Comedy

The Christians, Traverse

Edinburgh Fringe highlights: world-class improv, Bible study and an hour with a gentle genius

29 August 2015
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical Pleasance
The Christians Traverse
John Lloyd: Emperor of the Prawns Assembly Checkpoint

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical offers a brand new song-and-dance spectacular at every performance. It opens with a brilliantly chaotic piece of comedy. A theatre producer on stage telephones Cameron Mackintosh… Read more

Cherrelle Skeete as Katya and Royce Pierreson at Belyaev in ‘Three Days in the Country’

Feels like Chekhov scripted by a Chekhov app: Three Days in the Country at the Lyttleton reviewed

8 August 2015
Three Days in the Country Lyttelton
Come in! Sit Down! Tricycle

Chekhov so dominates 19th-century Russian drama that Turgenev doesn’t get much of a look-in. His best known play, A Month in the Country, was written before Chekhov was born but… Read more

Imogen Poots and Owen Wilson

She's Funny That Way isn't funny at all

27 June 2015
She’s Funny That Way 12A, Nationwide

The writer and director Peter Bogdanovich has made three of my favourite films of all time (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, What’s Up, Doc?) but I don’t think I’ll… Read more

Freddie (Ian McKellen) and Stuart (Derek Jacobi) ©ITV

Imagine if Are You Being Served? had starred Laurence Olivier: ITV’s Vicious reviewed

6 June 2015

Monday saw the return of possibly the weirdest TV series in living memory. Imagine a parallel universe in which Are You Being Served? had starred Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and… Read more

Jackie Mason at the Hollywood Palace in 1964: ‘A good comedian must tell the truth’

Jackie Mason reveals the secret of stand-up: avoid fried food

16 May 2015

A lot of people ask what it takes to be a stand-up comic — I’ll be honest, I have absolutely no idea. What I do know is that whatever it… Read more

Chris Rock as Andre Allen alongside Rosario Dawson as Chelsea Brown

Top Five reviewed: Chris Rock hits rock bottom

9 May 2015
Top Five Nationwide, 15

The oeuvre of Chris Rock may not be fully known in this parish. He was the African-American stand-up who made a packet out of saying the unsayable about race. Richard… Read more

Author Irvine Welsh Photo: Getty

Taxi ride to the dark side: a thrilling blast of full-strength Irvine Welsh

11 April 2015
A Decent Ride Irvine Welsh

Jonathan Cape, pp.482, £12.99, ISBN: 9780224102179

Irvine Welsh, I think it’s safe to say, is not a writer who’s mellowing with age. His latest book sees the return of ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson from the novel Glue… Read more

Miranda July Photo: Getty

Miranda July may be a film director, performance artist, sculptor and designer — but she is no novelist

28 March 2015
The First Bad Man Miranda July

Canongate, pp.288, £14.99, ISBN: 9781782116721

Miranda July is a funny and brilliant film director, performance artist, sculptor and smartphone app designer. In 2005, she won the Best First Feature award at Cannes for her debut… Read more

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) with his dinner date, Fiona (Gemma Arterton)

The Voices review: a hateful, repellent, empty film

21 March 2015
The Voices 15, Nationwide

The Voices is ‘a dark comedy about a serial killer’, which is not an overcrowded genre, and I think we can now plainly see for why. I was up for… Read more

Heckler-210215

The Heckler: how funny really was Spitting Image?

21 February 2015

Hold the front page! Spitting Image is back! Well, sort of. A new six-part series, from (some of) the team behind Fluck and Law’s puppetry satire show, will be broadcast… Read more

The Separation Photo: Ed Clark

A tatty new theatre offers up a comic gem that’s sure to be snapped up by the BBC

14 February 2015
Goodbye, The [After] Life of Cook & Moore Museum of Comedy
The Separation Theatre503

New venue. New enticement. In the undercroft of a vast but disregarded Bloomsbury church nestles the Museum of Comedy. The below-stairs space wears the heavy oaken lineaments of Victorian piety… Read more

Leo Tolstoy

Radio 4’s War and Peace: almost as good as the book

24 January 2015

To have listened to Radio 4’s marathon ten-hour adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace as it was being broadcast on New Year’s Day must have been both wonderful and a… Read more

