Birmingham’s Essential Entertainment Guide
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Posted on Mon 27 Feb 2023
Laughter is certainly the best medicine - even if you’re not ill! Why not get your ribs well and truly tickled over the next few weeks by attending one or more of the following laughter-fests...
Geordie laughter merchant Ross Noble may not have hit the heights once expected of him, but he’s a hugely talented comedian nonetheless. Peddling a nice line in surreal and quirky stream-of-consciousness humour, he’s heading for the Midlands this month with his 21st touring show, Jibber Jabber Jamboree. Examples of his comedy include “How come Miss Universe is only won by people from Earth?” and “I had to take the batteries out of the carbon monoxide detector. It was beeping all night.”
Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Saturday 24 February
Former Coventry school teacher Guz Khan shot to relative fame a handful of years ago after seeing his YouTube clips go viral.
Since then, the only way has been up for the one-time Humanities teacher. “I think it’s important to push against boundaries with comedy,” says Guz. “And although I like to make people laugh while exploring issues such as religion, race and gender, I’m not somebody who’s looking to cause offence just because I can.”
Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Saturday 24 February
At 55 years of age, Shropshire-born Stewart Lee is well aware that he’s not the man he used to be - although he’s maybe being a bit too hard on himself.
“In a way, my physical collapse has been a huge advantage,” says Stewart, perhaps with his tongue in his cheek. “It’s given the ‘stage me’ some tragedy, some gravity. Also, I’m going deaf and now wear hearing aids, which has been an interesting challenge on stage. My knees are shattered and don’t work - I think I ruined them during the 200 dates I did of a show where I pretended to be Jeremy Clarkson kicking a tramp to death - and that’s had an interesting effect on my physicality. If I jump off stage now or climb things, there’s a genuine element of pain and danger. I’m like Eddie The Eagle or something.”
Stewart visits the Midlands over the next few weeks with his critically acclaimed show, Basic Lee.
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 February
Viggo Venn hit the big time last summer when he became the 2023 winner of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, since which time he’s been basking in the glory of finally achieving his long-desired transformation from Norwegian clown to British comedian. The BGT judges were certainly effusive in their praise for the talented 34-year-old, with Bruno Toniolo hailing him one of the most memorable characters since Mr Bean and Simon Cowell declaring his act to be like nothing he’d ever seen before.
Viggo visits the Old Rep this month as part of his first-ever national tour.
The Old Rep, Birmingham, Saturday 24 February; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Wednesday 26 June
Scottish funnyman Frankie has managed to make it big on the telly despite his reputation for peddling material which can often be spectacularly tasteless and incredibly insulting.
He managed to cause uproar in the build-up to London 2012, for example, by claiming that Olympic star Rebecca Adlington reminded him of “someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon”.
He’s also had a pop at, among other victims, Katie Price’s disabled son Harvey, and leaves no stone unturned in his efforts to amuse, disgust and shock.
Crewe Lyceum Theatre, Monday 26 February; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tuesday 27 February; The Alexandra, Birmingham, Friday 29 March; Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Monday 8 - Tuesday 9 April
With complimentary reviews including such observations as “What he lacks in hair, he more than makes up for in originality,” Andy Parsons is a sharp and topical comedian who’s well known from TV shows Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo.
Andy’s big bag of jokes includes: “If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in tonight’s episode of EastEnders, they must have been acting better than they usually do.”
Lichfield Garrick, Thursday 29 February; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Thursday 21 March; Palace Theatre, Redditch, Wednesday 1 May; The Regal, Tenbury Wells, Thursday 2 May; Evesham Town Hall, Thursday 23 May
One of the sharpest tools in the comedy shed, Geoff Norcott is visiting the Midlands this autumn and beyond with Basic Bloke, ‘a kindly and funny stock-take of both himself and his fellow man’.
Geoff will be taking a deep-dive into the business of being a fella, to try and find out what makes them tick. After all, there’s got to be more to being a man than watching football, enjoying sheds, reading sporting autobiographies, wearing socks at all times and strategically burying your feelings whenever necessary. Hasn’t there?...
The Roses, Tewkesbury, Thursday 29 February; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Friday 15 March; Crewe Lyceum Theatre, Friday 22 March; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Saturday 23 March; Palace Theatre, Redditch, Saturday 13 April
The media’s decision to pounce on Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of his Labour leadership victory lit the torchpaper for actor Tom Walker to create the larger-than-life character that is Jonathan Pie.
