sat 25/05/2024

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Punt and Dennis, The Marlowe, Canterbury review - satire and sketches

Veronica Lee

Ten years after their last tour Steve Punt and High Dennis are back on the road with We Are Not a Robot. It comes after their long-running The Now Show on Radio 4 has ended and, reassuringly for their fans, is more of the same affable humour, with the occasional barb that they can throw in now they no longer have to answer to BBC producers.

DVD/Blu-ray: Billy Connolly - Big Banana Feet

Veronica Lee

The most striking thing about the 1976 documentary (restored and re-released by the BFI) is just how polite Billy Connolly comes across as. Not that he's impolite now, but the raucous stage presence and vibrant chatshow interviewee was yet to fully form.

Clinton Baptiste, Touring review - spoof...

Veronica Lee

Clinton Baptiste – clairvoyant, medium and psychic – first appeared briefly as a character in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights on Channel 4. Alex Lowe has...

Jack Docherty, Soho Theatre review - warm and...

Veronica Lee

For fans of a certain age the name Jack Docherty will always be associated with a very good run of chat shows on Channel 5; he was also the star of...

Rhod Gilbert, G-Live Guildford review - cancer,...

Veronica Lee

Rhod Gilbert is disarmingly honest about his thought process when he received his diagnosis of head and neck cancer in 2022. Following quickly from...

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Fern Brady, Netflix Special review - sex, relationships and death

Veronica Lee

Cynicism laced with playfulness

Jonathan Pie, Duke of York's Theatre review - spoof political reporter takes no prisoners

Veronica Lee

Tom Walker in a bravura display

Spencer Jones: Making Friends, Soho Theatre review - award-winning comedian mines his post-lockdown escape to the country

Gary Naylor

If big chickens scare you, this is your thing!

Six Chick Flicks, Leicester Square Theatre review - funny, frenetic and feminist spoof

Veronica Lee

Whip-smart parody of the genre

Pierre Novellie, Soho Theatre review - turning a heckle into a show

Veronica Lee

Thoughtful take on neurodivergence

Catherine Bohart, Soho Theatre review - girlfriends, gossip and gay parenthood

Veronica Lee

Full-throttle show from Irish comic

Miles Jupp, Cambridge Arts Theatre review - life's vicissitudes turned into laughs

Veronica Lee

Finding the funny in medical emergency

Andy Parsons, Touring review - reasons to be cheerful...

Veronica Lee

...Even if the country's falling apart

Bill Bailey: Thoughtifier, Brighton Centre review - offbeat adventures with a whirling, erudite mind

Thomas H Green

Bailey's fusion of studied musicality and off-the-wall wordplay remains one-of-a-kind

Paul Foot, Soho Theatre review - how to discover the meaning of life

Veronica Lee

Personal show from the absurdist comic

Jessica Fostekew, Soho Theatre review - age is just a number

Veronica Lee

Landmark birthday prompts some musings

Fascinating Aida, London Palladium review - celebrating 40 glorious years of filth and defiance

Helen Hawkins

Age has not withered one jot the FAs' fury at the absurdities of modern life

Frank Skinner: 30 Years of Dirt, Gielgud Theatre review - a mature master of class-A smut

Helen Hawkins

Has Skinner's act got less dirty over the years, or audiences more so?

Tatty Macleod, Soho Theatre review - cross-Channel relations

Veronica Lee

Entertaining debut from TikTok star who grew up England and France

Best of 2023: Comedy

Veronica Lee

Comebacks, emotional journeys and assured debuts

Reuben Kaye, Purcell Room review - Australian gives powerhouse performance

Veronica Lee

Cabaret setting for biographical comedy and songs

Trevor Noah: Off the Record, O2 review - welcome return to standup for the polyglot motormouth

Helen Hawkins

Back on tour, the former TV host has lost none of his charisma and charm

Lucy Beaumont, Touring review - Hull’s finest goes on the road

Veronica Lee

Taskmaster star has some tall tales

Michael McIntyre, Brighton Centre review - observational everyman

Veronica Lee

Jovial comic's first tour in five years

John Robins, touring - high anxiety can be funny

Veronica Lee

Addiction and angst laid bare

Peter Kay, O2 Arena review - comeback show is worth the wait

Veronica Lee

Nostalgia-fest delivers an emotional punch

Kate Berlant Is KATE, Soho Theatre review - glorious spoof of actory types

Veronica Lee

US comic brings her off-Broadway hit to the UK

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 review: Ahir Shah

Veronica Lee

Deserved winner of prestigious award

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Janine Harouni / Paddy Young / Ian Smith

Veronica Lee

Family life, the perils of flatshares, and how to beat stress

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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