Five UK comedians you need to know about

By | July 1, 2010 at 7:59 am | No comments | Features | Tags: , , , ,

Like the headline suggests, we at Punchline Magazine thought it was time to let you know about a handful of UK-based comedians you should keep your eyes on– the ones who aren’t Russell Brand, Ricky Gervais or Eddie Izzard, the dudes you already know about it. To that end, we asked our UK comedy correspondent Jay Richardson to shed some light on the topic. Below, are his results. Enjoy.

ROBIN INCE

Ricky Gervais’ long time, long suffering support act Robin Ince has been the central figure in a series of increasingly ambitious shows dubbed Nine Lessons and Carols For Godless Children, which combine comedy, music and the championing of science and rational thought.

Feeding a hitherto largely repressed appetite for dumbed-up humor, these nerd extravaganzas, featuring comics like Gervais, In The Loop star Chris Addison and hilarious Aussie pianist Tim Minchin on the same bill as scientists like Richard Dawkins, Watchmen comics legend Alan Moore and hip Brit musicians, inform as well as entertain. What’s more, they’re perhaps the only gigs in the world where you’ll hear gags about quantum mechanics.

Although extolling the virtues of atheism and humanism, Ince, whose ultimate ambition is to do a stand-up tour of the UK’s libraries, is keen to point out that he doesn’t see these shows as explicitly bashing religion.

Nine Lessons and Carols For Godless Children will bring a mix of US and foreign acts to New York Town Hall in December, boasting a number of veritable legends in the provisional line-up.

JANEY GODLEY

Marrying into a Scottish gangster family, her mother murdered, Janey Godley, like Billy Connolly, has turned her tough Glasgow upbringing into the basis of many of her funniest anecdotes.

Performing all over the world, this redoubtable raconteur is as happy bletherin’ to George Clooney and Woody Allen as she is the endless succession of junkies, waifs and strays she meets on her travels. Although she rarely knows her set before she starts talking, retaining myriad stories in her head, many, such as the account of how she accidentally killed an old man, tend to linger in the memory.

A former bar owner in one of the Glasgow’s grimmest parts, she deliberately overcharged former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for a pint to test his financial acumen and was once arrested for gun possession. Currently writing a children’s show with her daughter Ashley for the Edinburgh Fringe, the sometime playwright, newspaper columnist and drug addiction activist published a compelling autobiography in 2005, Handstands in the Dark.

Returning to the US, she performs a series of gigs in Los Angeles through July 5.

ABIE PHILBIN BOWMAN

Provocative, politically engaged Irish comedian Abie Philbin Bowman is building a reputation in his homeland and the UK as a distinctive comic philosopher unafraid of pushing the most sensitive buttons.

His stage show, Jesus: The Guantanamo Years, for which he sported a crown of thorns and an orange jumpsuit, conceived the Messiah as a stand-up returning for a comeback tour, detained at US immigration then dispatched to Gitmo as a bearded Palestinian with an unparalleled history of martyrdom. After performing the show in Pakistan, shortly before Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, his follow-up, Eco-Friendly Jihad, in which he portrays an environmentalist who converts to al Qaeda, hinges on the idea that rapacious Western lifestyles are the gravest threat to our existence and that their destruction is a radical necessity.

Lately, he created Sex, Lies and the KKK, which muses upon a radio interview with white extremists on the dawn of President Obama’s election, while asking if we should take a more positive approach to promiscuity.

In a series of Hollywood dates, he performed Eco-Friendly Jihad at Theatre of NOTE; Jesus: The Guantanamo Years at Theatre Asylum and Sex, Lies & The KKK at Asylum Lab.

BRENDON BURNS

Aussie Burns began performing stand-up in London in the early ‘90s, earning a reputation for passion, explosive swearing and causing gratuitous offense – exemplified by his simulated sex with a goat being cut from the BBC’s Live Floor Show in 2003.

Over the next three years, he pitted his volcanic onstage and sensitive offstage personas against each other in the Burnsy vs Brendon trilogy of shows, culminating in a mental breakdown and drug and alcohol rehab. Nevertheless, he bounced back at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe, winning the prestigious if.comedy award, formerly the Perrier, for the audacious So I Suppose THIS Is Offensive Now. A provocative and deceptive examination of prejudice, the show poster featured him in various poses: blacked up, in a wheelchair, in a tutu and nailed to a cross.

Recorded in Chicago, Burns’ debut album on Stand Up! Records is out shortly and you can catch him chewing the fat with his long-time partner in crime Paul Provenza on The Green Room this month on Showtime.

In August, the Antipodean publishes his debauched memoir Fear of Hat Loss in Las Vegas, a spiritual odyssey of drugs, hookers and aliens he undertook in a convertible with Provenza, English comic Barry Castagnola and Castagnola’s late father.

Burns’ latest Edinburgh hour, Y’know … Love n’ God n’ Metaphysics n’ Shit, comes to Los Angeles’ Unknown Theater in October.

LAURA SOLON

Solon was virtually unknown when she scooped the Perrier Award at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe, only the second solo woman to do so in the prize’s history. Remarkably, the character comic wrote her show in just three weeks after her partner dropped out of their double act.

A smattering of television and radio roles followed, most memorably on Harry Enfield’s BBC sketch series Harry and Paul, but the feeling remains that broadcasting-wise, she’s yet to find a suitable vehicle for her abundant talent.

Americans were able to judge for themselves when she recently performed Rabbit Faced Story Soup. A one-woman narrative about a literary agent’s hapless assistant struggling to deliver a crucial final chapter from a missing star novelist, further characters include the callously indifferent agent, a tyrannical Russian oligarch and several brilliant author parodies, from a supremely arrogant Frenchman to the children’s writer whose bitter divorce informs every line of her latest tome.

The acting’s tremendous but it’s Solon’s writing that truly delights, with marvellous line after marvellous line, even the most functional snippet of plot progression topped by a memorable turn of phrase.

She returned to Los Angeles to meet casting directors and perform at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in June.

About the Author

Jay Richardson

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