fri 13/12/2019

Comedy Reviews

Edinburgh Fringe: Jason Cook/ Lee Kern/ Barrow Street Theatre

Veronica Lee Jason Cook: The Geordie comic's show is about his suspected heart attack last year

He may describe himself as “a Geordie chancer”, but in reality Jason Cook is a warm comic whose material is utterly devoid of cynicism. Yet he’s far from being pious - he spices up his act with caustic barbs for deserving targets (quite often himself) and has a raft of sharp putdowns for hecklers who think they’re wittier than he is.

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The Unforgettable Bob Monkhouse, ITV1

Adam Sweeting Bob Monkhouse: 'What's the difference between roast beef and pea soup? Anyone can roast beef...'

He wasn't a jack of all trades, said his friend June Whitfield, "he was a master of all trades". The charge of "smarminess" dogged Bob Monkhouse throughout his career, but as this quietly penetrating documentary made clear, he was highly intelligent, multi-talented and had a lot of layers he kept to himself. Actor, scriptwriter, singer, novelist (though they didn't really mention that part), stand-up comic, cartoonist, radio star, gameshow host and posthumous campaigner against the prostate...

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Better Off Ted, FX

Adam Sweeting Ted (Jay Harrington) and Veronica (Portia De Rossi) locked in a power-meeting at Veridian Dynamics

And first the bad news. The ABC network in the States has already declared Better Off Ted dead, after a paltry two seasons. Which is a pity, since acerbic, mildly surreal satires about the workings of corporate America don’t come along very often.

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Would I Lie to You? BBC One

howard Male The crew of the Starship Deception about to lie as no one has lied before

The fact that we humans are, technically speaking, bad liars proves that we are instinctively moral creatures (rather than getting our morals from our god or our parents) and that lying is therefore, evolutionarily speaking, probably a bad idea. You can get away with saying you were caught in traffic, rather than admitting you were in the pub, but a polygraph will pick up on changes in blood pressure, pulse and respiration - those indicators of anxiety you’d rather not be feeling - and your...

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Latitude Festival, Suffolk

David Cheal Latitude: Blue skies and a cornucopia of culture

So little time, so much stuff to see: that, in essence, is the story of Latitude. Now in its fifth year, this Suffolk festival offers a bewildering cultural cornucopia: music, theatre, dance, cabaret, comedy, circus, literature, poetry, as well as unexpected oddities such as performers dressed as unicorns wandering the woods at night and teams of ghoulish “medics” defibrillating random victims (I was one of them) during theatre group Duckie’s Saturday night masked ball. It’s a blast (albeit...

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Pete and Dud: The Lost Sketches, BBC Two/ British Grand Prix, BBC One

Adam Sweeting Wossy and his mirthsome pals celebrate Cook and Moore, with the great Clifford Slapper at the piano

Great comedy may be timeless, but that's probably because of the great comedians performing it as much as the material itself. Could you imagine Dad's Army being anything more than a shadow of its former self if it was remade with a new cast? Would Frasier achieve the same transcendent mix of bourgeois self-regard and millisecond farcical timing with James Corden and Mathew Horne in place of  Kelsey Grammer and...

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Rich Fulcher: An Evening with Eleanor, the Tour Whore, Udderbelly, SE1

Kate Bassett

Fans of The Mighty Boosh may just about recognise Eleanor. The American character comic Rich Fulcher is best known – from that surreal television sitcom – for playing Bob Fossil, the insanely incompetent zoo manager who bemuses Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding with fits of wanton disco-dancing. However, Fulcher has squeezed himself into a frock for his current spate of live solo gigs, obviously being keen to raise the profile of his drag alter ego (who has also popped up on MTV).

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Gina Yashere, Udderbelly, SE1

Veronica Lee Gina Yashere: the Londoner of Nigerian origin can make even casual racism funny

In the game of musical chairs that has led up to their coverage of the soccer World Cup, BBC and ITV executives appear to have missed a trick; judging by last night’s explosive opening few minutes, in which Gina Yashere gave an expletive-laden analysis of England’s opening draw against the United States, the comic would be a whole lot more entertaining as a pundit than some of the mealy-mouthed ex-professionals they currently employ to tell us where it all went wrong.

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Pop-Up Poetry, Udderbelly

Veronica Lee

Performance poetry, I am told, is the new rock ’n’ roll. Poetry nights may vie with comedy at venues up and down the country, and a new generation of twentysomething urban poets and rappers are certainly strutting their stuff, but I’m yet to be convinced that it’s the burgeoning success that promoters would have us believe. Still, the first of two Pop-Up Poetry evenings of “poetry stand-up style” in the upturned purple cow on London’s South Bank gave me a chance to sample some of...

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Pajama Men, Soho Theatre

Kate Bassett 'Pajama Men': Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen create a rich fantasia dressed in their jimjams

We must be on the night train, as there's something crazily dreamlike about the Pajama Men's mercurial railroad fantasy, The Last Stand to Reason, which was a runaway Edinburgh Fringe hit last year and is now, deservedly, back at Soho by popular demand.

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