tue 03/08/2021

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Bo Burnham: Inside, Netflix review - a masterpiece about lockdown angst

Veronica Lee

Some people perfected their banana loaf or sourdough bread during lockdown. Others tried to learn a new language or how to play an instrument. Bo Burnham produced this masterpiece.

Comedy Shindig, Melbourne Hall review - Jason Manford headlines opening night

Veronica Lee

What a great idea Just the Tonic's Comedy Shindig is; outdoor gigs at lovely locations under a huge awning - so who cares if the British summer turns out to be a bit wet this year? The season kicked off – in beautiful weather – in the grounds of Melbourne Hall near Derby, where a sunken Victorian walled garden provided a natural amphitheatre. Chuck in a barbecue and a bar, and it was a perfect way to enjoy an evening of comedy.

Jimmy Carr, Palace Theatre review - rape gags and...

Veronica Lee

What to make of Jimmy Carr? He’s a fantastic gag writer and experienced stand-up who has made a hugely successful career on television. And yet... as...

Mark Thomas, Soho Theatre review - new state-of-...

Veronica Lee

Mark Thomas comes on stage unannounced. It's not a show of humility – rather, he told us, amused at his own mistake, that his hearing isn't what it...

Arthur Smith, Brighton Fringe review - touching...

Veronica Lee

“A real live audience,” said Arthur Smith delightedly as he kicked off the Brighton Fringe with Syd, his touching and funny tribute to his late...

Josie Long, Brighton Festival 2021 review - giddy post-lockdown spin on pregnancy-based show

Thomas H Green

Delayed for a year, Long's 2019 Edinburgh Fringe success finally makes it to Brighton

Reclaim These Streets fundraiser, 21Soho review - entertaining mixed bill hosted by Sarah Keyworth

Veronica Lee

Comedy clubs reopen

Mark Watson's Carpool Comedy Club, Henley-Marlow review - Nish Kumar sticks it to the Tories

Veronica Lee

Passions run high with political gags

Mark Watson's Carpool Comedy Club, the Hop Farm review - strong kick-off to 2021 live comedy

Veronica Lee

Kent venue provided picturesque backdrop

Comedy podcasts round-up 5: politics, relationships and spoofery

Veronica Lee

Chatty women and happy couples

Loyiso Gola, Netflix review - South African muses on race, religion and friendship

Veronica Lee

Reflections that make you stop and think

Working From Home online review - Johnny Vegas and Jason Byrne in a strong line-up

Veronica Lee

Livestreamed variety evening is terrific fun

Comedy podcasts round-up 4: plus a vodcast and some retro audio

Veronica Lee

Anniversary release for Fawlty Towers vinyl

Chinese Arts Now Festival review - comedy of the diaspora

Veronica Lee

Clips and chat from comics of Chinese heritage

Rachel Parris and Marcus Brigstocke's Tuesday Night Club review - daft and good-hearted

Veronica Lee

Lockdown fun has taken on a life of its own

First Night Funnies, Leicester Comedy Festival review - uneven start to 2021's online gathering

Veronica Lee

Sikisa was a charming and ebullient host

Comedy podcasts round-up 3: from home and abroad

Veronica Lee

Travel, chat and what's in the news

Back, Channel 4 review - return of sibling-rivalry comedy with Mitchell and Webb

Veronica Lee

Simon Blackwell delves into fraternal mind games

Comedy podcasts round-up 2: from home and abroad

Veronica Lee

Lively chat, masterful spoofing and behind-the-scenes fun

Best of 2020: Comedy

Veronica Lee

Outdoor venues and podcasts to the rescue

Comedy podcasts round-up 1: from home and abroad

Veronica Lee

Conversation, fun facts and jokes

Natalie Palamides: Nate: A One Man Show, Netflix review - deep dive into toxic masculinity still has power

Veronica Lee

'One-man' show about consent

Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine, Netflix review - star-studded special for Trump lip-syncer

Veronica Lee

Politics and race examined in sketch show

Dear Joan & Jericha review - glorious wrong advice from spoof agony aunts

Veronica Lee

Filthy and fun creation of Julia Davis and Vick Pepperdine

Adam Kay, Apollo Theatre review - former medic tells tales from NHS front line

Veronica Lee

Gala show to reopen West End theatre

Live From the Grand Hall, BAC review - strong mixed bill to start autumn season

Veronica Lee

Lockdown stories, personal woes and a bit of politics

Picnic at the Castle review - entertaining mixed bill

Veronica Lee

Warwick Castle provides striking backdrop

Mixed bill, 21Soho review - opening of new club is cause for celebration

Veronica Lee

Strong line-up with engaging MC

The Warren Outdoor Season, Brighton review - creatives take to the beach

Veronica Lee

Performances in a pop-up theatre

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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