Tag Archives: comedy

2012 in Review

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2012, what a year for stuff happening. The Jubilee – went down well. The Olympics – medals and lycra, lovely stuff. If you like ‘Youtube sensations’ there were plenty of them, I can think of at least…three. But let’s get to it, the thing everyone (?) was talking about, what happened to The Broken Bones in 2012? You may have noticed this blog has been lying dormant for some time. Why? Well, it’s a problem that breaks down into several small, crumbly, easily-choked-on pieces.

Employment is kind of a biggy. My current working situation doesn’t allow as much time for seeing and reviewing comedy and this in turn bleeds into the tiny matter of ‘inspiration’. Oh behold the tortured artiste, but sadly it is difficult to keep motivated, wanting to write and/or pitch ideas, when the debates around comedy that appear in the media are so routinely repeated and fixated on issues that only serve to bring out trolls. Why aren’t there more women in comedy? Are women even funny? Is comedy too cruel? Regardless of the discussion someone will quote Stewart Lee, someone will use the expression ‘…as funny as cancer!’ and everyone will go home looking totally stupid. It’s not that the debates lack validity (though doubting ‘the funniness’ of women in 2012 is a pretty depressing state of affairs) but they’re trotted out by certain papers with such regularity (and yet with such little thought behind them) that the focus falls away from the issues.

But let’s pull back from full-on Peter Finch (or should that be Glenn Cullen?) meltdown because recently two things happened that made me reassess. One is that I sat down and re-listened to one of my all time favourite comedy albums. The other was going out to see a night of live comedy, not to review but to simply enjoy with friends.

The album was Patton Oswalt’s Werewolves and Lollipops, to this day one of the most utterly faultless pieces of recorded comedy of the last 10 years (but more on that later). The night was put on by Knock2Bag, where I spent an evening watching fast-rising stars like Pat Cahill, stupendous character comedy from ‘Jenny Fawcett’ and Jamie Demetriou and a riotous set from, the now award-winning, Cardinal Burns.

Over the space of one weekend I was reminded of what I’d missed and what I enjoyed about comedy, the things that made me thankful rather than frustrated (so do accept my apologies for paragraph’s 1 and 2). I love comedy too much to simply forget all about it and chalk this blog up as something I ‘just stopped doing’. There is simply too much to ignore.

Stand-up is in rude-health and none are ruder than Nick Helm, who is cannonball-ing into household name territory at a frightening rate. With any luck David Earl will soon be following suit and another long-time blog favourite, Doctor Brown, won Best Comedy Show at Edinburgh in 2012. On top of that there are the likes of Matt Rees, David Trent and Mae Martin, imaginative, exciting and all making it look effortless, they’re the next batch of future stars deserving of your love, adulation and money (or a Twitter follow, whatever’s easiest).

One of the must-see performances of the year came from Tig Notaro. Her brutally honest set, performed shortly after a stage-two cancer diagnosis, became one of comedy’s most-talked about and inspiring moments of 2012. The recording was initially released through the website of her friend Louis CK and can now be downloaded at a very reasonable price via iTunes, but as a taster, here’s a previous Notaro set:

On television we got strong returns from Fresh Meat, 2012 and a seriously sharp final series of The Thick of It. Sky continued its quest to make us forget the fact we were supposed to detest their proprietors with, among others, new Alan Partridge and the show everyone (?) is talking about, Girls. Speaking of must-see imports, BBC 4 gave us Lilyhammer and in the New Year will begin screening the much-loved Parks and Recreation (even if it does have that status because most people have already streamed/downloaded it). Speaking of which, there’s a pretty similar story with the FX who have decided now’s the time to air Louie in the UK, nearly 3 years after it begun in the States. Keep up television! But that’s a minor quibble, look, even BBC3 pulled out some decent fair with Cuckoo, another series of Him and Her and the surprisingly enjoyable hidden-camera show Impractical Jokers.

Meanwhile the year on the big screen ended with a real treat for UK comedy fans as Sightseers rambled into cinemas and became a very unlikely yet very enjoyable hit. Written by and starring small screen comedy mainstays Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, directed by the excellent Ben Wheatley plus some involvement from Edgar Wright, this brutal low-budget wonder made a hefty dent (or three) in the mainstream’s cranium. It also featured turns from various names and faces from almost every UK comedy of the last 10 years including Richard Glover from sketch godfathers Pros From Dover and even man-of-a-thousand-comedies, cult legend Tony Way. It was sordid, surreal and sick but made me laugh more than almost anything else I saw in the cinema this year.

So that was 2012. What’s to come in 2013? Absolutely loads but as far as the blog is concerned I will be rethinking the content and the regularity with which I post. Posting once every six months is pretty shoddy but posting several things a week just isn’t possible. Instead I want to use the blog to focus more on features and more retrospective pieces, starting with my old fave Werewolves and Lollipops, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

2013 – let’s do this.

Thanks for reading.

