sat 21/05/2022

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Andy Zaltzman, Soho Theatre review - satire on the hoof

Veronica Lee

Andy Zaltzman comes on stage to deliver a short preamble to his show Satirist For Hire. Much of the hour is suggested by the audience as they choose subjects they want him to muse on. Some have emailed before they arrive, others have left it till they arrive at the theatre; one shouts out a suggestion from the bar.

Brandon Wardell, Soho Theatre review - US comic wings it

Veronica Lee

Brandon Wardell is a big social media star – he has a large following on Twitter and Instagram, YouTube and TikTok – and has in the past appeared as support for fellow Millennial Bo Burnham. And now he is doing a short run at the Soho Theatre.

Stratagem With Alan Partridge, touring review -...

Veronica Lee

After the latest disaster in Alan Partridge’s rollercoaster career, what would be the logical next move? To be a lifestyle guru, obviously. Partridge...

Shaparak Khorsandi, touring review - sex, drugs...

Veronica Lee

Shaparak Khorsandi has reverted to her given name since she last toured (she used to be known as Shappi) but other than that not much has changed in...

String v SPITTA, Soho Theatre review - rival...

Veronica Lee

Spoofs of children's entertainment is a rich area for comics – whether it's the permanently drunk Jeremy Lion (Justin Edwards), or the permanently...

Katherine Ryan, London Palladium review - a softer comic emerges

Veronica Lee

With enough barbs to keep it pleasingly sharp

Catherine Bohart, Soho Theatre review - anatomy of a break-up

Veronica Lee

Honest appraisal of losing in love

Sarah Millican, Winter Gardens, Margate review - enjoyable filth

Veronica Lee

Comic is unflinchingly honest about body functions

Matt Forde: The Political Party review - topical stand-up and chat

Veronica Lee

Live recording of podcast with guest Angela Rayner

Nish Kumar, Soho Theatre review - how a bad gig turned into a terrific show

Veronica Lee

The story behind the headlines

Alan Carr, Milton Keynes Theatre review - comic keeps it relentlessly light

Veronica Lee

But real life overtakes art

Russell Howard, Netflix special review - joyous return to live performance

Veronica Lee

Stand-up with accompanying documentary

One-Woman Show review - Liz Kingsman's spot-on spoof

Veronica Lee

Comic does a deep dive into Fleabag territory

Best of 2021: Comedy

Veronica Lee

One masterpiece, and a celebration of the great outdoors

Shagged. Married. Annoyed. Live, O2 Arena review - popular podcast lost in translation

Veronica Lee

Intimacy crucial to Chris and Rosie Ramsey's show is missing

The Good Life, Richmond Theatre review - popular sitcom gets its own origin story

Gary Naylor

Tom, Barbara, Jerry and Margo are back in the '70s, but with a message for today

Alfie Brown, Soho Theatre review - a contrarian on great form

Veronica Lee

Mental health and male privilege examined

Ahir Shah, Soho Theatre review - lockdown laid bare

Veronica Lee

Disappointing show feels like a work in progress

Milk and Gall, Theatre 503 review - motherhood in the age of Trump

Gary Naylor

No-holds-barred comedy lays bare the unsentimental side of parenting

Iliza Shlesinger, Eventim Apollo review - feminism, the internet - and bras

Veronica Lee

US comic's acerbic take on being a woman

Dave Chappelle: The Closer, Netflix review - race and class examined

Veronica Lee

US comic is equal opportunities offender

Jason Manford, London Palladium review - lockdown laughs and feelgood fun

Veronica Lee

Worth the wait for this Covid-affected tour

Blithe Spirit, Harold Pinter Theatre review - an amusing, if dated, revival of the Coward classic

Gary Naylor

Jennifer Saunders delivers a fine turn as the celebrated Madame Arcati

Anuvab Pal, Soho Theatre review - Empire and Bollywood collide

Veronica Lee

Shaggy dog story with some history thrown in

Olga Koch, Soho Theatre review - personal, political and playful

Veronica Lee

What nationality and belonging mean

Dead Ringers Live, London Wonderground review - impressionists on great form

Veronica Lee

Radio 4 show's cast in Underbelly residency

theartsdesk Q&A: writer and comedian Tom Davis

Adam Sweeting

From singing Disney songs in drag to 'Murder in Successville' and BBC One's 'King Gary'

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Comedy Allstars, Underbelly review - depleted festival kicks off

Veronica Lee

Garrett Millerick excellent compere for late-night show

Wonderville, Palace Theatre review - magic and illusion family show

Veronica Lee

Variety of variable quality

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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