YouTube sensation Pie is supposedly a British political correspondent - but one who likes to rant at the camera.
The media’s savaging of Corbyn pushed Tom over the edge. “I got really annoyed by it,” he admits, “by the ridiculousness of the British press.”
This latest tour sees Jonathan paying homage to some of the UK’s greatest heroes (nurses/Gary Lineker/24-hour off-license proprietors) and taking a verbal blowtorch to its villains (the Tories and cyclists).
Crewe Lyceum Theatre, Thursday 29 February
Funnyman Leigh Francis - best known as comedy creation Keith Lemon - is bringing to life his various characters in a ‘live’ environment for the very first time.
Leigh is promising an evening awash with hilarious sketches and bucketloads of audience interaction - not to mention, of course, close encounters with not only Keith Lemon but Bear & Avid Merrion, 'David Dickinson', 'Ant & Dec' and Myrtle.
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Friday 1 March; Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Sunday 31 March
“I’ve always thought of myself as an underdog,” reveals Murder In Successville’s Tom Davis to beyondthejoke.com, “though not necessarily in a negative way. I think that’s what has made me. The bulk of my humour comes from constantly feeling like someone who’s had a little bit of a kicking.”
Having left school with no qualifications, Tom’s road to comedy success proved to be a long and winding one: “I’d been working on building sites for 20-odd years. I just wanted to do something for myself. I tried standup, and straight away I just thought “Wow! I feel like I’m actually quite good at something: making other people laugh.”
Victoria Hall, Stoke, Saturday 2 March, 2024; Malvern Theatres, Saturday 23 March; Birmingham Town Hall, Saturday 11 May
Audience members catching Justin Moorhouse’s act for the first time will find themselves in the company of a seasoned pro who knows exactly how to work a crowd. Although his accent and style of delivery call to mind Peter Kay, Moorhouse is very much his own man, presenting an evening of well-honed, hugely enjoyable, adult-themed entertainment.
Justin’s new show, Stretch And Think, sees him contemplating a wide range of topics, including yoga, getting older, Madonna, shoplifters, labradoodles, middle-aged cyclists, the menopause, running, hating football fans but loving football, ruining a sexual position and electric car charging-spots used by doggers.
Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Friday 8 March; Glee Club, Birmingham, Sunday 31 March
“I always question where my comedy’s coming from,” says Jo Caulfield, who’s appeared on much-loved TV shows Mock The Week and Have I Got News For You. “Is it coming from a good place and is it a worthwhile target? I’m rude, I swear and can be very harsh, but I’m not that crude. I tend not to do graphic sex stuff, because it doesn’t make me laugh. I always say I don’t do fluids, because I don’t find that funny. I also think it’s quite childish. I don’t think people are shocked by that kind of humour anymore. When comics think that they’re being shocking, I just want to say, ‘We’re not shocked; we’re just bored and find it distasteful.’”
Number 8, Pershore, Friday 8 March; Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa; Saturday 9 March; Festival Drayton Centre, Market Drayton, Friday 19 April; Lichfield Garrick, Friday 17 May
There can surely be no better time than a probable general election year for Times Radio presenter and Have I Got News For You regular Matt Chorley to hit the road with a brand-new touring show. This latest offering sees Matt draw on two decades of reporting from Westminster - and two centuries of history - to deliver ‘a hilarious guide to winning and losing at the polls’. In the process, he’ll be focus-grouping the audience and compiling his own manifesto - one that he firmly believes is guaranteed to get him the keys to No 10!
Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), Birmingham, Wednesady 13 March
In an age where tradition and progress are wrestling against each other, what are the parts of ourselves that need shedding, and what is it worth holding on to?
That’s the question which will be posed by Tom Houghton when he visits Coventry mid-month. Tom’s star is very much in the ascendant right now, thanks to a break-out year that saw him become a social-media hit courtesy of multiple viral videos. He’s also appeared in Netflix’s The Circle, hosted Very British Problems: Live and the Bad Manors podcast, and pretty much looks set for a fantastic future on the UK comedy circuit.
Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Thursday 14 March
From a launchpad provided by Trigger Happy TV, Dom Joly has led an intriguing and extraordinary life. Some of his more memorable experiences include world drinking, skiing down volcanoes, holidaying in Chernobyl, and trying to fly across the Grand Canyon strapped to an eight-foot rocket...
...Oh, and he’s also eaten from the pants of Dr Gillian McKeith (remember her?) while imprisoned in the Australian jungle during a series of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!...
Some guys have all the luck.
Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Wednesday 13 March; Swan Theatre, Worcester, Saturday 16 March; Lichfield Garrick, Tuesday 26 March
Describing herself as a triple threat (bisexual, Gen Z, bad at cooking), Ania Magliano is currently going down a storm on the UK comedy circuit. And not just with appreciative audiences either; critics have also been waxing lyrical about her, describing the Cambridge University graduate as everything from artfully accomplished to profound, modern, incisive and deadpan hilarious.
Her latest offering, I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This - nominated for an award at the Edinburgh Fringe and featuring an imaginative blend of the frivolous and the serious - covers everything from bad haircuts and dating experiences, to breast-reduction surgery and trauma.
Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Friday 15 March
Award-winning comedian Sophie McCartney has entered the perilous world of parenting and thinks it’s high time she told her audience all about it. “Why did no one tell me what to really expect after I was expecting?” she questions. “Will my belly button ever go back to ‘normal’? Why do you need a degree in collapsing travel cots? And do I have what it takes to stop my current cereal eaters from becoming future serial killers?”
These and many more questions will hopefully be answered in latest show Tired & Tested, during which Sophie makes her way through subjects including mating, birthing, body changes, school WhatsApp groups, overbearing nutjob love, and still not being able to handle her booze on a night out...
Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, Friday 15 March; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Thursday 18 April
Providing tour support at various points for well-established comedians including Russell Howard, Jason Manford, Adam Rowe, and Dan Nightingale, Italian-Irish funnyman Vittorio Angelone here steps out on his own and ‘looks inward to find out who exactly he thinks he is’.
Kickstarting his comedy career back in 2018 and enjoying a sold-out debut run at Edinburgh in 2022, Vittorio boasts a huge online following and is widely considered to be one of the UK’s fastest-rising comedy stars.
The Glee Club, Birmingham, Tuesday 19 March
“I exist in real life but am also a comedian, actor and writer,” says Jessica Fostekew. “Since 2008 I’ve been throwing this job around like you would a walnut in a sock.” Realising herself to be a feminist “the very first time somebody said: You’re really funny for a woman”, Jessica gets her comedy inspiration from her life, her family and, er, witchcraft - although reassuringly reveals that the latter source provides only around one per cent of her material!
“I'm not a comedian in order to abuse people or to get laid,” Jessica wrote in the Huffington Post. “I want to make people laugh. I'm there to be judged on my jokes. I've had everything shouted at me, from “My tits are better than yours” to “When’s the raffle?" but it's never been meant to hurt me.”
The Glee Club, Birmingham, Tuesday 19 March; Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 16 May
“To help convince my father that comedy is a real job,” says Iain Stirling, “I've dressed up smart and gone along to numerous posh parties where I didn't win the following things: Bafta Best Children's Presenter 2011, Chortle Best Newcomer 2011, Loaded Lafta Rising Star 2011, and a good few more!” Iain’s self-deprecating style of humour has proved hugely popular since he burst onto the scene in 2009, when he finished runner-up to Joe Lycett as Chortle Student Comedian Of The Year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The ensuing years have seen him enjoy considerable success as a children’s television presenter and, most famously, as the narrator on the hit TV series Love Island.
Jokes include: “When Jesus went to heaven, was that not essentially 'moving back in with your parents'?”
Crewe Lyceum, Saturday 23 March; The Alexandra, Birmingham, Sunday 24 March
After watching an Adam Kay performance, Stephen Fry declared, “This made me very, very happy.” Numerous sell-out years at the Edinburgh Fringe and tens of millions of YouTube hits later, former obstetrician and gynaecologist Adam is this month visiting the Midlands with brand-new offering Undoctored, a follow-on from previous smash-hit stage show This Is Going To Hurt.
The Alexandra, Birmingham, Monday 25 March; Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, Thursday 3 October
When, as a stand-up comedian, you find that no less a laughter merchant than Stewart Lee is hailing you a five-star example of ‘clockwork comedy perfection’, it’s reasonable to assume that you must be doing plenty right. And Alasdair Beckett-King most definitely is. Lee’s glowing recommendation is no stand-alone tribute, with critics and audience members alike routinely praising the self-described hedge-wizard and cat burglar...
