fri 24/01/2020

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Matt Forde, Soho Theatre review - Brexit and beyond

Veronica Lee

Matt Forde sets out his stall in Brexit: Pursued by a Bear from the first line: “We meet in diabolical circumstances.” These aren't good times, he says, with two major leaders in the Western world whose relationship with the truth is merely that of passing acquaintance.

Flo & Joan, Soho Theatre review - entertaining wit and whimsy

Veronica Lee

Musical comedy siblings Nicola and Rosie Dempsey (Flo and Joan were their grandmother and great-aunt's names) get along very well – even being mistaken for lovers by one Paris hotel who gave them a double bed – and certainly their chat between songs, where they politely interrupt each other and finish each other's sentences, is testimony to that.

Frank Skinner, Garrick Theatre review - a...

Veronica Lee

When Frank Skinner did a London run of new material last year, the show was billed as a taster of a longer touring version. I wrote then that the...

Leicester Comedy Festival Gala Preview Show, De...

Veronica Lee

A mixed bill rarely pleases all comedy tastes – whether in style or content – and so it proved at the launch of the Leicester Comedy Festival, which...

Best of 2019: Comedy

Veronica Lee

It was a year in which we welcomed some big, big names back on stage, including Ben Elton, Clive Anderson and Jack Dee.Elton was back on sparkling...

Adam Kay, Bloomsbury Theatre review - festive tales from the NHS coalface

Veronica Lee

Medic-turned-comic reads from his waspish memoir

Andy Parsons, Stamford Corn Exchange review - politics and the art of persuasion

Veronica Lee

Cheering antidote to Brexit blues

Jack Whitehall, O2 Arena - a mix of posh and puerile

Veronica Lee

Smart lines amid the mundane observations

Ivo Graham: The Game of Life, Soho Theatre review - privilege and parenting

Veronica Lee

New fatherhood runs as a thread through show

Stewart Lee: Tornado/Snowflake, Leicester Square Theatre review - snark to Sharknado

Veronica Lee

Double bill from the king of sarcasm

Jack Dee, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage review - now he really is a grumpy old man

Veronica Lee

Observational comic has grown into his stage persona

Tim Minchin, Eventim Apollo review - fabulous triumph of rhyme and reason

Jasper Rees

Age has not withered the ginger Ninja comic, but there is an intruiging new tone

Jonathan Pie, Eventim Apollo review - spoof reporter in coruscating form

Veronica Lee

Tom Walker's creation gives a state-of-the-union lecture

Lou Sanders, Soho Theatre review - feminism and dodgy massages

Veronica Lee

'Taskmaster' winner keeps it real

Ben Elton, Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall review - magnificent return to stand-up

Veronica Lee

Doyen of alternative comedy in cracking form

Lenny Henry, Watford Colosseum review - enjoyable evening with genial host

Veronica Lee

Sir Lenny takes his autobiography on tour

Hannah Gadsby, Royal Festival Hall review - simply magnificent

Veronica Lee

Follow-up to breakthrough show shines a light on autism

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

Katie Colombus

An endearing personal journey into why guinea pigs hate their loving, attentive owners

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

Owen Richards

Scattergun approach yields both killer lines and tame misses

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

Graham Rickson

What the Pythons did first: the remnants of two iconic 1960s shows, restored with respect

Eddie Izzard, Brighton Dome review - splendidly surreal storytelling

Veronica Lee

Farewell tour hits the heights

Russell Howard, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena review - a return with bite

Owen Richards

Testing times call for some big targets and bigger laughs

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

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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