Chico, Harpo and Groucho Marx (left to right) enjoy a day at the races

What unites Churchill, Dali and T.S. Eliot? They all worshipped the Marx Brothers

10 January 2015

‘I had no idea you were so handsome,’ Groucho Marx wrote to T.S. Eliot in 1961 on receiving from him a signed studio portrait. The Missouri-born Eliot was the Marx… Read more

northstar

Fortune tellers, pound shops and Orville: why I love Blackpool

13 December 2014

‘Jesus is the light of the world,’ reads the sign outside Blackpool’s Central Methodist Church, but all along the promenade the lights are going out. I’d returned to my favourite… Read more

Dapper Laughs Photo: Getty

You shouldn’t watch Dapper Laughs. But you really shouldn’t let the likes of me stop you

15 November 2014

As you’ll know by now, I’m big on thinking the right things. Should a thought strike me that m’colleague Rod Liddle would not describe as ‘bien-pensant’, then I will of… Read more

Heath_killkenny-notebook

The subversive wonders of Kilkenomics – where economics meets stand-up

15 November 2014

‘What is a Minsky moment, anyway?’ asks Gerry Stembridge, an Irish satirist. ‘I’ve been reading about them in the papers and have often wondered’. Stembridge is putting the question to… Read more

Nick Hornby Photo: Getty

The greatest sitcom that never was

8 November 2014
Funny Girl Nick Hornby

Viking/Penguin, pp.352, £18.99, ISBN: 9780670922802

Funny Girl is the story of the early career of the vivacious, hilarious Sophie Straw, star of the much-loved BBC situation comedy Barbara (and Jim), the television programme that ran… Read more

Rosamund Pike and family (L-R) Harriet Turnbull, Emilia Jones and Bobby Smalldridge

Outnumbered: The Movie (But Crap)

27 September 2014
What We Did On Our Holiday 12A, Nationwide

What We Did On Our Holiday is written and directed by Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton, the pair who created the hit BBC sitcom Outnumbered, and this is like an… Read more

'Outspoken' comedian, Frankie Boyle Photo: Getty

Frankie Boyle is a cowardly bully, and I’m ashamed I ever stood up for him

30 August 2014

‘Outspoken comic Frankie Boyle has called on the BBC to sack “cultural tumour” Jeremy Clarkson.’ Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with this opening sentence from a recent news report?… Read more

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Switching on to a new generation gap

30 August 2014

I was recently talking to an intelligent 24-year-old Cambridge graduate. The conversation turned to TV comedy, and I mentioned Vic Reeves. The graduate had never heard of him. Nor had… Read more

edinburghfinal-copy

Alex Salmond has already lost — if the Edinburgh Festival is anything to go by

23 August 2014

Scotland’s on a knife-edge. Like all referendum-watchers at the Edinburgh Festival I grabbed a ticket for The Pitiless Storm, a drama about independence, which attracts big crowds every lunchtime at… Read more

Pushing 70, but not very hard: Anne Archer as Jane Fonda

An innocent graduate of Operation Yewtree, Jim Davidson, dazzles in Edinburgh

23 August 2014

Let’s start with a nightmare. Wendy Wason, an Edinburgh comedienne, travelled to LA last year accompanied by her husband, who promptly succumbed to a fainting fit. Wason called an ambulance,… Read more

The unfortunate Manuel in
Fawlty Towers — portrayed by the similarly accident-prone Andrew Sachs

The harrowing, inspiring life of Andrew Sachs

15 March 2014
I Know Nothing! Andrew Sachs

The Robson Press, pp.317, £20, ISBN: 9781849546362

Comedians always like to claim that they started making jokes after childhoods made harsh by poverty; that at a formative age they were tormented by appalling cruelty and neglect. Griff… Read more

The 59th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards - Ceremony

Is a new art form being born on Woman's Hour?

25 January 2014

In a comic-strip cartoon, beads of water apparently radiating outward from the head of one of the characters indicate embarrassment. Lines flying horizontally from a character, all in one direction… Read more

eggs

An utterly charming, totally bonkers short novel

4 January 2014
Lettice & Victoria Susanna Johnston

Arcadia, pp.166, £12.99, ISBN: 9781909807228

This utterly charming, totally bonkers short novel is something from another age. There are elements of A Handful of Dust (the young girl trapped reading Dickens), of Rebecca (the undervalued… Read more