Alasdair - who also describes himself as England’s most Scottish-looking man - visits the Midlands this month and next with latest touring show Nevermore - an offering in which he’s promising to unravel some of life's shallowest mysteries...
Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham, Wednesday 27 March; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Thursday 25 April
REGINALD D HUNTER
One of the most popular comedians currently working the UK comedy circuit, the Georgia-born Reginald D Hunter’s no-nonsense style and hugely amusing perspectives on the differences between the US and the UK have struck a real chord with his audiences. “I felt like an outsider in America when I was growing up,” he reveals, “and I feel like an outsider in Britain now. The difference is that feeling like an outsider in Britain seems... normal. There are people who’ve lived here all their lives who feel like outsiders, but one of the things I love about Britain is that it makes room for what y’all like to call ‘the eccentric’. I mean, hell, Britain makes a warm and comfortable space for mother****ers who just like staring at trains! I think that’s very evolved.”
The Old Rep, Birmingham, Thursday 28 March
Paul Foot’s routines involve him sharing with his audience the seemingly random and intriguingly surreal thoughts that make their way through his ever-busy mind...
By way of example, he told comedy.co.uk: “I’d like to do a TV show in which I enter an unsuspecting family’s house at dinner time, violently upturn tables, hurl all the crockery and food at the walls and scream ‘Oh how the tables have turned!’”
On that particular subject of television shows, Paul admits he doesn’t appear on anywhere near as many as some other comedians. “People know when a TV show needs me and the phone will ring. Quite often I’m in the bath, though, or smashing specially purchased greenhouses with a golf club in the garden.”
Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 15 May
Adam Rowe well remembers the day he died in Stockport (on stage, of course).
“It was the day I got my A-Level results,” recalls the Liverpool-born comedian, “and I realised I wasn’t going to university for another year. I decided to rant about my day and not do my material. I died on my arse and got gonged off. Awful.”
Fortunately for Adam, most of his gigs bear no resemblance to that one. Blending an affable persona with a quick wit and clever material, he’s now well established on the UK comedy circuit and is definitely worth a look.
Albany Theatre, Coventry, Thursday 16 May
Welsh funnyman Rhod Gilbert has acquired a huge and still-growing following thanks to a high-energy brand of grumpiness that marks him out as one of the top comedians of his generation.
He’s returning to the Midlands this month with Rhod Gilbert And The Giant Grapefruit, a show in which he’ll be discussing his recent battle against stage four head and neck cancer.
Rhod’s best-loved gags include: “In the Bible, God made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights. That’s a pretty good summer for Wales... That’s a hosepipe ban waiting to happen.” And “A spa hotel? It’s like a normal hotel, only in reception there’s a picture of a pebble.”
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Friday 7 June; The Halls, Wolverhampton, Thursday 10 October; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Thursday 17 - Friday 18 October; Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Friday 15 - Saturday 16 November
SALLY ANNE HAYWARD
If you’re a Sarah Millican, Russell Howard, Russell Kane, Hal Cruttenden or Suzi Ruffell fan and have attended some of their shows, there’s every chance that prior to the main event, you will have had your laughter muscles nicely lubricated for you by Sally-Anne Hayward.
A real comedian’s comedian, Sally-Anne is here standing in the full glare of the spotlight herself, her ever-so-nice persona concealing a caustic wit, cutting cynicism and generally bitchier side that serves her well as she takes a tongue-in-cheek look at modern life.
Stourbridge Town Hall, Saturday 15 June
London standup Mo Gilligan has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame and fortune since first coming to wider public attention just a handful of years ago. It was back in December 2016 that Mo uploaded a video about grime MCs - since which time he’s found himself catapulted to celebrity status. Hired by Channel Four to front The Lateish Show and rewarded for his television work with a coveted Bafta gong, Mo admits that his life has started to feel just a little bit crazy. “I wake up in the morning and think, ‘This is nuts!’” admits the 35-year-old. “It’s what I’d always dreamt about, and now that it’s happened, I’m determined to make the most of it.”
Utilita Arena Birmingham, Saturday 30 November 2024
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