sun 10/12/2023

Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Trevor Noah: Off the Record, O2 review - welcome return to standup for the polyglot motormouth

Helen Hawkins

The O2 has to be the K2 of comedy peaks: a vast ovoid drum of a place where those right at the back have to be content with watching magnified images on screens. And for a standup, there are no electric instruments to drown out the echoing acoustics.

Lucy Beaumont, Touring review - Hull’s finest goes on the road

Veronica Lee

Lucy Beaumont tells some tall stories – many ridiculous and some of them true, one assumes.  But such is Beaumont’s wide-eyed delivery that you believe her, particularly if you have seen her on the current series of Taskmaster, where her confused “I don’t know what I thought would happen” approach provides great entertainment.

Michael McIntyre, Brighton Centre review -...

Veronica Lee

It takes some chutzpah to do a substantial section of a comedy show in 2023 (and touring until mid-2024) that deals with your pandemic woes, but that...

John Robins, touring - high anxiety can be funny

Veronica Lee

Recovery from alcoholism is now standard fare in stand-up comedy; so too are  living with ADHD, OCD, depression and anxiety. It's the last of...

Peter Kay, O2 Arena review - comeback show is...

Veronica Lee

In 2017, Bolton comic Peter Kay had to cancel his planned tour because of “family circumstances”. But then, when he announced last year that he was...

Kate Berlant Is KATE, Soho Theatre review - glorious spoof of actory types

Veronica Lee

US comic brings her off-Broadway hit to the UK

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 review: Ahir Shah

Veronica Lee

Deserved winner of prestigious award

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Janine Harouni / Paddy Young / Ian Smith

Veronica Lee

Family life, the perils of flatshares, and how to beat stress

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Olga Koch / Bill O'Neill / Mary O'Connell

Veronica Lee

An eventful adult gap year, masterful mayhem, and an accomplished debut

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Darran Griffiths / Louise Atkinson / Louise Young

Veronica Lee

Infertility, friendship, and leaving chaos behind

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Flat & the Curves / Shamilton! / I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical

Veronica Lee

Women in tune, musical improv, and a backstage story

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Rob Auton / Laura Davis / Matt Forde

Veronica Lee

Storytelling magic, a fantastical journey, and political satire

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Amos Gill/ Lorna Rose Treen/ Crizards

Veronica Lee

An anti-whinge Australian, delightfully silly sketches and a war spoof

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Krystal Evans / William Thompson / Alison Spittle

Veronica Lee

Untimely death, overcoming disability, and soup du jour

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Ania Magliano / Elliot Steel / Alexandra Haddow

Veronica Lee

A bad hair day, testicular fun, and saying sorry

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Ed Byrne / Fiona Allen / Kieran Hodgson

Veronica Lee

Bereavement, the daily grind, and reinventing oneself

Urooj Ashfaq, Soho Theatre review - assured UK debut by Mumbai stand-up

Veronica Lee

Divorce, dating and teenage diaries

The Crown Jewels, Garrick Theatre review - star laden comedy fails to sparkle

Gary Naylor

Al Murray and Carrie Hope Fletcher provide the only high points in a disappointing production

Josh Pugh Live at Birmingham Town Hall review - observational gags with a touch of the surreal

Veronica Lee

Another chance to see the Edinburgh Fringe award-nominated show

Amy Schumer, Netflix Special review - New York smarts about being a fortysomething

Veronica Lee

Pointed observational material

Theatre at Glastonbury Festival 2023 - so big and wild a hallucination, you're always left wanting more

Anya Ryan

We take a journey through the magical land of Glastonbury's theatre, circus and comedy

John Kearns, Brighton Komedia review - Van Gogh, joining the circus and pooey nappies

Veronica Lee

Reflections on fatherhood and creating art

Phil Wang, RFH review - smut and smarts

Veronica Lee

Nicely curated show that covers lots of topics

Dear Billy, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh review - powerful tribute to Scottish pride

David Kettle

Celebration of Scotland's iconic comedy legend Billy Connolly is a moving portrait of a nation

Hannah Gadsby, Netflix special review - shaggy dog story of marital bliss

Veronica Lee

Tasmanian talks about marriage, cultural differences and autism

Dick and Dom in da Bungalow, Touring review - Bogies, bottoms and other childish fun

Veronica Lee

20th anniversary tour for children's TV presenters

Emmanuel Sonubi, ArtsDepot review - confessions of a former bouncer

Veronica Lee

Pranks, parenting and cruise ships in the mix too

Chris Rock, Netflix special review - no holds barred on the Oscars slap

Veronica Lee

It still pains

Crybabies, Soho Theatre review - sharp sci-fi spoof

Veronica Lee

Sketch trio in a good-hearted caper

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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