Click “Read More” to read the interview transcript.
Click “Read More” to read the interview transcript.
The Last Leg is the kind of popular satirical television show that our world really needs to watch because it enables all of us to understand and appreciate major social and political events a little better. The show is presented by Australian comic Adam Hills, with help from his co-hosts: stand up comedian Josh Widdicombe and journalist and presenter Alex Brooker.
It talks about increasingly pressing topics, such as misogyny, discrimination, terrorism and war but to an ever-growing Channel 4 audience, meaning people are continuing to talk about these massive issues that affect us all. If anyone needed proof that The Last Leg is influential in this sense, you would only need to check the hashtags trending worldwide on Twitter while the show is live on air, such as #page3no which trended on Friday 23rd January this year.
The Last Leg enables audiences who are disillusioned with world politics and our own government here in Britain to take control over the global situation by simply making fun of it. A fantastic addition to the show is the awarding of “Dick of the Year,” where past victors have been Vladimir Putin and Nigel Farage. As well as all this, the comedians even managed to convince Nick Clegg to make an appearance and the fantastic results are below.
Another topic made open for discussion is that of disability in today’s society. With host Adam Hills having only one foot due to a birth defect and Alex Brooker being born with hand and arm defects as well as having to have his leg amputated when he was a baby, not only does this programme show us disability, but it allows us to laugh about it, to laugh with Adam, Alex and Josh and not feel bad about the fact we might be talking about something ‘taboo’.
A great sense of freedom is gained from watching The Last Leg as politics is opened up to the wider public in a way that, for once, isn’t entirely depressing. I hope it continues to work its stupid magic for years to come.
This month’s Comedian Of The Month is the strange character comic, John Kearns.
Winning Best Newcomer at the 2013 Foster’s Comedy Awards and following that up with the 2014 Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award saw Kearns make history and he has continued to blossom ever since. With tousled wig and oversized, crooked false teeth, this comedian really epitomises what might be considered “niche” in the comedy world, being, in his own words, “a joke that got out of hand”.
Talking of John Kearns, Bruce Dessau (Beyond The Joke) recently said “this work is very much for people who see a lot of comedy and crave something with a stronger flavour,” so perhaps this explains why I am such a fan of Kearns’ surreal comedy, but I’m not quite sure that’s it. I can also see how he could potentially appeal to a much larger audience, spanning over all ages, as he can certainly be compared to the likes of Harry Hill and Reeves and Mortimer, who have charmed adults and children alike for decades.
The absurdity borders on tragic at times, which makes for truly interesting viewing, and this is balanced by relatively frequent and astute observations derived from the simplest of things, like “I saw a five-year-old wearing a watch,” which earns a laugh in itself but is then developed even further. With his childish mannerisms and lively delivery, John Kearns really puts the joy into stand up. It is a pleasure to see him on stage as he clearly has a lot of fun, as well as bringing an enthusiasm to his performances which can only be admired.
Follow John on Twitter.
The beginning of a new year saw the return of a much-loved sitcom to our screens: Count Arthur Strong, a television adaptation of Steve Delaney’s long-running radio show. Despite only watching a few episodes of series one, I really did enjoy watching the entirety of it this time round.
What appeals to me about this programme is that there is always an unexpected twist to the plot of each episode, which makes it entertaining viewing despite following the seemingly well-trodden path of the popular sitcom. The storylines are never too airy or ridiculous because the show has a continuous plot, with ideas carried on throughout the series, which seems to give the whole programme a reason for existing; the stories never become entirely redundant.
With Delaney having teamed up with one of my favourite comedy writers, Graham Linehan, this show was probably destined to have a hilarious script. They skilfully build the hilarity and stupidity of the situations Michael and Arthur get themselves into, but never rely on laughs that are that bit too easy. These writers have proved that they’d rather go the long way round, and have created a more effective comedy as a result.
There have been criticisms of Count Arthur Strong and I hadn’t fully invested in it from the beginning so was anticipating that I would not enjoy this series. However, my doubts were unfounded because I laughed throughout every single episode, because of Arthur’s lines like “all work and no play makes Jack… and Jill went up the hill…” and his overall persona. I felt no hint of cynicism at all.
This programme is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of comedy thanks to Steve Delaney and Rory Kinnear’s wonderful on-screen relationship and a fantastic script. I look forward to a third series if and when it comes.
