Comedy reviews, news & interviews
Joseph Morpurgo, Pleasance Courtyard ***** In Soothing Sounds For Baby, Joseph Morpurgo uses found objects - vinyl CDs with content so esoteric you suspect him of inventing them - and the framework of Radio 4's Desert Island Discs to fashion an ingenious and wonderful show. Morpurgo is supposedly Kirsty Young's guest on the radio show - although in his painstaking cut and paste clips of the programme, Young's questioning becomes increasingly fractious so we know something is up....
Nish Kumar, Pleasance Courtyard ★★★★There's been so little out-and-out political comedy at this year's Fringe that it's a real joy to find a stand-up so engaged with politics as Nish Kumar.Kumar lays out his stall early on. The issue of diversity in the arts is, he says, "a subject very close to my face". He goes on to discuss why men still dominate everything, and the reasons why Jeremy Corbyn is popular. Full marks for being bang up to date.Although he also talks engagingly about...
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.
Stewart Lee: A Room with a Stew, Leicester Square Theatre
21 September – 6 December 2015 & 2 – 8 January 2016
A brand new live show with fresh material in preparation for Stewart's next BBC2 series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. Throughout this extensive season, the middle-aged comedian will explore new subjects, try-out brand new material and will cut and add sections. Urine, the Union Jack and the ghosts of dead comedians are some of the subjects Stewart explores ... see it live now months ahead of transmission.
"What is exhilarating is how many surprises he still throws in and how deft his jumps are from one tone to another.... invigorating" Times ★★★★
Stewart Lee is a BAFTA and Comedy Award-winning comedian and writer. Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle is in its 4th series for BBC2. He is a regular columnist for the Observer and is probably appearing at a theatre near you soon.
For more information and to book tickets please visit www.stewartlee.co.uk
Age guidance: 14+
Running time: approx 90 mins plus interval
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