wed 24/10/2018

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Ciarán Dowd, Soho Theatre review - terrific spoof swordsman tale

Veronica Lee

The Edinburgh Fringe does throw up some oddities – in comedy shows, of course, but also in its dishing out of awards. And so it was that Ciarán Dowd's marvellous Don Rodolfo deservedly gained the Edinburgh Comedy Award for best newcomer, even though he's an old Fringe hand.

Ivo Graham, Soho Theatre review - the perils of growing up

Veronica Lee

Considering where Motion Sickness ends up, Ivo Graham's new show begins a million miles away, as he talks about his love of trains and his favourite train company, Chiltern – or “The Chilt”. But don't be fooled by this quotidian fare; what begins as a seemingly aimless wander down a path of nothing very much packs an emotional punch by the end of the hour.

Nish Kumar, Soho Theatre review - the state we...

Veronica Lee

Blimey, Nish Kumar is angry. Angry about Donald Trump, angry about misogyny, angry about racism, angry about Brexit – angry about a lot of things....

Katherine Ryan, Garrick Theatre review - feminism...

Veronica Lee

Katherine Ryan was making her West End debut – a big moment in any comic’s career – but she made her entrance on stage at the Garrick unannounced....

The League of Gentlemen Live Again!, Sunderland...

Veronica Lee

When the League of Gentlemen – Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, plus non-performing writer Jeremy Dyson – reformed for an excellent...

Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Rose Matafeo review

Veronica Lee

Edinburgh Comedy Award winner has a wonderfully daft show

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 reviews: Rosie Jones/ Marcus Brigstocke/ Alice Snedden

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Luisa Omielan/ Brennan Reece/ Olga Koch

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 reviews: Ari Shaffir/ Ashley Blaker/ Janeane Garofalo

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 reviews: Alex Edelman/ Jayde Adams/ Kieran Hodgson

Veronica Lee

More from the world’s biggest and best arts festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 reviews: Catherine Bohart / Norris & Parker / Pelican

Veronica Lee

Opening on the fringe at the world's biggest and best arts festival

Flight of the Conchords review, Eventim Apollo - New Zealand musical spoofers make welcome return

Veronica Lee

Worth the wait for Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement

Enter theartsdesk / h Club Young Influencer of the Year award

Theartsdesk

In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club100 Awards, we're looking for the best cultural writers, bloggers and vloggers

Bridget Christie, Brighton Festival review - politics through a domestic lens

Veronica Lee

Brexit and its fallout still an obsession

Sarah Kendall, Soho Theatre review - a superb storyteller

Veronica Lee

Australian stand-up muses on the lottery of life

Danny Baker, Touring review - boy, can he talk

Veronica Lee

Radio personality gives it the verbals

Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to celebrate Brighton Festival!

Theartsdesk

Enter our competition to win a spectacular weekend at England's finest arts festival

Shazia Mirza, Touring review - race and politics examined

Veronica Lee

Ramshackle show from super-smart comic

Flo and Joan, Soho Theatre review - sisters in satirical harmony

Veronica Lee

Musical comedy with complex rhymes

Ed Byrne, Touring review - the perils of modern fatherhood

Veronica Lee

Personal but not self-indulgent

Angela Barnes, Soho Theatre review - history with great gags

Veronica Lee

Cold War buff with a weird obsession

Daliso Chaponda, Touring review - uneven but entertaining

Veronica Lee

Britain's Got Talent finalist on first UK tour

Score review - breathless dash through music and film

David Kettle

Fascinating but frenetic documentary celebrating movie composers

Simon Evans, Soho Theatre review - intellect examined

Veronica Lee

Modern politics laid bare

Craig Hill, Glasgow International Comedy Festival review - sweary and filthy fun

Veronica Lee

Festival gets off to a rousing start

Fern Brady, Soho Theatre review - opinions with raw edge

Veronica Lee

Young Scot with desert-dry delivery

Rose Matafeo, Soho Theatre review - sassy and she knows it

Veronica Lee

New Zealand comic with original takes on the big stuff

Hannah Gadsby, Soho Theatre review - misogyny explored

Veronica Lee

Straight-talking comic takes no prisoners

Andrew Maxwell, Soho Theatre - insightful political comedy

Veronica Lee

Brexit and beyond

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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