1) When did you first encounter comedy?
I can’t remember. I guess it was when I was little I must have laughed at something. It was probably something such as a dog existing. Or the sun. Stuff like that was hilarious to me. Still is really. Comedy has to be something you find funny doesn’t it? I remember when I was about 5 or 6 I had a bike that was black and it was called a Raleigh Wildcat. It had a sound effects box on the front. In the village where I grew up there always used to be this old man called Bill who stood at his gate, when I went down the street pressing the sound effects he would shout “The Daleks are coming.” It isn’t that funny now but when I was a child I would nearly fall off my bike from laughing at him because I really believed he thought I was a Dalek.
2) Where in the world would you never go?
Paintballing in the snow near Newcastle. I went paintballing in the snow near Newcastle once and I remember looking down at my hand and it was dripping blood onto the snow. Someone had shot me from close range and the paintball had cut my hand somehow. The paint from the paintball was mixing with the blood so it was like some sort of crap Damien Hirst spin painting that hadn’t been spun yet. I would never go there again. I always give the enthusiastic guys at the camouflage netted tables in shopping centres a wide birth when I see them.
3) Do you have any weird talents?
I’m quite good at making scrambled eggs in a pan in a kitchen and chicken drumsticks outside on the barbecue. What came first the scrambled eggs in a pan in a kitchen or the chicken drumsticks outside on the barbecue? I’ll start with the scrambled eggs. I don’t want to tell people how to suck scrambled eggs but the key for me is loads of butter in a pan, really low heat, put the eggs in and stir it for ages (3-4 days) put in loads of salt and pepper and take it off the heat before it is cooked as it keeps cooking on its own. With regard to chicken drummers on the barbecue the key is to get loads of that division one pepper powder. What is that stuff? The stuff that has been ground down into dust and put that on until you’ve got enough on and then put more on and then put salt on in the same way. Basically so the chicken drummer looks like a chicken drummer that you’ve dropped on a beach and the beach is made from salt and pepper. Quite a chicken themed answer that I’m afraid, sorry to the none chicken eaters. You can use the same techniques with any food really.
4) Something you wish you believe in?
Magic tricks. I would love it if a person could be sawn in half and then put back together and be perfectly fine.
5) What is the best item in a sweet shop?
The chewy bits in the middle of Cola Cubes.
6) Does being a comedian feel strange to you?
I don’t know what I am but whatever it is it feels strange sometimes yes. If you are calling me a comedian then yes it does feel strange to be called that. The idea of doing gigs feels strange but when I get up on stage and just try to say my piece it doesn’t feel strange to me at all. It feels good for me to try and get my ideas out of me and into other people. Sharing them to see if other people like them or not. If I have an idea and it makes me laugh and I say it on stage and other people laugh at it too then it makes me feel like I am part of something and not completely crazy.
7) What kind of people do you surround yourself with?
It is very rare that I am ever surrounded but I try to spend time with people who aren’t going to walk past a fish tank without looking in.
1) What is the strangest thing you’ve ever done?
It would be easier to ask me the least strange. Most of them in a professional capacity. Over time I have been a tequila shot girl, club podium dancer, street theatre performer, promo person, snogged Finchy from The Office (during an episode not just a random lunge), was the lead in a Dizzee Rascal video, I ran around the streets of Liverpool with Ellie Taylor searching for women called Michelle and I once swam with sharks during the Edinburgh fringe… actual sharks not Kate Copstick.
2) Do you attempt New Year’s Resolutions?
Attempt would be the best description. To be honest I’m on a self improvement jag most of the time
3) What is the best gigging experience you’ve ever had?
Ok a few so here goes:
Reading Festival 2013 & 2014 – just my perfect crowd really. Young people with a dark/outsider slant and discerning older people with great taste in music. Full tent of 3,500 people. Leeds is often great too but Reading pips it. Also, playing places like the Apollo are pretty great as the laughter comes back at you in waves.
In terms of small intimate rooms then The Phoenix in Cavendish Sq is the nuts. It is where I run Old Rope every Monday, it’s absolutely the best comedy room and I’ve had some of my best gigs in there. So many! I did the Melbourne Comedy Roadshow and some of the theatres there are amazing, you are on a mixed bill with other great performers. Also Hannibal Buress runs a room at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn which is pretty hard to beat.