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Screen Burns

It feels like an age in the making but March finally sees the arrival of the new E4 sketch show from Cardinal Burns. The duo of Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns have been firm favourites on the live circuit for a few years now and the talk of this show has been ongoing for some time.

According to the blurb: Running characters include Office Flirt, New Guy; Phil and Terry the Cockney Midgets, and sketches examine office etiquette, take a behind-the-scenes look at street artist Banksy; and follow Young Dreams, a parody of The Hills featuring three young girls on a fashion internship.

While E4’s comedy output can be a little inconsistent it’s probably a good starting point for the pair who always seem to have weird and wonderful ideas pouring out of them. So far a couple of preview clips have been released, one featuring a great deal of vomiting (hmm), while the other focuses on the aforementioned, ‘Office Flirt’.

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Ray Presto RIP

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It was announced today (28th February) that the magician and comedian Ray Presto had passed away. While he was certainly no household name, the instantly recognisable Presto had worked the clubs for years and became a legend on the open-mic circuit as well as being the type of ‘so-bad-it’s good’ act that also made him loved and adored on the alternative comedy scene.

I saw Presto a couple of times, usually at nights run by The Fix, who embraced his shabby showbiz style with great gusto (he makes a cameo in one of their promo videos below). Last year I even had the pleasure of reviewing one of his performances at The Fix’s Raybot comedy night. On a night that was born out of a desire to highlight video and viral comedy, Presto, with his comedy hankies and magic wand was (aside from compere Trevor Lock) the only comedian actually allowed to perform live on the bill. Amazingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, his was the name on everyone’s lips come the end of the show.

No one could ever say his jokes were the funniest or his tricks the most magical but every set he did seemed to be played out with an unfaltering twinkle and energy that won him fans wherever he went. He was one of a kind and he will be greatly missed.

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Pathetic Excuses

Hello, it’s been a little while since an update – I was all prepared for a post-Fringe binge but then I had a good old ‘get ready to move house – move into house – find your bedroom has a hidden water feature – move out of house – live out of boxes’ situation. A dream scenario. Rest assured normal-ish service will soon be resumed, there are a couple of articles on the way, including a review of what was good and not so good at this year’s Fringe, plus a few little tweaks to the site (one of those twitter feed thingys basically).

In the meantime I thought I’d give Chunklet a mention. By way of a quick intro, Chunklet is a US magazine/website dedicated to excellent music and, in part, excellent comedy. For the past 6 months Chunklet writers (which includes me) have been working on The Indie Cred Test. It is, as the name suggests, a big book of humorous tests to prove how cool you are. Unfortunately the publishers have now pulled out, so in order to get this into the grasping, hungry hands of the public, Chunklet is asking for small donations to help with printing. Essentially this is begging but given my recent housing situation I’ve lost all shame and become pretty good at it.

Anyway, it’s a really fun book and if people are willing and able to spare a little then I’ll love you forever. If you prefer your gratitude in a more tangible form then you’ll also get a copy of the book and possibly a few other treats thrown in. Check out Chunklet or Kickstarter for more information on the campaign.

Thanks.

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Ten Acts To See At Edinburgh

Now is usually the time of year to be throwing out recommendations as to who to catch at this years Edinburgh Fringe – and occasionally these get written by people who don’t go out and see a lot of live comedy. So as well as getting the chance to see some rare performances from the likes of Kevin Eldon and Neil Hamburger plus all the usual favourites – Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson, Josie Long, David O’Doherty – I figured it be worth pushing ten acts (plus anymore I can shamelessly cram in) worth a bit of your time this year.

Johnny Sweet

The man who took home the Best Newcomer award last year and who has been rapidly establishing himself as a household name ever since (albeit if you live in a rather nerdy comedy house), returns with a brand new show Let’s All Just Have Some Fun (And Learn Something, For Once). Sounds fun.

Dave Hill

An off-kilter US stand-up who intersperses his sets with videos, music, dancing and all sorts of other general oddness. Definitely worth a look if you’re after a cult comic in the Zach Galifianakis/Eugene Mirman mould. He’s performing a solo set (Big In Japan) as well as a late-night variety show (The Dave Hill Explosion).

Delete The Banjax

Another act who had a fantastic 2009 were sketch troupe Delete The Banjax. High energy and daft as cupboard full of brushes, they’re a foursome it’s impossible not to warm to and possess everything you could want in a sketch group.

Gutted – A Revenger’s Musical

Put together by Danielle Ward and Martin White this is, perhaps unsurprisingly given their previous works, a musical – a horror musical to be precise. ‘The perfect combination of jazz hands and inappropriate violence’, it also features a host of other comics including Colin Hoult, Sara Pascoe, Doc Brown and The Penny Dreadfuls.

Alex Horne

Having seen his We Need Answers cohorts Tim Key and Mark Watson stamp their names all over the Fringe in the last few years, now may be the time for Alex Horne. Not content with just one show though, Horne’s lined up for three – a new stand-up show (Odds), a jazz and comedy show (Horne Section) and he’s also hosting Taskmaster, a one-off featuring an array of comedians who have been set ridiculous challenges throughout the year. Both Horne Section and Johnny Sweet’s show are being put on in collaboration with Invisible Dot who’ll be continuing with their own series of always-innovative comedy events.

