fri 23/10/2020

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

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

Veronica Lee

What a pleasure it was to step inside a West End theatre again, and what a different experience it was – temperature checks at the door, a one-way system through to the seats and an app to order drinks. While markedly smaller audiences are terrible for theatres' bottom line, this Covid-secure environment – with no foyer crush or queue at the bar, and better air conditioning – makes for a reassuringly safe night at the theatre.

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

Veronica Lee

After a successful – and very welcome - summer season of gigs in its outdoor courtyard, Battersea Arts Centre has come indoors for its autumn season of comedy from the Grand Hall; it started with this strong mixed bill curated by the promoters Berk's Nest.

Picnic at the Castle review - entertaining mixed...

Veronica Lee

Of all the outdoor spaces being utilised to keep live performance going in this maddest of years, Warwick Castle is surely among the most striking....

Mixed bill, 21Soho review - opening of new club...

Veronica Lee

Comedy is all about timing, and the owners of the UK's newest comedy club should know. Just days after they obtained the final licences they needed...

The Warren Outdoor Season, Brighton review -...

Veronica Lee

The Warren is normally to be found in Brighton city centre, where it stages shows during the Brighton Fringe. But there's nothing normal about 2020,...

The New Normal, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building review - strong mixed bill

Veronica Lee

Pop-up arts festival in a lovely Gothic venue

John Cleese, livestream from Cadogan Hall review - abandon all hope, says the former Python

Veronica Lee

More of an erudite lecture than a show

Comedy in the Courtyard, BAC review - al fresco gags

Veronica Lee

Short season of outdoor gigs opens

Mark Watson's Carpool Comedy Club, Hever Castle review - mixed bill with gags and gourmet food

Veronica Lee

Classy outdoor entertainment

Car Park Comedy, Henley review - Comedy Store's mixed bill

Veronica Lee

Elegant surroundings for latest drive-in show

@TheDriveIn, Blackheath review - comedy and car-aoke

Veronica Lee

Pleasant summer entertainment

Dom Joly / Daniel Sloss, Brent Cross reviews - UK's first drive-in comedy shows

Veronica Lee

The Drive-In Club makes a little bit of history

Desiree Burch, Soho Theatre On Demand review - fantastical storytelling

Veronica Lee

California comic on Burning Man, sex, race – and LSD

Lockdown Comedy 2: where to get your laughs this week

Veronica Lee

Live stand-up recordings and podcasts

Jerry Seinfeld, Netflix review - not bad for a swansong

Veronica Lee

US comic says this may be his last stand-up show

Lockdown Comedy 1: where to get your laughs this week

Veronica Lee

Live stand-up, podcasts and not the Eurovision Song Contest

Aditi Mittal, Soho Theatre On Demand review - cows, mothers and fempowerment

Veronica Lee

Indian comic on how she discovered feminism

Simon Amstell, Netflix review - wisdom and wisecracks

Veronica Lee

Confessional existential angst

Blu-ray: Buster Keaton - Three Films, Vol. 2

Graham Rickson

Technical brilliance and belly laughs: three features from a great director at his peak

Rachel Fairburn, Go Faster Stripe review - smart and subtle gags

Veronica Lee

Feminism and unlikely heroes

Lazy Susan, Soho Theatre On Demand review - sketch duo's ingeniously plotted show

Veronica Lee

Freya Parker and Celeste Dring examine male behaviour

Michelle Wolf: Joke Show, Netflix review - edgy and original material

Veronica Lee

US comic takes no prisoners

Shappi Khorsandi, Soho Theatre On Demand - enjoyable run-through of her career

Veronica Lee

Two decades as a stand-up

Roy Hudd: 'I was just trying to make 'em laugh'

Jasper Rees

The most traditional of entertainers, who has died at 83, harked back to a vanished age

Steve Martin and Martin Short, SSE Hydro Glasgow review - old friends bring a touch of vaudeville

Veronica Lee

Hoary gags, music, and even a soft-shoe shuffle

Tom Rosenthal, The Hawth, Crawley review - circumcision made funny

Veronica Lee

Knob gags, but with a serious purpose

John Shuttleworth, Leicester Square Theatre review - reflections on life in the slow lane

Veronica Lee

Graham Fellows' alter ego returns

Lucy Porter, Quarterhouse, Folkestone review - confessions of an ex-Brownie

Veronica Lee

Relentlessly upbeat show

Ahir Shah, West End Centre, Aldershot review - a millennial's existential angst

Veronica Lee

Religion, politics - and vaping

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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