4) Which animal would be the worst pet?
A human called Tiff Stevenson. She would wear all your clothes and shit all over the carpet, but then she would do a funny joke and you’d have to forgive her.
5) What is the best thing to do on a Sunday?
Sunday morning is spent reflecting on how funny you are. Normally an hour or so in the mirror saying things like ‘You are the best’ and ‘Who wants a British Comedy Award anyway?’.
Then 4 hours of comedic sit-ups which is basically watching marathons of Buffy, Supernatural or this new show called Friends… don’t know if you’ve heard of it? It’s about 6 friends who live in New York and meet up in a coffee shop. It’s a period piece where they all dress in 90’s clothes.
Sunday evening is spent shouting at the cat and my boyfriend then sticking my fingers up to Nike by wearing their ‘Just Do It’ leggings whilst sitting on the sofa doing absolutely cock all.
Sunday late evening – I try to sleep then inevitably get all my joke ideas so stay up till 3am.
6) What is the best thing about being alive?
Serving my cat, I am merely a slave to his demands. Occasionally he rewards me by leaving a sick on the carpet or bringing in a pigeon that he has murdered.
7) Do you have any advice for new comedians?
Go buy tickets to see Tiff Stevenson on tour and you will learn everything you need to know. Also write, write more and get stage time.
Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan have written and starred in a hilarious new Channel 4 sitcom about a couple expecting a baby despite only knowing each other for a few months. Here we have a comedy that is truly innovative; it is upbeat, contemporary and bold.
Doll & Em-like in its tone, Catastrophe is one of those programmes that warms the heart as well as making you laugh, which is a wonderful quality to have. Rob and Sharon’s onscreen relationship is endearing and it is a joy to watch the characters blossom into a well-rounded comedy unit. The episodes build in tension as Sharon and Rob and their various family members and friends often miscommunicate and keep things from each other, but the reactions of the characters are never what we expect. The typical format is entirely reversed.
Sharon Horgan brings her charming personality to the character of Sharon, effortlessly slipping into a much darker humour throughout which is a fiendish delight (like muttering “I hope he hits her” when the pair encounter a young arguing couple). Rob’s character borders on socially inept in some respects which, paired with his almost-freakish height (note his constant ducking through door frames) means he frequently looks and presents himself as comically awkward, but not slapstick, which is skilfully avoided.
The incredible Carrie Fisher stars in a smaller role as Rob’s straight-talking American mother, along with the actresses very own dog (who is, by the way, brilliantly named Gary Fisher). Catastrophe has an excellent cast that fit together well, with Mark Bonnar and Ashley Jensen playing interesting and often antagonistic roles that create a hilarious dynamic. The show also picks up on many awkward communication difficulties faced within families, which adds to the personal feel of the programme as a whole.
I adored watching the first series of Catastrophe and the critical response has been incredibly promising. I’m confident that the second series will be even better than the first and look forward to watching the characters develop and their relationships evolve.
Catch up with this fantastic sitcom on 4OD now.
I have wanted to see Josie Long live for a long time due to her infamous political comedy but also because she is one of the most articulate, kind-hearted comics out there. Cara Josephine is her least political show for a long time and I think that may be because the message of this set is far too positive to be weighed down by the heavy nature of British politics- we can forget all that for a little while. Supported by the eccentric Tom Allen, these two supplied a superb Wednesday evening of entertainment.
Tom Allen expertly juggles being slightly sinister with being endearing, friendly and flamboyant; his delivery fluctuates between being downbeat and slow-moving, and charmingly playful. With a presence similar to that of the well-spoken stand up comedian Simon Evans, Allen showed an incredibly dark streak; a welcome contrast to the abundance of crowd-pleasing ‘safe’ comedy that has emerged in recent years. Tom showed a talent for altering the metaphorical distance between himself and his audience, as we soon began to warm to each other and he opened up more and more about his family and his childhood.
Josie and Tom were very different in their material, delivery and stage presence but I noticed one major similarity: what they say is perfected by the way in which they say it. Tom Allen’s material would not be done justice if spoken by anybody else; he has a compelling presence on stage and a very distinctive voice. In Josie’s case, she uses her delightfully childish humour to break up heavily emotional or political segments which makes for a fantastically rounded and widely accessible show.
