thu 05/03/2015

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

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

Veronica Lee

Nick Mohammed's show has had a slight change of title since it debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, where it was called Mr Swallow - the Musical, and garnered warm reviews for its shambolic silliness.The set-up is that Mohammed’s alter-ego, the egomaniacal Mr Swallow, a lispy Northerner who is quick to take offence but is oblivious to all around him, has fashioned a musical, Dracula! - starring himself as the bloodthirsty count, of course – and we are watching the final dress rehearsal....

Kim Noble, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

The Soho Theatre's lawyer was in the night I saw Kim Noble's new show, and that's no surprise as it pushes a few boundaries – public decency and legality being just two. In many ways it's typical of Noble's output as it plays with the audience's perception of real and imagined events, blurs ethical lines and dares us to be offended. As we walk in, for instance, he's Googling things such as “weird cunt cum” and “dwarf sticking milk bottle up arse”, and later we see footage of him defecating in a...

Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights, Manchester Arena

Veronica Lee

Due to unfortunate circumstances I am unable to give a star rating to this show; 15 minutes into the second half a cast member collapsed on stage and...

Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2015 launch

Veronica Lee

The Glasgow International Comedy Festival was launched last night (the day after Burns Night) at the Leicester Square Theatre in London, with Stewart...

Best of 2014: Comedy

Veronica Lee

It may not have been the most stellar year for comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe, but 2014 was made memorable not just by a long-awaited reunion, but...

Dara Ó Bríain, Touring

Veronica Lee

Irish comic is on cracking form on home turf

Noel Fielding, Eventim Apollo

Veronica Lee

Surreal fun from a delightfully playful comic

John Bishop, Touring

Veronica Lee

Short on jokes but long on charm

Jim Davidson, Sands Centre, Carlisle

Veronica Lee

Terrific gagmeister who delights in giving offence

Lee Mack, Eventim Apollo

Veronica Lee

Amiable comic races through a disappointing set

Paul Daniels, Touring

Veronica Lee

Expertly executed magic tricks with old-school humour

Lee Evans, O2 Arena

Veronica Lee

No amount of fart gags and racing about can hide the cobwebs on these jokes

Luisa Omielan, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Joyous and raucous hymn to modern womanhood

Forbidden Broadway, Vaudeville Theatre

David Nice

Fearless foursome spoofs the poker-faced and the overblown in magnificent Menier transfer

Joan Rivers, 1933-2014

Fisun Güner

The first lady of comedy whose biggest dread was an empty diary

Steen Raskopoulos, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Superb character comedy from Australian debutant

John Kearns/ Alex Edelman/ This Is Ceilidh

Veronica Lee

Winning shows at the Edinburgh Fringe

Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Chris Turner/ BEASTS/ Angela Barnes/ Show Pony

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Adam Riches/ Josie Long/ Loretta Maine/ Dane Baptiste/ Tom Allen

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Bridget Christie/ Men in the Cities/ Lazy Susan/ Outings

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Listed: The laughter and tears of Robin Williams

Jasper Rees

From Mork to mawkish, the clips that define a brilliant career

Edinburgh Fringe: Andrew Maxwell/ Spoiling

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Ursula Martinez: My Stories, Your Emails, Purcell Room

Hanna Weibye

Smart show about stripping and the internet

Edinburgh Fringe: Sarah Kendall/Christian O'Connell

Veronica Lee

First reviews from the Fringe of 2014

theartsdesk at Latitude: Damon Albarn/Booker T Jones

Matthew Wright

Booker T Jones' set of Sixties hits wows the crowd - but is Damon Albarn's new solo material a touch too subtle to headline?

Chelsea Handler, London Palladium

Veronica Lee

Brisk and businesslike debut for US comic

Monty Python, O2 Arena

Veronica Lee

Reunion of comedy royalty is worth the wait

Dawn French, Brighton Theatre Royal

Veronica Lee

One half of comedy duo makes assured debut as solo performer

Adrienne Truscott, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

Show about a serious subject is acidly funny

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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