tue 19/11/2019

Comedy Reviews

theartsdesk at the Latitude Festival: Smorgasbord in Suffolk

David Cheal Latitude: Well run, pleasant, helpful, and with the customary array of attractively coloured sheep

Latitude: this four-day event in the attractive environs of Henham Park, near Southwold, is, as its slogan says, “more than just a music festival”. Quite so. But how to review such a groaning cultural smorgasbord? This year, rather than delivering an indigestible wodge of words, I thought I’d take a slightly different approach; thus my account of my four days in Suffolk is divided into thematic sections which correspond only roughly to the festival’s own creative categorisations. So...

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Jeff Garlin, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee

It must be the beautiful British weather that has attracted a bunch of American comics to UK shores recently. Just before Las Vegas legend Rita Rudner starts a short season at the Leicester Square Theatre in London and hot on the heels of his Curb Your Enthusiasm sometime colleague Jerry Seinfeld (who recently did one night at the O2 in Greenwich and of whom more later)...

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The Pajama Men, Soho Theatre

Jasper Rees Wakey, wakey: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez are The Pajama Men

The 2009 Edinburgh Fringe featured a likeable comic duo in pajamas with imaginations as elastic as their faces. The titular garment – spelt the American way after their nationality – suggested both excitable role-play after lights out and those internally logical narratives we visit in our sleep. Their enacted tales of ghouls and freaks, nutters and natterers made only a perfunctionary effort to cohere, but audiences collapsed with laughter and the Pajama Men have now twice taken up...

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The Flying Karamazov Brothers, Vaudeville Theatre

ismene Brown The Flying Karamazov Brothers: The same routines for 30 years have done them no harm whatever

The Flying Karamazov Brothers give a new meaning to the word “practised”. Their first stage show in 1981 was called Juggling and Cheap Theatrics - a smart title that they could have kept for the show they bring to London’s West End, largely made of routines that this celebrated US comedy-juggling act have been doing for decades. It’s weird to see in YouTubes of their early performances some of the material I watched last night at the Vaudeville. Still, the fact is those old...

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Derren Brown: Svengali, Shaftesbury Theatre

Veronica Lee Derren Brown: Witty and urbane performer who never humiliates his on-stage subjects

Derren Brown is witty, urbane, clever and a keen student of what makes humans tick - which must come as a huge advantage when you are developing an evening’s entertainment based on kidology. He makes it clear he’s not a psychic or clairvoyant and that there is a rational explanation for everything he does in his two and a half hours on stage, and indeed describes himself as “Illusionist, mentalist and sceptic” - I imagine emphasis is on the sceptic.

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Jerry Seinfeld, O2 Arena

Veronica Lee

Jerry Seinfeld, acclaimed New York stand-up and star of the eponymous American sitcom co-created with Larry David, last performed in the UK 13 years ago. He’s currently doing a brief European tour and, while keen fans were quick to snap up tickets at the O2 in London, there were noticeably bare areas in the vast arena last night. Lots of British comics have managed to sell out the O2 (some repeatedly), but those unsold seats should come as no surprise; ticket prices started at £75 and went...

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John Cleese, Touring

Veronica Lee John Cleese: An engaging raconteur who says his success is down to good luck

Even if you are not of an age to have watched Monty Python’s Flying Circus or Fawlty Towers when they were first broadcast by the BBC, you will have heard of John Cleese. And if you are remotely a fan of comedy, you will hold Cleese in high regard as he is a writer, performer and actor of great talent, and this show, an overview of his life and career, proves it beyond argument.

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Nina Conti, Menier Chocolate Factory

Veronica Lee Monkey talk: Nina Conti and Monk, one of her puppets

You don’t see much ventriloquism these days. It’s a comedy form mostly associated with variety and Victorian music hall - although it goes back at least to the Greeks - and gives a lot of people the heebie-jeebies. I know several people who can’t watch Michael Redgrave’s chilling performance as the unbalanced ventriloquist Maxwell Frere, who believes his dummy is alive, in the 1945 Ealing horror film Dead of Night. And it’s Psych 1.01 to appreciate there may be some serious...

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Des Bishop, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee Des Bishop: An outsider’s acutely observational view of people and their foibles

As the audience files in, James Bond title songs accompany a looped clip from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was George Lazenby’s sole outing as 007. There’s a reason, as this funny, touching but wholly unsentimental show is a sort of comic tribute to Des Bishop’s father, Mike, who auditioned for the role after Sean Connery hung up his Walther PPK in 1968.

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Tim Vine, Touring

Veronica Lee

Normally, comedy critics maintain the polite convention of not writing comics’ jokes in reviews - it spoils the fun for punters if they then see the show and already know the punchline. But even if this review was peppered with gags from Tim Vine’s Joke-amotive, they would represent only a tiny percentage of the astonishing number of funnies he gets through in his set.

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