Arj Barker

The last few years Edinburgh has been the stomping ground for Flight of the Conchords star Kristen Schaal. Now it’s another of that group, hopeless pawnshop owner Dave (Arj Barker), who brings his peppy Mitch Hedberg style to the festival for the first time since 2000.

Toby

If you’re looking for some dark new sketches from a couple of sisters aiming to impress their mother (why wouldn’t you?) then Toby might be the act for you. Sisters Lizzie and Sarah Daykin are the new pair hoping to please a few audiences as well as their family matriarch. And if sketch acts are really your thing let’s not forget the wealth of others out there like Two Episodes of Mash, No Son Of Mine and Late Night Gimp Fight all definitely worth a gander.

Elis James

The bilingual boy wonder has been a leading light on the Welsh circuit for several years now, he’s opened for Rhod Gilbert and has been a member of dream team sketch gang Superclump. Without wanting to blow too much hyperbole his way he’s grown into a well-rounded stand-up and this may be his year to be that ‘breakthrough’ guy.

Let The People Decide! Hosted by Barry From Watford

One of the joys of Edinburgh is that can give comics the chance to act outside the usual stand-up confines. Pensioner Barry from Watford will be playing chat-show host and fronting a series where the audience can grill various celebrity guests on topical issues. A little like Question Time but hopefully without the overpowering urge to punch everyone on the panel.

The Boy With Tape On His Face

Sometimes simplicity is a big selling point and The Boy With Tape On His Face is exactly what it sounds like. While he may not say a lot, his performances are a masterclass in physical comedy. But if you’re looking for something even more straightforward, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, then maybe you’d fancy catching the follow-up to one of last years most talked about shows – A Young Man Dressed As A Gorilla Dressed As An Old Man Sits In A Rocking Chair For Fifty-Six Minutes Then Leaves 2.

NB: You probably won’t need to have seen the original to understand the sequel.

On top of this there are plenty of others – Lee Kern, Nat Luurtsema, Pappy’s, Pete Johansson, Nick Helm, and the consistently excellent Adam Riches – to name just a few more. I did say there’d be shameless cramming. Enjoy.

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Frank Sidebottom 1956-2010

It was announced this week that Chris Sievey the man behind/inside Frank Sidebottom had died aged 54. He was found collapsed at his home on Monday morning. He recently revealed he’d been treated for cancer.

While I never saw him perform in person his truly unique and positive approach to comedy was, and will continue to be, a real inspiration. For those wanting to know a little bit more about the man with the papier-mâché head there’s a fun Fix interview with him here as well as a really nice tribute to him by one of his former bandmates in the Guardian.

His passing has also sparked a campaign to get his recently recorded World Cup song, Three Shirts On My Line, to Number 1. It’s all for a good cause so why not get involved. You can keep up to date with ‘Make Frank Number 1’ on Facebook and Twitter.

RIP Chris/Frank

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Daniel Kitson: 66a Church Road

66a Church Road is not stand-up. Not in a conventional, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow sense anyway. It’s a monologue. A monologue for an old flat. It’s not laugh-a-minute. It’s not side-splittingly funny. Is it any worse for it? No. Suffice to say there are few comics who would try anything quite so honest and ‘unusual’ but then few comics are like Daniel Kitson and in his hands it’s something quite special.

One of the stand out elements of the performance is his impeccable attention to detail. The stage is covered with suitcases, many of which he opens up to reveal tiny, intricate models of the inside of 66a. But it’s also the intricacies of conversations – the minutiae of moving in, moving out, the arguments with the landlord, the times away, the things he planned for it – it all brings the audience so much closer to him, to the flat and to his experiences. The life of his flat is recounted like the eulogy of loved one and as a result there are moments that pack a real emotional punch.

The show is interspersed with brief interludes when the stage is plunged into darkness and a Kitson voiceover recounts various fragmented memories from his time there. These provide some of the biggest laughs, though one or two of these interludes occasionally edge away from nakedly truthful and tiptoe towards teary teenage diary territory.

More than anything 66a highlights Kitson’s skills as an engaging storyteller. His verbal dexterity and way with words is completely unique and in terms of craft and structure it could serve as a training manual to so many comics – though you can already see his influence on the likes of Stefan Golaszewski and Terry Saunders among others.

Interestingly it’s only at the end of the performance, when he thanks the audience, inviting them to take photos of the models, that we really see Kitson at-ease and just how naturally funny he is. Maybe that’s why he’s held, and will continue to be held, in such high-regard. He is in a position where he can do whatever he wants. If he ever had the desire he could be a ‘traditional comic’ and excel at it, but with shows like 66a he’s clearly keen to highlight there can be so much more to comedy. Long may he continue.

Details of Kitson’s upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show can be found here: http://www.traverse.co.uk/shows_itsalways.htm

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