sun 17/02/2019

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Brighton Festival 2019 launches with Guest Director Rokia Traoré

Thomas H Green

The striking cover for the Brighton Festival 2019 programme shouts out loud who this year’s Guest Director is. Silhouetted in flowers, in stunning artwork by Simon Prades, is the unmistakeable profile of Malian musician Rokia Traoré.

Adam Riches Is The Guy Who..., Drink, Shop & Do review - super-suave Lothario on the prowl

Veronica Lee

The first line of this show is “I'm the guy who you meet right after you come out of a long-term relationship.” On the night I see The Guy Who..., Adam Riches has three tries with it before he meets his target, a woman who has been dumped by a long-standing boyfriend.

Lost Voice Guy, Soho Theatre review - Britain...

Veronica Lee

Lost Voice Guy – aka Lee Ridley – won Britain’s Got Talent last year. He's a unique talent in that his cerebral palsy means he is unable to speak,...

Daniel Sloss, Leicester Square Theatre review -...

Veronica Lee

Daniel Sloss's latest show is called X, to denote his 10th show. The Scottish comic started in comedy as a teenager in 2009 when a lot of his...

James Acaster, Phoenix Theatre review - a...

Veronica Lee

There's a story in James Acaster's superb new show at the Phoenix Theatre which hangs on him being the first UK comic to shoot several Netflix...

Leicester Comedy Festival Gala Preview Show review - an entertaining mixed bag

Veronica Lee

Curtain-raiser to next month's offerings

The Catherine Tate Show Live, Wyndham's Theatre review - sketch show favourites on stage

Veronica Lee

Catchphrases galore and great fun from the queen of sketch comedy

Best of 2018: Comedy

Veronica Lee

Returning greats and a memorable newcomer

Hari Kondabolu, Soho Theatre review - from politics to papayas

Veronica Lee

US comic with an original take on all manner of things

Matt Forde, Purcell Room review - politics plus deft impressions

Veronica Lee

Astute state of the nation material from former Labour man

Dave Gorman, Royal Festival Hall review - PowerPoint king is back with bite

Veronica Lee

Fake news, domestic harmony and daytime TV

Natalie Palamides, Soho Theatre - challenging show about consent

Veronica Lee

Deft and witty examination of a difficult subject

Ayesha Hazarika, Soho Theatre review - feminism examined

Veronica Lee

Fascinating and often funny take on the subject

Ciarán Dowd, Soho Theatre review - terrific spoof swordsman tale

Veronica Lee

Award-winning show is great fun

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

Veronica Lee

Going deep into personal material unearths lots of laughs

Nish Kumar, Soho Theatre review - the state we're in

Veronica Lee

He's angry – but he has a lot to be angry about

Katherine Ryan, Garrick Theatre review - feminism with extra sass

Veronica Lee

A laugh-heavy hour from the Canadian

The League of Gentlemen Live Again!, Sunderland Empire review - going local for local people

Veronica Lee

Sketch group back on the road for the first time since 2005

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

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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