mon 02/08/2021

Comedy Reviews

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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Micky Flanagan, touring

Veronica Lee Micky Flanagan: Observational comic who slips in social comment among surreal invention

Micky Flanagan was a jobbing club comic for a few years before he shot to stardom with his first full-length Edinburgh Fringe show in 2007, for which he was nominated for a newcomer award at the grand age of 42. The show, What Chance Change?, charted his move from working-class herbert (or ’erbert in Flanagan’s deliciously cockney pronunciation) into middle-class ponce, now living in leafy suburbia and au fait with all things delicatessen, including sundried tomatoes and £5 loaves...

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Andy Parsons, O2 Indigo

Jasper Rees Andy Parsons: Does swearing make him too happy?

Andy Parsons can do angry, baffled, sarky. He can have a swing and hit a bullseye. Take this, Alan Sugar. Take that, Ryanair. But you wonder, is he too happy for greatness? The title of the show he’s currently touring hints at a cheery disposition. Gruntled, leaving off the negative prefix, begrudgingly suggests an essentially contented world view. So...

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Bryony Kimmings/ Shazia Mirza, Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee Bryony Kimmings: Her act includes a catchy song about words and phrases for the vagina

At first sight there seems to be little to connect these two comics - one a performance artist who spends much of her show in her underwear, the other a self-described 34-year-old virgin - who are touring with their 2010 Edinburgh Fringe shows, except that they are both currently appearing in the same studio space at the Soho Theatre in London. But having been underwhelmed after seeing their shows back to back, I see similarities - my notes contain the common scribblings “weak material” and...

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Scott Agnew, The Stand, Glasgow

Veronica Lee Scott Agnew: The 6ft 5in Glaswegian likes long stories

Scotland certainly loves its comedy. In addition to the month-long bliss that is the Edinburgh Fringe, just along the M8 Glasgow has been providing its own few weeks of fun since 2003. Their comedy festival has a very different feel to it - less of a comics’ gathering (they do one-nighters rather than residencies) and more of a busy schedule - but it’s all very enjoyable even so. Last night I saw local boy Scott Agnew, a 6ft 5in gay Glaswegian - not a phrase I have the opportunity to write...

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Ed Byrne, Touring

Veronica Lee Ed Byrne: Joke-making of the highest order

Many of you will know Ed Byrne from his appearances on BBC shows such as Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, where his sardonic take on current affairs marks him out as a sharp-tongued and quick-witted comic. Now he’s touring with a new show, Crowd Pleaser, which I saw at the Anvil in Basingstoke; like his previous live work, it’s another well-constructed evening of smart observational comedy.

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Ruby Wax: Losing It, Menier Chocolate Factory

Veronica Lee

Ruby Wax has packed a lot into her life - writer, actor, stand-up comic, television interviewer, to name a few. But possibly her greatest professional achievement will be her work in mental health, prompted by her own experiences of depression, which has led to a BBC series about the subject and her current studies for an MSc at Oxford.

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