Rich Hall: Lugubrious transatlantic funnies

American stand-up Rich Hall must have something of a love affair with the UK. Having lived in London on and off for a number of years, as well as touring regularly across Britain and appearing on several TV shows on this side of the Atlantic, Hall clearly has an affiliation for the British way of thinking.

Much of the first half of this latest show revolved around happenings in his native country, especially responses to the mid-term elections and the tea party movement. The man from Virginia – famously the inspiration behind bartender Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons – was able to draw on the differences between British and American attitudes and ways of life to deftly humorous effect, all delivered with his instantly recognisable lugubrious drawl. Read the rest of this entry »

Greg Davies: Tall tales and feel-good nostalgia

Greg Davies clearly hasn’t let go of his education-based roots. An ex-teacher in real life, as well as currently appearing as one on the small screen in hit E4 sitcom The Inbetweeners, Davies is one third of fantastically silly sketch troupe We Are Klang and uses a flipchart and marker pen throughout this show in the manner of someone accustomed to leading a classroom.

His debut solo show was an acclaimed hit at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, and now Davies takes it out on the road. Firing Cheeseballs at a Dog was inspired by the act of trying to get the titular pooch to refrain from blocking a road in Andalucia, using the tasty snacks as ammunition. Read the rest of this entry »

Stewart Lee: Not a fan of Adrian Chiles...

The latest tour from Stewart Lee, titled Vegetable Stew, sees the revered stand-up trying out material which will feature in the second series of his TV show, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. It follows a string of deservedly lauded stand-up shows from Lee, some of which are critiqued in his book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate.

Simon Munnery, who himself appeared in the first series of …Comedy Vehicle, lended support at this show, offering a steady supply of surreal gags, poems and stories. The audience seemed a little non-plussed at some of his material – perhaps not surprising given that some of his jokes “require further reading”. Read the rest of this entry »

Dice Productions: Rolling from the hip

Since debuting at last year’s Birmingham Comedy Festival, the Birmingham chapter of Popcorn Comedy has been going strong, with a regular monthly night starting earlier this year. In that time, they’ve had some top stand-ups on the bill and shown a host of videos featuring new and established names alike.

The driving force behind it is Dice Productions, a Birmingham-based trio of prodigiously talented animators and writers who have been attracting a lot of attention for their sketches and videos – the hard work is paying off, with a very special guest due to play at next month’s Popcorn as part of Birmingham Comedy Festival 2010, and a film in the pipeline too. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Saunders: Shambolic stories and cats with Aids

One of the most striking aspects of Popcorn Comedy – other than the vast array of sketches, short films and animations which grace the screen – is how it forces live performers to tinker with their act.

Comedians take different approaches to incorporating the video element into their Popcorn set, whether making them part of the whole routine or (as with last month’s set from Adil Ray and videos of his wonderful Mr Khan creation) slot them in as a structural device or even a diversion. Read the rest of this entry »

Miles Jupp: a different class

Self-confessed ‘privileged’ stand-up Miles Jupp doesn’t pay much attention to the news. It’s an odd confession from a comic who presents one of BBC Radio’s flagship topical comedy shows, namely Radio 7’s Newsjack – the logical heir to Weekending, given that it offers up the airwaves to sketches and gags from new and aspiring comedy writers.

In truth, it seems like Jupp lives in his own bubble, and that appears to be just how he likes it. A familiar face and voice to comedy fans – he’s appeared alongside such stand-up stalwarts as Stewart Lee and Simon Munnery, made a guest appearance as a hapless PR officer in The Thick of It, and narrated the radio series from much-loved sketch troupe the Penny Dreadfuls – as well as children, for his role in Balamory. Read the rest of this entry »

Adil Ray's comic creation Mr Khan: leading the people of Leicester, even if they don't know it yet

If the internet has made it possible for musicians to experiment with their output and filter new material directly to their fans, then it’s had just as big an impact on comedy. Whether it’s via sites such as Funny or Die, or clips posted on YouTube, there’s plenty of scope for comedy performers to make sketches or self-contained narratives and stick them up on the web for our viewing pleasure.

DIY videos, short films and lo-fi animations from promising newcomers exist alongside more established names. But with so many hits and misses, how’s it possible to filter out the wheat from the comedic chaff? Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Merton: getting by with a little help from his Chums

Accusations from some corners of the comedy sphere point to Paul Merton as being a performer on the wane – a great, agile comic mind no longer being fully exploited on Have I Got News For You?, with its well-worn format now arguably part of the establishment itself.

Merton has been more active in making documentaries than comedy in the recent past, especially paying tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, or singing the praises of the silent comedies which have meant so much to him. Read the rest of this entry »

Idiots of Ants: Eight legs good...

Even if you aren’t familiar with the name Idiots of Ants – and we’ll leave you to work out the pun – the chances are that you’ll have seen their ‘Facebook in Real Life’ sketch which appeared on BBC3 sketch show The Wall and has since gone viral on YouTube, racking up plenty of views.

The four-piece sketch troupe have been steadily cultivating a live following through touring and have picked up considerable critical acclaim for these shows, on top of an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination at last year’s festival and a Chortle Award earlier this year for best sketch comedy act. Read the rest of this entry »

Stewart Francis: He has a punning plan...

With thanks to some well-timed television appearances, Canadian gag-smith Stewart Francis has been making his name better known. This more widespread attention has largely been a result of guest slots on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Mock the Week, where his one-liners provide a counterpoint to the regular panellists’ familiar styles.

Francis is known for snappy gags and puns, and his rising star means that this current leg of his seemingly never-ending Tour de Francis jaunt has seen him graduate to larger venues, and a further leg in the autumn looks set to sell equally well. Support stints on Ricky Gervais’ current stand-up tour only emphasise the fact that Francis is in demand. Read the rest of this entry »