Josie Long’s Cara Josephine is a carefully constructed work of art. She begins on the surface, talking about her recent experiences taking Maths A Level as a 32 year old because she kept having nightmares about taking Maths A Level (I know, it makes perfect sense), and gradually getting more and more intimate until we reach the crux of the show: issues regarding our own self worth. I had heard that this was Josie’s most personal show to date, but had not expected her to be so wonderfully open about her past loves and losses, and make it so bloody funny.
With a passion for poetry and an Oxford University education under her belt, Josie makes no effort to hide how well-read she is, and, frankly, why should she? I really appreciate the kind of comedy that values intelligence and the art of learning, and this show in particular enables audiences to learn about the woman on the stage, but also about her perception of events that happen to us all throughout our lives. This comedian talks to an extent of the difficult time she had as a teenager, and seeing where she is now, and despite only being seventeen myself, I think all of her fans feel a strange sense of pride for all that she has achieved.
This is because Josie Long is everyone’s friend. She opens herself up to her audiences, making herself vulnerable, all for the sake of her art, and I think that is something to be admired. Her comedy certainly blossoms because of it. With her infectious, bubbly personality, Josie has managed to build up consistently warm and friendly audiences which meant that the atmosphere in Wolverhampton was supportive and encouraging. This lady talks of growing old, but in my eyes she’ll be young her whole life: she has clearly learned a lot in the past few years, but hasn’t let this harden her in anyway and she remains as bright-eyed and spirited as ever.
1) What’s your favourite word?
“Yuck”. My mum says it a lot and it reminds me of her. The silly old girl.
2) Do you prefer being alone or with people?
I prefer being alone, typing answers to interview questions I’ve been emailed. It’s my favourite form of communication. I can take as much time as I like (before the deadline), and no one complains if I’m naked. At least I can’t hear them because I’ve got my headphones in and they can’t shout in a library.
3) If you could support any comedian on tour, who would it be?
Physically: James Acaster. He doesn’t look too heavy.
Morally: Andrew Lawrence. He seems to be going through a lot of stuff right now.
On tour: Fin Taylor. We are soul mates, cursed by our opposing sexualities to never fully consolidate our beautiful union. But our service station chat is top notch.
4) Do you have any superstitions?
I’m the only person who thinks 7 is an unlucky number.
5) When is the best age to die?
110. That way it’s obvious you gave life your all. Or maybe 101, being the largest realistic palindrome to achieve.
6) Do you want your comedy to provoke people?
Yes. Provoke them to come to more of my shows.
7) What would you do if you could do anything?
Add another fucking question you maniac are you trying to kill us??
Last week saw the fourth instalment of the University of Birmingham’s ever-growing comedy night with a stellar line up consisting of Andrew Ryan, Ben Norris and Romesh Ranganathan. This month undoubtedly saw the biggest crowd so far which was very nice to see.
Irish comic Andrew Ryan compèred the evening and he was one of the best I’d ever seen fill this difficult role, with unwavering energy and and effortless charm. In a way that reminded me of Jason Byrne (no, not just because he’s Irish), Andrew is very skilled at developing a unique set based on the audience on the night, from what I saw. A fifteen year old on the front row received most of the comedian’s conversation as he was so young, which was a near miss for me, being seventeen and on the front row myself!
Ben Norris was next, walking on with a stern face and surprising us all with his lighthearted style of comedy; I don’t think many people were expecting him to be so lovely, but he really was. With hilarious personal anecdotes broken up by a few fantastic one-liners, Norris presented a perfect blend of the topical and silly, with the dark and twisted. I laughed all the way through his set, particularly because his observations of aspects of politics and religion were spot on, and would definitely pay to see him again soon.
The last act of the night was one of my favourite stand up comedians, Romesh Ranganathan, and I was delighted to finally be able to see him live. Talking about his kids, one of whom is an “unacceptable human being”, Romesh’s comedy has something for people of all ages (he’d probably be horrified to hear that I am one of five girls, when he thinks three boys is ridiculous). His material is very specific to him, covering the things he has experience of such as parenthood, teaching, veganism and dealing with racism, all tied together with his trademark passive aggression and sarcasm.
It was a pleasure to finally see Rom in person and I will definitely be following what Andrew and Ben are up to from now on (and of course attending next month’s comedy night at the Bramall).