Thursday 30th March

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Jonathan Pie: Live review

Rating:

Tom Walker‘s ranty yet astute live show as comedy creation Jonathan Pie will be available to buy on his website from Monday next week.  Ian Cater attended the recorded performance at The O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 3rd March 2017, and reports below on Walker’s brilliant delivery and ‘rare ability to spew out persuasive points amongst the bile’.

Tom Walker’s weekly videos as alter ego Jonathan Pie are as close as we currently get in this country to The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  Or perhaps The Late Show with Steven Colbert is a better comparison, given Walker uses his fictional creation – a television news reporter who rants acerbic views at his producer during out-takes – to make important arguments about politics, the media and society in general.

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Category: Comedy
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Russell Howard: Round The World review

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Last week, Russell Howard beat the record held by Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow by performing for ten consecutive nights at a packed Royal Albert Hall.  Before Howard’s Round The World Tour moved on to the rest of the UK and Ireland, Ian Cater reviewed what turned out to be ‘a very entertaining and uplifting evening’.

Russell Howard is quite rightly one of Britain’s most successful comedians, using his ‘everyman’ likability and unashamed positivity to pack arenas like this one night after night.  But that success has come at a cost.  In recent years, some have become snide about his act – not least Stewart Lee, whose on-stage comedy policeman lays charge after charge at Howard’s door in his current Content Provider show.

Some of that may be justified: by taking the big bucks on offer from first the BBC and now Sky, and having the nerve to promulgate upbeat messages, Howard’s opened himself up to a slice of the cynicism his own brand of comedy usually avoids.  However, a lot of it is unfair, especially when he delivers such a well-balanced set as this, shining a light on British society’s problems but refusing to wallow in them.

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Category: Comedy
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Josie Long: “Brexit was the first time I’d voted alongside moderate Tories. It’s unifying there are things we agree on.”

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

On Monday, Josie Long brings her excellent stand-up show – Something Better – back to London for one final performance at Duchess Theatre.  This follows six months of an extremely successful tour, including two-week stints at Soho Theatre (review here) and in New York City.  

Like much of her previous work, the show fuses Long’s endearingly honest anxieties with her hopes for the future, shaped by strong left-wing beliefs.  Her confidence in these beliefs has been tested by a difficult break-up and a crushingly disappointing Brexit vote.  Despite that, the message she wants to deliver is upbeat, funny and profound.

Kindness and Exuberance.  Trying is Good.  All of the Planet’s Wonders.  Romance and Adventure.  You only need to take a cursory glance at Josie Long’s previous show titles to realise what sort of person she is: an optimist.  She’s no different in real life: talking with warmth and excitement, overflowing with passion and ideas about how to create ‘something better’.  And that’s precisely what Long has done in both a literal and figurative sense.

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Category: Comedy
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Mark Thomas: “You’re constantly climbing a ladder, but the last rung you always pull away from yourself”

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Mark Thomas is performing his latest highly-acclaimed show – The Red Shed – at Battersea Arts Centre until Saturday night.  It is an incredible piece of work, perfectly blending comedy, theatre and journalism while provoking laughter, emotion and thought.  Ahead of his return to London, Ian Cater caught up with Thomas to discuss audience participation, lost sheep and David Walliams.

London audiences have four more chances to experience The Red Shed – a homage to the Wakefield Labour Club where Mark Thomas first ‘found his politics’ and became involved in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.  And, no matter what your political persuasion, I can hardly recommend this amazing production enough.

It’s neither pure comedy, nor pure theatre.  Instead, The Red Shed is a masterful lesson in storytelling – an art in which Thomas undoubtedly specialises.

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Category: Comedy
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Rachel Parris: “I was a bit nervous about the Samaritans seeing the show. I didn’t want them to think I was laughing at what they do.”

Tomorrow night, Rachel Parris gives the first of three performances of award-winning show Best Laid Plans at Soho Theatre this week.  Ahead of her run, she spoke to Ian Cater about break-ups, the curse of ‘niceness’ and fictitious twat bankers.   

Persuading you to go and see Rachel Parris this week at Soho Theatre should be an easy sell.

The talented comedian, singer, musician and actress is very much on an upwards trajectory, increasing her profile with each comedy gig, acting job and improv appearance she juggles across the country.  Parris’ voice – straight out of the West End – has long been her strongest suit, but her stand-up skills and confidence are catching up.  Her latest show, Best Laid Plans, showcases these superbly and earned Parris our Best Musical Comedy Act Award for 2016.

Despite her natural modesty, she describes the show’s current incarnation as “hopefully even better”.  Boosted by Soho Theatre’s atmospheric cabaret room and grand piano, perhaps even Parris is starting to believe in herself.

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Category: Comedy
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Rhys James: “Who wants to hear the political opinions of a 25-year-old who’s never experienced anything?”

Tomorrow night, Rhys James brings his latest show – Forgives – to Soho Theatre for five nights.  The young stand-up, labelled ‘one to watch’ for a while and now featuring regularly on comedy vehicles like Mock The Week, delivers an impressive show full of great jokes, call-backs and over-privileged angst.  Ahead of the Soho run, Ian Cater caught up with him to discuss Russell Brand, poetry and raccoons.

Rhys James is unexpectedly enjoyable to interview.  At least as funny as he seems on-stage, he’s also relaxed, open and self-aware.  In short, a little different to the young man I saw performing Forgives at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.

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Category: Comedy
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Tom Walker: “You learn a lot about Jonathan Pie: are you really cross with Theresa May or just pissed off at life?”

Tom Walker brings his excellent comic creation – Jonathan Pie – to the capital next month for a fascinating character piece touching on Brexit, Trump and all that’s wrong with modern society.  Ahead of shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and London Palladium, Ian Cater interviewed one of the most provocative and insightful performers of British satire.

This week, The Independent complained that while Trump’s election has provoked a strong reaction from American comedians, their British counterparts have failed to respond to Brexit so robustly.  Joe Sommerlad’s article spoke sense, lambasting networks for denying UK chat shows political agendas, and starving Stewart Lee and Charlie Brooker of greater screen time.

However, it was flawed in one crucial aspect.  The piece omitted a major contributor to recent British satire: Jonathan Pie.  Pie – a fictional news reporter created by actor Tom Walker in 2015 – has become one of the ‘must see’ commentators on post-Brexit current affairs.

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Category: Comedy
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Chris Gethard: Career Suicide at Soho Theatre until 4th February 2017

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Gethard’s excellently scripted and painfully honest monologue on depression makes for uncomfortable yet compelling viewing.

“Sometimes people just … break,” says Chris Gethard early on, after explaining that his longstanding issues of anxiety and depression don’t stem from any traumatic childhood experience.  The lights have darkened and his voice has slowed to a standstill.  His glasses near the end of his nose.  His head jerks nervously once, then twice.  “Welcome to a comedy show!”

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Category: Comedy