tue 22/10/2019

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Elf Lyons, Komedia, Brighton review - bonkers, brilliant and a bit of bare bum

Katie Colombus

Elf Lyons’ new show, Love Songs To Guinea Pigs, has moved away from her usual slapstick and absurdist mimicry into new realms of traditional stand up. She cites the reason as being unable to do mime on the radio, but there’s a more serious reason for the switch.

Rob Beckett, St David's Hall, Cardiff review - a mixed bag of observations

Owen Richards

There’s been no avoiding Rob Beckett in recent years. His high beam smile and infectious personality have made him a mainstay of comedy shows. Now he’s back on the road with what he calls the best job in the world, stand up. You can tell he means it, with a show that thrives on enthusiasm if not consistency.

DVD: Do Not Adjust Your Set / At Last The 1948...

Graham Rickson

Both first broadcast in 1967, Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last the 1948 Show were collectively written and performed by the future Monty Python...

Eddie Izzard, Brighton Dome review - splendidly...

Veronica Lee

Eddie Izzard is dressed in a killer outfit of black leather jacket, tartan mini-kilt, thigh-length stiletto boots – and false boobs. “I got them at...

Russell Howard, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena review...

Owen Richards

It’s been two years since Russell Howard last performed stand-up. That’s a long gap for such an established fixture of British comedy. As he points...

Ed Byrne, Berry Theatre, Hedge End review - musing on middle-age angst

Veronica Lee

Cheery physicality in an entertaining hour

Count Arthur Strong, Leeds City Varieties review - stargazing and mangled syntax

Veronica Lee

Steve Delaney's meticulously created character

Brydon, Mack and Mitchell, Portsmouth Guildhall review - family-friendly fun

Veronica Lee

'Would I Lie to You?' team on the road

Romesh Ranganathan, Brighton Dome review - transgressive, edgy and very likeable

Thomas H Green

The TV favourite hits the ground running at the start of his Cynic's Mixtape tour

Sofie Hagen, Soho Theatre review - sex weekend in Swansea, anyone?

Veronica Lee

The tricks that memories play

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Jordan Brookes/ Catherine Cohen

Veronica Lee

Dave's Edinburgh Comedy Awards winners

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Alun Cochrane/ Sarah Keyworth/ Glenn Moore/ Sophie Duker

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: Arabella Weir - Does My Mum Loom Big In This?

David Kettle

Fringe debut on her overbearing mother feels too polite to confront its own darkness

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Catherine Bohart / Matt Parker / Nigel Ng / Zoë Coombs Marr

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Phil Wang/ London Hughes/ Jack Gleadow/ Mr. Thing

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Joanne McNally/ The Crown Dual/ Maisie Adam/ James McNicholas/ Titania McGrath

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Clive Anderson / Goodbear

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Nick Helm/ Just These Please/ Anna Drezen

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Josie Long / Snort / Sara Barron

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Ciaran Dowd/ Tom Parry/ Suzi Ruffell, Pleasance Courtyard

Veronica Lee

The world's biggest and best arts festival begins

Robin Ince, Soho Theatre review - fun among the chaos

Veronica Lee

Celebration of the complexities of the human mind

Jerry Seinfeld, Eventim Apollo review - slick and smart but curiously soulless

Veronica Lee

US star makes rare UK appearance

Arthur Smith, Soho Theatre review - charming tribute to his father

Veronica Lee

Nostalgia, songs and old jokes

Frank Skinner, Leicester Square Theatre - mixing some acid with the charm

Veronica Lee

Preamble to autumn tour works a treat

Emily Atack, Clapham Grand review - I'm a Celebrity... star's first solo show

Veronica Lee

Likeable but light on laughs

Al Murray as the Pub Landlord, Embassy Theatre Skegness review - comic pulls his punches

Veronica Lee

Ageing character has little new to say on Brexit

Ruby Wax, Brighton Festival 2019 review - how to be human

Katie Colombus

An evening of laughs alongside real lessons in mindfulness and neurology

Andy Hamilton, Brighton Festival 2019 review - gently amusing night of reminiscence

Thomas H Green

Comedy writing perennial spends an evening answering audience questions

Seann Walsh, Broadway, Letchworth Garden City review - Strictly's bad boy tells his story

Veronica Lee

Ramifications of being caught in a tabloid storm

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.

Close Footnote

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Ono, Barbican review -...

We have John Eliot Gardiner to thank for an unconventional diptych of...

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, National Portrait Gallery review – a...

Focusing on twelve women who played a key role in the lives of Pre-Raphaelite painters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and...

Miklós Perényi, Dénes Várjon, Wigmore Hall review – Beethove...

"Revelatory":  it’s one of those words which is now completely devalued through having been carelessly dropped into a thousand press releases...

‘We must not allow boorish, opportunistic autocrats to hijac...

For as long as I can remember, there has been a continuous loop of original music playing in my mind. My father used to joke about my “tuyuyo...

CD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Colorado

Neil Young’s prolific, patchy output rejects the very notion of major releases, though only a major artist would...

Lungs, Old Vic review - deluxe casting and slick delivery

Playing our monarch and her husband in The Crown has made actors...

Hot Chip, Barrowland, Glasgow review - dancefloor kings keep...

Familiarity evidently does not breed contempt, at least in the case of Hot Chip and...

John le Carré: Agent Running in the Field review - fake news...

That John le Carré! It turns out the agent isn’t so much running in the field as playing badminton. The master of the...

Spiral, Series 7, BBC Four review - hard-hitting return of o...

And welcome back to our favourite French cop show – perhaps our favourite...