Jones.

A classic expressionist masterpiece by Nobel prize-winner Eugene O’Neill, The Hairy Ape tells the story of Yank, played by Bertie Carvel, a labourer who revels in his status as the strongest stoker on a transatlantic ocean liner. But when Yank is called a ‘filthy beast’ by the overbred daughter of a steel merchant, he experiences an awakening of consciousness that leads him on a journey through the wealthy neighbourhoods and disenfranchised underbelly of New York society. Searching for a way to belong, Yank is forced to confront primal questions about his true place in the world.

The Hairy Ape is an iconic piece of American drama brought to stage by a visionary of British theatre.

For more information and to book tickets, visit

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