Cold outside eh? But we’re doing our best to cheer you up during this frosty period with a selection of cockle-warmers that has something for comedy toe-dippers and hardened plunge-takers.
Liverpool sees the return of three stand-ups with long careers behind them around the UK circuit, on TV and radio. Harry Hill has hit the stratosphere, Mark Thomas has recently walked the length of the West bank Barrier that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories and John Suttleworth… well, he’s John Shuttleworth isn’t he?
All three are rightly lauded – we’ve seen ‘em all before and would be hard pushed to choose a favourite – and are as different to one another as are comedy routines about an Austin Ambassador, Alan Sugar ventriloquist’s doll and anti-personnel landmine.
There’s more though: a brand new comedy night in the shape of Four Candles, which promises a very different stand-up comedy experience to those you may be familiar with in Liverpool; an intriguing Danny Wallace-esque monologue on our perceptions of price and value; one of Frankie Boyle’s co-conspirators in a well-received solo show; and old favourites Laughterhouse.
That should be enough to raise a hearty chuckle over the Winter, if not the actual temperature.
Mark Thomas detoured fairly sharply into politics in the late 90s – so much so that his previously-titled Mark Thomas Comedy Product swiftly became the Mark Thomas Product. Sure, it was still funny, but there are only so many laughs when it comes to the arms trade.
Still, there have rarely – if ever – been many comedians who can claim to marry the political with the comedic so deftly; a walking rebuke to the claim that politics can’t be funny, entertaining or personal.
The comedian is back on the stand-up circuit with a show that’s not about politics at all – it’s about his Thatcherite, Methodist builder of a Dad; his decline due to a degenerative disease; a mutual fascination with opera.
Thomas has always been easy to empathise with; to be amused by – even on topics not obviously funny – and to warm to. Bravo Figaro! looks certain to test all of those claims, but we’re betting he can pull it off.
Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro!
7.30pm, Wednesday 30 January
The idea of ‘the comedian’s comedian’ is a popular one – if other comics think that a particular guy is funny then he should be amazing, right?
Four Candles takes the idea and gives it a spin. This is a night for people who love comedy – and for comedians to kick back and relax without the threat of heckles and lagered-up gobshites. This is, then, the comedian’s comedy night
Pitched somewhere between a open-mic night and a genuine alternative comedy night, Four Candles is the creation of Rawhide’s (and the Royal Court’s) Iain Christie and comedian Sam Avery. Every night will feature two comedians plus compere and you can have a meal beforehand for a tenner – Paul F Taylor (pictured), Steve Day and Avery himself all feature at the next night, this coming Saturday (26 January).
9pm, every Saturday night
John Shuttleworth is surely one of the greatest absurd Britcomedy creations; he’s certainly one of the few acts that manages to marry comedy and music in a way that’s actually funny – we can all relate to the horror of having two margarine tubs open at once, or the dilemma of going back to savoury food at a buffet?
How Graham Fellows feels about nearing the age of his most famous creation is anyone’s guess, but it lends another fascinating angle to his shows, where it’s not always clear whether it’s the creator or creation talking.
Shuttleworth is a uniquely British creation – the sort of thing that Radio 4 was made for – and Fellows’ observations of the mundanity, obscurity and inanity of (Northern) provincial middle-class life are irresistible.
John Shuttleworth: Out of Our Sheds
7.30pm, Saturday 2 February
Stand by for 90 minutes of TV Burp highlights. Not really, of course, the power of suggestion! Harry Hill’s steady transfer to the television’s mainstream has obscured the fact that he’s responsible for some of the more surreal British comedy of the last 20 years. Indeed, anyone who saw his latest effort on Sky may have been forgiven for wondering whether Hill has moved on from comedy completely.
Still, the big-collared one has had two decades to refine his stand-up routine and – having reportedly grown tired with the cathode-ray grind of TV Burp – is flexing his live muscles again.
In Sausage Time we’re promised the return of old characters, including Stouffer (SevenStreets actually owns one) and a brand new routine. Will it be any good? There’s only one way to find out…
Harry Hill: Sausage Time
Sunday 10 February
Along with Rawhide, Laughterhouse has been staging regular comedy gigs in Liverpool for as long as well can remember at the aptly-named Slaughterhouse and Slug And Lettuce.
February sees a raft of new gigs with performances from old favourites such as Martin (Bigpig) Mor, Keith Carter as Nige and Brendan Dempsey – and newer I-know-his-face talent such as Chris Martin and Lloyd Langford.
Liverpool comics Neil Fitzmaurice, Ste Porter and Chris Cairns – all worth seeing in their own right – compere.
The Slaughterhouse / Slug And Lettuce
Various dates through January and February
This isn’t a comedy show per se; it is, in the words of writer and performer Daniel Bye, “a performance lecture”. Mixing stand-up, storytelling and theatre, The Price Of Everything ponders the notional values we ascribe to everything in our lives.
Can you put a price on anything, on everything? A guitar, a drink or a random act of kindness? And do we really understand the value of these things? Bye may not have al the answers, but watching him pose the questions in a style that’s engaging, energetic and wrongfooting is persuasive.
You will get a free glass of milk too which, in these tough times, isn’t something to be sniffed at, surely?
Daniel Bye: The Price Of Everything
Unity Theatre – Liverpool
Saturday 16 February
Following a successful tour last year, the co-writer of Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights (yes, you have been warned) returns to Liverpool with some bluntly amusing observation on his 17 years of marriage and where it has led him.
There’s far more to the Edinburgh-based Canadian than shocks and swearing, though. The observations are keen and the delivery, while drawling, is precise.
Don’t go if you’re easily offended – and think twice about buying your spouse of two decades a ticket to accompany you…
Tom Stade Totally Rocks!
Camp & Furnace
Thursday 28 February
Top image by Idil Sukan